Part 1: Chapter 98: 1893 Red Deer, Alberta
Repercussions of Archie's Actions
The next school day, Thomas met Colleen and Nathan at the front of the school house with a wide and sour look upon his face. He was obviously upset about something.
"Thomas?" Colleen asked in worry.
Thomas looked away and couldn't meet anyone's eyes.
Nathan had a sinking feeling about this.
"Thomas?" Colleen insisted.
Thomas took several shaky breaths before he looked at the siblings in a combination of anger, horror, and regret.
"Me Pa has ordered me to stay away from all of ya," Thomas gasped out.
"Why?" Colleen asked in hurt.
"Because 'McSweeneys don't associate with thieves,'" Thomas repeated his father's reasoning. "Look I know that ya had nothing to do with yer father. But, Pa has ordered me to stay away from yas until further notice. He sent a letter to Ms. Fletcher about it. And I am not even allowed to spend time with Mum and Dad. Mother said that I have to follow his rules until she can convince him that he is wrong."
Colleen looked at Thomas with hurt and betrayal. Nathan closed off his face so that the school yard couldn't read his reaction. They had thought that Thomas would still be friends. And now they had to go through this upheaval without a friend in the school house. Nathan nodded his understanding in a solemn manner. He gave Thomas a shrug before holding out his hand to shake Thomas' hand.
Thomas gulped back tears.
"This isn't fair," Colleen protested as tears were streaming down her face.
Thomas looked at Colleen and nodded his agreement.
"But what can we do?" Thomas also shrugged.
"This isn't good bye; it is a 'see you later'," Colleen insisted.
Thomas nodded. They hugged briefly before releasing each other. Ms. Fletcher rang her school bell to start the day. Thomas sat beside Fred Jr. in the row behind Nathan. The students were looking at the sight with astonishment. At no point since Thomas' arrival had Thomas and Nate not been sitting next to each other nor supporting each other. The fact that Archie Grant's arrest had been the final straw, sent the rumor mill flying. And suddenly it was Nathan and Colleen who were also thieves and part of their father's plans. This was whispered in and out of the schoolhouse and into the streets of Red Deer.
Colleen was wanting to stop by the jail to speak with her father before their tutoring session. Nathan just kept walking towards the Normandeau home without even glancing at the visitors building. Colleen watched her brother walk away with hurt in her eyes, but she walked towards her father anyway.
Archie was surprised to get a visit so soon. He smiled at Colleen through the bars in the window.
She gave a half hearted one in reply.
"Thomas has been ordered not to associate with us," Colleen explained.
Archie's jaw dropped.
"What?!" he asked in true surprise. "I had no idea that the McSweeneys would do such a thing."
"It is just Mr. McSweeney," Colleen explained.
"But he is the head of the house, and his rules carry more weight," Archie added, knowing where the family was coming from. He looked at Colleen with regret.
Colleen nodded in agreement.
"Let Nate know I am so sorry for that," Archie asked Colleen.
Colleen nodded her agreement before heading to the parlor of the Normandeau home.
Nathan was already in the room for tutoring. Colleen entered in a solemn manner.
"Is there anything we can do?" Edith asked as she noticed the change of their hearts. Colleen usually found good in something, but something was wrong today. Both of the Grant children were low energy and gloomy subjects.
They both only shook their heads at their aunt.
"How can we help if you don't tell us what is the matter?" Edith asked gently as she put her right arm around Nathaan and then looked Colleen in the eyes.
"This can't be fixed, Auntie Edith, at least not right now," Colleen said with a shrug as she opened her stitching practice. Edith smiled at her briefly.
"Problems always seem bigger than they are," Edith said.
James was soon walking into the house from the clean room. He looked angry and just as annoyed as he had the previous day. Edith met his eyes and raised an eyebrow in question. James shook his head in response. Their message of 'later' was loud and clear. She looked at her family and her heart broke as they were hurting due to Archie's bad decisions.
