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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 12

Blair caught a cab to Tomas's Gallery. She had decided, when she couldn't reach Christian, that she'd head over on her own to the Gallery. She was looking forward to seeing Tomas, and also getting on with finding Samuel. The cab pulled up in front of the Gallery and Blair got out and paid the driver. It was a beautiful day at least they wouldn't have the weather to contend with. Blair entered the Gallery and headed for Tomas's Office. The door was opened, Tomas appeared busy so Blair gave a gentle knock. Clearing her throat she said. "Good Morning."

Tomas looked up and smiled at her greeting. "Good Morning to you also. Are you ready for our adventure?"

Blair smiled and replied, " Well I am, but you look busy, perhaps I should just do this myself."

           "Nonsense, I was just finishing up some correspondence Simone left me from yesterday. I'm eager to help you in your search. Yesterday was truly one of the best days I've had in a long time. I know together we can probably track down Samuel and I would love to spend another day in your company." that said Tomas stood up and came around his desk and took Blair's hand and gently kissed it. He led her to a chair and turned to face her, leaning on his desk. "Now, we need to make a plan. Did you bring the sketch.

           Blair pulled the sketch from her purse and unrolled it. Again she marveled at how much Samuel looked like Todd. "Yes. You're sure this is Samuel?" she asked.

           Tomas nodded, "That is most definitely the man I know as Samuel. I've been thinking. Samuel left here the other night on foot. Perhaps that means he lives somewhere in this general area. Maybe we should start our search checking the surrounding neighborhoods. Maybe he has been to other shoppes around here."

           "That's perfect." says Blair, "We'll start locally and see what we turn up. It is certainly going to help that you speak French, by myself I probably would have a language problem."

"Very well. We have a plan. I informed Simone I would be out again today after I talked to you earlier on the phone. So we can begin right away." Tomas stood up and held out his hand to Blair.

Blair took Tomas's hand and rose from the chair and turned to leave his office. She stopped in astonishment as she saw the portrait on the wall in front of her. Stunned, Blair looked at herself standing in the light of many fireworks and the figure of the man watching from the shadows. It was so familiar it hurt. How well she remembered that night when Todd had given her that surprise. He had always done that, given her surprises that used to touch her deep inside. He had known her so well. She looked down at the sketch in her hands. This just didn't make sense. Samuel was painting memories only she and Todd shared and now Samuel appeared to look like Todd. Something just wasn't right. A thought was beginning to form that seemed too outrageous to consider. What if Samuel was Todd? But that was impossible, Todd was in Llanview. Or was he? Blair turned to Tomas. "We have to find Samuel! I don't know what is going on, but I'm beginning to think there is so much more to this than just finding an artist. I know this sounds crazy, but I think Samuel imy Todd."

"But Blair didn't you say your ex-husband lived in Llanview. You told me that your ex-husband had plastic surgery and you’ve been with him on and off for over seven years. Surely you know him. Why would you doubt that?"

"Oh, I just don't know Tomas. I know Todd is living in Llanview, but something all of a sudden seems very off. It's as if I'm waking from a dream and Todd is standing there in all these portraits yelling at me. He begging me to open my eyes and realize he needs my help. He's wondering if I'm going to come for him. Oh God, Tomas, I HAVE TO FIND HIM!" Blair looked at Tomas her eyes glistening with tears. "I have to find him!" she whispers.

Tomas was at a loss. He wanted to take Blair in his arms and comfort her. She had been so happy moments before but now her mood had switched to a deep pensiveness. She was lost in thoughts that had nothing to do with him and everything to do with Samuel. He was still trying to take in her exclamation that Samuel was her ex-husband Todd. Blair had told him the story of how her ex had disappeared only to return several months later with an entirely different face. She had recalled falling in love with him thinking he was someone else, only to find out that he was her ex. From all that Blair had told him, Tomas surmised their relationship had been full of many on again-off again moments. "My Dear, I'll do my very best to help you find Samuel, but you can't really believe he's your ex."

Blair smiled tremulously. "I know it doesn't make sense Tomas. My head is saying you've got to be mistaken, but my heart is telling me I'm right. I'm sorry. Today's mood has gotten way too somber. It's not the time to dwell on what might be. Right now we have to find him, then we'll worry about what it all means. Come on, lead the way Tomas. The stakes just went up on this mystery. I won't quit till we solve it." Blair rolled up the sketch and took Tomas's arm and together they left the gallery. The search had begun.

****

Not far away from the gallery, Samuel was cleaning up some of his paint supplies. He had spent the morning trying to decide when would be the best time to continue his relationship with Alex. He came to the conclusion that he needed to let a couple days go by and then he would give her a call. Samuel wanted to keep her off guard. He knew he had the upper hand because she didn't know he was on to her. Having made the decision about Alex, he then let his thoughts wander back to his sister.

           He remembered when her image had come to him when he was so depressed and the feeling then, that they shared a common pain. He looked across the room at her and wondered just who had made her suffer. It bothered him deeply to know she had been hurt. He remembered her, but still couldn't recall her name. It was so frustrating. He was getting pieces of memories but not the whole. He had a child. Was it a girl or a boy? How come he wasn't with that child, who was the mother? With each memory came even more questions. He had to find out what was keeping the memories in check. Even the woman he had hurt still remained elusive. One thing was sure. With every memory he regained he felt himself becoming whole.


" Hmmm. Becoming whole was such an unusual phrase but it seemed to apply directly to him." Just thinking that phrase reminded him of the earlier feeling that he had heard another voice talking to him. Not just one voice but several. Why was he hearing voices and why did they feel real? Samuel paused what he was doing and headed to the bathroom . He quickly went to the mirror. He was seeing a scene in his head, another time when he had looked in a mirror; only that time he had been carrying on a conversation with several other people but he was the only one there. Samuel looked and posed a question. "Who are you?" of course he really didn't expect an answer but suddenly in his head he heard. " Oh, oh I'm Tom!" Then another voice spoke. "Shut up you moron!" "But Pete , he asked" "You idiot! Ms Perkins says he's not ready yet."and just as suddenly the voices stopped. Samuel blinked. "What the heck!" Okay now that was just weird. He really was losing it. Samuel looked at himself again. He didn't feel crazy. Well, if he wasn't losing it, then he had just been answered by two separate people in his head. They even had names. This was getting surreal but what else was new. His life had been surreal since he had awakened.

****

Blair and Tomas hadn't had much luck at the shops nearest the Gallery but they continued on to the next couple of streets. Most people couldn't recall seeing the man in the sketch at all. Blair was getting a little discouraged. Surely someone had seen or encountered him. On the next block Tomas suggested they stop and get a bite at the sidewalk cafe.

"Blair, we'll sit and rest and get some refreshment. Don't worry I believe we'll find someone who has seen him." Tomas directed her to a table in the warm sun but sheltered from the wind and they sat down. The waiter approached the table and took their order. Blair looked at the sketch again wondering why Samuel covered half his face. That was a very unTodd thing to do, and the real mystery was that he painted. Todd had been talented when it came to headlines and computers but she had never seen any artistic talent while she had been with him. If Samuel was Todd when had he learned to paint. The waiter returned with their order and before he left, Tomas took the sketch and asked if he had ever seen Samuel.

"Oui Monsieur, the gentlemen comes here sometimes for a quick bite. He is a very quiet man and always leaves a generous tip." the waiter replied.

Eagerly Blair asked, "Do you know which way he goes when he leaves."

"Oui, Madame, he walks back toward the Bank over there. I think he usually comes here right after going there. He always gives fresh crisp banknotes for a tip. Is there anything else I can help you with?" asked the waiter.

"Merci, what you have provided is excellent." replied Tomas. "So, Blair, our next stop will be the bank. You see things are beginning to look up. One person has seen him, and I'll wager someone in that bank knows him too."

