Title: Living On
Characters: Angela, Ben, Jessica, Mike, Kim and Jared
Rating: R for violent accident and associated gore.
Word Count: 5763
Disclaimer: The names of these characters come from SM's Twilight. The incident is one I heard in the local news. Thanks to PTB and betas Volumptuous Vamp and Beautiful Nightmarex
Summary: Two couples with their preschoolers are headed on a joint camping trip when disaster changes both families forever.
To see all entries in the "Love Lost" Contest, please visit the profile: .net/u/2458839/Love_Lost_Contest
Angela kissed Ben, knowing the kids were happily playing in the seat in front of them and Mike and Jessica were focused on the spectacular view the mountain pass they were driving through provided. She let her tongue linger on his lips and slowly touched it to his own, luxuriating in the simple meeting of mouths. Ten years of marriage hadn't diminished the admiration or attraction she had for her husband.
"Do you think Mike and Jess will take the first night in the trailer?" Ben asked when the kiss broke. "I think I want to see what you will do with me in a tent."
Angela laughed quietly. "Oh, Ben, you think I'll be inspired by the great outdoors?" she teased.
"Are you?" he asked hopefully before kissing her again. Their lips were still locked when they heard Jessica's scream and turned to see what was happening.
"Mike! Look out!"
Mike cursed, something neither Ben nor Angela had heard since the birth of the Newtons' son, Jared. He'd been very good about keeping a clean mouth from the moment he was born, knowing that he had to break the habit long before now; Jared was three and loved to mimic.
No one was focused on Mike's language.
Even the children, Jared, with his Mom's nearly blonde hair, and the Cheneys' own five year-old Kim, were staring at the truck that had just swerved into their lane.
Angela was thrown into Ben as Mike turned as far right as the pass allowed, slamming the corner of the van into the side of the mountain. Ben's head cracked on the glass and he passed out.
Jessica's screams stopped quickly as her head fell to the dash board.
Mike was reaching for his belt when the oncoming truck clipped the driver's side corner, making the vehicle spin. At the same time, momentum pushed it through the driver's seat, Mike, and into the children behind. Angela screamed in horror, but it was cut short. A piece of the seat in front of her hit her in the head, and she lost consciousness as well.
Angela was the first to wake up. She was surprised at how many voices she heard, especially when she didn't recognize any of them. She blinked groggily.
"Hello? My name is Jenn. I know first aid. Can I help you? Can you tell me your name?" The older woman took Angela's hand through the broken window, running her thumb over Angela's knuckles.
"An-Angela," she said with a cough in the middle. The smell of gasoline was thick.
"An ambulance is on the way, Angela. Mark! Don't move him! I told you that!" she shouted to someone Angela couldn't see. "They'll be here any minute, Angela. Just hold still. Do you know where you're hurt?"
Angela took an internal inventory. "Just my head. Something hit me." She lifted her free hand and gasped at the blood on it before she even reached her head. "Ben?" she started, ripping her hand from Jenn's to turn to her husband. Now she could see another man reaching through his window to hold Ben's head still.
"He's breathing," the man told her with a smile. "I can feel it on my finger. Put a hand on his back, you'll feel it too. Nice and steady. He should be okay."
Angela did as the man said, putting her hand flat on her husband's back and giggling when it rose and feel. She was in near hysterics. She started to shiver.
"I'm going to grab a blanket, Ernie. She's in shock."
"Sure thing," the man Angela was facing, Ernie, replied.
Angela tried to survey the rest of the vehicle, particularly the small bodies in the seat in front of her. Someone had broken one of the windows and held Jared's head in place as well, keeping it to the back of his booster seat. Where had all these people come from? Someone had squeezed into the space in front of Kim and was doing her best to breathe for her.
"Kim!" she cried. "She's not breathing?" Angela tried to remove her seat belt, but Jenn grabbed her hands.
"Here. Try to keep still. You'll make any injuries worse. We're doing all we can for them until the ambulance arrives." Jenn's voice was steady, soothing. She put a rough camp blanket over Angela and pressed her shoulder to make her sit back.
