MM10: Weepy Ol’Me

I spent the day at Dad’s, wanting to be close to Jilly. She knew what I was up to. She called me on it around lunch time. “Shouldn’t you be at home, working in your office next to Brynna? Thought you baby-sat her during the day now?”

“Ha-ha.” Hell, it was the truth, though. I did keep an eye on Brynna during the day while Houghton and Chance were off doing Houghton and Chance things. I didn’t mind—she was my sister. We’d been together practically since the day Brynna was born.

Except for those dark months I was in St. Louis in a hospital bed or in a wheelchair. I don’t think of those days often if I can help it. I am grateful I was close to Carrie, though.

She visited me every chance she could. She’s wonderful, and I am glad I got a chance to know my older sister now, too.

But it wasn’t my older sister who worried me, though she was determined that she would be coming down for Dad’s birthday next week. The first week of April was too darned close to Carrie’s due date for her to even be considering it.

But Sebastian said she was insistent.

“Earth to Mel. Focus.”

I looked at my sister again. Jillian had lost some weight, hadn’t she? It wasn’t hard to see—she had always been the smallest of all of us, and the lost weight really showed. “I’m worried about you.”

“I’m fine. I’m dealing with what happened, Mel. Same as everyone else.”

“When are you going back to work?”

“I’m not sure. As soon as I graduate, I think. They won’t hold my job forever—no matter how big of a donation Houghton made.”

She sent me a pointed look and I shrugged. “You know how he is. Said we spent so much time there, the wing should be named for us. Thankfully, Fin didn’t agree. But the hospital was grateful.”

“And I’ll have a job there when I’m ready to go back. I know that. For now…I  need to focus on getting my degree, and finding a new normal around here. It’s…quiet here. Syd…she’s gone more often than not, now. I see her moving to St. Louis someday, Mel. She and Gracie Reynolds…they want to form a band, and I think they’ll manage it somehow. With Brynna across the street it’s a little different, but she’s still here a lot. But…we miss you.”

“I’m going to try to be around here more often.” Somehow. I wasn’t entirely certain how, but I was going to try.

Truth was, I missed having a large family around, too. I love my husband and the life we are building together. I will never deny that.

But…I miss my family, too.

Damn it, why do I feel so weepy today?

Previous Post: MM9 Goodnight, Laptop!

MM4: Jillian Lied…

SHE LIED to me. I knew she did. She knew that I knew. But I let it go. As much as my heart hurt for her, Jilly had to find her own way to deal with what happened.

But I couldn’t look at my baby sister and not want to help. “I still have the nightmares, Jilly. It’s going to take me a while to learn to deal with them. Everytime I touch Houghton’s scars, I remember. I’m afraid that I probably always will. But…none of us went through this alone. I’m here, even if you just want to yell about what happened.”

She stared at me out of eyes that looked just like mine, like Brynna’s, and Syd’s, and Carrie’s, too. The sadness in Jilly’s broke my heart. “I know. I’ll be ok, Mel. You don’t have to worry about me, or fix me, or anything like that. I’m…not going to let him win.”

“Good.”

“Ari’s starting a therapy group at the hospital. She somehow talked Fin into getting the board to approve initial funding. For now. I think she asked Luc to subsidize it.”

Ari–Jillian’s best friend, and younger sister to our friend Luc. Who was almost as wealthy as my husband. And just as incorrigible. He and Houghton seemed to search out ways to push boundaries–at least in their shared field of tech development.

I have no doubt that some of Luc’s designs had made their way into the infamous drones Houghton and Chance had been playing with.

“For those who have been the victims of violence against women.” Jilly slammed the bottle of Brynna’s favorite salad dressing down on the table. I jumped. “I hate this, Mel. I hate being a victim. It’s not right, and when does this feeling end? I’m not sure how much longer I can take it!”

I didn’t know what else to do–I wrapped my arms around her and just hugged her tight.

Jillian was the smallest of my sisters. She was almost four inches shorter than I was, and tiny. Dad often called her his evil little leprechaun. It was a nickname that fit. Jillian was quiet and sweet most of the time. The rest of the time she was a real terror.

I would give anything to have her back to being a terror. Rather than being constantly terrified.

