This story is AU/OOC.
All characters belong to Stephanie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended.
Mature readers 18+ only please.
After a hearty lunch of beef stew, I made my way back to Billy's house. I needed to speak to him. I found Bella in the kitchen cooking up a storm with Billy sitting at the kitchen table attempting to chop onions without tearing up. All of Jake's children were in the house. Most of them glued to Bella's side as she attempted to keep them busy with cooking chores.
"Uncle Paul!" Willy ran up to me and jumped up into my arms for a hug. All of the other kids, most of whom I've never met did the same. "Aunty Bella is teaching us how to make homemade chocolate chip cookies. Our mom always buys Chips Ahoy."
"So, that's why your grandfather is chopping up onions?"
"Nope, Bells is making some dishes for me to freeze. That way, all I have to do is throw one into the microwave to heat up at mealtime," Billy replied.
"You still need to eat those packaged salads though!" Bella yelled from the kitchen.
"Don't worry, Aunty Bella, I'll make sure that Grandpa has at least a salad a day."
"The same goes for you, too, Willy."
"I don't like salad."
"Tough, you'll learn to like it. Raw vegetables are good for you. Besides, there are starving kids in Africa that would kill for a cucumber."
"Better listen to your Aunty," Billy said. "You don't want to get stuck in a chair like me because you didn't eat right. You're my namesake, William, I need you to make me proud."
"Aunty Bella, can we make some extra cookies for my friend, Brian Longtree? They never have enough food; the last time I slept over at their house, we had to split a can of Spaghetti O's between him, his brother, and me."
"Willy, does this happen often," I asked, concerned. A can of Spaghetti O's wasn't enough for three growing boys.
"Yeah, his father and mother are both out of work so they don't have much money for food."
Bella sent me a look of concern. I knew the Longtrees, I graduated from the tribal school with both Rick and Mary. I saw that Billy had a concerned expression on his face as well.
"How about we make them a big tray of lasagna?" Bella suggested. "Billy, we'll need more onions."
"I'm on it. Will, why don't you play some Wii with your brothers and sisters? I think Aunty Bella will be able to cook faster with them out of the way."
"Sure, Grandpa." Will took his siblings to Jake's old room, giving the adults a chance to talk.
"A can of Spaghetti O's between three boys is not enough," I commented. "What happened to Rick and Mary?"
"Not enough work in the area," Billy replied. "I didn't think they were that hard up though. Those kids must be starving."
"What does Rick do for work?"
"He's a carpenter. He's too proud to accept help from anyone. He won't even go to the food pantry."
"Charlie's house has a ton of work that needs to be done. I'll bring over the lasagna and ask him to do some work on it. Do you have work that needs to be done on your house?"
"Jake's been keeping up with it as best he could."
"I'll do a run through and if anything needs to be done, I'll have Rick do it."
"Paul, I don't exactly have the money to..."
"I'm going to pay for it and don't look at it as charity either. I want you to look at it as you doing the Longtrees a favor. You don't want their kids to go hungry, do you?"
"I swear, Paul, only you would be able to convince me to go with your plan. You know how I hate accepting help."
"I'm not helping you. You're helping me help the Longtrees."
"Alright, thanks for helping an old man."
"You're not that old."
"If you say so, Paul."
"Why do you have Jake's kids?"
"Oh, Jake's working and Angela is in Seattle at the Black Friday sales."
"She couldn't spend one day with the kids on their vacation?"
"Angela never spends time with the kids. She generally just dumps them off here or elsewhere."
"Nice," I replied sarcastically.
"She's a bitch," Billy spat. "She's a horrid mother and she has my son wrapped around her pinky. I wish that Jake was more self-assured like you are so he could tell her off once in a while."
"He'll get there. Eventually her selfish ways will catch up to her."
"So, what are you here to talk to me about? I know that you didn't just stop by for nothing, Paul."
"I toured the reservation and I have one thing to ask, what the hell happened? The houses are dilapidated, the roads are screwed up, how did it get to this point?"
"You know how it got to that point, it was Fuller. I can tell you that all of the requests were put in and on paper it looks like the work was done, but you know as well as I do that nothing was done about it. It's hard for me to get around in this wheelchair. If I could at least drive around the reservation, I could do more investigating. As it stands now, I have to rely on Charlie, Sue, and Josh to drive me around."
This got me to thinking. The wheels in my brain were turning at a hundred miles per hour. I had an idea, but I needed to talk to Bella first.
