Justin came around and it was clear the young lad was not quite with it yet. It was no great surprise to Caroline or Victor. He had had a hard night - beyond difficult. And now he had to wake up in a house he did not know, with people he did not know.
Not only that, but he had to wake up to a world where his father and mother were not there - and that was hard enough. Victor did not know how he was going to cope without Christina and Alexander. The only thing he did know was that he and Caroline could never replace them, though they would of course do all they could for him.
Tthe boy sat up.
"Uncle Victor?" he asked a little unsurely.
"I am here Justin – and so is your Aunt Caroline," before they had begun the journey home, Victor at the crash site, had indeed tried to distract Justin from all that had gone on. Thus, he had spoken of Caroline and the children. Or at least he thought he had.
It was always going to be a shock when they got back as Justin up to this point had indeed been an only child. Now he would very soon have to get used to sharing those who were bringing him up.
Kimberly and Roman were always going to be running about and Kayla would be gurgling, make noise. There would not be any peace. In the way there had been in the past.
"Hello, Aunt Caroline," said Justin respectfully. She was new to him. Brand new. And though he had been through so much, he was so respectful. She hoped the two of them would get on. She intended to make it so.
"Hello my dear," she said. "are you hungry?"
Justin gave a shrug. The truth of it was he had no idea and Victor could only suppose, given the circumstances, that was to be expected.
"Well I think you need to eat any way," said Caroline and Justin nodded submissively in his grief. She would feed him up to start with. Nothing made you so hungry as grief did after all. His uncle helped him get out of bed, Justin gave a nod in thanks, but he did not know what to say. If he was in pain from his injuries he didn't show it. In many ways it felt to him as if there was still not a lot to say. Caroline had a feeling that would be the case for a while.
Together the three of them made there way down to the breakfast room. It was a routine which Caroline's kids had got used to in time. Now Justin would do the same. On the way down, they picked up Kayla and in no surprise to either of them, Justin barely registered her. It was all going to take a bit on time. But time was what they had though.
The four of them settled down for the first meal of the day in silence. Victor felt as if he had now been too long in silence.
He was ready for a bit of life again.
Thankfully – at long last – Roman walked into the room.
"Uncle Victor, you're home," said Roman as he walked into the breakfast room. He was surprised to see him as he had not been there the night before.
"I am – how are you doing?"
"I'm good. How are you? And who is this?" he asked as he saw Justin for the first time, with a child's curiosity.
Caroline was the one to bend down and to talk to Roman.
"This is Justin - he is Uncle Victor's nephew and he is very sad at the moment because he has lost his mummy and daddy," she said gently as she looked at the young lad, not sure how he was going to take to those words. But the young lad was so tired he looked as if he was not taking any of it in. And he was so young she did not think she could blame him at all.
"How?" asked Roman with wide eyes. He did not like the sound of that at all. He had lost his connection with his father right then, he did not – could not think of – losing his mother. For the first time in a long time all he wanted to do was hold on to his own mummy.
That was a feeling which was fresh in him.
Sensitively and feeling her own sons need for her, Caroline took one of his little hands in her own. He came as close as he could to her – or at least as far as her bugling stomach would allow.
She was not going to say that in front of little Justin who she saw was staying very close to his uncle, not that he knew him hugely. But Victor was all Justin had left of his past. She thought it must seem as if he was all Justin had in the world right then.
"That does not matter - what matters is that he is going to stay here with us and we need you to be a big brother to him as well, as to your little sisters. Can you do that for me? Justin needs looking after," asked Caroline though she had a feeling she knew the answer already and he nodded. He had only had younger sisters up to this point. Now it seemed as if he would have a brother who was of age with him.
"You can share my toys if you would like," Roman said to the other lad. It occurred to him for the first time he was going to have someone who could be something of a brother to him and he liked that idea.
As much as he loved his little sisters and he did, there had always been in him which had wanted a brother.
But while it seemed as if Roman was ready for the two of them to be brothers it did not seem as if Justin was. He turned to his uncle and hid his face. If Roman felt as if this was a rejection, then Caroline was proud he did not show it. Caroline looked at him encouragingly, hoping this wouldn't upset him. Instead her boy looked at her and gave a nod. He would be a good big brother. And part of that was waiting for Justin to be ready for him to be so.
X x x
The first days that Justin spent at his uncle's house felt as if they were a bit of a blur to him.
If he was asked in later life what he had done with that time, then he knew he was not going to be able to tell anyone.
He waivered it seemed to the adults between knowing just what had gone on, and then not knowing and not being able to take it all in either. While it concerned Victor, Caroline appeared to think this was quite normal. She just kept telling him that what they had to be patient and wait for him to come out of himself. Victor wished that would happen sooner rather than later – but it would all happen in its own time for the son of his sister.
When it all sunk in…
It happened one night when he was unable to take in what had happened and what had gone on, that he found himself knocking on Romans bedroom door, mistaking it for the one Victor and Caroline slept in. He just wanted to check again that his mother and father weren't going to come home one more time – after all, how could they know for sure?
Besides, he wanted the answer to change. He needed it to change.
Roman took no more than twenty seconds to open the door and was surprised to see it was Justin.
The young Brady lad felt as if he knew what had happened here.
"Are you looking for Uncle Victor?" asked Roman.
He had to say he thought the lad looked as if he was in a bit of a panic and for himself Roman did not like it and was sure they could do with an adult.
But Justin shook his head. He was – but deep down, there was a more truthful answer he gave to Roman.
"I am looking for my mother and father…" he liked Victor well enough but before all of this he had not had a lot of time with or to get to know his uncle and that was what he needed. Someone he knew.
Roman felt the big brother in him come to the surface. He was ready to be there for him.
"I do not think they are here."
"Uncle Victor said they were dead, but I am waiting for them to stop being dead." He knew it was not going to happen. He had always known that but he hated it and he wanted it to stop.
Roman did not want to be harsh on the lad but as soon as he said those words, he knew beyond all doubt he had to tell him the truth. Again.
"I do not think that can happen."
To Roman's horror he saw tears flood into Justin's eyes.
"But the two of them would not just go and leave me." He knew them and he knew what he was to them and they would never just leave him if they had a choice.
"No - but I do not think this was up to them."
Roman had known very few people in his young life who had died but he had had a little experience.
He could recall the reaction of his parents when their favorite priest church had passed on.
They had been very sad.
Still Justin and Roman looked at one another as they did not feel as if there was a lot to say. Eventually the two boys found themselves sat downside by side, next to Romans bed.
Roman struggled at last to try and understand Justin and offer some words of comfort.
"I know it is not the same, but I have not seen my Pop in weeks now."
"You mean my uncle is not your father?"
The mere idea of anyone thinking that was enough to upset Roman for he was so proud to be the son of his own father. But he would not yell at Justin. That would not be fair. He did not know – how was he to know?
"No – my Pop is an American."
"So why are you here?"
"We are keeping Uncle Victor company as he would be sad if we were gone."
That was what his ma had said but it did not feel enough.
It felt like a lie now he said it himself – and doubt trickled in.
"Does it get any easier?" Justin asked. "Being away from your home – and your father?" Roman was only a young boy and it felt to him already as if there was not a lot in life which could be called easy. He shrugged. Even he would say there were some days when were better than others.
"I don't know," he told him honestly. He didn't know when he or Justin would stop hurting. If they would. But he did know that their absent parents would not have left them through choice and that was something which both of them had to hold on to. Their eyes met, and it was an unspoken bond which was formed between the two which said whatever came next, they would face it together and whatever came next, they were brothers.