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Travel Tuesday: Kinzua

So, this is a feature I don’t usually have on here. That would mostly be because we don’t do a whole lot of traveling. And even this wasn’t too far. About an hour and a half drive away. So, it was a nice day trip.

Sunday we went with a couple friends to the Kinzua Bridge State Park, located in McKean County, PA. There used to be a railroad bridge there, stretching over the Kinzua gorge. It was originally built in the 1880s, made of iron. They replaced it with steel in the early 1900s, though. In 2003, a tornado went through and took down 11 of the towers. A skywalk was built on 6 of the remaining(now restored) towers. You can walk to the end of it(600 feet out…was originally over 2000 feet long) and look out over the gorge.

The boy was giving us a lesson on bridge construction..."and these are what keep the bridge up"

The boy was giving us a lesson on bridge construction…”and these are what keep the bridge up”

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Long way down

Long way down

some of the wreckage from the tornado(or "the damage" as the boy said)

some of the wreckage from the tornado(or “the damage” as the boy said)

old train tracks

old train tracks

 

The skywalk

The skywalk

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Checking out the museum

Checking out the museum

After we walked across the skywalk and came back, we decided to take the trail to the bottom of the gorge. Uh, yeah. Nearly 300 feet down. On very steep paths. Almost fell quite a few times. Then, we had to come back up those hills(which actually was slightly easier, at least for me even with my knees).

view from the bottom up

view from the bottom up

Closer up of the wreckage

Closer up of the wreckage

Once we finished the walk back up the trail, we went to the lake and had lunch and let the kids swim for a little bit. Then, we drove a little farther to the dam to check it out. Then, we came home. Left at seven in the morning(with a stop for breakfast) and were home just in time to get a fire started out in the yard for dinner. All in all a pretty perfect day trip.

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A-Z Challenge: Z is for Zachariah Sarrano

Z

Tissue Warning: Apparently I’m going to end on a sad note. I had to fight tears a couple times while writing this one, so you’re warned.

“Hey, Boss!”

Zachariah Sarrano glanced down from his position on the roof at the shouted words. One of his men held his thumb and pinky beside his head. Damn phone. He didn’t want to talk to anyone until they were done putting on this roof. “Take a message,” he shouted back.

“Sounded important.”

He didn’t bother cursing again. Just part of being the boss. He hoped to pass that responsibility off to his sons as soon as they could join him full-time. They already worked for him during summer vacations, but he certainly wouldn’t let them up here until they had more training. He thought Gabriel would handle the office work well, or at least better than Chris. That wasn’t saying much, though. His second son was practically a copy of himself.

He made his way across the roof and down the ladder then unhooked his harness. None of them worked on the roof without one. He made sure of it. “Who is it?” he asked Matt as they started toward the trailer that served as a temporary office when they were on a job site.

Irritation shifted to worry when Matt didn’t answer him. Zachariah looked over at him, but Matt wouldn’t meet his gaze. “I think you’d better just take the call, boss.”

Yeah, there was nothing good about this.

He stepped into the trailer and yanked up the receiver Matt had laid on the desk. “Sarrano Construction.”

“Is this Zachariah Sarrano?”

“Yeah. What is this about?”

“There’s been an accident.”

***

This could not be happening. It just could not. He hadn’t been given any details over the phone. Just that Marleen and Lyndsey had been taken to the hospital after being pulled out of the car. His hands shook, and he laid on the horn again. Where the hell were those boys?

Finally they came out of the house. Not in any hurry at all. Damn it. He’d told them to be ready when he got here.

“What the hell, Dad?” Gabriel said when he opened the front door of the truck. “I was going to go pick Brittany up in a little bit. I had to call her and cancel our date. Chris rushed back from Doren’s. What was so damn important?”

“Don’t swear at me, Gabriel,” he said, pointing a shaky finger at his older son. “I don’t care if you did just turn seventeen. Your mom and sister are in the hospital, so I don’t want to hear any of it. Just buckle up.”

Both boys fell silent at that, and Zachariah pulled away from the curb. They’d barely made it out of town before Chris asked, his voice wavering, “What happened?”

Zach’s hands shook on the wheel, and he tightened his grip, wishing that would steady him. “I don’t know. Exactly. There was an accident, and they were both taken in. That is all I know.”

