Overview: A family is ripped apart by an act of violence. The only surviving member of the family is suddenly put in the position where they can get even in the worst possible way. When the deciding moment comes, what will they do?
A/N: With the highly publicized occurances of mass shootings in America in recent years, I started to think about how the surviving family members have to cope not only with the knowledge their loved ones were violently taken from them but as in most cases, they never get the most asked question raised in the aftermath of such evil: Why?
I didn't really have a political agenda when I wrote this. What I will say is I am of the firm belief hate only breeds more hate. Those who profess forgiveness towards the people responsible for mass murder do it in part to free themselves from the killer's power over them. To say it's not an easy thing to do would be an understatement.
That said, I don't believe in forgiveness or rather not anymore. I have not had much experience with forgiveness in recent years. I know that if I was in the situation you are about to read, I would not show mercy.
A week had passed since the day Karla Jackson's family been taken from her.
In what reporters called the most vile act of mass murder in American history, Steven Hugh walked into her young childrens' elementary school and activated the fire alarm system. As classes emerged he opened fire, killing 57 children, 11 staff members and wounding 132 others. Her son and youngest daughter were two of the children killed. He didn't stop there. He drove to a nearby department store where her teenage daughter was with her husband picking out a prom dress. When he arrived, he shot at everyone and everything. Her husband, who was an off-duty police officer tried to protect their daughter snd was murdered by the gunman along with 20 other people. 15 others were wounded. In what could only be looked at a perverse act of mercy, the suspect forced her terrified daughter into his car and drove to his final destination: The police station.
Hugh had recently been fired from his job as a construction worker after being arrested a few days earlier for road rage in which he beat Karla so bad, she lost the 8-month old fetus she was carrying at the time. It was delivered by emergency c-section alive but the baby boy died hours later. No one knows how but Hugh somehow posted bail but was placed under house arrest. Clearly, that did nothing to discourage him from doing what he did. In a final act of defiance, Hugh violently raped her teenage daughter in the parking lot of a state police station, set the car on fire and set it to roll into the building. The explosion that followed killed seven officers along with her daughter. Hugh was arrested without further incident a short time later, the monitoring bracelet put on his leg long cut off.
Karla had just left a Victim's Rights Advocacy meeting when she learned of the massacre committed by the same man who took her unborn baby from her.
The next morning, she would be called in to identify the bodies of her husband and three children. Her oldest daughter Rachel had been burned beyond recognition so her dental records were used to verify her identity. Her younger daughter Emily, who was seven had been shot in the throat. The medical examiner told her it was highly likely Emily knew she was dying as due to the wound, her lungs filled with blood and she literally drowned in her own blood. Survivors of the school schooting say Emily's older brother Henry threw himself on her and was shot in the back of the head by the gunman and again in the back. He wasn't just killed but he was executed. Her husband Kevin took a bullet to the heart and died instantly. It was bad enough to already have to plan a funeral for a child killed before it was even born. Now accommodations would need to be made for the rest of her family.
Now Karla sat in the family home looking at photos of her lost family. The curtains were drawn closed and the TV was tuned to CNN, which was covering the shooting and its aftermath. One man had destroyed the lives of over 200 families. Her family's story was the most talked about but the police stationed outside kept the media from bothering her. She hadn't left the house since she'd identified her family's bodies. Neighors came by each day to check on her and bring her food and groceries.
The one question-the only question-she had that over 200 other families were now asking was why. Why did Steven Hugh do what he did? Why did he kill and hurt so many people? She held solace in the fact when word spread across Eastridge, Florida that he'd beaten her so bad, she lost her baby and was still released on bail, the town's anger spread like wildfire across the country. "The judge who set bail so low is an accomplice to murder." One person being interviewed on TV said. "They knew he was dangerous and they let him go anyway. They didn't care!"
The doorbell rang at that moment. When Karla went to answer it, she saw that it was her counselor Pamela and the family attorney Alan. "I was worried when I hadn't heard from you since the shooting." Alan said to her. "I called Pam and we decided to come see you together. How are you holding up?"
"I'm still alive." she replied, adding "This time, at least there's dozens of other families who can relate to what I'm going through."
"I am so sorry, Karla." Pam said as they embraced. "Even though my brother was one of the people who was killed, my grief doesn't hold a candle to yours. Can we come in?"