Blair forced herself to remain calm and finished eating. All she really wanted to do was get up and run to that bank. She looked across the table at Tomas who was smiling so warmly. She couldn't help but smile in return. He was being so helpful. She enjoyed his company but thinking of Todd had put the brakes on starting anything new with another man. All the paintings and the memories had stirred up all the old feelings. If Samuel was Todd she might have another chance with him. With the kids getting older she really missed a man in her life. There were so many unanswered questions. Samuel had been living and painting in Paris for eight years. If he was Todd, why was he calling himself Samuel? Why hadn't he contacted her? How could he abandon his children? Why was he painting pictures of her but not trying to get in touch? The only way she was going to get answers was to find him. She didn't even want to think about Todd back home. If Todd was here in Paris, who was living at home as Todd?

Tomas quietly finished eating and sat back and looked at Blair. She was a million miles away. He thought to himself, Tomas you need to be careful, you are starting to care for this woman, but you might have already lost her to the past. You need to move slowly. She has a lot on her mind and you want her mind on you, not him. He picked up the check, paid it and said."Are you ready to go Blair?"

Blair blinked and brought her thoughts back to the present. "Yes Tomas, forgive me, my mind has been wandering. Yes I'm ready when you are."

Tomas stood and offered his hand. Blair took it and together they headed for the bank. The street was clear and they quickly crossed, made their way to the bank and entered. After the bright sun, it took a moment for their eyes to adjust to the darker interior. They saw several guards and a number of tellers. Who could they ask first. Tomas headed for one of the security guards and began talking to him. He then gestured to Blair indicating she should come to him. Blair went over and joined Tomas and he explained that he spoke to the guard and needed to show him the sketch. The minute they unrolled the picture the Guard nodded . He spoke rapidly to Tomas and then pointed to a young teller. Tomas said: "Blair, Samuel's been in here many times in the past to exchange money. The guard says he always sees that young teller."

As they neared the teller Blair looked at the girl's name. Curiously it was Jessica. Just another coincidence in a week full of coincidences. Samuel appeared to have made the acquaintance of someone with the same name as his favorite niece. When her customer left, Tomas and Blair went up and Blair asked,"Do you by chance speak English?"

"Oui Madame, how can I help you." replied Jessica

"Could you tell us anything about the man in this picture." Blair then showed the picture to the young woman.

"Oui Madame. That is Monsieur Toddman. He has been coming in for more than seven years to exchange American money. That is a good sketch of him, tell me is it for sale." She replied and smiled.

A little taken aback by the directness of the question, Blair was momentarily silenced. This young woman seemed to have a crush on Samuel, and that was definitely something new. Todd had usually inspired fear not adulation. Blair quickly recovered and said, "No I'm afraid I can't part with this picture but tell me do you have any idea where we might find Mr Toddman?"

"Alas, I must say I do not. He just comes to exchange money,he does not have an account with us and therefore we have no idea where he lives. Many times I have tried to get him to tell me more about himself but he is so mysterious. He usually smiles, thanks me and leaves. I never know when he is going to come in again. He was just in here a couple of days ago and I asked him if he had a woman to keep him company and he informed me with a rather cryptic smile that he had three lovely women that keep him company. I must say I 'm very jealous of those women." Jessica again smiled

Blair felt a burst of jealousy sweep through her. How dare he leave her and come here and live it up with three women when her life was turned upside down.

Tomas turned to Blair. "It appears we've hit another dead end." Even as he said it he saw the look on Blair's face. She looked like she was ready to kill someone and he thought he had a good idea who she wanted to kill. Something the young teller said, had a deep affect on Blair. "Blair," he repeated to get her attention.

She looked at him blankly for a second then blushed and stammered, " Oh, forgive me Tomas just some residual anger creeping in towards my ex."

He repeated what he had just said."Blair , it appears that we might have hit another dead end. We'll have to keep looking in the neighborhood."

Blair nodded and turned to thank the young teller. "Well we have his full name at least." In her own mind Blair thought about that last name. "So Samuel, your last name is Toddman. If that's true then I'm becoming more convinced that you're really Todd. Samuel Toddman why have you been hiding all these years?" One thing that Blair had always believed was that Todd loved his kids more than anyone else on the planet. He had always come back for them. In 2003 she had been convinced he had returned for them and she had believed Walker when he had admitted to being Todd. Now she was questioning that. If Samuel was Todd, why had Walker let everyone believe he was Todd..Even Vicki thought Todd was in Llanview but what if Samuel was really Todd. Samuel had been living here in Paris for eight years, while someone unknown had been living Todd's life. God, what a mess! In order to start making sense of everything they had to find Samuel. As they left the bank , Blair and Tomas looked around trying to decide where to go next.

Tomas spoke, "Blair if we look back in the direction of the gallery you can see we're on somewhat of a straight line. For the rest of today I think we should narrow our search to the streets that flow away from the gallery in this direction. I think maybe he might be along this path as opposed to the other direction."

"That works as well as any other direction." said Blair. They continued their search down a couple more streets along the same line as the Gallery and Bank. When they hit the third street they found themselves in a neighborhood full of apartments. "Perhaps Samuel lives in one of these. We'll have to start asking at each door." remarked Tomas.

Blair agreed but suddenly she had an idea. "Tomas you go ahead and get started, I need to make a quick call.” Blair pulled out her cell phone and called Starr. " Hi Starr, how are you and Hope. You're fine. That's great.... No, I'm going to be here a little longer. It has become very important that I find this artist. I'll explain it to you later. I need you to do me a favor right now. Would you keep an eye on your father and keep me informed if he appears to be acting stranger than usual. ... What do you mean he's already acting strange? How?... He's encouraging you and James to have a relationship? He was happy Marty's been put at St. Anns. ... You're right that sounds strange even for Todd ... Why did I ask that? It's nothing, you know me, I just like to know what your father is up to. Okay, I have to run. I'll call again later. Love to you, Hope and your brothers." Blair put the phone up. Starr was right, Todd was behaving differently. He usually kept all men away from Starr. Why would he suddenly do an about face? Also, why this complete lack of sympathy for Marty? Ever since Blair had known him, Todd had always tried to make amends to Marty for the rape. It was so out of character for him. Blair noticed Tomas coming back down the steps of the first apartment building. No luck at that one. She moved briskly to catch him. This was proving to be a long day of revelations and dead ends, but something else would indeed turn up. She had FAITH.


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Failings of the Fathers: 33 (adult)

He moved over her, kissing her as he went, and then rested beside her on the bed.  He turned her toward him.

She said, "I wish I could be with you, but it's too soon, Todd."


"Oh, I know.  Just want to look at you."  He ran his hand down her face to her chest, and rested it over her breastbone.  "And feel this."


"What?"


"Your heart.  I like how it acts when you're near me."


She blushed a little, and then said, "I'm blushing, and we're married, oh, how many times?"


"A lot.  Can't even keep track."


"That's okay.  It's really like one big long love story.  An epic one."


"Yeah, kind of.   I guess you could say that."


"So happy."  She said, running her fingers over his collar.  She started to undo the buttons on his shirt, and kiss his collarbone.  


He stroked her hair, and said, "Hey, what's all that about?"


She didn't answer.  Instead, she worked her mouth over his chest, and pulled his shirt out of his pants.  Then she looked up at him and said, "Take your shirt off."


He obliged her.  He was left in his a-shirt and pants, and closed his eyes.


She scooted down the bed and lying on her side across from his waist, undid his belt.  He was already excited by her, and still gently ran his fingers through her hair.  She whispered, "Take these off, too."


He did, fumbling a bit, and threw them onto the floor.  She reached inside his boxer shorts and touched him, and he slightly jumped.  She slid his boxers down and began to kiss and fondle him, before she wrapped her lips around him completely, determined to make him more than enjoy their time alone.  


It had been several weeks since they had made love to each other, and though she missed him deeply, she wanted nothing more than to hear him - the sounds she had come to love when his passion built, and the moans that thrilled her when he finally came.  Their lovemaking would have to wait, but his needs wouldn't, at least in her book.  She finally gently pushed him onto his back, and knelt between his legs, still working to bring him to his end with her tongue and lips.