Three hours later, Bella was done cooking and the two of us were driving to the Longtree residence to deliver a tray of lasagna, a plate of cookies, and ten bags of groceries from the tribal store. I didn't give a shit about them not liking to accept charity, there was no way in hell that I was going to let growing children starve to death. I remembered being dirt poor growing up, but at least my mother applied for food stamps, hit the food pantry, and made sure that someone fed me if she was too drunk to cook.
"Paul Lahote, you're a sight for sore eyes," Rick greeted at the door.
"How are you, man? This is my wife, Bella."
"Hello, gorgeous." He winked at my imprint. Rick always was a charmer.
"Hello to you, too," she replied.
"So what brings you to my house?"
"I'm going to get straight to the point. I heard you're looking for work and I've got a job for you."
"For me? I ain't moving to Arizona."
"Actually, I need to hire you to fix up my in-law's house and the Chief's house."
His eyes bulged. "Is this for real?"
"Yeah, it's for real."
"Your in-laws are Chief Swan and Sue Clearwater, right?"
"That's right. They need a new roof and that's just the start. If you can get together a crew, I can pay you all. I'd do the work myself, but I have to get back to Phoenix after the weekend and I've got stuff I need to do here. There simply isn't enough time."
"Shit, Jason and Chris are desperate for work too."
"Get them over here now, let me talk to them."
"Sure, I'll run over to their houses now. You can wait inside."
"Can't you call them?"
"No, my phone was shut off." He looked down at his feet.
"Hey, I understand. You remember how it was for me growing up." Rick's mother was one of the women that used to take me in and feed me.
"Yeah, I do. Just...uh...wait in the house. Mary is at her mom's with the kids. Make yourselves at home."
As soon as he left, Bella and I took the opportunity to load up their refrigerator with the groceries. I caught sight of his light and phone bill on the counter. I took down the account information and made a mental note to pay those for him, he didn't have to know it was me who paid the bills. I snapped photos of them with my iPhone so I had all of the account information.
Rick returned a few minutes later with Jason and Chris. I told them about the extensive amount of work that needed to be done on both homes.
"Are you sure you can afford it? We charge ten bucks an hour each. With three of us working, it'll be thirty bucks an hour for you. We'll try to work as fast as we can, but you're talking about two whole new roofs and brand new windows for two houses."
"Don't worry about it, besides, you're underselling yourselves at ten bucks an hour each. Carpentry takes skill. I'll pay you each five grand up front and ten when you finish. I'll also arrange it so that the supplies are billed to me directly from Forks City Hardware.
I wasn't overpaying them at all. It was a fair price for two roofs and brand new windows for both houses. In fact, I was getting a bargain. They were severely selling themselves short.
"But that's forty-five grand?" Jason burst.
"And that's a fair price for roofs and windows on two homes. Trust me, I'm in the field, I know."
"We'll take the job, of course. Thank you."
"You're welcome. We have to get going now. Maybe we can get together for some drinks or something over the weekend. It would be great to catch up with you guys."
"Sure, that would be nice," Rick said.
"Alright, I'll stop by again with checks before Sunday."
"Don't mention it," I said. "Oh, and my wife and Willy Black made a tray of lasagna and some cookies for your kids."
"You didn't have to do that," Rick said.
"Oh, well, we'd made a bit too much so Will suggested dropping it off here for his buddy, Brian," Bella said
"Will's a good kid. He and Brian get along well. They like to play chess together."
"I'm glad that Willy has a good friend. He needs one."
"Same with Brian. They're both great kids.y8"
With that, Bella and I darted out of there before Rick discovered his packed refrigerator. I drove off of the reservation to Port Angeles.
"Now, why the heck are we in PA?" Bella asked.
I wanted to talk to you about something. I have an idea, but I want your opinion.
"I want to buy a van for Billy. A conversion van, one that someone with limited mobility can drive."
"That's a hefty purchase. I don't mind—it's a drop in the bucket for us, but will he accept the gift?"
"I'm not going to give him a choice. I'll tell him it's for the good of the tribe."
"Alright and what about car insurance and all of those other etceteras that come along with vehicle ownership, like gas."
"Let me worry about that, Bella. I can be really crafty if need be. But the fact is, the current chief of the Quileute tribe needs a vehicle because without him keeping an eye on things, the infrastructure is falling to pieces. Jake can maintain the vehicle and I'll pay for Billy's insurance and gas. I won't let him say no."
"You know what I can't understand?"
