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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Failings of the Fathers: 18

He raced to the door of the bedroom, and stopped short.  His mother and Blair were on the bed together, looking at catalogs, many of which were spread out around them.  Bitsy had her head on Blair's shoulder, and Blair was beaming, her roundness reminding him of Jewel's earlier-than-planned probable entrance.  They both looked up. 

Blair said, "What is it, Todd?  You look upset."


Both women stared in his direction.  He said, "I, uh, wanted to . . . tell you both that dinner's on."


"Todd, you yelled that up to us about twenty minutes ago.  If that didn't tell us, the smell sure would."


"Right."


"I think he's jealous, Momma, that he's left out of the shopping," Blair said.


Her mother-in-law smiled, and put out her hand to beckon him.


"I would love to, but I really should get ready to receive the boys.  They'll be home soon.  What about Road Runner?"


"He's asleep."  Blair said, nonchalantly looking back to her magazine.


He couldn't tell her.  Blair would get upset, she might cry, upset herself, go into labor even earlier . . . the baby. We can't lose her.  We can't lose another child. . .


"Okay, well, I'm going to wait for the boys in the family room, then.  I'll get them hot cocoa or something when they come in."


"Todd, are you all right, My Love?"  she asked.


Bitsy seemed frozen in deep study of him.


"I'm great.  I'm going to be a father again, I have you, I have Momma.  What could be wrong?"


"Nothing, I guess.  Oh, by the way, who was that downstairs?"


He stopped outside the door.  "Sister Rebecca Katherine."


"She was here, and didn't say hi to us?"


"She. . . had to go.  Said she was needed at Mountainview, I offered for her to stay and eat with us."


"What did she want, then?"


"She wanted to tell me about Aiden.  Timothy said Aiden's done with his second surgery."


"That's good.  You'll call later, right?"


Timothy.  


"Yeah, I'll call later."  I'm scared to tell her.  I need her, but . . . Jewel.

"Good, be sure to tell him I asked for him and Aiden."  Blair said.


He walked to The Sun home office, and sat at his desk.  He folded his hands, and put them on top.  You are worthless.  He brushed hair the back from his eyes.  His hair was getting a little long on the sides and back.  He pushed it off his forehead.  Peter always hated his hair.  Called him names.  You pansy.  A little girl, that's what you are.


He dialed.  "Dad?" As much as he tried, his voice shook.


"Todd?  What in the world is wrong?"


"I . . . don't . . ." he couldn't.


"It's after midnight, here, Son.  What is it?  Is Bridgette all right?"


"She's fine, she's . . . she's okay."


"Y'ar upset.  What is it?"


"I . . .I'm having trouble saying it.  Everyone's all right."


"That's certainly a relief, Boy."


"Old Man, I'm . . . losing touch."


"With what, Son?"


"Reality.  Can . . . I don't know how to feel."


"Just feel how ya feel and don't worry about supposed to's."


"Hang on," he said, getting up to close the door.  "I'm back.  I'm a mess."


"See y'ar therapist?"


"He's . . . not going to be able to help with this one."


"So ya called me."


"Yeah.  Can't tell Blair, not now."


"It sounds like y'ar torn up.  Go ahead and unburden y'aself.  I told ya to do so."


He decided to just say it.  "Could my father be alive?" As soon as the words left his mouth, he felt foolish.


Timothy swallowed.  He wanted to proceed cautiously, but had been dealing with the same query all day, since his sister had called.  "Go on."


"You're not acting surprised."


"No.  I can't lie and say that I am.  Y'ar aunt called me, she had a nightmare."


"I know.  She told me."


"What can I do?"


"How would I start, looking for him, I mean?"


"I don't know.  Let me analyze the legalities of these accounts.  Possibly something there.  Who was the last person, aside from ya, to see him alive?"


"The nurses?"


"Other than them."


"Connie, his girlfriend, or fiance.  The last one.  He had a lot of them.  If they didn't do what he wanted, he usually dumped them.  Of course, I don't know what he really did with them. . ."  his voice trailed off.


"Now, now.  Let's stay in the present, Boy.  It was Connie, what was her last name?"


"I don't remember."


"The lawyer, that handled your father's estate?"


"I remember him.  His name was Adams.  Chicago.  Connie had my father cremated without asking me.  That was that."  He could tell that Timothy was writing.


"I'll investigate this.  I'll do it first thing in the morning.  It's past five there, won't do me any good now."


"Thanks, Dad.  What about Aiden?"


"He's all right.  Struggling.  He said he wanted ya to help him, something about the memory loss.  He feels ya would know about it more than most."


"Hmf.  He's right, probably."


"Let's do one thing at a time.  Give me time on this, Son."


"I will."


"And don't let it consume ya.  Please.  Ya must try and move on.  It's the only way fair to y'ar children and y'ar woman."


He swallowed.  "How did you get so smart?"


"Experience.  I love ya.  Call ya later."  He hung up.


Todd held the phone for a moment, then put it down.  "I . . .love you, too, Old Man."


"Hey, Squirt, wait," he heard Jack say, "get back here with my earbuds."


Todd smiled, "They're home."  He followed the staircase and went to his sons.  Upon seeing them, fighting over the earbuds in the foyer, he grabbed them both, and hugged them.  "You guys are so late, all those after school things.  It's already dark!"


Jack, stunned, said nothing, and patted his father's back, and Sam, hugging back tightly, said, "Dad, you're squeezing me!"


"Sorry, Buddy, I just missed you today."


Jack caught his father's eyes, and said, "What's wrong?  Where's Mom?"


"She's upstairs with Grandma Bitsy.  Baby stuff."


"Again?  She looks at those books all the time," Sam said.


"Gives us man time," Todd said, avoiding Jack's gaze.  "Don't take your coats off."


"Dad, it's like dark."  Jack said.  "We went to see Addie and Aunt Dorian, remember?  Mom said to."


"I know, it's dark, but I have stadium lighting, and you guys know that."


"By the way, Dad, what's that smell?"  Sam asked.


"Don't tell me you don't know?"  he said, teasingly.


"Smells like Sister Becca Thrin's food."


"That's what it is.  I made it.  Now while it cooks, let's go outside and do man stuff."  He said, grabbing his coat.


"What man stuff?"  Sam said.


"Well, we're not going mushrooming or anything, grab that football from in the chest in the family room." Todd said.


Sam obliged, and Jack opened the back door.  The three of them went outside, after Todd snapped on the stadium-style lights.  The backyard was like daylight, and Both Bitsy and Blair looked up when it came on.  Bitsy was excited, and got off the bed and went to the glass doors.  She smiled, and Blair got up and carefully followed.  Blair said, "He's so good with them."


Bitsy took her notepad and wrote to Blair:  Does he teach them?  He used to play football when he was little.  Peter forced him.

"He played in college, too.  He was outstanding."


Does he yell at them?  Does he tell them bad things?

"No.  He never does that, ever.  Even when they're bad.  He always shows them love, even when he has to be stern with them.  But when he's doing this, he is always patient and loving."


She saw the older woman's eyes filling with water.  He has learned to love.  Blair, I think he learned that from you.

Blair was overcome with feelings, and put her arm around her mother-in-law.  "He learned it from you, too.  He was my very best and only friend, once.  Did you know that?"


