“Doc Marin says he’ll be up and about in around a week, at best,” Cal was saying, walking down the hall with Casey at his side, “I mean, he’ll be all clumsy, but relearning to walk takes time. I guess.”
“He has to strengthen his muscles,” Casey explained, “After three years, it’s going to be hard, but he’s doing good so far.”
“Has he remembered anything else?”
“Bits and pieces,” Casey nodded, “Nothing substantial, and nothing about Brad, or why he shot himself. He doesn’t remember how he got shot, he just knows he was because Dylan told him.”
Cal nodded, arms lifted and hands folded behind his neck, “Must be weird to have that scar. Bet it would look tight with a short buzz cut.”
“Seriously?” Casey sighed, and Cal grinned.
“Optimism, angel,” he explained, “It’s a battle scar, he should be proud of it.”
Casey nodded, “It might take some time,” he said softly, hugging the file he was holding against his chest, “He has to remember what happened, then accept it, and be happy he’s not dead. It’ll take a lot of time.”
Cal threw an arm around Casey’s shoulders and hugged him against his side, his expression growing darker as he spoke, “What do you think about what happened with Brad?”
“I already said it,” Casey answered, “He messed up, he really did, and personally I don’t plan to ever forgive him for what he did, but I can at least recognize that’s he’s trying to fix his mess.”
“You really think it’s that easy?”
“Did I say easy?” Casey smiled softly, leaning into Cal’s hug, “There’s no way it’ll be easy, not for any of us. After everything he did, all of the pain he inflicted, in order to atone for all of that... honestly I don’t know what he can do to fix it, or even if he can,” he looked up, elbowing Cal, “Are you worried about him?”
“Excuse me?” Cal scoffed, pulling his arm back and lifting up his head, “As if. Why would I be?”
“Well, he’s been looking washed out,” Casey said, “Really tired, sad, depressed. I’m not picking on you or anything, I’m worried too. Besides, like it or not he’s your family.”
Cal grumbled, hands in his pockets and narrowed eyes on the ground, “I guess I’m a little worried. Like.... maybe 40% worried, but most of me is mad at him.”
“I dunno,” Cal shrugged, “Maybe cuz he let his brother get molested?”
Casey winced and nodded, “Okay. He seems better though. Jaimie I mean. He doesn’t hide from Brad, or try to avoid him, and he’s going to PE now. That’s a good thing, he’s gotten so much better.”
“I think he just doesn’t care anymore,” Cal admitted, “He’s not scared anymore, not of Brad or anyone else. He’s not afraid, or angry, he really just doesn’t care. With Wolfgang... I’m not surprised. That kid is the best thing that could have happened to Jaimie.”
“We’ve all come a long way, huh?”
Light footsteps attracted their attention, and they looked up, stopping dead when they saw who was walking closer. A little girl, maybe three or four, was toddling down the hallway, thumb in her mouth and a stuffed dragon hugged in her right arm. Her hair was platinum blonde and pulled into a ponytail with a big red boy right at the base of it, as well as green sandals, little blue jeans, and a sweatshirt that looked like a soccer jersey with the number three on the front.
She stopped and looked up at Casey and Cal, who gaped down at her before reacting. Casey was the one to kneel down, frowning, “Hey sweetie,” he called, holding a hand out, “What are you doing walking around alone? Where’s your mommy or daddy?”
“Am looking for Dada,” the little girl said, walking closer, but stopping, “Dada says not talk strangers.”
Casey laughed, “That’s a good lesson. My name is Casey, this is my friend Cal. What’s your name?”
“Chrysal,” she pulled her thumb from her mouth, giving a cute smile.
“Chrystal? That’s a really pretty name. See? Now we’re not strangers!” Casey beamed, and Chrystal toddled closer so he could pick her up, setting her against his hip, “Do you know where your daddy is?”
Chrystal shook her head, playing the the gren and blue dragon stuffy, flapping its wings without looking up, “Dada ask mummy to watch me. Mummy is mean. Look for dada.”
“You wandered off alone?” Cal asked, and Chrystal nodded, “Well, we’ll just have to help find your dad, huh? Do you know his name?”
“His name is dada.”
Cal awed, and Casey giggled, “We mean his real name.”
Her big brown eyes got bigger, “Not dada?”
“Oh my god!” Cal waved his hands, “She’s so cute!”
Casey rolled his eyes as he started to walk, “Come on, let’s try and find her mom or dad.”
Cal followed after, “Can I hold her? Can I?”
Casey sighed and looked down at the little girl in his arms, “Do you want Cal?”
She nodded, holding a hand out, and Cal squealed, taking her from Casey and craddleing her carefully, eyes wide, “Oh my god I love her!” he said softly as Chrystal laid her head on her shoulder.
The walk through the halls was actually pretty quiet, accept when Cal stopped and took a selfie of himself and Chrystal before sending it to Annabelle asking if he could keep her. That didn’t go down well, and ended with Annabelle replying with something along the lines of, “Did you kidnap her, give her back, what do you mean you want one?”
After twenty minutes, they stopped at Casey’s office, walking inside and leaving the door open as Casey set down the file on his desk and Cal played with Chrystal, holding her beneath the arms and lifting her above his head to make her squeal.
“Don’t drop her Cal,” Casey warned, and Cal hugged Chrystal tightly.
“Yee of little faith!” he looked at Chrystal, “Does he have little faith? I think so.”
Casey sighed as Chrystal giggled, and looked up when he heard a knock on his door, startled to see Brad standing there, yet again looking rather tired, “Hey, Casey, I was wondering-.”