"By all means." Karla replied, leading them to the living room. The TV was still on the news when they sat down. Pictures of the mass murderer flashed on the screen as the reporter spoke.
"The Department of Justice is looking into charging the suspect with crimes against humanity." The reporter said. "Since dozens of children are among the victims, this case is believed to be tried in federal court and he will face the death penalty-" At this, Karla shut the TV off.
"Death's too good for him." Alan remarked. "I still can't believe someone offered to represent him in court."
"Not a public defender?" Karla asked in surprise. "With what money?"
"A young attorney from Boston." Alan explained. "Still in High School, actually. He passed the BAR Exam when he was 11. While I get everyone has a right to an attorney, this is a slam-dunk case. He's getting death and he going to be found guilty."
"Amen to that." Pam replied. "Which reminds me, Karla. His formal arraignment is this Friday at 2:00PM. Alan and I are organizing family members of the victims so we can go together and I was wondering if you would like to go. It's fine if you don't want to go but I thought I'd ask."
"I'll need some time to think about it." Karla replied after pausing for a moment. "I want to ask the bastard if he really gets off on ruining other people's lives but on the other hand, what's done is done. Whatever happens to him now won't bring them back. It won't bring back any of the people he..." That was all she managed to say before she started to sob uncontrollably. It took her a few minutes to compose herself.
"I know this is tough to ask but have you made funeral arrangements for Kevin and the kids?" Alan asked.
"Kevin and I bought a plot for the baby the day before...you know." Karla replied. "Fortunately, the police department is handling Kevin's funeral arrangements. The cemetery called me over the weekend and told me they'd upgrade our purchase for the whole family free of charge. The funeral itself is set for Monday at 1:00PM."
"I see." Pam remarked thoughtfully. "Well, the cemetery's getting alot of new occupants very soon. They're even hiring volunteers to help prepare plots for all of the people who were killed. I try not to think about it myself of course but it really is a shame people have to die for cemeteries to expand. I've had enough of death and dying for at least one lifetime."Alan, Karla and Pam talked for a few more hours. Alan was careful not to talk about the man who destroyed so many lives in Eastridge, mostly in fear of how Karla could react. Unlike the other families, her life had been destroyed by him before everyone else's.
"Looks like I'm going to need to get going." Pam said when she noted the time. "Remember what I told you two weeks ago, Karla. They may be gone but they're never truly gone. They will live forever in your heart."
"I'm going to need to get going, too." said Alan. "There's a few things I want to look into. Do mind if I come back tomorrow evening?"
"That's fine, I'll be here." Karla replied. Thinking a moment, she handed Alan a key. "Do me a favor and hold on to this for me. In my current state of mind, I think it's better I give this to someone I trust."
"What's it for?" Pam asked.
"It's the key to Kevin's gun cabinet." Karla explained quietly. Nothing more needed to be said for them to understand what she was thinking.
"Let me know when you're ready to have it back." Alan replied before he and Pam let themselves out. Karla looked at a family picture hanging on the wall in the living room for a few minutes. It was a recent picture they had taken together two months earlier. Henry was happy about finally getting a brother to play with. When she lost the baby, he was devastated. Emily was breaking in her new eyeglasses. She looked so adorable with them. Rachel was excited her boyfriend George had asked her to the prom. A sad irony he was also one of the many who were killed. The doorbell suddenly ringing startled her. When she answered the door, she was surprised to see a very pregnant woman holding a bouquet of flowers standing on the other side.
"Can I help you?" Karla asked the visitor. who was wearing sunglasses. That did little to mask the noticable bruise on her face.
"I hope so." she replied quietly as she took her sunglasses off. "My name is Iris Hugh. As of today, Steven Hugh is my ex-husband." That left Karla speechless for a few moments. "May I came in?" Karla moved aside to allow the visitor into her home, showing her to the living room. A strange silence filled the room as the two sat across from each other.
"Why did you want to see me?" Karla asked, adding "Why now?"