He wanted her, so much, and closing his eyes, imagined her, what it would be like to be inside her again, joined the way they longed for.  No one and nothing had ever been like he and Blair, and he knew that every minute he was without her, as well as every second he was with her.  In his mind, he pictured her above him, beautiful in the firelight, moving and undulating over him, and felt a surge in his body, just before he came into her mouth.  The feelings were intense and familiar, and immediately following, he bought her to him and rubbed her back as she splayed herself across his chest.  He said, "How can I make you feel good?"


"You already are.  We have plenty of time for that.  But, you could just keep holding me."


He pulled up his boxers, and wrapped his arms around her.  He ran his hands up and down her body, massaging away any tension she may have felt from the past week.  She closed her eyes.  "I don't even know how to say it anymore."


"I know, it's like words are running out."


"Maybe.  But we never do, and neither does how I feel," she picked her head up off his chest, and looked at him.  


Her mascara was smudged under both eyes, and her lips were slightly puffy and redder than normal.  He said, "Always you and me.  That's all there is."


She nodded, and said, "I know," before he slid his arms tighter around her and rubbed over her back with his strong hands.


***


It was early morning, and Malcolm was alone in the cafeteria.  He liked the early times, where there were few patrons, so that he could enjoy the quiet and the alone time.  Of course, he was always willing to share his breakfast table with Miguel, Aiden, or even Calvin, as long as there weren't loads of people, clanging trays and talking.  He hated noise pollution more than most things.


For a moment, he imagined himself, back in London, tending the gardens outside his mother's house.  That was before he had become ill, but it was something he always wanted to go back to, at some point in his life.  He loved the feel of the soil in his hands, and watching things grow.  It was something a person could always count on:  if you care for it, it grows and brings you beauty.  He missed it, and had spent a long time trying not to become bitter about how.


He sipped his coffee.  In the doorway, he spotted Calvin, who seemed to notice him and go to get his tray.  The man was a puzzle; he never quite understood him, but in the last year or two, he had gotten to be able to communicate with him.  With others, it wasn't always possible for Calvin.  And, after all, they both did share some secrets and some things that not everyone should be privvy to.  Not everyone would understand, and it was best left as it stood.


Calvin finally sauntered over with his breakfast assortment and put his tray down.


Malcolm said, "Who said I forgave your attitude yesterday?"


"Who said I care?"


"Hmf.  Touche."  But he knew that somewhere in there, Calvin did care, or he wouldn't bother at all.  It was loneliness, and everyone could succumb to it, even if they were bitter like Calvin.  "What's with you today?  Anything?"


"No."  He started to eat.


"Yesterday, you were talking about a new plot.  Some kind of revenge thing?"


"Forget what I said yesterday."


"Why?  Change your mind?"


He chewed.  He swallowed.  Then he said, "No."


"Well, then.  How does this revenge plot go down?"


"For me to know, and you to butt out."


"Well, excuse me, then."


"Let it go."


"All right, if you want me to.  Sounds like you're pretty gutted, though."


"Speak English."


"You're upset.  You seemed angry."


"Whatever.  Angry.  Always my thing."


"You are a crabby one."


"Why not?"


"Hmf.  Always short on words."


"Why talk when you can be quiet?"


"Well, you talk when you want to."


He continued to eat.  He always seemed hungry, as if every meal might be his last.  Malcolm recognized it as desperation, in a larger sense. 


Malcolm finished his breakfast and began to look outside through the windows.  


"You and the outdoors."  Calvin said.


"I do love it.  Would love to be back to it."


"And why don't you?"


"You know why."


"Oh.  What, you need the money for the medicine could make you well enough to get out there?  You want to be back outside."


"Yes, that covers it."


"Well, I ain't helping you."


"I didn't ask."


"Well, don't think it.  It's not happening.  Not now, not ever."


"I thought you had a lot stashed away?"


"Not that much, and it's not exactly as you think.  And why would I waste it on you?"


"I don't expect you to pay, or help me.  You should know that."  Malcolm said.


"Whatever, Mister."


"Well, I'm going to see Miguel.  You coming along?"


He gave Malcolm the side-eye.  "No."


"All right, I'll see you later then."


Calvin finished his breakfast, and pushed his tray forward.  Taking his phone from his pocket, he dialed.  "It's me.  Yeah, good morning, fine, you know I'm in no mood."  He looked around him, and very few people were in the cafeteria.  "Is everything ready?  What do you mean?  Well, get on it, then.  Don't call me until it's done."  He hung up, and put his phone in his pocket, before carrying his tray off.


***


"Hey, you all right?"  He said, sitting up in the dark.  Blair was sitting up as well.  She was against the pillows, and for a moment, he didn't notice the little bundle at her breast.  


"Yeah, I'm fine.  It's just feeding time for her."


"Oh, okay," he said, pushing himself to sitting next to her and moving closer.  He peeked over at his daughter, and said, "She is just a hungry one."


"She's just doing what they do," she said.


"God, you are so beautiful."


"I look a mess, I'm pretty sure."


"No.  You're gorgeous.  In the light of that fire . . . fire?  Where did that come from?"


"Jack.  He brought her up an hour ago, and left her, and made a fire for us."


"He's really something, that kid.  And to think, in a year or so, he might not be with us anymore."


"Don't Todd, looking at her little face, I can't think about that."


"All right.  Sorry, then."


"Did you ever bring the mail in?  We've been so out of touch with the world lately."


"I did, it's on my desk, want me to get it?"


"If you don't mind.  You can read it to me while she nurses."


He went off in the darkness, still in just his boxers, and returned with a small pile.  "Bills, mostly.  Oh, wait, what's this?  To the parents of Sam Manning?"


"It's probably not bad, if this were Jack, then maybe," she said.  "He was such a problem in school for a while there."


"Hmf.  Like his old man, only he never knew me."


"He knew you.  He knew you inside.  He knows you now.  He wasn't like this when you were gone.  I give you credit for the change in him."


"Don't.  It's likely maturity, and the fact that I don't beat or burn him."


She swallowed.


He caught sight of it, and said "That wasn't fair, I shouldn't have said that."


"Why?  It's true.  That's what Zeus did to him."


"Which was Zeus' decision.  Not yours."


"Well, what's in the letter," she said, brushing away a tear.


"Congratulations.  Your child, Sam Manning, has been selected as Rotary Club Student of the Year."


"Oh, that's so great!"


"The kid is super smart.  Wow.  Now the credit for everything he is going to his gorgeous Mommy."


"Thank you, but it's inside him.  He's just a sweet boy."


"Well, he won.  There's a luncheon in his honor, and the whole family is invited."


"Very cool."


"He'll ask about my mother, won't he?"


"I'm certain he will."


He got very quiet.  "I didn't go see her today."


"That's all right, Todd.  If she needed you, they would call.  She . . . isn't with us, right now."


"I know, I just . . . I said I'd go and see her every day . . ."


"You know you can't do that.  And, you know she won't be angry with you for not being able to.  There's always tomorrow, you can go then."


"Okay.  Will you go, too?"


"If you think I can bring Jewel and Ray with us.  The boys will have school."


"Oh, that might not work.  Unless we wait until after school gets out.  We can take Jewel.  Jack can handle Ray and Sam.  Shaun's here . . ."


"All right, we can do that.  I want to be with you through all this."


"You are."


"Todd?"


"Yep?"


"When you used to go inside yourself, and you saw me, at the wedding, with the gold balloons?"


"Yep.  That was my safe haven."


"Was that for the whole eight years?"


"Pretty much.  I never told you this, but it started in the tomb, next to my father's corpse."


She looked down at her baby, who had unlatched in her sleep, and put her on his chest.  He rested one of his hands on her, and it covered the majority of her back.  Blair said, "Maybe we shouldn't talk about that."


"It's okay.  It's over now.  You were my safe place.  My haven."