Neither of the boys spoke after that, but Gabriel did put a hand over his when he set it on the gear shift. They pulled into the parking lot at the hospital, but suddenly he wasn’t sure what to do. They needed to go inside, of course, but he couldn’t make himself open the door. “Come on, Dad,” Gabriel said. “I’m sure Mom’s going to want to see you.”

That kicked him back into gear. He led the way into the hospital and up to the desk. “How can I help you?” the receptionist asked.

“My wife and daughter should have been brought in. They were in an accident.”

“Names?”

“Marleen and Lyndsey Saranno.”

She typed the names in–he had to spell Lyndsey’s as always–and he thought something passed through her eyes. But, she looked up at him again, and her face was blank. “Have a seat, Mr. Saranno. Someone will be out to talk to you.”

There was too damn much pity in her voice for that talk to be anything he wanted. “What happened to them?”

“I can’t tell you. Just go have a seat.”

But, he couldn’t sit. So, he paced. He stood at the window and stared out. He crushed a water bottle Chris had gotten him from the vending machine. When he couldn’t handle the crinkling of the plastic, he tossed it into the trash without even opening it.

“Mr. Saranno?”

He turned to look at the weary-looking man who stood only feet away from him. Something in his eyes…Zachariah’s legs nearly went out on him. “No,” he said. “Don’t tell me that. They aren’t-”

“Dad,” Gabriel said, stepping up and taking one of his arms. “He hasn’t told us anything yet. I’m sure they’re going to be fine.”

“Your daughter is going to be fine,” the doctor assured him. “She suffered a broken arm and a few other bumps and bruises, but she’ll heal.”

Zachariah’s shoulders sagged. Maybe he’d imagined it all. His mind was playing tricks on him. They were all going to walk out of here together. As a family.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Sarrano.” He looked up at the doctor, his eyes narrowing. But, he’d just said Lyndsey would be fine. Of course, Marleen would be, too. Why was he sorry?

“Your wife. She didn’t make it here.”

He almost hit the floor, but the doctor reached out and caught him. Gabriel grabbed his other side and helped him into a chair.
The doctor was saying something else, but he didn’t hear anything else. Marleen was gone. What was he supposed to do now?

***

“Dad?”

Zachariah lifted shaking hands to his face. He was sitting in his dark bedroom, not answering his son’s call. He’d done this too many times over the last couple months. He just wasn’t sure if he could handle facing them. If it wasn’t for work, he may not leave this room at all. Some days he couldn’t even manage it for that.

Gabriel wasn’t giving up this time, though. “Dad, you can’t just stay in here. Mom’s gone, but the rest of us aren’t.” He pushed the door open but thankfully didn’t switch on the light. “Lyndsey thinks you hate her because she’s the one who survived. Chris is drifting, even Doren is worried about him. I…I don’t know what to do. We need you, Dad.”

Zachariah squeezed his eyes closed even tighter. His family was breaking apart right now, and he didn’t know how to fix it. His chest ached every day, like part of him had been scooped out and thrown away.

“Where are they?” he finally asked, his voice hoarse.

“Lyndsey’s in her room, finishing her homework for tomorrow. Chris…well, he said he was going to Doren’s. But, he called me a little bit ago wondering why he never came over after church.”

Church. He hadn’t even realized it was Sunday. God, Gabriel must have been taking them, because Zachariah certainly hadn’t been doing it. Just how much had his eldest been doing for the younger two? More than was his responsibility. That was for sure.

“Call him and tell him to get back here. I’ll talk to Lyndsey. And order us some pizzas. We’re all having dinner together today.” They’d need to do more than that to keep this family together, but it would be a start at least.

Zachariah walked slowly up the stairs to his daughters room. He knocked briefly, but when she didn’t answer, he nudged the door open. “Lynds? Gabriel said you were up here.”

“Go away.” Her voice was even rougher than his and filled with tears.

It killed him. Still he was tempted to do as she asked. Most of the time he gave his children what they asked for, within reason, but he thought it would be worse to do that now. So, he pushed the door open and stepped inside. She wasn’t doing homework. She was laying on her bed, the pink of her cast laying overtop the stuffed elephant she held against her. The elephant Marleen had given her when she’d been in the hospital for meningitis a couple years earlier.

