Only three days had passed since Dee and John Pike had told their eight children that they intended to end their marriage, thought it felt like much longer. The air in their house somewhat felt different; somehow the whole atmosphere had changed. The children had picked up on this as well, and were all acting accordingly. Everyone was making an extra effort to be polite and cordial to each other, but the hurting they all felt was very apparent in almost every action made.

Dee and John devoted much discussion to this. They had in fact talked more in the week since making this decision than in the last years. They discussed the children, of course, and their reactions the announcement. But they also discussed each other. They talked in depth about who they were to each other, and who they would be apart from this relationship. These truly heartfelt conversations had served to give each of them glimpses of the relationship they had once been involved in that both saddened them, and made them smile. Regardless, they both knew they were making the right decision, despite many hesitations and misgivings.

The hope of a happier future gave each of them the strength they needed to go through with this in the presence of their children's obvious opposition. Mallory had hardly said a word on the drive back to Riverbend, but she had given Dee a smile and hug when she was dropped off. Adam walked around in a cloud of anger, Jordan in one of dismissal. Byron tried his best to help out, but they could tell he was hurting more than he wanted to let on. Vanessa locked herself in her room, Nicky trailed after Byron, Margo threw herself into her school work, and Claire was more withdrawn and despondent than usual. In all honestly, these were the type of reactions that Dee and John had anticipated; they knew their children well. They just hadn't thought or imagined that it would hurt so much to watch.

To avoid the feelings that were bombarding them, they focused much attention on logistics. John would be moving out into a small apartment. It would only have two bedrooms, so they figured that the kids would take turns visiting for awhile. The children would, of course, reside primarily with their mother. It really hadn't been a question, though John loved the children dearly.

They had had a family lunch before Mallory had returned to school on Sunday. Dee and John had tried to be casual about it. It had nearly worked, and they almost had everyone participating in a conversation until Claire had burst into tears, announcing that she had just realized that it was the last time that they would all be together as a family. Dee had rushed to comfort her, but she knew that it would likely be the truth. Though she and John intended remain in good esteem after the final divorce proceedings, she didn't think that they would go out of their way to spend time together, even for the sake of the children. As much as they wanted to help them through this in every way possible, some things would just hurt too much.

Dee and John had encouraged all of the children to come and talk to them if they had any questions or concerns. None of the children had done this, choosing instead to ignore them and their support. It concerned them both that none of the children had come to them, even with the open invitation. However, these same guidelines had been expressed prior to any of this, and it was rare when someone came to them seeking advice or guidance. They attributed this to the children being teenagers and wanting to figure things out for themselves, but that didn't make it hurt any less. Dee took this to heart, and silently resolved to take each of the kids aside individually at one point soon to give them an opportunity to voice their concerns. On the other hand, John was rather relieved that no one had sought him out, though this only reinforced his feelings of inadequacy as a father.

Knowing that this was the last night they would spend together under the same roof, Dee and John spent it locked together in their room, pouring over the numerous family albums that had been put together over the years. They frequently became separately lost in the memories that they had created, and would come back, smile at each other, and move on. They stayed up until almost dawn expounding as to what the future held for Mallory, Adam, Byron, Jordan, Vanessa, Nicky, Margo, and Claire respectively. Time and time again, they told each other that their family would defy the odds and come out of this process unscathed, minus a few battle scars. This would be a new sort of sticking together, but the Pike's had always been able to adapt fairly easily. This is what they hoped for, anyway. The reality of the situation may not be as neat and clean as they desired it to be.

The love between Dee and John Pike had never been a secret. And what had become a lack of love had never really been a secret either. However, through everything, the love that Dee and John Pike had for the family that they created would be apparent. Despite whatever feelings came and went between them, the love for their children would forever bond Dee and John in ways that they would never really be able to put into words. It was because of the children that they would never look back and see their marriage as wasted years, and also because of the children that they would always have hope for the future. And though it was hard to see and admit this through the hurt that they were feeling, even the children knew this.

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Author's Note: I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Much thanks goes out to everyone who has submitted a review, as I appreciate it more than you can know. Please feel free to check out my other stories, and know that there will be more to come!

Chelz22