I pushed my own anger at the bastard who’d hurt us all aside. I’ll have to deal with that anger someday, and I know that.

I really do. But…Jilly needed me to be strong again. So that’s what I am going to do.

Houghton came in when I was still holding her. “You two gorgeous women ok? Do I need to send the driver out for chocolate? Ice cream? A big shiny bauble the size of Jillian’s fist? There’s this little place over on Summit that sells those ring pop suckers. Even in cherry…”

Jillian laughed and I smiled at my husband, knowing exactly what he was up to. He could be really sweet sometime. Especially with my sisters.

Previous Post: MM3: Dinner at Dad’s

Next Post: MM5: Definition of Trauma

MM2: My Family

WHEN WE were finished, I curled up against his side and he held me. Big dork. I’d missed him, too. If my sister Carrie wasn’t nine months pregnant with her second child, I wouldn’t have left him for so long. We’d spent over a year and a half apart before finding each other again—now I hated to be away from him for even one day.

“How is Carrie?”

“Doing ok. This pregnancy has been harder than her last.”

“And Bryn? Did she drive you insane?”

I had to smile at that. Both my older sister Carrie and my younger sister Brynna were high-functioning autistic and had their own particular little quirks. “She and Carrie spent most of the time talking about pregnancy. And diapers and baby food and books on babies and pregnancy and motherhood.”

Which I’ll admit, had hurt a bit. Thanks to my physical condition, I would probably never have a successful pregnancy. It was just a fact. And something I was learning to deal with. It hadn’t bothered me too much before Houghton and I married…but he was meant to have a family, to be a father.

We’d discussed it, of course. Adoption was probably the path we were going to take once we’d been married for a while.

It was still hard to have two pregnant sisters around, though. “Truth? They drove me nuts. But I’m used to the two of them. And happy I still get the chance to be driven nuts by them.”

After what my sisters—my entire family—had gone through in recent years, I would never forget that.

But…I was back with my husband. It was time to push the memories of everything that had happened away and focus on the future. “So…other than giving the hospital a scare, what did you do while I was gone?”

“Chance and I kept your father company at Finley Lake. He wanted to go fishing.”

Something Houghton thought was barbaric. I didn’t agree with him on that. Some of my best memories of my childhood involved hanging out at Finley Lake with my mother and father. “He goes there sometimes when he’s really missing mom.”

Houghton rolled me carefully on top of him. There was a lot of him to be on top of. My husband was tall and muscled and put together in a way that had to be unreal. For as good as he looked in his clothes, he looked even better out. “Your father needs his own woman.”

“Ok. Why?” I hadn’t thought about that. For the past six years, my father had focused on me and my sisters. And like it or not, we were enough to keep him busy, even with the youngest of us being full-grown at eighteen now. Since my mother died six years ago we’ve found Carrie who had been kidnapped when she was nine, I’ve been shot and paralyzed and learned to walk again, Brynna was kidnapped, stabbed, held hostage and nearly killed in an explosion, and Jillian had almost had her throat cut by the man responsible for the infamous Marshall Murders. The only one who hadn’t caused problems for my father was my youngest sister, Syd.

Oh. Yeah. There was also the fact that I was kidnapped right out of my father’s kitchen and held in Mexico for three days.

My father was finally starting to forgive Houghton for that one.

“You have any women in mind?”

“Not a clue. What would your father even like?”

“Redheads. Dad has always had a thing for redheads.” Every member of my family was redheaded, including my father. But my mother…her hair had been the deepest red that only my sister Jilly had inherited.

“I know the fascination.” He had his hands in my hair again. I often thought of cutting it; then I’d remember this…

Houghton was enthralled by my hair. Especially in our bed.

It was a long time before he let me out of bed. And he’d extracted a promise that no more being away from him so long.

When I finally made it out of the bed, he rolled on his side and watched me move. I didn’t feel awkward with him watching. Not like I would have once before. The crutch I used was just another part of my daily life.

I have adapted to my new circumstances rather well, I think. It hasn’t always been easy, though.

I don’t fall nearly as often as I did even six weeks ago. Houghton hired the best physical therapist in the city to come to our house four times a week. I now had an entire regimen of therapies, including those that occurred in the pool.

