Dear Diary, today began earlier than usual as Bea decided she didn’t need to sleep past five this morning. Ellie got up with her and tried to get her to go back to sleep, but Chicken wasn’t having that. Instead, she demanded eggs and toes (or “toast” for the adult speakers).
It wasn’t long before cooking smells wafted in from the kitchen, turning my stomach over in waves. I was suffering from one of the many headaches that had plagued me since the shooting. Dr. Kline said after a “TBI” (or traumatic brain injury), headaches might occur, then he gave me a prescription.
Sometimes the pills worked, other times, they only took the edge off. In the meantime, the pain was skull crushing.
Ellie knelt in front of me after I managed to join her in the dining room.
“You should have stayed in bed,” she said as her fingers curled around my legs.
Her warm hands always made me feel better. I know guys often lie and say they’re fine, and I actually used to do that when I was in pain from dancing. But there was no way to hide a headache like this. All she had to do was take one look at me and she knew what was going on.
“I’m supposed to be trying harder.”
“That’s commendable, honey, but trying harder doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rest if you’re in pain.”
“I promised to brush my hair today,” I said with a quirky smile that was half grimace.
She laughed a little. “I’ll admit that would have been great but I’m more worried about the dark circles under your eyes.”
“So, who’s babysitting us today?”
“I don’t like it when you say it like that,” she said with a frown.
“Today is your dad. Your parents are in town so your mom could guest lecture at River Fork Girls College. Your father said he would enjoy spending some time with you.”
“Not today, he wouldn’t,” I grumbled.
“That does it, I’m staying home.”
“No, no, don’t do that,” I said. “I’m sorry I’m such a grouch this morning.”
“I know you’re in a great deal of pain and you can’t help it. I hate leaving you like this.”
Her words crushed my heart as if a vise had gripped it and continued to squeeze. I felt guilty because there were times I was jealous of the life she lived out there in the real world. She was able to do something she was passionate about, meet new people, see friends on an equal level. It hurt me to my core that I was being selfish enough to take even one day of it away from her. She’d suffered enough.
“Dad’s here,” I said as he came in. “You should go to work and enjoy your day. I took my pills and they’ll kick in soon.”
“I don’t know,” she said with a frown.
“Hello, kids,” Dad said with a little wave as he joined us.
Ellie patted my leg like I was a child, then stood. “Holden’s got one of those headaches.”
I opened my eyes and blinked against the harsh sunlight that flooded them, making everything worse. “She thinks she should stay home, but I told her we’d be fine.”
“Of course we will,” he agreed with an enthusiasm I wasn’t feeling.
Murphy, who I didn’t remember having, approached me with his happy, little face. Of the many things I’d had to relearn since the shooting, one was that I loved a little dog. In the past two years, my memory had not improved but Murphy was patient. I found a best friend in him, someone who would never judge me or think me incomplete. He was faithful and funny, he always treated me like I was the best thing that’d ever happened to him.
“Hey, Murph,” I said as I tuned Ellie and Dad out. They were talking about me, no doubt, in their hushed tones.
Ellie kissed me a few minutes later and told me bye. I did my best at providing a reassuring smile and told her to have a great day.
“There is always something else, Son.”
“What? What is there?” I demanded. “Tell me because I’d like to know!”
Dad’s expression went through a lot right then. At first, I saw astonishment in his eyes, then a bit of anger, finally it all resolved with his mouth in a thin, firm line.
“We will speak about this again when you are calm.”
His words, of course, deflated me as I suppose he thought they would. Mom always said it takes two to fight and Dad wasn’t going to go down that road with me.
It was clear he’d heard me but all at once, I wasn’t in the mood to argue. “I said, I’m sorry.”
“Ah, well, no worries,” he answered with a nod.
Bea sang as loud as she could while pounding the xylophone. There were no words, not any I could tell anyway. Dad cringed but didn’t stop her.
“It may be that I am wrong about Beatrice and her musical abilities.”
This made me smile a little. “It’s too early to tell, I reckon.”
Now he laughed. “Yes, I suppose you are right.”
“If the time does come, though, for music lessons, or whatever, I do not want you to feel pressured in a financial sense. You know if there is anything you or your family needs, your mother and I will help you in an instant.”
One thing I’d worried about my entire life, it seemed, was whether I was the kind of son my father could be proud of. For a long time, I felt like having a boyfriend and pursuing ballet was a double whammy for him. He’d expected that I would follow him into the family business, marry and have kids. And, who knows? If Fletcher hadn’t broken up with me all those years ago, I could still be with him now. Well, that was actually a matter of opinion. We had issues.
After I started working in the ballet company, we had a heart to heart and he told me I was fine the way I was. And things were good. No matter how well or how crappy I danced, I knew I had his support.
