Gail and Johnston Green left their youngest son alone with his wife. Jake had left the room already, sensing his brother's need to be with April a little while longer. Gail hadn't wanted to leave, seeing how devastated Eric was, but Johnston's warm hands on her shoulders, and then one pressing firmly against her back was all the push she needed to leave her son with the privacy his too quiet demeanor and sad tears so desperately demanded.
Mother and father closed the door behind them and found Jake sitting in a wheelchair, his elbows on the arms of the chair, his head held heavy in his hands. Gail looked to her husband and then knelt down in front of her son.
"Jake, why don't you go home and get some rest," she said sadly. Jake Green lifted his head and saw the despair in his mother's eyes. She had just lost her daughter-in-law, someone they had all come to love so deeply, someone who Gail Green never treated as someone other than another one of her own. He hated seeing that look in his mother's eyes, her devastation – though it was clear to Jake that it hadn't truly sunk in with any of them – mixing with a mother's innate and fairly irrepressible worry for her sons.
"I can't," he said, despite how he longed to just ease into the couch and forget about everything that had gone wrong today. "I need to talk to Eric."
"Jake, you've been running around like crazy today," Gail replied, her own demands on him this day bringing on another look to add to the devastated and worried look: guilt. "You need to rest."
"I need to talk to Eric," her oldest son returned, never taking his eyes from his mother's. "I'll go home when we're done."
"Eric will be coming back to the house..." Gail started, but was interrupted by her husband.
"Sweetheart, why don't you make sure everything is taken care of for April. I need to talk to Jake for a minute," Johnston added.
"I'm not leaving until I talk to Eric," Jake insisted. "Tag teaming me isn't going to change my mind."
"This isn't good cop, bad cop, Jake." Johnston looked to his wife. "We'll meet you back at the house in about an hour," he said to her as he helped her to stand. He hugged her hard. The Greens had all had one helluva shitty day, losing one of their own, but Gail and April had developed a special bond: April was indeed the daughter that Gail had never had. Johnston knew that this loss had hit is wife extra hard. He gave her a kiss and then another hug.
Gail leaned down and kissed Jake's cheek. "I'll see you both later," she said as she rubbed her hand where she had just kissed her son. She turned to find Bonnie and Mimi at the far end of the hall, watching. She went to them, hugged them both, and then began giving them instructions for what needed to be done, speaking the instructions with her hands at the same time that she verbalized them.
"Okay, Jake. What's going on?" Johnston asked.
Jake looked at his father with a scowl. He was in no mood for one of these conversations with his father. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, son, that you are dead on your feet. I'd…"
"I'm not on my feet," Jake challenged sharply as he sarcastically waved his feet in front of him from his seated position.
"And you tend to get cranky when you are overly tired or when you aren't feeling well. Looks like we got a double feature today."
Jake looked away from his father. He was angry. So angry. Angry at – everything. And, unfortunately for his father right then – everybody. They shouldn't have had to lose April this way. They shouldn't be in the position they were now in, forced into a corner in their negotiations for the additional windmills that Jericho so desperately needed in order to survive the rest of the winter. And longer.
"Look, you did what you could today," Johnston said in appeasement. "You did more than your share. Why don't you just go home?"
Jake snorted derisively. "No good cop, bad cop, huh?" Jake rubbed his aching head. "I have to talk to Eric."
"You keep saying that," Johnston noted. "I need to talk to both of you."
"About the windmills?"
"Well, I need to make sure that Eric knows that this wasn't his fault. That he shouldn't feel guilty…"
"Well, he has stuff to feel guilty for," the senior Green challenged.
"I'm not talking about that," Jake seethed. "You don't think he's gonna feel guilty about these circumstances for the rest of his life? That's not what I'm talking about, Dad. He needs to know that what happened to April and the baby was not his fault. And he needs to hear it now, before he misinterprets how he's feeling."
"You're sure of that?" Johnston asked. "She had a lot of pressure in her life here at the clinic since the bombings. The stresses of what was going on with her and Eric. Knowing about Mary…"
"Kenchy said it didn't matter. He told me…" Jake started, but he didn't continue. He didn't want to keep thinking about it. He had to stay strong, stay focused – for his brother.
"Well, I'd like to believe that, but Kenchy…"
"He's a good man in a rotten situation. It's not the first or second or third time that he's had to deal with a hopeless situation. A thankless one. I begged him to come back in and patch her up as best he could so that Eric would be able to say goodbye. Do you realize how hopeless he felt? And do you understand how selfless he was that he came back and did it, knowing how it would end, going back in and giving Eric that one small gift? I think we might have lost Eric if Kenchy hadn't come back. We still might, which is why I need to talk to him. Kenchy gets credit from me for giving Eric that chance."
"Okay. Then you can tell Eric at home…"
"No. I. Can't," Jake replied adamantly. "Dad, what happened to April was bad luck; fate; a really rotten hand that she was dealt; God's will, if you believe in that."
Johnston looked thoughtfully at his son. "You don't?" he asked quietly.
Jake shook his head again and then ran his hand through his hair as he looked up at his father.
"I don't know."
Johnston Green nodded. He wasn't having a hard time understanding how his son could say that. What the senior Green knew for sure was that their prayers, of late, seemed to have been ignored, pretty much across the board. And as far as what Johnston himself believed in? He believed in his family, good friends and the hope that they had survived this long for a good reason.
"Bring Eric home when you're done. We all need to talk."
"It's not good, is it? They want something?"
"No. It's not good," Johnston answered truthfully. He squeezed Jake's shoulder and then walked away.