She did so reluctantly, realizing that there was nothing more she could do than what was already being done. She reached over to Ben, needing his breathing to steady her own as tears leaked from her eyes.
"I'm going to clean up that cut a little," Jenn told her before putting an alcohol wipe to Angela's brow. "Whatever hit you cut your scalp. We were worried, you were worse off until you woke up." Jenn smiled and chuckled lightly. "I hear the ambulance now, can you?"
The high pitched whining of the siren was like an angel's song to her ears. Angela closed her eyes and nodded in relief. Help was here for Kim.
Paramedics and firemen started cutting their way into the front of the van. Angela flinched at the sound of the saws they used. The grinding woke Ben.
"Angela!" was his first word as his head snapped up.
"Right here, Ben," Angela whispered, taking his hand. He twisted, but Ernie held tight to his shoulder, dropping his head.
"Not so fast," Ernie warned. "You might have a neck or spine injury."
"He's right, Ben. We need to sit still while they get the others out." Angela's voice broke a little. The woman was still breathing for Kim, although one of the paramedics had just passed her a child-sized mask to put over Kim's mouth instead. She sat, impotent, watching others do what they could.
It seemed to take forever, but Ben and Angela were put into separate ambulances. They were strapped down to boards, even though both were sure they didn't have any serious injuries. Angela was laid beside Jared who cried quietly.
"Shhh. I know it hurts, sweetie. We're going to the doctors. They'll make it better."
Angela's heart broke. How could she tell Jared that his mother was in the helicopter with her own little girl, raced because their injuries were so much worse? How could she explain that his Dad wasn't coming with them? He and the driver of the truck were both killed in the accident. The truck's passenger was riding in the first ambulance on scene. His injuries were nearly as bad as Jessica's, she'd heard.
"I know you want your mom, Jared. She loves you very much and needs you to be strong now."
"I can't move!" he complained, struggling against the restraints that held him. Angela looked to the EMT that crouched in the back with them.
"Jared, is it?" His voice was soft and soothing. "You can't move because we don't want you to hurt yourself. After the doctors look at your bones you'll be able to get up. Have you ever seen your bones?"
"Like dinosaurs?" Jared asked, wide-eyed.
Angela smiled, glad he'd been distracted. The EMT tried to explain the difference between x-rays and fossils to the three year-old. He wasn't likely to have much luck, but he kept Jared interested, talking and most importantly, still.
Jared was pulled out of the ambulance first, followed by Angela. Ben's ambulance pulled in while she was still on a gurney in the hall.
"Hello, Mrs... Cheney?" The nurse was reading the tag at the bottom of the gurney. "My name is Louise. Andrew and I are going to move you for an x-ray," she explained, attaching a bracelet to her wrist at the same time as a large man in scrubs started rolling her down the hall.
"My daughter?" she asked. "Kim Cheney? She came in on the helicopter with Jessica Newton?"
Louise looked to Andrew before answering. "They're doing emergency surgery. Try to stay calm, Mrs. Cheney. The doctors are doing everything they can."
"Right," I answered, unable to nod in the stupid neck brace. "My husband came in behind me," Angela told her quickly.
"I'll make sure you're put together," Louise said with a smile as she took the feet of the board Angela laid on. She and Andrew moved Angela to the table. "Hold still. This will only take a second."
It wasn't necessary to give the instruction. Angela couldn't move more than her fingers. She looked up at the ceiling and held her breath, praying for her daughter.
She started when a new voice addressed her. "Angela Cheney?"
"I'm Doctor Beckett, a resident. I'm just looking over your x-ray and it looks like you can come off that brace." The young man's voice was cheerful. He came to stand at her feet and shone a light in her eyes.
"Thank God," she muttered, blinking and smiling. "I need to pee." It was flippant, but true.