"I'm sorry you needed one.  But I'm glad it was me."


"It's always you.  Always."  She settled against him, and he put an arm around her, the other hand on the baby's back.  


She said, "Are you going to put her down?"


"No.  I want her right here.  I promise not to fall asleep with her out of her basket, or roll over on her."


"All right."


"I just want to watch her, Blair.  She's almost the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."


"She is very beautiful.  No question about that."


"I just want to watch her breathe.  This little piece of you."


"And you.  You can't forget that.  She's both of us, and that means both of us are beautiful.  What we made is."


He ran his hand through her hair, and the baby slept on his chest.  The fire dwindled but didn't go out, but Blair's energy did, as she closed her eyes and fell asleep against him.  Softly, he spoke, "Two of my girls.  I love you both, so much.  I guess I did something right, somewhere along the line."


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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Failings of the Fathers: 32

"What are you going to fasten the poles to?  There's no ground in the family room."  Blair stood with her hands on her hips, watching.

"It's not that kind of tent.  It just....has the poles inside it.  You just sort of, set it up."


She folded her arms over her chest.  "Okay, I really have to see this one."


He was right.  The tent came out of the box, he put the poles together, slid them into various sleeves of tent material, and then stood it up.  The tent was ready to go.  "Not bad," she said.  She climbed inside, and sat.  "It's roomy."


"Yep.  It said 6 man tent.  We don't have six men, so we should all fit," he said.


"Well, come on it and try it.  Look, it has a zipper thing, it makes a little window in the back."


He climbed into the tent, and sat beside her.  "It is pretty cool in here."


Jack, who was holding Jewel, said, "Mom, she's wet."


"Okay," Blair said, coming back out of the tent.  "I'll be back, fellas."  She went up the stairs.

Todd came out of the tent too, "Hey, what do you guys think?"


"I think it's cool!"  Sam said, diving inside.


Jack said, "I think it's pretty neat, Dad.  It's working out pretty nice.  The fire's on, and pretty soon we can cook some dinner.  Epic."


"Yeah, epic."  Sam said.


Ray was passed out asleep on the couch.  He had his hand under his chin, as he always did.


"Well, dinner soon, okay.  I remembered the marshmallows, not that any of you did."  Todd said, going into the kitchen.


"Is Mom tired?"  Sam said.


"Yeah, she is.  She's been through a lot, giving birth.  Plus, she's nursing, she burns a lot of calories that way, and sometimes loses energy."  Todd said.


"Well, you both worked hard getting Jewel here," Jack said.


"Dad, why does it hurt to have a baby?"


"It just does, Sam."


"Dad, remember I asked you a while back, how the baby got in there . . ."


Jack interrupted, "Sam, look, a deer," he pointed outside.  The little boy went to the sliding door, and looked out.  


"Where?  I don't see it."  Sam said.


"Look closer," Jack said.


"Thanks," Todd said, "I really wasn't ready for that one."


Blair returned to the lower level, and she had changed Jewel and herself.  She was in the lemon yellow lounging set that she bought in Greece.  He remembered it clearly.  She had taken care of him there, painstaking care.  He wanted to take care of her forever, and make sure she never felt deserted by him again.


"Dad, geesh, there's other people in the room," Jack teased.


"Not when she walks in," Todd said.  "Hey," he pulled her close and kissed her, his hand slid under her hair.


"Hey," she said back, following the kiss.


Her other hand had the basket with Jewel, who was content and sleeping.


Jack said, "I'll take her," and took the basket into the family room.  


Alone in the kitchen, he went back at her, kissing her deeply.  He whispered, "I miss you," when Sam made his presence known again.  


"Oh, boy, mushy stuff."  Sam said.


***


"Y'ar acting sort of crazy, Pappy.  There's nothing bad about Malcolm and Calvin.  They're just friends, they are.  Pals."  Aiden said.


"Ya don't know them all that well."  Timothy said.


"No, but I didn't know Colin, or William, or Darren.  None of them.  And they became my brothas.  Like Todd.  Same thing, I didn't know him either, and now, he's important to me.  It's been my way of life, Dad.  For years.  It's how I got by."


"I understand.  But ya have to remember why y'ar here.  Someone wanted ya dead.  Someone erased y'ar memories.  Someone killed y'ar mother."


"I know all this.  And it's working.  I've had . . . a breakthrough of sorts, Pappy."


"Tell me about this, Son."  Timothy said, momentarily forgetting his train of thought.


"I was in therapy, and I remembered something after the shooting.  A man, bringing me into a very plain room.  The room was white.  He made me sit in a straight chair for a long time, and talked to me about strange things."


"What strange things?"


"Strange ideas.  Anti-establishment sentiments, I didn't recognize them then.  Some things about needing no one but y'arself, and, of course, needing them."


"Them, Laddy?"


"The Men of 21.  But I didn't know that's what they were.  Just as we were getting closer to more information, my head started to pain.  They think part of it is related to the emotions."


"Which means Todd may have been right."


"Yes, that is what I believe, now."


"The scar tissue, still must have an effect?"


"It must be removed.  But they want to work this way a bit longer."


"Well, then we do whatever they believe.  Anything to help ya or save ya, my Son."


"I wanted to call Todd, and see if he had any insight.  I remember another thing, it may be small."


"What is it, Lad?"


"I was always wearing all white.  It was . . . odd, but I remember it."


"Maybe we can call him tomorrow.  At this point, it's dinner time there now, and they have the new babby."


"That's true.  I'm heartily grateful that my brotha has that wife and that babby, and the other children.  After all he's been through, he surely deserves some kind of happiness."


"We all do, Son.  Ya do as well."


***


After cleaning up the cooking items and finishing roasting the last few marshmallows for the boys, Todd and Blair got the kitchen cleaned up and got ready to go to camp.  "What shall we do, kids?"  He asked.


Jack and Sam were in the tent already, and Jack had an affinity for Jewel, so she was near him most of the time.  Ray was running in circles around the tent, and Todd scooped him up and said, "Okay Road Runner, time for bed."


His face became very sad, and he said, "No bed, Daddy.  Play."

"No, Buddy, time to rest."  He put the little boy over his shoulder, and as usual, Ray wound up at high speed before crashing.  Before Todd got to the top of the stairs, he was already drowsing in Todd's arms. He put the little boy in his crib, and touched his soft, light hair.  "Love you, Guy."


When he returned to the lower level, Sam and Jack were playing cards inside the tent and Blair was in the kitchen, nursing.  He stood watching her a moment, before walking over and lightly touching her back.  "Hey," he said.


"Hey.  She's still taking just a little.  I wonder if it's just because of her size?"


"Call the doctor tomorrow and ask.  But her stomach can't be all that big if she fits in my hand, Blair."


"That's true.  But she has no trouble doing it, that's for sure."


"Maybe she just knows when she's full."


"Probably," she said, putting herself back together and putting Jewel into her arm to pat her back and burp her.  After her little gas bubble, she placed her back into the basket, and said, "Your mother did a great job with this.  It;s very sturdy, and she was right.  Perfect fit."


"Yep," he said, and his face showed a slight bit of sadness.  "I'm going to see her tomorrow."


"All right."  


"Blair, I miss you, so much."  He touched her face.


Within moments, Jack came around the corner.  "Hey Mom, Dad?"


"Yeah, Jack?"  Todd said.


"Do you think me and Sam could just sort of go it alone?  I mean, we hardly ever get the chance to camp out in the living room without Ray."  He smiled.


"Well, what do you think, Mommy?"  Todd said, smirking.


"If that's what you want, Jack."


"Can Jewel stay?"


"I thought you and Sam wanted to go it alone?"  Blair asked, raising an eyebrow.


"Well, we don't mind her.  She's not running circles around us all day.  She's cool."


She looked at Todd, who had folded his arms and had a large grin.


"I guess she can stay.  She's going to sleep, for about four hours.  Then she'll want to eat again."


"Well, by four hours, I can bring her upstairs and just put her in your room, right?"