Bitsy shook her head.


"It's true.  We were each others' lifelines.  No one else liked us in town."


Why not?  I mean, I know about Todd's past, but you?

"I wasn't the best kind of person then.  I made a lot of mistakes.  We were both pretty . . . pathetic."


Made for each other then.

She smiled.  "Yes, I guess we are."


Look how he plays with them.  I can tell you, that nothing he's doing was ever done for him.  I was there.  Nothing.

"My God, what it must have been like," Blair said,  longing to hold her husband to her heart.


You can't imagine.  I know he has told you, so much of it.  It was a very bad thing.

"For both of you.  If you ever want to talk to me about it.  Or write to me about it . . ."


It was bad.  Just bad.  I don't know what I would say.  Think of the worst things a person can do to someone else.  That's all.

Blair thought her heart would shatter, but she took the woman's hand, and held it.  She said, directly into her eyes, "No more. Never again.  You won't have to worry.  You're with us now."


Bitsy smiled, and turned back to Todd and the boys playing football after dark in the yard.


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Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 9

The cab pulled up to the Au Diable and Samuel stepped out and paid the cab driver. It was a little early by Parisian standards, but not by his and he needed a stiff drink. He entered and headed for the back corner booth he usually occupied when he came here. He slumped down at the table deep in thought.

 "Monsieur?"

At the question Samuel looked up and saw the waitress looking expectantly at him.

 "May I get you something to drink, Monsieur"

 With the way he felt, it was going to take something stronger than wine to numb him. He nodded, "Oui, bring me a double shot of bourbon and keep them coming until I tell you to stop."

The waitress left and Samuel was once again alone with his thoughts. The scene kept playing over and over in his head. The fear in her eyes and the laughter echoing in his ears. He had done that.  He had put fear in those eyes and he had liked it. Samuel couldn't wrap his mind around that thought. He had liked it! Samuel felt sick, he had always respected women. He just couldn't believe he had been able to actually hurt some woman intentionally. The waitress put the drink down and before she could leave, Samuel downed it. "Bring me another." and he let her walk away. His eyes watered from the strength of the drink and from the turmoil he felt inside.

He had known something was off. Remembering back to the dark time, when he had felt like this but hadn't known why . Well now he knew why. There was something ugly inside of him, something horrendous that he had been keeping buried all this time. I don't want to remember any more. At least without the memories he had been able to live a relatively simple life..Samuel had been happy with his girls but now that was over.  I can't even face them. How can I face anyone real. Surely everyone can see the real me now.  His hand went to his cheek and covered the scars. These are the reminders of my violence. I can't remove them anymore then I can remove the action that put them there. His second drink arrived then Samuel waved the waitress away. He picked up the drink looking at the darkness of the liquor. That's my soul, dark and stained.

Alex arrived at the restaurant and quickly paid the cab driver. She stepped inside and started looking around. It was early, but there were a few patrons. I wonder if I'm going to get lucky. Could he be here? As she made her way through the restaurant she noticed several men all sitting alone. Could any of them be Mr Toddman? She took her time studying each man, but none of them appeared familiar. Then she spotted a man sitting by himself in the dark corner of the place. That's odd, there is something about him that seems familiar I don't know if its the long hair or what? Oh what the heck, I'll give it a shot. If he's not anyone I know I'll simply tell him I'm looking for a friend. At that Alex began making her way to the back table. Just as she was nearing him, her boot suddenly caught in a crack and she found herself falling to the ground at his feet.

Samuel was startled and immediately got up to help the woman in front of him. He reached down and offered his hand "Are you okay? May I help you?”

Alex had never felt more foolish. Then she heard his voice. She must be hearing things. She looked up and there before her stood a man she hadn't seen in eight years. Reaching down toward her was none other than Todd Manning. She gave him her hand and let him help her up. Flustered she felt she should say something "Oh I'm alright, new boots and I wasn't watching where I was going." she smiled and realized that he didn't know her.  My God, he's Mr Toddman and he has no clue we know each other. No wonder Carlo said I would recognize him.

Samuel helped her to a chair at his table. "You need a drink after that tumble. Will you let me buy you one?" All of Samuel's previous dark thoughts had fled when she had landed at his feet. His natural instinct to help any woman in distress took over. "Oh excuse me, I'm presuming. Are you meeting someone?"

Alex was flabbergasted. This wasn't the Todd Manning she knew. This was a gentleman who obviously knew how to treat a lady. "No, that's quite alright. I'm here in Paris alone. and heard there was a place that served American food. So here I am and I would love to have a drink. You're right I am a little shaken."

Samuel hailed the waitress and looked inquiringly at the woman in front of him. "Glass of Merlot would be perfect " she replied. He instructed the waitress and sat back down in his seat. He looked at her and thought of how he would paint her. His artist's eye appreciated her smile and the beautiful eyes staring at him. As he looked he saw her eyes wander to his cheek, feeling naked, his hand went swiftly to his pocket and he removed the mask and started to cover his scars. Suddenly he felt a touch on his hand and noticed she had put out her hand on his.

"Please, You don't have to do that on my account." He looked across at her. She was smiling. "They're not that bad and they give you somewhat of a devil may care look."


Samuel smiled. "Forgive me, I haven't introduced myself my name is Samuel."

Alex smiled back in return "No need to apologize. My name is Alex." She looked at him carefully, looking for any signs of recognition on his part. But all he did was extend his hand and gently taking hers, brought it up to his lips and gave a gentle kiss.

"In all my years, this is the first time such a lovely lady has fallen in my path. I have been blessed to have three beautiful ladies in my life up till now. But I must confess, you are the first real beauty I have encountered in a long time."

"What a strange and nice thing to say."  Alex took a sip of her drink. "I don't quite understand. You say you have three beautiful women in your life and then you say I'm the first beauty you've encountered. What about the three women?" Alex was perplexed. She was playing everything off the cuff, never in her wild imagination had she thought she was going to be sitting across from Todd Manning. It was bizarre that he didn't know her and why was he calling himself Samuel. Also how did Carlo expect her to entice him if he had three other women around who might object.

"Ahh. Let me explain. You see, I'm an artist and my three beautiful women are my Muses but they aren't real, except in my paintings. They have kept me company ever since I moved to Paris."  Samuel looked at Alex, as he finished his second drink, "but I don't want to boor you about my simple existence. Let's talk about you. You say you are here by yourself in Paris, surely there is someone waiting for you somewhere." Samuel felt the need to turn the conversation away from him. He had started to get that feeling again of being watched and he didn't really want to cut this conversation short. Yet he found himself a little wary of Alex all of a sudden. Maybe he shouldn't let his guard down too fast, in the past his feelings had always been spot on. He was grateful to her for interrupting his journey into despair but perhaps he needed to know more about her before giving her any more information about himself.

It was Alex's turn to be uncomfortable. "Well, you see, there's no one now. There was until recently, but it all went bad. I needed to get away from him, so I got the first flight I could get and it was to Paris. Like I told you when I so unceremoniously landed at your feet ,I was looking for some good American food."

