Kate is here to take the girls shopping for their prom dresses. Ana was upset that she was going to miss this day, but Phoebe assured her that she won't buy anything without her. She wants to spend a lot of time looking for dresses, so they decided to keep their plans and start today. I'm glad I suggested that Alexa join them since she is here to experience Ana's life. It will also give me a break.
They were about to leave but Kate had asked to have a word with me in the kitchen. What could this be about?
"Okay, so I would normally talk to Ana about this, but she's not here. And I can't talk to Mia…..I guess I could but she won't be able to answer me…."
As I listen to her ramble I become annoyed with her, but my back has been turned since I'm pouring some coffee. When I turn around I can see that she's upset. "Kate" I say before clearing my throat, prompting her to stop. I watch as she does her best to hold back tears. This isn't like her at all. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
"Okay, um, I need to know and I need to know the truth. Right now."
"Okay" I say, confused. "What do you need to know?"
"Is my husband cheating on me?"
What? "What?" I nearly spit out my coffee. Did she just accuse Elliott of cheating?
"Is Elliott cheating on me? Is he sneaking around? Seeing someone behind my back? Some…. Tracy?"
"Who is Tracy?"
"Don't, don't play dumb, please….. just tell me. If there's something going on in his life he would talk to you about it before anybody else."
She is really upset, which leads me to believe there is something to this.
"Kate… He hasn't said anything to me. I mean, if he had I would kick his ass and then demand he explain himself."
"You would?" She seems surprised by this.
"Despite any problems that you're having, you're still his wife and that means something. I know Elliott and I don't think he would ever do that to you."
"I didn't think he would either."
"Why do you think he is cheating on you?"
"I wasn't snooping." I raise my eyebrow and she looks offended.
"Fine, fine continue" I say to her.
"I wasn't. He left his phone on the counter while he was getting Cameron up, and I saw a text come through from Tracy."
"What did it say?"
"They were making plans" she says sadly. She starts to shake and wraps her arms around herself.
"What kind of plans?" I start to get angry. What the hell is Elliott up to? I reach for a tissue and hand it to her.
"Thank you. Um, it said that she will see him later."
"Kate…." I say and shake my head. "That could be an expression. People say that all the time."
"I need to know. Will you please talk to him? You know I hate asking you for help so please, I need you to take me seriously right now…."
"Okay" I cut her off. "I'll talk to him. What is he doing today?"
"He's home. I think he's taking Cameron to the park this afternoon." I pull out my phone and start texting him. "What are you doing?"
"Inviting him here. Cameron and Natalie can have a play date."
It took some convincing to get my brother here, but in the end he decided to take me up on my invitation. The Kavanaghs are spending time with their grandkids and the babies are napping, so we're spending some time in the yard with Natalie and Cameron. They are playing in the sandbox together, so it gives me some time to talk to my brother.
"I'm glad you decided to come over Elliott. Can I get you a beer?"
"No, no thanks man."
"How's the building project coming along?" I ask him.
"It's going great. Construction should be complete by the end of May and we've already started receiving referrals for other projects. One is for an upscale hotel a casino owner wants to build."
"That's really good. I'm happy for you, Bro." I manage to get him to smile, which I haven't seen Elliott do in a while. I know if I ask him about his affair it's going to piss him off. But I know I have to get him to talk about this. "Look um, I need to ask you something."
"Cameron no, no mouth buddy." We get interrupted when Cameron tries to put sand in his mouth. Elliott is able to stop him and show him some other things he can do with the sand toys.
"Daddy, look" Natalie shouts excitedly. She has been making designs in the sand with her toys."
"Very nice, Sweet Pea."
"Can I have juicy?"
Since her hands are covered in sand I hold the juice box for her while she drinks. "Good?" She nods her head animatedly while she swallows. My baby girl is just so cute. I kiss her hair and then join my brother again.
"Kate was here this morning. She and Alexa took the girls to look at prom dresses."
"How is that going? The Wife Exchange?"
"I miss Ana. I wish we weren't doing this at all. That is so like Mia, you know? To do something so outrageous like Wife Exchange. Ana thought it would be good for us to do this for Mia."
"Better you than me, bro."
"I know things haven't been good between you and Ava. But what about you and Kate?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, how is your marriage, Elliott? Are you and Kate doing alright?"
"Of course we are. Why, did she say something to you?"
"She thinks you're cheating on her."
