It was a peaceful and early summer morning. The birds were chirping and there was a chill to the air. A young redhead sat on her bench seat and looked out the open window. She loved how peaceful the world was before it woke up.
A jarring and awful squeaking sound from the room next door ruined her moment. Her pouty lips scowled at the intrusion. She knew that sound well, it was the sound of the window being pried open from the outside. Next, she heard the all too familiar thud as boots hit the floor.
He was seventeen and should not be out all night! Annoyed, she got up and made her way to his room through adjoining bathroom they shared. Which was a total disaster. Sharing a bathroom with a seventeen-year-old boy was pure torture. His room wasn’t any better. His entire floor was covered in clothes. Every surface had stuff on top of it. It didn’t smell too good either.
“Kit?” He glanced at her as she walked in, “It’s the first day of summer vacation. What are you doing up so early?”
“Forget me! Are you just getting home now, Jase?” She narrowed her eyes at her younger cousin. He was wearing a thick black hoodie that reeked like beer. His blond hair looked unwashed and was hanging in his very red and puffy eyes.
“It’s six in the morning!”
“You know you’re nineteen, right?” He questioned as lifted a curious brow. “It’s summer vacation, chillax!”
Chill? Yeah right! If only...what a pipe dream for her. She was starting nursing school in the fall and needed to pay for it. Not to mention, Jase was graduating high school next year. She had to plan for his college fund too. She was probably going to need to work two jobs this summer.
She couldn’t help but go easy on her cousin. Even though he annoyed her, he’d been through hell. Two years ago his mom and dad, Carl and Rachel, died in a plane crash. She and her dad, Stone moved in after and he became Jason’s caretaker.
Stone’s parenting skills were pretty lazy. She’d always been responsible enough that it didnt matter. Jase, on the hand, took full advantage of the, do what you want just don’t get caught, mentality.
He let out a big yawn and plopped down on his bed. She rolled her eyes, taking the hint, she turned to leave.
“When you get up, clean this room,” she mutters, “it reeks in here.”
“Yes mom,” he teased as she left.
She crossed back over to her own big and bright bedroom. Her walls were painted a soft yellow and her carpet was plush and white. She walked over to her dresser and rummaged though it. She settled on a pair of jeans and a basic long sleeved tee shirt. She tied her coppery hair into a messy top knot. She dusted a little bronzer over her fair skin, dapped on some pale pink lip gloss and then headed downstairs.
The stairs led right down to the living room. It was a large room with wood floors. The walls were painted a light blue. The rest of the décor was also done in shades of calming blue. The white, plush sectional couch took up most of the room. Jase would spend most of his summer on it playing video games.
She didn’t have to worry about being quiet now. Her cousin would be passed out in no time and her dad never woke up before noon. He managed the local bar and grill and worked late nights. Then he’d come home and stay up well into the night.
Just then her phone rang and her eyes widened, speaking of people that never call before noon, ”Carly?"
“Hey Kit! Did I wake you?” Her perky best friend chirped into the phone.
“No, I’ve been up for a while. What’s up?” Kit asked, as she made her way into the kitchen.
It was beautifully renovated by her Aunt Rachel right before she passed away. It had all white shiny counters, stainless steel appliances and a big island. Too bad, Stone used the kitchen as his hanging spot after work. He’d sit at the island on his laptop and watch stupid videos all night. The counter was usually littered with beer cans, weed, random snacks and whatever else.
She was living with two kids basically, she thought, as she picked up an empty easy mac container.
“Of course, you have.” Carly scoffed. Kit could practically see her blue eye’s rolling.
“Anyway,” Carly said in a quiet voice. “I’m at Andre’s. I stayed here last night.”
“Oh, do you need a ride home? Is everything okay?” Kit asked.
Carly had been with Andre since late senior year. Everyone was stunned when they got together. They were complete opposites. Carly happily dubbed herself the life of every party. Andre on the other hand was studious and quiet. He was already completely focused on his career. Yet somehow, they just fit each other perfectly.
