What Lies Ahead
Chapter 4

The next day was Saturday and I’d hoped to sleep in after the excitement of the previous evening, but it seemed that was not destined to be, as I was pulled out of sleep by something continually poking me in the arm.

My eyes cracked open, only to shut again quickly, as harsh daylight streamed into them. Someone who would soon be getting payback had opened the curtains on the window.

Letting out a groan, I rolled over and smashed my head into the pillow.

“Oh, no you don’t!” a voice said, intruding past my improvised pillow earmuffs.

Recognizing the voice, I knew I would never get my payback.

“I wanna sleep in,” I said.

“I let you sleep in! It’s 9am. Zoe has already headed over to Vickie’s house and you have to get up. I have stuff for you to do,” Mom said, starting to push my arm again, trying to annoy me into getting up.

“I have to call the office,” I said, sitting up and rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.

“You can do that later. We have more important things to do.”

“Like what?”

“Like look at houses,” she said with a grin in her voice.

“Ugggh,” was all I could reply as I flopped down and put a pillow over my head this time.

“I’ll give you about two minutes until I get back up here with a glass of ice water,” she said, her voice moving out of the room.

I had just started to lull back to sleep when the ice cold water splashed onto my head.

“Breakfast is ready downstairs,” she said cheerfully as she left, ignoring the evil glare I sent after her as I shot up with a yelp.

I was dry and still grumpy when I walked down the stairs.

“That wasn’t funny,” I said as I walked into the kitchen.

“Told you he wouldn’t believe you would do it,” Tami said.

I had assumed she would be with Vicki and Zoe today, and was surprised to see her.

“What are you doing here?”

“Well, that’s a nice way to great me,” she said in mock anger.

I rolled my eyes and said, “You know what I meant. I’m happy to see you, just surprised.”

“I volunteered to be the one of us who went with you today. You don’t think we would leave an important decision about where you live to you, do you?” she said with a smirk.

“Of course not,” I replied and walked over, giving her a peck on the cheek before sitting down to eat the food already on the kitchen table.

While it’s not my ideal way to spend a Saturday morning, it wasn’t the worst way I could have spent it either, mostly because Tami came along. Of the three girls, Tami was the one I spent the least amount of one on one time with. Although this wasn’t exactly just the two of us, since Mom was there, it was nice to be able to focus on her for a day.

To be honest, I would have preferred it if Mom had just picked a place for us. My knowledge about houses ended at knowing it should have walls and a roof, but she felt it was important for me to be in on the decision making process.

Most of the houses seemed pretty similar, just bigger versions of the house we currently had, with a few extra bedrooms.

There was one I liked, because it had a swimming pool out back, but room-wise it wasn’t much larger then what we had. Tami was torn, since she liked the idea of a pool as well, but she agreed it wasn’t big enough.

We ended up settling on a place on the outskirts of town. The downside being it was farther from school and from both Vicki and Tami’s houses, but since most of us could drive now, that was less of a problem.

On the upside, the place was freaking huge with seven bedrooms, including a pretty nice master bedroom. Tami fell in love with the Jacuzzi tub, although since it was in the master I was pretty sure that would end up going to Mom.

Both ladies seemed pleased with it, so I agreed. As long as I had my family with me, I really didn’t care where we lived. The house would be in Mom’s name, since I couldn’t really sign off on real estate and the agent was thrilled that we were just going to pay for it flat out.

I’m not sure how their commissions were worked out, but my guess was they made more in deals where there wasn’t a mortgage involved, or got paid quicker.

They dropped me off at home, and Mom went to the agents’ offices to get all the paperwork filled out. Tami went with them, saying she wanted to know more about how all this stuff worked.

I hadn’t really noticed it before, but Tami had been spending a lot more time hanging around Mom lately. It was a small thing, but now that she was asking to go with Mom, I started to consider it.

Vicki and Zoe had been more absorbed in the charity than Tami had been, and if I had to guess that was on purpose. She had said her goal was to take care of the family, and I guess her shadowing Mom was kind of like an internship.

I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I sat at the kitchen table and picked up the phone.

I made small talk with Ted’s wife before asking her to hand the phone over to him.

“How the hell do you do it?” he said as soon as he picked up.

“Do what?”

“Just fall into things. Douglas is simply brilliant. A company as small and unfocused like ours has a hard time attracting talent of that caliber.”

“So he passes muster, then, I take it?”

“Are you kidding? Not only is he brilliant, but in just this one meeting he managed to find a possible fix for the scaling problems Ronald was having.”

Over the last month Ronald had been working up how to scale his basic design into a full desalination plant. While his process removed most of the pollutants and salt in water on a small scale, it lost efficiency as it scaled up. If we couldn’t hold the efficiency, then the whole project would be a bust.

Ronald had roped in Marcus and all our permanent engineers into the project to try and figure out the problem, but so far they hadn’t managed more than small gains.

“Really? How did he manage that?”

“Apparently he spends his free time brainstorming with others on some BBS, just picking ideas apart and working to improve them. He met this Bio-Med PhD student who is working on some kind of specialized bacteria that works as a filter. She swears by it, and he says he’s dug into it and everything seems to check out. She hasn’t had the time to really put the work into making it viable yet, since it was pushed off as unworkable by her professors; but Douglas swears he thinks it has potential.”

“But wouldn’t you end up with all that bacteria in the finished product?”

“Not necessarily, but yea, that’s one of the things we would talk about. I plan on calling her with Douglas tomorrow.”

“Well, that’s great, I guess. So, do you think we should offer Douglas a job?” I asked hopefully.