“I said to go away.”

“I’m not going to leave you, Lyndsey.”

“You don’t even want me to be here.”

He sat on the edge of her bed. “Of course, I do. I love you.”

“No, you don’t. You wish she was here. That we could have switched places.”

He’d cried at the funeral but not again since that day. Now, tears were rolling down his cheeks. “No. I mean, yes, I wish your mother was still here. I’ve loved her since I was Gabriel’s age. But, no, I don’t wish you’d died instead of her.” He moved closer to her, so he could run a hand over her hair. “I would have been heartbroken to lose you, too.”

“You won’t even look at me.”

He could hardly even look at anyone these days. “You look just like her. You know that?”

Lyndsey nodded. “That’s what everyone’s always said.”

“I haven’t handled things well. I’m sorry for that. We’re going to find our way through this, though. I had Gabriel order some pizza and go to find your other brother. We’re going to start with having dinner together.”

“He’s been doing my hair for school. Did you know that?”

“Gabriel?” He hadn’t even thought about it. Marleen had always handled that kind of stuff. It wasn’t even on his radar of wondering about.

She shook her head. “Chris. They’ve both been trying to do whatever they can to help. I know you’re sad, Dad.”

Sad didn’t even begin to cover it. But, that didn’t matter. Gabriel was right. They were still here, and he couldn’t just ignore that while he wallowed in his grief. His children still needed him, and he couldn’t let them down.

“Come on,” he said. “We’ll all eat dinner together, then I’ll see if I can help you with that homework.”

She rolled her eyes, but got up off the bed with him. “I already got it done, Dad. You don’t have to worry about that.”

Well, at least it was one thing he didn’t have to worry about it.

Note: Chris showed up in Love Who You Love, book 3 in my Kurztown series. And he told me about the family dinners his father had instituted after Chris’ mother’s death. I also just finished outlining Gabriel’s story. And even though he often comes off as the more fun-loving brother, he does step up to take responsibility when needed.

A-Z Challenge: V is for Vivienne Quincey

V

“Mom. Seriously, I will be fine. Stop worrying.”

Jamais.”

Vivienne Quincey saw her son, Piers, roll his eyes. Her only son, and now he was heading to California for basic training. About as far away from her as he could get. Okay, that was not true. She could still be in Sainte-Martine, and then he’d be in a different country. Maybe if she had raised him in Quebec more rather than following Peter to Texas and raising Piers mostly here, he wouldn’t have been so set on following his father’s footsteps right into the Marine Corps.

Oh, who was she kidding? Piers had always been a near copy of his father. There was no changing it.

“Dad, tell her I’ll be fine. We have to leave soon.”

“Viv,” Peter said, slipping his arm around her waist, “he’ll be fine. You know he will. He’s tough. He’ll get tougher.”

But, she didn’t know if she wanted to see him get tougher. She didn’t want to lose her sweet boy who always stood up for others. “Are you sure you have to go?”

“Yes, Mom,” he said with a laugh, though she could hear the aggravation in his voice. “And soon. Or I’m going to miss my bus.”

She hated to see him go. Why he’d had to join up, she didn’t know. She and Peter would have been proud of him even if he didn’t. Even if he didn’t make it through basic training, they’d love him. No matter what ever happened. “I still don’t know why you aren’t doing something with computers. You love your computers.”

“The Marines need someone to run their computers, too.” He sent her that same wide grin he always did. “And I’ll be doing more than being some IT drone in an office.”

But, at least in an office, he would be safe. She couldn’t say that, not now that he was leaving. And she knew it would just make him roll his eyes once more.

“It’s only twelve weeks,” Peter reminded her then tossed a set of keys to Piers. “Go start the car. I’ll be right out.”

Piers stopped to give her a kiss and tight hug. “I’ll be fine, Mom,” he insisted before walking out of the house.

“He will be,” her husband said when they were alone. “I know you’re scared. I know you worry every time I leave still. But, this isn’t the same. He’s going to be okay.”

“Now. And when he’s fully a Marine instead of just a recruit? I don’t want to have to bury my son.”

“You married a Marine, remember?” He pressed his mouth to the top of her head and held her close. “We don’t go down easy. Now, I really do have to go and get him there. I’ll be back in a while. I promise it will be okay.”

