Kevin the Comforter Chapter 8- Different Shades of Guilt

Setting- The Girardi residence, Monday around 2:45 pm.

Kevin and Helen enter his room. Helen walks over to his bed to see how Joan is doing, when she touches her forehead it seems a bit warm. Helen pulls up a chair and sits by the bed, allowing Kevin to get back to the article he was working on. Seated behind his lap top he looks over at Joan with certain concern. He catches himself thinking how fast things can change, as just that morning he was loathing Joan and now he was concerned about her well being. Helen, catching Kevin looking in their direction instead of down at his lap top sends him a warm smile, he returns it and then focuses on the work that he has to do.

When Helen seats herself after having poured a glass of water from a bottle on the bed side table, she finds herself looking into Joan's wide open, yet glacy looking eyes.

Joan a bit disoriented, blinks a couple of times. Her mother's worried look brings one of confusion to her face, with a touch of bewilderment she says;

"Mom, what are you doing here? Why do you look so worried- everything is fine between Kevin and me now, or at least it was before I fell asleep." Frowning, looking a bit uncertains she adds; "I think."

To soothe her daughter's mind Helen smiles down at her, takes a hold of her hand and says; "Yes Joan, Kevin and you are fine. It's more you're health that's worrying me right now.

Smiling weakly Joan says; "Oh. I'll be fine. I was stressed out, that's all." Slowly she then gets to her feet and walks over to where Kevin is seated at his desk.

Hearing approaching footsteps, he looks up- into her smiling face. Gently Joan pushes his chair away from his desk, he offers no resistance. She then gets onto his lap, looks him straight into the eyes and says;

"Kevin Girardi, you are the best big brother anyone could ever hope, wish and least of all have!- in return, I hope to be the best little sister you could ever have from now on!" She then embraces him and he puts his arms around her.

When trusting his voice after swallowing hard a couple of times, a blushing Kevin says; "Joan you shouldn't give me such high credits. I'm not all that great. Besides, all those compliments might bring back my old arrogance- now you wouldn't wanna do that!" He is smiling as he concludes his sentence.

"Ah, if the truth should make you arrogant, then so be it. I'd rather you know how I feel, than shut it inside and spend another night in the bathroom all stressed-out because of it." Joan says meaningfully.

Helen finds her two oldest kids' closeness touching after their agonizing dispute, before she knows, it a tear escapes her eye. Joan sees this and beckons her over to them, Helen takes up the invititation and they embrace in a gigantic bearhug. Helen distanciates herself from the embrace to look at her two eldest and says; "Would either of you be interested in a Rootbeer float?" Neither reclines the offer. "Okay. I'll give a holler when they are ready, so that the two of you can join me in the living room." Helen then proceeds down stairs to the kitchen- knowing that Luke will be home from school soon she makes him one as well.

Meanwhile, Kevin fills Joan in on his most recent articles as she has always shown interest in his work. Joan in return fills him in on the English test which she took earlier that day that she should have aced with just one mistake, yet somehow failed.

"Why didn't you ask your teacher how you got such a poor grade with just one mistake?" Kevin inquires.

"I tried, but he sent me away- telling me that all questions about the test would be answered after school and only then." Joan replies with a big sigh.

"When you do have a chance to ask him, he better have a good reason; like he made a mistake, as one fault could never lead to an F, unless you cheated? Knowing you though, I think that's out of the question." Kevin says smiling at Joan.

"Yeah you're right, he better have a good excuse, as I didn't cheat and didn't deserve an F. I'll tell you tomorrow what he had to say for himself." Joan says with a smirk, which makes Kevin laugh- jokingly he says;

"He better watch out, Joan is on the war path!"

"Uhuh I sure am, I want the A that I deserve!"

"Kevin, Joan, come downstairs." Helen calls up from the bottom of the staircase.

"We'll be right there!" Joan calls in reply.

A few minutes after Joan and Kevin joined Helen in the living room, Luke arrives home from school. Helen calls out to him;

"Luke there's a rootbeer float here waiting for you." Luke replies;

"Oh great, be right there!" Walking into the living room, seeing Joan and Kevin seated next to one another he cannot help smiling- "So you two finally sorted things out I guess?"

Passing each other a smile, they both say "Yeah we did."

Smiling perkily Luke says; "Glad things are back to normal, whatever that is." This has the others cracking up and Luke, looking confused says; "I didn't say anything funny, so did I miss something here!"

"It's not what you said, but the way you said it that's so funny!" Helen says wiping a tear from her eye.

"Oh, okay. I rest my case." Luke says shrugging his shoulders, still not quite getting why they laughed, but not wanting to let this on.