“No, no it’s fine.” Carly said. “Well, I’m fine, Andre’s not. His dad is getting worse, and he just fired another nurse. I offered to help but apparently, I’m ′too much’ for him.”
“This is like the fourth nurse, isn’t it?” Kit asked.
Leonardo Donato had a reputation. They wealthy attorney was intimating and hardnosed. However, he had always been nice to Kit. He really respected her Uncle Carl and had been very supportive to the Hart’s during their time of grief.
“Yeah, talk about stubborn. That man I swear.” Carly said in a low voice. “I try so hard Kit. I love Andre and my parents adore him. But his dad won’t even give me a chance.”
“Dealing with cancer is very difficult,” Kit sighed. “For someone as stubborn and proud as Mr. Romano, it can only make it that much harder. He doesn’t want to have to depend on people to take care of him.”
“I knew you would say something like that.” Carly said. “Which is exactly why I called you.”
“Carly...” Kit sighed she knew this tone Carly wanted something. “What do you really want?”
“To offer you a chance to save up enough money for school and then some, with only one job all summer.” Carly chirped.
“And what would that be?” Kit asked lifting a dubious eyebrow.
“You could be Leonardo ’s nurse.” Carly said excitedly. “You’re like the only person in this world, besides Andre, that he actually likes. Plus, it will be good career experience and I’m serious about the pay. Andre offered a very generous salary.”
“Carly, I don’t know.” Kit said softly. “I’m not a nurse yet. I don’t even know if it would be legal.”
“Oh, who cares if it is,” Carly scoffed. “Then you’re a caretaker or whatever.”
“Did Andre run this by Leonardo?” Kit asked nervously
Truthfully this would be amazing. It would give her a great opportunity to put money away for Jase and get career experience. But the last thing she wanted to do was surprise him with her appearance. Plus, there was the whole getting fired in a week thing. Although, Kit was pretty sure he would be able to tolerate her better.
“He’s wanted to see if you would do it first.” Carly said.
“I will.” Kit agreed, “tell him I’m in.”
Kit started her first day of work the next day. She put on some basic pink scrubs and put her hair into a ponytail. She then grabbed a banana and thermos and hit the road.
It was a short drive to the large Romano Estate. She couldn’t help but feel a certain confidence going to a job that could help her career. It was a nice change from waiting tables at the Willow Grill with her dad.
She always stared for a moment when pulled up to the place. It was gorgeous, From the cobblestone driveway to the stone detailing, and the huge windows. It had at one point been an old farmhouse. Leonardo restored and modernized everything when he moved in, he had grown up here in Willow Park. He decided to move back from Sun City a few years ago and semi retire. They found out he had cancer just one year ago, but lately his health had been rapidly declining.
She stepped up to the door, adorned by beautiful rose plants on either side. She knocked softly and Andre answered right away. He was dressed up as usual in black slacks and button down white shirt. His thick mocha colored hair was gelled to the side and he was clean shaven.
“Hi Kit,” Andre greeted her, his piney green eyes were grateful as they regarded her. “I’m so glad you agreed to do this.”
“I hope I can help.” Kit smiled as he led her in.
The main foyer has white marble floors, and a small closet for shoes and coats. She deposited hers in there. They then stepped into the hallway, which had a modern looking greyish wood floor. The living, and dining were one huge room, and the massive kitchen was on the other side. A big grand staircase sat in the center and led to the upstairs bedrooms.
“I’m sure you will. Father has always been fond of you.” Andre said.
Kit rolled her eyes at his formal ways. He was so socially awkward. Yet he wanted to be a lawyer like his father was. She just couldn’t picture him persuading a jury, but Andre was determined, so she kept quiet about it.
“Here is his medicine schedule.” Andre said handing over some papers. “We made it easier by having all his medication split between his 3 meals. It’s easier for him to take the pills with food. You will be responsible for his care during the day throughout the week. He sleeps through the night and I’m always here now. I will take care of his bathing needs. He has a walker and is capable of getting himself to the bathroom, but he does need help getting out of bed.”