He laughed. "Here, let me help you." He started working on the snaps and buckles on her restraints. "I don't see any breaks at all. It looks like whatever hit your head probably gave you a concussion though, so I'll need you to stick around for a couple hours so we can be sure that doesn't complicate."
Angela sat up and swung her legs off the table. "Thank you, Doctor Beckett." She took his offered hand to hop down from the table.
"Right there," he said pointing down the hall to the washrooms.
She chuckled and walked quickly. When she looked in the mirror she was surprised at what she saw. Her hair was more or less in place, but her eyes were bloodshot, one more than the other. Dark bruises showed underneath and a large knot had formed on the right side of her forehead. The skin was broken and covered in a crusty scab. She touched it carefully but stopped when nausea struck.
Aside from the goose-egg, she looked fine, just a little blood on her shoulder, probably from the same wound. She dried her hands and hurried back the way she had come. She poked her head in the x-ray room and found Ben with another nurse and orderly. "Ang!" he called, seeing her.
"Hold still!" his nurse shouted.
Angela moved quickly to where Ben could see her without moving. She knew how much he would want to see that she was okay.
"You're alright?" he asked.
"Yes, just a concussion. And this." She pointed to the protrusion.
He chuckled. "That's quite the bump."
"Hold still, please," the nurse called from the doorway and they heard the x-ray clicking.
"Have you seen Kim yet?" he asked.
Angela shook her head, her eyes watering. She had no idea how her little girl was. She wasn't breathing when they took her, strapped to her booster seat, into the helicopter. "My nurse said she was in surgery."
Ben reached for her hand squeezing. "We're going to be okay." His eyes were serious and Angela noticed for the first time that he'd lost his glasses in the accident.
Her lips trembled as she tried to smile for him.
"Ah, Mr. Cheney, I presume." Dr. Beckett entered the room again. "I have had the pleasure of looking under your wife's skirt. Don't tell her."
Angela laughed. The young doctor hadn't lost his sense of humour yet.
"Well, it is a pleasure," Ben agreed with a grin. "How do my pictures look?"
"As good as hers. You have a slipped disc in your back, and I expect a concussion as well from cracking your head on the window." He moved his finger in front of Ben's eyes, making him follow it. "But you both look fine."
"Can you find out about our daughter?" Ben asked as Dr. Beckett unfastened him.
"Of course. If I don't come back myself, one of the nurses will let you know where you can wait for her." He patted Ben's shoulder before walking back out the door.
"Are you sure you're alright?" Ben asked.
Angela shook and giggled hysterically. The shock was still playing havoc with her. "Of course not!" she snapped when the hysterics broke. "But physically, I feel fine. A little tired." In truth, she was exhausted. She wanted to sleep for the next week, but she also knew she wouldn't rest properly until she knew how Kim was doing. Her daughter reminded Angela of the other child in the accident. "Jared was awake in the ambulance. We should try to find him."
Ben nodded and put an arm around Angela's shoulders, leading her from the room.
A nurse found them in the hall. "Excuse me?" she asked. "Are you lost?"
"Not really. We're looking for Jared Newton? He came in with us," Ben answered. Angela continued to peek around curtains and through windows.
"The little boy? Yes, this way." The nurse smiled before turning and leading them to a room in the same hall. Jared was singing at the top of his lungs on the other side of the door.
"This is the song that never ends! It just goes on and on..." Angela shook her head, chuckling. Mike had threatened to kill them for letting Kim teach it to Jared. Obviously he didn't need them right now. Angela peeked in the window to see who he sang to. It was an older woman who clapped along as he sang. Angela noticed that his leg was in a cast, but he was sitting up in the bed.
"Auntie Ang!" He shouted to her. "Unca Ben!"
Angela opened the door and smiled at the woman sitting with him before hugging the little boy.
"Hey, Jared. Feeling better?" she asked.
"Yeah. And look what I got!" He banged his cast, just a tap, but it rang loudly on the leg of the hospital bed.
"Do you know where Mom is?"
Angela looked to the woman who shook her head. "No, I don't, sweetie. Want to come with me and find out? We need to see how Kim is, too."
