"Your uncle Kevin is a bit of a slob, isn't he, Evan?" Kitty remarked as she picked up her brother's clothes off the floor. She loved having Evan in the house; he was someone she could talk to, even if his responses were restricted to half-formed words and awkward almost-sentences. With Robert gone, she was understandably lonely, and she figured talking to her son was better than talking to herself.
She continued to make offhand comments to her son as she straightened the living room. She had been on automatic pilot since Kevin had taken up residence on her couch, listening to him whine and spooning out the ice cream with good-natured indifference. She frowned as she picked up a wayward sock half-hidden under the sofa; something wasn't right with this picture. The sock! The sock and all the other crap strewn around the room was what was wrong.
Kevin didn't leave stuff lying around; he was compulsively tidy and organized. As a kid he had taken it upon himself to organize his sister's closets, although in retrospect, that may have had a different origin. But that was beside the point; he simply didn't leave his clothes in piles on the floor. Something was definitely wrong.
Kitty was forced to step out of her thoughts when the phone rang. "Hello?" A quiet voice answered.
"Hi Kitty…it's Scotty." She paused her tidying. Kevin had expressly forbid his family to speak with his husband. She wanted to respect her brother's wishes, but she also knew that Scotty was well versed enough in the 'Kevin Walker owner's manual' to keep his distance. He wouldn't be calling unless he had good reason. "I'm surprised you're not calling Sarah, or my Mom."
"They've already called me. Anyway Kevin's living with you, you're the one I need to talk to."
"What's going on, Scotty?" There was a long pause, and Kitty wondered if he had hung up.
"I…I just wanted to make sure that Kevin…had enough blankets."
"Blankets? I think he's ok there." Kitty responded, a little confused.
"Well he gets cold easily, I just wanted to be sure that he, you know, was warm enough."
"He hasn't said anything to me, I'm sure he's alright."
"But that's just it Kitty, he wouldn't say anything would he?"
"Oh he's being pretty vocal."
"I'm sure he hasn't shut up since he moved in, but I'm also sure that he hasn't actually said anything either." Kitty considered this for a moment. He was right, Kevin had chatted and complained like it was in his job description, but he hadn't once talked about how he really felt.
"How's he doing, really?"
Kitty sighed. "I don't know. He's out of the house a lot, you know… work, court. I'm sure you see him when he comes to his office?"
"I catch glimpses. He doesn't talk to me. He won't talk to me."
"Oh. I'm sorry Scotty."
"Me too." He paused and then took a deep breath. "I've been looking after your brother for a few years now, and with the possible exception of your mother, no one knows Kevin better than I do. I'm worried about him Kitty."
"Worried? Worried is a… a strong word. Concerned, maybe, but worried? Should I be worried?" Scotty sighed on the other end.
"Let me put it this way, when was the last time you saw him eat a proper meal?"
"We had ice cream last week when he moved his stuff over, and he eats with Evan sometimes…"
"Grapes and Cheerios with your son hardly counts as real food."
"Well, like I said, he's hardly ever here, he eats when he's out. Kevin's an emotional eater anyway, I'm sure he's gained five pounds since he moved out."
"Yeah, when he's nervous or stressed, he eats. When he's genuinely upset…" His voice trailed off for a moment. "After the whole Aaron thing and after the accident, I really had to be after him about it." Kitty thought about it for a minute. She honestly couldn't recall seeing him eat more than a few bites all week.
"Is he sleeping at least?"
"I don't even know. I guess I really should be worried. I mean, I haven't lived with Kevin since we were teenagers; I don't know what to do with him. He's a grown man, I can't just give him a hug and expect everything to be better anymore. Is there something I should be doing?" Scotty tried to formulate an answer in his head. What could Kitty do? Not much really. Kevin didn't need Kitty right now; he needed Scotty.
Even that special knowledge, the things only a spouse would know, was useless in her hands. What good would it do her to know that he loved to be kissed behind his left ear? Or that he liked sugar in his coffee when he was stressed, but never otherwise? Scotty could tell with one look at his husband whether to kiss him or hug him. He knew just by the tone of Kevin's 'good morning' what color suit he would wear that day. He knew that he preferred the left side of the bed when they were together, and the right side when he was alone. But none of this information would help Kitty.
