Disclaimer: Thought I might mention what everyone already knew; I don't own PB or it's characters, if I did the show would have taken a complete different turn in the last season.
AN: A new story form your newbie Margaret Fuller Slack (who actually died of lock-jaw in 1916, but who cares); I found it when reading through my old notebooks after moving. As I said before it was written before season 5 was aired and I thought - in my blue-eyedness- that everything was joy and happiness for my favourite TV couple. But then season 5 came and they got divorced, a divorce that actually affected me more than my own parents' divorce had 10 years earlier. Well, I kept writing about PB (and especially Chris and T.C.) until 2003, and now I feel like publishing some of what I wrote in my teens. Enjoy!
"Hey, Champ! How're you doing?" Chris bent down and hugged the little boy who came running towards her. He handed her a drawing.
"This is for you, Auntie Krisiya."
"Are you Mrs. Kelly?" a woman asked, looking at Chris. – "Mr. Larsson said that either you or your husband would come and pick him up."
"Yes that would be me!" Chris smiled one of her bright smiles – "I guess you're one of the teachers."
"I'm Miss Jones" The young lady introduced herself to Chris. – "I'll have to see some id please; we're not allowed to hand over the children to anyone."
"I understand, and I'm glad you're so strict about it, I wouldn't like to arrive here five minutes too late and realize that you'd let him go off with someone else." Chris gently stroked the little boy's head as she looked down at him. He looked so sad and forlorn, and God only knew that he had all the reason in the world to do so.
"How long will he stay with you?" Miss Jones asked.
"Ellen and Jack will be back on Sunday, so he'll be staying with us for the rest of the week."
"Obviously we don't know too much about the situation but just know that the Larsson's left to Michigan in a hurry yesterday." While the woman was talking Chris had been searching through her purse and found a pen and a business card.
"Yeah, Ellen needed some rest." She scribbled down a number at the back of her business car and handed it to the teacher. – "My home number is at the back, so you can just call if there's anything, anything at all."
"T.C. is gonna teach me how to surf tonight, right Auntie Kristiya?!" The little boy asked.
"That's true, he promised that, and T.C. never breaks a promise" She said smiling when she saw how the little boy's face lit up by the thought of surfing.
"Have you heard anything from the Larsson's yet?" The teacher kept asking.
"Jack called yesterday late to say that they'd arrived safely, and then once more around noon to check up on things. I haven't spoken to Ellen yet. She's not feeling too well at the moment."
"Miss Jones, did you know that when my mom and dad met auntie Kristiya they were pilots? My dad was one of the best pilots in the country. He went to Top Gun, only the best of the best go there, right Kristiya? Only the best of the best?" The boy looked from the one lady to the other.
"No, Chris, I didn't know that." His teacher answered.
"My auntie Krisitya was the best of the class but my dad was number two, isn't that true?"
"That is true, Chris, but it was your mom who taught me every thing" Chris answered and dishevelled the boy's hair a little.
"But then she should have been number one, not you!" He said a bit puzzled.
"Sometimes a student can be better that the teacher, you see. But only if the teacher is good enough"
"I want to be a navy pilot, too, when I grow up. But mom says I can't"
"She says she doesn't want you to be one, that doesn't mean that you can't." Chris tried to stay diplomatic. There wasn't anything in the world she would recommend to young kids more than joining the navy, but if her friend didn't want her kid to enlist Chris could understand that. But only in this particular case.
"Can I go to Top Gun too?" the boy asked
"Only if you're the best of the best" his teacher smiled to him and looked once more at the woman who had come to pick him up.
"It was nice meeting you, Mrs. Kelly, I will certainly call you."
"Thank you" Chris smiled at the young teacher before looking down at her godson "Come on, little Chris, let's get going."
Chris was helping little Chris with his maths homework when T.C. arrived home. For a short moment he just stood in the doorway looking at his wife and the six year old boy, just admiring how Chris would explain the simplicity of subtraction to the little boy and the joy he experienced when she told him that his answers were right. Seeing him smile was a huge difference from how he had been when his parents had dropped him off here just the night before: he had been crying and kicking about, completely confused with the whole situation.
"Hey you two" T.C. said and went over to the table to greet his wife and her godson. The boy lifted up his book and started looking for something.
"Where is the drawing?!" He asked with panic in his voice.
His godmother reached across the table and pulled out a paper from under another book. The boy took the paper and handed it to T.C.
"I made it for you at school." He said proud. The drawing was of two happy people – a blond woman and a sandy haired man – both smiling.
"It's you. We were told to draw our families, and everyone drew smiling people and I didn't want to draw sad people, so I drew you two, because you're always smiling. I guess that's why you were top of your class in Top Gun, Kristiya." The two adults looked at each other exchanging glances that read 'poor boy'.
"Thank you, Chris, it's really nice." T.C. said and padded the young boy on his shoulders.
"Can we still go surfing after dinner?" the boy asked and T.C. nodded
"Of course we can."
Chris was cleaning the table as the phone rang.
"Hello?" She said to whoever might call.