"By the way Joan, did you happen to leave school early today, I missed you at lunch, so did Adam?" Luke informes;

"Yeah as a matter of fact I did, I wasn't feeling too hot so Mrs. Moran told me to go home. She actually drove me home too, afraid that I wouldn't get home if I took the bus!- wasn't that sweet of her!"

Smiling Helen says; "It sure was. Why didn't she tell me that you had gone home sick though?"

Wrinckling her forhead Joan replies; "Um, because I told her not to, as you were testing your classes today."

Giving Joan a hug Helen says; "If you're so sick that you get sent home from school, by all means do inform me or let someone else do so from now on okay, that counts for all three of you." Helen says seriously.

"Ahum, ahum" Kevin interrupts the following silence.

"Yes Kevin, what is it?" Helen inquires.

"Well mom, as I'm no longer in school that can't apply to me!" Kevin says jokingly.

"Ah, well in your case, if you get sent home from work, I want to be informed!" Helen says looking seriously at her eldest son.

"Okay that does apply to me." Kevin says sending his mother a mischivous smile.

The phone then rings and Helen goes to pick it up-

on the other end she hears Adam's concerned voice; "Hey Mrs.G is Jane there? Can I speak to her or is she you know… too sick to come to the phone?"

Looking at Joan Helen replies, "No Adam, she's here and you can speak to her." She then hands phone over to Joan.

Smiling Joan says; "Hi Adam."

"Hey Jane, you alright? I missed you during luch today."

Smiling weakly Joan says; "I was sick, Mrs. Moran sent me home during second period."

In a concerned tone of voice Adam says; "Jane are you feeling better now?"

"Yeah I'm feeling better, I was just stressed-out, the situation being what it was between Kevin and me got to me, among other things."

"What other things Jane?" Hearing the concern in his voice, Joan assumes that Adam is worried that their relationship is involved somehow.

"Oh nothing to do with you or us Adam." Joan says reassuringly.

"Oh, okay. Do you mind if I come over after dinner? I just want to see you." Adam says weakly, as he actually wants to see Helen, not Joan.

Regret sounding through in her voice Joan says; . "I'm sorry Adam, I really need to go to bed early, I still feel kinda weak."

For good measure Adam throws in a "I hope you are well enough for me to see you in school tomorrow."

Sincerely Joan says; "I hope so too Adam, I miss you."

"Take care Jane"

"Take care Adam, bye."

"Bye Jane."

As Joan returns to the rest of the family, Helen smiles at her and says;

"Adam, is such a sweet boy- I bet he wanted to come over to see you."

Sighing Joan replies; "Yeah he did, good old Adam." Smiling weakly at Helen, Joan says; "I so need a shower, do I have time for one before dinner?"

"If you don't make it a long one you do!" Helen replies with a broad smile. Joan then heads up the stairs.

"I sure hopes she's all right. I mean, Joan telling Adam that she couldn't see him today is kinda weird, even if she is tired and feeling weak." Kevin says honestly concerned about his younger sister's health.

"I agree with you Kevin. I will keep an eye on her the rest of the evening, just in case." Helen says to reasure Kevin, as well as herself.

Then the phone rings once more, it's Will; "Hi Helen honey, I'm going to be late as I'm working on a case."

A bit disappointed Helen says; "Oh, okay, shall I wait up for you?"

Perkily Will replies; "Yeah, that would be great, it won't be all that late, I hope."

"Bye honey, take care."

"Bye Helen, take care."

Girardi residence, around 5 PM

The bell rings, Helen opens the door, it's Grace-

"Oh hi Grace, do you want me to call Luke for you?"

A concerned Grace replies; "Hi Mrs. Girardi, I actually came to see Joan. Is she okay?"

"She will be okay, she was stressed-out about Kevin being mad at her."

Sighing in relief Grace says; "Could I see her or is she lying down?"

"Actually she's taking a shower right now, but you can come in if you like and wait for her."

Grace replies "Thanks Mrs. Girardi." And enters the house.

"Grace, why don't you go in to the living room and keep Kevin company, as I have to cook dinner." As Grace wrinckles her forhead in confusion- Helen adds; "Oh Luke has tons of homework and a test to study for." Grace nods as she now understands why she was asked to keep Kevin company.

Upon entering the living room Grace feels a bit awkward- the last time she spoke to Kevin was months ago and the subject had been his suicidal thoughts, she had wanted to talk him out of them, but it had proved unnecessary as he had aready figured out that life was worth living after all.

Kevin sees that Grace isn't at ease but doesn't let this on, instead he just says; "Hi Grace, what brings you here?"

"Um, I was worried about Joan, I missed her at lunch today. Your mom told me I could wait for her in here."

As Grace is still standing, Kevin says; "Grace there are plenty of chairs left, just grab one and have a seat. Knowing Joan, she won't be down for a while yet."

