The room went silent. Lucy's jaw had hit the floor.
Simon had begun helping his very-pregnant wife toward the door, when he appeared to notice the stares from the door. Wearing a curious face, he turned around, and he too stopped dead. He released his wife, who also turned around to see where all the stares aimed.
Lucy's lips closed. Her face stiffened. She grabbed her daughter's shoulder and whispered, "Savannah, how about you take all the kids upstairs?"
"Aw, Mom, why?" Savannah whined. The little girl peaked out the door, perplexed by all the stares. "Who's here?"
"Don't worry about it. Just take your sisters, and Madi and Emmy upstairs," Lucy firmly instructed her daughter. "Your dad should be up there with Isaiah. Tell your dad to come down for me, Sav."
The little girl stuck her lip out. "But—"
"—Savannah, no buts. Just do as I say, okay?" Lucy interrupted her daughter.
The little girl rolled her sparkling blue eyes. She threw herself around and interlocked her fingers with Madi and Moriah's fingers. "Come on," she sniped, suddenly reminding Peter of Lucy and Ruthie at times during the years he had spent at the Camden house.
When the kids were finally upstairs, Lucy released a loud sigh. "She's too young to be giving me the eye roll and the attitude. These last few days, I don't know what has gotten into her. Usually she does whatever I ask her to do."
At the same time, Peter's mom and dad came from the kitchen. "Kids are becoming hormonal younger, Luce," Peter's mom insisted, inviting herself into the conversation. She added, "Then again, Emma is my only daughter. But I know I didn't give my parents the eye roll until I was at least fifteen."
"I didn't until I was twelve," Lucy insisted. "But we've got bigger problems right now. Look who's here, Paris."
Peter watched his mother lift her left thick, blonde eyebrow. She headed toward the door, and gazed through the screen door. "Is that…no, it can't be…"
"It's Mary," Lucy moaned. "I don't know what she thinks she's doing here. I invited Carlos and the kids, like always. Carlos knows he's welcomed here. But Mary…she hasn't shown her face here in over four years! After she abandoned Ruthie like she did, I don't know what she thinks she's doing!"
Meredith's mouth line became thin with the mention of Ruthie's name. Peter clutched his fist and bit his tongue. He didn't know what Lucy was talking about. It was something his parents had never mentioned to him; they usually seemed to leave out all the details that involved Ruthie.
Simon had walked over toward the car. By then, a tall, blonde figure had stepped out of the car. Next to her were three children. The boy's head stood a little past his mother's shoulder when he stood on the curve, and his mother was still on the road. Two small girls stood with their backs against the car; they barely reached their mother's waist.
A man who Peter recognized was standing on the sidewalk, conversing with Simon. Simon and the man, who Peter realized must be Carlos, seemed to be having an engaging conversation. Mary, on the other hand, wore an annoyed look on her face. Her right hand was placed on her hips, and she held a flask in her other hand. Peter watched her take a drink from the flask.
"I hope Simon is finding out why she's here," Lucy snarled. Moments later, footsteps sounded from the stairway. Lucy lifted her head; her eyes glowed toward her husband, who held a blond toddler in his arms. "There you are!"
Peter had no problem deciphering the toddler as a Kinkirk. The toddler's deep blue eyes, identical to his sisters' eyes, wandered around the room at the strangers. Timidly, the boy buried his face in his father's chest.
"Savannah said you wanted me down here, Luce. What's going on?" Kevin inquired.
"Mary's here," Lucy answered with bitterness in her voice.
Kevin's eyes widened for a moment. He finally responded, "Okay? She's your sister, so I suppose she's welcome here, right? I don't see the big deal."
Lucy squint her eyes ferociously. "I think you'd better think again about what you just said, Kevin Kinkirk. Mary, my quote-in-quote sister, has not had the guts to show her face in the house for four years. She knows how I feel about what she did to Ruthie. She's only here to cause trouble, and you know that, Kevin."
"And how do you know she's here to cause trouble? What trouble could she possibly cause, Luce? I'm sorry, but you're blowing this out of proportion. It's Christmas, and she likely just wants to spend a Christmas with her family." Kevin's voice was flat, and his lips were pressed tightly together.
"I'm blowing this out of proportion?" Lucy sniped. "I don't think so. I don't need proof that she's here to cause trouble. Because face it, every time she shows up here, problems occur. It's a known fact. It's been one for years. Ever since…"
"…what happened to you trying to make peace with all your siblings?" Kevin cut in. "I thought you were working on forgiving them all. And you can't tell me that you and Mary weren't close for years. I remember…"
"Kevin, just shut up. You don't know what you're talking about. She hasn't contacted me in four years." Lucy rolled her eyes, similar to how her seven-year-old daughter had only a few minutes ago. And Lucy wondered where Savannah had gotten her attitude from.