Todd shrugged.  Blair said, "Sure, okay.  But if she wakes up and acts upset, just text us.  I guess Daddy and I will go and camp out," she said, looking at Todd and smiling.  He caught her hand next to her hip and held it.


"No problem," he said, taking the basket by the handle with one hand under it.  He walked off, and they saw him bring Jewel into the tent.  They had television playing, and immediately, they heard the sounds of soft giggles, as well as the card game continuing.


Todd said, "Come here."


She walked toward him in the dim light of the kitchen.  He ran his hands up her hips, until they landed in her hair on both sides of her face, and he kissed her.  She said, "You know what that reminds me of?"


"No, what does it remind you of," he said, putting an arm around her waist as they started walking toward the stairs.  


She said, "A certain premier of a really cruddy movie."


"Oh, yeah, I think I remember that day.  Something about David Vickers, wasn't it?"


"Mm hmm.  It was.  And someone showed up there, for the first time, and then kissed me, sort of like that."


They ascended the stairs.  "I don't know how I contained myself that night.  I just wanted to be with you, so much."


"I could tell, by that kiss.  It was . . . one of the most beautiful moments of my life.  And believe me, there are a lot of beautiful moments that I can remember, Todd."  They had reached the landing.


"Me too, Babe," he said.  He kissed her nose.  "I just want to hold you and touch you."


"You can, I'm right here."


He scooped her into his arms, and kissed her, again.  He brought her into the bedroom and put her gently on the bed.


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

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Failings of the Fathers: 31

"Come on, Dad," Sam started to pull Todd's arm.  It was Sunday morning, and from the position of the sun in the sky, Todd knew it was an ungodly hour.

"Sam, what's up, what's the matter?"  he was barely awake.


"You said guy stuff.  Remember?"


"That's Saturday mornings, Sam.  It's Sunday," he whispered, trying not to wake Blair.


"But you promised."


Todd stopped, and opened his eyes.  "Yeah, I did kind of promise.  That was because I meant to, yesterday, but then things went a different way."


"I guess," he was disappointed.


Todd remedied the situation, "But that's not to say that it can't be today, just this once."


Sam smiled, and Todd got out of bed, lifting the boy over his shoulder.  He swung him around, pretending to look for his pants.  "Now, where did I put those?  Hmm, I wonder."


Sam giggled and hung over Todd's shoulder.  "They're on you."


"On me?  Oh, yeah, I guess they are," he said, bringing him out to the hall and toward the stairs.


Blair, who had been watching quietly, smiled to herself.  She loved watching Todd with his kids, and always had.  She turned over, and checked on her littlest one.  She was sleeping, soundly, her little back rising and falling with short, baby breaths.  


What can be better than this?  


She turned and thought over the last few days.  It had been rough, but it seemed to be smoother sailing ahead.  Todd was in a very good place, better than she had seen him since his return.  The kids were all healthy and happy.  She had her new baby girl, and the world was right.  And Bitsy, even with her problems, was at least in a place where she could get help.  She closed her eyes again, relishing the quiet and the extra bit of rest she could get.  It would be feeding time in an hour or so. 


"Mommy, up!"  A little voice said from next to the bed.  "Mommy, play."


She kept her eyes closed.  "No, Ray.  Not right now.  Mommy's tired."


"Mommy up!"  he insisted.


Todd appeared in the doorway, "Hey, Little Man, you gotta come hang with us men.  It's guy stuff this morning."  He hoisted his youngest son and leaned down and kissed her.


She said, "I love this, Todd, thank you.  I'm a little tired from everything."


"You worked hard a few days back there pushing this little one out into the world.  Let me get The Road Runner out of your hair for a bit.  Love you," he called to her, going back down stairs.


She closed her eyes again.


In the kitchen, Todd was cooking pancakes for the boys.  Ray, in his high chair, was banging with his spoon.  Todd did what he saw Bitsy do, and Ray stopped.  "Okay, guys, how many?"


"I'll have like four or five, Dad," Jack said.


"Okay.  Sam?"


"Two."


"Ray?"


"Panacake."


"All right, that solves that."  Within a few minutes, he had a platter of pancakes ready, and had heated microwave bacon as well.  The boys ate with their father, and the conversation went from casual things about school to Jack's girlfriend.  The conversation lulled, and Sam said, "Dad?  What happened to Grandma Bitsy?"


Ray said, "Gamma, Gamma Bitty."


Todd swallowed his bite of food, and then said, "She's getting some help.  She's living where Sister Rebecca Katherine lives.  And she's getting to spend time with Ray Martino.  Remember him?"


"Yeah.  He talked to me about you getting cut up.  I remember,"  Sam said.


Todd grimaced a little.  It didn't seem right that Sam had these kinds of things to be concerned with.  Ray was right.  It was going to affect him, and his mother needed care he couldn't give.  He said, "Well, she's there.  She has all her sketch pads and pencils.  She will get well."


"Like Grandma Addie?"


"Yes, sort of like that."


Jack watched as his father expertly fielded questions from his brother, but this time, he was not worried about his father.  His father seemed lighter, smiled more.  The dark circles were almost faded under his eyes. He seemed - and Jack was almost afraid to think it - happy.


"Will I see her again?"  Sam asked.


"Of course.  Soon."


Jack knew the word "soon" was relative.  But Sam seemed to accept it, and went back to his breakfast.  Jack said, "So, what guy stuff are we doing?"


"I'm still thinking about that," Todd said.


"Play?  Play, Daddy?"  Ray said.


"Eat your pancake, Ray."


Ray had pancake in between his fingers and was trying to get it out with his tongue.  Jack reached over without thinking much and cleaned his hands with some paper towels.  Todd watched him.  "Got that down, don't you?"


"I guess," Jack said, tossing the paper toweling into the trashcan.  He made it in, without fail.  


"What if we go into town and go to the arcade?"  Todd said.


"What's Ray going to do in there?"  Jack asked.


"Oh, right.  Chuck E Cheese?"  Todd asked.


"Dad, really?"


"Oh, okay."


"We should stay here and built a fort in the family room and make the fire, and then we can cook all our food in the fireplace and camp out and watch shows and play around inside the tent."  Sam said.


Todd gave Sam the side-eye.  "I like that one.  Jack?"


"Yeah I like that.  We can cook hotdogs on sticks."


"We can go out into the woods and get the sticks first," Todd said.  "We can hike."


"Yeah!"  Sam said, excitedly.


"Let's get dressed, then," Jack said, almost unable to hide his excitement.  


Todd said, "You're not really complaining."


"Why should I complain, it's Guy Stuff Day?" he said, clearing his plate and Sam's.


***


"Let me have a try, at least," the nun said, standing outside Bea's door.  The room she had this time was not quite as expansive and beautiful as the first, but it was somehow warmer.  The view was still lovely, and the nurses had parked Bea's desk and chair looking out.  She sat, slumped down, staring straight ahead.  She made no motion to move or acknowledge the clergywoman on her way in.  Sister Rebecca Katherine covered Bea's hand with her own and said, "Hello, Bea.  It's been a while since I've seen ya."


Bea did not move.  She did not blink.  She seemed to be off somewhere beyond the lake in her mind.


"I came to see ya right away.  So glad that y'ar back, so we can spend time together, like we did at St. Anne's.  Remember?"


Again, nothing.


The nun pulled up a chair and sat beside her.  "I know y'ar afraid.  Whatever it is, it will be all right.  Ya don't have to hide from us, we will help ya.  When y'ar ready, ya just ask and we will help."


Bea didn't move, and the nun gently squeezed her hand to see if she would get a response and didn't.  


She said, "I'm leaving your pad right here, and a pen.  If ya need us, just write something to the nurse.  I live right upstairs from ya, almost the same room up one level."  She wrote on the pad, "654."


She looked into Bea's eyes, and nothing in them showed any recognition.  She welled up with tears and said, "Dear Bea.  Such a lovely woman and a dear person.  I'll be here for ya when ya need me."