"Kimmy? Is Kimmy hurt?" his eyes went wide.
"Yes, Jared. Kimmy and your mom were hurt when the truck hit us. Did you see the truck?" Angela asked him now, wondering how much he would be able to understand. Kim had been precocious, but Jared didn't seem to be nearly as advanced as Angela's daughter.
"Well, Kimmy and your mom and dad were hurt more than we were because they were in the front." If he had seen the truck, he could understand the truck hitting the front of the van.
"Dad?" he asked, his eyes filling with tears.
Angela bit her lip. Had he seen Mike? Mike had been leaning out of his chair when the truck hit. She had seen it and tried not to remember. Mike had been crushed, his bones snapping and blood spraying. She pulled Jared into a hug. "What did you see?"
"Dad..." his voice was quiet and then he started wailing. "I want my Dad!" She pulled the boy right off the table and into her lap in the chair the older woman had vacated. She knew how to hold a crying child, but she had no way to kiss this pain away.
"I'm going to get more information for you," the woman whispered to Ben as she left. Ben watched his wife try to console the traumatized boy.
"I'm sorry, Jared. I wish I could make it better. I wish I could bring him to you." She wept into Jared's light coloured hair. "I'm sorry, sweetie." She kissed his head, rubbed his back, willed the pain away. All the while her prayers were with those still here, her daughter and friend.
"Daaaaaaaady!" he continued to wail, clinging to her.
Ben came and hugged the pair of them from the other side, shedding his own tears for his long-time friend. Angela took one hand from Jared to clutch Ben's shirt.
There was a knock and Ben rose, leaving Angela with the now calming, but still crying, Jared. She continued to murmur to him as she leaned back in the chair, his head against her breast. She watched as her nurse, Louise, came to the window of the room.
"Mr. Cheney?" Louise asked from the door. "I have some news for you," she continued after he nodded. "Your daughter is out of surgery. A piece of shrapnel cut her badly. She has lost a lot of blood. Her neck was injured as well, impairing her ability to breathe properly. They've stopped the bleeding and inserted a breathing tube. She hadn't stabilized yet, but the doctors aren't willing to do more until she does."
Angela's hands trembled on Jared. Ben stuttered as he answered. "T-thank you."
"Jessica?" Angela asked, tightening her hold on the boy in her lap.
"I'm afraid Mrs. Newton was dead when she arrived." Louise hung her head. Angela felt the shock as she had when she realized Kim wasn't breathing in the seat in front of her. It was like the fact had hit her in the head, right around the lump that suddenly started throbbing.
"Mommy?" Jared asked, not understanding.
"She's not hurt anymore, sweetie," Angela said before breaking into sobs. She had been friends with Jessica since high school. They'd done their baby shopping together, had play dates every Wednesday, jokingly planned their kids' wedding. And now she was gone. Poor Jared, Angela thought. He was alone now. Who would look after their precious little boy?
"Aunty Ang?" Jared shrieked, suddenly afraid.
Ben took him from Angela and knelt so she could cry on his other shoulder. "She's very sad, Jared. She's scared, too."
"Don't be scared, Auntie Ang. Everything will be okay." Jared patted her head, making her blubber in hysterics again. If only she had the hope and trust of a three year-old. But she wasn't able to believe it would go away, she was the one that had to make it go away. She took a shuddering breath and tried to calm herself.
"I'll send one of the doctors to talk to you soon," Louise said as she left.
"Mommy?" Jared asked Ben now.
"Your mom is with your dad now, Jared."
"Daddy?" he asked, not understanding.
"They aren't coming home," Ben tried to explain, letting go of Angela to put both arms around the boy on his knee. He saw Angela's pink painted nails run through Jared's hair, trying to soothe him.
"Not coming home? Can I go home?" he asked his lip trembling.
"Not yet, honey," Angela told him. "We have to wait for Kimmy. Then you can come home with us, okay?" It was the least she could do for her friends, to make sure their son was loved as much as they had loved him.