"I've been in hiding for the last three months from him." Iris replied, referring to her Steven. "To confirm what your eyes are showing you, I am pregnant. Pregnant with twins. I've been in hiding ever since a certain incident involving Steve. He got into an arguement with one of his coworkers and put the man in the hospital. The guy's lawyer promised not to press charges but in exchange, Steve was fired. He loved that job. By then, the love between us was long gone and I was in fear of my life and these two. He did this to my face before I got pregnant but I'm stuck with it for life. The day of the...incident involving you and Steve was the same day he'd been served the divorce papers. When I heard about what he did to you, I felt horrible and relieved for the same reason. I felt horrible since he knew I was carrying his children. I think seeing you made him think of me. I felt relieved I didn't see him myself or what happened to you would have happened to me."
"Did he...want children?" Karla asked.
"They're all he cares about." She replied, adding "More than me, in fact. Even if you weren't pregnant he would have attacked you anyway. He was probably on his way to my attorney to make an appointment to negotiate custody once they're born. No chance of that happening now thankfully. That brings me to why I wanted to see you, Ms. Jackson. After what Steve did last week, I've been in hiding. Even though our divorce was just finalized, alot of people know my relation to him and even worse, some know I'm pregnant with his children. I've been staying at a motel in Jacksonville but it's too late for me to drive back there. Would it be ok with you if I spent the night in your house? I know this isn't the best time to ask for this kind of a favor. If I wasn't pregnant I'd have just slept in the woods. I promiise I won't leave in the middle of the night."
"I don't mind you spending the night." Karla said after thinking for a moment. "Even if you weren't pregnant, I'd have still said yes. You can use my teenage daughter's room. Before I show you in, do you mind if I confirm something?"
"What do you...oh." Iris replied as she realized what she was being asked. She stood and took off her shirt and and then her undershirt, revealing her large and distended belly. Iris turned to the side to prove she really was pregnant and not pretending to be. "One of them's really moving right now if you want to feel." Karla walked over to Iris and placed her head against her belly. She could hear a fetal heartbeat, a sound she was all too familiar with. Nodding with satisfaction, she showed Iris to her older daughter's bedroom.
"How far along are you?" Karla asked once they reached her daughter's bedroom.
"I was actually due the day of the massacre." Iris replied, much to Karla's surprise. "I was on my way to get induced at the hospital when I heard about what he did. I didn't want to be seen there so I postponed the appointment to tomorrow. Sometimes I wonder if that's even a good idea." Karla noticed Iris made no effort to put her shirts back on. Having had three kids herself, she was all too familiar with how uncomfortable it could be at the end of a pregnancy.
"What do you mean?" Karla asked. Then she noticed the scars on Iris' arms for the first time. From what she'd heard, they were the telltale signs of cutting. Some looked recent. "Don't you...want them?"
"No, I don't." Iris declared, looking Karla in the eye. What scared her was how calm Iris was when she said it. As if what she said was perfectly normal. "After what their father's done, I think it's better if they're never even born. They'll have to live with the shame the man who fathered them is a demon. They will never have a normal life growing up. All because of him. I'll never forgive him for what he's done. He doesn't deserve to know they even exist."
"Iris, what are you saying?" Karla asked, although she was afraid she had a pretty good idea of where this was going.
"I'm going kill myself and take these demon spawns to hell with me." she replied quietly. At that moment Karla saw movement coming from within Iris' belly. The babies inside her were active and she wouldn't be surprised if it was out of fear of what their mother just said. "They know their time is short."Iris said in referral to the activity coming from within her belly. "You however, are their only hope. You have until morning to decide."
"Decide what?" Karla asked.
"In my bag are adoption papers " Iris explained. "You have until morning to decide if you want to adopt them or not. Know that if you refuse, I will take them to hell with me. I figure it wouldn't be fair to you to have to make that decision now so you have until morning to decide."
"Why choose me?" Karla asked. "You could have asked anyone else to adopt them."
"I didn't chose you." Iris quietly replied as she walked over the Karla and put Karla's hands on her belly. "They did." Karla could only look into the younger woman's eyes, searching for some sign that this was all some kind of sick joke. What she saw confirmed Iris was very serious. In that moment, Karla felt very afraid not just for herself but for the unborn children Iris was willing to destroy out of spite. The thought alone made her furious.
"You're insane." she whispered quietly. "Steven Hugh took the lives of 86 people. That's too much death and destruction for one lifetime! Why would you want to add to it?"
