Lizzie sat in the hospital waiting room and felt the ache in her heart grow and start to encompass her body. Janis. She stifled a sob, her only sister dead. She couldn't believe it, she wouldn't believe it. She'd only left home that morning, bundled herself and little Nathan into the car and driven off waving, as they did every morning. Lizzie knew she was crying, she could feel the tears splash on her bare legs. Despite it being late January in the north of England, she rarely wore more than shorts.
Someone entered the waiting room and she dropped her eyes not wanting anyone to see her cry. But they came towards her, and sat down next to her. Turning she spotted the long slim hands of the doctor who'd shared the news seconds earlier.
"I brought you tea...it's good for shock. I thought you'd like some."
TEA! She wanted to scream, no I don't want tea, I want Janis back, alive, well, laughing.
Instead she gulped and took the polystyrene cup, and sat up, as she made to swipe at her tears with her sleeve, he held out an old fashioned handkerchief.
"Is there anyone we can phone? The police can help with next of kin..."
She shook her head, "I'll drive to my parents later. My father isn't well...they wouldn't be able to get here."
"And her son?"
She sighed, "Nate? He's in nursery; I'll collect him when you're done with me." As she thought of the four year old darling boy, she stifled another sob, how would he live without her?
The doctor smiled sadly at her when she finally met his eyes, and she knew that if she'd met him in any other circumstances that she'd have thought about flirting, he was a good looking man, she could tell in the seconds that she could peak through the grief.
At that moment there was a knock at the door and two uniformed police officers entered, "hi Miss Breen. We were just hoping to ask you a few questions."
Nodding she thanked the doctor then turned back to the officers, she'd already had to identify her dead sister, her big sis who'd been everything to her. Now she had to answer questions...before telling her four year old nephew and parents what had happened.
She wasn't sure she would survive the day.
Oscar smiled up at Krystal as she emerged from the bathroom, naked and danced across the room to him. She was fun, he couldn't deny that, and after a few years, well he wasn't close to feeling bored of her. Marriage? The M word wafted in his head far too often in the eighteen months since his best friend had married his own sister. They were besotted, made for each other, he and Krystal...they were a long way from that.
Giggling Krystal slid her exotic body under the blanket beside him and ran her hands down his chest, "you miss me Foxy?"
Rolling onto his back, he let her climb all over him, her enhanced breasts pressing against his neck, her lips on his forehead, "you've been in the shower for like ten minutes."
She nodded, rubbing her body up against him, "and you didn't follow...you're doing a lot of that lately...missing out."
He laughed, "because I took an extra ten minutes of shut eye before getting up?"
She wriggled but looked a little sadder than she had when she had started the tease, "there was a time when you couldn't get enough of me."
That was true, because as much as he enjoyed being with her, he still had no inclination to take things further. Maybe the time was wrong...because he liked her...a lot. They'd spent a lot of time together over the last five years. He really needed to get a grip on things.
The phone ringing dragged them from their 'moment', and Oscar reached to answer it.
"Uncle O, you up and about old man?"
Oscar groaned at the enthusiastic voice of his best friend and now brother-in-law, "Coop? It's like nine am, what the hell you doing calling at the crack of dawn?"
Coop's laugh was deep, "just you wait, one day you'll have two monsters waking you up at the REAL crack of dawn. Anyway, your sister wants to know if you and Krystal want to come for lunch. She's desperate for company I think."
He and Krystal weren't in the habit of spending the day together, it wasn't their thang...maybe it should be?
"Still in bed, can I get back to you in five?"
Coop's laugh was even louder, "have I interrupted..."
"...something like that!" He snapped but it was without animosity, then hung up. Why was he having such a hard time committing to Krystal? But then why was she so reluctant to change? She was an exotic dancer, he didn't care about that, he wasn't jealous though he didn't feel it was a forever job, but she showed no interest in changing her it or anything
Rolling back to her, he smiled, "Freya and Coop need some help with the kids I think. Lunch chucked in of course."
She wrinkled her nose, "they're cute, but they're not my thing...kids. You don't need me there do you?" Shrugging he rolled out of bed, as she added, "I've got a facial and mani/pedi booked for later."
Ducking under the shower he groaned. Spending time with his niece and nephew was everything to him; he loved every minute with them. But it hurt him so much too. He thought once again as he did everyday about Nathan, the son he'd met on three occasions before he disappeared off the face of the earth with his mother. No amount of paying private investigators and lawyers had revealed where in the world they'd gone.
She was long gone when he got out of the bathroom, and he was glad. Freya would feed him; she'd transformed into some form of a domestic goddess since she'd married Coop and become a mother. She was a million miles from the child prodigy who was snapped away from their Berkshire home when she was just in her teens to study, the intelligent woman who'd graduated from Harvard aged nineteen. Now she was a mother, a baker, a homemaker.