Kit nodded and followed Andre up the stairs. The room next to his dad’s was emptied and had different equipment in it. Andre showed her the medical supplies. Then he showed the lifting equipment in the room next to his fathers. He went over any other instructions and she nodded as she took it all in.
“I can’t thank you, enough,” Andre said with a kind smile, they stepped into the hall.
“Andre it’s my job now. This is going to help me too.” Kit said.
“He does know I’m coming, right?” She whispered outside of the door.
“Not only does he know but he’s excited about it. I told you he’s fond of you,” Andre said as he opened the door, it was large room. They stepped into an small L shaped entry which had plastic down over the carpet.
“So he can get the walker and wheelchair through,” Andre explained when she looked at it.
“Father, Kit is here.” He called out.
“Oh yes come in, Cricket.” Leonardo said in a hoarse voice.
They stepped further into the large but dimly lit room. The plastic continued throughout the floor. A small couch and book shelf sat further into the room. From there the room was set up as a hospital, with a hospital bed and a sink set up near it. There was a comfy looking chair close to the bed.
“Hello Mr. Romano,” Kit said politely as she stepped closer. The once tall and intimidating man, was lying in the bed. His curly grey hair was messy and shaggy. His weathered pale face was thin. He looked drastically different then the last time she saw him. It was so sad what the cancer was doing to him.
She smiled at him warmly as she sat in the chair next to the bed.
“Please.” His soft green eyes regarded her warmly, “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Just call me Leo or Andre’s dad. Whatever suits you.”
Kit smiled wider at that, “okay Leo, but then you call me Kit like everyone else does.” She nodded at Andre to go on. He smiled looking relieved it was going well.
“I’ll see you later tonight, father.” Andre said.
“What are your plans today son?” Leonardo asked before Andre could leave.
“I am meeting with Richard about the practice. I want to ensure everything is still running smoothly.” Andre said.
“I appreciate you watching the practice Andre, but I’m not really a partner anymore. Richard owns more of the practice then me.” Leonardo reminded him.
“I know but he understands how important it is to keep me in the loop. I’m going to be a senior partner someday.” Andre insisted.
“I believe you will. But...don’t spend your whole summer on it son. Go spend some time with that blond girl that makes you laugh.”
Andre faltered looking a little surprised but nodded. “I would love to take her out after my meeting. Thank you.”
He scurried out after that and closed the door behind him.
“I thought you were supposed to be the sternest father in town?′ Kit teased with a slight smile, as she started getting his medications ready.
“Andre can be far too serious sometimes.” He sighed softly at that. “Much like myself. Work, work, work. So driven.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Kit quizzed.
“Oh yes, it is dear. But it isn’t everything,” he said quietly. “Certain things shift when you face death.”
“I know.” Kit said handing him a glass of water. She helped hold his head up as he took his pills.
“It is a tragedy what happened to your aunt and uncle. They were wonderful people. They sure knew how to balance family and career. Something I never learned,” He confessed.
“I always envied what my cousin Jase had with them,” Kit agreed with a sad smile.
“I can’t believe Stone is related to Carl. Damn, drinking, gambling, good for nothing...” Leonardo started to grunt.
“Hey! That’s my dad,” Kit chided him.
“How can you still stand by him after what he did to your cousin’s inheritance?” Leonardo asked.
It was no secret in town that Stone had accidentally gambled away Jase’s inheritance. Well most of it anyway. He thought he was going to double it. He was grieving his brother at the time and made a terrible decision.
“He’s, my father.” Kit said her eyes widened. “He may not be without flaws but we all have them. I love him.”
Leonardo grew quiet and started in on the cereal Andre already had ready for them.
His eyes looked far away. She decided to leave him with his thoughts. She grabbed some laundry from the room and headed down to take care of it.
He was fast asleep when she returned. She straightened up his room and then headed downstairs to get his lunch ready. She made a mental note to go buy them some real groceries when all she could find was frozen entrees. She took out the most edible looking one and got it started for him.