At that, Samuel chuckled, " I'm afraid my dear you came to the wrong place for that. Still it hasn't been totally unpleasant that you landed at my feet. At least I've had an enjoyable drink in your lovely company.  But, as enjoyable as it has been, I'm afraid I have some business that I must attend to.  Still, I can't leave you stranded here by yourself.  If you'll allow me, I'll see you to your hotel." With that Samuel stood up, pulled his money clip out and left a sizable amount on the table to cover the bill and the tip.

Alex had never had an encounter like this before in her life. Just when she thought she was going to get somewhere with Samuel, he did a sudden about face. Carlo was right, he was definitely skittish. It was like something had spooked him . She knew better than to try and extend the conversation, she remembered when Todd used to change like quicksilver. Obviously Samuel was as mercurial as Todd. This was going to be a challenge after all. She smiled at Samuel. "Oh, I'm sorry . I hope I didn't delay you too much. You don't really have to see me to my hotel.  I can take a cab."

"Nonsense, I feel responsible to make sure you arrive safely back at your hotel. I wouldn't want you taking any more tumbles." With that, Samuel offered his arm and guided her out of the restaurant. He flagged down a cab and joined her inside and looking askance at her "Where to my dear Alex?"

Left with no choice, Alex replied. "I'm staying at the Ritz."

Samuel smiled, "Take us to the Ritz."

For Alex the ride took forever, Samuel was quiet and didn't seem inclined to carry on a conversation. She wondered how she was going to get him to see her again. She decided to be forward about it. "Samuel, thank you so much for seeing me back to my hotel. I've never been to Paris and you say you've been living here for some time. Perhaps if you have any free time you might give me a call and help me see some of Paris in your gracious company. I'm staying in Suite 240."

Samuel looked at her "Dear Alex, I would really love to be able to show you around. I, unfortunately, will be extremely busy for a while. But if you are still in town when my business is completed perhaps we will see each other again."

The cab pulled up to the front of the Ritz and the Doorman came and helped Alex alight. She smiled ruefully. He had effectively foiled that attempt. "Good night Samuel, it was a pleasure to meet you." She turned and entered the hotel. I need to talk to Carlo. If he wants my help he's going to have to give me more information.

Samuel watched her enter the hotel and felt like he had just escaped a bullet. The hairs on the back of his neck were raised and he sensed something definitely important had just occurred tonight. I think my watchers are making some kind of move. This is going to get interesting.

"19 Rue Morgue." Samuel instructed the driver. As he headed home, Samuel replayed everything that had occurred in the last few hours. The memory of what he had done to that young woman still haunted him but now for some reason it felt like an old wound. He felt like he had lived through something awful connected to that memory but had come out the other side a better man. If he could live with that memory, he could probably survive the next bad memory too. After all, they were memories, something that had happened in his past. Horrific they might be, but he knew he would face them one at a time. He felt like a weight had lifted. Then he began thinking of Alex. He had felt comfortable with her almost as if he had known her from someplace, but at the same time it was like a voice in his head had suddenly yelled "Don't Trust Her". He felt bad that he had cut her off so quickly. It was times like those when he missed interaction with others. But that odd feeling he got, that sense of danger had always kept him safe.

Arriving back at his apartment he hurried back inside. Once there, he put his coat down and crossed to Dee and his serene one. "I'm so sorry! Forgive me for leaving without telling you why. I felt so dirty after I got back the memory of how I got my first scar. I couldn't face you. I know you've always help me through these moments, but I was ashamed. I never knew I was capable of attacking someone like that. I know now that I've got to look at everything my past might throw at me if I'm to find myself. You've both told me so many times, that when the time was right I would be ready for it. I think I am. Something has broken free. It's happening." Samuel looked at all his beautiful girls surrounding him. They filled him with a feeling of love and warmth, banishing all traces of the cold that had taken him over just hours before. He walked back into the loft and looking at the picture, he addressed the woman portrayed there. "I'm sorry for everything I did to you. I know I haven't remembered it all but when I do, I pray I'll be able to face you in person to show you just how sorry I am.”

Samuel turned and left the loft. Wandering into the kitchen, his thoughts went back to his encounter with Alex. Although he didn't know why, he was sure that Alex was mixed up with his watchers. Perhaps he could use that to his advantage. They wanted Alex to get to know him, it was like they wanted to control him. Maybe he would let them think they succeeded. Yes, while they thought he was putty in Alex's hands, he could get a foothold into figuring out who was pulling the strings. He was tired of hiding and trying to stay off the radar. It was his turn. He was the one. He was in charge now!



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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Failings of the Fathers: 17

Todd threw his keys on the small table at the door, and helped Bea off with her coat.  "Come on, Momma.  Let's go up and see Blair."

They ascended the stairs.  It was moderately quiet, Ray must have been napping early.  They went into the bedroom, and Blair was napping as well.  She woke up and looked at them.  "Hello," she said.


Bea waved.  Todd said, "We've figured it all out.  She had a bad dream about Peter.  And I told her not to worry.  If he's alive, I'll kill the son of a bitch dead.  She thinks that's fine."


Blair's eyes bulged a little.  "Okay, that surprised me."


"Well, it's a done deal.  Here's the dream she had, written out," he handed her the paper.  "And, the answer's simple.  If he is alive, then he dies, no matter what, before he touches one hair on anyone's head."


"A bit violent, isn't it?"  she said.  She continued reading.


"No. Not for him."


Blair looked at Bitsy, who shook her head "no" as well.


"All right, then I'm in.  Seriously."  She looked at Todd, and he nodded once, encouraging her. 


"Momma, don't let Blair fool you.  She's a tough one."  Todd said.  


"Well, now that this is settled, what shall we do for dinner?"  Blair said, acting as if everything was fine and leaving the stress of Bitsy's current emotional condition behind.


"Let's let Momma pick," he said.

"Sure!"


Bitsy took her pad and pen and wrote.  I don't mind.  Anything is fine.

"How about Sister Rebecca Katherine's fave?  That smelly stuff?"  Todd said.


"Do we have things to make the smelly stuff?"  Blair said.  "It might smell, but it's so good."


Bitsy looked from one to the other, enjoying their banter.  Finally, Todd said, "I'll go get it then, if we don't.  I'd have Perzno get it on the way home with the boys, but that wouldn't make much sense with a copter."


"No, not much at all."


"I'll scope out the kitchen,"  he said.


Bitsy sat by Blair, and looked at her belly.  Blair took her hand and put it where the movement of Jewel had been the last hour.  She smiled, when she felt the little girl moving.  "She's very active," Blair told her.


Bitsy smiled, and wrote:  I've never had a baby.

"I know, but you're still a Momma.  I am to Sam, too."


I wanted to . . . be Todd's mother, so much.  I loved him the moment I saw him.  They brought him to me, all in white, he almost glowed.

"I love him, too.  Very much."


Everyone knows.  I can see it, so much.  He's so happy with you.  Like he's complete.

"I feel the same.  Don't worry about anything, Momma.  Everything will be fine.  Um, Momma, do you remember anything about the dream with the baby?  Like, when did it take place, or where?"  She couldn't help herself.  She just had to know.


She shook her head "no."


"Well, that doesn't matter.  Would you like to see my list of baby things, and look through the catalogs with me?"


She became happily excited, and shook her head affirmatively.


***


"Dr. Martino, ya wanted to see me?"  The nun made her way into his office.


