"Light Flushes Shadows" (Chapter Seven)
Disclaimer- 'Degrassi- The Next Generation' and its characters are owned by Epitome Pictures and I'm still not seeking to make a dime from this fanfic.
Jeremiah Motors, Summer 2014
"Joey! Stop!" the voice pleaded- as the lights of Ontario instantly blinked back on ending the Blackout revealing the speaker, along with a companion.
"Craig?!" Joey hoarsely whispered as he let go his grip around Sean's throat- unable to vocalize what, by all odds, had to be an illusion or a ghost.
Despite the many differing loyalties and reasons everyone had for being on that car lot. No one who was there (or in the street) was the least prepared for the sight they were seeing- nor would ever forget it.
With a battered, taped guitar slung over his back, a frayed and worn out formerly blue shirt,tattered cowboy hat, somewhat threadbare, frayed jeans and sandals made from used tires and leather straps, Craig Manning would have been totally out of place there even without his hair being now waist-length and with a full beard down to the middle of his chest -as well as his face being tanned and sinewy. His hands and arms were quite noticeably more solid than they had been ten years before.
Immediately, Joey and Angie ran up to Craig and hugged him.
"Oh, I've missed you, big brother! I knew you couldn't have died!" Angie proclaimed.
"You look so much like Mom and even a bit like.. ." Craig started to say before Manny put a finger on her lips.
"Craig! Manny! How could you have put Daddy and me and everyone else through this agony!" Angie boiled as she pounded Craig's chest.
"We're sorry, "Craig quietly said as Angela quit banging.
"Wh-What are you doing here, Man?" Sean asked.
"Tranquilo, Pepito! We've been running away far too long!" Manny Santos proclaimed, while carrying a diapered baby and resting him on her somewhat exposed right hip. Her hair was also waist-length tumbling out of a kerchief, with a few braids. She wore a white cotton halter top that exposed a good portion of her midriff but a ,colorful red patterned knee-length shirt and homemade tire sandals with leather straps.
"The Louisiana migrant workers! Of course, that's what you were trying to tell me, Sean!" Emma gulped.
" You knew about them, Cameron?!" Jay snarled while glaring at them while being held down on the squad car.
"Craig, why did you and Manny run away? Why didn't you come to me?" Joey asked in tears as they let go their embrace.
"Joey, we weren't trying to hurt you!" Craig pleaded.
"Please we left because my parents once again threatened to send me to that Filipino convent," Manny insisted as she and Craig hugged the baby.
"We wanted to show everyone we could take care of ourselves so they couldn't tear us apart!" Craig insisted.
"And so you ran away and didn't even bother to write or call us in ten years?!" Joey said with an increasing edge to his voice while clenching fists to his own head.
"We didn't mean for that to happen. We first went to Buffalo and just meant to stay away a few weeks to show my folks we meant business," Manny explained.
"We didn't say anything to you, Angie or Ms. Nelson because we didn't want you to have to answer to the Santoses," Craig explained.
"Emma!" Spike Nelson Simpson cried as she ran into the lot- carrying Emma's baby son Rupert.
"Mom!" Emma cried
"Ms. Nelson?" Manny asked.
"Manny, Craig?! Is that really you?!" Spike asked as she hugged them.
"Yes, Ms. Nelson," Craig replied while nodding and holding his son.
"It's Mrs. Simpson now and. .. ." Spike corrected.
"I thought you and Emma were Nelsons forever and ever amen!" Manny pondered.
"One teen declaration in a class roll call after a rude awakening does not an eternal vow make, Manny!" Emma scoffed.
" I changed it to Simpson when Snake's cancer went into remission. I wanted to show my support and it was easier than constantly having to explain to folks why I had a different last name than my husband and son. .and why am I explaining my deal?! YOU have a lot of explaining to do, young lady!" Spike boiled.
"Yeah, and just cos you're taller and now stronger than me don't think that I'm letting this slide, Craig!" Joey boiled.
"As I was saying, we only meant to be away for a few weeks and were ready to come back but then we met Jimmy," Craig groaned.
"Are we about to have another flashback?" Andrew Kwan asked.
"What else?" Angie laughed.
Degrassi Street, July 1, 2004
"Craig, are you sure Joey will keep us from being split up and having to give up our baby?" Manny pleaded as they were seen walking back from the train station.
"No, but all this sleeping out in the open and scrounging for a odd jobs can't be good for you or our little one," Craig insisted as he and Manny clutched hand and kissed.
"Craig? Manny? Where have you guys been? Everyone's been stressed out thinking you were dead or. ..!? "Jimmy gulped as he hugged them.
"We're fine, Man!" Craig insisted.