She just hoped he was right.

Note: I didn’t have too many characters who started with V. But, there was Piers’ mom. And if you read yesterday’s, you’ll see how far that pride and love stretched(at least at that moment. Really hoping his dad came around eventually. He hasn’t told me that yet, though).

A-Z Challenge: S is for Susan Holland

S

Susan Holland leaned back on the bleacher, her arms around one knee. Kendall was out on the field, pitching against the team from the hardware store. Her father’s team of mechanics was winning. Susan’s older brother was out there, too. She couldn’t believe he’d been in college for a year already. He’d brought a girl home this summer for a few days. Amy. She was nice, or seemed that way to Susan, at least.

Her gaze didn’t leave Kendall. She’d already struck out two of the hardware store’s players. And she was grinning at them while she did it.

Something about Kendall’s grin always had light bursting through her.

Susan shook off that thought. She seemed to be doing that a lot with thoughts lately. Particularly the ones that revolved around Kendall. It didn’t make any sense. Kendall was her best friend. Had been practically from the time they were born. Her mom had pictures of the two of them playing together when they couldn’t do more than crawl. Kendall had always been more like a sister than anything.

But, for the last several months, Susan hadn’t been thinking of her like a sister. And it was so wrong. Kendall’s mom had just died, and while she was still grieving, Susan had started having these thoughts. She didn’t mean to, but every time she gave Kendall a hug, held her while she cried, she couldn’t seem to help it. And Kendall was always touching her.

Kendall had always been like that. Even as kids, she was always holding Susan’s hand when they went somewhere, hugging, brushing their arms together. Just. Always. Touching. And then just before Kendall’s mom had died, Susan’s best friend had told her she wasn’t attracted to boys but to girls. Maybe it should have made Susan uncomfortable. But, it was Kendall. She’d never been uncomfortable around her.

Not until recently, but not because of her revelation. But, that was just silly. It was Kendall. And Susan was attracted to boys. So, it didn’t mean anything.

Kendall threw one last pitch and struck out the final batter. And Susan watched as Kendall’s dad ran from where he’d been playing as catcher and picked Kendall up in his arms. It might only be a community baseball game, but they celebrated a win as if it were more important than that.

Susan headed down the bleachers and waited by the edge of the fence. Kendall turned her head, saw her, and beamed. Then, she was jumping out of her dad’s arms and running over to Susan. “Did you see that?”

“I did,” Susan said. “You were great.”

Kendall leaned forward and pressed her lips to Susan’s cheek.

Warmth flooded through her at the touch, and she wanted to…No. This didn’t mean anything. She pulled back. “So…I thought I heard your dad say something about ice cream if you guys won.”

Kendall laughed and pulled her to where the rest of the team was gathered. It didn’t mean anything. Kendall was just her best friend. That was all.

Note: If you read any of the snippets I’ve posted from Love Who You Love, you’ve seen bits of Susan and Kendall’s story. But, here, they’re only ~16 and still figuring things out.

A-Z Challenge: R is for Rowan Portor

R

Rowan Portor leaned against the bar as the other guys around him cracked up about some joke. His own lips tipped up, but he didn’t find it quite as funny as they did. He didn’t know what his problem was tonight. He was usually more easy-going than this. And this was their one night of freedom before having to report to Curragh Camp for their advanced training. He should be having a good time, not brooding.

“You’re always brooding, páiste. His father’s words rang in his head. It wasn’t true, though. Just because he could be thoughtful didn’t mean he was always brooding.

“Stop brooding, Portor,” one of the men said, slapping him on the back. “We’re here to have fun.”

He lifted his glass of Guinness instead of responding to him. He didn’t understand this itch between his shoulder blades. He wasn’t usually like this, no matter what anyone else tried to say.

A laugh rang out from the other side of the pub, and Rowan found himself turning toward it. The woman’s head was still thrown back with that laughter. One of the other women at the table with her was wiping tears away from her face. He guessed they were of laughter, because that other laugh hadn’t sounded like one of evil intent.

As her head came back down, the laughter drifting away, her gaze clashed with his. Her face was as beautiful as her laugh. He set his glass down and moved away from the bar. “Where you going, Portor?” one of the men called after him. He didn’t respond just kept moving toward the table. He knew he shouldn’t. Should just let her have her laughs with her girl friends. But, he didn’t think he could stay away either.