He'd lived in this upstate New York town for years, and really liked the small apartment he had on the outskirts, but before Freya had turned up on the scene he'd lived in Coop's converted warehouse since work had brought him across the Atlantic, and it had been the best few years of his life.
As he pulled up outside the house he could hear the voices from inside. A few taps at the front door went unnoticed, so he opened it and let himself in. There he was confronted with the sight of his friend, huge ex-NHLer Mitchell Cooper, dancing around the sofa holding his almost two year old daughter, dressed in a pink tutu, on his shoulders, and singing some cheesy pop tune. Freya was sat across from them laughing as four month old Riley fed, fortunately tucked under her shirt...there were some things that a brother didn't need to see.
It was a long moment before they realised he was there, and it was Freya who jumped up lifting Riley over her shoulder as she corrected her clothing then came across to him.
"Big brother, so glad you could make it. Alone?"
He hugged her then nodded, "it's not Krystal's thing, you know?"
Freya rolled her eyes but as she opened her mouth to comment, she instead smiled then handed him Riley and nodded in the direction of Coop, "I just want you to have what we have."
Coop was still waltzing around with Elena when he turned and spotted Oscar.
"Hey look, it's Uncle O!"
Elena squealed and clapped, and before long, he'd sat on the sofa and Elena was showing him her latest toy, as Riley fell asleep in his free arm.
An hour later both kids were asleep, and Freya was cooking dinner, he and Coop were drinking beer watching a re-run of the previous evening's hockey. Oscar was relieved, because for years Coop hadn't wanted to even think about the sport that had been his career. He'd told him years later that he associated the sport with his selfish side, that his determination, his lack of regard for his girlfriend at the time had led to her killing their baby and trying to kill herself.
He'd been a miserable mess, and it had been his sister who'd eventually got him back on the ice, back to the man that he had always been. Her, and her undying love for him and turned him into this wonderful family man. Oscar hating sounding jealous...but as he glanced around the room, that was the only feeling that he could attribute to his emotions. He wanted a family, he wanted what they had...and Krystal didn't. And neither had Nathan's mother.
A life time of bad choices.
They had barely started the meal when his phone rang.
Freya tutted as he pulled it out of his pocket, and turned to her daughter who was eating with her chubby fingers, "ignore Uncle Oscar's manners Elena. He was dragged up, obviously."
Giving an awkward grimace, he connected the call as he walked out of the room into the hallway.
"Oscar Wicker, Can I help?"
There was no answer for a moment, then he heard a stifled sob, "this is Lizzie Breen, Mr Wicker."
That meant nothing to him, "I'm sorry..."
She gasped a deep breath, "my sister Janis...you knew her..."
Janis. There was only one Janis that came to mind. The woman who'd disappeared two years ago.
"Nate?" It was all he could manage to breathe out.
She sobbed again, "Nate's fine. He's good. But Janis...she died yesterday."
"Shit!" Suddenly he felt sick, his heart was racing.
Again she cried, "I found your name stored in her purse...you're Nate's father."
He wanted to scream, shout...but he knew this wasn't the time.
"Where is he?"
"We live in Manchester."
"Manchester, New Hampshire?" It wasn't THAT far from him really, he could be there in a few hours, especially if he could get a flight.
She laughed, the first time she hadn't cried, "no. Manchester in England of course. Well we're just outside."
"I'll be there as soon as I can."
He stepped back into the room, seemingly in a daze, and both pairs of adult eyes flashed up to him.
"Shit, Oscar, what is it? You look like you've seen a ghost."
He sighed, "I've got to go to England."
In the distance Riley started to cry and Freya looked torn.
"Go see him, it's fine."
She stared at him for a moment, then disappeared. Leaving Coop to stand and come to meet him.
"What is it O? You really do look like someone's died."
Oscar felt his eyes widen, "they have."
"Shit! Sorry. Who?"
He ran a hand over his eyes, still trying to process the fact that he'd found his son. "You remember a couple of years back Hawaii...my son." Coop nodded nervously. "That was his aunt on the phone, Janis passed away yesterday."
"Fuck." He reached out and placed a hand on Oscar's shoulder, "you've been looking everywhere..."
He nodded, "they disappeared off the face of the earth, she told me that he's in Manchester, they've been in England for two bloody years."
"What the..." he shook his head in amazement, "Shit, what can I do Oscar?"
"I need to fly there..."
Coop reached for his iPad, "of course. Manchester you say?" He was already onto a flight website.
"You're going to Manchester?"
They both looked up guiltily at the sound of Freya's voice, and she eyed them suspiciously, "what's going on with you guys?"
Two years earlier Oscar had confessed to Coop about the presence of this son when he found out. But he'd sworn him to secrecy. When Nathan disappeared, he didn't mention him again, at all. Now as he looked at his sister, he knew that this wasn't the only difficult conversation that he would face in the next few days.
He'd found his son...but his mother had died.