" Oh, I was heading to The Dot! Me, Marco, Spinner and Dylan were going to organize a fundraising concert for you two being found!" Jimmy insisted.
"Hey! How about we make a grand entrance and we can celebrate our return with all the guys!" Craig beamed.
"Craig, you need to call home and. .. ."Jimmy pleaded.
"I know but we've seen the fliers and even saw a report on us in Buffalo. We'll have a media blitz for weeks around our folks' homes! This may be the last time this summer we get to hang with our friends!" Craig insisted.
"Okay. We'll do that for you and Manny," Jimmy insisted.
"Thanks, Man. You've been a cool friend to us! I'll never forget this!" Craig insisted.
"The Degrassi East Entrance is propped open! What's going on?" Manny asked.
"I don't know but we'd better get to the bottom of that!" Jimmy insisted.
"Look, it's Sean's gang and they're all wearing rubber gloves and carrying plastic buckets inside. What could that be about?" Craig asked.
Jeremiah Motors, Summer 2014
" . .. .and then Jay pushed Jimmy's finger to squeeze the trigger!" Craig cried out- after he told everyone about Jimmy's murder identical to what Sean had said..
"And the police have believed Jimmy was a meth dealer who committed suicide for almost ten years! Why did you two run away instead of going to them and clearing his name?!?" Marco boiled.
"We couldn't," Manny meekly replied.
"His parents didn't know what to believe and felt tons of guilt over not spending time with him! They divorced within months!" Emma boiled.
"How could do that to your friend? To ALL of us?!" Joey fumed.
"How could you be so selfish?" Angie asked.
"Wait! It wasn't because we were thinking of ourselves! We were thinking of you!" Manny pleaded as she pleaded with open arms while Craig took hold of their son and cradled him.
"BULLS--T!!" Caitlin boiled while Joey and Angie nodded.
" It's true," Sean replied.
Degrassi East Entrance, July 1, 2004
"SHUT UP! If any of you say a word to ANYone about what happened here! I'll f---ing kill you and every single member of your families-or have others do it!"Jay snarled as carefully stepped away from Jimmy's body.
"You killed him,"Manny sobbed.
"SHUT UP, SKANK!" Jay snarled.
"Don't talk to Manny that way,"Craig snapped.
"Shut up, or she and the little one gets it just like her onetime boyfriend Sully and his foster dad did," the female gang member Alex Smith sneered.
"What?" Manny asked.
"It's true!" Sean groaned.
"After them!Kill them! If I ever find out you've told anyone, I'll slaughter your families," Jay yelled.
"RUN!" Sean pleaded while Craig and Manny took off ahead of everyone else- in the confusion, Manny's locket caught on Jay's shoe but he didn't notice it before it fell off in the brier patch outside the East Entrance where it would be found almost ten years later.
Jeremiah Motors, Summer 2014
"You could have gone to the police! They'd have arrested Jay and his gang," Spike insisted.
"Mrs. Simpson, prison's nothing more than revolving door for Jay's gang! They do whatever he says,"Sean gulped.
"But you said that everyone would be safe. That you had a plan. .."Craig pleaded.
" All of you think you're so smart! I'm already serving life as it is and a trial could take YEARS to happen. By that time, accidents could happen and no one could be ready to testify," Jay snarled.
"Joey, you nearly crossed over a line no one should ever cross," Sean groaned.
"Yeah, I did! Oh, can you ever forgive me, Sean?" Joey asked.
"Sure. Just pray for me after I make that crossing," Sean gulped- as in a fraction of a second, he reached into his back pocket, took out a small pistol and, put it in his right handcuffed hand then turned around away from Jay who was facedown on the squad car.
BANG- the gun made the sound that pierced the night while Manny shielded her son's ears from the noise.
"But why, Sean?" Jay asked as the life was draining from him as he bled from a large hole in his chest..
"The only way I can protect my friends and their families from your gang is to lead it myself. I've been working my way up the ranks these ten years so I could do just that and I had to do it in front of the cops so I could be arrested and taken back to prison," Sean explained and turned his head to speak while everyone looked quite astonished before Jay gasped his last.
"Even though he killed Jimmy and would have done the same to the rest of us and I hate him for who he was and what he did, I'm still shaken at seeing him die," Angela shuddered.
"Me,too. Baby," Joey gulped while he, she and Caitlin all hugged- and Craig and Manny, Emma and Spike did the same.
" You're hereby charged, Sean Cameron, for the murder of Jason Neely. Any. .." the arresting officer said with a gulp.
"Go ahead. I'm ready to serve out whatever sentence. My conscious is clear. .and free!" Sean beamed.