"Because this way, he doesn't win." Iris replied quietly, adding "You're probably right about me being insane. They're ignorant of the sins of their father. Even so, they will have to live with the knowledge their father is a mass murderer who denied your unborn child the right to exist. And neither will I." Karla felt relieved she made sure to give Alan the key to her husband's gun cabinet. She had little doubt the woman would have shot herself if she still had the key.
"If you think I'm going to let you kill yourself and those babies, you're wrong." Karla said as she turned to leave. Stopping for a moment, she locked the bedroom door to keep Iris from leaving. The last thing she needed was Iris trying to leave in the middle of the night. Karla went into the living room to call the police but stopped, realizing how it would look for her. Thinking quickly, she went to the kitchen and made a pot of tea. It was an herbal brew she often made to help her sleep when she was pregnant but had been drinking a cup every night since she lost her baby. This time, she made two cups. She took the cups back to the locked bedroom and opened the door. She found Iris sitting on the bed looking at a picture of her daughter Rachel when she was younger.
"She must have been a wonderful child." Iris said as Karla set the tray down.
"She was." Karla replied. "We took that picture on her first day of Kindergarten. She was a nervous since she was taller than the other kids in her class. Her teacher even thought she was a second grader at first. Anyway, I brought you some tea. It'll help you sleep. I drank a cup of this tea every night for all of my pregnancies during the final month so I can sleep. I still drink it now, actually." Karla drank from her cup first to silently prove it was safe to drink while Iris watched closely. Only then did she drink from her cup. Karla could only look at her in surprise.
"What?" Iris asked when she put down the emptied cup.
"There's something I realized I should have told you before I let you drink all of it." Karla replied quietly. "While it's true the tea is safe to drink while pregnant, it's only when you drink it at full strength. I usually add milk or cream to weaken its potency."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Iris asked, not believing what she was hearing.
"As you can see, both of our cups look the same." Karla explained, to which Iris nodded. "The tea I made for myself was my usual dose. Since you're pregnant with twins, I made yours stronger. The problem is I forgot to weaken the dose. The tea you just drank...the next time you go to sleep, there's a very good chance you won't wake up."
"Bullshit!" the younger woman exclaimed. "Do you really expect me to believe that?!"
"Of course not." Karla replied, adding "And you're right. I did it on purpose." Iris tried to lunge at Karla but the older woman jumped back just in time. Iris landed in a heap on the floor. "I wouldn't get worked up if I were you. It'll only make the tea work faster. Like I said before, I won't let you kill yourself. You'll be out for the night but you won't die. This way, you won't be able to hurt yourself or those babies."
"Why would you do this to me?" Iris said as she slowly sat up. "This was supposed to by my last night alive. I've nothing to live for. So why...?" Karla quietly walked over to Iris and pressed her hand on her belly.
"Because they want to live." Karla snapped. "Even though you've got a death wish, they want to live. Until you've had a chance to live your own life, you have no right to talk about ending theirs." With that, Karla left Iris alone in the bedroom and went to her own. Just before Iris came, she was seriously considering suicide. it was just a matter of figuring out a way to make it quick and painless. Now, she couldn't dare go to sleep before Iris did. There was no telling what she would do until the brew put her to sleep. She opened her bedroom door in time to see Iris collapse in the hallway.
"Don't touch me!" Iris roared when Karla rushed to her side, adding "Shit, you're even crazier than I am. I'm getting out of here."
"Where are you going?" Karla asked. "Are you still planning to kill yourself?"
"Yeah, but after I get these out of me." Iris replied quietly as dropped to her hands and knees.
"What are you doing?" Karla asked.
"Run." Iris replied as she suddenly pulled a pocket knife out of her pants pocket. Karla didn't need to be told twice. She turned, ran into her room and locked herself in her room before Iris could get too close. Then she remembered what Iris just told her. She threw open the door and down the now empty hallway to the living room where she found Iris leaning against the sofa, standing in a puddle of fluid.
"Your water just broke." Karla said, stating the obvious.
"This is why I wanted to cut them out!" Iris exclaimed.
"Well like it or not, they're going to be born." Karla shot back as she helped Iris take her pants and underpants off. She then had Iris run around the house to speed up the process.
"What's making me run around supposed to do?" Iris asked after an hour.