"If Jake can purchase a goddamned Volvo for Angela, he can easily afford a conversion van for his father."
"I was talking to Billy earlier and he mentioned that Jake has absolutely no control over Angela. It's like Angela has taken the whole thing about the wolf being whatever the imprint needs to a new level."
"Damn, hey, you never said that you would be whatever I needed." She crossed her arms in front of her and pouted.
"Yeah, I did. I told you that I'll be whatever you need me to be; that I just needed to have you in my life."
"Meh, maybe you did. Who cares. You're everything I need and more."
"And the same goes for you, baby." I pulled up at Wilder Auto. "Let's do this."
We hopped out of our rental and the salespeople flocked to us instantly. I didn't want to deal with any of them, just the general manager, so I pulled out my Paul Lahote, businessman persona and demanded that I speak to him. He came rushing out immediately. I could be extremely intimidating when I wanted to be. I explained our necessity for a handicapped accessible ramp van with hand controls. He explained that the hand controls were called electronic mobility controls. He showed me pictures on the internet of Toyota, Dodge, and Honda vans that could be converted.
"Which one has the least amount of mechanical problems?" I asked.
"I'd say the Toyota and Honda are neck and neck. We don't get many engine problems with those. The Dodge is about ten thousand dollars cheaper though."
"Alright, does the driver need a special license to operate the vehicle? I mean, with all of these controls, I'm going to assume that he's going to need to re-learn how to drive."
"Yes, we're fortunate that the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists offers classes at Forks Community Hospital about twice a year. I believe there's one coming up in January. There's a fee for the class, of course."
"Alright, how long does it take for one of these vans to be delivered?"
"Well, it takes the manufacturer, Braun Enterprises about three to four weeks to convert a van depending on the specs you request. After that, it takes them a week or two to deliver it to us."
"What do you think, Bella?"
"I think we should do it."
"Okay, the wife says yes and she's the final word. What kind of deal are you willing to give me?" I asked the manager with a raised eyebrow.
"I can give you a deal on the base cost of the vehicle. I can't do a thing about the conversion fees, those are set in stone. I can also tell you that, right now, Toyota has better deals going than Honda."
"Let's negotiate then."
After working out a fair deal and arranging the van as a surprise to Billy with Charlie as the sole contact person, we left the dealership. We drove straight to Forks Community Hospital to sign Billy up for the driving class—again, with only Charlie as a contact. After that, we drove to the police station to talk to dad.
"I agree with you Paul. I think the van is a great idea. It'll improve Billy's quality of life tenfold. He can be stubborn as all hell though. Let me handle talking to him. I'll do it right around Christmas and tell him it's a gift from you kids. I'll make sure to take him to the driving class too," Dad assured me. "So, we're going to the Stanley's tonight, huh?"
"Yeah, according to Embry, we're going to be having some killer barbeque."
"Great, I'm looking forward to it. I'll stop at Fork's Outfitters and pick up a case of beer to bring over. I'm going to be tied up here for a couple of more hours, would you two mind bringing Sue along with you? That way, I won't have to haul ass back to La Push to grab her."
"No problem, Dad."
The next morning...
Last night, we had the most cumworthy barbeque in the world. Mr. Stanley gave Embry and me the ins and outs of smoking ribs and both of us wanted to make a beeline home to get started on smoking our own ribs. At this point, I didn't give a crap what my wife said, I was getting a smoker as soon as we returned to Phoenix. I'll just have to have it installed while she's at work, that way she won't make me take it back. I knew that Embry was thinking along the same lines as I was because he kept talking about some store in Phoenix that he found that specialized in high end barbeque equipment. Yeah, we'd be taking a trip there together during our lunch break when we got back home.
Right now, Bella and I were going for a run around the reservation. It occurred to us that we'd been pigging out since Wednesday night without getting a lick of exercise in. It was just before six am and the sun was just coming up. I was jogging at a slow pace next to my imprint, I couldn't exactly go at full speed if I wanted to run with her. We were approaching Tony Fuller's house when I heard something with my enhanced wolf hearing. I grabbed Bella, clasped my hand over her mouth, and carried her to the woods behind Fuller's house motioning with a single finger over my lips that she needed to remain silent. She nodded her head in understanding. She couldn't hear anything from this distance, but I could hear every word loud and clear with my wolf hearing.
"So, what? Are you trying to tell me the baby is mine?"
"Of course, it's yours, Kurt. I've never slept with anyone else."
"So, you say."
"What are you saying?" the girl sobbed.