Jared nodded, appeased.
They sat together, eventually moving to a private waiting area and freeing the room. Angela and Ben took turns reading stories to Jared or singing or playing with him between moments of reflection and prayer.
"Mr. and Mrs. Cheney?" Three pairs of eyes turned to the door where a woman with a stethoscope stood. "I have some bad news."
She didn't need to hear more. Angela wailed, falling to her knees. The older woman that had been waiting with Jared before, scooped him up and took him from the room as Ben wrapped his arms around his wife.
"Angela. I love you, Angela."
"She was only a baby, Ben! Only a little girl! How? Why?" She sobbed relentlessly.
"I'm sorry," the doctor said quietly. "I know it's not much consolation, but she never woke up, she never felt any pain." The doctor turned and walked from the room.
Angela felt her heart rip out of her chest, leaving a black hole. Her little girl, her angel, Kimberly, gone. It wasn't possible. Someone had lied.
Ben had never seen his wife like this. She'd always been quiet, reserved. She had wept at the birth of their daughter, but those tears were nothing like these. The news still hadn't hit him. He wasn't thinking about Kim, only Angela.
"Shh, baby. I'm here. I love you."
"No." She shook her head in disbelief. She wiped her cheeks. "I don't believe it."
"Angela," Ben murmured kissing her gently. "Stay with me, sweetheart."
She hugged him, squeezing tightly. "Always."
"Jared needs us," Ben reminded her.
Angela's heart started beating again. She couldn't take her daughter home, but she would care for her friends' son. "Yes. Let's get him." She held her head high as she walked from the room, a little higher than even her husband's. He followed, proud of her, envious of her strength. He didn't realize it was empty. She wasn't feeling anything right now. He was. The reality of their daughter was touching him now and he fought collapsing entirely.
Ben grabbed Angela's hand just as she was about to step out of reach. He pulled her to him, remembering Kim's small hands, the smell of her markers when she coloured, the ball cap she had worn when he took her to her first baseball game.
He lost it, turning into a blubbering mass of tears and sobs.
Angela pushed Ben into a chair and sat in his lap, holding his shoulders and rocking him with her. "Shhhh. Together. We do this together. Just like everything else. We're strong together, right?"
He nodded into her breast, understanding how Jared could find comfort there. She was a good mother, Angela. She should have gotten to be one for longer.
Ben pulled Angela's face down to his and kissed her, tasting both their tears. "I love you so much."
"I know. Everything is going to be okay," she lied, echoing Jared's words.
Angela was usually a terrible liar, but Ben believed her this time and set her on her feet as he rose.
"Mrs. Cheney?" a receptionist asked as she and Ben passed. "I have your mother on the line."
"Mom?" she asked.
"Yes, would you like to talk to her?"
"Does she..." Angela couldn't admit her daughter's death enough to say it aloud.
"No. You go on. I'll tell her you'll call when you can."
"Thank you." Angela was filled with gratitude. "Tell her we'll be heading home soon."
"Of course." The receptionist picked up a phone and pressed a button while Angela tried to catch up to Ben.
"Ready to go home?" Angela asked Jared while Ben called them a cab. He nodded and put his tiny hand in hers. It was only a little smaller than Kim's.
"Where's Kimmy?" he asked when they got to the doors.
"Your mom and dad are going to take care of her. She... she isn't coming home either, but we're going to take care of you. Will that be okay?" Angela asked, choking on tears.
Jared thought about that for a minute. "Do I get to play with Kimmy's toys?"
Angela couldn't help it. She was at the end of a very frayed rope, and she pulled Jared up to hug him as she laughed hysterically. "Yes, you can play with all of Kimmy's toys and all of your own toys, too. Come on, silly boy."
She pulled Jared into her lap as the cab pulled away. Jared stiffened, tensing all over. Angela stroked him. "What's wrong, sweetie?"
"Truck," was all he said. Angela suddenly understood. She would need to talk to someone about how to deal with this.