"What?" Elliott says a bit loud, which gets the kids' attention. "Cheating?" He says in a lighter voice, but the kids are still looking at us. I go to them and show them some other toys they can play with in the sand. Once I see that they are distracted again I return to my brother, who is now standing. I put my hand on his shoulder and have him walk with me so that we have more distance from the kids. "Kate thinks I'm cheating on her. Why? Why would she think that? I know I work a lot, but…. but that's what I've been doing. I've been working. This project has been taking up a lot of my time…."
"Let's be honest" I interrupt him. "I know this project is time consuming, but it couldn't have come at a better time. I know that you're angry that Ava is pregnant, and working gives you an opportunity to put some distance between you and your family." Elliott looks angry, but I don't care. "Am I right?"
He hesitates and then rubs his face roughly. "Yes, okay? Yes. Ava being pregnant at her age, I haven't been dealing with that properly. So yes, spending more time at the office means that I don't have to. But I am not cheating on Kate. Fuck! Why would she think that?"
"Shh!" I put my hand on his shoulder again and walk a few more steps away from the kids. "She saw a text, from a woman named Tracy."
He looks defeated as he grabs his head and sits down. I sit next to him and wait for it to sink in.
"Christian, I swear I am not cheating on my wife."
"I'm glad to hear that. But who is Tracy? Why is she texting you?"
"Tracy is my AA sponsor."
"Yeah. I'm in the program. I've been attending meetings. My name is Elliott Grey and I'm an alcoholic."
"This isn't a joke, Elliott."
"You're serious." He nods but he doesn't look at me. He looks ashamed. I shake my head because I still can't believe this. "Why didn't I know about this?" I ask softly.
"Nobody knows about this. Just some doctor that practices outside of Seattle and my sponsor."
"You haven't talked to Kate about this?"
"Maybe you should." He looks at me and he looks so defeated. "Elliott, I'm no expert but admitting you have a problem is half the battle. That took a lot of courage."
"Talking to a stranger about my alcohol abuse is a hell of a lot easier than talking to my wife."
"Would you rather your wife go on believing you are cheating on her, or have her be proud of you for facing this problem head on? I'm surprised you've been able to keep this from her, I mean don't you have wine with dinner?"
"We haven't had a proper family dinner in quite some time. I've been working late every night." He stands and pulls at his hair, just like I do when I'm exasperated. "Fuck, she probably thinks that I've been cheating on her while I've been spending most of my nights at the office."
"You have to put a stop to this. You need to tell her." He stands with his hands on his hips and nods. "Tonight." He continues to nod. "You can leave Cameron here with me if you want some alone time."
He chuckles. "You have Mia's kids and yours. I'm not going to do that to you."
"I have help. Besides, Ava will be here later and I'm sure she won't mind looking after her little brother."
His smile fades but he doesn't frown. I stand so that I am at his level. "How is my daughter?"
"She's doing well" I tell him. "Now that Nathan is home she seems more relaxed."
"I've spent some time with the kid. Ana and I had him over for dinner a few times. I'm not thrilled with my teen niece being pregnant, but Nathan's a good kid. I can tell he really cares for Ava."
"I'm not ready to…."
"I know you're not" I interrupt him. "At some point you are going to have to make peace with this. But you can't do that until you are healthy. Let Kate help you with that."
"If you were in my shoes, would you let Ana help you?"
I don't hesitate. I look him right in the eye. "Yes, I would. Twenty years ago I would have had a different answer for you. But things are very different now. I have Ana's back and I know she has mine. Kate has your back too, Elliott. You just have to let her."
After I give the boys lunch I get them ready for an afternoon at the park. Billy and Luke are very excited. I think Jackson is too but he's containing it. I told him that I was going to get his Dad to come with us. I don't think he believes it. I'm not sure I do either, but I have to try. "You guys put your socks and shoes on and I'll be right back. Jackson, can you help Luke?" He nods and goes about putting socks on his brother.
I find Brian in front of the television again. I am able to grab the remote and power down the television.
"Not this again."
"Yes, this again" I tell him as I toss the remote away from his reach. "We're going to the park and you're coming with us."
"No, I'm not."
"Why not? You spent the entire day yesterday watching your sports. Why can't you spend a few hours outside with your kids?"
"I don't care if you think I'm a bad parent" he says sadly. "You'll go back to your family in a few days and it won't make a difference."
I sit on the sofa across from him. "I didn't do this show so that I could judge you. I thought that the four of us adults could learn something from the experience." He doesn't say anything. He just stares ahead at the dark television screen. "I've learned something pretty sad last night. Your son Jackson, he talked to me about Paige." He looks over at me this time, and I can see both anger and sadness in his eyes. "Your family suffered such a terrible loss. I'm not going to pretend that I can relate to that because I can't. But I think that you avoid moments with your family because you're scared."