"I'm saying that you're lying. There's no way in hell to prove that the kid is mine."
"Get the fuck out of here, you ho. I'm through with your ass anyway. Who knows how many guys you've opened your legs to?"
"I'm only a sophomore in high school. My parents will kill me. There was only you. You told me that you loved me."
"And you believed me?" Kurt Fuller let out a sinister chuckle. "You'd better not go spreading around rumors that I'm your baby's daddy, my father is a tribal elder. I can make life hell for you and your family." I heard the asshole snigger. "You're just like your brother, Jared and that ho-bag, Kim, popping out babies left and right."
Motherfucker. This must be Jared's youngest sister, Jenny. When I left La Push, she was barely a toddler. It dawned upon me that this mess had officially become pack business. Kurt Fuller and Jenny Cameron were both gene carriers, meaning the baby would be a double gene carrier. Fuck me.
I went back to listening to the conversation. Jenny was bawling her eyes out. I suddenly heard a loud crash and a bang. "Get the fuck out of here, you slut!" Kurt yelled.
I bolted to the front of the house. Kurt was hovering over Jenny who was on the ground, curled up in a ball, nursing her face.
"Step away from the girl before I show you the true meaning of pain," I growled.
"Who the fuck are you? Do you know who my father is?"
"I don't give a rat's ass who your father is. This is just me dealing with you. Now, step away from the girl!"
He did, but not before kicking her. Bella, who had witnessed the whole scene, marched up to him and clocked the asshole in the jaw. "Didn't your daddy ever teach you manners? Boys should never hit girls."
Kurt Fuller's face twisted in rage. He lifted his hand up to slap Bella. I grabbed hold of it before he could make a move. "Get the hell out of my sight. You'll be hearing from the Camerons."
With a fearful look, the thug bolted into his house. I picked Jenny Cameron up and walked with her to Charlie and Sue's. She was still sobbing when I placed her on the sofa. Bella grabbed her medical bag so she could check the girl out.
She had a bloody nose and a black eye. The poor thing. Sue came rushing out of her bedroom at that moment. "Jenny? Oh my God, Jenny? What happened?"
I pulled Sue into the kitchen and gave her a brief rundown of what I overheard.
"Oh, Taha Aki. How the hell are we going to deal with this mess, Paul?"
"What the fuck am I supposed to say to Jared? He's going to murder Kurt Fuller."
"Jesus Christ, you're right. Alright, pack meeting with everyone that's here in La Push later, after Billy and Dad get back."
"Shouldn't we call the tribal police?" I asked. "I mean, this is assault and battery."
"Just wait, your father is trying to wrap up the case involving Willy. Let him handle it."
"I'm going to make some breakfast for everyone. It looks like Bella is doing a good job handling Jenny."
And she certainly was. Jenny Cameron was pouring her heart out to Bella while she patched her up. As she was in capable hands, I called the pack members that were in La Push and told them to expect a meeting this evening. Naturally, they all asked for the gist of what happened so I explained. Surprisingly, Jake was the first one to rush over. After taking one look at Jenny's face, he started shaking in rage. I had to drag him out to the back and phase with him.
"What the fuck, Paul? First Willy and now Jenny? She's a little girl! I remember when she was just born. How could that turd do this to her?"
"Jacob, calm down! We need to figure shit out before Jenny Cameron becomes a statistic and drops out of high school. And we need to think of a way to break this to Jared."
"Break what to me?"
Jake and I stared at each other. Jared had suddenly phased in from Phoenix. Neither of us could help, but run what I had just witnessed through our brains. Jared let out a gut wrenching howl.
"Jared, I'm ordering you to stay in Phoenix! Jacob! Phase out and call Crispy now!"
As Jacob left the scene, the wolves and coyotes in Arizona, as well as the ones in Washington suddenly phased in.
"What the hell is going on?" Randall asked. Jared was running what I had seen and heard on rewind through his brain. "Oh, man, that's harsh."
"I'm gonna kick the shit out of my kid brother!" Brady seethed.
"Brady, don't you dare move! That's a fucking order! That goes for you, too, Jared!" Crispy commanded, his betaorder taking over Brady's and Jared's bodies.
"Hey, why are you all phased in?" I asked, completely perplexed because I knew that Jacob didn't have time to call anyone yet.
"Dunno, we just felt like we had to," Seth explained.
"Oh, there you are, Crispy, I just left a message on your cell phone. How did you know to phase?" Jacob asked as he phased back in.