Smiling weakly Grace, takes a seat opposite Kevin. "Kevin, how long are you gonna stay mad at Joan? I've never seen her so freaked-out before, she's so worried that you'll never forgive her and that she's lost her big brother forever- I think that's why she's sick now."

Kevin is moved by Grace's effort to patch things up between himself and Joan- this girl has guts that's for sure, he thinks to himself and smiles. Grace sees this and says; "Kevin, why are you smiling? I'm serious your sister is really suffering!"

Wiping the smile of off his face Kevin replies; "She came home from school early. I found her hanging over the toilet bowl, I realized how much she was suffering, we had a talk and things are okay between us now. I must say that you do have guts Grace, trying to patch things up for your friend."

This last remark had Grace off balance and blushing, yet she managed to reply; "Kev I'm glad you're human enough to give Joan a break, if you hadn't, she would soon have landed back in crazy camp and I don't think she would have survived that!"

At first he doesn't know what to think of Grace's remark about him being human enough- if he supposed to get mad or if he is supposed to take it as a weird kind of complement, after he has decided he replies; "Human enough, just what do you mean by that? Do you find me cold or something like that?" Kevin replies a bit defencively.

Grace wrinckles her forhead in concern; "Oh no, not at all cold! I meant it as a complement, not something to offend you."

Kevin smiles shyly- "Well in that case, thanks for the complement!"

Smiling Grace says; "You're welcome. Now where is Joan already?"

Smiling mischivously Kevin says, "Why? Am I boring you already?"

Grace sees that he is teasing her and smiling she replies, "Yeah, you are so not good company!"

Joan has entered the room- Grace and Kevin are so into teasing one another, that they do not notice her presence and she does not let on that she is there, as she is enjoying the moment- seeing her bestfriend and her older brother having fun, enjoying one another's company.

"Well neither are you!" Kevin replies jokingly.

"Ah, then why are you still here? Why didn't you wheel off to wherever?" Grace fires back at him, smiling triumphantly.

"Oh. That hurt Grace! Why back-stab me like that!" Kevin says, putting on a phony you hurt-my-feeling's face, at which Grace sarcastically replies;

"Ah, poor Kevin, why don't you ask if mommy will comfort you?" Joan tries to stiffle her laughter at which she fails and Kevin and Grace turn to her simultaniously.

Kevin is the first to speak: "Um, Joan, how long have you been standing there?"

Smiling Joan replies, "Oh just about an eternity! I had too much fun listening to the two of you, to let on that I was here already."

Smiling at Joan Grace says; "Girardi, spying on people is so not cool and just not done!"

Smiling Kevin wants his say too- "Yeah Joan, spying is considered rude behavior, especially when people are having fun- you should be a good sport and join in instead."

Sarcastically Joan replies; "Ah, but what if I say something as a joke and one of you take it seriously? Where would that get me- a brother or a friend less? Um, don't think so!" With a wave of her hand she says, "So count me out."

At this, Kevin reaches out to Joan with his left arm and pulls her gently towards him. "Joan, we're just joking around, the remarks hold no truth or harm. We all know that!"

Thinking it over, Joan looks from Grace to Kevin and back again; "Oh well. All I say from now on is meant as a joke okay. You both understand that?" Joan looks at Grace and gets an affirmative nod, she then looks over at Kevin which is still holding her hand and gets another nod.

"Well then let the fun begin!" Joan says, letting go off Kevin's hand to grab a pillow- automatically he puts his hands before his face, expecting Joan to hit him with it- instead she drops it to the floor and has a seat- leaving Kevin with an a baffled look on his face, as it was something he had not anticipated her to do.

Grace points her finger at Kevin and says; "Dude that look on your face, it's worth a billion!"

This has Joan cracking up and Kevin sends her a 'just-you-wait!' glance.

"Ah, what you gonna do to me?" Joan says provocatively.

Laughing Kevin replies; "One way or the other, I'm gonna get you!"

Grace blurts out; "Just how do you tend to get her with one arm in a cast?" Joan and Grace both turn pale, afraid that eventhough it was meant as a joke, this remark will have hurt his feelings as Kevin's complexion fades a few shades- within a few seconds though, a smirk appears on his face- Joan and Grace both let out a sigh of relief.

Sarcastically Kevin says; "Well Grace, me being crippled with just one arm, I thought you would help me get Joan. Guess I figured you wrong."

Beating Joan gently with a small pillow, a broadly smiling Grace says; "No you didn't!"

Joan holds her hands up before her face and chuckling she says; "Grace, please have mercy. I'm so laughing too hard. I'll die! Do you want me dead?"