Kevin wrinkled his forehead, and the room went silent. Peter met eyes with Meredith; he realized that Meredith seemed to be thinking the same thing that he was. He felt incredibly out of place, and Ruthie wasn't even present. Meredith had been right. They shouldn't have come.
Lucy shoved the front door open. Her vengeful eyes glared toward her older sister. Mary noticed that the door was open. Immediately, she waved. "Hey there, Luce! How's it going?" Mary acted like nothing was out of place. She grabbed daughters' hands and started to make her way toward the front door. Her son followed behind.
When she reached the steps that lead up to the front door, she almost tripped, but managed to catch her balance. Laughing lightly, she and the kids stopped in front of the door.
"What are you doing here?" Lucy immediately demanded. Then, she took note to the kids. Their innocent, small eyes wandered around with confusion. "Hey, kids. Your cousins are upstairs. How about you guys go join them? Charlie, you know your way around upstairs."
"Do I have to take them?" Charlie fussed, pointing to his sisters.
"Do as your aunt said." Mary dictated her son. "We have grown-up stuff to talk about, I'm sure."
"Fine," Charlie mumbled, grabbing his sisters' hands. "Let's go." The children disappeared up the stairs. Almost instantaneously, Lucy's fiendish glare aimed toward her sister.
"What are you doing here?" Lucy spat again.
Mary shook her head. "The last time I checked, it's Christmas, and you're my sister. I think I'm welcome here. I wanted to revisit old times, you know. Sometimes I miss this house."
"You haven't been here in four years!" Lucy cried. "Four years. Why would you decide to show up now? And after how you left last time, I can't think of any decent reason you have to be here."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Mary lifted her dark eyebrows. "Has it really been four years? Time sure does go fast, doesn't it? I've missed talking to you, Luce. I wish you'd call more. We used to talk all the time."
Lucy's mouth opened, but words didn't come out. Her eyes bulged. Peter glanced toward Meredith, who shrugged. We need to get out of here, he thought.
"After what you did to Ruthie, I don't know how you could say that," Lucy replied bitterly, and she turned to Paris, shaking her head, "I need to go check on the ham." And that was all she said. She left the room and headed toward the kitchen.
Peter met eyes with his mother. He knew that she had to know what he was thinking. "Peter, why don't you and Meredith go and check on the kids?" his mother insisted. At the same time his mother said his name, Peter noticed Mary's eyes widen.
Meredith nodded, "That sounds like a goo—"
"—you're Peter? The Peter?" Mary interrupted; awe filled her face.
"Um…yes," Peter responded, confused. She must be thinking of someone else, Peter thought, unless Ruthie told Mary about me, but what could Ruthie possibly tell Mary?
"It's a small world, isn't it?" Mary inquired. "Boy, do I have stuff to tell you…" she turned around, "but I'd rather do it without so many people around."
"Peter, what's going on?" Meredith asked. "And whatever she has to tell you, she can tell you in front of your girlfriend."
"I…I don't know," Peter stuttered. "But…I think you should go upstairs…go check on the kids."
The front door opened, and Simon, Cecilia, and Carlos swayed into the room. "Simon, Carlos, just the men I needed!" Kevin's eyes widened. "We have a mission to go on…"
"Oh, what's that?" Simon lifted his bushy, blond eyebrows.
"Well, you see, we don't have a Christmas tree yet..."
Simon and Carlos looked at each other. "We're on it," they reacted at the same time.
"You're good men," Kevin winked. He handed Meredith the toddler he held in his arm. "Take Isaiah upstairs with you when you go to check on the kids, okay?" Meredith nodded. Kevin turned to Carlos and Simon, "Let's go tell Lucy where we're going—otherwise she'll be fretting." The men vanished toward the kitchen.
"I reckon we should go help Lucy with the ham," Paris insisted, glaring at her husband.
"But—But it was just getting good! I want to know…"
"I'll tag along with you guys, if that's all right," a ready-to-explode Cecilia insisted.
"Oh, Cecilia, you should sit down," Paris insisted.
"There are chairs in the kitchen. Really, I'm feeling fine."
Paris nodded, though she was bombarded with her husband's pouty face. "Come on!" Paris snagged her husband's hand. Vic sulked, and followed his wife; Cecilia waddled after them.
That left Peter and Meredith, holding the toddler, and Mary alone. The toddler rested his head on Meredith's shoulder. Peter's heart warmed when he saw Meredith with the little guy. Someday she'll make a great mother, Peter thought, smiling to himself.
Meredith smiled. "So, what do you want to tell Peter?" Her eyes aimed at Mary.