“Dada!” Brad froze up, his eyes growing wide as Chrystal wiggled in Cal’s arms until he set her down, letting her run over to Brad, who knelt down to hug her.
“Wh... why aren’t you with your mother?!” he asked, and Chrystal sucked on her thumb as she looked off to the side.
“Don’t like muma. She’s mean, and told me to go away.”
Brad’s expression twisted to a look of complete rage, and he picked Chrystal up in his arms, hugging her tightly and glaring at the floor before calming down and looking up at Casey, who was staring at him dumbly.
“I didn’t know you had a kid,” he admitted, and Cal laughed.
“I thought you were joking.”
“Can you take her just for a second?” Brad asked, and Casey nodded, walking forward and taking Chrystal from Brad, who turned away, “I’ll be right back.”
He left the room, and Casey looked down at Chrystal before turning to look at Cal, “Follow him,” he said, “I wanna know what’s going on.”
“Right,” Cal nodded and ran after his cousin, staying far enough away that Brad didn’t notice him and peering around one of the corners of the halls to watch as Brad stormed towards someone, a woman with thick dark hair in a perm. Cal recognized her immediately.
“Denise!” Brad snapped, and she turned to him, her face twisting in disgust.
“What do you want?”
Brad glared at the senior she had been talking to, and he skittered away before he spoke, “You’re disgusting. Going after boys that young,” he turned to her, “I asked you to watch Chrysta.”
Denise scoffed, “The thing was getting in the way,” she explained like it would fix everything, and Brad stepped closer to her.
“You only have to see her once a week, sometimes not even then because you refuse to take her for a single fucking day, and the one time you do have her you let her wander off alone because you wanna get fucked by some seventeen year old brat whose balls have barely dropped?! She could’ve gotten hurt! Someone could’ve hurt her!”
Denise’s smile twisted, “You think you have a right to care about someone? The only reason she exists is because you got fucking drunk after forcing one of your closest friends to suicide!”
“Shut up!” Brad punched a fist into the lockers beside Denise’s head, “I don’t give a shit how it happened, I care about the fact you put my daughter in danger! I don’t want you coming around anymore, not when she could get hurt because of your immaturity and carelessness!”
“She’s my daughter too!”
“Really? Where have you been for the past three years? During birthday, when she started walking, when she lost her first tooth? Anything at all, what have you done? The only thing you’ve ever done is drive her home from school once!”
“Are you saying I’m not a good mother?”
“You bought her Jack Daniel’s for her second birthday!”
“My girl’s gonna start early.”
“Get out,” Brad hissed, stepping back, “I already have custody of her, if I need to go back to court for a restraining order against you, I will. I don’t want you near my daughter, you’ll just end up killing her or worse!”
“You think a judge would let you keep her?” Denise asked, stepping forward and drabbing Brad’s chin in her hand, tilting her head to the side, “Sweetie, compared to me, you’re the devil.”
“My past has nothing to do with how I’m raising Chrysta,” Brad said through clenched teeth, and Denise scoffed before stepping away, flicking her hair over her shoulder and starting to walk away.
“You have issues, Richardson. Call me when you’ve made a decision between pussy and cock.”
Brad clenched and unclenched his hands, grinding his teeth together as she disappeared down the hall. Cal backed away, chewing on his nails before turning and hurrying back to Casey’s office. Casey was standing with Chrystal fast asleep against his chest, bouncing on his feet and turning when he heard Cal.
“Denise,” Cal said, and Casey stopped moving to gape at him, “I guess after he woke up from being catatonic he went and slept with her.”
“Meaning Brad’s been taking care of her since he was, what, eighteen or seventeen?”
“Yea,” Cal stuffed his hands into his pockets and leaned back against Casey’s desk, “She seems like... literally the worst mother ever, but Brad...,” he shook his head, “Well, he’s a shit human, a shit brother, a shit cousin and a shit friend, but...,” he looked up at Chrystal, “Seems like he’s a damn good dad.”
Casey looked over at the door when he heard footsteps, and Brad walked in looking even worse than he had before. He smiled though when he saw Chrystal and took her from Casey, holding her carefully as she slept, cheek against his shoulder and stuffed dragon in her arms.
“Thanks,” he muttered, placing a kiss to the top of her head.
Casey offered a smile in response, “Yea... um, look, if you ever need someone to watch her, I don’t do much here, and I’m usually free. She’ll be near you and with someone you trust.”
Brad smiled at that, nodding, “Thanks,” he paused, looking down, “I guess I can be pretty picky when it comes to people watching her. I’ve fired maybe thirty babysitters for one reason or another, usually a stupid reason. It’s not healthy for her to see so many people come and go, but... I don’t trust any of them,” he looked up at Casey, “I really appreciate it.”
Chrystal murmured and turned her head, and Casey smiled, “She’s cute. Chrystal, right?”
Brad frowned, pressing his lips together and nodding, “Or Chrysta.”
“How old is she?”
“Three,” Brad answered, and Casey laughed softly.
“She can talk really well.”
This had Brad beaming, “She started early,” he said, “You could hold full conversations with her. She’s really smart too, incredibly smart,” he looked down at her, “I’m lucky.”
“And that toy?” Casey pointed out, “Not really a bunny or a kitty or a teddy bear. Why a dragon?”
Brad cleared his throat, looking down, “I, uh, made it for her when she was born.”
“You made it?”
“Kinda,” Brad cleared his throat again and turned, “I should get going. Thank you for watching her for me.”
“Sure, anytime,” Casey held a hand up and waved, and when Brad was gone he turned to Cal, “He made it.”