It's been a while! Whoa! A little writer's block has kept this update on hold for a while but I'm hoping to pick this up again and hopefully get it wrapped up, soon. There are so many more stories waiting to be told. Besides, my Julexis dreams are coming true so it's hard to imagine their life together when I am seeing it happen

Here's the next chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter 24

It had been a long two weeks. In some ways, it felt like two years… in other ways, just yesterday. There was so much to do. The legal paperwork. The planning. The memorial. The burial.

Now… it was the aftermath.

Over the past two weeks, Julian had taken up residence on Sam's sofa, usually with Lila ending up tucked under his arm, sleeping against his chest. He didn't know what to do for his daughter and grandchildren except just to be there for whatever they may need. All the while, he couldn't help but thank God that Jason's fate had never been his own. He could have so easily left his family just as his son-in-law did- tearing apart their whole world.

Alexis was grateful that Julian was there. Their family needed him now more than ever and he was truly stepping up to the plate for their daughter. So why was she feeling herself pulling away? He held her hand and looked her in the eyes and promised he wasn't going anywhere. He promised her he wasn't leaving. Why wasn't that enough?

The thoughts rolled over and over in her mind, but there wasn't enough time in the day to analyze them. There was always something to be taken care of. Today was no different.
After a week, things had begun to fall back into a semblance of normalcy, in the best way it could. Alexis and Julian were both trying their best… but as with any grieving family, there were okay days and then there were bad days.

After an afternoon call from Sam, Alexis feared that this would be one of the bad days. She was now on her way to Lila's school to pick her up from the office. Apparently, after a morning bus ride went awry, Lila was suspended from riding the bus in the afternoon home. This was after she was sent to the principal's office during lunchtime on the previous day after an incident with a classmate.

Alexis took a deep breath as she pulled into a parking spot and prepared to meet the battle that may await her. After two incidents in two days, there was bound to be some type of repercussion from the school. As much as she didn't want Lila to miss her last two weeks of school, she almost wished that she could have simply ended the year and had the summer to recuperate before going back. These last two weeks were going to be hard on all of them.

Approaching the office, she could see Lila's shiny dark pony tail through the window. When she opened the door, the little girl looked up, surprised to see her and practically cowering at her presence. She took one step towards her and softly ran a hand over her silky brown hair before kissing the top of her head. No words were spoken.

The office attended gave a soft smile, "I assume you are here for Miss Lila?"

"Yes," Alexis nodded, taking the clipboard from the woman and signing her granddaughter out, "Her mother had an appointment…"

"Okay," The woman nodded, "I know that Principal Kelley wanted to have a word with Lila's paren…"

"I know," She replied when woman stopped short of continuing the sentence. She simply nodded, "That's fine. I can speak with her, certainly."

"Thank you," She nodded before turning away and heading into the principal's office.

Alexis took a moment to glance over her shoulder to the little girl sitting behind her, looking down at her feet as she kicked them back and forth. She watched as her strong little granddaughter, quickly wiped away a tear before it could escape past her eye and to her cheek in fear of displaying her weakness to the public.

"Ms. Davis, is it?" Principal Kelley's voice sounded, drawing Alexis' attention. She reached out to shake her hand.

"Yes," Alexis smiled, shaking the woman's hand.

"You're Lila's grandmother?"

Alexis nodded as the principal gestured to her office.

Lila looked up, watching as the principal guided her grandmother into her office, a tear falling from each eye.

"Ms. Davis," Principal Kelley waited for Alexis to sit down before she did, "I spoke to your daughter earlier this week about the family situation. I'm so sorry for your loss. This must be so hard on every one."

"It is, yes," She nodded, "But we are trying our best to get everybody through it."

"I understand your desire to return Lila's life to as normal as possible…"

"But…" Alexis could feel the shoe about to drop.

"But… I'm just not sure that rushing Lila back into her school routine is helping her so far," Principal Kelley admitted, "So far, she has gotten into three fights since she has been back. And we are talking about a little girl that never did anything but smile and laugh with her friends. And now…"

"And now…?" Alexis squared her shoulders.

"She's just like an entirely different child," The principal's look of disappointment was unmistakable.

"With all due respect, Ms. Kelley…" Alexis began, "My granddaughter just lost her father. I wouldn't very well expect her to be the same fun-loving child she was before her father died."

"I understand that… we all understand that, Ms. Davis… I just… I can't have Lila disrupting the instruction for her peers."

"I'm sorry, did I miss something? Are we now having instruction during lunch and on the school bus?" Her anger rose.

"Ms. Davis, these incidents were just the more serious ones to speak of. She is lashing out at her teachers. Not listening. And being rude to her peers."

Alexis looked into the eyes of the person sitting before her. An educator. A supposed respected member of society that's main job is to oversee the well-being of their children. She peered into her eyes, wondering how someone so well educated and experienced with children could lack such understand of this most difficult time in their lives, actually suggesting that Lila was acting inappropriately.

