Let's Be Brutally Honest...
Taylor bounced out of school, chatting happily with her BFF Marie. It felt good to laugh and act like a kid again. Things at home had been so tense the past few days; she had barely seen or spoken to Jordan. Everyone in the family seemed to be intent on keeping them apart, hiding the truth from her. Something was wrong with Jordan, she knew it, but no one would tell her anything of value. She had gotten so fed up with the secrecy that she had spent the last two nights at Marie’s. So engrossed was she in her conversation that she didn’t notice the pretty tan woman leaning against a red SUV at the curb.
Jordan glanced up when she heard the girls approaching, hoping her mirrored aviators hid the panic in her eyes at having to face her daughter. She pushed off from the car and moved to intercept them. Taylor stopped dead when she saw Jordan approaching. She couldn’t believe her eyes. Her adoptive mother looked no worse for wear besides a mysterious new bandage on her left hand. Jordan seemed mostly like herself, dressed casually in jeans, a tee and sneakers. Her hair fell around her face, something she only did when she was uncomfortable.
“Hey kiddo.” Jordan wasn’t sure what to say. It had only been a few days but she felt the distance between them.
“Jordan? What are you doing here?” Taylor knew she sounded accusatory but she could feel the anger rising and it was directed squarely at Jordan. Marie stared at her with a shocked expression, having never seen her best friend treat her mother so coldly.
“I’ll just leave you guys alone. Call me later.” She told Taylor before turning to Jordan and giving her a hasty hug. “It’s good to see you.” Jordan nodded in her direction but kept her attention on her daughter.
“What are you doing here?” Taylor repeated after Marie practically ran from the tension about to boil over. Jordan didn’t appreciate Taylor’s tone but understood the younger girl’s frustration.
“I thought we could talk. We haven’t really had any time alone since you got back. I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t been myself lately. You deserve an explanation.”
Taylor had to admit she hadn’t been expecting Jordan to be so forthcoming. She nodded lightly and followed Jordan to the car. They drove in silence to a coffee shop not far from her school. After ordering they sat at a table on the sunny veranda. Jordan removed her glasses; pushing back the curtain of hair she had been hiding behind to look Taylor squarely in the eye.
“I know you must be angry and frustrated with me. Apparently I have that effect on a lot of people.” She told her with a humorless laugh. “I don’t keep things from you because I don’t trust you. I’m just trying to protect you, to be the parent you deserve. I’m sure this isn’t going as smoothly as you hoped it would either.”
Taylor suddenly felt a pang of regret over her cold behavior. Jordan had truly been a wonderful parent, save for her infuriating habit of keeping everything to herself. She was about to respond when the barista came and set their drinks down. She took a small sip to calm her nerves but Jordan ignored hers. Taylor spoke first.
Jordan seemed surprised by the apology.“Why are you sorry?”
“Because I know you don’t tell me stuff for a reason, because it’s too difficult to share and instead of being there for you, I keep running away.” Jordan reached across the table to grip her daughter’s hand tightly.
“I guess we both have a lot to learn.” She told her with a small smile. “I’ve missed you kiddo.”
“Me too. So much. What’s going on, Mama Bear? Really?”
Jordan released her hand and sat back in the booth trying to figure out how to tell her daughter about the very dangerous thoughts she’d been having, about CLU, the deal, what happened to her hand. Kurt had wanted to be here as well but she had insisted this was something she needed to do alone. She cleared her throat before beginning.
“I’ve been feeling really … down, lately.” Jordan paused for a moment. “No, that’s not true…” She came here today to be truthful with her daughter and she currently wasn’t. She took a deep breath and started over as Taylor was waiting rather impatiently for an explanation.
“What I mean is that I’ve been feeling more than down; and not just lately, but for some time now. Things got worse when I found out that he might be back…” Taylor gasped but Jordan kept talking, needing to lay it all on the table. “For awhile there, I thought that maybe I was done fighting. That maybe…you would all be better off without me.”
Taylor sprang from her seat and quickly slid in next to Jordan, hugging her tightly, head buried in her shoulder. Jordan reached up and stroked her daughter’s hair, feeling the tears soak through her shirt. She lifted Taylor’s head to look at her, ignoring the concerned looks from the other patrons.