She exited the room.


***


Todd had Ray sitting on his shoulders.  Ray took fistfuls of Todd's hair as a way to hold on.  At times, Todd would wince at the hair pulls, but in general, the little hands just held on as not to topple off.  Sam, for some reason, was smacking Todd's back end with sticks.  He said, "Um, you sure you want to put our cooking sticks near my butt?"


"Eeew," Jack said, and Sam continued.  


"This is an extra one," he said, still smacking Todd with it.


"You know what happens to little boys who beat their fathers?"


"No!"  Sam said, smiling and still slapping away.


"This," he said, leaning Ray toward Jack, who took him, and tackling Sam and tossing him around like a big ball.


Ray said, "Me, too!"  Jack dumped Ray on top of Todd as well, and both little boys started trying to beat him up, while he manhandled them gently, ticking and tossing them.  Jack stood watching with his arms folded, smiling.


Sam was laughing very loudly, so much so it carried up to the slightly open skylight where Blair was nursing Jewel, and she could hear Ray and his happy screeches.  She'd opened the window for a little fresh air, because it was one of the warmest winter days of the season.  She could hear them, laughing and playing in the yard.  Jewel finished nursing and fell sleep against Blair's breast, and she gently covered her daughter and put her down.  Removing her nightie, she decided to get dressed and at least act like she was doing more than lounging.


The men came inside on the lower level, and Todd started to whittle the tips of the sticks to points.  He cleaned them off carefully, and defrosted some hot dogs.  He went to the cabinet to retrieve marshmallows, and there were none.  He told Williams to bring the car around, and he said, "We're going into town for supplies, men."


"Cool!" Sam said.  


"And, I think I'm going to see if your mother wants a break."  Todd said.


"From what?"  Jack asked, puzzled.


"Well, from things that, well from the things that, well, from things."


"She's not doing much," Jack said.


"I heard that," Blair said, coming down the stairs.


"Oh no, now you've gone and done it.  You woke the sleeping Amazon Woman!"  Todd said.  "No please, don't hurt me!"


She slapped him on the shoulder and said, "I am sort of bored."


"Then come with us!"  Sam said.


"Should I?"  Blair looked at all of her boys.


"Yeah!"  Sam answered.


"Mommy, Mommy!" Ray said.


"Can we invite Mommy and Jewel to the camp out, please Dad?"  Sam said.


"Well, part of guy stuff is girls, so sure," he winked at her.


Blair was a little nervous bundling up Jewel when she was only four days old, but she did it, and put her into her carrier against her chest.  Todd said, "Uh, huh.  I get that, you get her all the time," and took the harness off his wife and put it on himself.  "Sheesh, feels like I'm wearing a scarf."


"She's very tiny," Blair agreed and slipped her arm in his.


The Mannings all traipsed out of the house into the car and had Williams drive them into town.  The baby slept soundly against her father, but he had to move her to the car seat.  He couldn't help but put his hand on her little head every once in a while.  He looked around him, at his family, and then said, "Hey, Williams, hit Dick's Sporting Goods, will ya?  I have an idea."


Blair smiled and then rolled her eyes, "Todd Manning, I'm really not sure what to expect."


"Expect the unexpected," he said, looking down at his new daughter as she yawned softly.


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

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Failings of the Fathers: 30

Blair ran, cradling Jewel, to the bedroom, calling Todd's name.  By the time she got there, it was too late.  Todd had taken off into the skies, with Bitsy, and an important fact had been left behind.  "Oh damn," she said aloud, and placed Jewel gently into her basket.  "I'll text him.  He won't get it for a while, but at least he'll hopefully see it before he sees Ray."

She unlocked her screen and texted her husband the information, and sent the message.  When she looked up, Jack was at the door to her room.  "Dad gone?"


"Yep.  He'll be back in about two hours or so."


"Mom, I want to talk to you."  Jack said, plopping down on the edge of the bed.


"Sure, what's up?  You know you always can."


"I'm worried about Dad and Grandma."


"I know, I am, too, especially Bitsy."


"Dad, first.  Why the Hell did he go to Chicago, Mom?"


"Jack, it's all right.  It actually helped your father.  He wanted to see for himself that Peter was really dead."


"Grandma's dreams.  Dad was worried about them."


"Yes, he was.  And he had his own about it.  He wanted to make sure.  He was worried what might happen if Peter was alive.  There's a little more to it, but, he's finally put it to rest.  And it's good, I think."


"He looked sort of bad, when he got back."


"He was tired, Jack.  And it was emotional for him.  But he's all right.  This thing with Grandma Bitsy, though, is very, very hard."


"Yeah, well, she's cracked, Mom.  Seriously.  Those dreams and those drawings?  I mean, Sam's around that, and he's a little kid."


"That's true.  I don't think she'd hurt us, though."


"No, but he was real upset about her last night.  He really was.  It took a lot of ice cream with extra chocolate sauce to make him stop blubbering."


She smiled, "You're so sweet to care about your brother.  We know, and we're working on it.  Your father just took her to an appointment.  Ray will help."


"Mom, I just want things to be normal.  I know that word doesn't always fit us, but I really want it to stop.  We need a break.  Especially Dad."


She nodded, turning her attention to the baby a moment.  


"And Mom?"


"Yeah, Jack?"


"You made a beautiful thing.  Jewel's so great."


"Thank you, Jack.  I made a few beautiful things, and you are one of them, Young Man," she kissed his cheek.


"Okay.  I just wanted to say something about it.  I gotta go do my homework."  He got up and left the room.  Blair checked her phone to assure that the text message went through, and leaned back for a short nap.


***


After delivering his mother to Ray's office, in which she entered, all smiles, Todd checked his phone.  He read the message from Blair, and leaned into the wall.  "Momma," he said aloud, and then walked to the lobby.  He found an empty bench and sat, staring at his phone.  "The sparrows.  Hmf.  She can't take living.  And he did all this."


He flicked through his phone pictures, and looked at his family, and one frame was Jewel in his mother's arms.  Bitsy looked so happy and innocent.  Childlike in her expressions, she was in awe of the baby in the photo.  His eyes blurred.


In a few minutes, he spied Ray, walking toward him, without his mother.  He had the sketch pad under his arm.  Todd swallowed, knowing it was unusual for Ray to be coming to find him, and the hour was not up.  He said, "Okay, it's bad, right?"


Ray sat next to him and sighed, "Todd, I . . ."


"She wants the sparrows.  She drew it.  I found a text from Blair about it after you guys started.  I decided to wait and tell you after."


"Todd, I can't advise you to take her out of here.  She's not in a good place.  I'm sorry, but she's not based in reality right now.  That could be a detriment to your children."


"She'd never hurt my family.  Or me," he teared up.


"I am not suggesting that.  Just the mere presence of her, not in her right mind, Todd.  It's an influence. It's upsetting.  Sam is at the age . . ."


He flashed on Sam, the evening before, red-eyed and eating his sundae.  "I know," he interrupted.


"She's becoming a danger to herself.  You can't allow your children to see that.  I know you love her, and want her well, but she has to be taken care of, Todd.  I feel partially responsible for being so certain that science said she was ready."


"Where is she, Ray?"  he said, with tears brimming in his eyes.


Ray put a hand on his shoulder.  "She's . . . I had her brought to a room.  She's catatonic, Todd.  She's inside herself.  Medication did not bring her out.  It was almost immediately upon the session starting.  With these things she's dealing with, she just can't."


Todd squeezed his eyes, to push back emotion.  "She can.  She taught me how to go inside, I showed her how to fight it."


"Todd, she's not you."  Ray sat down next to him.  "She's not, and you have to understand that."


"What's so great about being me, Ray?  You act like it's a golden opportunity or something?"


"
Simple.  You're strong.  And your mother, she just can't.  You have to be able to accept that she's not as strong as you are.  And that maybe what she has gone through is too much for her.  She can't fight it.  You did, you could.  She can't.  Right now, she's safer inside herself.  You have to believe that, and let her get the help she needs."