"The tea I gave you is supposed to put you to sleep." Karla reminded her. "I'm just trying to help it take effect faster. You'll thank me the morning." Iris nodded quietly before running around for another half hour. By thus point, she was covered in sweat so Karla helped her take a shower, change into loose-fitting clothes and go to sleep. The next morning, Iris started feeling strong contractions.
"Looks like that did the trick." Iris said when Karla came to see her.
"No kidding." Karla remarked. "Your body did most of the work while you were sleeping. All that's left is to push them out."
"We're not going to the hospital?" Iris asked in surprise.
"Didn't I tell you?" Karla replied. "I had all of my kids at home. This house was the first thing they saw when they were born. After me, anyway." Karla helped Iris get out of bed and brought her to the half-bathroom on the first floor with the standing shower, which she already prepared the night before.
"Why not the bed?" Iris asked once she was standing inside the shower with her pants off.
"It's faster for one." Karla replied, adding "And it's less painful. Now start pushing with each contraction." Iris did as she was told without futher protest, pausing when she felt a pressure in her groin. Wnen she reached down, she felt something hard.
"Is that the head?" she asked, to which Karla quietly nodded from where she stood. Iris kept pushing, not stopping until the shoulders emerged. She then reached down and gently eased the baby out the rest of the way.
"Well?" Karla asked expectantly.
"It's...a...girl." Iris whispered, clearly shocked at the tiny person she just gave birth to.
"Turn her over and gently rub her back to get her to breathe." Karla told her as she handed Iris a towel. Moments later, the wail of the newborn's crying filled the bathroom. Karla used a pair of scissors to cut the umbillical cord and some thread to tie it off. "Don't forget you're got one more to deliver." Iris nodded as she felt another contraction, quickly handing the newborn girl to Karla. After several tense minutes, the other baby emerged.
"This one's a girl, too!" Iris exclaimed in surprise. The after birth passed from her body a few mintues later.
"Hard to believe a mass murderer could create such beautiful children." Karla said after cleaning the bathroom and helping Iris and the newborns to the bedroom to rest comfortably. "If you're wondering how I knew what to do, I'm an obsetrician. Looks like you picked the best person to visit last night. Oh and if you're still set on killing yourself, I signed the adoption papers earlier."
"Really?"Iris asked in surprise. Karla showed her the signed documents. Seeing them, Iris promptly ripped them up. "The deal's off. I've changed my mind."
"You're keeping them?" Karla asked.
"Yes." The new mother replied. "I'm gonna raise these girls myself."
In the days since Iris gave birth to the twins, the girls were named Rachel and Emily in honor of Karla's daughters. Hearing their names left her speechless. In a move that caused a media frenzy, both women were present for Steven Hugh's arraignment. Karla also read a prepared statement to the defendant.
"Until I met Iris, I was planning to kill myself." She read. "When I saw how far she was willing to go to deny you what you denied me and so many others, deep down I wanted her to do it. When I think about the kind of person you are and the kinds of people those who died were, the only way for us to be free of you is to move on with our lives. Iris gave birth to two of the most beautful girls I've ever seen on Tuesday. Children you will never know. Children who bear the names of the daughters you took from me. Children who will be loved by everyone in Eastridge. To hate you is to hate them and that is something I could never do. Having said that, I forgive for what you did. If not for that, I never would have been witness to the birth of the two lives you created."
The two the left then courthouse without a word. Before leaving the courtroom, Iris locked eyes with her ex-husband's attorney. He was the main reason the national media had come to the courtroom. He was barely a high school student yet he had volunteered to represent him in court. It wasn't until after they left that Iris and Karla learned Hugh confessed to all the charges, begging for life in prison. Since he pled guilty, that made the actual trial much shorter since there would be no jury to decide his fate. One month later, both women returned for his sentencing.
"Before I announce sentencing, I do want to take a moment to thank your attorney Mark Anthony Toss for doing a sevice no other attorney would have been willing to willingly take on. I don't know what his motives for being your legal counsel are but it's obvious he truly cares about you. However, that does not change the fact your actions drestroyed the lives of hundreds of families. Steven Hugh, you are sentenced to life in prison without the possability of parole. You will live the rest of your days in federal prison and may God have mercy on your soul."
