Walking into the kitchen to see the boys with their bags packed… Kirsten managed to avoid pausing, but just barely. Keeping up a façade that had been perfected through weeks of practice, she hurried them along enthusiastically as she hugged Seth with pride. She couldn't believe the kid she'd picked off the drive with skinned hands and knees from a skating mishap when he was six would now be packed, contemplating his future.
She led them out the door, making excuses for Sandy as she went. She knew how they should feel; knew it was how she had felt whenever her father had missed anything, or everything, important she had ever done. She hadn't known that when Sandy had taken over the Newport Group, he would end up becoming a carbon copy of the man who she resented most in the world. Usually, it would be her trying to find time to see them off at the airport, with Sandy telling her it was an important moment for the boys. Instead, roles had been switched, and, though she had told Sandy about it, he had still favoured his meeting, his job, over them.
At the airport, sans Sandy, there was no big goodbye scene. They walked to the point where Seth and Ryan would need to break off in different directions, looking like a family. Their similarities were easy to note; Seth and Kirsten, both of delicate profiles and slender frames, and Ryan and Kirsten, both blonde.
Seth hugged her, promised to call when he got there. She knew he'd be fine; Ryan was the one she was worried about. She knew he, too, would be able to find his feet quickly at Berkeley, but she also knew the only stable life he'd had was being shifted on its axis again.
"And what about you? You okay?"
"I'm a little nervous, actually." His quiet admittance made her smile. She gave him some words of encouragement and he, too, promised to call when he arrived. He smiled, offered her a hug which she returned before he walked towards his gate. Turning towards the exit, Kirsten caught sight of Theresa walking down stairs. Towards a child. Shocked by the moment, standing still, Kirsten sensed the bond between them. Theresa was a mother. The boy was two. It wasn't hard to do the math.
She went straight from the airport to the Newport Group. Sandy had finished his meeting; was on the phone, probably making promises he was stretched to keep. He tried to apologise insincerely for something she'd forgotten in her shock. Kirsten brushed him off, gave him the news about Theresa. Of course, he was sceptical, still wanting to see the good in people, almost shocked that she'd lied. He seemed willing to believe Theresa over her. Willing to brush it under the rug so he could get back to his precious hospital. Willing to ignore his wife, and news about one of his sons that could potentially change their lives. He turned his back on her after delivering his final word, certain that it was set in stone, the way her father had done so many times. She was almost unbelievable when he sat down, already thinking of work again, rather than the bomb she'd just dropped on him. Unwilling to waste any more of her time, Kirsten left for the empty and silent house that would greet her when she got home.
An hour after she'd arrived home, Julie Cooper-Nichol-Roberts came calling. She was inviting her to a Doctors' event which would inevitably end up with Sandy leaving her side to circulate the room with tidings of the hospital project that was slowly ripping them apart. Kirsten immediately made an excuse, resumed sitting next to the stairs. Julie, persistent as ever, followed her in, picking up that something was wrong. Which was surprisingly perceptive, for Julie. Kirsten admitted as much, but glossed it over with an alarming amount of sheen that she, herself, was impressed with. Kirsten half listened to Julie trying to convince her to come, wrestled with the idea of dressing up and going to a Newpsie party. Julie had been there for her after rehab, in a way. More there than Sandy, anyway. She was also one of the only people in Newport who didn't judge Kirsten by her drinking and downward spiral which still hadn't fully lifted back to a normal level. Agreeing to go, Kirsten wearily accepted Julie's enthusiasm before allowing herself a sad smile when she had gone. Another chance for Sandy to ignore her, but this time with an audience, in favour of the hospital.
He got home, excited about being able to kiss more arses tomorrow night. Kirsten was almost hoping he'd have to say he had a meeting and couldn't make it. No such luck. He picked up the ringing phone before she could reach for it and greeted Ryan. His cell rang, and he took the call, handing the phone to Kirsten like discarded rubbish. Kirsten was reminded of all the times she'd called home, and the phone had been handed over to her mother while her father handled business calls. As usual, Ryan immediately picked up on a difference in her voice, pressed her on the issue. Sandy was still outside, probably confident that Kirsten would be obedient, forgo telling Ryan until he got back. She knew Ryan would be upset about the delay, and decided on her own to tell him. He took the news silently, paused for a long time. Kirsten didn't know what news like this would feel like. Losing a child, then possibly gaining an instant son… She'd rather have Ryan back here to tell him face to face, know he had Seth or her to comfort him. Sandy, of course, would be away on business. Even when he was here, he wasn't.
