Dear Diary, I don’t know exactly what I expected to find when I got home. One thing that surprised me was that the taxi cab brought me to Storybrook, not to Hidden Springs where I’d lived with my father, step-mother, step-sister and little half-brother.
Instead of the large estate I’d once lived in, I was dropped off at the front walk to my grandparents’ home.
Conflicting feelings overwhelmed me as I gazed up at the house where I’d spent some of my toddler years. A warm kind of fondness filled my heart as I recalled the many times I’d stayed here as a child, visiting Grandpa and Grandma Capra.
I’d spent countless hours, sitting outside with Grandpa, shucking corn or snapping beans and watching squirrels and birds play. At bedtime, Grandma would fluff my pillows so I could sit up in bed, sip hot chocolate out of a delicate little cup with saucer and listen to her tell me stories of my dad growing up there and the mischief he’d gotten into.
During the cab ride, I’d discovered another note from Mango that made tears roll down my cheeks and my heart ache. He had simply written that he’d wanted me to be prepared before I got home that my grandparents were gone. They had died. Aunt Keniesha was also gone. Just. Like. That. It had all happened while I was off in Winchester; I’d been oblivious and no one could even contact me to let me know. I hadn’t been there for my father even though he’d always been there for me.
It was hard for me to process the fact that I was back at this house but it was also so different. My grandma wasn’t going to run outside to hug me and tell me how glad she was I was visiting. I was never going to see her or my grandpa again.
My grandparents were so in love, I tried to imagine them dancing in heaven much like they had at Dad’s wedding when he married Leela. Yet, when I did imagine that, my heart squeezed painfully against my chest and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
That was nothing, though, compared to the pain I felt when I realized that there had to be a reason Mango had wanted me to know this ahead of time. Did this mean there was worse news than that awaiting me? Why didn’t he just prepare me for that, too?
Before I could consider this any longer, the front door opened and Leela came down the walk to me. Her smile was tentative and she hesitated before giving me a light hug. I wanted to tell her how sorry I was and how I wished I hadn’t run off, but, as if reading my mind, she waved her hand at me, beckoning me to follw her to the back yard.
“I’m glad you’re here, Blue. It’s – ” She abruptly stopped talking and took a deep breath. Then, I realized, it was because she was desperately trying not to cry or be emotional. After clearing her throat, she continued, “Your timing couldn’t be better. We can speak later about the things we need to talk about. Right now, it’s important for you to be with him.”
Be with him? Shakily, I followed her gaze and realized my father was lying on one of the lounge chairs facing the pool. He was oddly still which made me think he was asleep, and he had a large sweater wrapped around him, even in the heat of the day.
“Is he sleeping?” I asked, worry building in me until I thought I would burst.
Leela shook her head. “These days, he likes to be outdoors. I think it’s comforting to him to have the fresh air and sunlight.”
An awful dread clenched hold of my stomach, filling my throat with the bitter taste of bile. I could barely speak, but I asked, “Leela, what’s happened?”
“He didn’t want you to know but you’re here now,” she uncertainly began. “He’s sick, Blue. Very sick.”
Keeping my eyes on my father, who was completely unaware of my presence, I heard Leela take another deep breath before answering. When she spoke, it was as if she was choking on the words.
I gasped as those two simple words assaulted my brain. “He can’t be!”
Leela touched my arm and squeezed slightly. “Please, try to stay calm. I know it’s an awful shock, but he doesn’t need the excitement. It will hurt him so badly to see you upset. You must think of what he needs now and put him first.”
While her words stung me, I knew she had the right to say them. I don’t think I had ever put him first – or anyone, actually, besides myself. It pained my heart so badly to face this truth about myself, so, instead of protesting that she was wrong or trying to defend myself, I simply nodded.
Slowly, I approached him, the hairs on my arms standing up and that now familiar dread turning my stomach. As I came near, his eyes locked onto mine but it seemed that a moment passed before it registered to him that I was there.