"It's our magic, coyote magic, we feel it in our veins when one of our brothers or imprints are in trouble. It's like a homing beacon calling us," Crispy explained.
"Well, that sure is handy. So, we have some of your magic now too?"
"It looks like it."
"I can't believe he said those things to her and hit her," Sam growled.
"That's assault and battery," Barry stated. "You need to call the cops."
"It happened on the res. It would be the tribal police handling it."
"Shit! Tony Fuller has Terrance Johnson in his pocket! If his son is involved, he'll wield the system to go his way!" Collin snapped.
"Hang on, what do you mean by Fuller has Johnson in his pocket?"
"Dude, haven't you noticed that Johnson is living a pretty decent life for a tribal police chief?"
"No, I don't even know where Johnson lives."
"Christ, Paul, what the hell have you been doing in La Push? You need to find some dirt on Fuller," Jeff said. "Oh, and Jacob! Now do you believe me when I said that there's shit going on with Fuller?"
"Hey, I believed you once my son was hurt, it's my fucking imprint that has a stick up her ass!"
Jacob ran thoughts of his frustrating conversations with Angela through his brain.
"After all that Will went through, she's still siding with Fuller?" I asked incredulously.
"Yeah, some mother she is, huh?"
"I'm sorry, Jake. I don't know what kind of control Fuller has on Angela, but it's abnormal."
"Paul, talk to my parents. Reason with them. I want Jenny to come and live with me in Phoenix. She won't make it in La Push and you know it. If she comes here, I can take care of her and Kim can watch the baby while she goes to school."
"Shouldn't you discuss it with Kim first?" Randall suggested wisely. "You're already bursting out of the seams at your house. Jenny and the baby would add two more mouths for you to feed."
"I know, but I can handle it. I'll get a second job if I have to."
"Jared, I'm ordering you to discuss it with Kim and get back to me." He was being stubborn and he needed to be alpha ordered. Jared was making decisions without taking the consequences into consideration again. He needed to sit down and have a heart to heart with his imprint before making any rash decisions.
"Paul, you can't give me an alpha order when it comes to my family, I..."
"He damn well can!" Manny interrupted. "This affects everyone, Jared—not just you. We're a family, not a pack, and we're all worried about Jenny. Sure, most of us don't know her, but she's your little sister and that makes her family. But, you need to think before acting because if you don't discuss this with Kim, this will affect your relationship with your imprint more than you can imagine. And that will affect all of us."
"Go and talk to her, Jared," Jake said. "We'll keep an eye on Jenny and you know that, even after Paul and Embry return to Phoenix, the rest of us will keep an eye on her."
"Fine," Jared huffed and, abruptly, phased out.
"I'll keep an eye on him," Sam said.
"So will I," Manny assured. "I didn't mean to be hard on him."
"You were just stating the honest truth and, sometimes, that can be hard to handle."
"Yeah, I just hate seeing anyone down, you know."
"Hey, how about we all stop by at Jared's with some beer tonight?" Randy suggested. "He's going to need us. Brady, how are you holding up?"
"I'm fine, but I can't help but feel responsible because my kid brother is such a shit."
"It's not your fault, man. Only he can be responsible for his own actions, and he'll be reaping the consequences for his behavior."
And that's why our pack—no, family, in Arizona was strong. We all cared about each other's well being. If one brother was down, we'd make sure to prop him back up.
"You've got that right," Crispy murmured his agreement, reading my thoughts.
We talked for a bit more. Apparently, Old Quil was having the time of his life in Phoenix. Quil had a bit of a scare yesterday morning when he knocked on his grandfather's door and was greeted by the sounds of Tolinka moaning in passion.
"Man, I don't think he's ever going to leave. Rachel's pissed off at me. At least Tolinka's been cooking and I haven't been subjected to too dry chicken and soppy lettuce," he tried to reason. "Did you have some of Mr. Stanley's barbeque?"
"Oh, hell, yeah. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. The man can grill like no other." I showed everyone images of the smoked ribs.
"I don't give a damn what Jess and Bella says, we're getting smokers for our outdoor kitchen and for mine, Paul," Embry piped in.
"Shoot, let me know when the two of you go to the grill store, I'm coming with you guys," Crispy said.
"You guys do realize that Manny and I both have smokers in our backyards, don't you?" Randy informed us.
"Um, have you always had one?" Embry asked.
"Yeah, we're both married to women who run their own catering companies. Mina just had a tandoori oven installed in ours."