"Mrs. Kelly, this is Theresa Jones, I'm Chris Larsson's teacher; we met this afternoon" the woman on the other end answered.
"Oh yes, sure" Chris replied.
"You said I could call, I hope I'm not interrupting anything?"
"Well, only the dishes, but that can wait" Chris hoped the other woman would share her sense of humour, knowing that the conversation would soon turn into more serious matters.
"You probably know why I'm calling, I just worry about Chris" she moved straight on to the serious matters, Chris already knew that this would be one of those conversations where she had to convince a complete stranger that her friend was in fact a good mother, even though quite a few people (in specific teachers) thought otherwise.
"You wonder why Ellen and Jack were in such a hurry to drop little Chris off with me and my husband and leave for what you believe is a nice prolonged weekend at the banks of the Lake Michigan?"
"Well, yes." At least she was honest, Chris thought to her self.
"I don't know how much you know of the situation, Miss Jones, but I will tell you what you need to know. When Ellen and I were serving together in the Navy she was a complete different woman that she is today. There are plenty of reasons why she resigned her command, but the one with the most impact on both her and her husband was the fact that something happened to her while she was on an assignment that has left her with a huge trauma. Not only does she suffer from nightmares because of this, but she is pretty much a nervous wreck and to top it all she is clinical depressive. Sometimes things just seem to be too much for her and he has a fit: like yesterday. Luckily she can count on Jack to take care of her when things like this happen, and now he believed it was for the best if they just took some days off together to relax. So when he called me and asked if we would mind looking after little Chris for a few days, I didn't hesitate. I know Ellen, I know what she needs. That's why I offered them to stay at my parent's cottage in Grand Haven, Michigan."
"Oh." Chris couldn't quite make out what kind of 'oh' that was, was it an 'oh' of fear, of sympathy, of worry, of not knowing what to say next or an 'oh' of amaze because Chris had just told someone's difficult life story in just a few sentences.
"Oh?" she replied.
"Euh, I really didn't know" The teacher answered, obviously embarrassed.
"I'm sorry, seems to be that phrase people often use after that monologue" Chris hoped that her second ironical statement of the night would bring out some reaction at the other end of the line. And it did; if nothing else it certainly broke the ice. The two women chatted a bit forth and back about little Chris, his mother and in the end also exchanged a few words about his father before Chris said she had to go and fish the two surfers out of the sea.
"So how's Ellen doing?" Cory asked Chris the following day during their noon patrol.
"Ask me again in a day or two. I still haven't spoken to her. She doesn't want to talk. Jack on the other hand is doing OK." Chris couldn't help worrying about her friend.
"So what's the deal anyway? I know she's depressive and all that, but what's the story?" Cory had met Ellen and Jack on multiple occasions before because they were so close friends of Chris.
"Long story, really long story. I really don't wanna get into it; it disturbs me just thinking about it."
"But if she's that depressive, was it wise of her to have children? I mean, she knew on beforehand what she would be putting that kid through."
"Don't even go there, Cory! Ellen is a great mother and she's got the second best husband any woman could wish for who helps and supports her through thick and thin. They really deserve each other, and they love little Chris more than anything in the world. Ellen just needs a break now and then, and if you knew you would understand. But you don't know, and I'm not the one to tell you so you'll not understand."
"Wow, wow, wow!" Cory stopped her bike and looked full amazement on Chris. "You don't have to be so assertive" she said dryly.
"Sorry, Cor, it's just that so many before you have jumped to the conclusion that Ellen shouldn't be let anywhere close to her son because she's depressive, I get so tired of hearing that – people judging her because of what someone else did to her. But if you knew how she was before she had him you'd know that she's a lot happier now. And that says a lot about what she's been through."
The two women looked at each other and mutually agreed that it was best to close the subject and continue their patrol talking about other things.
That day it was Chris's turn to stop in the doorway admiring the two who were working at the dining table when she got home from work.
"Hey you guys" She said and walked over to them, kissing her husband and hugging her godson. "How was your day?"
"My maths homework was all right, I even got a smiley face in my book by Miss Jones!" The boy exclaimed, proudly pointing at the open page in his book; obviously lying there so he could show off when Chris got home, because he was reading a text for English and didn't really need his maths books for that.
"Wow, that's great. Congratulations" Chris smiled at him.
"So maybe I can be better than the teacher, then. Do you think so?" Both Chris and T.C. laughed at this remark and little Chris chose to interpret that as a 'yes'.
On Friday afternoon Chris found herself standing waiting outside the school once more, but was surprised by the way she was greeted by her namesake; he looked really gloomy and didn't even answer her smile and hug as he normally did.
"You OK, Champ?" she asked and he only answer she got was a nod. "Come on, let's get home" she continued and took his hand.
"Can I sit in the front?" he asked, still not looking at her. She crouched and tried to catch his eyes but he was still looking at the ground.
"You know you can't sit in the front, but if you want to we can stop for an ice cream on the way home and walk the beach for a while. Would you like that?" he nodded again and followed her to the car.
"You know, you've got two convertibles, and my parents don't even have one. Why is that?" Why couldn't he just ask reasonable questions, Chris thought; questions she could answer?