“Shhhh, sweetheart. Please don’t cry. I know now that I was wrong. I could never leave you or your dad. I just needed a little time to figure it all out.”
“You don’t still want that? Want to leave us?”
“I’d be lying if I said those feelings were gone,” She wrapped her arms around Taylor’s shoulders. “But I know what I have here is more important. You should know I’ll always put you first.” Taylor nodded against her shoulder.
“What happened to your arm?” She asked, lightly tracing the bandage.
“I had a fight with Nona and I kinda broke a glass and cut myself.” Taylor eyed her with concern. “I wasn’t trying to do that. It was just a stupid accident.” Taylor seemed satisfied with her explanation and snuggled against her again.
“You really should be more careful…”
“Tell me about it…” She replied with a small laugh before pecking her daughter lightly on the forehead. Suddenly, Taylor sat up straight!
“Wait! You said he’s back?” There was panic in her eyes and Jordan knew it was out of concern for her. No one had suffered more at CLU’s hands then she had. Jordan grabbed her daughter and pulled her back into her chest, again ignoring the concerned expressions the people around them wore.
“Yes but I took care of it. I just want you to be extra careful for the next few days and if anything happens or feels off, you call Emiko immediately. Got it?”
“Got it. When did she get back in town?”
“That,” Jordan sighed, "is a very long story for another time. Just trust me when I say it’s handled, okay?”
“I always trust you,” Taylor told her honestly. “Thanks for trusting me.”
Once the women finished their drinks, they headed arm and arm towards Jordan’s truck when Taylor stopped suddenly!
“My phone!” She squealed and rushed back into the café leaving Jordan to stare after her with a chuckle. As she approached the car, she thought she saw something to her left but it moved too quickly. She was completely unprepared when was struck from the side and slammed into the door of the vehicle!
She could hear Taylor screaming for her but it took several moments for her vision to clear enough to locate her daughter. Taylor stood just a few feet away, rooted to her spot staring at whatever had felled Jordan. She turned her head just enough to spot her assailant. It resembled the wolves she used to see on the outskirts of her reservation yet its skin was eerily reminiscent of a familiar terror. She raised an arm to protect herself and the animal used its powerful front leg to stomp down on her injured hand! Jordan couldn’t stop the painful cry that ripped from her throat.
“No! Stop, please, you’re hurting her!”
“That is precisely the point child.” A smooth voice spoke from the shadows and CLU approached menacingly. Jordan tried to free herself from the beast but it was too strong and she couldn’t risk using her powers in public. He stopped a few feet from her, anger flaring in his eyes. “I thought we had a deal, Jordan?”
“We do.” She gasped, as the animal continued to put pressure on her wound.
“No. We did. But you can’t follow simple directions.”
“I did.” She tried to argue. “I didn’t even tell them you were back.”
“And yet, they tailed me from the airport and nearly ruined a very important deal. What part of ‘no interference’ was unclear?” He nodded lightly and the creature pushed her arm harder against the ground. Again, a strangled cry was forced from her.
“We could still have a deal!” She cried.
CLU clucked his tongue in mock sympathy as he knelt by her. He ran slender fingers through her hair almost lovingly.
“If you want me dead, please don’t do it in front of my daughter.”
“Such devotion. Haven’t you learned yet Jordan? That is your greatest weakness.” CLU snapped his fingers and the creature released her as she curled into a ball in an effort to protect her injured limb. “This is indeed your last chance…”
By now a crowd had begun to gather and someone in the crowd was yelling. “He attacked that lady!” “Someone call the cops!” CLU glared at her and the creature crouched down as if to attack again when a flash of steel made the creature yelp and recoil! Emiko knelt in front of Jordan, weapon drawn. She placed a hand lightly on her friend, checking for further injury.
“I’m okay,” she told her shakily, though she sounded quite the opposite. Emiko glanced over her shoulder to get confirmation and when she turned back to the creature, both it and CLU had vanished.
Taylor rushed to them, helping her mother sit up, back against the car door. She wiped away tears Jordan hadn’t realized she’d cried and pulled her arm away from her body to check the damage.