He sighed, raggedly, "I can't let her go.  She's my family, Ray.  She's . . . the only mother I knew."


"She'll be back with you, Todd.  She will.  Just not right now.  I'm sorry," he said, and got up and walked off.


Todd found himself outside the doors before he even realized what was happening.  He'd pushed through them, and knocked into at least one orderly on the way.  Now, he made his way across the yard to where the copter was parked, and jumped, almost effortlessly, into the driver's seat.  In almost one motion, he put his pilot's earphones on, fastened his belt, and hit his hands onto the steering gear with a loud thump, which he repeated four or five times, increasing in intensity, each after the other.  After the last pound, that sent shattering pain through his wrists, he broke down, his head resting on the equipment.


***


"Mom!" Starr said, running to her, and Hope was behind, dragging a doll across the floor.


"Starr!" Blair said, getting up off the couch in her bedroom sitting area.  


They embraced, and Starr said, "Where is she?"


"She's right here," Blair said, pointing to the little basket that was on the coffee table.  


"Oh my God!" Starr exclaimed, so moved that she covered her mouth and sniffled.  "She's so tiny!"


"She's the smallest baby I ever had.  Even smaller than you were."


"She's precious, Mom.  Oh my God, Dad must love her so much."


"He does.  You know, he delivered her, right?"


"Tell me more about that.  I mean, he's done it before."  Starr said, and both of them sat in the sitting area.


Hope said, "Gramma, where's Ray?"


Blair answered, "He's sleeping honey."


"What about Sam?"


"He's in his room, playing.  Go ahead if you want."


Hope took a last look at the baby and went on her way.  Starr said, "Mom, she's gorgeous.  So, what happened?"


"Your father saved us.  She was breech.  He called Dorian and turned her.  It was . . . emotional for both of us.  And there she was, all of four pounds."


"She's perfect.  Can I hold her?"


"Sure.  She's not the type who minds, at all.  Go ahead."


"I can't believe how small she is!  Mom, she's just beautiful.  I can't stop looking at her."


"You sound like your father."


"Well, you know, I am his little girl."


"Yes, I know.  You've always loved him so much.  And he, you.  I'm amazed at what a father he's been to you, when he could be, considering everything."


"I never really doubted him.  He's had reasons, even if I didn't agree, for doing some of his crazy things.  He's just Dad."  She patted the baby gently.  "She feels like a little bag of sugar!"


"She does, doesn't she?  Uh, I think I hear your Dad and Bitsy coming," Blair said, going to the glass and looking up.  "Yep, there's the copter.  He really ought to name it."


"He nicknames everything else."


"He does, doesn't he?"  Blair said.


"You get the best one.  OTB.  We all know that one."


"Well, that's your father."


The copter parked, and they continued to talk.  Finally, Starr said, "Mom, he's taking a really long time."


"Yeah, you know, he is.  Let me go and see what's up."  She opened the glass panels, without her coat, and just rubbed her arms as she walked to the door of the copter.  He was sitting in it, and she could barely see him through the copter windows.  She knocked on it.  "Todd?  Come on, what's up?  Come inside, it's cold out here."


He didn't respond, so she went to the other side door and opened it, getting in.  She shut it, and joyfully said, "Hey, what are you doing out here, Starr's inside, and . . . where's Momma?"


He took off his earphones and finally made eye contact with her, his eyes red-rimmed and his face flushed.  She said, "Oh my God, Todd, what happened?" and her hand found its way to his face.  She thumbed his scar, as she had so many times.


"She . . . she had a breakdown, Blair.  She had to stay."


She leaned across and held him, and he closed his eyes in her embrace.  She whispered, "I'm sorry, Todd.  I'm so sorry."


"He did all this to her.  She's just not right, and it's because of that bastard."


His sadness moved into her like an exchange of air - unplanned, simple and instantaneous.  She remained strong and held onto him, and felt him clinging to her.  She said, "That's not permanent.  She'll be back with us.  She needs help, and you know that."


He pulled back from her.  "Yeah, yeah I know."


"It's okay.  She needs this.  You can go see her every day.  Right now, there are three girls that want to see you inside, not to mention, three boys."


"Peanut's here?" he said, wiping his nose with his glove.  She could see the sadness fading from his face.


"Yep, she is, and we're definitely going to have to wash that," she eyed his glove.


He half laughed, took the gloves off, and then touched her face.  "I couldn't do all this . . . you know . . . if you . . . left me or something.  Which would have been so much easier for you to do.  Probably should have.  Years ago."


"No, that would never be easier.  Ever.  Now let's go in and see your kids and your granddaughter.  Starr is really wanting to see you, and Hope, too.  They love you, Todd."


"And all of them have one thing in common."


"What's that?" she whispered, still playing with his hair.


"You gave them to me.  You give me everything, Blair.  That's why I want to give you everything back."


She moved forward and kissed him, gently.


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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Todd's Saga 29: Revelations

Dorian sat in the chair across from her patients, mulling over everything Todd had told her before falling asleep.  She had been stunned as the story had unfolded. It had been a shock to find out Blair had been targeted by the Organization.  It all seemed so unbelievable- a secret organization operating in Llanview, and Clint being drugged and kidnapped right from under the LPD’s noses.  The hardest pill to swallow was hearing that Carl Peterson was behind it all.


She got up and wandered over to the window. It was getting close to noon and the neighborhood where the mansion sat was bustling with activity.  She looked back to the bed at the man she had hated for a long time.  “You’re an old fool, Dorian.  You let your hatred for his father color your opinion of him for a long time.  He loves Blair and you know she loves him.  It’s time to give him a break.  Admit it, you’ve been jealous all these years because what they have is something you’ve never gotten.”  She heard movement behind her and found Viki standing there.


Viki looked at her briefly and then moved to the bed.  “Are they alright?  Is Victor going to live?”


Dorian stared at Viki for a moment.  “You heard what I said, didn’t you?”  Why aren’t you gloating.”


Viki sat down in the chair and picked up the damp cloth off the nightstand and proceeded to wipe off Victor’s face.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about Dorian.” Viki  reached to move some hair off Victor’s face, letting her fingers come in contact with his skin briefly. She looked over at Dorian.  “Victor’s awfully warm don’t you think?”  


Dorian moved closer and checked on him.  She then lifted the edge of the bandage on his chest. “Damn, the wound is infected. I’m going to have to reopen it and clean it out.  I can’t believe you didn’t call for help, Viki?”


“You know why we didn’t.  Are you going to report this, now that you know the whole story?“ Viki continued to cool off her brother.


From the other side of Victor, Todd asked. “Yes, Dorian, did you make a decision?”


Dorian glanced at him and back to Viki. “I’ll keep quiet, but on one condition.  If you’re going after Carl, I want to help.  I’m tired of being made a fool of.  First the senior senators, now Carl, enough is enough.”


Todd started to get off the bed and almost ended up flat on the floor.  He gripped the edge of the bed until the room stopped spinning.  “Whoa. Hey, how much blood did you take, you vampire?”


“Todd!” Viki exclaimed.


Dorian smiled, “Well I thought about draining you, but you left a foul taste in my mouth,” she emphasized her words and overdid the smiling.


Todd laughed “Good One.”  He stood up slowly.  “I’m starved.  Viki, what’s for lunch?”


Viki shook her head. “You two might want to learn to play nice together, if we’re going to go to war.”  She gestured to her brother.  “You, just sit back down.  I’ll get both of you some lunch and then we all need to figure out our next move.”  


Todd slumped in the chair watching Dorian go to work on Victor.  “If he needs any antibiotics one of Sam’s men can go get it.  I… Dorian, thanks.”


“If you want to thank me, get over here and help.  Did it occur to you to clean his wounds before you stitched him up?”