"Yes, I did, Sister.  As part of the internship, I would be teaching you about consults, and things like that.  In this case, I want to consult with you, not only as a learning experience, but because you know the parties involved and may be able to shed light on it."


"Certainly."


"It's about Todd and his mother."


"Ah, yes," she said, and flashed on her nightmare.  Reminding herself she was working, she pushed it aside.


"Yesterday, Todd brought Bea for a visit.  She was completely unhinged.  Seems she had a terrible nightmare, and it blurred the lines of reality for her."


"Nightmare?"  the clergywoman heard her own voice waver.


"Yes.  It was clearly put there by Todd's previous nightmare, the night before, that she comforted him about.  She took those images and they became a nightmare of her own."


"Really.  That's to be expected, I'd think."


"Well, yes.  However, here's where it gets a bit sticky.  Todd shared his dream, she then had one.  She had a complete panic attack and was rushed to the hospital.  He brings her here, she is nearing a breakdown in my office, because I cannot convince her it's not real.  I call for his help, and he comes in, and . . . "


"He agreed with her, eh?"


"Well, not exactly.  I think you might need to know about the dreams first."


Her breath caught.  "Peter Manning?" she said, absently.


"Yes.  But not the way you'd think."


"Alive?  Wanting to take their children?"


He put his hands through his hair.  "Yeah, that's right."  He was puzzled.


"Oh Dear," she said, getting up and walking to the window.


"Sister?"


"Go on, Doctor."


"Nevertheless, he ends up telling her that she hasn't got to worry because if her dream comes true, and Peter is alive, he'll murder him.  And then, takes her home."


She was silent for a moment.


"His pathology, which I felt I was instrumental in repairing, is now feeding off her pathology, and he is feeding into her delusions as well.  I advised him not to take her home, but he did anyway.  He claimed she needed her family.  Now you know how I feel about Todd, but this was not ordinary, to say the least.  Sister?  Sister Rebecca Katherine?"  Ray attempted to bring her back to earth.


"Doctor, do ya believe there is any spirituality in the world?  In other words, do ya put any stake in God, or spiritual matters?"


"Does that relate to this, Sister?"


"Yes, I'm afraid it does," she said, walking back to the chair and sitting again.  "It matters greatly."


"I'm all ears, considering I'm feeling a lack of answers right about now."


"The two of them are having similar dreams.  Why can't there be something more to it?"


"More as in what?  It's clear he planted the ideas in her mind for her."


"Possibly.  But when she comforted him, what did she say?  Did she say that she believed Peter was alive?  Or did she counter his fears with the fact that he must be dead?"


"I don't know that, Sister."


"Well, likely, she told him Peter was dead.  She told him that the man could never come back and hurt his family. I'd bet on that."


"Your point?"


"My point is that there could be a different reason or explanation as to why she had the dream, eh?  Not that she just copied ideas from Todd and integrated them."


"What in the world makes you think this, Sister?  It's obvious he gave her the ammunition to develop this nightmare."


"Well, Doctor.  God tests our faith.  What would you say if I told ya that I had the same dream last night?"


His face went completely blank.


She continued, "That I also had a dream, of a tall, ominous figure, who was threatening to take the Manning children."


"I don't know how to take that, Sister," he said.


"I don't either, Dr. Martino."


"Ray, please.  Ray is fine."


"Ray.  Ya know, that little boy, y'ar namesake, is the age at which Todd began to feel Peter's wrath.  Ya realize that?"


"Yes.  But back to this topic, perhaps Todd's comments to you fueled your nightmare as well."


"That's just it, Doctor.  Todd has not spoken to me in days.  And Bea certainly couldn't."


"You had the same dream as Bea, the same night?"


"I am not sure it's exactly the same dream, but the characters and the meaning are identical, aren't they?  This is playing with y'ar sense of logic.  I realize that.  But I can tell ya, in my work, throughout my life, there have been many times like this, that cannot be explained away with a book or a diagnosis."


He half smiled.  "Was this my teachable moment, or yours, Sister?"


"I think both, Doctor.  In my life, I've had things, I call them knowings, where I have feelings about events happening.  I ignored it for years, prayed about it.  The Lord has seen fit to keep me having them.  My most recent was that Aiden O'Farrell, a man in the RA21 that helped saved Todd's life as well as Patrick Thornhart's, was the biological son of one of my brothers."


"And?"


"He was.  He is Timothy's son."


"I've heard about that reunion.  I'm . . . rather stunned, to say the least, Sister."


"I understand.  I've had knowings other times, Ray.  And this nightmare, I am not sure of.  Because it's a dream, I am not ready to completely accept it as a knowing, however, because of Bea . . ."


"She had a dream about the baby," Ray offered.  "She had a dream it was tiny enough to be in a basket."


"And now, Blair knows the baby will be born early.  And it will be small, won't it?"


"Yes.  According to Bea and Todd, that's accurate.  But this still does not mean . . ."


"Bea has lost the ability to speak., and pardon my interruption.  Sometimes, the brain finds other ways to succeed.  Ya know this to be true.  Ya also know that science proves only a small portion of our brains are actually used."


"I'm familiar."


"Well, I am only saying not to discount what they are experiencing.  The two of them, Todd and Bea, have experienced horrors neither one of us can imagine.  That is a bonding of deep proportions.  There is logic to the belief that they are more connected than most people, by virtue of this trauma they shared.  Am I correct?"


He sat back and folded his arms.  "Yes, I suppose you are."


"Then throw in a bit of God's warnings, and what Todd's done is not to be questioned quite as much, eh?"


"I'm not sure what to say, honestly."


"That's all right," she said, getting up to leave.


"Sister, in your dream . . ."


"Mine?"


"Yes."


"He was black as The Devil, Doctor.  Is that what you wanted to know?"


"Could you see him?"


"Barely.  But I knew I'd never seen him before in my life, I did."


"I've done research on one Peter Manning, as part of my work with Todd."  He went into the desk drawer.  Bringing out a folder, he opened it and fished out a photograph.  "Is this the man you saw?"


In seeing the photo, she felt a strange pressure in her chest.  "I can't be sure, because the face was not clear.  But the rest of it could be.  The height, the shape of the head and face, the stature.  And, the vibe," she handed it back.


"I see."


"Y'ar doubting.  St. Thomas was also a doubter, and he doubted The Lord.  Y'ar looking for answers, which we all naturally do.  But, Ray, there may not be one, right now, for this.  Y'ar seeking an explanation, something based in logic.  I say there is none."  She headed to the door.  "I trust ya won't mind that I have a few hours off, then?"


"Not at all, but you don't have to, Sister.  I'm not disciplining you, in any way."


"I know, Doctor.  I have to see Todd.  Ya understand.  As a human being, not an intern, I have to let him know that I believe something terrible may happen."


She flounced out of the room in a whirl of black and white material.  Ray was left behind, with the photo of Peter Manning on his desk, staring up at him.  "If you are alive, you sick, sick man, what does this mean for Todd?"


***


Todd called upstairs, "Momma, Blair?  As you can smell, I found the stuff to make that meal that Sister Rebecca Katherine always makes!"


The doorbell rang just as he said the last word, and he added, "I'll get the door."