"Meredith, I think you should go upstairs…I'm sure it's a misunderstanding," Peter assured Meredith.
Meredith sighed. "Okay. Or I could do that. After all, I trust you, Peter. And after all, if it involves Ruthie it'll only upset me anyway. I don't want to know. It's none of my business." Meredith shook her head, and soon disappeared upstairs with the toddler.
"There's no misunderstanding here," Mary chuckled. "Believe me."
"Does it involve Ruthie?" Peter immediately asked. "Tell me what Ruthie told you about me!"
Mary laughed. "Oh, she told me plenty…like Christmas 2007. Remember that?"
Peter felt his pulse slow down. Christmas 2007, it felt like forever ago, though it had only been five years. Five years had passed since that fateful day he had seen Ruthie Camden bawling her eyes out on a bench at her family's church. He remembered contemplating on whether or not he should stop. The minute his eyes had spotted her, a rush of memories hit him. He remembered his emotional goodbye to Ruthie Camden when she told him that she was moving to London.
He remembered crying himself to sleep that night. He had loved Ruthie Camden, and even though he had avoided all chances to contact her over those previous months, he still had loved her. He knew that he had to pull over and help her.
Had he known what was going to happen later that day, he would have given anything to go back and tell himself to not pull over. If only he could have stayed in his car and kept going. Then his end with Ruthie Camden wouldn't have been so painful, and he wouldn't have the harsh feelings he had toward her.
He remembered how she had laid next to him his bed. How her warm skin had rubbed against his body, and how they had made love. The moment had been one he had dreamed about for year; it was one that he hadn't believed would ever come true. At the time, he cherished it. She had been his first, and he would always remember that moment.
That afternoon had been one story he had kept from Meredith. He had spent months and years trying to deny that it happened. Denying its true existence helped, and made him feel less guilty. He knew that he should have told Meredith the whole truth in the beginning; but if she knew, he feared that she wouldn't love him anymore.
Meredith had told Peter about how hurt she had felt when Martin had told her that he had slept with Sandy, and how she had broken up with him when he had told her that he was going to be a father. Thankfully, I'm not a father, he thought. But if he were to tell Meredith the truth now, he knew that he would take it as him feeling he needed to lie to her. She couldn't handle it.
"You do remember," Mary noted. "Don't you?"
"What about it?" Peter gave her a shifty look. "Just tell me."
"Hey, Meredith looks really cute with the baby in her arms, don't you think? Have you two discussed having children?" Mary asked.
The sudden change of topic baffled Peter. What was Mary getting at? Was she playing him? Was this some sick joke of hers? Ruthie had told him about Mary. Peter remembered that Mary was arrested her senior year for breaking into the gym. She had moved to New York to live with her grandparents, and she had gone through many "career changes." Ruthie had always described Mary as her "wild" sister. When she was young, Ruthie had told him that she was close to her eldest sister. But they drifted apart.
Now Ruthie's just like Mary, Peter thought, thinking about what Lucy had said to Mary. "After what you did to Ruthie…" What had Mary done to Ruthie?
"Just tell me," Peter spoke dryly. "Is this a game? I don't have time for games."
"Oh, there's no game here. Have you spoken to Ruthie lately?" Mary asked.
"No," Peter answered. "Why should I?"
"Well, I'd ask her how old her oldest daughters are if I were you…now, I think I'll go help my lovely younger sister in the kitchen with dinner. Merry Christmas to you, Peter," Mary grinned. She disappeared toward the kitchen, leaving Peter with a mind full of questions.
He turned around and ran up the stairs.
Last time he had been to the parsonage, the attic had been turned into the playroom. He remembered spending hours in the attic with Ruthie when he was in middle school. It was the room that had been Ruthie's; they had built a volcano in that room, they had spent hours working on homework, and they had spent hours just talking.
He peeked in the room that had once belonged to Ruthie's youngest brothers, Sam and David. He remembered once when Ruthie had tried to explain to him who had all lived in each room. It confused him, but he remembered Ruthie telling him that was the room which she had shared with Simon.
The room had a different atmosphere now. A crib was in the corner of the room, and a blue rug covered the room's floor. A diaper-changing station was against the wall, and the room was littered with stuffed animals. Peter could tell that the room belonged to Isaiah.
He moved to the next room, which Peter clearly remembered belonging to Simon. The room's dark walls had been painted over with purple paint. Purple rugs covered the room, and dolls were everywhere. A bed covered with purple sheets leaned against the room. There was no doubt that the room now belonged to a young girl.
He looked down the hallway at the bedroom that had been Robbie's before he had moved out, and afterward the bedroom had belonged to the wretched Martin. He peaked in the room, only to realize that the notorious Hello Kitty room was the only room that hadn't changed at all. The room's history had been preserved. The two were in the same position they had been when he was in seventh grade.