"A tandoori oven? What the hell for?"
"Hell if I know, I only care about what comes out of it and, so far, it's been good." Randy ran through memories of a seriously delicious looking plate of chicken that made my stomach growl.
"Alright, I'm phasing out. I'm ravenous," I told them. "Let me know if things get out of hand with Jared and Brady. We'll handle the Jenny situation here."
With that, I phased back to human form and got redressed. Jake phased back as well. He put his hand on my shoulder to stop me from walking inside.
"I want you to know that I'll keep an eye on Jenny after you leave. You have my word."
"I know you will, Jake."
"It's just that...it's...well...I know that it's going to take time for me to earn everyone's trust back, but I want you to know that I'll work hard at earning their trust back. The sanctity of the tribe and the pack is of utmost importance for me. And so is the well being of my kids." I noticed that he neglected to mention Angela's name.
"Jake, are you okay?" I asked, looking at his forlorn face.
He looked as if he wanted to say something to me, but looked down at his toes instead. "I'll be fine. I just have a lot of personal crap going on in my life."
"I know we've never been close, Jake, but I'm here for you—not only as your alpha, but as your friend. If you ever need to talk, I'm just a phone call away."
"Thanks, it means a lot to me."
I nodded my head, acknowledging him. I noticed that he was stark naked and remembered that he phased out of his shorts.
"Let me get you something to wear," I said.
"Nah, it's okay. I've got to get back to my kids. Angela is still away and Willy and Sarah are keeping an eye on the two little ones for a few minutes. I'll just run home through the woods."
"Alright, Jake. I'll see you."
"See you later, Paul." He flashed me his trademark grin and took off. It was the first time that I noticed that the former alpha of the pack wasn't happy. He hid behind his friendly personality, but inside the guy was falling apart. He wasn't anything like me, I let all of my frustrations out in one go when I needed to, but Jacob seemed the type to hold all of his shit inside. I made a mental note to check in on him more often as I made my way into the house.
Sue held two fingers up to her lips as soon as she saw me. "Take her to Seth's old room," she whispered. "She fell asleep crying."
I picked Jenny up from the sofa where she was sleeping with her head on Bella's lap and placed her on Seth's bed before closing the door and walking out to the dining table where Sue had a full spread prepared. I dug appreciatively into the omelet that she placed in front of me.
"This is a serious situation," Sue started. "That baby is a double gene carrier. Jenny is only fifteen years old, simply too young to do this on her own. The Camerons will, of course, support her in every way possible, I have no doubt about that, but they're having a tough time making ends meet as it is. Both parents work and if we don't want Jenny to drop out of school, she'll need a babysitter. There's also the stigma that she'll have to endure from being a pregnant teenager."
"God damn it!" I raged. "When is the fucking cycle ever going to end on this reservation? My generation spawned a ton of pregnant teenagers and so did my parents' generation. It hasn't stopped and without education, it won't stop."
"Paul, calm down," my imprint said. "You, as future tribal elder have already realized that this is a major issue. This is a good thing. Your job now is to figure out a means to an end. You can't solve it all in one day. This is a huge issue and it's not just this reservation that suffers from this dilemma. There are others around the country as well. Our first priority now is to think of a way to help the pregnant child in the other room. And yes, she is still a child. She may have the capacity to become pregnant, but at fifteen she is still a child. That's why we need to figure out a solution."
"You're right." I sighed, looking into Bella's eyes, hoping that she could calm me down with just one look. It worked, of course. It always worked. My imprint understood what I needed. Just looking into her eyes brought me security because I knew that she was the one constant in my life whose support would always be unwavering.
"What's wrong, honey?" Kim asked as I walked into our house. She had a worried expression on her face and I knew...I knew that she felt my pain.
"Yes, I know. You told me that you were going for a run. What happened when you phased? Did you see something that you didn't like?"
I burst out into tears. I couldn't stop them from falling. My little sister...how could this happen to her? She was only a year older than Ryan.
Alarmed, Kim came to my side and wrapped her arms around me. She'd never seen me so unhinged. She mustered up all of her strength, then whispered, "Tell me."
"What happened to her?"
I told her everything that Paul and Bella had witnessed. I didn't leave one detail out.
"My God," she gasped. "What can we do to help her?"
"I was thinking that she could come here and live with us. She can go to school and you can watch her baby."
"Can I think about it?"
I was stunned by her reply. I thought for sure that my imprint of all people would welcome my baby sister into our house.