"Um. Manny, Craig, aren't you going to introduce us to your little one?" Spike asked as she tried to regain her bearings.
"Oh, yes. Ms. Nelson. I mean, Mrs. Simpson. This is our son José Manuel Guzmán!" Manny beamed while she and Craig held him up to Joey and Caitlin.
"He looks just like you and Manny!" Joey gulped.
"He's gorgeous!" Emma beamed.
"He turned ten months old today,"Manny declared as she gently handed the yawning baby over to Spike and saw him pat Spike's nose.
"He's just five days younger than Rupert here!"Spike laughed while she held both babies.
"We named him for you and Mr. Santos. Pepito's Spanish for 'Joey'!" Craig insisted.
"How do you like being a grandpa?" Caitlin laughed.
"If I get to be a grandpa, you're going to be grandma!" Joey laughed.
"Why Guzmán?" Emma asked.
"We chose that name for us because ,with my mom being the daughter of a Madrid diplomat and Manny's family coming to the Phillipines from Spain, our Spanish heritage was common ground for us. Manny's knowledge of Spanish came in very handy these past ten years!" Craig proclaimed.
"You were migrant farm workers in the Southern US?"Emma asked.
"Yep! Pedro. .I mean Craig picked up Spanish muy rápido- and once he grew out his hair and beard, he didn't look that different from many others- except for his height and eyes!," Manny explained.
"Since Craig means 'rock' in Gaelic and that's what peter originally meant, we used the Spanish for it for me and Manny became Lita!"Craig explained as they hugged.
"I used to be called Manuelita when I was a child," Manny explained.
"We were Pedro y Lita Guzmán- migrant workers who entertained the others with Spanish songs on the guitar!" Craig laughed.
"Funny thing is, they kept deporting us to Mexico but we were safe there!" Craig laughed.
"It must have been awful living like that!" Caitlin shuddered.
"We harvested every legal crop you could think of and it was backbreaking work but we learned that, as long as we had each other, we could survive anything," Manny beamed.
"But you couldn't have been pregnant ten years with . ..Pepito here! We're not elephants!" Caitlin gasped which caused both Manny and Craig to look down very sadly.
"Caitlin, she may have lost. .." Emma shuddered.
"No, Esperanza was born September 14,2004 outside Wilkes-Barre but if Jay's gang was going to try to kill us, we knew that she'd, too, be a target so …we . ..brought her to a Pennsylvania hospital when she was two days old and handed her to a nurse to have her adopted then ran off!" Manny groaned.
"We named her 'hope' in Spanish- and I tracked her down and took pictures of her with her adoptive family when she was five then sent the camera to Sean to take pictures of you, Angie and. .your new half-brother Archie," Craig explained.
"And I dropped it by the railroad tracks," Sean groaned.
"But explain about trying to steal the money from Craig's trust fund," Joey insisted.
"He did it for Pepito! We've blown our chances for an education and we're not afraid of hard work- as long as I get to play my guitar and take pictures but he deserves a better opportunity. Sean and I each have secret e-mail addies and we worked out a code so we e-mailed each other and we asked him to get that money and put it where Pepito could use it when he grows up," Craig explained.
"You think you could raise him here? I think Rupert could use a friend his age!" Emma insisted.
"Rupert. .that's Mr. Simpson's middle name! Where is. ..?" Manny asked.
"He was in remission two years and we conceived our daughter Linda but the cancer relapsed and he died three months before she was born,"Spike sadly explained.
"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that!" Manny cried.
"That's why Daddy and Mama named their son after him,too,when he was born a month later," Angie explained.
"You calling Caitlin' Mama'? But,kid, we had a Mom and. .." Craig sighed.
"I know but between Daddy's revolving girlfriends after he finished mourning Mom, I needed a Caitlin to be 'Mama'. Besides, you always called Daddy 'Joey' and knowing you were my brother but called him that, I got a bit frustrated and I didn't want Archie to feel that confusion with me and Mama," Angie explained.
"You got a good head on your shoulders. You'll make a wonderful aunt!" Craig insisted.
"Should we have Pepito call you Aunt Emma or Ms. Nelson?" Manny asked to Emma.
"It's Ms. Strong now- as I think Emma Nelson Strong sounds cool but he's welcome to call me Aunt Emma. .and I'd like you to call me a friend again, Manny," Emma insisted as she and Manny hugged.
"Wait til you meet my son-in-law Travis! Quite the character!" Spike laughed.
"An environmentalist,electronic genius and Buddhist. It was his insistance that Rupert's middle name be Siddartha!" Emma laughed.
"It would be great for all of us to meet and share stories before the media blitz starts,"Craig beamed.