Dia Duit, ladies.”

The other two women grinned at him, but the one who had been laughing didn’t take her eyes from his. He didn’t look away from her, either. “We have no idea what you just said,” one of the women told him, her voice sounding a little slurred, “but it sounded lovely.”

His lips lifted in a soft smile. He’d grown up switching between speaking Gaelic and English, and it still came natural to him. But, judging by the woman’s accent, they were definitely tourists. Or at least that one was. “Hello,” he repeated for them in English.

The woman who had been staring back at him slid over just a bit. “You can join us if you want,” she said softly, almost shyly. She had even more of a drawl to her voice than the other woman.

He did. He really did want to, so he slipped into the booth with her. “What brings you ladies to Ballyhaunis?”

Apparently something about the name of the town struck the women as funny because all three of them started snorting with laughter again.

“Sibh ólta,” he murmured with a slight shake of his head. The woman beside him raised an eyebrow at him and he gestured to the drinks sitting in front of them. “Quite drunk.”

“I could listen to him all night, even if I don’t understand him,” one of the women on the other side of the table said. “Don’t you agree, Alexandra.”

The woman beside him flushed then glanced back over at him. Her gaze dropped back to the table though without her saying a word. “What are you and those other guys doing here?” one of her friends asked.

Dul chun drabhláis,” he said with a grin. He wasn’t going to translate that one for them, though.

The waitress came over, and he ordered a round of pints for all of them. While they drank those, he found out the three of them had indeed come from America: Alexandra from Texas, the red head, Karen from Mississippi, and the brunette, Cynthia, from Georgia. They’d sat on the plane together and hit it off during the flight. From the way they acted, he would have thought they were long-time friends. But, he’d never left his family’s farm outside Bekan until he’d joined up with the Army, so he hadn’t met a lot of new people. Until he had joined up. And he’d hit it off like that with some of the other recruits.

The other women kept interjecting, but it was Alexandra he spoke to. Who kept touching him. Who he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of. And when their round was finished, he slipped out of the booth and held his hand out to her. “Can I walk you to your hotel?”

The other two women giggled and staggered out in front of him. He’d make sure they made it to their rooms as well. He noticed Alexandra didn’t stagger. And her words hadn’t been slurred. Maybe she wasn’t as drunk as the others.

She proved that pretty well when they made it to her room, slipping her fingers deftly into the belt loops of his pants and holding him in front of her. “You have to leave for Kildare in the morning?”

If she remembered one of the first things he’d told them when he’d sat down, he definitely didn’t think she was too impaired. “Yes,” he said, regretting it for the first time. She’d said they were only here for a few more days. She was traveling all over the country then jumping over to the UK and the continent. She wouldn’t be coming back here until the following June and then only to return home to Texas.

“Then, come in with me,” she said. “Please.”

“You sure, Alexandra?”

“Yes,” she said and pulled him into her room.

***

Rowan walked down the street, taking the pushes from the guys around him with practiced ease. They’d ribbed him so hard on the way to training five months ago. And it hadn’t ended there. Every time he saw a blonde woman, and he reacted like it was Alexandra. Every time he got lost in thought, remembering that one night they’d had together. Every time he let her name slip out.

He needed to get over it. It’s not like he was ever going to see her again.

So, when he did see another flash of that same shade of blonde hair, he sucked in a breath and looked the other way. He was off duty today after a trying few weeks patrolling the border. Things were bad lately with the IRA. Thankfully no one in his unit had been blown to bits. They were supposed to be back here in Athlone for a while, at least that’s what the commander said.

“Let’s grab a bite,” one of the men said, gesturing to the nearby pub. The same one that woman had gone into.

It was fine. It wasn’t her. She’d been planning to head to England in the weeks after he’d met her, touring through Wales and Scotland, too. She was probably still there. It shouldn’t make his chest ache so much to know he’d likely never see her again.

He pushed through the doors of the pub and headed for the bar with the other guys. “I thought you said a bite, not a pint,” he said when the man who had suggested coming in had the bartender draw him a pint.