"I'm not scared."
"Are you sure about that?" My voice is shaky so I take a few breaths to calm down. "If you're not scared, then come with us. Come with us to the park."
"I don't have to prove anything to you,"
He stands up and starts to walk out of the room, but stops when I step in front of him. "No, you don't. It's like you said, in a few days I'll be going home. But your sons will still be here. Prove it to them."
"Daddy?" Jackson calls for him as he comes into the room. "I wanna take the bat and the ball. Will you pitch to me?"
Brian looks at his son and I think he is considering it. He then looks at me. "Let's go" I say with a smile. He looks unsure but he nods and follows us to the front door. Jackson smiles but he continues to contain his excitement.
Elliott left a few hours ago so that he could make dinner. I'm in the main room with Natalie, Cameron and the babies. The kids took a short nap and now they are playing. Natalie has been great with her little cousin. She's sharing her toys and getting him to play the way she likes to play. He doesn't seem to mind. When the Kavanaghs arrive with kids, Sophia is asleep so I help settle her on the sofa. They stay and have a visit with Cameron, and then Ava when she arrives home. They make a fuss over her pregnancy belly. I smile as I watch their exchange. Phoebe comes over to me, kisses my cheek and sits down next to me.
"Hi Peanut. How was dress shopping?"
"It was fine. I saw a few dresses that I like."
"Just a few?" She manages a smile but it doesn't last. "What's wrong?" She shrugs her shoulders and doesn't answer. I nudge her. "Tell me."
"The dresses were nice, but not as special as a dress that Aunt Mia would have made for me."
I pull her toward me and kiss her hair. "I'm sorry Baby."
"I don't want her to feel bad that she wasn't able to do that for me and Ava. She was really looking forward to that."
"Aunt Mia loves you very much. She might be a little sad, but she'll want you to have a beautiful dress for your prom, and she'll want you to have fun picking it out."
Kate sits on the other side of me and observes her parents with Cameron. "Elliott left Cameron here?"
"Yes, I told him to."
"Kate, calm down. Go home and be with your husband. I told him that I would keep Cameron for the night."
"Thank you, but I can't let you do that. You already have so much going on…."
"Kate, its fine. Go home and be with your husband." I did it. I've managed to make Kate speechless. I can't help but smile at my victory. She stands, says goodbye to her parents and kids and walks out.
"What was that about?" Phoebe asks me. I still have my arm around her.
"Your Aunt and Uncle need to spend some time together. I'm just helping them out."
"Ew, forget I asked" she says and pulls away from me. I can't help but chuckle.
I arrive home not knowing how this evening is going to play out. I'm nervous. My husband knows that I've accused him of cheating on me, and now we're going to face this. I only hope he can be honest with me. But what if he is cheating on me? Do I really want to hear about that? Do I want my suspicions to be accurate? I start to key in the code to our apartment, but my hands are shaking. I push the wrong buttons a few times and wind up on the wrong floor. I finally manage to key in my code and wind up in front of my apartment. I stand there for seconds, minutes, I don't know. I think about leaving. "Pull it together, Kate" I yell at myself.
I finally walk into my apartment and hear soft music playing. The delicious aroma of spaghetti sauce fills my nostrils. He's cooking?
"Elliott?" I call for him.
"In the kitchen" I hear him and follow his voice. "Welcome home" he says when he sees me.
"What are you doing?"
"I got home early, so I thought I'd cook dinner tonight. I hope that's okay."
"Unexpected" I say the first thing that comes to my mind.
"I deserve that. Would you like to sit? It should be ready soon."
"I'll pour us some wine."
"None for me."
"No wine? Okay, I'm sure we have some beer in the fridge."
"No…. beer either. I'll just stick with water."
"Okay, Elliott? You're acting really weird. Can you just tell me what's going on?"
"I will. Let's sit down."
He leads me into our main room and we sit on the sofa. Now I'm really nervous. What is he going to tell me? He takes my hand and plants a gentle kiss. He looks nervous too. "Elliott" I say his name because I can't stand the suspense anymore.
"When we started going together, nobody could believe that I was happy dating the same girl. Before we met I was with a different girl all of the time. You changed that for me. I didn't want that anymore, I just wanted you. And that hasn't changed, Kate. I still only want you." My breath is shaky and I can feel tears in my eyes. Is he going to tell me he's cheated? "I'm not cheating on you, Baby. I've never cheated on you." I still have tears in my eyes and they've started rolling down my cheek. He gently brushes them away.
"You're not? Then what's going on, Elliott?"
"I have a problem. I'm an alcoholic."