Then, this happened and I will never dance again. It’s obvious my family loves me. My parents aren’t out of town near as much as they used to be. My sister stops by almost every day and Ellie has been more patient with me than I deserve.
“Oh, uh, sorry. Yeah, I know you and mom are there for us. Thanks.”
I’m guessing he knew I would never accept financial help but he smiled and nodded at me regardless.
As Dad took Bea inside for lunch and her nap, I tried very hard not to lose myself in daydreaming again. I’d been doing less of that sort of thing but sometimes, I lost myself in memories before I even realized it.
With some struggle, I managed to turn my chair around on the small porch so I could see the city in the distance. Luckily, my head felt good enough now that the sun wasn’t bothering me so much.
Fortress Rock was my favorite place in the world and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. At times, I felt my stomach sink when I thought about no longer living in the city proper. I liked the excitement, the people, the sounds of cars driving by, sirens in the night. Even after a couple years, it was too quiet here.
With a deep sigh, I gazed up at the sky. The air smelled like fresh cut grass, though, which was kind of nice. There were also more trees. And this house had a great looking treehouse for Bea.
If only I could climb up there with her. Rosetta had promised I’d walk again but could I trust her to tell me the truth? I hadn’t questioned her before but this seemed too good to be true.
“Did you see that?” I asked her.
“No, Holden, of course not.”
I had to believe her and try my best to make it happen, there was no other choice in the matter. As she’d said, I had to do it for my family.
That evening after Dad had left and dinner was over, Rosetta came by. I transferred myself from the wheelchair to the couch to visit with her. Ellie brought Bea’s dollhouse to the living room and plopped the toddler down in front of it.
“There you go, sweetie,” she cooed.
“My niece is the most delightful of children. I do think you should get her on TV.”
“Oh, no, none of that kind of thing,” Ellie said as she returned to the kitchen.
“Hey, Chicken, do you wanna be on TV?” I asked.
“Are you the most adorable child ever?” Rosetta asked her.
“Oh, yes you are, Auntie says so,” Rosetta said with a wide smile.
This game went on for a few minutes with a lot of teasing and laughter, then there was a lull in the conversation. Bea, who was playing with the dollhouse the entire time she was telling us no, bit into one of the doll’s heads.
“Your doll says ouch!” I told her.
Instead of being sorry for the doll, her eyes lit up as she twisted its head.
My mouth opened a little as I watched her, feeling a little horrified.
Then, my sister said, “I admire her so much. Isn’t she a dear?”
Before I could respond with the horror I felt, Ellie said with a laugh, “Relax, Holden. All little kids do that kind of thing.”
While I couldn’t remember ever twisting any doll’s heads off, I still hoped my wife was right about that.
“Hello,” came a friendly male voice through the open door.
“Oh, hi!” Ellie answered, letting him inside.
In his arms was a child. “I’m sorry to interrupt but my wife and I are moving in next door. I’m J.P. Poe and this is my son Jem. We’re not quite all the way in yet but I thought it would be nice to introduce ourselves.”
After Ellie introduced us, she asked about his wife.
“I’m a stay at home dad and so I’ve been working on the house. She’ll be home soon which is why I can’t stay long.”
During our conversation, we learned that his wife was a fashion photographer. J.P. was actually short for Joseph Poe but for obvious reasons, he didn’t like it when people called him Joe Poe, so J.P. it was.
“It was very nice to meet you,” Ellie said as our guest left. “Bath time for a little girl!” Bea squealed with delight as Ellie scooped her up.
“Sweet dreams, I have to go,” Rosetta said.
Once she was clean and in her comfy jammies, I let her crawl up into my lap where she stood facing me. Ellie was nervous, but I told her it was time she let me watch my daughter by myself during her shower. It would only be for a few minutes and it would make me feel great to be in charge.
Chicken took hold of my cheeks in her little hands and leaned her forehead against mine.
“I love you,” I told her.
“Wuv you, too,” she said with a giggle.
Her hair smelled like baby shampoo and it felt good being able to hold her and take care of her by myself.
Once we were in bed and the house was quiet, I thanked her for giving me that chance.
“You’re getting stronger all the time,” Ellie said as she ran her fingers through my hair.
“Rosie said I’d walk again – that she’s seen it.”
Ellie’s hands paused for a moment. “I’m sure she’s right but I don’t want you full of false hope.”
We were silent for a little while before I said, “It’s important to me that I find something to be passionate about.”
“That’s wonderful. Do you have anything in mind?”
“No, but wanting it is a beginning, right?” I asked.
When she answered me, her voice was thick with unshed tears. “Right. Whatever it is, I’ll always be your biggest fan.”
Author’s Note: Thank you so much, Bee, for the wonderful poses! You are a gift to me. <3 You can find Bee’s poses at Poses by Bee. You can find her awesome Simlit at Stories by Bee.
As always, thank you for reading, liking, lurking, and commenting,