Dear Diary, the trip back to Winchester was more difficult than I’d anticipated. Which is kind of dumb when I think about it now because it was really hard for me to get here and I wasn’t limited by someone who was gravely ill.
The trip seemed to take every last ounce of strength my dad had left in him, and there wasn’t that much to begin with. By the time we finally arrived, he was so weak, it took Elliott, Dax and Matthieu to get him upstairs and into bed. By that time, he’d lost consciousness altogether.
Ruby hadn’t gone back to university. When she found out what was going on, she made the decision to come with us. During the trip, she was very helpful to Leela and Dad. She also took care of Leonardo’s needs. When it came to me, she was civil, but just barely.
After Dad was as comfortable as we could make him, I settled back in, returning to my previous way of dressing. I was incredibly sad, but I also felt as if I’d come home. I’d brought Ruby’s suitcase up to my room and carefully unpacked her belongings into a spare drawer in the dresser. Alice planned to sleep in the room across the hall to make room for Ruby. Leonardo would stay with Leela and Dad on a cot.
“Now what?” Leela asked. I could hear the pain and anger in her voice, simmering under the surface like water almost ready to boil.
I shrugged helplessly in response as Dax knocked and then quietly came in.
“I just came from Mango’s,” he said. “He’ll be here shortly.”
“I really can’t take much more of this, Blue,” Leela said. “So what if this is an uncle he hasn’t seen since he was little? I’m afraid the trip here has done exactly what I thought it would!”
Leonardo looked from Ruby, to me, to his mother. He knew his father was going to die because he was sick, but I’m not sure he really understood what that meant. How could he comprehend the finality of such a thing when I couldn’t even fathom it?
“I told you this was stupid!” Ruby snapped. “I can’t believe you went along with this crazy idea!”
Leela gave her the look. You know, the one that says, “be quiet” without actually saying it out loud. Ruby definitely got the message because she didn’t say anything more. Instead, she glowered at me like I was the devil that was killing her step-father.
Dax seemed really bothered by the unpleasantness in the room and I can’t say I blamed him; I was extremely upset by it, too.
“Mango would never do anything to hurt your dad,” he quietly said, standing firm in his belief of the goodness of my great-uncle.
Unable to hide my overwhelming grief, I said with a lowered voice so the others wouldn’t be able to hear very well, “Look at him, Dax. He isn’t going to last much longer, I can feel it.”
He looked me squarely in the eyes and said again firmly, “Maybe not, but if Mango says things had to be this way, then they did.”
The faith he had in his friend left me gob-smacked. I don’t think I’d ever felt that way about anyone before. Then, sadly, it occurred to me that I should have had that kind of conviction about Dad. Why had I always been so quick to believe the worst about the very person who not only gave me life, but had never intentionally done me any harm?
Guilt welled up in my heart until my head felt heavy and tears came to my eyes. The worst part, I thought, was that I was having these realizations so late. It was too late because in a matter of hours, or if I was lucky, days, my father would be gone.
Dax must have seen the agony I felt because he gently took my hand and he just held it. He couldn’t possibly have known just how comforting that gesture was to me right then. Everything was changing, and not for the better. But Dax was a constant, a source of strength.
Without any fanfare, Mango materialized in the room. It seems a strange way to describe it, doesn’t it? But how else could I explain it? One moment he wasn’t there, the next he was. Just like that. No footsteps approaching from the hall, no opening of doors. Just… there he was.
And he looked a fright, too, in his tattered clothing, strangely colored skin and glowing eyes. Looking at the others, I could tell instantly that he was visible to them, too.
Ruby’s jaw hung slack as her eyes registered what she was seeing. But if Leela was taken aback by his appearance, she had the opposite reaction. Without warning, and with Leonardo right behind her, she lunged across the room, yelling.
“So are you this Mango character I keep hearing about then? Are you the one that just insisted my poor, sick husband travel all the way here when he’s so ill? How selfish could you be?”
Mango cringed at the shrillness of her voice and tried to form words, but they wouldn’t come out.
Suddenly, my little brother was in on the action, yelling at Mango, too. “Yeah, my mom is right!”
I know I should have probably stepped in and begged them to calm down, but I honestly didn’t know what to say. Besides, my feet felt rooted in place. No matter how hard I tried, I just failed to do anything.
It was Dax who spoke up, again, for his friend. “No, you have it all wrong.”
“He would never hurt anyone. Not in a million years!”
Mango turned to Dax and looked at him with eyes full of appreciation. “But I did hurt people. I hurt my wife, my twin daughters and everyone. I made decisions that were the ruination of my family. Can you imagine anyone being so stupid? Well, that was me.”
Dax gazed from Leela to Mango in muted silence.
We all turned to listen as Mango continued.
“At the time, I was wowed by how fast my career in baseball was happening. I was quick to take the money they gave me. And for what? So they could inject me with this horrible disease that was mutated and accelerated by being exposed to the meteor that wiped out our house?
“You know, when the meteor crashed, no one was home, thankfully, except for me, Leo and Jilly. Keniesha, Memphis, her younger girls and my girls were all shopping. Liev was at work. And I was playing with Leo and Jilly in the yard.
“I saw the bright light of it and wondered what it was. In fact, I almost realized too late that it was heading straight for us. I had the twins in my arms and I started running. When it hit, we were almost to the barn and I fell to the ground. This strange electricity feeling began to tingle in my hands and feet, then moved up my limbs so fast, I was paralyzed by it. That’s when I’m sure what I had, what mutated within me, spread somehow into Leo and Jilly.”