Whoa, I didn't expect this at all. "You're what?"
"I'm an alcoholic."
I shake my head and look down at our hands. "I know you sometimes drink too much, but…" I continue to shake my head. When did this happen? Where was I?
"I've been abusing alcohol for a long time, Kate. I don't like the person that it's turned me into." He places his fingers on my chin and lifts it so that I am looking at him. "It's not an excuse. I've screwed up and I know I have a lot to make up for. I'm confronting it now and I'm doing something about it."
"What are you doing about it?"
"I'm in the program. I've been going to meetings. I have a sponsor that I can call or text when I feel the need to drink."
I stand and walk away from him. He's being honest with me, but I feel angry. He didn't tell me about this, but he talks to a sponsor? "Why can't you just call or text me when you feel the need to drink? Why do you need a sponsor?"
He walks over to me and gently puts his hands on my arms. "It's part of the program. A sponsor is not supposed to be a friend or a relative. It needs to be someone that is not in my life."
"But why?" I ask as I turn around to face him. He gently places his fingers on my face and rubs up and down.
"A sponsor is someone that has gone through this too. Tracy, well, you saw her text. She is my sponsor and she's had experience with the program and how it works. She is there to guide me and help me." I shake my head and try to move away from him, but he doesn't let me. "I need you too, Kate. I need my wife, and I am so sorry that I didn't tell you about this."
"Why didn't you?"
"I was ashamed." I look at him and I start to feel terrible for questioning him. "I….. am ashamed. But….. you are my wife, my best friend, and I need your help with this. Please." I feel the tears running down my face again, and he is crying too. I can't help but chuckle when I think about how this day started. "Wait, what…. why are you laughing?"
"You're not cheating on me."
"No, Kate. I'm not cheating on you." I wrap my arms around him and hug him tight, and I feel his arms wrap around me.
"I'm really glad to hear that." We continue to hug each other and my tears start to drench his shoulder. "Yes" I say as I pull back to look at him. I have to wipe some more tears from my face. "I will help you. We're a team, Grey." I reach up and wipe some tears that he still has on his face too, and then he kisses me.
We are at the dinner table and things are starting to get chaotic. Sophia doesn't want to eat her dinner, so I have to feed it to her. We've been trying to get her to break that habit since Mia always gave in and fed her whenever she acted like this, but since I need her to eat now I've decided to give in. Natalie wants me to feed her too, so I'm taking turns feeding them both and taking a few bites of my dinner. Christopher often asks for help cutting his food. Cameron keeps making a mess with his dinner. Most of it is on his shirt. The girls are eating with Trevor and Nathan tonight, so they are not here to set an example. Normally I can count on Elizabeth to set a good example and eat her dinner, but she keeps whining that she doesn't want to eat.
"Elizabeth, I need you to eat the rest of the food that is on your plate." I have taken some away so that she would have less, but she still makes a face and whines.
"I don't want it" Sophia whines, but I get her to keep eating. Natalie must have gotten tired of waiting for me to feed her again. I notice that she starts to eat on her own. I don't bring any attention to it because she will likely stop eating again.
"Uncle Christian?" Christopher grabs my attention to help him again.
"I can do it" Alexa says, but I insist on helping my nephew. I cut a few more pieces for him and put his plate back in front of him.
"Cameron" I say as I get up from the table so that I can start to clean him up.
"Let me, you should eat some of your dinner" Alexa tries again.
"No, It's okay. I've got this" I tell her as I grab a napkin and start with his face. While I'm doing that, Sophia picks up her plate and drops it on the floor. Luckily it is plastic so it doesn't break, but now there is food on the floor.
"Sophia! I startle her when I say her name sternly. But she needs that. "You are going to time out, and then you are coming back in here to eat some more dinner. Let's go." I lift her from her seat and place her on the floor, take her hand and get her to walk with me. She tries to pull away, but I keep a tight hold and pull her with me. I have her sit on the floor on a cushion that Ana had bought for this purpose and explain to her that she will stay there for three minutes. Unfortunately she gets up a few times while I clean up, but I put her back each time. This is one of the reasons I prefer spanking for punishment. You do it once and it is done. This time out shit is too much of a process.
While I clean up the mess made by both Sophia and Cameron, I encourage the kids to keep eating and tell them that I can put a movie on for them once everyone has finished. I wish I had thought of that before, because now they are eating.
"Let me get that "Alexa says as she picks up the wet towel that I put aside to clean the floor.
"It's fine, Alexa, I've got this." I continue to clean up the food on the floor and then I wipe the floor with the wet towel. I know that Gail will be mopping the floor tomorrow, so this will do for now.