"Think about it? Kim, this is Jenny we're talking about."
"I'm sorry, Jared, but I'd like to think about it. I didn't say no. I just need to think about it."
"Why? Jared, we have six kids. Six. Jenny and the baby would make eight. If we want Ryan to go to college then I need to go back to some sort of tech school so that I can get a career. I care about Jenny, I really do, but I'm not willing to take her in at the expense of our children. I'm sorry if you think that I'm being selfish, but you and I are finally getting on our feet. We can't just jump the gun and make such a huge life-altering decision."
"I thought you'd understand because you've been through it yourself."
"Yes, I do understand, but do you want to be the one to tell Ryan that we don't have enough money to send him to college because we took Jenny and her baby in?"
I stormed out of the room in anger because I knew that Kim was right and I hated being wrong. Our kids had to take precedence in this matter. Jenny, like it or not, was my parent's responsibility—not mine. I just wished there was something that I could do to help her. I was roused out of my thoughts at the sound of Riley crying. I bolted to his crib to pick him up and soothe him. He just needed a diaper change. As soon as he had a fresh diaper on, he looked into my eyes and started giggling.
"What are you laughing at, Rye?" I asked. "Do you think Daddy looks funny when he's throwing a tantrum? Yeah, I know I do."
I sat on the rocking chair, picked up a book, and read to him. It was amazing what he could do to keep me calm. I caught sight of Kim watching me from the doorway.
"I'm sorry," I whispered.
"We'll figure something out," she replied calmly. "I love you."
"And I love you."
Our little moment was interrupted by the sounds of the rest of the kids waking up.
"I'd better start on breakfast," Kim sighed.
"Let me just get Riley set up in the bouncy chair. I'll give you a hand." I heard my oldest, Ryan, dart into the bathroom and hop into the shower. "Good morning to you, too, son!" I called after him.
Forty minutes later, Kim and I were almost done getting breakfast prepared for our huge family. "Is he still in the shower?" I asked, realizing that the water was still running and Ryan hadn't come out yet. "Hang on, didn't he take a shower last night as well?"
"That's something that I wanted to bring up with you. He takes two to three showers a day, long ones. And, I swear, he's running through all of the shampoo like it's water. If it weren't for the Dollar Store, we'd have no shampoo to speak of."
"Well, what the hell is he doing in there anyway?"
"Jared, what do teenage boys do in the shower?" Kim asked with a smirk on her face. "Think back to when you were fourteen."
It occurred to me exactly what he was doing in there. Still, we had a big family and he couldn't be spending all of his time in there. I decided to get him out of the shower. I stood up, went to the bathroom, and pounded on the door. "Hey, Spanky, quit playing with yourself and running through all of the hot water! This ain't the Holiday Inn!"
I walked back to Kim with a satisfied smile on my face. She looked like a pit bull ready to pounce.
"Did you have to be so insensitive?" she asked.
"Best to nip these things in the bud quickly."
"You're going to make him develop an unhealthy attitude about sex. What if he becomes one of those closet perverts because of how you handled this situation?"
"He'll bounce back, boys are resilient."
Ryan came out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his torso, looking catatonic.
"Did you enjoy yourself in the shower, son?" I asked with a grin.
He turned beet red in the face and bolted into the bedroom. Kim hit me over the head with a spatula.
"Fix it and be sensitive for once."
"Kim, he's a boy. He'll get over it."
"Fine, fine, I'm going in." I opened the door to the room he shared with his brothers. "Take a hike boys." Rusty and Roy both scampered out at my command. I shut the door and pulled a chair up. "Let's talk."
"Dad, this is embarrassing. I really don't have anything to discuss with you."
"Yeah, you do. Do you have any questions that you want to ask me about...um...growing up?"
"Listen, I know that when you're fourteen years old, you have a lot of...uh...you think about chicks a lot. And sometimes you feel the need to...uh...express those feelings."
"Dad, just call it what it is...jerking off."
"Okay, you were in the shower...um...doing..." God, why can't I talk about this with my son? I tried again. "You were...jer...doing that and I was insensitive and I just wanted to apologize."
I thought about my little sister and realized that this was the perfect opportunity for me to have the talk with him. "Son, we need to talk. Now that you're doing...uh...that, you're probably thinking about sex."
"Dad, I'm only fourteen, I'm not going to have sex!"
"I should hope not, but we need to talk about sex because you never know when it's going to happen. I hope that when you finally do have sex it's with someone you love and you've discussed everything thoroughly."