“She’s bleeding! We need to get her home.” Both women grabbed onto one of Jordan’s arms and began pulling her up. She gasped as they brushed a forming bruise on her back. A woman jogged up to them with cellphone in hand.
“The police are on their way! Does she need an ambulance?”
“No!” Emiko practically shouted, then forced herself to calm down. “We’re taking her to a family doctor but thank you.” She added hastily.
“Shouldn’t you stay and give a statement to the police?”
By then, Taylor had managed to get Jordan into the backseat and climbed in beside her. She gave Emiko a panicked look and she moved to wrap up the conversation. She dug around in Jordan’s glove compartment and found a business card, handing it the woman before climbing into the driver’s seat.
“We have a friend on the force. This is her card. She’ll know where to find us.”
She slammed the door shut and turned the SUV towards the house as fast as she could with the surrounding crowd. Once on the road she glanced in the rearview to check on Jordan. Her head was leaned back on the seat, eyes closed as Taylor held her arm against her chest. The young girl had tears streaming down her face but seemed determined to help.
“What happened back there?” Jordan opened her eyes briefly to stare at her friend.
“The deal is off…” She gasped through gritted teeth before laying her head tiredly on her daughter’s shoulder.
Kurt ran into his daughter as he was exiting the room he and Jordan had shared for most of the past two days. No one knew but the two of them and it was something Jordan had been adamant about keeping quiet, at least for the time being. Kurt didn’t push the issue; he was beside himself with joy that he had finally been able to have Jordan in totality. He stared at his daughter, concern plain on her young face.
“Hey sweetheart.” He bent his head to lay a small kiss against Taylor’s cheek.
“Hey…” she whispered back to him, looking sullen.
“Your mom’s okay, sweetie.” He told her, even as he pulled her into the warmest fatherly hug he could muster. He could feel her rubbing her face against his shirt, no doubt to rid herself of telling tears. Pushing her away from his chest, he ducked his head down to look her in the eye. “I would never let anything happen to her, or you, remember…?”
“You protect your girls.” Taylor finished for him in a tiny voice. Kurt nodded before drawing her back in.
“Always and forever.” He agreed. “Why don’t you keep her company? I’m going to go see if anyone has figured a way out of this mess.” He squeezed her shoulders before opening the door for her to slide inside.
Taylor stepped into the room quietly on the off chance her mother had actually managed to rest. She needn’t have worried because Jordan was wide-awake, fiddling impatiently with her new bandage. Kurt had cleaned the wound again; relieved her stitches had held up to the most brutal of tests. Once covered in a clean bandage, he had wrapped an ace bandage around the outside to hold an ice pack in place trying to reduce the swelling. The final touch had been propping the injured limb on a series of pillows.
“Don’t mess with it.” He had chastised her. She had always been his worst patient.
“It’s not that bad.” She had protested when Taylor had dragged her through the front door less than an hour before. “Don’t fuss.”
Kurt for his part had done far more than fuss. His emotions had swung rapidly from terrified, to incensed, to relieved that Jordan hadn’t tumbled headlong into her suicidal fog again, and finally settled on a mixture of all three when he heard what had transpired. Taylor could hear him speaking to someone in the living room. She turned her attention back to the not so patient, patient.
“Dad’s gonna be really mad if he has to wrap that again…” Jordan stared at her with a somewhat surprised expression. “What’d I say?”
Taylor blushed slightly before explaining herself. “Well you guys are my parents now and I just thought… but if you don’t want me to…?”
She turned to hurry from the room before the tears spilled over. All this time she had wanted to say it and now her worst fears were confirmed. They didn’t want her to think of them that way. She was just a foster kid. A stray they picked up and decided to keep. She wasn’t their child, not really. How could she be so stupid!
Jordan was watching her daughter melt down before her eyes. The girl was so much like her it was scary at times; a loner who desperately wanted acceptance and love but was too proud to ask for it, too afraid of seeming weak. She had to do something, reassure her somehow. Before Taylor could escape, she grabbed her arm and yanked her down onto the bed beside her.