The older brother stayed outside the door, waiting as long as need be for Eric to be ready to leave. The longer he waited, though, the more tired he felt. He forced himself out of the wheelchair and stood beside the door, using the wall as his new resting spot. About twenty minutes after his father had left, his brother exited April's room.
"Eric?" Jake asked. His brother sniffed and wiped the remaining moisture from his face.
"Jake. What're you doing here?" Eric asked as he walked past Mary, giving her the briefest of acknowledgements.
"Waiting for you. Can we talk?"
"About what?" Eric asked as he headed down the hallway, rapidly losing his brother as Jake found it increasingly hard to keep up with Eric's longer stride and hampered by his own frustrating limp.
"About what just happened," Jake said, forced to say it louder than he wanted. "About you." Eric stopped and turned around, and waited for this ailing brother to catch up. He watched as Jake struggled to reach him.
"Sorry. That was thoughtless of me," the distraught younger Green admitted.
Jake stopped, panting from his efforts. "Forget it. I just want to make sure you're okay," he explained worriedly.
"I'm okay. I…I need to get out of here."
"Okay. Dad's expecting us at home. There's a problem with the agreement with New Bern."
"Oh. All right. Let's go." Eric started to walk but then turned and looked back at April's room. "April…" he said softly.
"Mom's taking care of her," Jake informed his brother. "Let's go." They walked out of the clinic and over to Eric's truck. "Let me drive," Jake suggested.
Eric looked at his brother closely. Jake was still a mess, still recovering from the accident and time spent too long exposed to a bitterly cold Kansas winter night. And he had been running himself ragged today, anybody could see that just by looking at him. But his dad had always said that honesty was the best policy, and right now, if he was honest with himself, Eric Green knew that his brother was in better shape to drive than he was. He handed the keys over to Jake.
It would be a short drive home, so Jake cut to the chase. "It's not your fault."
"How do you figure?" Eric snapped back.
"It's not your fault that she died, Eric. You know that. You may have other things that you feel guilty about where April is concerned, and they may be justified, but this isn't one of them."
"Jesus, Jake! She's dead! April's dead. The baby…Tracy…"
Jake pulled over and stopped the car. "Eric, there's nothing you could have done."
"She told me she liked the name Tracy. She didn't know that the baby…" Eric shook his head, tears coming freely once more. Jake put his hand on his brother's arm, hoping to give comfort, but Eric shook it off. "If it's not my fault, then why do I feel so guilty?" he yelled, Eric's rage at the situation directed at the only person currently available to take it, and the one person in the world right now who would take it best. "If there's nothing I could have done, why do I feel, in my gut," he screamed, slamming his fisted hand into his stomach for emphasis, "that I should have?"
It was the question that everyone asked when the inexplicable happened. Jake Green knew the question, or ones very similar. He knew them far too well.
He also knew that what he would say next would be hard for his brother to hear. But more than how much he might upset his little brother, Jake knew that he couldn't, that he wouldn't allow his brother to think he was responsible for April's death. It would be one of the most important things that he had ever done, getting his brother through this.
"Eric, the only thing you should feel guilty about in this whole thing is the failure of your marriage. That was ugly and unfortunate and I'm sure you've been feeling at least a little guilty about that for a long time. But I am telling you that's all that this is. Don't let that guilt manifest itself into something that it's not. You're a good man, Eric. Don't let what happened change that. Don't let it take you somewhere that you don't deserve to be."
Eric Green continued to cry as he listened to his brother. He didn't understand where Jake was coming from. Of course he was to blame. He had given up on his marriage a long time ago. Why should that not have had an impact on April, her health? The baby? His baby. He heard what the doctor had said. He'd heard his mother as well. There was nothing that could be done. And now he heard Jake.
He was a long way from believing any of it.
He needed time to think. He needed to be away from here, away from the memories. He couldn't bear looking at Mary: her sadness, her sympathetic eyes, her love only made his guilt stab like a knife at his soul.
"I need to think. I need time…space…" Eric said, hearing the words come from his lips but knowing that the words meant nothing until he understood better why all of this had happened. He knew the words would sting for his family - that the one place where he couldn't be in his most desperate hour of need was anywhere but here in Jericho, with them.
"Okay," Jake said. "But I want you to come to me about this, whenever you need to." Eric's eyes seemed dull, Jake's brother seemed suddenly distant, very far away in spite of the merest of inches that separated them in the pick-up truck. "Eric," Jake persisted, shaking his brother's arm. "Look at me." Eric turned to his older brother. "This is going to be the hardest thing for you. You need to be strong." Eric nodded his assent. "Remember what Kenchy and Mom said." The younger Green nodded once more, acknowledging Jake's words. "Let's get home." Jake started the truck but waited to put it in gear until Eric showed that he was listening once again.
"Okay," Eric said. He leaned up against the window of the passenger's side door, quiet, and, Jake feared, wrapped up and wallowing in thoughts dark and dangerous.
Jake knew that his brother would need time. What person wouldn't need some time to wrap their head, and heart, around such a devastating loss? Eric would need to hear the same things that Jake had just said to him – from his mother and from his father – and feel it in his gut, as Eric had put it, before he'd ever really believe it.
Jake felt a chill as he drove up to the Green family home. He hoped Eric's need for some 'time' and 'space' didn't portend bad things as his thoughts turned momentarily to New Bern and windmills. Jake had tried all day to keep his thoughts of Heather at bay. The terrible tragedy of Eric's loss, and the discussion that his father said they needed to have, no longer allowed him to push Heather's safety away.
No. Jake Green's own instincts were definitely kicking in. He sensed a distinct foreboding that he could not shake as he parked the truck and he and his brother walked wearily into their boyhood home.