Leonardo was still quiet as Kit helped him with his afternoon pills and lunch. She used the lifter to get him out of bed. He was still quiet even as she helped him back into bed. She worried that maybe she upset him somehow and hoped she wasn’t going to get fired. The morning had started off so well.
“Kit, can you go get me something?” He asked suddenly.
“Sure, what is it?” She asked.
“A box in my closet on the left upper shelf,” he pointed towards the closet.
“This brown one?” She asked taking it down.
“Yes, can you bring it to me?” He asked.
She handed it over and he started sifting through the contents. She noticed several cards and photographs. Many were of a beautiful woman with dark brown hair and amazing blue eyes.
“This was my wife, Elizabeth,” he said handing her the picture.
“She was so beautiful,” Kit said gazing at the photograph.
“She died far too young,” He said sadly. “She had a heart transplant when she was young. She got sick several times after having the boys. But a few years after Andre, it just gave out.”
Kit felt a stab of sadness for him losing his wife so early and with boys to raise on his own. He had more in common with Stone then he realized.
Wait boys? What, he had other sons? Kit had only met Andre.
“You have more sons?” Kit asked as she lifted a curious brow.
“Just one, Luca,” he said a trace of bitterness in his voice. “We don’t get along.”
“Oh...but you’re sick. He should be here.”
Kit looked at the photograph of a young Andre with a dark-haired, thick browed, blue-eyed boy standing behind him. She guessed he was about 14 in the picture he was good looking, even as a boy. She wondered what he looked like now.
“It was never really ′good′ with us. I take my share of the blame in that. He didn’t take to pressure like Andre does.”
“No one takes to pressure like Andre does,” she pointed out.
“Especially Luca,” he agreed, “I didn’t know what to do with him. He had no real motivations. What I chose to do was terrible. When Luca left it was bad. It was really bad. I won’t see my eldest son again before I die.”
“You were good to forgive your dad. To see past his flaws. I wish I could go back but, I can’t now. It’s too late,” a shadow of despair crossed the old man’s dark green eyes.
“No, it’s not,” Kit said, shaking her head. “It’s not too late.”
“Oh, it is dear.” He sighed, “I have accepted that.”
“Does he even know you’re ill?” Kit asked.
“I’m sure Andre has told him,” he moaned and shifted on the bed.
Kit quickly helped straighten up his pillows
“Andre has never even mentioned him,” Kit mused.
“Andre took it hard. He idolized his older brother,” Leonardo said. “He hates who he turned into. I do too.”
“No, you don’t.” Kit said. “You may hate his actions but not him, he’s your son.”
“I suppose your right,” he said as he stared at the picture of the two boys wistfully.
“I should let you get some rest, and get dinner started,” Kit said and he nodded her off. He was still gazing at the picture.
Kit hurried downstairs, the moment was tugging at her heart. She had to do something. She was pulled from her thoughts when the front door opened. She was happy to see Carly and Andre walking in.
“How did it go?” Carly asked as she quickly embraced her best friend. Carly’s love language was touch. The bubbly blond was always hugging, touching, and kissing cheeks, it was just her.
“Really well,” Kit smiled as she squeezed her back.
“Father wasn’t too much trouble?” Andre asked.
“Would you just say dad like a normal freaking person?” Carly teased him and he pouted at her.
She laughed and ruffled his hair. Her shoulder length hair was down and freshly colored a platinum blonde. She was wearing a leather cropped jacket with a short black dress and ankle boots. As usual she was totally clashing with Andre in his formal business attire.
“No trouble at all. I was just about to get dinner ready,” Kit said, as she started making her way there.
“Great, we’ll help,” Carly said cheerfully. Her and Andre followed her into the kitchen.
“Help me microwave a meal?” Kit asked with pointed look at Andre. “I’m getting you some groceries.”
Andre laughed and shrugged sheepishly. He sat down on a stool at the island while Carly leaned against him.
“So, um Andre?” Kit asked cautiously.
“What is it?” He asked looking curious.
“Could I get your brother Luca’s number?”