And with that, Stephen Hugh was removed from the courtroom to begin his sentence. He never said a word or even glanced in Iris' direction. If he did, he would have noticed she brought the twins with her. The girls would grow up never knowing their father and it was probably best that way. As she was leaving the courtroom, Karla was approached by Hugh's attorney.
"I just wanted you to know that on the day I first met with him, I told Mr. Hugh his only hope was to plead Guilty." he told her, much to her surprise. "I told him I wasn't going to use any of the tactics a far more experienced attorney would use because that would be disrespectful to everyone who died beause of him. I can't even begin to imagine how Eastridge is going to recover. How are you holding up?"
"Someone once told me every day above ground is a good day." Karla replied quietly. "After everything that's happened, I feel like that saying' taken on a whole new meaning."
"My uncle often says that." The young attorney remarked thoughtfully. "If you don't mind my asking, if you could have three of your family members back, which would you pick?"
"My three youngest." She replied without pause, adding "Especially the one who died before he was born. We live in a country where even the lives of children are expendible. I just don't understand how the most powerful country in the world views the death of the most most vulnerable as acceptible."
"No arguement there." The youth said as he smiled. "Where Mr. Hugh is, he'll never be able to hurt anyone else ever again. I won't ask you to find peace and move on with your life. Just take care of yourself and keep your head up."
"Thank you." Karla said before leaving. Tired from the day's events, Karla went home and took a nap.
When Karla awoke later in the day, something felt wierd. She remembered coming home from the trial and falling sleep but it felt like she'd slept for much longer. She was shocked when she threw back the covers to find herself looking very pregnant. The movement she felt coming from within her left no room for doubt she was definitely pregnant.
"What the...!" She exclaimed in surprise. She definitely wasn't pregnant when she fell asleep. She walked out of her room and went to Rachel's room where Iris was staying. She opened the door to fund Iris had just finished feeding the twins.
"Everythng ok?" Iris asked her.
"How long was I sleep?" Karla asked her.
"About four hours." Iris replied. "You told me to let your kids know to let you sleep."
"My..." was all Karla managed to say. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I told Henry and Emily to play quietly in their rooms so you could rest." Iris replied. Karla ran out of the room and down the hall, stopping in front of Henry's room. She could hear the sounds of him playing with his Legos on the other side of the door. They were his favorite afternoon past time. She opened the door to find the 10-year old doing just that.
"Henry." she called out to him.
"Mom!" he exclaimed as he stopped what he was doing and ran over to her. Instinctively she hugged him tightly. "I heard on the news the man who took Dad and Rachel from us is going to jail forever. Emily's the only one who doesn't know yet." Hearing him say this reminded her of what Hugh's attorney said to her earlier in the day.
"If you don't mind my asking, if you could have three of your family members back, which would you pick?" he'd asked her, to which she replied her three youngest children. Could her three children have been returned to her? What this what he meant? Even if it was, how were they alive?
"I know this is going to be hard and sound wierd but what do you remember about that day?" Karla asked her son. Henry then told her about when Steven Hugh went to their school and started shooting people. He and Emily managed to escape harm by pretending to be dead. Most of their friends weren't as lucky. Henry was so scared, he blacked out and for a while first responders thought he was dead, too.
"Are you feeling ok mom?" Henry asked, glancing at her belly. "Is he coming?"
"No, not that." she replied as she smiled. "I think I just had a nightmare is all." Karla left her slightly confused but alive son and went to see her younger daughter, who was drawing a picture at her desk. When she neared, Karla realized it was a picture of the family though her husband and oldest daughter were noticably missing from the picture. Emily paused when she noticed she wasn't alone.
"Mommy!" Emily exclaimed when she saw who had come. Karla held her tightly in her arms. Most of her family had been returned to her. The only question left to be answered was how.
"I've never been so happy to see you." Karla said to Emily as she held her close. "How was your day?"
"Henry and I were excused from the rest of the school day." she replied. "The teacher said because of the trial, everyone who lost a family member or was related to someone who was hurt were excused from school for the rest of today and tomorrow, too. Did somethng happen at the trial?"
"The man responsible for all the suffering in Eastridge is going to jail for the rest of his life." Karla explained. "He won't be able to hurt anyone ever again." Hearing this, Emily began to cry. "What's wrong?"