I loved the pool. It was a love we shared. I grabbed my robe and wrapped it around myself.

We’d end up in that pool within the hour, I suspected. We somehow always did.

“Did you send the staff home already?”

“Other than security.”

Of course. Just like the crutch, Houghton’s security team are a part of our life. One that would always be.

I had once thought it had to be like living in a cage, but now…It wasn’t like that at all. I wasn’t contained in any real way.

The head of that security brought his wife to work with him almost every day, after all. I didn’t spend my days alone while Houghton worked. Not at all.

Brynna even had her own office right next to the one Houghton had decorated just for me. She hung out in their all day writing computer programs—many intended for either Luc’s company or Houghton’s—and I hung out in my own office, writing.

There was a connecting wall between the two spaces. If we wanted to, Bryn and I could open the wall and have one large office space. We could each do our own thing, while still being together. We did that a lot.

Sometimes Gabby showed up to work with Brynna or to have me edit her cookbooks she was creating. We were a team, just like we had always been. Marriage hadn’t changed us that much, though we didn’t see Gabby as much as I would have liked.

My best friend had married Elliot the week before Brynna and Chance had eloped. They lived a ways outside the city at Elliot’s family ranch.

Life had changed for Gabby, Brynna, and me, but strictly for the good.

It was my sister Jillian who worried me, though.

For all the good changes that had come mine and Brynna’s way, Jillian seemed to be the one who had paid the price.

And I don’t quite know how to help her. Yet. I will. I’m not going to stop until I do.

Previous Post: MM1: Houghton, Chance & the Drone

Next Post: MM3: Dinner at Dad’s

MM3: Dinner at Dad’s

THE LIMO barely fit on their street. Houghton ordered the driver to park it directly in front of Brynna and Chance’s place. They lived in the larger house across the street from the one where Brynna and I had grown up. My sister had always loved that house. I liked that she was right across the street from my father.

It was hard not to want to keep an eye on Brynna, wasn’t it?

I have been responsible for her for almost her entire life. It was a hard habit to break. Even though Chance took it to the extremes. If Brynna even hiccupped my brother-in-law was right there.

My sister Jillian was already hard at work at the stove when we walked in the back door.

I took a moment to check on her. Her hair, so dark red it almost looked unreal, was pulled back in a French braid. I was glad to see that—for the first month after the day she’d almost died Jillian had kept her hair down.

Jillian

Jillian

Covering the scar where that bastard had almost slit her throat right in front of me. It wasn’t a large scar, but no one would miss it. It would remind my sister of what had happened every time she looked in a mirror.

Jilly, the sweetest, kindest of the lot of us. The one who had had the least to do with what had happened at the end of last year.

I hugged her impulsively. I will never forget how it had been, watching her and Houghton fighting for their lives.

For mine.

I pushed the anger and hatred for the man responsible aside. Now was not the time for that. Now was the time for my family.

“Hey.”

“Glad to see you’re back,” Jillian said. “Can you make the salad? Chance and Brynna are coming over soon; Elliot and Gabby are with them now.”

I’d spent the past six years cooking in this kitchen for my family. To tell you the truth, I kind of missed it since moving in with Houghton. He had a cook, and six different places inside the house where he could get food. Yet somehow we ended up eating here at Dad’s at least three nights a week.

I think Houghton enjoyed the time at the family table as much as I did.

I looked over at him. He and my father were speaking quietly. They were still a little uneasy with each other. But it had only been a bit over a month and a half since everything had happened. They would get used to each other eventually.

Houghton looked at me and smiled. Just like that, I forgot what I was doing.

“Focus, Mel. You can stare at Houghton later.” Jillian snarked at me, like she’d used to. Jilly is four years younger than I am, but we have always been close. We’d tag-teamed taking care of Brynna and Syd between us for years. I depended on Jillian, same as she had me. I half feel like I abandoned her recently.

She and Syd were left at the house with Dad, but Brynna was right across the street. Things had changed like crazy since October. Jillian, especially. “You ok, Jilly?” I asked quietly. “Tell me the truth.”

Previous Post: MM2: My Family

Next Post: MM4: Jillian Lied…