I bit my lower lip, willing the tears to remain unshed and like Leela, I took a deep breath before I spoke. “Hi, Daddy.”
His face was gaunt and his eyes were almost lifeless but he managed a small smile. “I’ve missed you so much.”
Leaning over, I put my arms around him and kissed his cheek. His body felt thin and frail under my touch. “I’ve missed you so much, too, Daddy. But I’m here now and so glad to see you.”
He grimaced slightly as I let go of him and I realized that my embrace had caused him pain. Quickly, I wiped a tear away.
“No… now none of that,” he chided, his voice weak and quiet. “It’s enough that you’re here.” He paused and I wondered if it also hurt him to speak. “I’ve had a really good life.”
That was the end of me, I couldn’t take hearing him say that. “Please don’t talk like that.”
“It’s the truth,” he said. Then he closed his eyes.
I stood near him, hoping I could talk to him some more. Wishing I had told him how much I loved him and that I was so, so sorry for running away. I should have said those things first, as soon as I saw him.
Leela came out of the house with a blanket and put it over him, then felt his forehead. “He sleeps a lot lately. I’m going to sit with him out here and then see if he’ll go to bed. Leonardo is home from school now. I’m sure he’d like to see you.”
Reluctantly, I left them and went indoors. I wanted to spend more time with my dad, but I also needed a little bit to let everything sink in. As the news I learned swirled relentlessly around my head, I changed my clothes and put my small suitcase in my dad’s old room. It didn’t look as if anyone was staying in there.
Sitting for a moment on the bed, I looked at this room with different eyes. I’d of course stayed in this room before, plenty of times, but never before had I really thought about the things that filled the room. The things that had belonged to Dad. My eyes scanned over his old belongings… the ball glove on the shelf, the rock posters on the walls, the model airplane hanging from the ceiling, the large traffic sign I knew was there because he’d swiped it when he was a kid. Tentatively, I ran my fingers lightly over a notebook that was on the desk near the window. It was lying there just where it had been left years ago as if my dad was going to pick it up and continue working in it.
Opening the cover, I saw math equations which began rather neatly, but got sloppier as the page went on. At the top of the next page was the date and the math assignment written fairly neatly. But after the number one, instead of the first equation, there was a surprisingly detailed sketch of a guitar and amplifier with doodles all around it and on it. A little further down, he’d written what I recognized as a title for one of the songs that Accidental Therapy would later record.
Touching his handwriting made me feel a little bit closer to him. I smiled slightly as I realized that he had always known what he wanted and where he was going. Even having a kid too early hadn’t stopped him.
Then, I saw a different handwritten message partway down the page. It was in all caps… not as if the person was yelling, but in finely printed caps as if the person was really smart.
“DO YOUR HOMEWORK! – J”
I supposed his twin sister Jilly had penned that message and wondered when, in relation to the accident that took her life, this had been written. Dad had kept this notebook… or maybe Grandma had. Either way, it was here now and I was touching a small piece of our family history.
That’s when the tears began. And the sobbing. Oh, man, the sobbing. My heart was wrenched and I couldn’t believe I’d come all the way home only to find that I wasn’t going to have enough time with my dad because he was going to die. It wasn’t fair! And it wasn’t fair to him either that I had run off. How could I ever rectify this situation? How could I ever feel okay again when I knew now what I’d done to him?
It took a long time to even pull myself slightly together. I knew that my dad wouldn’t want to see me crying and Leela would definitely not appreciate me sobbing all over the place. Especially now that my little brother was home and would see. At this point, I wasn’t sure exactly what Leonardo knew or understood about what was going on.
He was in the foyer as if waiting for me when I came downstairs. He eyed me curiously with the Noble green eyes that both my dad and I had, then finally, he spoke.
I tried to smile and it probably came off really lame, but I had to make an effort. “Hi. Do you know who I am?”
