Chapter 14 ~ Wise Words
Zavion had been asleep for a couple of days and after one stubborn argument with Harlyn, I finally gave in and am taking her to the hospital. Paisley had not taken the loss of their father well, which was to be expected, but she tagged along regardless. We hoped that getting her out of the house might brighten her up a bit, but truthfully, how could you be happy about your father, who you loved most in the world, dying at the hands of monsters that kidnapped and imprisoned you? Your heart just can’t magically sew itself back together like that - though, I think our wayward hope was more, neither of us knew how to handle the repercussion this would all have on Paisley.
I couldn’t imagine what it felt like for either of them, hell, I had not seen my parents since that day and I was beginning to worry, protocol in this type of situation, usually meant Dad coming to find me, but he hadn’t yet.
A part of me was also glad he hadn’t though. Dad still was angry, still had blame and guilt, rolling around inside of him, but I had never seen him this way before, usually, it fizzes out in a couple of hours, for him to remain so furious meant this had cut far deeper than I could fathom.
Paisley asked to play on the playground with the other kids from the hospital, we were dubious about letting her go off on her own but I said we’d check on her every fifteen minutes and she seemed okay with that idea. It also meant she was kept away from another reminder of what she had survived through and we were both happy about that. We entered the room to find Joel and Carter, sitting with their unconscious son as his body fought to recover from his inflicted wounds.
He remained lifeless and unresponsive, I don’t know what she was hoping for or even expecting and I’m sure it wasn’t this - the sight of Zavion in a coma.
“You stupid asshole...” she cried out as tears dripped from her eyes. She fell by his bedside, gripping his hand with crushing force. “You broke formation and went Rambo, for what, Zav? Look at you - you’re a fucken idiot, and if you survive this - I’m so kicking your ass. You promised... you promised me you would be safe, that you would stay safe. You’ve been shot so many times you’re now aerated, we didn’t need wind blowing through you, we need you - whole. If you wanted to learn to whistle you daft prick, I would have taught you to do it with your mouth, not your body.”
This made Joel snort and then cough to cover up his slip, I had sucked back both my lips between my teeth and bit down hard to stop my amusement from flying out. Carter, however, was unimpressed by us even being there and leapt from his seat. “If my son dies, it’s on you,” he spat. “He should never...”
“Enough.” Joel’s bellow was so loud, I’m surprised it didn’t shatter the windows. “Outside now,” he ordered Carter.
Uncle Carter huffed before stomping his foot, glowering at Harlyn and snarled menacingly, “this is your fault,” he scorned before he stormed out of the room.
“He’s just... he doesn’t... Zav’s our only son...” he looked at me apologetically.
“It’s alright Uncle Joel, we understand.” I slumped into the chair with a heaviness upon my chest.
“I better go after him,” I nodded slowly as he left the hospital room.
“I’m sorry...” I heard Harlyn sniffle, “I’m so...”
“Stop, you can’t blame yourself because of Carter...”
“It’s not...” she tried to defend her guilty reaction but I interrupted.
“Arly, Carter is hurt, he is scared and unsure whether his only child will live or die. If it wasn’t this job, it would have been another, now, do you honestly believe, when Zav wakes up - and he will wake up - that he will automatically blame you? No. He will ignore everyone and check you are not blaming yourself, that’s what he does. He is a strong man, a good, kind, caring man. There are no sureties, we all take a risk doing what we do and we all lay our lives on the line. Zavion knows this, and so do they. Joel was brought up in this way of life, Carter wasn’t, he’s been sheltered from the truth of what we do.”
After some time, Harlyn had climbed up onto the bed, she was talking animatedly to Zavion despite his non-responsiveness and when I asked her about it, she said that ‘sometimes coma patients can hear you when you talk to them’. So, I just let her continue.
A little while later, after continuous checks on Paisley, who wasn’t actually playing or even interacting with the other kids, no. She was just observing them, keeping watch from her position on the swings, which I thought was odd, in walks my Mother and Father. Dad looked worn out, he had dark bags under his sunken in green eyes and his hair was dishevelled. Mum made her way over to Harlyn while Dad remained in the doorway, leaning against the frame, “hey love, how’s he doing?”
“Well, he’s been non-stop talking about how he’s taking a long vacation to the Bahama’s, going to find a nice island girl to settle down with, have lots of kids and will teach wakeboarding in the weekends to the tourists.”
Mum chortled, “I see, so I guess he’s got it all figured out then?”
“Yeah, I can barely get a word in, he’s so excited.”
Mum placed her arm lovingly around Harlyn’s shoulders and squeezed, “don’t you change, ever, you hear me.” She placed a light feathery kiss against Harlyn’s temple which made my heart swell and my goddess’s cheeks tint with a red hue.
“I’m going to check on Paisley,” I announced. Mum looked up at Dad, I could see that stern look of disapproval blazing in her glare but he turned his head. My shoulders slumped in defeat as I sidestepped around him and out to the hall. I could see he was still internally wrestling with this and it was heartbreaking, so, as I wandered down towards the playground, I was surprised to hear my name being called.
“Arlo? Arlo, wait up.”
“Dad, it’s okay... don’t worry about it,” I threw back over my shoulder.