"I just don't know if it's the best idea for Lila to attend school for this last week and a half." Principal Kelley watched as Alexis' eyes widened.

"Are you suspending her?"

"Not suspension, no… just suggesting a leave for the remainder of the school year. I mean, instruction is winding down and we are wrapping things up, anyway. I can set her up with a tutor for the next week or so. She will not fall behind…"

"Ms. Kelley… let me understand this," Alexis sat up straighter in her chair, "You are suspending my granddaughter… oh, wait, I'm sorry 'suggesting a leave' because she is lashing out in grief over the loss of her father?"

"Ms. Davis…"

"No," She shook her head and stood from the chair, "I don't think you understand. That little girl's whole world was just turned upside down in the blink of an eye. She went to bed one night thinking her father would be there when she woke up and then just like that… he wasn't… and he's never coming back. Now, I am sorry if she is causing a slight disruption to your day and the days of your colleagues, but I refuse to uproot her life anymore than it already has been."

"Surely, we can discuss this with Mrs. Morgan."

"Absolutely not," Alexis held up her hand, "You will not approach my daughter with this. She is going through enough right now, the last thing she needs is to have to defend her child to you, who seems to be anything but supportive."

"I'm… I'm sor.."

"No, please don't," She shook her head, "Please don't apologize. What Lila needs right now is consistency. Her life… what she has known for the past seven years… is entirely different. She's scared," Alexis felt the lump rise in her throat, she quickly cleared it to continue, "She's broken, Ms. Kelley. I'm sorry that you can't understand that… but I will not have you tear her away from yet one more thing that she has come to rely on for comfort."

The principal averted her gaze to look down at her desk for a moment before looking back to Alexis with a nod, "Okay."

"I will talk to her about what happened," She stated softly as she pulled her purse to her shoulder and turned towards the door. With her hand resting n the knob, she turned back to the woman behind the desk, "Give her some time, please. She needs to know everything is going to be okay."

Alexis' heart broke as she rounded the corner into the main office and saw the fear on Lila's face when she met her eyes. She gave her a reassuring smile, "Come on, sweetheart. Let's go home."

The little girl stood from the chair with her pink bag on her back and allowed her grandmother to guide her out of the office. She said nothing as they made their way out of the school and out into the parking lot until she saw the light's on her grandmother's SUV blink and she ran to the car to let herself in the back seat.

Taking her seat on the driver's side, Alexis glanced into the rearview mirror to see Lila staring out the passenger side window, "Lila."

Lila silently turned her head towards the front.

"Do you want to tell me what happened?" Alexis turned to look over her shoulder just in time to see Lila's shoulders shrug.

"I got mad…"

"Lila…" Her warning voice caused Lila to look up and meet her eyes, "it's not like you to get into a fight…"

"So?" She shrugged again.

"Sweetheart… I know this is so hard for you but…" she stopped short when Lila's shoulders slumped as she turned back to look outside, "I want you to know that you can talk to me about what's bothering you, okay?"

The little girl simply nodded, "Is mommy at home?"

"She's at an appointment," Alexis looked down at her watch, "She will be home soon."

"Oh," She looked down at her hands before looking back to her grandmother, "Can we go to your house?"

Alexis was taken back for a moment, "Um… well I think your mom would like to see you. And aunt Molly is there, too…"

"Please?" Lila's eyes suddenly filled with tears, "Can I please go to your house?"

"Okay," She reached back and gripped her granddaughter's hand, "We can go to my house."

"Okay, Danny…" Molly tried to soothe the crying infant as cradled him in her arms, "Come on, baby… aunt Molly doesn't know what else you need…"

That wasn't completely true. She knew what he needed. He needed his father… and his mother. Molly had been coming over practically every day after school to help out with Lila and Danny and give Sam some time to rest. Usually, she spent the afternoon with Lila while Sam rested upstairs with Danny. Today, her sister had gone out to run a few errands and she was left to tend to the baby herself. More work than she anticipated…

Danny's cries grew louder as Molly readjusted him to her shoulder and tempted to soothe him again.

"Okay, Danny… It's okay, baby… Shh… What's wrong?" She asked him helplessly when the front door knob jostled making her whole body tense, she looked up suddenly, "Who is it?"

"Dad," Julian replied.

Molly relaxed when the door opened and her father's face appeared, "Dad… you scared me."

"I'm sorry, sweetie…" He closed the door behind him, "Sounds like somebody isn't very happy…"

"Yeah, he's not the only one," She mumbled.

"What?" he ran his hand over Danny's fuzzy head, while looking concerned at his daughter, "Where's Sam?"

"She went out to run some errands," She sighed.

Julian looked around again, "Lila?"

"Mom had to pick her up from school…" she answered, "She got in trouble on the bus again so she couldn't ride it home."

"Again?" He shook his head before reaching out for the wailing Danny, "May I?"

"Please," Molly kissed Danny's head as she handed him over to her father.