When he opened it, she was standing there, in her usual garb.  "Hello, Todd, good to see ya," she said, hugging him.


"Well, Sister, nice to see you, too.  How did you get here?"


"Are ya forgetting that ya gave me my own driver?"


"Oh, that's right.  I did almost forget.  What's up?  Is it my bro?  Aiden?"


"Eric is fine.  Finished his second exploratory surgery.  Todd, I have to talk to ya.  It's important."


"Well, come in.  You might smell something terrible.  It's your recipe."


"I do recognize it, yes.  Seems ya did it just right.  Smells exact, Dear One."


She sat in the family room.  He said, "Do you want something, tea or something?"


"No, Lad, just sit with me."


"All right," he said.


"Todd, I had a strange experience today."


"Well, you work at Mountainview, that's to be expected."


"I had a conversation with Dr. Martino."


Todd became uneasy.  "I'm not putting my mother back there.  She doesn't belong there anymore."


"Todd, no, I didn't come here for that."


"Then what?"


"In talking with the doctor, it seems, well, that I've had the same dream that ya and y'ar mother have had.  In fact, I dreamed mine the same night that Bea did."


He didn't move.  "So?"


"Ya told y'ar mother that if Peter Manning were alive, ya'd kill him.  Ya believed her."


"No, I didn't,"  he said, getting up.  "I told her that, yeah, but I didn't believe her.  I said it to calm her.  I figured if she knew he couldn't hurt us, she'd get over it."


"Todd, I am telling ya, Lad.  I had the same dream as your mother.  And I don't know Peter."


She watched him, pace across the room, and run his hand through his hair.  His movements had become jerky and awkward; he seemed confused.  "So?  If you don't know Peter, it could have been anyone in the dream."


"Lad, come, and sit . . ."


"No, I'm not going to sit.  I'm . . . fine right here," he said, with his back to her.


She spotted it like a black ink mark on white.  He was terrified.


"Please, I only came to say that perhaps ya might look into this.  Is there a way, somehow that he . . ."


"No."


She knew she had to stop.  He can't handle the thought, Rebecca Katherine Broderick, stop now, enough.


"All right.  How is Blair doing then?"  She changed the subject.


"She's fine, she's on bedrest."


"Ah, trying to keep the babe at home a bit longer?"


"Yeah, the doctor said the baby's ready to live outside Blair, but very . . .  small."  


She could tell he was lost in thought.  She said, "As long as she's healthy, that is what matters."


"Yep," he crossed the room to the chair opposite her, and finally sat.


"I'm glad she's doing so well.  And Bea, is she adjusting to life with the children around?"


He sat forward.  "Peter can't be alive, Sister."


"All right, Todd.  I heard ya, Dear."


"He died."


"I know that."


"In front of me, of a heart attack."


"Yes."


"He's not alive.  Right?"


She didn't answer.  Instead, she said, "Todd, it's all right.  I understand what y'ar feeling."


"I don't think you do," he said, leaning back in the chair and gazing up.


"I might, but ya could try me," she said.


"He can't be alive.  He died, and I watched.  If he's alive . . ."


"If?"


"I'm not saying I believe it.  If he is, my sons . . . Jack, he's a teenager, my little boy, Ray, is . . ." he couldn't go on.


"They're not ya, Todd."


"I know, I know that, thank God."


"They're not because they have a loving father."


"No, Sister, this isn't about that."


"But it is.  Y'ar not y'ar father.  Ya have a deep love for those children."


His eyes were brimming.  He said, "He is not alive, Sister."  With resignation, but barely able to utter it, he added, "He's never coming back to hurt us."


She realized it was too much for him to bear.  "Ya're right.  Just remember, those boys are not facing what ya did.  They have a caring, devoted father.  He will protect them at all costs."


"I will," he said, staring back at her.  He wiped his face on his sleeve.  "Sister?"


"Yes?"


"The dreams.  They're coincidences, put there by fears."


"That's as good an explanation as any."


"I caused my mother's dream."


"Very likely.  She was there to comfort ya, and then she had the same."


"That was my fault."


"Not intentionally, but perhaps."


He stopped.  "But what about yours?"


"What about it?"


"What caused it?"


She stood, "I'd guess my old lady nonsense and wild imagination.  With everything that has happened, it's likely what you are saying.  Fear.  Fear can get the best of us."


He looked up at her, and the way the light was hitting his face, he looked so young, like Jack, and his hazel eyes were slightly bluish.  "You don't believe that, do you, Sister?"


"My Boy, I don't think it matters what I believe, eh?  It matters what ya believe, and what ya can accept and what ya cannot.  Either way, ya know it will show itself, with time.  I only wanted ya to know that I had that dream.  It can mean nothing but a reflection of my own fears.  I didn't even see the man's face.  It could have been anyone, it could have been symbolic.  It could have meant many things."


"What exactly happened in the dream?"  she could see he was venturing out beyond what he wanted to hear.  "What did this man say?"


"He said 'he wanted the children.'  Nothing much more than that."  She had already decided that she was not telling him that he wanted their souls.


"What children?"


"He didn't name them."


"Okay.  Where were you, in the dream?"


"On the cliffs."


"Let me guess.  Ireland."


"Yes.  So you see, could have meant anything.  Nothing specific."


"And it's totally different from our dreams.  He's always by the bed."


"A matter of coincidence," she said, heading to the foyer.  "If ya need me, Todd, ya do know how to reach me."


"Yep, I do.  Do you want to stay for dinner, Sister?"


"I can't, Dear, I'm needed back at Mountainview.  I love ya, and the family.  And Bea.  I hope to see ya all very soon.  My best to Blair, Dear Heart."  She kissed his cheek.


He opened the door, and she stepped into it.  Turning back, she said, "And take care of that blasted smell," and headed off.


He closed the door after her.  


I want everything you ever loved.  


The lighter flamed.  


That scar.  


He took the stairs, two at a time, to get to Blair.


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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Failings of the Fathers: 16

Todd walked his mother to Ray's door.  "Are you sure you are going to be all right, Momma?"

She nodded, and was all smiles.  The door to Ray's office opened, and Todd followed her inside.


"Todd, good to see you, as always."  Ray said.


"Same here.  Momma had an attack at three this morning.  We thought she had a heart attack.  I rushed her to LH.  It was panic.  She's fine, just might need to talk a while."


Bitsy was already smiling and sitting in her chair, getting her pad out, and writing, not frantically or in desperation, something for Ray.  She looked up, coy, and smiled at Todd and gave him a small wave.  


He smiled back and awkwardly said, "Okay, then, Momma, I'll be outside working in the limo.  Be back in an hour."


As soon as the door closed behind him, Bea was up on her feet, and frantic.  She raced up to Ray, who had not even had a chance to sit down at his desk, and foisted the memo pad against his chest.  He took it, and she grabbed both his arms with both of her hands and gripped him in fear.  He read the pad aloud: 


He's alive, and he wants their children.

***


"Hey, you're awake.  It's dinner time, a day later."  Tina said.


Aiden tried to focus his eyes on Tina, who was standing by his bed.  She was leaning over and her hair, that had added length in the last few months, brushed against his cheek.  He said, "I'm here and I'm living, Dear Little Tina."


"I see that," she said, taking his hand and sitting down near him.


"What did they find, Pappy?"