"Daddy, I need the potty" Natalie says.
"Okay, are you done eating?"
She nods and lets me clean her hands and face. I help her down and she runs toward the bathroom. I ask Elizabeth to go and stand there to make sure the door stays shut until Natalie is finished. When I go to get Sophia, she's standing at the back door, and I can tell that it has been opened.
"Sophia, what did you do?" She looks at me and shrugs her shoulders. "Did you open the door?"
"Then who did?"
"Alexa." I peek outside and can see her on one of the lounge chairs. She looks very upset. Christ! I can't deal with all of this. I sent Penny home after she cooked dinner so she is not here to help me with the kids or the mess. I suppose I can deal with the mess while the kids are watching the movie. I get them cleaned up and tell them to sit on the sofa, and I also help Natalie when she's finished in the bathroom. Monte is awake and he's crying, so I pick him up and hold him. It isn't time to feed him yet, and he isn't wet.
"What's the matter, buddy?" I ask him. He continues to cry as I walk around with him and bounce him. I suppose I should check on Alexa since she hasn't come back in yet. I start the movie for the kids and then I slip out without them seeing me. I approach Alexa and can tell that she's been crying.
"What's wrong?" She looks at me and she looks like she will cry again. "Please don't cry. Crying women make me very uncomfortable."
"You should probably go back inside then" she says tearfully.
"I'm sorry" I say, and I mean it. I know I can be an ass. Monte is still crying so I try to shush and bounce him again. "I'm sure…. whatever you're upset about has something to do with something that I did. What can I do to help?"
"You won't let me do anything. I want to help. I don't want to just sit around and watch you do everything."
"You're crying because you want to help?"
She nods and wipes away tears. "I'm sorry if that sounds stupid, but I'm used to doing everything for my family. And then I come here, and so far all I've done is play soccer with Christopher, go shopping with Phoebe and play Candyland with the girls."
"Ana and I are used to taking care of our kids on our own" I explain. "Sometimes we let Gail and Penny help, but we're not used to anyone else."
"Why would you even go along with all of this if you were just going to do everything on your own? I'm supposed to be walking in your wife's shoes and doing the everyday things that she does, but you won't let me."
I look down at my baby boy, who is still crying in my arms. "Would you like to hold him? Maybe you can…. help me get him to settle down."
She nods and holds out her arms slightly. I place him in her arms and she cuddles him and shushes him softly, but he still cries. "Do you have any of your wife's shirts or nightgowns that haven't been washed?" I frown because I don't understand. "Trust me."
"I'll go and look." I check on the kids and they are watching the movie. Natalie is on the floor with Cameron while the Kavanagh kids are on the sofa. I leave them to it and find one of Ana's nightgowns in the hamper. I take it out to Alexa, and she wraps it around Monte and cuddles him. He starts to calm down, and she smiles slightly.
"Babies know their mother's scent. It's soothing."
I can't help but smile. I remember now that we had used one of Ana's nightgowns for Teddy's pillow case so that he would stay asleep in his own room as a toddler. My mother told me about that.
"I've forgotten." Monte is no longer crying, and he starts to drift off in her arms. "Do you want to keep holding him?"
She nods and smiles. "Yes, I miss my boys very much. I've never been away from them. Holding this little guy helps little."
I pull a chair over and sit. "You mentioned that you are used to doing everything for your family. Does your husband help?" She looks at me and I don't think she wants to answer. "Overstepping?"
"No, no it's okay. I'm just not used to talking about this. Um…." She looks down at Monte and he is asleep. "He's asleep. He's so darling." She looks up at me again and the smile is gone. "My husband has suffered not one but two major losses. He lost his first wife in a car accident. She was alone in the car when a drunk driver struck her. That's actually how I met Brian. We were in grief counseling together."
"You lost someone?"
She looks down at Monte again and then at me. "My finace. He was killed in a skydiving accident. Brian and I were able to help each other, and eventually we fell in love. He had a daughter with his first wife. Her name was Paige. She was just a newborn when her mother died. So, I got to be there for her. I got to watch her grow into an amazing little girl. And then she was taken from us. And Brian hasn't been the same since."
"She was taken from you?" I already know this, but she doesn't know that. I can't tell her that I did a background check on her family before doing the show.
"She was kidnapped. And she was killed. The police have DNA but they haven't caught the man. They have to wait…. they have to wait for him to do this to somebody else."
She cuddles Monte closer and sniffles. What the fuck am I supposed to do? I shake my head and rub roughly at my face. "I can't imagine. What you and your husband went through, nobody should have to go through that."