“I can have some o’ the both,” he said, grinning at Rowan. Then, he looked over Rowan’s shoulder and something in his expression shifted. “Hey, isn’t that the girl you have been mooning over, Portor?”

Rowan rolled his eyes. “Not falling for that, Dolan.”

“No, I’m serious, Row. It looks just like her. Pretty sure I heard that Texas drawl you would not shut up about, too.”

He did whip his head around at that, to the laughter of his buddies. He almost turned back, sure they were having fun at his expense again. But, before he could, he saw her, too. It was definitely Alexandra, but there were some slight differences. She sat in a booth alone this time, and she seemed to be drawn in on herself, her skin looking pale and almost fragile. Was she sick? She seemed to be just pushing the food around on her plate.

He moved away from the bar without ordering anything. Dolan reached for him. “Don’t do this to yourself again, Portor.”

He ignored the man and headed for her table. “Alexandra?” he asked, afraid he’d made a mistake.

Her head jerked up, though, and her eyes widened at the sight of him. It was her. “Ro-Rowan,” she stammered. “What are you doing here?”

He slid into the booth with her. “I’m stationed here now. We didn’t have to work tonight,” he said, gesturing to the group he’d come in with. “What are you doing here?” he echoed her question. “Thought you would be in Scotland now. Or should you be on your way to France?”

She let out a little laugh, but it was watery, and he could already see the tears welling in her eyes. “I cancelled the rest of my plans,” she said. “The doctor said it would be fine for now, but I didn’t want to risk it. And when it would be time to come back, I probably shouldn’t fly.”

That didn’t make much sense to him, but tears were falling from her eyes, and he couldn’t take that. He slipped out of the booth and moved over to her side. “You’re sick?” he asked, feeling chilled and sick himself.

“A bit,” she said. “I’m sorry, Rowan. I didn’t know how to get in touch with you. Or I would have told you. I swear.” She was hiccupping with sobs now, and he didn’t understand.

“It’s bad? How long?” Her dying was the only thing he could think of that would cause her to act like this.

“About six more months,” she said through more sobs. “I didn’t know. Not until you were well gone. I’m sorry.”

Sorry? She was dying, and she was sorry? “Why? It’s not like you did it on purpose. There’s…nothing they can do for you?”

She shook her head. “It’s a baby, not a tumor, Rowan.”

That kicked him in the gut, and he pulled back to look at her. Now, he could see it, just the slight rounding of her stomach. “A baby?”

She sniffed and nodded. “I’m not…I don’t sleep around, Rowan. I swear. Even though…what we did. I don’t run around sleeping with every guy who talks to me in a bar. I swear. I haven’t…not anyone but you. Not since I left Texas.”

His heart was still pounding hard, and her words hardly made it through the fog in his head. Maybe that was why her words didn’t make a lot of sense. “A baby? Mo leanbh.”

She let out another watery laugh. “I’ve been studying, Rowan. Yes, your baby. I told you, I haven’t been with anyone else.”

He believed her. He didn’t know what they were going to do, but that didn’t matter. He pulled her to him, pressing his mouth to hers. “We’ll make this work. Whatever we need to do, we’ll make it work.”

Note: This is the story of how Declan’s parents met. It took them a while to figure everything out, which led to Declan bouncing a lot between Ireland and Texas.

Note2: I had a lot of fun(ok, too much) slipping Gaelic into this one. I have an Irish-English Dictionary & phrasebook I’ve had for a long time that I used for most of it. For everyone else, a pronunciation guide

páiste [paashchi] – child

Dia Duit[jeeu ghich] – hello

Sibh ólta[shiv aulta] – you are quite drunk

Dul chun drabhlá[dul hun drowlish] – go on a spree of revelry and debauchery

Mo leanbh[mu lanov] – my baby

A-Z Challenge: P is for Patrick Williams

P

Patrick Williams bent over the table, the pencil tight in his fist. He wanted to snap it in half. Wanted Sophia to just stop talking at him, nagging him. “I hate you.”

If he hadn’t cut his gaze up to her as he said the words, he wouldn’t have seen her face pale. But, he did, and it had a strange ache splitting through his chest.

“I know you don’t mean that, Patrick,” Sophia said. “You’re just upset right now.”

He didn’t understand these feelings roiling through him. So, he lashed out again. “You make me upset. All the time. Every day. I hate you.”