I gasped, putting a hand to my mouth. “Is – is that why no one knows what my dad is dying from?”
Slowly he nodded, a look of pure misery on his face, his features slumped. “Yes. I had to run away from there. I knew that as soon as the lab figured out where the meteor had hit, they would come looking for me and I couldn’t let them find out anything about it. I didn’t know what they would do, but I knew whatever it was would be sinister since they’d already infected me with who knows what.
“I traveled for some time, looking for a place I could live where I wouldn’t be noticed. I came across Winchester quite by accident. Once I got here, I realized the safest place was the cave. There were tunnels running everywhere that I could escape through if they ever did find me. And once I realized what my new abilities were and practiced using them, I watched out for our family. It was all I could do since I couldn’t let them know I was alive.
“While Leo wasn’t ill, I did see signs a time or two that made me suspicious that he might become ill at some point. I started watching him closer. I suppose Jilly might be sick, too, if she were still with us.”
Finally, I found my voice. I’m not sure I’d absorbed everything he said, but at least I was able to ask a question. “You said I wasn’t your first choice? You tried to make contact with the family before me, didn’t you?”
He sighed, his glowing eyes troubled. “I did. Every clue I ever sent to Keniesha or my daughters was ignored. Liev sort of got the message, it was the P.I. in him, I suppose. But he was old and no one listened to him. You were the only one who was curious, Blue.”
“Why are we all here now?” Leela asked. “Because, honestly, this is a great story and everything, but is this family reunion really worth making his life even shorter than it could have been?”
Mango regarded her sadly. “I’m sorry. You have been through enough, I know. Leo has suffered because of me and now you’re all suffering.”
“So why?” Leela demanded.
“It is because of your hardship that you are here. It’s because… because I have to make amends somehow for all of the wrong I’ve stupidly done.”
Wiping my eyes that had started flowing again, I said, “How? How could you possibly make this right?”
“I’ve spent years practicing for this very day. I have built up my strength and learned a lot. This is the moment that my higher purpose will come to pass.” He turned to Dax and said, “I believe I’m ready. Bring him to me.”
What happened next is indescribable. I can only say that while Dax supported my unconscious father, Mango laid hands on him. At first, there was nothing, but then, slowly, I became aware of sparkles where Mango’s hands rested.
Leela and I glanced at each other uncertainly and for a moment, I thought she might stop this entire thing, whatever it was. But she didn’t. She stood in awe looking much the same way I must have… wide eyed, not sure what exactly we were seeing.
After a while, more sparkles appeared, they grew in size and intensity until Dad and Mango were covered in them from head to toe.
I was so awed, I didn’t realize right away that Mango was actually changing…
Suddenly, he let go and staggered across the room toward the bed. My feet stayed planted as Dax slowly stood more straight. My dad was awake and… I don’t know how to say this, but his face was full, the ruddiness of his skin was gone and he looked healthy!
Rushing forward, Leela grabbed hold of him as if she would never let go again. Tears streamed freely down her face as she stroked his hair and begged over and over again that this was not a dream.
When he stepped back from her, it was as if he was fully restored. Leela kept touching him, feeling all over in amazement as if she couldn’t believe this was real.
“I’m okay, I don’t know how, but I’m okay,” he whispered.
He turned to me then and held me tightly as sobs were wrenched from both of our throats. As I embraced him, I didn’t want to ever let him go again.
That moment was a second chance and this time, I was determined not to take my father for granted.
That’s when I heard Dax’s strangled cry from across the room. We all hurried to the bed where moments before, my father had laid dying. Now Mango was lying there, a peaceful expression on his elderly face. He just looked like an old man taking a peaceful nap.
“No, no, no!” Dax yelled at him. “I – I think he’s dying!”
Tears filled my father’s eyes as he knelt over the person who had given him back his life. He took Mango’s hand and whispered something into his ear. I imagined it was thanks, or that he loved him, I’m not sure.
Mango’s eyes opened slightly and he called for Dax, who came closer to him. As I looked on, he reached for Dax’s hand and said, “For many years, I lived alone and you became my only friend. You were the only one to look past what others could not.”
Dax held Mango’s hand tightly, tears flowing down his cheeks. “You’ve been my only friend, too.”
Mango opened his eyes a little more so he could see Dax better. “You’ve always had such a beautiful gift but you have kept it hidden. You’ve spent most of your life living in the dark. It is time you brought your gift to the light.”
With what seemed a terribly great effort, Mango performed one more miracle. He gave everything he had…..
Suddenly, Dax touched his face with his free hand, his other hand still tightly in Mango’s grasp. His jaw dropped as bright golden sparkles appeared and spread, seemingly wiping the scars right off of his face.
…and then Mango was no more.
There was not a single dry eye left in the room. Mango’s gifts had forever changed all of our lives.
Author’s Note: Well, that about wraps up the storyline that was begun in Generation 1 with Mango’s disappearance! I hope you liked how it turned out; I had a lot of fun writing it and building up to this chapter.
I would like to say a special thanks to Bee for the pose she made where Mango is healing Leo. It was a strange request and she didn’t know at the time why she was making it, but she did a terrific job! You can find her poses here: Poses by Bee.