"Looks like the media blitz has already started, " Emma groaned- as quite a few TV news trucks raced to the scene and dozens of reporters called out Craig and Manny's names.
"Time to face the music," Craig groaned.
"But we're not going to do it alone!" Manny insisted as all the friends and family looked at her and Craig and nodded.
A Few Days Later in Liberty Van Zandt's Courtroom
"This court finds the DNA tests conducted on these three individuals and Angela Jeremiah proves that the older male is indeed related to Miss Jeremiah and the dental records prove that he is one Craig Manning, the female's dental records and fingerprints proves that she is Manuela Santos and the baby's DNA has shown that he is the offspring of these two individuals. Mr. Manning and Ms. Santos, you cost the Province a great deal of time and monies expended over your disappearance and I hereby find you two guilty of Falsifying your murders, being accessories to the murder of James Brooks, Jr. on July 1,2004 and sentence you to three years in prison each but inasmuch as your families have suffered more than enough as it is- and you two want to do everything to make it up to them and the Brooks Family, I'm suspending the entire sentences and redeclaring you two being alive. I warn you; however, that if either of you ever attempt to disappear again, I will personally see to it that the book gets thrown at you," Liberty ruled.
"Thanks, Your Honour!" Manny gulped- looking somewhat cleaned up from before and holding her baby while Toby and Kendra sighed their relief.
"Judge Van Zandt, may I ask the court's permission for something?" Craig asked.
"The court will hear your request," Liberty pondered.
"Manny and I would like to get married right here and now- for Pepito's sake and our own so could you do that?" Craig asked- clean shaven (revealing a knife scar on his left cheek) and with his hair trimmed to shoulder-length.
" I don't normally conduct weddings but I'm qualified so would you two approach the bench?" Liberty asked as they did so.
" We'd like Joey Jeremiah to be our Best Man and Emma Nelson Strong to be our Matron of Honour!"Craig insisted.
"And you already have a courtroom of witnesses. Are you sure you'll be okay staying for this Ms. Kerwin?" Liberty asked.
"Yeah, it's time to let go of the pain and be friends," Ashley insisted from the spectators bench.
"WAIT! Stop the wedding!" another voice came from the back of the courtroom.
"And you are? " Liberty asked.
"Mrs. Montserrat Acha de Santos!" a beautiful middle aged Latina woman called out.
"Mama!" Manny cried as she burst into tears.
"Mrs. Santos, we're old enough not to need permission and. .." Craig started to argue.
"Craig, Manuela, I took the first flight from Manila when I got news of your safe return. The things me and your late father said and did when we found out about your child were out of family pride and I believed we were right so I make no excuses for the choices I made," Mrs. Santos insisted with a strong Filipina accent.
"You came all the way from Manila to. ..?" Manny asked as she gasped.
" But these last ten years without knowing where you are has been agony and made me see we were wrong and I'm sorry that my actions helped contribute to you staying away ten years,"Mrs. Santos declared.
"Would you like to be witness our wedding and be Pepito's Abuelita?"Manny asked.
" I'd love that more than anything!" Mrs. Santos insisted as she ran up to hug her daughter and imminent son-in-law.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Mr. Craig and Mrs. Manuela Santos Manning! You may kiss the bride" Liberty declared a few minutes later- as Craig took Manny's ice-skate bracelet out of the evidence bag and clasped it around her left wrist.
"Could we make one more request?" Manny asked.
" The court's in a sentimental mood so I'll ask what you have in mind," Liberty pondered.
"We saw our daughter Esperanza at a distance five years ago with her adoptive parents and we know she's healthy and happy like Pepito is with us but. ..we'd like the court to arrange it so she can get our medical records if she ever needs them and that if, after she's eighteen, if she wants to seek us out, she could do so, "Craig pleaded.
"The court is gratified to know that you've always had her best interests at heart in giving her up to want to protect her and in wanting her to grow up happy with the family she loves so the court will make contact with the Pennsylvania authorities and put your request into place. Everyone's free to go!" Liberty ruled as she slammed down her gavel.
"J.T. is there something about Justin you want to. ..?" Liberty asked as J.T. ran up to the bench immediately afterwards and climbed over it to where Liberty was sitting
"If the court's still in a sentimental mood, how about you and me out on a date?" J.T. asked with a grin.
"J.T.," Liberty groaned.
"The case is over so there'd be no conflict of interest. .and I'm beginning to think I ditched my superwoman a little too soon! Please?" J.T. asked.
"Let's try being friends first and seeing how much each of us has changed before we do anything else!" Liberty insisted.
"Anything?" J.T. leered.