“That’s not true.” She still kept her voice calm.  “You just need to calm down.”

“I don’t hafta do anything. You can’t make me.” He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in the chair.

She took a step back and over to the high chair where the infant was starting to shriek. “No, I can’t,” Sophia said. “But, you are starting to scare Alison. You don’t really want to scare your baby sister, do you?”

Guilt crept in, but he still said, “Half-sister. She’s your little brat.”

“Now, that is enough, Patrick.” Her mouth had turned down, her face settling into hard lines. Sophia didn’t look like that very often. “I know you love your sister. I don’t know where this tough act is coming from, but it’s not you.”

“You don’t know anything about me. As soon as you got my dad, you stopped pretending to care.” His chest ached. She was going to walk away. Any minute now, she was going to give up and walk away.

“You know that isn’t true either. I love you, Patrick, as much as I do your dad or Alison.”

He jumped up from the chair. “Heard that before. Why don’t you just skip out now? I know you want to.”

She lifted Alison our of the high chair. “Sit down, Patrick.”

“Why should I?”

“I’m going to put Alison down for a nap then we’re going to talk.”

“I don’t wanna talk to you.”

“Then, I’m going to talk, and you’ll listen. Now sit at the table.” He watched her walk out of the kitchen the  dropped back into his seat. As much as he wanted to take off out the door, he knew that would just get him into more trouble later.

When Sophia finally walked back into the kitchen, he glanced up from the toes of his shoes. Her face was still tight, but the corners of her mouth briefly flicked up. “I’m a little surprised you listened.”

“Took you long enough,” he muttered.

Her smile was firmer this time. “You know your sister always wants just one more hug. Hard to deny that sweetness.” She pulled one of the chairs closer to him and sat facing him. “Look, I know I’m not your mom,” she finally said.

“Thank God for that,” he mumbled dropping his gaze back to his shoes.

“Why…I know you’re upset, but why would you say that, Patrick? What have I done to you?”

He looked up and saw tears welling in her eyes. The ache in his chest turned to a hard throb. “Don’t cry. Sophia. Jeez, I’m sorry.”

“You told your dad you didn’t care if I joined your family. What’s changed your mind, Patrick?”

“Nothing.” He still couldn’t meet her eyes, though.

“Then, why are you so angry with me all the time? Why don’t you want me to be here?”

“Didn’t say that.”

“You just said you don’t want me to be your mom. What else could that mean?”

He looked up at her and saw her eyes were still wet. That had it all ripping out of him. “That I don’t want you to be her. I hate her. I hate her so much it hurts. I hate her, hate her, hate her!” He yelled it the last time then his shoulders slumped forward.

“Don’t say that, Patrick. She’s still your mom.”

“She left us,” he cried. “Said she’d come pick me up later, and she never came back.” His own eyes burned, but he wasn’t going to cry. He was nearly twelve years old. He wouldn’t cry.

“You were three, Patrick. I’m sure-”

“That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. I know what she did. I’m the one who was there, not you. She didn’t come back, she didn’t want me.” No matter how much he fought it, tears started to spill over. How long ’til you don’t want me either? I don’t wanna hate you like I hate her.”

“I’m not leaving, Patrick. I’m never going to leave you and your father. There will never come a time when I don’t want to be a part of your family. I promised your father forever, and I don’t break promises. Do you understand?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good.” She handed him a tissue and gave him a moment before asking, “Now, how about we finish this homework? Your teacher said you were struggling with it, but I know you can figure it out.”

***

Patrick looked up at the knock on his door. “Come in, Dad.”

The door swung open, his dad standing there, his uniform shirt wrinkled but still buttoned. “How’d you know it was me from just a knock? And do not roll your eyes at me, Patrick.”

Patrick stopped in the middle of the eye roll. How did he always do that? “You’re the only one who knocks like that. And dinner’s not ready yet, so it wouldn’t be Sophia.”

“She said you two had a discussion today.” He sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Sure, just sit on my bed, Dad. Not like I’m on it or anything.”

His father’s mouth thinned into a firm line. “Enough with the smart mouth, Patrick. Tell me what’s going on.”

“Nothing. She kept on me about doing that stupid assignment Mrs. Archer gave me. I’m the only one who got it. I didn’t wanna do it, and I got upset.”