"We still have our boys, so I need to keep going for them. But Brian, he's not really living anymore. He just gets up, goes to work, comes home, sits on the couch with his sports, and that's it. He doesn't want to go back to grief counseling."
"What did he say about doing this show?"
"He didn't react. To be honest, we did this show for the money. Our finances were hit hard when Brian was accused of killing his daughter, and he lost his job. We sold our house and moved because a lot of people in the community turned against him."
"Even though the police had DNA evidence?"
She nods and tears roll down her face. "They didn't find Paige right away. Before she was found, Brian received death threats because the media decided that he did it, that he made her disappear. Some people even thought that I did it. Anyway, after she was found, we had her funeral and then we moved away. And then when the police announced that they had DNA evidence that cleared Brian, people started to show their support. Our old town had fundraisers and sent us money to cover the funeral expenses. It really helped, but Brian still needed a job. He eventually found one, but I want to get out of living pay check to pay check. Our boys deserve better than that. The show actually came to us with a great offer, and we couldn't turn it down."
Elizabeth comes outside to tell me that something is wrong with the television. "I'll be right back" I tell Alexa. "Do you want me to take him from you?"
She shakes her head. "I'd like to keep holding him if that's okay." I nod and leave her to it. This gives me an opportunity to check on the kids and to take a break. Her family has been through hell. I don't want to imagine ever having to go through that with any of our kids. I just can't go there. When I check the television I see that he DVD is stuck, so I take it out, clean it with my shirt and put it back in. The kids are upset that the movie is starting again, so I forward through until it is at the part where they left off. I check on Maddie and she is awake, so I pick her up and take her outside with me.
"If you don't mind me asking, why did you and your wife want to do this show?"
Maddie starts fussing when I sit and cradle her, so I lift her and hold her against my chest. "We didn't plan on doing this show. My sister Mia had signed up for it. And since she can't do it right now, my wife wanted us to do it for her."
She manages to smile slightly. "You're not a fan?"
"Not really. The last thing I ever wanted was to have cameras in my home."
"So what do you get out of this?"
"Me? I'd do just about anything to make my wife happy."
Alexa was really upset earlier when I wouldn't let her help me with the kids, so I had her help me put the kids to bed. I'm glad, because with her help we've managed to get all of the kids tucked in by eight. It is nine thirty right now and I am sitting in bed with my book. I haven't picked this thing up in weeks. I should just start reading from the beginning again. If Ana were here, we would be playing or talking about the kids, so that doesn't leave much time for reading.
I really miss her. I abandon the book and start pacing around our bedroom. I miss kissing her, making love to her, talking and listening to her. It was strange sitting and listening to Alexa instead. That woman has been through so much pain and is still going through it. And now, Ana is with her husband. I wonder if he is talking to her about this.
Thunder and lightning start ripping through Seattle, and it is quite loud. I look out our window and can see the lightning in the sky. I know this will wake the kids up. They hate thunderstorms. Just as this thought enters my mind I hear Natalie's screams coming from her monitor.
I rush to her bedroom and open her door to see her sitting up in bed screaming and crying. I quickly lift her into my arms and hold her tightly to my chest. "Shhhh, Baby I've got you. Daddy's got you." I rub my hand through her hair and then push her face into my shoulder to muffle her cries. She's going to wake the other kids. I rush into her bathroom and shut the door, hoping the other kids won't hear her. She continues to cry, tears soaking my shoulder. Poor Baby. "Shhhh, I've got you. I've got you. You're okay." I repeat this a few times as I bounce with her in my arms and kiss her hair. She continues to cry but she does stop screaming.
Anytime my kids have needed me during the night, I have stayed with them either until the morning or until they've fallen back to sleep. But, since Ana is not here I cannot do that. I need to be in my bedroom with all of the monitors. After about fifteen minutes I manage to get Natalie to calm enough so that I can walk back to my bedroom with her. As I leave her room, I see Phoebe and Ava walking toward me. Phoebe is carrying Cameron and Ava has Christopher practically attached to her side. She has one arm around him and the other hand on her stomach.
"Dad, the storm is really loud" Phoebe says as we hear another roll of thunder. The kids flinch and I can feel Natalie dig her fingers into me.
"This little meatball isn't too thrilled about it either" Ava says as she rubs her stomach.