Ophelia stormed into the house from the cleaning room not too long after.
"I hate all men!" she protested loudly and in complaint as she crossed over to Edith.
Nathan and Colleen both looked up in surprise as they rarely heard their mother use such language. Edith looked at her in question.
"All men?" Edith prodded.
Ophelia sat down with a load plop and crossed her arms as she gave a sharp nod of agreement.
"Why such strong feelings for that gender?" Edith asked.
"Because they are stupid and selfish!" Ophelia spat out.
Nathan and Colleen both stopped what they were working on to look more closely at their mother. Ophelia was still sitting with arms crossed in anger.
"What on Earth happened today?" Edith asked as she watched all of her family nod in agreement with Ophelia.
"Archie is…well…Archie," James explained, "and Eoan isn't letting Thomas be friends with Nathan anymore. It has gotten around that Archie stole and Mr. McSweeney is forbidding Thomas from associating with us or any Grant."
Edith looked at him in shock and horror.
"I do believe that allows a reasonable excuse for their current moods," James said as he looked at the Grant's on his couch. Edith nodded her agreement.
"I can't believe that the McSweeneys would do that," Edith commented. James gave a nod of acknowledgement before Ophelia spoke again.
"It is not all of them. Thomas and Mildred are both on our side, but Eoan is the one with the power. Mildred is trying to talk sense into him, and if he hasn't been sick and irrational already, she thinks that this wouldn't have been an issue for him either way. Mildred isn't sure how long it will last," Ophelia stated firmly.
Edith looked at her with widened eyes.
"What do we do?" she asked them.
"The same thing that we have to do with Luke. Thomas' father has rules that aren't physically hurting anyone. We can't do anything about it," James said with regret lacing his entire posture.
"Well, when they realize that we are ALWAYS in your corner it should smooth down a little," Edith said as she pointed between James and herself as she addressed the rest of the Grants in her home.
"You are always welcome here anytime," Edith reminded them.
"I don't know how we would get through this without it," Ophelia said as she unclenched her arms and looked softly at the couple sitting next to each other on their small couch. Ophelia had found it funny that the small couch was always their seat of choice. It was the one that Ophelia had first seen them on the first time she was in the house. James and Edith could easily hold each other and weren't as prim and proper as they were normally. The couple were holding each other now.
Edith met her eyes.
"It is the very least one should do," Edith shrugged away their generosity.
Nathan and Colleen both smirked at their aunt and uncle. They really couldn't imagine one without the other. Colleen's heart clenched a bit as her brother's words settled over her again. Because you and Thomas remind me of Auntie Edith and Uncle James, is what he had said. Just as she had been thinking that maybe Becky, Ellie, Nate and her mother MAY have been right about her feelings, Thomas suddenly wasn't allowed to be near any of them. She felt the heartbreak of that thought.
Colleen truly didn't know what heartbreak was supposed to be, but as she watched the adults in her life, she didn't want anything less than a man who would treat her like Uncle James treated Auntie Edith. Anything less was non-negotiable. Even if that meant she wouldn't get married. Her mother has proved that they can live without a man's presence. Why do they even need husbands?
Colleen rubbed her heart and then looked away quickly.
Nathan noticed her pain and gave her a long look filled with concern. She shook her head that this wasn't the place to discuss it. He squeezed her hand in comfort before turning back to his homework. The siblings went back to working on their homework as the adults in their lives kept talking about the day.
"Hello, Nate," greeted Archie the next afternoon. Nathan was being dragged by his sister to visitors hour.
Nathan glared at his father, crossed his arms, and sat down heavily with his back turned to Archie's window.
"Sorry, hello Nathan," Archie corrected.
Nathan didn't even acknowledge him. He truly didn't understand why his sister was insisting on visiting each day after school, especially today. They didn't have a tutoring session, so they would be going home after this. Nathan was only here because he didn't want Colleen walking home by herself. Otherwise, they would already be halfway home. Nathan sat stiffly as Colleen began to recount their day.