“You’re my sister Blue,” he answered.
“That’s right. I haven’t seen you since you were a baby.”
He nodded and told me then what he had obviously been told. “Yes, you’ve been away on an island. And you ride horses there and stuff.”
This time, my smile was genuine. “Yes, I sure do. Do you ride horses?”
My question was met with enthusiasm and I knew my little brother and I were kindred spirits, for sure. “You bet I do! I don’t have my own horse yet, but I take lessons. Someday, I’m going to have lots of horses.”
“That sounds really nice. I think horses are about the best things ever.”
“They are!” he declared. “I’m never going to drive a car! I’m going to have a horse that takes me everywhere I want to go.”
“That’s pretty exciting,” I enthused. “Don’t you think you might like to drive a cool car or something, though?”
At this, his nose crinkled in disgust and he shook his head. “Oh no, never. Daddy doesn’t drive and he’s just fine. ‘Course, he doesn’t ride horses either. But maybe he never took lessons.”
Laughing a little, I said, “No, I can’t remember him ever being around horses very much.”
Abruptly, I stopped laughing. What was I thinking? How could I laugh or even smile at a time like this. It felt almost like a betrayal to think of anything bringing me joy when my father was so ill.
“Maybe we could go riding together sometime,” he suggested.
“I would like that very much.”
“Well,” said Ruby’s voice behind me, “look who decided to grace us with her presence?”
Leonardo, unaware of the rancor in Ruby’s voice, grinned and said, “She’s going to go riding with me!”
“And I wouldn’t hold onto that promise if I were you, kid,” she snapped. “Go upstairs and do your homework, then I’ll take you to Spaghetti Tower for dinner. The sooner you get done, the sooner we can go, so scoot.”
“Woot! Spaghetti Tower is my favorite!” he shouted as he ran upstairs, presumably to do his homework.
After I heard his bedroom door close upstairs, I turned to Ruby, my cheeks flaming red and my hands shaking.
“Ruby, I want to tell – ”
” – I don’t want to hear anything you have to say!” she spat. “You have some nerve showing up now.”
“I’m sorry. I understand why you’re angry with me – ”
” – You don’t understand anything! If you did, you never would have left! Or you would have come back way sooner than this! How could you do this to me? To your dad and my mom? It’s pretty sickening that this is the first time you’re meeting your little brother!”
“I know – I agree with you. I was terrible and immature – ”
” – Let me guess!” she hissed before I could finish. “You’ve changed, right? Well, I don’t believe it for a second! You are a selfish bitch! I just wish your dad could see that, but you watch, he’ll forgive you and it will all be hunky-dory. But not with me!”
Her words dug into me like a million knives, but I couldn’t help but think that I deserved her anger. I just wished so much that things could be the way they used to be. But even that wouldn’t be a fair thing to wish for because I wasn’t always the best to good-natured Ruby. I took advantage of the fact that she’d never call me out on anything.
Times had changed. And so had I. All I could do now was try to show my former best friend that I had changed for the better and would try very hard never to hurt her or anyone in my family again.
After a brief dinner of sandwiches, I told Leela I wanted to sit with my dad. With a gratefulness in her voice I’d never heard, she thanked me and said she had to pick some medications up for him at the pharmacy.
Slowly, I approached my father who was lying in bed, his eyes closed. Were it not for the redness around his eyes and sunken cheeks, I would have simply thought he was sleeping peacefully. But the grim way he looked was a shocking reminder that whatever was the matter, was very bad and real.
Carefully, I climbed onto the bed and scooted next to him, my hand on his.
When I was a child, if I climbed up on the bed, even if I hadn’t touched him, he always awakened immediately. He’d been such a light sleeper then. Now, he didn’t even stir when I curled my fingers around his thin, cold hand.
As darkness began to fall, Leela peeked in and said she would give me time with him and to come get her from Leonardo’s room if he needed her.