"Come on" I tell them. "We're going to my room." I have the kids sit on my bed and I try to settle Natalie next to Ava, but she is not having it. "Sweet Pea, it's okay" I say as I hold her to my chest again and rub her back. The thunder continues to roar as I try to soothe her. "I need to go and get some things so that we can all sleep, so I can't carry you. Can you cuddle with Ava for a few minutes until I get back?" It takes a lot of convincing, but eventually I am able to get Natalie to leave go of me and cuddle with Ava. I have Phoebe and Christopher come with me so that we can get their pillows, blankets and the air mattress that Ava's been sleeping on in Phoebe's room. I check on Elizabeth and Sophia and they are sleeping right through the storm, so I don't disturb them. I can always come back for them if they wake up.
Once we are back in my bedroom I shut the door and set everything up for the kids. I tell the girls to sleep in my bed with Christopher and Cameron. Natalie and I can sleep on the air mattress. If the other girls need to come in here, I can put them on the sofa. The babies are already in here. I figured it would be easier to have them in here with me while Ana isn't here.
Once we get settled, Natalie clings to me again. She is so frightened. "It's okay, Baby" I say to her softly. "You're safe with Daddy. Let's get some sleep."
It is Monday morning and I'm getting the kids ready for the day. Jackson and Billy go to school, but Luke doesn't. Alexa left a letter with instructions on their day and what they like to eat for lunch. I'm preparing the lunches when Brian walks into the kitchen. "Good Morning" I say to him. I haven't thought about preparing breakfast for him. Does he drink coffee? "I can make you some coffee."
"No, I can do it." He says good morning to me and the kids. They are very excited to see him. I smile as I think about the great time they had with him at the park yesterday. He played with the bat and ball with Jackson and he pushed the other boys on the swings. Jackson gave me a tight hug and thanked me for getting his father to go with us. I realize I have tears in my eyes and wipe them away, but not before Brian catches me. "You alright?"
"Yes. I was just thinking about yesterday. It made the boys very happy that you came with us,"
"It did, didn't it?" he says as he stands near me and observes the boys eating breakfast at the table. "That was hard for me to do, but I'm glad I did it."
"You did good" I tell him. "Do you think…. maybe you can make this a regular thing?"
"Spending time with my kids?" He asks me and I nod. "I don't like to share my grief with them."
"I know you are still grieving, but it's okay to smile and laugh with them. Don't you think your daughter would want that for you?" He shrugs his shoulders and looks down. "Trust me, she wouldn't want you to be sad all of the time." I pat his shoulder and then continue to get the kids ready for their day.
It's already Wednesday, which means it is the last day for us filming Wife Exchange. I cannot wait to wrap this up and have Ana in my arms again. We are flying out to New Jersey tonight so that we can be there tomorrow morning. The show wants the four of us to be together to talk about the last couple of days. Right now we are getting the kids ready for school.
"Elizabeth, did you brush your teeth?" I ask her, and she nods.
"Is Daddy going to be there today?" She is talking about Family Bingo. The kids' school has it twice a year.
"No Sweetheart, I'm sorry."
"I'll be there. And Alexa is going to come too."
"I really wish Daddy could come." She's pouting now.
"Daddy has to stay in bed so that he can get better" Christopher says to her.
We had the kids spend a lot of time with Ethan yesterday without the show filming it. He's been taking on more hours of physical therapy, but he's still not ready to go out. I tried to talk him into getting out yesterday and spending some at the park with the kids, but he didn't want to do that. He won't do that until he can stand and push his kids on the swing.
Natalie and Sophia have finished eating so I quickly get them cleaned up and lift them out of their booster seats. "Are you ready for school?" I ask them and they both nod excitedly. "Okay, let's go."
Leticia is going to ride with Elizabeth and Christopher to their school while I ride with the girls to their preschool. Then I plan to spend just a few hours at Grey House until it is time to bring the girls home. Alexa insisted I go to work and leave the babies at home with her this week. After all, Gail and Penny are there with her. So I did agree to that and it's been working just fine. The girls nap when we get home and I continue to do work in my study until they are awake.
Today is a little different though. When I get home I am able to get Natalie to nap, but Sophia isn't having any of it. She tantrums and cries when I take her to her bedroom. I sit on the bed and just let her get it out. She's on the floor and she is kicking, screaming and crying. Leticia walks in and shakes her head.
"Miss Sophia, are you giving Uncle Christian a hard time?" she asks her as she picks her up and holds her. She smiles at me. "I'll take care of her."
"Thank you Leticia." I gently run my hand through Sophia's hair and leave them to it. I have a few things that I need to do in my study before I can wrap up my work day.
"I wish Daddy could come" I hear Elizabeth talking to Alexa.
"I know, Sweetheart. He just isn't ready to leave the house. But we are going to have a good time. Your Uncle is coming, your brother, sister and cousin will be there too. We'll need to teach the little ones how to play bingo."
