Chapter Thirteen: All That We Are
Sixteen years and Ten Months After Mark Left
Mark sat alone in the living room of the Chicago apartment pulling out the wrapped present from the closet and setting them in the corner around the tiny wannabe tree. It had been tradition for the family to go and get a Christmas tree the day before. London and Shea were the ones who always made the decision, and in Shea's absensce London chose one that Shea would've approved of, it being so scrawny and bare. Mark laughed to himself.
"Daddy? Wat oh doing?" A toddler appeared in the hallway.
"Daddy, whas dat?" A small voice came from behind him.
Mark turned to see London emerging from the bedroom...
"Micah, Daddy's getting ready for Christmas. Do you want to help?"
The little boy nodded and ran over to where he was standing and took one box at a time from Mark to the tree.
"I'm helping Daddy."
"Yes you are."
Shea's excitement of helping his Dad make dinner nearly kept him from being any help at all.
"Am I good helper, Daddy?" The four year old poked the filmaker, who nodded and laughed in response.
Mark carried a group of presents over and Micah's eyes grew wide.
"Can I carry 'ore 'an one?"
"When you grow bigger, you can carry as many as you want."
"Will oh teac' me?"
"Of course, buddy."
London tugged Mark's shirt, "Can I carry your camera?"
"Why don't you carry your camera?" He pointed to the six year old's disposable camera.
"But I wanna take pictures like yours."
"One day, when your older, okay?"
The boy nodded, "Daddy, when I'm older can I be like you?"
"Daddy?" Micah asked climbing on the couch.
"Yeah, bud?" Mark joined the toddler.
"Is Shea coming back yed?"
Mark sighed as he looked at the little boy's hopeful face, "Not yet."
"Why can'd he come back yed?"
"Your brothers not feeling good."
"He's sick?" Micah frowned as he sat thinking.
"Yeah, sort of."
"He been sick a long time."
"Yeah, he was."
Mark held on tightly to the two year old London as he sat in the hospital room watching Shea sleep attached to all the tubes. The tears slowly rolled down his face. His mind was racing...just let him be okay, I can lose him...and the same thoughts roared through his head fourteen years later.
"How could he?" London asked standing next to his dad.
"I don't know, London. I don't know."
A small wail erupted through the apartment and as if he had been expecting it Londonw emerged from his room, disappeared into the master room. Mark could hear some murmuring before London reappered with his one month old little sister in his arms. As he entered the living room, hushing the little girl, he saw Mark and Micah sitting on the couch.
"I couldn't get any sleep." London explained sitting on the other side of Mark. "This way mom can get some sleep."
"What did you say?"
"I called her 'mom', is that okay?"
"Yeah, I'm just surprised."
London looked back at him, "Well, she's my mom just like Micah's my brother...not blood related, but when has that ever stopped us? Yeah, I consider Mimi and Roger my parents too but..."
"I know...Dunn, you don't have to explain."
The teenager just responded with a smile before heading out the door.
London's plan failed however as Olivia appeared in the hallway, "How am I suppossed to be getting any sleep, with a party going on in here." She laughed as Mark pulled her on to his lap. "But thank you for taking Abbie anyhow."
"No problem. I like being the big brother."
Mark smiled, "We all should get some sleep. Really, guys."
"I don't want to go to sleep." The five year olds bounce up and down.
"If you go to sleep I promis there will be a big surprise."
The next morning Mark made his way into the living room before any one else had a chance to get up again, even baby Abbie. He went into the kitchen and began the coffe maker when he heard the sound of the door.
"Coming," Mark murmurmed for no particular reason, wondering who it could be on Christmas Day.
He took a second to look through peephole but couldn't make out who it was. Opening the door Mark took a moment,
"Hey, Dad." Came the response and Mark could see his apprehension at being back.
Without thought, and without question Mark pulled Shea close, "I've missed you, bud." He whispered.
"I'm sorry, Dad..I...I..." Shea started, and Mark pulled away and shut the door behind him,
"I'm sorry...and I wish you would just stand there and yell at me about how stupid I was..."
But he interuppted, "Because, Dad, I could take that...I could take your anger any day over knowing how much I've disappointed you. I am sorry though."
"I know you are. I know."
"I know it been a while since I've said it, but, um..."
"I just wanted to say thanks...for, you know..."
"Yeah, I know."
"And I love you."
"I love you too, bud."
Until next time, this is me signing out.