Todd got up and moved around the bed. “I’m not an idiot.  I remember what you had Blair do to clean and stitch my wound and if you remember, I still got sick.  Besides, Victor was in the same place as Clint.  Sure he was working for the Organization when I found Clint, but before that he was getting the same treatment.  You saw Clint.  He’s still recovering.  I’m betting Victor probably still has some drugs left in his system, too.  Maybe they’re part of the problem, I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.  I’m here, what do you need?”


Dorian sighed. “Look, just get ready to apply pressure if he starts bleeding excessively.”  She handed Todd several gauze pads and began opening the wound.


Todd watched as Dorian efficiently worked.  The wound was red and angry and when Dorian opened it, Todd’s stomach objected a little.  He blinked, swallowed hard and got back to the business of helping his wife’s aunt.  He was suddenly grateful he still hadn’t eaten.  Dorian was covering the wound back up, when Viki and Clint entered the room with trays.  She excused herself and went to wash her hands.  Todd took the tray from Viki and set it on the nightstand and turned back to his sister.  “Tell me you got some sleep.”


Viki nodded.  “Ms. Vance and Clint insisted.  They assured me they would wake me if anything bad occurred.”


Todd turned to Clint.  “Thanks.  What about you, Clint?   I know what you’re thinking.  You think the Organization still has a hold on you.  Don’t go there.  I think they were still working on you because you weren’t falling into line as quickly as they would have liked.  You’re a tough old coot.  Asa would be proud.  And Victor, well, in a way he deserved this,  like Viki said.  He had all day to work on you.  We’re lucky you held out as long as you did.”


Clint ran a hand through his hair.  “I’m not as strong as I thought I was.  The thought that I almost let Victor get you, and take me back to that place, scares the shit out of me.”


“Forget it.  Believe me I understand.”  Todd knew what bothered Clint.  He hadn’t been able to put behind his experience there either.  He let the subject drop and sat down to eat.


Dorian had walked in while Clint was talking. “Clint, I think you should let me check you out too.“


“No way Dorian.  I’ve had all the probing and prodding I can stand.  Todd thinks the drugs will get out of my system and I’m willing to wait.  I just guess I won’t be doing anymore babysitting.”


Dorian nodded and took the tray Clint had been holding and sat down to eat.  She suddenly realized she was famished.


****


After lunch, Viki went to the kitchen to clean up and Clint offered to help.  Todd left Victor in Dorian’s care and went looking for Sam Vance.  He found her in the library with a number of papers surrounding her.  “What’s all this?”  


“This is what you ordered me to get you yesterday morning.  One of my operatives faxed it to your office this morning and Philippa brought it over.  Don’t worry, I told her you caught a bug while out of  town and called me over to talk.   She said to tell you she would hold down the fort.”


Todd sat down and picked up one of the sheets. “All of these are people from old money or the exceedingly wealthy who have ties to Asa, my father Victor, and Carl?”


“Yes, there are a few other rather influential men included in here.  There are couple of Senators, and you won’t believe it, but the under-secretary to the Chief of Staff too.   They all seem to be linked together in one fashion or another to Carl Peterson.”


“Interesting.  One of those senators wouldn’t be the senior senator of Pennsylvania, by any chance?”


“Yes, how did you know?” Sam looked up in surprise.


“Just a hunch.  Let me see the files on the senators.  If I’m right, I think Dorian will have more than Carl Peterson to go after.”  Todd took the files and wandered over to a tray of fruit and juice Viki had set out for everyone.  Grabbing an apple, he made his way back to a chair by the window and dropped down into it and began reading.  As he suspected, the two senators, who had used Dorian as their scapegoat, were close friends of Carl Peterson.  Todd looked up from his reading.  “Sam, did your men get anything on the location I gave them for the drugs sent out from the compound?”


Sam put down the paper she was reading and answered.“Only that it’s a warehouse in downtown Washington DC.  Why?”


“We need to get some of that drug.  After the last few days, I’m guessing access to the compound here in Louisiana will no longer be an option.  If I know Alison, she’s probably got the place sealed shut.  The only ones getting in and out of there will be people she knows she can trust.”


Sam could no longer contain her curiosity.  “I know I shouldn’t be surprised at how you were able to get Clint and Victor out of that place but tell me, what possessed you to go in alone? “


Todd smiled. “I went in because I had a gut feeling my inside man might be double dealing.  I was right.  Once I found out I couldn’t trust him, I knew I had to try and get Clint and Victor out on my own.  The night I tagged the drugs, I also helped a friend leave the compound.  To keep my friend from being tracked down by the organization, I staged  an incident that brought the police to the front door of the compound the next day and gave me the diversion I needed to enter.  The rest you know.”


Sam was impressed.  “So what happened to your inside man?”


“He’s gone.  He had an opportunity to disappear and took it.  The funny thing about that is Alison still has no idea he skipped on them.  But like I said, she knows Clint and Victor are out here now and she’s going to be looking for them, more than likely expecting them to head for Llanview.  I need to keep it that way.”


He got back up and walked to get some coffee.  He took a sip, images,of barely being able to get a breath and Viki standing next to him telling him how she got Victor to stop from killing him, flashed through his memory.  He turned back to Sam.  “Victor talked to Tea last night, but I think Tea probably is smart enough to keep her conversation with him a secret.  The fact that we had no visitors from the organization last night tells me they still don’t have any idea I’m here.  Until Victor wakes up, I have no idea where his mind is now.  Ever since I brought him out of the compound he’s done nothing but want to go back there.  He was trying to escape and do just that last night.  I’m hoping when he does wake up, he’ll remember he talked to Tea and maybe begin to believe what Clint and I’ve been trying to tell him.”


“So you think he’s going to live then?”


“Hell yes!  There’s just something about us Lords, we hate to die.”


****


Victor came awake slowly. He cracked his eyes open just enough to see he was still in Todd’s house.  The last thing he remembered was talking to his wife.. “Tea!” He started to get up and felt intense pain radiating through his upper body and collapsed back on the bed with a groan.  


“Easy, Victor.” Dorian put a hand on the uninjured shoulder trying to make sure her patient remained still.  She looked into his surprised eyes. “Yes it’s me.  Your scoundrel of a brother got me down here under false pretenses.  He said he promised to bring you back to Tea alive.  Although for the life of me, I don’t see what she and Blair see in you two.”  She put a glass with water to his lips. “Here, drink.  We need to get some fluids into you.  You lost a lot of blood.  Of course, that’s why I’m here, Todd donated some of his blood to you to keep you alive but he needed my assistance to do it.”


Victor was lost in thought after hearing Tea’s name from Dorian.  All he could think of was hearing Tea’s voice and now another person was telling him she was alive and well.   Dorian’s insistence that he drink, brought him out of his revery.  As he took a sip of the water he caught the tail end of her statement.   “Todd did what?”  He couldn’t have heard her right.  He had just tried for the second time to strangle his brother.  “No way, I don’t believe it, the guy wants me dead.”


“Yes, well I’ve never understood what motivates Todd.  All I know is that you have two pints of his blood in you.  I’m glad you’re awake.  Care to tell me your side of this story?”


Victor looked at her warily, then dropped his eyes and touched his bandages. He struggled to clear his muddled thoughts and  he kept trying to wrap his head around the fact that Todd saved him.  Everything was mixed up.  The  brother he had tried to kill had once again surprised him.  Just what had Todd and Viki told Dorian?


He took a deep breath.  He knew he could spin a tale, but he couldn’t shake the fact that Todd had kept him alive.  He hadn’t imagined talking to Tea.  He clearly remembered the conversation and even Dorian acted like Tea was fine.  If Tea is alive, Todd was right.  They lied to you. Alison, all of them, they lied to you, and Todd’s been telling the truth. You’re an idiot.  Don’t complicate this.  If Todd is on the level then you need to hear him out.  Don’t give her anything she can use against  him.  His eyes met Dorian’s and he sarcastically replied. “Really Dorian, I’m disappointed.  You used to be so sharp.  Isn’t it obvious?  I got shot, end of story.”


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