"We're okay, Jared. This cab is going to make it home. We're going to be just fine. I'm a little scared too, but we'll hold each other's hand, right?"
He nodded and squeezed Angela's hand in his little one. Then he tucked his head under her chin, squeezing his eyes shut. Fear, unexplained terror even, Angela had had to deal with. Kimmy had been inexplicably terrified of the hair blower. Easy to avoid, not easy to break. She would help Jared get over his fear of vehicles. First, she needed to get him home. They all needed sleep. She yawned to prove the point.
The drive was long, they had been on the road several hours before the accident. Although Angela didn't sleep, Jared's weight increased when he drifted off. Angela carried him up to Kim's room and laid him in her bed. She pulled off his shorts and found a Pull-Up. He was still prone to night wetting. She stumbled out of the room, pulling off her sneakers. She tossed them to the door before collapsing fully clothed on the bed. Ben was in the middle of taking off his pants. He dropped them with a clatter of change and keys and slipped his hands under Angela's shirt to unclip her bra.
She chuckled. "Yeah, that would be more comfortable, thanks." She took care of her pants herself, following with shirt and bra. She slipped under the covers in just her panties. She closed her eyes and fell asleep in seconds.
She didn't know how long she'd been asleep, but suddenly her vision was filled with the accident again. She screamed, seeing Mike crushed and a piece of the dash come flying at her. Her head throbbed, and she put her hand to it as she sat up.
Jared was whimpering in Kim's room. Ben hadn't been woken by Angela's scream, so she got up, checking on the boy.
"Jared?" she asked, peeking in.
"Where's Mom? Where's Dad?"
Angela knelt beside his bed. "They died in the accident, sweetheart. They aren't coming home. Can I get you anything? A drink of water?"
Jared took a deep breath and shook his head. Then he rolled over and closed his eyes again. Angela opted to follow suit; she needed more sleep for certain.
The next week was very difficult. Angela and Ben were kept very busy making arrangements and informing everyone. Jared's grandparents took him back to Mike and Jessica's house, but ended up bringing him back after a few days. He couldn't go more than twenty minutes in his own house without asking where Mom or Dad were and it was too hard on Mr. and Mrs. Stanley. While in a strange house, Jared didn't expect his parents as much and only asked every couple of hours.
The funeral home doing the joint service had given Angela a book as well as the name of a children's grief counsellor. The book explained a child's reaction to grief as well as how best to respond to it. She felt more prepared to deal with Jared's response on the day or the funeral. If only she had prepared better for her own.
Seeing Kim's body in a tiny coffin had brought both her parents' worlds crashing down. Denial fled in anger and Ben had to pull Angela away from the body as she began beating on its encasement.
"No! No! I won't let it. I won't let them... How could he? I wish he weren't dead so I could KILL him."
Ben shared all her feelings, but gripped them more tightly, coldly. "He is dead. Just as he should be."
Reverend Webber, Angela's father, didn't suggest forgiveness, this wasn't the time.
Angela got a grip on herself, just in time for the service. She sat, stoic, unable to listen properly. Jared, next to her, shifted a lot, uncomfortable in his suit.
"Why did they put them in boxes?" he asked.
"They're going to bury them in them," Angela whispered back.
"You'll see." She patted his hand and sat up again.
The internment was worse. Angela was better prepared for this part, but Ben wasn't. He couldn't move when the time came to put her favorite stuffed animal on the casket. Angela did it for him. She also answered Jared's stream of questions.
"How are they going to get back out of that hole? How does that machine work? Did someone put food in the box with them? They're going to get hungry."
None were unexpected and they didn't come all at once like that. He always paused, reflecting on her answer before asking the next.
"You said Mom and Dad are going to look after Kimmy. Are they going to do that in the ground?"
Angela looked to her father with a smile. He gladly took the religious question from her and tried to explain heaven to the little boy.
After the funeral, the Stanleys and Newtons both asked again if Angela and Ben were sure they wanted to keep Jared. Mike and Jessica's will didn't name any children, but asked Jessica's parents to be guardians. It was an old will; neither couple felt equipped to keep up with the three year-old.