I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t bear to leave him. During the night, I sat on a chair by the bed and prayed, begging for his life. Pleading that if someone had to die, it should be me, not him.
Every so often, I would get up and check on him. Still, he slept deeply, not seeming to realize I was there.
After a time, I must have fallen asleep…
… When I opened my eyes, my body felt stiff and I realized that even though he was sleeping, his hand was tenderly resting on my head.
Finally, as the sun rose over Storybrook, he opened his eyes as I slowly sat up. Seeing him struggle to also sit up, I quickly put more pillows behind him and helped him into an upright position.
“You shouldn’t have to take care of me,” he weakly said, some of his words slurring.
“Of course I should,” I said, looking into his eyes, trying to show him just how much I meant what I said. “You took such good care of me all those years. Now, I’m here for you.”
“You’re a good girl, Blue.”
Wiping a tear that had escaped and was rolling down my cheek. I said, “But I’m not, Daddy. I’m a terrible person who left you without a word. I’m so sorry. I wish I could take it all back.”
“You shouldn’t have done that,” he admitted and I gulped back the tears that threatened to cascade down my face. “But you did and it’s over and done with now. What’s important is that you’re here. I didn’t want you to see me like this because I knew you’d feel guilty, but it is really good to see you.”
“I do feel guilty, but it’s because I did something so terrible, not because of you. I should never have gone off and left. You must have been beside yourself, not knowing where I was.”
He tried to reach up to touch my face and I knew if he could do it, he would wipe my tears away with his thumb like he always did when I was a child. But he couldn’t manage it. Weakly, he lowered his hand back down to rest on his chest. Gently, I took his hand in mine.
Even in his frailty, he still had a shadow of that lopsided grin everyone loved about him. “I knew where you were, though.”
My jaw dropped in astonishment. “You did?”
He started to laugh a little, but it came out as a strangled cough instead. After he’d caught his breath again, he said, “After I realized you were gone, I hired three different private investigators to find you. And one did. He traced you to Winchester and told me you were safe.”
“But – but why didn’t you pull the plug on me?”
“There were different reasons. The first one was that I had tried so hard to understand what you were going through and even so, I wasn’t able to help you. I thought I’d failed you. When the P.I. explained your new situation to me, I thought maybe it would be good for you.”
Wiping away more tears, I said, “You never failed me. I was just plain stupid.”
He smiled a little again. “Was it good for you? Did it help?”
“Yes. Being there taught me so much and it made me grow up. I went kicking and screaming the entire way, but Agathe and the others steered me in the right direction.”
“Good, I’m glad.” He closed his eyes again and I sat quietly for a while as he slept.
After a while, I felt his hand move and when I looked at him, he was awake and watching me. “The other reason,” he said, picking up where he’d left off, “was that I’d begun to get sick.”
“What’s wrong with you, Daddy?” I asked.
“Well, that’s just the thing. No one knows. I’ve been to every hospital and leading clinic in the world and no one has figured me out. I reckon if I’ve gotta go out, I might as well go big, though, right?”
Instead of his words making me cry with the knowledge of what was to come, I laughed. It was just like him to say something like that.
“Now, help me up, if you don’t mind. I want to spend the day with you, not lying around in bed.”
After I helped him up, I searched the closet for a clean shirt and pants for him. When I turned around, he had taken his shirt off and was waiting for the clean one.
I had to hold back a gasp when I saw how thin he was. His skin looked strange, too.
There were blotches of red all over him as if his skin was mottled.
“Let’s go!” he said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. “And no long faces!”
I tried to smile as I helped him with his shirt but I didn’t know how long I could go on without completely breaking down again.
Author’s Note: I would like to thank Bee for making the wonderful “Don’t Die Daddy” poses for me. Not all of the poses in this chapter are in that pose pack, however, she did make all of the poses in the chapter. She has put the “Don’t Die Daddy” pose pack up on her site for download HERE! You can find all of her poses at her site: Poses by Bee.