"Mommy, I'mma big girl! Leave me 'lone!" Peter jumped at the sound of a little girl's voice. He turned around, where he saw a familiar face, holding onto a small blonde child's hand.
He froze, and so did the little girl and her mother.
"Hi," he finally said.
"It's Peter, isn't it?" the woman asked, as he strained his memory.
"Yes…" he trailed, and out of the blue he remembered. "Roxanne, right?"
"It's been forever, Peter. I see your mother all the time. Wow, you've grown up over these last few years, haven't you? I see college has really been good for you."
"I think it has," Peter answered. He smiled down at the little girl, "and who's this?"
"This is Chandler's and my daughter, Cassi," Roxanne introduced her daughter. "Cassi, say hi to Peter. He's an old friend."
"Hi, Petey. You don't look that old," the little girl giggled.
Peter remembered Roxanne and Chandler announcing that they were expecting that Christmas 2007. He also remembered hearing his parents mention Roxanne and Chandler occasionally. He took note to the little girl's adorable blue eyes, replicas of her mother's.
A few seconds later, a tall teenager appeared behind Roxanne. At first Peter didn't recognize him. He had only been a young teenager when Peter had last seen him, and Peter never had the opportunity to get to know him.
"Jeffrey, what are you doing up here?" Roxanne questioned the teenager.
"Dad says I have to help with the kids," the teenager moaned. "You know, I could be out with my friends partying up on the last day of the world. But, no, I have to be here, where there's not a single person my age."
"Jeffrey, how many times do I have to tell you that the world isn't going to end tomorrow?" Roxanne shook her head. "It's an ancient calendar, and you can't believe it."
"Millions of people all over the world believe it," Jeffrey stated. "So why shouldn't I?"
Roxanne sighed. "Take your sister upstairs. I'm going to downstairs and help Lucy." She vanished moments later.
Jeffrey groaned and grabbed Cassi's hand. "Come on, squirt." He then turned to Peter. "Who the heck are you?"
"I'm Peter…Peter Petrowski," Peter introduced himself.
"Oh, right. I've heard about you. You're Vic and Paris's oldest kid…Emma's sister. You're a psychology major, right?"
"I just graduated," Peter responded. He followed Jeffrey and Cassi up the stairs.
"I see, then from a psychologist's point of view, is the world ending tomorrow?" Jeffrey inquired.
"Well, as in the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Honestly, I think that people have blown an ancient calendar completely out of proportion. If the world does end tomorrow, it certainly won't because of the Mayans say so. Only man will cause the end of the world."
Jeffrey gazed back at Peter, dumbstruck. "You would say that."
Meredith was sitting on the floor playing a game with the kids. She held Isaiah on her lap. Peter took note to the grin on her face. She truly looked like she was enjoying herself. She'll make a great mother someday, Peter thought to himself.
She looked up and sprang off the floor with the toddler still in her arms. "There you are, Peter! What did Mary want?"
Peter shook his head. "It's nothing, like I told you. She's full of it…I think it was some of game of hers."
Jeffrey snickered. "Mary's here? I remember her…Dad says she's a character, and usually when Dad says someone's a character, that means they're a drunk."
Peter glanced at Jeffrey blankly. Somehow that surprised him. The Camden women had always been a little nutty, but he couldn't see any of them being drunks. He had always figured it was their genes. Maybe it's more than just their genes.
Ruthie had almost murdered him when she had caught him drinking. There was no way.
Maybe, just maybe he didn't know the Camdens as well as he thought he had. Growing up, he would have given anything to be a Camden. Having an alcoholic father who had abandoned him had made him resent his life. He had hated his own life.
Then he met Ruthie Camden. She had a loving mother and a loving father. She had six siblings who all appeared to get along. He would have given anything to be adopted into the Camden family, or at least married into the Camden family.
He remembered being thirteen and mentally planning his own wedding. He had always pictured Ruthie standing there in a white, silk wedding dress. She was beautiful. They would get married, and live happily ever after.
His future had altered since he was thirteen. Now, instead of seeing Ruthie Camden in that silk, white wedding dress, he saw Meredith. It was amazing how everything could change in nearly ten years.
Author's note: Hi guys, if anyone is still reading. I'd just thought I'd leave a note here saying that I'm going on vacation next week, so I'll be without a computer for a good week. All I'll have is my cell phone, which I do receive all emails and alerts on. I just can't reply to Fanfiction alerts, though I can reply to email.
Another term is complete here, and I've been trying to get as much writing done as I can. I don't have any writing classes next term – thank goodness (I love writing, but not for class) – so maybe I'll be able to write more for my own pleasure.