Timothy was sitting as well, but further off.  He moved his chair closer.  "Several masses of scar tissue.  Most likely, they cause some of the pain.  But not the memory loss."


He looked to the ceiling. "Why do I feel my brother would understand more of this?"


"He might," Timothy said.


"Have ya spoken to him?  How's Blair?"


"Everything there seems to be fine.  Your aunt had a frightening knowing, not about ya, about what I suspect is Todd.  Otherwise, so far, Blair and baby are well."


"Maybe he can understand, then.  When all is done, and he's not worried about the new babby.  Maybe he can try and piece this together,"  Aiden said.  


"He may at that."


"How are the guys?"  Aiden asked.  He always had a penchant for friends and made them easily.


Tina answered, "They're fine.  They were all at snack last night, sitting at the next table.  In fact, the tall one bumped me with his chair."


"He's different, that one," Aiden said.  "Sort of a crabby old guy.  Has a lot of things to work out."


"Well, anyway, they were there.  Malcolm, Miguel and Calvin.  They don't miss a meal or snack, ever."


"That sounds like them.  I wouldn't be either, if I could.  Miguel would eat everyone's if they don't want it.  He's always hungry."


"They're bringing a light dinner, I know that," Tina said.


"I'll be ready for it.  Y'ar wasting your time here, with me.  Ya could be out there, doing other things.  Finding y'ar way.  Finding love,"  he said, tenuously.  


She smiled, tightening her grip on his hand lightly.  "Not interested.  I'm fine here."


***


"Bea, all right, calm down.  Come on," Ray said.  She was holding onto both of his arms for dear life, to the point of her knuckles turning whitish.  She so wanted to talk, and he could see it; her mouth kept opening and closing, over and over, and finally, he had to take his own hands and hold her arms to make her look at him.  "Bea!" he raised his voice, "I will help you.  I will listen.  You have to calm down first."


She, breathing heavy with tears racing down her face, let go of him, and wrung her hands.  She began to pace wildly.  "Bea, listen to me, please."


She stopped and looked at him, still twisting her hands in fear.


He said, "Sit down, please."


She did, still crying, and took her pad and furiously wrote.


At the same time, Ray went to his place across from her, and waited.  He said, "Bea.  Calm down.  It's all right, I'm not going anywhere.  You just had an incident, right?  You went to the hospital?  Do you want to go back there?"


She looked up and shook her head against the idea.


"Then please, calmly.  Calmly."


She finished writing and handed it to him.


Blair.  She went to the doctor and was told the baby is tiny but will live outside her and will be born soon.  That goes with my dream.

"Ah, is that was this is about?"


She vehemently shook her head "no."


"All right, then what is it?"


I had another dream, last night.  It was with Peter.  He is alive.  He wants to come and take Todd's sons away and teach them how to be men.  That means he will hurt them with his body and his baseball bat and his lighter.  That means he will hurt my Jack and Sam and Little Ray.  I can't let this happen.  I have to find him, and I know what I must do.

Ray was lost in a sea of both confusion and disappointment.  Bea had come so far where her delusional thinking was concerned, and a few weeks out of Mountainview and she was back there, not where she started necessarily, but getting dangerously close.


"No, Bea.  Dreams are not predictions.  Even if the dream about the baby is true, it doesn't mean all of your dreams are true."


He's out there.  He is coming.  He wants the children.  THE CHILDREN!  Please, you have to help me.

"I'm trying, Bea.  You have to calm yourself, please.  Or I will have to give you some medication.  Please, don't let me have to do that."


She broke down, crying into her hands, silently.  


Ray's heart went out to her.  "Bea."  He leaned over gently and took her hands, and moved them off her face.  "Have you ever had dreams before?"


I don't remember many.  I started having dreams again, that I remembered, about two months ago.  I don't remember many others.

"Did any of the other dreams in the last two months come true?"


She shook her head, "no."


"All right.  Then, you do see that there is a chance that this one won't either?"


She looked broken.  He was not sure how to proceed, but he let his question stay on the table.


She pulled back inside herself.  He could see her eyes retracting.  She hugged herself, just as her son often did.  She pulled her legs up onto the chair under her.  


He softly said, "Bea.  I will call for Todd, will that help?"


She looked at him with terror in her face.  She did not resist, or shake her head.  She just looked away and dazed off.  Silent.


He called Todd's cell and quickly conveyed the message to him, and went to her chair, crouching in front of it.  "Bea, it's all right, it was only a dream."


Todd was there in minutes, and pushed the door open.  "Ray, what's . . . Momma?"  he went to the chair, and saw her dazing off, "Momma, what's wrong?"


She went immediately into Todd's arms.  "It's all right, Momma," he said, and could feel her shaking.


"What is this about, Ray?"  he asked, with her cowering.


"She's had a dream, and it frightened her."


She shook her head "no," as to tell Ray to stop.


"Bea, Todd will understand."


She broke free of Todd's arms and shook her head more, and took the pad and wrote NO! in large lettering.

Todd said, "Momma, it's okay.  Ray does not have to tell me anything.  I know what this is about.  I had a dream, the other night.  It was spooky, been recurring, the same one I told you about."


With Peter?  she wrote. 

"Yes.  Well, in trying to keep Blair from being disturbed, I went into the hall, Momma found me and comforted me.  I told her what my dream was about.  I think it affected her poorly.  This is my fault, isn't it?  This is because of my dream."


She shook her head again.  She pointed to the NO! on her pad.

She took the notepad and tore it from Ray's hand.  Not wanting her son to have guilt, she decided instead to let him read.  He did, and said, softly, "Momma.  This is because of my dream, I had the same one, remember?  I had that dream, Momma, and then you did."


Her frustration was so palpable, that both Ray and Todd became more concerned.  She seemed frantic to make them understand, and somehow couldn't.  "It's all right," Todd said, "Momma, it's okay."


"Todd's probably right, Bea.  You just felt so sorry about Todd's dream that you had one, too."


She went to the chair and back into herself.  Todd went in front of her, and said, "No, Momma, don't leave us."


She touched his hair, and then removed her hand, hugging herself again and drifting off.  He said, "Momma?"


Ray examined her.  "She's not catatonic.  She's just giving up.  She can't communicate to us what she wants to, and she just gave up.  For now."


Todd was beside himself and stood up.  "What can we do?"


"I'm not sure.  She's convinced Peter is coming back to get your kids.  That he's alive."


You thought you could hide from me?


Todd shook it loose from his head.  "He, uh, died in front of me."


"I realize that."


"She's afraid.  She's afraid that if he comes back he'll hurt the boys, like he hurt . . . us."


Ray knew Todd was also talking for himself.  "Bea, Peter is not alive.  Todd knows that.  Todd saw him die."


"Momma," he went back to crouching in front of her chair.  "Please, Momma, it's all right, look at me."


She lifted her head and did.


He said, "Momma, he won't hurt anyone.  I can promise you that."  She leaned forward until her head was on his shoulder.  He patted her back.  "He won't hurt us anymore.  I know he won't."


She moved back into the chair, and stared off again, with her arms around her own chest.  Her tears were steady and quiet.


Ray motioned Todd to step outside the door.  As they did, the doctor said, "Todd, I think she needs to stay here with us, at Mountainview, for a few days."