Stopping with the pillow in mid-air Grace looks at her friend and says; "No I don't want you dead Girardi! I do however like to hear you laugh." Having said that, Grace resumes hitting Joan gently with the pillow.

Helen enters the living room- like Joan, she does not immediately let her presence be known, as she enjoys seeing the three of them having fun and hearing their laughter.

Luke has snuck up behind Helen and he is the one that breaks-up the 'party' by addressing Grace in a rather annoyed tone of voice; "Grace, why are you here and don't I know about it?"

Smiling Grace replies; "I was told that you were busy doing school work.Weren't you?"

Casting Helen a meaningful glance he says; "Yeah, I was. Still you could have dropped in and said hi."

Smiling sheepishly Grace waves at Luke and says; "Hi Luke!"

Rolling his eyes Luke says: "Girls! They are made up of atoms and cells too, so why are they so hard to figure out?"

Smiling at him, Kevin cynically replies; "Don't know. Guess with your brain, you can figure it out though, if anybody can."

Luke rolls his eyes at Kevin and sarcastically says; "Oh you're no help either!"

Now it's Kevin's turn to roll his eyes, sarcastically he says; "Ah, so now I'm not being helpful."- Throwing his left hand theaterically into the air, he says; "Geez, excuuuse me for living!"-and giggles.

Mumbling "I can't take anymore of this." Luke leaves the room, followed by a bemused Grace. The two of them go to the kitchen and start setting the table, they are soon joined by Helen.

"Grace, would you like to stay for dinner?" Helen inquires.

Smiling Grace says; "Sure Mrs.Girardi if my mom will let me." Standing with the phone in hand, Grace smiles and nods at Helen, her mother has agreed to her eating at the Girardi's. Luke, pleased that Grace is staying, starts whistling to both Helen and Grace's dismay, as it's one of the few things he isn't good at.

When Will arrives home a little past 11 pm, he is glad to see that Helen has waited up for him. He want to know if Kevin and Joan are still getting along, as the situation between lately had gotten to him too emotionally. Helen tells him about Joan, Kevin and Grace joking and laughing in the living room- in doing so, tears dwell from her eyes, she too had suffered along with her two eldest kids at their distorted relationship, and these were tears of happiness and relief. Will and Helen hugged eachother tenderly, each understanding what the other was feeling, then they said good night.

Tuesday at Arcadia High School

Helen and Joan enter the English room first thing in the morning, to address her teacher on the F that she had been given and most likely did not deserve. The answer they got, was that she was suspected of cheating- her answers and that of another sudent had been the same. Unbelievingly Helen said; "How do you know that my daughter cheated and not the other student?"

In reply the teacher said; "Because your daughter has never gotten an A in this subject before and the other student gets them all the time, that's why Mrs. Girardi."

Helen sighed and says; "Well this time I know she could have gotten an A, as I reviewed the story with her time after time and I know she almost knew it by heart when she left the house yesterday morning. So in this case, it doesn't prove that she did cheat and the other student didn't."

The teacher then promissed them, that the other student would be approached and asked if he or she had cheated.

"Thank you for your effort and I hope you come to the bottom of this after speaking to the other student." Helen says meaningfully.

A bit reluctanctly the teacher says; "Me too."

In conclusion Helen says: "I'll get back to you at lunch time to find out if you have gotten any the wiser." With that Helen and Joan leave the room.

During the time leading up to lunch, Joan and Helen alike are a bit nervous about the out-come of the English grade business. Joan wants to know if she will get her deserved A, thereby bringing her grade up a great deal and Helen wants to know if Joan will get her A, if so, will the teacher apologize for calling Joan a cheater and who is the real cheater.

When Helen and Joan enter the English room at lunch time, they find the teacher along side a flushed and teary eyed Adam- seeing Joan, Adam drops his head into his hands, which are resting on his lap, as if this gesture will make him invisible and the situation non-existent.

Unbelivingly Joan says; "No, way! Adam, did you copy my test answers! Did you!"

In reply, Adam nods his head. With his head still in his hands, he brings it up a bit, then barely audiably says; "Jane I'm so sorry! I had no idea that me cheating would give you an F. I thought you got an A like me- I figured the teacher wouldn't find out, as I worded the open questions differently from you.

Too mad to face Adam any longer, Joan leaves the room, leaving Helen and Adam there staring at one another, both lost for words, Helen due to her anger against Adam, as him cheating, had contributed to Joan being sick the previous day and Adam due to shame, humiliation and letting Helen down, as he knew Helen tried to fill in the space his mother once had taken in his life, she was doing a great job at being 'his' mother, but as of now, he was anything but a great 'son' to Helen.

Afraid to say something she would regret, Helen left the room too and went to see if she could find Joan, as she was sure her daughter needed her now.