"I don't want you to overreact because that's probably what I'm doing… I saw Theresa at the airport. She had a baby with her. It looked like her son."
Kirsten waited out his pause, until he told her he'd see her soon. Knowing there were no words for a moment like this, Kirsten told him she'd be here when he got home, before resuming her internet search for Theresa's address.
Ryan came home, looking uncharacteristically ruffled. Kirsten apologised, but knew she'd done the right thing by telling him, no matter what Sandy would say later. He confirmed this, and moved to put his things in the pool house, probably wanting some time to himself in familiar surroundings. Kirsten spoke to him when he was at the kitchen's threshold.
"No matter what happens, we're behind you."
She didn't know how true the words were, how much Sandy could be supportive when he simply wasn't there, but she knew she would do anything for this boy, and that he probably needed someone he could depend on. Someone who wouldn't lie to him. Someone who would actually be there.
His first words were accusatory, as if she'd gone against his instructions intentionally. He didn't consider that it had been the right thing to do, or that she had equal consideration with what went on with Ryan. Instead, it seemed like her disobedience was in question. He seemed not to have wanted Ryan to know at all, something Kirsten couldn't help but react to strongly.
"Being a father is important. Being a family is important. There was a time when you'd be making this argument."
He stopped the conversation, refusing to consider that any of this could touch him, lay blame anywhere at his door. They stared at each other, undiscussed words hovering in the air between them, before Sandy told her he had to go back to work. No surprise, there. The man that stood across from her seemed to be further away than just the other side of the bed. Instead, they were worlds apart now. They may as well be speaking different languages. Kirsten resumed folding clothes as she watched Sandy walk out the door.
She knew they still looking like a stable couple when they walked in. Both perfectly coiffed, both wearing black. She felt like she was in mourning for an event long coming. Ironically, it seemed, at an event that, she was sure, would only serve to push them further apart.
As usual, Sandy felt it appropriate to make a speech. He stood, enjoying the attention. Kirsten sat, silent next to him, wanting to look him in the eye and ask him where her husband was, the man who would have listened to her when she told him how much she hated this latest crusade, how much she wanted him to give it up, how much it was pushing her closer to the brink. Instead, she stayed quiet, while he thanked her, as if she had played any part in this charade. As if this hospital meant anything to her than the possible end of her marriage. Her continuing silence prompted an inevitable joke from Sandy, who had the grace to look surprised, if not a little worried, when she stood up to make a toast.
"To Sandy Cohen, who has told me countless times over the last year how important this hospital is to him." Kirsten let her pause linger, enjoying the effect her words had on Sandy. Everyone else was vaguely charmed, probably thinking how noble her husband was for being so involved with such a worthwhile charity. She wanted to drive home to him just how much it was killing her.
"You know, they say that when you grow up, you marry your father. I thought I'd escaped that."
A sideways look at Sandy after these delivered words was enough to see he was ashamed. His eyes didn't meet hers, instead looking down at his plate. Kirsten made her exit then, sick of having to keep up the charade. Walking out, she surreptitiously swiped a glass of wine from a tray. Sandy was too busy looking at everyone around him, trying to save face. He'd probably pass her off as his recovering-alcoholic wife, just to garner himself more of a sympathy vote. She wondered if the man who would have once run out after her, ignorant and uncaring of how everyone would perceive him, was lost and gone forever.
Looking into the honey coloured liquid, Kirsten imagined the feel of it in her mouth, the taste on her tongue. The way the inebriation would wash away the feeling that everything was slipping away from her.
She wondered if it was worth almost losing everything again. Reasoning with herself, she decided it was already lost, and drank the entire glassful.
I really loved this episode. I wrote this after watching it… Heopfully I got it fairly right in terms of events, etc. I love the fact that Kirsten is featured more than once! And the fact that she's not cooking… And, of course, that alcohol is back in the picture.
PS. I'm an Aussie, and we say arse, not ass. I've taken to spelling Mom the American way in fics, but I can't swear with an accent. As always, please review.