"No.  Absolutely not.  She lives with us now."


"Todd, I'm advising you against taking her home.  She's fragile.  Another near miss could mean a lot of damage.  She's teetering between reality and fantasy right now."


"Then we're both crazy, because so am I."


"What are you saying?"


"I think someone burned me.  My mother's dream was right about our baby.  Okay, it's not right about Peter, but it makes sense she'd think so.  And since I'm the one who put the idea there, I'm the only one who can take it away.  She needs to be with the family, Ray."


"Todd, I'm advising you again, to let us care for her.  For a few days."


"No, I'm taking her home.  She belongs with us.  She'll be all right, I just have to . . . let her know that."


"How would you ever do that?  She's convinced otherwise."


"Because if that fucker is alive, for any reason, in any way, I'll kill him dead.  No questions, no passing go, and no $200.  Dead.  So she has nothing to worry about, does she?"


Ray raised his eyes skyward, as Todd pushed past him into the room, and got his mother into her coat. "Momma, it's going to be all right, trust me.  Thanks, Ray.  We'll see you soon."


"I'm telling you not to do this, Todd,"  the therapist called after him.


"You're wrong, this time, Doc,"  he called back.


He ushered her out of the building and into the cold air, down the slate path, and into the limo.  Once inside, he handed her a pad.  "Don't be afraid, Momma.  Tell me everything."


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Thursday, August 21, 2014

ALMOST 180K?

YEP!  Thanks to all of our readers!!!!!

Keep reading the #OLTL FANFIC!


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Failings of the Fathers: 15

It was nearing bedtime, and well after dark, and Sister Rebecca Katherine was finally feeling settled at Mountainview.  She had a beautiful, airy room, with high ceilings, on one of the upper floors.  Her window overlooked the lake.  She knew her nephew, Todd, definitely had something to do with it.  She knelt in prayer for the evening, and turned in.

Before falling asleep, her mind rested on her brother, overseas, with his newly-found son, and the trials they must have been enduring.  I will call them tomorrow, it's four in the morning there, now.  She hoped with all hope that Aiden, or Eric, was doing well and recovering.  She could only imagine how Timothy was feeling: a newly adopted son, in the states, who had a great deal of turmoil in his life, and his biological son, located after all these years apart, dealing with a life threatening ailment.  She closed her eyes and welcomed sleep.


***


"This Manning family night is turning out to be a great one," Jack said, putting Sam over his shoulder like a sack.  He'd seen his father do it often.  He spun Sam around a few times.  


"That's fun!"  Sam said.


"Shh, Sam, not so loud.  The Road Runner finally went to sleep."  Todd said.


"If I had to chase him one more time, I think I'd collapse," Jack said.  "Off to bed for you, Squirtnation."


"Oh brother, you giant clumsy oaf, don't smack my head against something," they heard Sam's voice trail off as Jack carted him to his room.  Bitsy was smiling, and looking into the fire.  


Blair said, "Those two are something.  Sam's getting quite a vocabulary for a little guy."


"He's smart, like his reporter father."


"Or his mother."


"Or both," he said, kissing her delicately.


They looked back to the sitting room, and Bitsy had fallen asleep against the couch cushions that Jack had set up for her to rest on as she drew.  Todd said, "She . . . had a meltdown today."


"What happened?"  They spoke in very soft tones.


"I told her she was a great mother, because she's great with Ray.  She broke down."


"Oh, Todd," Blair said, compassionately, "She's so full of guilt.  I can tell you one thing, I would be."


"It's all done with, Blair.  I wish she could see that."


"She sees.  She just can't forgive herself."


"I want her to."

"I do, too, but you can't make that happen.  Just how we couldn't make you forgive yourself for Marty.  It took years."


"Still not positive it's completely done."


"See?  It's up to the person to figure out.  Bring her to Ray's tomorrow, maybe."


"She needs to anyway.  She missed an appointment a couple of days back.  We just forgot."


"Well, then, make that a goal for tomorrow.  The poor, precious soul.  She loves you very much, Todd."


"I know.  I love her, too.  He broke her, as a person.  I can see it now.  I couldn't see it then, I was just too little."


"You know, I'm not sure he ever broke you.  Not really.  You stood up to him, for years."


"He didn't, I broke myself.  I shattered, when I was fourteen, and almost killed him.  I'm amazed I blocked out all the years before it, but that's what I did.  A piece of me just hid it away."


He had a faraway look in his eyes.  Blair said, "My Love, let's not.  This was a grand night, for all of us.  Let's just let it be like that."


"Should I wake her?"  He got up, and went to change into his pajamas as they talked.  


"Leave her be.  She chased Ray everywhere today."  Blair said, and slid down into the bed.  "Get her a blanket."

He did, and covered her gently.  She woke at the light touch of the blanket.  He said, "Momma, sorry to wake you."


She shrugged, and started to get up.  She waved to Blair.  Blair said, "Goodnight, Momma."


She kissed Todd's cheek, and he said, "Night, Momma."  She padded off to her room, sketchpads under her arm.


He went back to the bed and got in next to his wife.  "Hold me?"  she asked.


"Of course," he said, and spooned her, wrapping his arms protectively around her and the baby.  


***


Bitch.  You think you're rid of me?  That you and your pansy-ass son are safe?"


She sat up in the dark, her mouth open in a silent scream, then breathing heavily.  She looked around for familiarity, and finally realized where she was.


I'm at Todd's house.  It was a dream.  It was just a dream.  She rocked.  No.  He's not alive.  He's dead, and he's not coming back.  He's never coming back.


She closed her eyes to squeeze out the dark images that had just moments before flown through her mind:  Peter, at her bedside, with a bat.  She remembered the baseball bat.  She knew exactly what it could do. 


He was saying things.  He said he would get Todd's sons from him and make them into men, all three of them.  He's dead.  I'm wrong, he's dead, he can't hurt them.  But he said it.  He said he would make them men, and oh, God, I know what that means.  I know.  He will want to break them.  Strong Jack.  Innocent Sam.  Darlng Little Ray.   She knew he would want to straighten out a rebel like Ray.  He'd done it to Todd.


She got up and paced, wringing her hands.  I was dreaming.  Dreams are not real.  Dr. Ray has told you, they're not.  They're not.


But the other dream, about the baby?  The baby is small, and pretty, and safe?


And the other dreams, of seeing My Angel again, they were real.  They came true.


Not this!  Not this one!


She ran from her room and into the hallway.  Not sure what to do next, she stood outside Todd and Blair's door, frozen with fear.  Suddenly, she realized she was breathing too fast, and too much, and couldn't stop.  Panic set into her chest, and it tightened.  She had no choice but to fall onto the door, and pound with her fists.  Pain seared through her chest, and she tried again, this time, missing, because the door was not there, the door was gone, it had . . . opened.


In the amber light of the fire, Todd watched his mother fall to the ground just inside their bedroom.


***  


"I do not know ya, Sir, so kindly take y'ar leave."  Sister Rebecca Katherine said.  She was in nun's garb, standing on what appeared to be a cliff in Ireland.  Opposite her was a tall, looming figure.  She could not make out the face.


"You know who I am.  And you know what I want."