Angela assured them that she was certain of her decision. Although Jess's parents would remain legal guardians for a few months longer, Angela and Ben had every intention of adopting Jared when things had settled down.
The few days Jared had spent with the Stanleys, at Jess and Mike's house, had been brutal for Angela. It was too quiet, too empty without someone small running through the halls, a tiny voice singing in another room, the television turned to cartoons in the morning. She needed a baby, even if it wasn't hers. She needed to fill that hole left by Kim, and although Jared wasn't a perfect fit, he certainly covered the emptiness with laughter and song, including The Song that Never Ends. Angela had cried the first time she heard him singing it, laughed the second and groaned the third. By the fifth, she was ready to throttle him.
"Jared! Get a new song!"
"But I like this one. It's Kimmy's song! This is the song that doesn't end..." She had no answer to that. He was right.
Jared continued to ask when Mom or Dad were coming home for the next two weeks. Occasionally, he cried when reminded they were dead and not coming home. Sometimes he just stared into space until a toy or sound caught his attention and he ran off to play again. Sometimes he would get mad and throw his toys with fury. Angela only responded to the last. She wanted him to weep when he was able; she had learned that apathy was normal and left him to that as well. But she was not about to let a three year-old think he could throw his toys around. He had a new time-out closet with nothing inside that she had closed him in a few times. There was a light, so he wasn't in complete dark, but there was nothing else in it. He could beat on the walls and yell and scream. When he was done, Angela would wipe his face and invite him to make a craft or have a snack, pretending the entire episode had never occurred. And they occurred less and less.
Jared started pre-school in the fall, Angela slipping back into the same routines she had when Kimberly had gone the first time. Ben went back to work after a month and found coming home to the raucous laughter was familiar and comforting.
Ben and Angela found their romantic interests were definitely muted by the grief, but by Christmas each was seeking the other and babysitters were in demand again. Fortunately, Jared had eight grandparents clamouring for him, so sitters were never in short supply.
One of the most serious conversations not directly related to Jared for the couple came on the anniversary of the accident.
"Ben, do you think we should try for another baby?" Angela asked, watching Jared run through the grass on the edge of the cemetery.
He squeezed her hand. "What were you thinking?"
"Well, we hadn't planned on having another while we had Kim. I was just wondering, if you thought we needed another now that she's gone." Angela couldn't meet his eye, instead shifting her gaze from the graves to Jared, now trying to catch a grasshopper. "Jared! No farther, please."
He nodded and started running back.
"I don't think I need another child. We still have one." He hugged Angela from behind, following her gaze to the beautiful boy that was even more of a handful than their daughter had ever been.
Angela smiled and turned to kiss him. "That's what I thought too."
Jared stopped and kissed Kim's gravestone. "I miss you Kimmy. I wish you could come home and play with me." Then he turned to his new parents. "Mom, can I have Steward over instead?"
It had taken Angela a few weeks to get used to being called 'Mom' again. Jared had picked it up on his own in the spring. She didn't flinch anymore. Ben became 'Dad' at about the same time. Something in his little head flipped the switch that substituted the new parents for the old ones.
He would ask a question about 'Mom,' referring to Jessica, but at home there was almost never any confusion. It had taken the preschool teacher a little while to understand that when Jared asked if he could make something to take to Mom, he didn't always mean Angela, but Angela always knew. Something in the way he said it. And 'Daddy' was always Mike. He had never called Ben Daddy, only Dad. That worked fine for them.
"Sure you can, Jared. Ready to go?"
"Yep. Bye Mom. Bye Daddy. Bye Kimmy." He waved to the gravestones and took Angela's hand, skipping out of the cemetery.
A/N: I've fast forwarded 12 years, renamed Jared's parents and changed Angela up a little bit, and now I'm writing a novel about Jared starting High School! Cool eh? :D He's haunted by Kimmy. Ghost Story! I Love It!