"See if you can get him to talk to you. It won't be easy; you know how stubborn he gets. You have to be a little bit sneaky; talk about everything but what you want to talk about, and once he's been lulled into a state of calm, go in for the kill." He paused. "Kevin's a bit like a medieval fortress, sometimes a battering ram won't work, and you have to send in the assassin with the poison."
"Ok, assassin not battering ram, got it."
"And Kitty, be gentle with him. He's…fragile right now. I've already hurt him more than I could have imagined, I can't bear the thought of him any more hurt."
"I'll try, but Scotty, he needs to accept some responsibility for his actions. I know he was in a bad place after what happened with Michelle, but that doesn't justify how he acted; he was awful to everyone, especially to you."
"I know. But after Robert…he was living on hope, on false hope. I could see it in his eyes, it was like every morning he half expected him to come out of it. And every night he had to admit to himself that he hadn't. It was breaking his heart. He was so upset about everything, that he latched on to the baby like it was his only hope. I could practically see his brain trying to figure it out; he thought the baby would make everything better, that the baby could take Robert's place." Scotty paused, carefully weighing his words; should he tell her? He took a deep breath, and continued. "Kitty, we never told anyone, but the baby…if the baby had been a boy…we were going to call him Robert."
Kitty stopped. She stood very still as she thought about what she had just heard. Just when she thought that she had moved on, that she had reconciled herself to a life without him, something like this would happen and she would feel his absence as acutely as the day of the accident. For the first time she really thought about Michelle and the baby that might have been. She had been so numb when it happened, that she had hardly thought about it. She had been nominally sad for Kevin and Scotty of course, but she had never considered what that baby must have meant to them.
"He was awful to me and everyone else, but I can't be mad at him; I just don't have it in me. We were both broken, trying to figure it out any way we could. Kevin got cynical and distant. I, well…we know what I did." He said disdainfully
"I don't hold that against you, Scotty."
"That doesn't matter. Kevin clearly holds it against me, I hold it against me." He laughed slightly. "You know what the funny thing is? When it was over, the minute it was over, I became the perfect husband…I knew I had done a terrible thing and I wanted to make it right. I tried to talk to him, I tried to be there for him, but it was too late." He let out a long sigh. "And it's too late now. I mean, at this point, there's nothing more I can do; I just have to hope that he can forgive me."
"He will, I'm sure of it Scotty."
"I hope you're right, but we have no way of knowing that. Right now Kevin is a mess; for him, his world is collapsing. His best friend is dead, his baby never really got a chance to be, and the person who was supposed to love him more than anything betrayed him. He needs somebody. I'd like that somebody to be me, but if not or until it is, you have to be that person for him."
Kitty thought about what Scotty had said. His love for her brother was so clear in the tone of his voice, in his words. It wasn't a lofty idealized love, but very real, human love. She knew he was mad at himself for cheating, and frustrated with Kevin for shutting him out. But what it came down to was that Scotty cared for him. Even when he wasn't speaking to him, even when Kevin was directing every ounce of his not inconsiderable venom at his husband, Scotty was calling her to make sure he had enough blankets.
"You really love him, don't you?"
"Yeah, I do. Despite all his many, many faults, I'm still hopelessly in love with the man. What can I say, you Walkers are easy to love."
"Yes, and we drive the people who love us crazy; it all balances out."
"Kitty, will you keep an eye on him? Maybe get him to talk about things? I don't care how much he badmouths me in the process, he just needs to talk about what happened."
"I will. But you have to do something for me, Scotty. You have to forgive yourself; you're a good person, and you love my brother. You made a mistake, but that doesn't change anything. Everything will work out."
"And if it doesn't?"
"Kitty, if it doesn't you have to promise me that you'll look after him. Someone has to make sure he has enough blankets."
"I promise." She responded, thinking, not for the first time, that her brother was a very lucky man to be so loved.