"I insist to tell ya, I have no idea.  Now, if ya don't mind, I'm off to St. Patrick's."


"I mind."  He blocked her way.  "I mind that you intefere."


"In what?  I've never seen ya before in me life!"


"You're in the way, old woman.  Always have been.  Step aside, and let me do my work."


Fear gripped her, and she clutched at her rosary.  "Are ya The Devil?"


The figure laughed, a menacing tone dancing in it.  "You could say that, if you want."


"What do ya want, then?  Make y'ar case."  She continued to face him, holding her beads in her fist.  


"I want the children." The dark man said.  "I want their souls."


She squeezed the rosary tighter and tighter in her hand as he turned and walked away from her.  Finally, he was gone, and in her palm, she could see that the cross had pierced her palm.  She bled.


The nun sat up abruptly and instinctively checked her hand.  Nothing.  "Lord Jesus, please," she said aloud.  "Please bring my heart peace from that nightmare."


She closed her eyes and began to pray.  After a few minutes, she felt calmer, and said aloud, "A dream, Creena.  A night creeping.  Ya ate your snack too late this night, ya did."


She sat quietly, trying to rinse her mind free of her thoughts.  Instead, she leaned over and took the phone.  It was three a.m., but she knew what that meant in Swiss time.


"Hello, and top of the morning!"  Timothy said.


"Ah, dear brotha," she said, "I had to hear y'ar voice."


***


"Momma!"  Todd cried out, and Blair, already awake, was sitting up.


"Todd, what's wrong?"  she said, getting up.


"No, get back into that bed, Blair.  I mean it.  Momma . . . I don't know, she just fell into the room.  I heard her, she pounded on the door, and then fell inside when I went to open it."  He was kneeling beside her.


"There's no rule I can't get out of bed, Todd, for God's sake," Blair said, coming to his side.  Before she had a chance to even think of finding a way down to their level, Todd had lifted his mother up in his arms, and brought her to the couch.  


Lying her down, he said, "Momma, come on, can you hear me?"


She didn't respond, and Blair was first to the phone.  


Todd barked, "No, I'll fly her there myself.  The copter.  She's not moving, Blair." 


Blair saw the panic in her husband's eyes and she said, "Todd, she's going to be okay.  She's breathing.  Go ahead and take her, then.  Just call me, and be careful."


He loaded her into the copter, wrapped in a blanket, and threw on a jacket over his sleep clothes.  Blair watched as he lifted off in the helicopter toward Llanview Hospital.


***


"Creena, for goodness sake, Dear Heart, it's only three in the morning there!"


"I know.  I'm just awake.  A nightmare of sorts.  Nothing major."


"What was it?"


"A shrouded figure, I think The Devil, or someone evil.  Wanting the children.  Their souls."


"Not such a pleasant way to spend y'ar sleep, eh?"


"No.  Not.  I forced stigmata into my own palm, in my fear," she said.  "Of course, that was in the dream as well."


"Ya felt terror."


"Yes.  I . . . want to forget it.  For now."


"A knowing?"


"Not going to say that, no.  But I must move past it.  It's not important now.  A dream is a dream.  How is Eric, the dear boy?"


"He's just come out of surgery, last evening.  He seems to be all right.  He came out of it well.  It was the second of the exploratory type.  There will be more.  He's made friends, here.  Everyone needs that."


"I am glad.  That's better news.  Over here, I've moved to Mountainview.  I'm starting my internship with Dr. Martino."


"That's good news, Sister.  Glad to hear.  Tina is holding her own here, very supportive of my son."


"Wonderful."  She was having difficulty shaking the feeling of dread from the dream.


"Ya never say that.  The dream is plaguing ya?"


"It is.  But I'll be fine.  I have some reading to do, it will occupy my mind."


"Perhaps.  But it's bothering ya.  What do ya feel it meant?  Did you recognize the figure?"


"No.  I've never seen him before, I am certain of that.  His face was very unclear.  The wind was whipping like a banshee.  I was on the cliffs."


"Sounds ominous.  Ya want to tell me what y'ar thinking?"


"Nothing.  Nothing important.  Just . . . I trust in the Lord to keep everyone safe."


"That's me girl."


"And will ya send my best to Eric?"


"Yes, I will tell him his Auntie asked for him."


"That is fine, Broham, please do."


"All right.  Now ya try and get some rest, Dear Heart."


"Ya have a good day, Timothy John."


"Same to ya," he said, hanging up.  He turned to Tina.  "She called me Timothy John."


"What does that mean, exactly?"  she said, from beside Aiden's bed, where he was resting.


"It means she's had a knowing.  And she's very upset by it, as well."


***


It was past dawn, and Blair was in the bed, trying to pass the time and waiting on word from Todd.  As she turned her attention to her magazine, she heard distant copter blades and looked up and out.  The copter was approaching the helipad, and she sighed.


Todd exited the copter, and went around to the driver's side.  He opened the door for his mother, who got out, able to walk on her own.  He still stood by her and supported her arm.  Blair got up and opened the panes to let them in.  Once inside, Bitsy went to the fire.  Todd said, "She's all right."


"Was it a heart attack?"


"No, panic."  He said, watching his mother for a moment.


"Panic?"


"Yep."


"Well, you've had it before, it seems like your heart is going to explode from your chest, right?"


He nodded, then turned to Blair.  "Something spooked her."


"What was it?"


"Needless to say, she's not talking."


"What do you think happened?"


"I don't know, but she won't write it to me.  She just said to forget it, she's tired."


The woman warmed her hands and was on her knees, in front of the fireplace doing so.  Blair got out of the bed and walked toward her.  "Momma?"


She turned, smiling up at Blair, and nodded once in acknowledgement.


"Momma, what happened?"  She turned away from Blair, and continued to warm her hands.  "Is something wrong, or is Ray too much for you?"


She shook her head no, and continued with her hand warming.


"Momma, we want to help."


She ignored Blair, and kept on.


Blair walked back to Todd.  "She's not 'talking.'" She used air quotes.


"I just said that."


"Well, you were right."


"I made an appointment for later today, with Ray.  The ER staff requested it in lieu of psych evals there.  I informed them of her past and they let me take her home."


"Why that?"


"She wrote something to them, not me.  They refused for me to see it, because, supposedly, she asked them not to show me."


"It's personal then, or something she thinks will upset you.  Possibly something that happened to her she does not want you to have to deal with knowing?"


"Probably.  Sounds right."


"Ray will know."


"He'll figure it out.  We're going in a few hours."


"Anything I can do?"


"No.  Just let me be with you, put my head on your lap right next to Jewel and listen to her."


"Listen to her?"


"Well, you know what I mean, be near her.  Sometimes I think I hear her.  I know it's all that other stuff going on.  But, she can hear me."


"She can.  Come on, let's get back into bed for a while.  Momma, you going to be all right?"  Blair called to her.


She got up from the floor, and turned to them, nodding.  Then, she made a small wave, and left.  Todd watched after her, while getting into the bed, and putting his head on Blair's thighs.  The baby pushed into his cheek, and he smiled.  "She's there, all right.  Just got my first face punch or kick from her."


"She knows her Daddy.  By the way, I'm worried about your mother."


"I know.  In a couple of hours, she'll be with Ray.  She's okay, for now."


*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

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