"There may be a few exceptions," Liberty purred as they walked off the bench together.
The Dot Grill a little later
". .. and the replays of Spin's wrestling comeback have set cable and satellite viewing records worldwide! Who'd have thought Emma and Sean would put us over the top!" Paige smirked at the Dot later that afternoon.
"I'm just glad Craig and Manny turned out to be okay,"Ellie sighed while sitting with Marco at Paige's table.
"Yeah and now they've passed their GEDs, they can do anything! Haze and I were thinking of hiring Manny to model along with Terri and Craig could do our musical scores and photo shoots! They're both still very photogenic and think of the publicity!" Paige beamed.
"Publicity?! Jimmy's dead and they let everyone think it was a suicide and all of us thinking they,too, were dead and all you can think of is publicity?" Marco boiled.
"Hun, what's done is . .." Paige sputtered..
" Craig's little sister had to grow up with that shadow over her and the Brooks Family disintegrated! Some things can't be made right or forgiven!" Marco fumed as he left the table and The Dot.
"What's his damage, Ellie?" Paige asked.
"Paige, we've been through a lot but why does your showoff side have to take over at the worst times?" Ellie boiled as she also left the table and went after Marco.
" What did I do?" Paige asked.
"Leave me alone, Ellie! I don't want to hear a shrink lecture from you about letting go," Marco boiled.
"It doesn't help us to hold onto grudges. I had to let go what happened with Sean," Ellie insisted as she caught up to Marco in the street.
"After he stole some stuff from you," Marco recalled.
"Actually my dad's medals but I realized that people were more important so, if Craig and Manny have apologized and want to be your friends, you should give them that chance," Ellie pleaded.
" I guess if you put behind you what happened with Sean. .." Marco pondered.
" I mean they were just medals. Just material things," Ellie said with an edge.
"I'm glad you're better. .." Marco consoled as he put his arm around her shoulder.
"Virtually ALL that was left of Dad's legacy to me that Mom hadn't frittered or drunk away!" Ellie boiled.
"Calm down," Marco pleaded.
"I'm fine with it. It's just. .. .. 25 years of medals and commendations, irreplacable- sold to buy a new motorbike seat cover!" Ellie cried.
"It's okay,"Marco quietly replied as he hugged.
"Well, now you know that I understand why you may not be able to forgive Craig,Manny or Sean that quickly," Ellie consoled.
"But, maybe in time, we both can move past what was done," Marco insisted.
"So, are you still cooking Calamari Linguini tonight?"Ellie asked.
"Yep! You'd better there before seven or Dylan will likely eat your portion,"Marco laughed as they walked away.
A Few Weeks Later
At the Ontario Maximum Security Prison the guards buzzed the last gate to let Craig to the phone table. On the other side, Sean was seen walking up but without any chains and only one guard guiding him.
"So what happened?" Craig asked as he picked up the phone.
"Long-short of it is that I'm out in another 10 to 20," Sean related over the phone.
"Sorry to hear that, Man!" Craig insisted.
"I did what I did and I've got no one but myself to blame for the choices I made and not listening to any of you when I needed to. Besides, it'll take me that long to see to that that none of Jay's old gang ever tries anything with anyone at Degrassi," Sean insisted.
"What happens now?" Craig asked.
"I'm keeping my nose as clean as I can in here and Tracker's starting to visit me again next week. What about you, Man?" Sean asked.
"Manny and Emma are conspiring to matchmake Linda and Archie so the Jeremiah/Simpson line's united," Craig laughed.
"Will those two never give up?"Sean laughed.
"Considering how my stepbrother Archie dumped sand on Linda Simpson's head yesterday, I'm not sure they're meant for each other when they grow up,"Craig laughed.
"It must be good seeing Manny and Em as friends again," Sean insisted.
"Yeah, and our baby sons are carrying on the tradition- if their moms have anything to say about it!" Craig laughed.
"So, what now for you?"Sean asked.
"I'm playing quite a few clubs and my shots are getting exhibited around town. We may not ever be rich like my dad would have liked but we've got a good, cozy apartment and we're independent. We've got everything we need now!" Craig insisted.
"Yeah, now that my conscious is clear, so do I.Same time next month?" Sean asked.
"Uh huh!" Craig insisted as he nodded and Sean was led back inside into the main part of the prison.
"I'll see you, friend!" Craig whispered to himself as he walked out of the prison.
My thanks to everyone who's so far reviewed including S, BaLLin BaBi GrL, swizzbeatz, and jmeluver. Oh, and thanks,too to Cradlerobber Speedo-kun- know that I had your commentary in mind when I wrote a bit of dialogue in this chapter!