"Hey, buddy," Julian smiled, cradling the baby in front of him, "Come on, little guy… relax for a minute…"

"He's been crying for about twenty minutes. I tried to give him a bottle… I changed his diaper… I've tried everything."

"You're doing great, Mol," Julian flashed a smirk to his daughter before motioning to the sofa, "Can you lay out that blanket there?"

"Yeah…" She completed the task in record time, wanting nothing more than quiet for a few moments, "He's never like this! He's usually so good and quiet…"

"Well," Julian started softly as he laid Danny on the blanket and began to fold the corners into a tight swaddle, "I think he's just missing his mommy… the bottle just doesn't do it for him. He might just be a little over tired."

Molly's face brightened into an adoring smile as she watched her father swaddle his grandson and pull him back into his arms. The little baby's cries soon calmed as his grandfather rocked him in his arms, his little eye lids growing heavier and heavier.

"And I thought Mom was the one with the magic touch…"

Julian raised a proud brow to his daughter, "I have a few magic tricks, myself."

"I can see that…" Molly relaxed against the back of the chair, putting her feet up on the coffee table, "Ah… sweet silence."

"Not easy, huh?"

"Definitely not," Her eyes were serious, "I mean… he's the cutest thing I have ever seen but when he gets mad…"

"Reminds me of some other babies I've known throughout the years," the stink eye from his daughter made him chuckle, "You know… your mother wasn't much older than you when she had Sam."

"I know…" She sighed, "I can't believe she went to school and took care of Sam all by herself…"
Julian looked up curiously.

"Well, I mean… with your help, but still…"

"Right," His nod was accompanied by a smirk until his face grew serious, "Your mom… she's… she's always been a super woman. There is nothing she can't do."

"Well… cook."

"Oh," Julian chuckled, "I guess you're right. That's a pretty safe bet."

Molly joined in the laughter until they both turned to the front door opening. At the sight of her father and sister, for the first time in two weeks, a genuine smile crossed her face.

"Hey…" She greeted softly as she closed the door, setting her shopping bags on the desk, "He's asleep? Was he okay?"

"For a little while…" Molly admitted, "Then he cried… and cried…"

"But grandpa showed up just in time with the magic swaddling touch," Julian smiled to his eldest daughter where she had taken the seat beside him, "How are you, honey?"

"I'm okay…" She exhaled, "Just had an appointment and a few errands I had to run… mom had to pick Lila up at school for me…"

"I heard," He watched her look around.

"Yeah. She just called me… I guess Lila wanted to go back to mom's house, so… that's where they are."

"Everything okay with her?"

Sam looked into her father's eyes, wanting nothing more than to downplay her worry, but she knew he could see right through her, "Umm… she's been… she's been acting out. A little."

"This isn't the first time."

"No," She shook her head and looked down at her hands.

"Hey… Sam…don't do that. Don't be hard on yourself over this. You are doing everything you can for her." Julian reassured.

"I know," Her eyes were filled with tears when she looked up, "I just… I don't know what to do for her. I don't know what she needs. She won't talk to me about it."

"Maybe she'll talk to your mom tonight?"

"I'm hoping." His daughter nodded and wiped away her tears. She smiled at the sight of her little boy snuggled in his grandfather's arms, "He sure likes you."

"Oh yeah? Well… I guess he's all right, too," Julian winked.

"Dad sure has his own magic touch," Molly interjected, smiling to her sister, "Danny fell right to sleep the minute his grandpa tucked him into the blanket."

"Sounds like when you were a baby…" Sam smiled to her father.

"What?" Molly was confused.

"Whenever you were colicky, mom used to have to call dad to come over and calm you down," She shook her head, "I remember once when mom had to take you to dad's office in the middle of the day because you wouldn't stop crying."

"What can I say?" the younger sister beamed, "I've always been a daddy's girl."

"Yeah… I think we all have a little daddy's girl in us," Sam's eyes found her father's and they shared a smile.

Alexis watched as Lila sat on the floor, penciling numbers on the math worksheet that rested on the coffee table in front of her. The little girl had barely said a word since they got home. She had a few pretzels for a snack and some juice... watched a little television and was now working intently on her homework.

"So..." Alexis took a seat on the armless chair, "Are you hungry for some dinner?"

Lila shook her head as she stayed focused on the paper.

"Well, you only had a few pretzels, honey... you have to eat something..." She prodded.

"Not hungry..."

"Lila..." Alexis' warning tone prompted Lila to lift her head.

"Can I do my homework in aunt Molly's room?"

Her grandmother paused for a moment, studying her face, before she nodded, "Sure..."

Lila quickly gathered her things before practically running down the hall to her aunt's room.

"Well, this is going well," She sighed, rising from her seat to retrieve her phone from the dining table. She scrolled trough her recent calls and soon pressed send, waiting while the phone rang.

"Hi," She responded, "Can you..."

An "I'll be right there" sounded over the line before she could even finish her request.