What Lies Ahead
Jonathan called ahead to let the pilot (he had been asked to wait for us) know that we were on our way back. He also let him know that it would be three teenagers and an adult chaperone, in this case one of Carter’s guys.
Jonathan and Carter stayed behind to take care of the details of making it legal for us to take Emily with us. When we left, he was on the phone with Mom, and my guess was that she would end up with one more ward before all this was over.
For a while Emily kept crying, although whether it was out of relief to be away from her grandparents, tears of pain, or overwhelming sadness we couldn’t figure out. We couldn’t get her to talk during the trip to the airport at all, and we only got a few words on the plane itself before she fell into a restless sleep.
Looking at her face as it relaxed into sleep, I started to see the Emily I had gotten to know, the one that had broken out of her shell and, even after what happened with her parents, continued to become sure of herself.
She was now back to the wounded girl I had first met, except worse. While she had kept firmly latched onto my hands since the time we pulled her out of her grandparents’ house, she had barely even made eye contact with me.
I was afraid we were at the very beginning of our challenges with this and from the look in Vicki’s eyes I could tell she felt the same.
I gently woke Emily up as we landed back in Texas. She slowly came awake, and as the situation returned to her, she pulled away from me. It was like a stab in the chest, not that I blamed her.
I was glad to find Mom had come to pick us up, and that she hadn’t brought Tami or Zoe with her. This wasn’t going to be a happy reunion, and I knew it would break their hearts. The longer we could put off that kind of disappointment the better.
Vicki motioned for me to go talk to Mom while she stayed with Emily, who had switched to holding onto her.
“Hey,” I said gloomily as I walked up and got a hug from Mom.
“That bad?” she asked.
“Yeah. She has hardly said anything to us.”
“I made an appointment with Dr. Snider for her to see Emily tomorrow. I am betting those people didn’t get her any help after what happened with her parents. Now, with everything else that’s happened, I think she needs it even more.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. Yeah, that’s probably good thinking. Have you talked to Jonathan?” I asked.
“Yes, we’ve talked back and forth. They’ve signed over guardianship to me, and he has started the process of making it official. In the next few weeks I’ll probably have to go back to Florida with her to talk to a judge.”
“Any chance they’ll change their minds?”
“Jonathan doesn’t think so. They seem to be happy that she’s not their responsibility any more. He thinks with their agreeing to the change, the family courts won’t contest it.”
I looked back across the tarmac at Emily and Vicki. Emily was looking at her feet, with Vicki standing close, whispering into her ear. Looking up, Vicki saw me staring and gave a tight-lipped smile.
Through the sadness over Emily, I felt a burst of affection and pride for Vicki. I was happy more than ever that I had brought her with me and couldn’t help but marvel at her strength. She really was amazing.
“My car is here,” I pointed out to Mom, remembering that we had left it parked at the airport.
“Zoe rode out with me and drove it home. After Jonathan filled us in, we didn’t think you’d be in the best mindset to be driving.”
I leaned in and gave Mom another hug as a thank you. She gave me one of her patented crushes back, which I really needed.
Carter’s guy handed me our bags and headed back to the plane, probably to get back to his team. I loaded us into Mom’s car and we headed back to the house.
Once back, Zoe and Tami took over for Vicki, helping Emily upstairs to get some rest. I started to follow them up, but was stopped by Vicki.
“Cas, let us handle this for a little while,” she said, looking pained.
“What?” I asked.
I could see the logic behind letting the girls spend some time trying to pull Emily out of the sadness that had settled over her, but there also seemed to be something Vicki wasn’t saying.
Vicki looked away from me as she answered, “She blames you a little for what happened. I think she needs a little time.”
“She blames me?” I asked, shocked.
“Blame is the wrong word. She’s angry at you. She knows it’s not rational, but she’s mad that you let her go there, and didn’t keep her with us.”
It was like someone punched me in the stomach. I couldn’t believe she was angry at me.
“But the courts decided that. What could I have done?”
“She knows there wasn’t anything you could’ve done. Like I said, she knows it’s not rational, but that doesn’t change her feelings.”
I could see tears welling up in Vicki’s eyes as she leaned in and hugged me tight.
“Cas, she’ll get past this. I promise. She’s had a hard time. Please don’t take this to heart. She just needs time.”
“Ok,” I said, putting on a brave face.
I tried to project acceptance and reassurance, but Vicki saw right past my bullshit. She gave my arm a squeeze and then headed upstairs.
Going into the living room, I slumped down onto the couch and settled into a solid sulk. I knew it wouldn’t help, but hell, I was a teenager after all. Even super DNA or whatever can’t stop the angst sometimes.