“I already did, and he accepted. This is a guy we want on our team.”

“Well, that was easy.”

“Yep. He particularly liked the fact that we had a policy of allowing engineers to spend a part of their time working on pet projects.”

“Great. I will see you guys in the office, tomorrow.”

“Yep, talk to you then.” He said, and hung up.

I was glad Douglas had clicked with them and joined us, and even more so that he had a potential fix for Ronald’s project. The more I have thought about it, the more I wanted to get this out in the world. It was the epitome of what I wanted the company to be, both profitable and beneficial for humanity.

I had just set down the house phone and was getting up from the table when it rang again.

Assuming it was Ted calling back I said, “Did you have more about Douglas to rave about?”

“Cas, it’s Carter,” a rough voice came across the other end of the line.

Carter did not call me out of the blue. He would talk to me when we had scheduled updates but other than that, I had to call him. He wasn’t much for idle chit chat. Which meant something was wrong.

I felt the bottom drop out of my stomach.

“What’s happened?” I asked.

“I think you need to get down here. Things are heading south.”

“What happened?” I repeated my question.

“I think her father’s abusive nature was learned, also, not just the drinking. Her grandfather is a piece of work, and her grandmother isn’t much better. They’ve pulled her out of school. I managed to take a peek at the school records and they have filed to have her home schooled.”

“Ok,” I said. While that was worrying, I was certain there was more to the call then that.

“There hasn’t been anything physical yet, but the level of verbal abuse is escalating. I would bet money it isn’t far away. They’ve also taken to locking her into her room.”

“I’ll get a flight out there tonight and send you the details. Have someone pick me up at the airport.”

“Will do,” he said.

“Carter,” I said quickly, before he hung up.

“Yeah?”

“If they put hands on her, I want you to go in and get her out. I’ll pay whatever I have to in legal fees and you’ll be taken care of. But I won’t let her be beat on by those people.”

There was a long pause, and then he replied, “Understood.”

Hanging up I first dialed Zoe’s cell phone. I could hear Vicki in the background and they were in a good mood.

“Where are you?” I asked, interrupting her greeting.

“Vicki’s house,” she said, sounding suddenly serious as she picked up on my tone.

“Put me on speaker,” I said and waiting for a moment before I continued so she could do that. “Carter called. Emily is in serious trouble, and I’m headed to Florida to get her and hopefully figure out a way to bring her back. Things have been very hard on her, and I’m afraid she might need a gentler hand once we get her. I’d like one of you to come with me.”

“I’ll go,” Vicki said instantly. “When do we leave?”

“I’m getting a flight arranged now. Hopefully we can leave not long after you get here.”

“Be careful Cas,” Zoe said.

“I will. We won’t be able to stay long, since we have to be back for school on Monday, but I want a chance to talk to her before we come back. I have to make other calls and I’ll see you two when you get back.”

I hung up and dialed Jonathan.

I didn’t give him a chance to say anything and started speaking as soon as the line picked up, “Jonathan, I need you to arrange a flight for me and Vicki to go to Miami.”

“Something’s happened with Emily,” he said.

That’s one thing I always liked about Jonathan, he was quick and made decisions just as fast.

“Yes. Carter called and said things are getting bad. I want to get down there and see if I can get her out.”

“Ok. I’ll get us a private charter for three. It’s faster than flying commercial.”

“Three?” I asked.

“You sometimes forget you’re still a minor. You need an adult to fly with you, makes everything smoother. Plus, if things do get bad, you’ll want legal backup.”

“Can you even practice law in Florida?”

“Yes. I passed the bar there at the end of summer.”

“Really?” I asked, surprised.

“I’ve been getting the same reports from Carter, and the writing was on the wall. I figured I should be prepared.”

I was speechless for a moment. That kind of loyalty, especially without the boost the change gave, was breathtaking.

“Thank you. Really. I have to call Mom and pack. Let me know when and where to go.”

“Will do,” he said and hung up.

I picked up the phone one more time, and dialed Mom’s cell number, now very happy she had it.

“Hey, honey,” she said, and I heard Tami laughing in the background.

“There’s been a problem with Emily. Vicki and I are flying to Florida ... now.”

“Is everything ok? I can be home in fifteen minutes and go with you.”

“No, you have Zoe and Tina here to take care of. Jonathan’s going with us, just in case we need legal help. We’ll be fine. I just wanted to let you know what was happening.”

“Be careful, Cas. Those people have a lot of reason to hate you. If you make it worse, they might take it out on Emily.”

“I know. I’m going to do my damnedest to bring her back with us.”

“How are you going to do that?”

“I have no idea. I’ll figure out something.”

“Well,” she said after a brief pause as Tami said something in the background. “Just be careful. Tami wants to talk to you.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Cas?” Tami’s voice came across as she was handed the phone.

“Yeah?” I responded.

“Please be careful, and bring our girl back to us.”

“I’ll try everything I can to bring her back. I promise. I have to go pack now.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Tami.”

Just as I was hanging up I heard the front door open, followed by Zoe and Vicki rushing in shortly after.

Zoe got to me first, and crushed me in a hug. Not to be outdone Vicki wrapped her arms around both of us.

“Hey, hey,” I said, “It’s not the end of the world. She’s had a rough time, but we will fix it, I promise.”

They both just clung on to me for another minute.

“Girls, I gotta go pack,” I said gently.

“We’ll do it for you,” Zoe said. “You get everything else planned.”

“Ok.”

Both girls took off upstairs and I reached for the phone, again. I was starting to hate the thing.

“How’re we looking,” I asked when Jonathan picked up.

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Story tagged with:
Coming of Age /