I felt his large hand on my arm, halting my progression forward and I turned to meet him head-on. “No, it’s not okay. Look, son, I’m struggling with this one. I’m sorry for how I spoke to you, I had no right...”
I held up my hand, “don’t... I get it, I do. I broke down too. Completely, cried my ass off actually, it was pretty emasculating, but I just couldn’t hold it in. This was strenuous on all of us, Zav is lying in that room unconscious, Tam was wounded, children died and worst of all... they got away.”
He nervously scratched the back of his neck before running his fingers through his locks. “Are you alright?” He gingerly inquired.
“Are you?” I threw back.
He sucked in a sharp breath as his eyes glistened over. “This one’s personal, I just... because...” shit, I had never seen him struggle so hard to find the right words.
“It doesn’t matter son... it doesn’t matter how much good we do... I can’t seem to wash away the years of blood I’ve spilled. It never stops... all the bad shit... it just continues and I can’t stop the evil that creeps, like the plague, in the darkness. They never stop, and now innocent lives have been lost.”
“Is this what has you so beaten? You think this is somehow your fault? Like this is your karma or something?”
“Well, what would you call it?” He snapped with a harsh jab. I knew his anger, and the calm he once spoke of, mum, me, cadence - he couldn’t find his way back to the light. His calm was not working and he was trapped within the self-loathing monstrous hurt.
“Dad, none of this is your fault. You think that innocent children don’t die anyway? Of course, they do. There will always be devastating murder of innocent lives, look at this...” I pulled him by his arm to where the windows overlooked the playground where Paisley sat, watching over the other kids. “You see that little girl there...” I pointed to Paiz, “she gets a chance at life now, because of us. Look at the kids that surround her, some of them are suffering battles we can’t even begin to understand and yet, they have done nothing to warrant this form of punishment.
“You think they deserved the adversity and misery that sickness brings? Are you also going to become a Doctor so you can save them? Life is cruel, it strikes without warning and with no consideration - there will always be a need to fight Dad, no matter what the illness or injustice, you can’t swoop in a be everyone’s hero, Harlyn taught me that. We saved more lives than were stolen that day and the ones we saved - they will forever be thankful for the opportunity at life. Yes, it’s fucken horrific and yes, this is not right at all, but we have been doing this for a long time and we have rescued more then we have ever lost. Give your heart a break, this is not your fault and you are not to blame.”
Dad softly grinned at me, “when did you get so smart, son?”
“When the woman I love showed up.”
His eyebrows shot upwards, “Love?” He gasped in surprise, I would too, I had never spoken of love with any woman.
“Love, I love her, she is my soul - my calm - my home.” I nodded slightly, feeling a sudden bashfulness at my confession.
“Wow, and she feels the same?”
“Yes, yes she does,” I answered simply.
“I’m so happy for you.” He wrapped his massive arms around me and pulled in, it was nice to have finally eased the tension between my father and I. “Does that mean you’ll be moving out soon?”
I laughed, “not unless you’re buying me a house,” I cheekily replied.
“Staying forever then, good to know.”
Dad and I went our separate ways, me with a new spring in my step and less weight bearing down on my chest and I imagined he felt much the same. As I made my way outside and joined Paisley on the swing set, she twisted a branch between her hands. “What’s with the stick?” I asked curiously.
“Protection...” she threw back casually, dragging the toes of her shoes along the ground as she swayed back and forth. This was not a normal response, in fact, I fear her torment still consumed her mind.
“You worried someone might attack you?”
She sighed before leaning back to gain a bit of momentum. “I heard them... you know, talking about how much they will get for each girl. I tried to block it out but then they spoke of my father, about the awful things he’s done in his life. Was that really who he was when he wasn’t around us?” Her eyes became watery and I felt a pang deep within my heart.
“Your father loved you and Harlyn more than life Paiz, I think who he was around you and your sister, was the man he actually is, not the man he became when he left your home. That’s all you need to remember, not some description sick, vile criminals profiled him as, but what you know to be true in your heart. No one is innocent, no one, not even me.”
I noticed a slight curl to the sides of her mouth, my words had obviously eased some turbulence. “Thank you... for rescuing me.”
“I know you’re hurting Paisley and I know this is a confusing time for you, I also know that in case of your father’s death, Harlyn was to fly with you, to your great, great aunts, who lives in San Lorenzo District, Rome. I don’t want that. I want both you and Harlyn to remain with me, where you both are safe, protected and taken care of. Do you think that would be okay? Even if you want to test it out for a couple of months before you decide permanently.”
“You really love her huh?”
“Yep,” I popped the P for dramatic effect.
“Okay, I’ll give it a try.”
I smiled widely before kicking off the ground and swinging my legs forward. “Bet I can swing higher than you,” I joked, knowing full well this would get a rise out of her.
“You’re on Arlo.”
It felt as though today was a good day. You have days where nothing seems to slot into place, and then you have days like these... days where you win a little at life. Yes, Zav was still in a coma but I like to think he had something to do with today’s outcome and that thought alone, brought me more comfort than I could ever have imagined.
Paisley was going to stay for now, which meant, so is my goddess and lord knows, I can’t exist without her.