"I am only having Becky over for my birthday," Colleen ended.
Her party was in three days, and she hadn't felt like celebrating this year.
Archie looked at Colleen in surprise.
"I know that this will be hard and weird with all that's going on, but you shouldn't not try to celebrate. You need to do the things that make you happy anyway," Archie whispered as he put his head against the bars. Colleen's eyes filled with tears as she choked back a sob. She began to sniffle and wipe her nose on her handkerchief.
Nathan rolled his eyes at his father's comment, but Archie couldn't see him since he hadn't turned towards Archie.
Colleen nodded her agreement to his comment before they took their leave. As they were walking home, Colleen started a conversation about the advice given to them both.
"He's right," Colleen wiped her nose one last time before putting her hanky in a pocket.
Nathan rolled his eyes and scoffed.
"Just because Dad said it, doesn't mean it isn't true," Colleen argued.
"That's a fair point, but Dad has also lied often enough for his truths and lies are hard to discern," Nathan argued back.
"Uncle James and Auntie Edith, both said the same thing yesterday," Colleen pointed out. "I wasn't there," Nathan had to remind her.
James and Edith had to speak to Colleen about her birthday present. A lot of female products were being bought and sent to their home so that Edith and Ophelia could help with her maturity into a young lady. It had been just Colleen, James and Edith when they were discussing the present. Colleen didn't want to celebrate. But James and Edith had said what her father had said about doing the things that brought them joy, because it brought them joy.
Nathan and Colleen headed back home.
"Nate?" Colleen said in habit.
Nathan glared at her as he reminded her again that he was now being called his full name. She sighed heavily before restarting.
"Nathan?" she began again, and Nathan nodded in acknowledgement, "how are you doing? With all that has gone on, I never thought that you would go through a dad disappointment without Thomas. I am worried about the things you talk to him about."
Nathan sighed heavily while running his hand through his hair as he made eye contact with everything except his sister while trying to think about how to answer the question.
"What I am, mostly, is sorry," Nathan admitted softly.
"Why?" Colleen asked in absolute confusion about that feeling.
"Because Dad proved me right about his inability to change for the better," Nathan whispered so softly Colleen almost couldn't hear him. "This was a situation where I didn't want to be right about him."
Nathan was interrupted in his words by a sudden lack of airflow into his lungs as Colleen was hugging him so tightly his chest was beginning to hurt.
"C…cccc…cccc….aaaaannn'ttttt breath," Nathan choked out. Colleen finally let him go with an apologetic shrug. Nathan just continued walking.
"The point of me asking about you being okay, I want you to talk to me about anything," Colleen explained as she looked up at her little brother. Nathan met her eyes.
"You do realize that the topics will be bugs and worms right?" Nathan asked his sister.
"We already do because of you," Colleen argued.
Nathan smiled before nodding.
"Same here," Nathan offered as he pointed to himself.
"Always be there for each other, no matter what?" Colleen asked.
"Is it really necessary for us to speak about this?" Nathan asked in confusion, he had assumed that his sister had already known that this was how their relationship worked.
Colleen gave him a long look in return.
"Yes. This year will be more difficult than ever, and we need to be able to feel like we have the ability to discuss hard times and emotions. We will not let anyone get between us!" Colleen stated dramatically.
Nathan held out his hand to shake his sister's. Colleen extended her own with a smile and a nod.
"I love you," Colleen said as she hugged him again.
Nathan just sighed heavily as he looked down at his sister where she had planted herself. He didn't need to say anything out loud. She knew that he loved her. As the Grant siblings they have been through so much already, but with their father's arrest things this year would be increasingly difficult. Colleen also knew that if they stuck together they would be okay.
Man I cannot tell you how often I said Nate instead of Nathan. Correcting his name was the most error proofing I've had to do in awhile. I am so sorry this took so long to write. As always, thanks for your kind words and patience.