"Dad, is this 'the talk'? Because, if it is, Aunty Bella already talked to me about it during my last physical."
"Aunty Bella did?"
"Yeah, and we talked about it during health class too."
"Oh, cool." Phew! I was getting really uncomfortable. Thank God we live in a town with a progressive school system. "Well, do you have any questions?" Ryan looked away from me. "What is it son? You can ask me anything."
"Why weren't you and mom careful?" That certainly wasn't the question I was expecting. No, not at all.
"Why do you ask?"
"It's just that you and mom are way younger than other parents and well, you made a mistake with me, but you didn't stop. You didn't learn from your mistake."
And now I was completely floored. I didn't realize my son felt this way. I needed him to know that I loved him, that Kim loved him, with everything we had in us. Sure we were young when he had him, but we've never, ever looked upon him as a mistake.
"Ryan, you know that mom and I love you, right?" He nodded his head warily. "Well, we do. We love you with everything we have in us and neither of us would hesitate to give our lives for you and your brothers. As far as why we didn't stop having kids, some of that has to do with the fact that mom and I were a lot more uninformed than you were. Birth control and sex were never brought up with your grandparents. It was a taboo subject. They didn't discuss it in school either. I don't know why, maybe they assumed that we'd learn from our peers, but you need to know that while mom and I may not have been thinking things through when we conceived you, not having you was never an option. We had you because you were conceived in love, through love. And we try our best to give you everything you deserve." He seemed unsure of himself. I put both hands on his shoulders. "Look at me, son. Look at me." I trained my eyes on him and waited until he had his eyes on me. "I love you, Ryan. Never doubt that. I've loved you from before you were born and I'll love you until the day I die."
"I love you, too, Dad."
I pulled him into a hug and simply held him. He needed that. I realize that now. I didn't have enough of that from my own father. He loved me in his own quiet way, but he didn't express his love with hugs and heart to heart talks—my father simply worked hard and did his best to provide for us. When Kim became pregnant while still in high school, my father didn't express his disappointment. He simply took on a third part-time job to help support us. While I appreciated all of us his efforts, because I do, what I needed was a few reassuring hugs—just to let me know that he loved me.
"Come on, Ryan. Let's go and have breakfast. Maybe we can catch a movie as a family today."
"That would be cool, Dad. I'll tell mom to bring her big bag so she can smuggle some snacks and drinks into the theatre."
"You do that, son." Yeah, he's definitely our kid.
I sat for a bit in his room to do some solitary thinking. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that my sister, though I love her, wasn't my responsibility. My kids were my first priority and we were finally getting somewhere. I didn't want to be like my father and not be home for my kids because I was always working. If Jenny moved in, I'd definitely have to take on a second job and then I'd never see Kim or the kids anymore. I needed to be there for them, they were my life. And I needed their hugs just as much as they needed mine.
I walked out to the living room and helped Kim dole out breakfast to the kids. The kids were all excited about going to the movies. Kim even suggested that we have dinner out at Chuck E. Cheese's afterwards.
"Are you sure, hon?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'm sure, we have enough cushion and I think the kids could all use a day just for themselves."
I kissed her on the cheek. "I think you might be right."
"I'm a little old for Chuck E. Cheese's. How about you and I go to Hooters instead? Just us men." I raised an eyebrow at our son while Kim slapped the back of his head. "It was just wishful thinking. Uh, Mom, we're out of shampoo again."
"We'll stop at the Dollar Store and get some more," Kim assured our son before sharing a little chuckle with me.
I found myself mentally thanking Taha Aki for the Dollar Store. Without it, we wouldn't be able to support our son's newfound source of amusement.
Yeah, we may not be wealthy and we probably have too many mouths to feed, but one thing was for sure, Kim and I created a family that was rich with love. I couldn't imagine a moment without any of them. And I wouldn't give them up for all the money in the world.
What do you think of Angela dumping her kids off with Billy all of the time? Do you like how Paul gave his unemployed friends some under the table work to help them out? What about his idea to make Billy mobile? Do you think it will help in improving the infrastructure of the reservation? So, are you ready to send the firing squad after Kurt Fuller? What did you think of Jared's reaction upon learning that his baby sister was pregnant? What about the pack's interference in saying that he needed to discuss matters with Kim before jumping into a life altering situation? How would you have reacted if you were Kim? I gave you a glimpse into Jared's life, how do you think he handled Ryan? Let me know what you thought of this chapter and I'll respond to you. XOXO mama4dukes