I walk further into the kitchen and see her nod. I have Natalie in my arms. She is still tired from her nap. "Are we ready to go?" I ask them. Christopher comes running into the kitchen from the main room.
"Let's go" he says excitedly. "Where's Sophie?"
"She's still napping, so Leticia is going to bring her when she wakes up."
"I'll wait for her" Alexa says.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, you go on ahead."
I'm bummed that I won't be able to go to Family Bingo with my kids. Elizabeth came up here to see me as soon as she came home from school and made sure to give me the pouty lip. I hate the pouty lip. She gets that from her mother.
There is a knock at the door. But I wasn't expecting anyone. I've finished my therapy for the day, and everyone should have already left for Family Bingo. "Come in" I say out loud.
"Hi" A woman that I haven't met enters my room.
"Hi? Who are you?" I ask her nervously as I adjust myself in a taller sitting position.
"I'm Alexa. I've been doing the show Wife Exchange. I'm sorry if I'm intruding."
"It's okay. I just wasn't expecting any company. So I guess if my wife and I did this show as planned it would have been you and I pared up for this."
"Yeah" she says as she walks further into the room. "I heard about the car accident. I'm so sorry."
"Thank you." She sits down in the chair and looks around the room, which is filled with a lot of my kids' art work.
"I've gotten to know your kids. They're darling. They get really excited when it's time to come up and visit you."
I can't help but smile. "My kids are the greatest. I hate that they have to see me this way."
"What, in a bed?" I nod. "Your kids don't care about that. They are just happy when they get to be with you. And that's why I'm here." She stands and walks closer. "We're going to their school."
"What. No, I can't."
"Why not?" she asks.
"Because, I can't walk."
She looks over at the corner and points to the wheelchair. "There's a perfectly functional wheelchair over there."
"I am not showing up at my kids' school in a wheelchair."
"Why not?" she challenges me. "Why, because you are embarrassed? There is nothing to be embarrassed about. You were in a car accident and you are recovering. Your kids don't care if you are in a wheelchair. They just want you to be there with them."
"I don't know" I say, and now I'm the one that is pouting.
"Trust me. You showing up there….. when you see the smiles on their faces you will know how much it means to them."
I look over at the wheelchair and then at Alexa. I think if my kids. Will this embarrass them or make them happy?
We are in the cafeteria at the kids' school playing Bingo. I have Natalie and Sophia on my lap and I'm helping them since they've never played before. Elizabeth is sitting across from me and she is helping Christopher. Markson had dropped Sophia off after her nap but not Alexa. He didn't say why she had changed her mind about coming.
"B-5" is called. Elizabeth said the man calling the numbers is their gym teacher. He asks the kids a few times which numbers they still need, and they all scream out their numbers at once. "N-32" is called, and I show Natalie where that is on her card. Sophia gets upset because she does not have that number on her card. I try to explain to her that nobody is going to have all of the numbers because there are just too many. But she's three, so she doesn't understand that. "O-62" is called and Sophia does have that number. I point it out to her and she colors over it.
"Daddy" I hear Elizabeth squeal. She is out of her seat and running. I look over and see Ethan in a wheelchair. Markson and Alexa are with him. I can't help but smile. Elizabeth wraps her arms around his neck and he hugs her tight. Christopher also runs over and also gives him a hug. Eventually they all make it over to our table.
"Kavanagh, good of you to join us." I slide Sophia off of my lap so that she can sit with Ethan. He pulls her into his lap and then adjusts his wheelchair so that he is at the head of our table. Elizabeth and Christopher take their seats again and Alexa sits next to Christopher. I look at her and nod. I know she said something to Ethan to get him here.
"Unca Etan" Natalie says and passes him a crayon. He takes it from her and smiles.
"Thank you, Nattie Baby. " I pass him another crayon and Sophia's Bingo card while one of the parents provides Alexa and Ethan with cards. I glance at Elizabeth and Christopher, and I catch Alexa doing the same thing. Elizabeth is just beaming, and she gets out of her seat several times to hug Ethan. Eventually she and Christopher both get Bingo at the same time and run up to the front for their prizes.
"You were right" he says to Alexa, and she smiles shyly. "The looks on their faces…."
I reach over and pat his shoulder. "It's really good that you came." He tightens his arm around Sophia and kisses her hair.
This chapter took me five months to write. I apologize for taking so long. I hope to be much quicker on the next chapter because I know exactly what I want to do with it. I appreciate all of the feedback and PMs and I feel so bad that I can't update more often. Thank you again for reading my fanfic! I hope everyone is enjoying their summer.