“That’s not it, Patrick. Sophia told me what you said.”

“Snitch.” He couldn’t put much heat behind the word, though.

“She’s a lot prettier than most of the snitches I deal with.”

He couldn’t help rolling his eyes again. “That’s not funny, Dad.”

“Sure it is. When you’re a cop. Look, Patrick, I know-”

“You don’t know anything,” he snapped out. “You’re not the one she got tired of.”

“Your mother walked away from me too,” he said, putting a hand on Patrick’s knee. “And I was angry for a long time. I almost didn’t give Sophia a chance because of it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be angry with her. You have every right to be.”

“I’m not angry. I hate her.”

“You shouldn’t.”

“But,-”

“I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve it, or that you should just forgive what she did. But, carrying that hate does nothing to her. The only one it’s going to hurt is you, Patrick. You need to stop letting her do that.”

“How?” He wished it was as easy as his father made it sound. But just thinking about his mother had all that anger boiling again.

“God, I wish I could give you an easy fix for it. You just have to move on. Let Sophia in. She wants to be a mom to you, Patrick, not just your stepmom. It doesn’t mean she’ll leave you, too. You need to put that out of your head. And you know you’ll never be rid of me, right?”

“Yeah, Dad, sure.”

His father stood up from the bed. “I saw those eyes rolling again. Come on. Dinner should be ready soon.”

Note: If you read Olivia’s story yesterday, Patrick is (one of) Rylan’s half-brothers. They share a mother, who abandoned them both. I have Patrick’s own story written, though I don’t know when it will be released. Probably not until at least next year.

Note2: If this dialogue looks familiar, it’s because it’s from one of my Story a Day pieces from last year, a dialogue only story.

A-Z Challenge: O is for Olivia Stevens

O

Olivia Stevens stared out the kitchen window at the kids playing in the yard. Her son, Bryson, was kicking a ball against the fence over and over as it came back to him. He was quick to move to intercept it when it didn’t come right back to him. She smiled as she shifted her gaze to her daughter, Lauren. She was playing in the little house Charles had paid to have built for her. None of those plastic constructions for his little girl.

A streak of red raced across the yard, and the smile fell away from her face. Rylan, of course. That boy never slowed down. Or listened. Her kids could play quietly by themselves, but he had to make the most noise, bring the most attention to himself.

She may have raised him since he was only a couple months old, but he’d never be hers. She’d tried. Olivia had comforted herself with that. He was only a few months younger than Bryson. She tried not to think of that. How Charles had married another woman after their night together that had changed her life. Then, not even a year later, Olivia had heard about his divorce and shown up at his door when her son was only a few weeks old.

Their life had been off to a good start. Then, his ex-wife had shown up and shoved her son off on them. They’d never seen from her again. It had nearly wrecked their marriage in its early days. Then, she’d been pregnant again. She liked to think it smoothed the rough edges of their relationship. But, she saw the way he looked at his middle child, and maybe it influenced the way she treated him as well. She didn’t like to think of that, though. She took care of him. That’s what really mattered.

The door slammed open, and she jumped a little. She’d been so lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t noticed Rylan coming toward the door. He ran across the room, skidding to a stop when he saw her. “I was, uh, coming in to…Can we have some juice?”

If she hadn’t been in here, Olivia knew he would have just grabbed the juice boxes from the refrigerator. Which she’d told him he had to ask first. Also, “How many times have I told you not to wear your muddy shoes through the house? I just cleaned the floor.”

Heat flooded his face, and he glanced down at the floor, at those tracks of mud. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “Can we have the juice?”

She let out a long breath. “Fine. Stand on the mat, and I’ll get it for you.”

He retreated the few steps to the door, and the mat there, while she retrieved the juice boxes. When she handed them to him, she said, “Hose off those shoes before you come back in or leave them outside.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said quietly, still not looking up at her.

She had a quick spurt of guilt at the dejection that had fallen over him. But, she wiped it away. The boy needed discipline, that was all. The least she could do was make sure he got it.

Note: Rylan didn’t have the greatest childhood, since neither of the people who raised him seemed to care much for him. One of my current projects is actually his story about 20+ years after this, and he’d still dealing with the feeling of being rejected by everyone who should have cared about him.

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