"Because T.C. is mad about cars and don't want me to sell my car" she tried.
"I'm mad about cars too, so maybe I should have two convertibles later too?"
"Yeah why not" she said as she buckled him up in the back seat and pulled his baseball cap down in his face in an unsuccessful attempt of making him laugh. Something was really bothering him today, if only she could put her finger on it.
They walked hand in hand along the beach, he was still looking down on the ground and she trying to make him smile again, but the harder she tried the more she got the feeling that he was crying.
"Why doesn't my mom like me?" His answer chocked her; she stopped dead in her step and looked down at him.
"She does like you, Chris, she loves you!" Once more she found herself eye level with him and this time she grabbed him in a hug.
"But why did she and dad leave me then? Mom was sad again, and then they left me."
"Your mom just needs to rest her thoughts a bit. And she can't be alone, that's why you are staying with me and T.C. now, she will be back again the day after tomorrow."
"But she wouldn't have been alone; I would have been there for her. But she doesn't want me to be there, she doesn't want me!" Tears were streaming down his face and he hugged Chris back. She gently stroked his back and said.
"Your mom is ill, and it's not your fault. She has been ill since before you were born. She was a lot worse before, but after she had you she has been a lot better. Your mom is the bravest person I know. She has been fighting for her life so many times, for your and for your dad's lives too, and now I guess she was just so exhausted that she needed to rest a bit."
"She can rest at home, too: In her bed!" He stumped his feet in the sand and sat down with his legs crossed and his elbows resting on his knees, head cupped in his hands. Chris sat down next to him.
"Do you want to know why your mom is ill?" She asked, knowing that telling him the story would open up some deep wounds in her memory. He nodded again.
"You know that your mom, dad and I were in the navy together, right?" Nodding seemed to be his way of answering today. "Well, while we were in the navy we had to go aboard, we were in Russia together, you know that too, right?" Again, a nod. "One day you will learn at school about something they called the 'Cold war' and then you will understand more. Your mom and I were working as spies because we spoke so good Russian that people believed we were Russians that we could blend into the local population without being caught as Americans. Your dad and 12 other men were our back-ups; they were there to help us when we needed them. But one of those men hurt your mom very bad." Here she was cut off by the little boy for the first time:
"Did he hit her?"
"Yes, that too." She answered, surprised by his childish naivety – had he been older he would probably have understood what she actually meant about 'hurting her bad.' "Your mom was really scared after that. She thought that all men wanted to hurt her, so she didn't trust anyone anymore. Not even your dad. It took really long time before she understood that your dad actually loved her and didn't want to hurt her at all. Then when she got married to your dad people told him that he better not do that because she was so ill, but he really loved your mom and wanted to prove all those other people wrong. And your mom wanted to get better and she knew that your dad could help her with that. She wanted to know that there was a man out there who didn't want to hurt her – but love her. And when they had you they were both so happy, but your mom continued sleeping bad and have nightmares so she was a lot tired. She still is because of her bad memories and dreams. That's why she had to go away now just for a while to be somewhere quiet and nice so that she can relax."
"But why doesn't she want to talk to me? I know you have talked to her while she's been gone."
"I've talked to your dad a few times, but he said that your mom didn't want to talk to anyone. Maybe we can try to call her when we get home?" His face lit up, his eyes sparkling under the tears, but then he all of a sudden turned grave again.
"Did he ever hurt you, auntie Krisiya?"
"Yes, he did. Only once, and not as bad as your mom. But he did hurt me too." She swallowed a couple of times.
"My mom always says that I shouldn't hate people, but I hate him" he said and took her hand.
"Your mom is right, you shouldn't hate people. You can be angry with them and wish you never have to meet them, but you shouldn't hate them: At least not if you don't know them.' She put her arm around his shoulder and squeezed him tight in a hug.
"Come on, Champ, let's get home and get some real food in your tummy!" He got up and walked next to her back to the car.
"Is my mom really that good in Russian?" he asked clearly proud.
"Oh, yeah, she's the best. That's why she wants you to call me Kristiya, you know."
"Is she better than her teacher?"
"A lot: When we came back from Russia she wrote him a letter telling him to go and take classes elsewhere; in Russian – he never answered." They both laughed as she buckled him up in the back seat again and drove home.
Sunday came and before they even knew it Ellen and Jack parked their car in T.C. and Chris' driveway ready to pick up their little boy. Ellen looked a lot better than what she had done half a week later when they had dropped him off, she still looked pale and tired but the sight of her son made her smile and she picked him up ad gave him a big kiss on the cheek before putting him down again, holding him close to her as she talked to Chris and T.C.
"I'm glad to see you smiling again, Ellen" Chris hugged her friend before the Larsson party left the house. T.C. closed the door behind them and walked slowly back into the living room where his wife sat down at the coach looking through an old magazine.
"What are you doing?" He asked and sat down next to her.
"Nothing…" her voice sounded so far away.
"It's so quiet here."
They looked each other deep in the eyes and both knew what the other one was thinking.