It was decided that it would be best if Emily stayed with Zoe while I slept on the couch. The next morning, with a crick in my back, I cornered Mom in the kitchen before the girls came downstairs, ready to head to school.
“We need to get that new house,” I said without preamble.
“Not enjoying the couch,” she replied with a smirk.
“Not even a little bit!”
“Well, we were already in talks, so it shouldn’t be long.”
“Can you call them today? Tell them we’ll pay cash for it, and offer a five percent increase if we can be in the house this month.”
“Cas, that’s a lot of money!”
“I can afford it; and every night I don’t have to sleep on the couch, is worth it to me. Besides, you’re petitioning to take custody of Emily. You already have Zoe and custody of me and Tina. This is a four bedroom house. Don’t you think the court will start wondering where she’ll be sleeping?”
“Good point. I’ll call them this morning.”
“Seriously, we have the money. We should use it to make this happen fast. Before Jonathan starts getting court papers filed.”
“Yes. You’re a smart boy. I knew we kept you around for some reason,” she said patting me on the cheek.
“I thought it was for my dashing good looks, and witty personality.”
“That’s what we want you to think,” she said with a laugh.
I tried to look offended but couldn’t hold it, and broke down laughing with her.
As I helped her get breakfast ready I thought of something else.
“What are we going to do about school for Emily?”
“Her grandparents already had her down as being home schooled, but I’d bet she didn’t get any actual education out of that, and is probably behind. Even if she did, it’s hard to get her switched between districts quickly. I’m going to talk to Jonathan about getting her homeschooling switched here, and then figure out what we need to do to get her caught up.”
“Ahh, ok,” I replied, not having considered any of that.
“If we do it right, she should be able to rejoin the rest of you at Truman next year.”
The girls came downstairs about the time we got breakfast on the table. Tami had stayed the night to be with Emily and Zoe, and all three were quiet as they sat down at the table.
Vicki had wanted to stay, too, but her father had told her ‘no’ for the first time. I was a little concerned he’d started to figure out the extent of my relationship with his daughter, but she brushed it off. Apparently he had some work stuff going on that had him distracted, and she was pretty sure it was connected to that.
Looking at the gloomy faces at the table, I thought it might have been for the best. As it was, I was having trouble not letting the mood of these three get to me. One more might have pushed me to join them in wallowing.
Instead, I tried to play it off like we didn’t notice, and Mom went with it. While Emily still wouldn’t make eye contact with me, everyone started pulling out of their funk after a few minutes. Even Emily joined in the conversation a few times, although never talking directly to me.
I decided it would be best if I showed Emily I cared, but kept my distance until she had time to talk to Dr. Snider.
Excusing myself from breakfast, I got ready for school. It was strange not starting my day off with a run, but between meeting and dealing with Douglas at the beginning of the weekend and bringing Emily home at the end of the weekend, I felt I needed a little break.
Tami and Zoe both tried to convince Mom to let them stay home with Emily, but she wouldn’t have it. She declared everyone was going to school, but that she would take a few days off so Emily wasn’t there by herself.
She even promised to take Emily shopping, which elicited a brief smile on Emily’s part.
The week seemed to fly by. I kept myself unusually busy, even for me, to keep from dwelling on the Emily situation. I saw Vicki at school, but she said things at home made it hard for her to get out to see us in the afternoons. I was starting to get a little worried about that.
Emily had her first visit to Dr. Snider, although I wasn’t allowed to go. When they came back from the doctor, it was clear she had been crying. I didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing, considering how psychologists operate, but Mom said Snider had talked to her afterwards and said it had been a good session. However, I couldn’t help but be worried about Emily.
Coupled with Vicki, it felt like my romantic life was hitting a serious speed bump. Things were tense with Zoe and Tami as well, since they were having a lot of the same feelings.
Thankfully work, the place where I was spending the majority of my free time, to allow Emily a little space, was better. Douglas had hit the ground running. He’d already rented an apartment and sent for his stuff. He was working fifteen hours a day getting set up. The man was a machine and had a near manic drive. I think he was starting to wear Ted and Marcus out!
He had set up a meeting with the bio-med student after he and Ted talked to her on Monday. We arranged for her to fly out from California, where she was currently going to school. On top of that, he said he had a new idea he wanted to talk to me and the team about, but he needed until next week to get ready.
Looking back, that night of intervention on the bridge, might just end up being one of the best nights for the company in some time.
The time I was spending talking to him gave me some other thoughts: specifically about Mom and Alex.
On Friday night I arranged to have Mom, Alex, and Jonathan meet me at home so I could pitch them my idea.
Coming of Age /