"I was...I was so scared!" Emily said between sobs. "I thought I was going to die. He was laughing the whole time. He thought it was funny! I thought the man you got in that accident with was going to-"
"You don't have to worry about him anymore." Karla said to her, not allowing her to finish the sentence. "I'm here and you're here. That's all that matters now. If your father was here, he'd tell you how proud he is of you. You have a such a strong heart. Only a strong heart would be able to bear all of the sadness our town has had to bear. We all must do what we can to stay strong."
"That's what that attorney said." Emily remarked quietly. Now this got Karla's attention. "He said no matter what, I needed to do what I could to stay strong. So I decided I'd never cry outside home."
"Where did you meet this attorney?" Karla asked her.
"He visited my class the day before the shooting happened." Emily explained. "I don't remember everything he said but he looked at me most of the time he was talking. Then he gave me a letter to give to you the next day but then the shooting happened."
"Do you still have it?" Karla asked in surprise. Emily walked over to her closet and emerged a moment later holding a white envelope addressed to her. Inside she found a letter:
Dear Mrs. Jackson,
You're not imagining things. Your three youngest children are alive and well. Your conviction inspired me to change time a little. History was rewritten: You were not hurt in the accident and your two youngest children were not hurt, either. Sorry but it was beyond my power to save your older daughter and husband since both incidents happened in such a short amount of time. I tried but on the other hand, some children are better than none. If it's any consolation, try to view what originally happened as nothing more than a bad memory that's now a little more bearable.
Oh and congratulations on the new baby!
Mark Anthony Toss
P.S. I took a peek into your near future, too. I reccommend letting Emily sleep in your room for the next two nights.
Karla had to read the letter twice. Also included in the envelope was the attorney's business card. She would have to thank him personally once she had the chance.
"Mommy...can I sleep in your room tonight?" Emily suddenly asked. "I want to be near you...and my baby brother."
"Of course you can." Karla replied, hugging her daughter once more. "You can sleep in my bed. I think it's what Rachel would have wanted, too." Hearing the name of her dead sister made Emily smile once more. "And you know what else? You get naming rights to your baby brother. Rachel named Henry and Henry named you. Now it's your turn to name the new baby."
"They never told me that." the little girl said in surprise.
"After everything that happened recently, I'm not surprised." Karla said as she smiled. Everyone ate dinner together that evening. Katla was able to confirm the only thing other than her children being alive was the baby girl Iris named Emily before was now named Sara. Everrything else happened exactly as she remembered it including Iris giving birth in the house. Henry and Emily were have a sleepover with one of the neighbors at the time. Things had been more lively around the house since then.
"After today, we won't need to look back anymore." Iris after dinner. "The only thing we need to do is move forward. For those who died, those still living and those yet to be born."
"When is the baby going to be born, anyway?" Henry asked Karla. "I'm sure Iris and the twins would love to meet him as much as the rest of us."
"He'll be born when it's time for him to be born." she replied as she felt the baby move. "Rachel was the only one who didn't keep me waiting. The rest of you took your time. Not that I minded or anything. This time, I wouldn't mind if he stayed inside me forever."
"I would." said Emily. "I don't want to be the youngest anymore. It's bad enough I'm the only girl in the family since my sister died."
"No you're not." Henry, Iris and Karla said at the same time.
"The twins are girls, too." Karla added. "They're part of our family now."
"By the way, have you figured out how you were going to spend your day off tomorrow?" Iris asked Henry.
"I was going to work on the tree house in the backyard." Henry replied. "Dad would have wanted me to finish it."
"That sounds like a good challenge." she remarked thoughtfully. "Mind if I help?"
"It's ok with me." Henry replied after thinking a moment. "We've got some plenning to do!" The two then headed off to Henry's room.
"Are they going to be ok?" Emily asked.
"I think so." Karla said as they shared a laugh.
And that is the end of that. I had several ways I wanted to tend this but I think this is a good place to stop. There will be a sequel to this where Emily had some quality bonding time with her mother and unborn brother. It's a completely different tone so I wanna post it separately.
Now you can see why the story is called Violent Retcon: History was slightly changed so Henry, Emily and their soon to be born brother are alive. They will have a recurring role in the Serene Adventure Sagas as well as Iris. That's a few years away, though.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next story!