“Stop.” She told her in a firm yet gentle voice. Leaning forward she placed a small kiss on the girl’s forehead. “We are your parents and you can call us whatever you feel comfortable with.”
Taylor nodded looking less panicked than before. Jordan lifted her good arm and Taylor happily slid underneath it. This was her favorite spot in the whole house. Tucked beneath Jordan’s arm, limbs draped over her mother, Taylor felt whole and loved as if nothing in the world could hurt her. She was technically too big for this, almost matching Jordan’s 5’8”. Yet despite the obvious size issues, Jordan never turned her away, never complained or even indicated she was uncomfortable. They sat that way for a while, Taylor reveling in Jordan’s warmth until the older girl spoke again.
“You know… even though I said you can call me whatever you like, I do have a preference. ”
“Yeah?” Taylor asked, not sure where Jordan was going with this.
“Yeah… I actually really like it when you call me … Mom.” Jordan paused to let the request sink in. “ I never really had a mom either and to know that I can be that for somebody else, to be there for them when they need me most… I don’t think you could ever know what that means to me.”
Taylor tilted her head up at her mother’s admission. Jordan was staring straight ahead, trying to keep a strong façade but her eyes were glassy. Taylor tightened her grip around Jordan’s waist, mindful of the area she assumed would be bruised from the earlier attack. She pressed her face deeper into the older girls chest, lovingly.
“I think I have an idea,” she replied, somewhat muffled by Jordan’s shirt. “I never thought I deserved somebody like that; somebody who wanted to be there for me. I’m really glad you found me.” She finished quietly. She felt a cool drop hit the top of her head and she knew Jordan’s composure was crumbling. Her mother pulled her impossibly closer and whispered, “Me too, baby. Me too.”
A few more minutes passed as Jordan tried to regain her composure. She had never felt more, expressed herself more fully in her whole life as she had in the past few days. She had so much to live for; had been blinding herself from it behind a wall of self-doubt and fear of the future. CLU had been right; she was devoted to her family and now that she wasn’t the person threatening it, she would allow no one else that pleasure.
“Um…Mom? You’re shaking.”
“I’m fine, it’s just a little chilly in here that’s all…”
Taylor pulled back some to see what had disturbed her mother to the point of a physical reaction. Jordan was fiercely biting on her bottom lip in an attempt to curb the emotional outburst clearly rising within her. She didn’t cry out but couldn’t stop the trembling that had overtaken her whole frame.
“You’re not fine. You’re upset. Please talk to me?”
She pulled fully away from Jordan to sit facing her, holding her mother’s uninjured hand in both of hers. She waited patiently for Jordan to say something, anything that would give her insight into what the trembling was all about. When Jordan didn’t speak unprompted, she took a wild guess.
“You’re worried about him, aren’t you? Worried that we’re gonna have to fight him again, that he’ll never leave us alone if we don’t?”
“I can’t,” Jordan choked out. “I can’t fight anymore. It’s too hard. I just want our family to be safe.”
Taylor nodded, unsure of what to say. Jordan didn’t want to fight, she couldn’t and really she shouldn’t have to. The last time CLU threatened their family, she had taken the brunt of the abuse, had been beaten to the brink of death to protect everyone else. Just this once, she should be able to sit on the sidelines; to be the protected and not the protector.
“Dad and the others will figure something out. They know you don’t wanna fight and you shouldn’t have to. They can’t make you!” Now she was getting upset. How could they expect Jordan to fight him again, after all he had done? She realized she was shaking too but with anger where her mother shook out of despair.
“It isn’t fair! You just wanna live your life and be a mom and a wife and he keeps coming back to ruin everything!”
Jordan pulled on her hands until her head was once again resting on the older girl’s chest. She could hear the breaths rattle around Jordan’s lungs, her heart beating rapidly as she tried to comfort her daughter and manage her own panic. Taylor wrapped her arms around Jordan once more, sucking in a ragged breath.
“I just want you to be okay… to know you’ll always be there…”
“I know, baby…. I know…” Jordan began to slowly rock her back and forth because she had no further response, no answer to the threat looming over them. She just knew she didn’t want her daughter to live in fear anymore and she would do anything to spare her the emotional unrest.
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