"We really do have to pick a day that she can stay over at the house with you and your Dad," Kelly said as she pulled the door close and walked with Zane down the hallway. "She loves having you read her a story. You're really good with her."
"I miss having her at the house," Zane said quietly, keeping his voice low until they'd returned to the den. "Dad misses her too."
She sat down on the sofa beside him. "Did he tell you to say that? Because honey, you know that your Dad and I were never going to …"
"He didn't. I swear. It's just hard sometimes to see how sad he is without you there."
"It's not getting any better is it?" It had been hard enough to make the decision to leave, even after Joey had convinced her that it was for the best. But now, knowing her son was living with the aftermath, it made it even more difficult to handle.
"It's not bad or anything. I just feel bad that I can't do anything to help him."
"You do help him. I know you being there helps him and besides, it's not your job to help him be happy, honey. Your job right now is to enjoy college. It's your freshman year. You're supposed to be rushing fraternities and eating junk food, waiting until the last minute to cram for exams, and flirting with all the girls." She smiled. "Actually, if you want to forget that last part for a few years, that might not be a bad idea."
"Don't worry, Mom. I'm not looking to get into a relationship any time soon."
She sighed. "Everyone doesn't mess it up like I have, Zane. Finding someone you love and having that person love you back is the best thing in the world when it happens. It's just keeping it going that's tough."
"You and Joey are doing a pretty good job, right?"
"Yeah, we are. We're happy, but it's hard to be happy and know other people are so miserable."
Zane nodded solemnly.
"You know if it gets too bad – if you ever need to get away for a little while, you're always welcome here. We'd love to have you."
"Thanks, Mom, but you and Joey don't need me underfoot. Besides, I need to be at the house with Dad. We have some good times together. I even got him to go with me to the mall the other day."
"You got your Dad to go shopping?" she laughed. "He always hated the mall."
"Oh, he still does. He just hates hanging around that big, empty house even more." Zane slid forward to the edge of the sofa. "Actually, I should probably be heading back. We were gonna maybe catch a movie tonight."
"No, Zane." She reached for his arm. It was getting dark out and Joey still wasn't back from the office. "Why don't you stay for a while longer. There'll be a later showing I'm sure."
He shrugged. "I know, but I can't help feeling kind of guilty. I think he was hoping I was going to ask you and Syd to come over to our place today."
"Well, I ended up there anyway. I swear I'd lose my head lately if it wasn't attached." She thought back to the conversation she'd had with Kevin earlier. "I actually had a good talk with your Dad. I think we're in a good place."
Zane walked towards the door. "That's good. I want everyone to be good. You know that, right?"
She pulled him into her arms and squeezed him tightly. "How did I get so lucky?" she breathed. "You're a one in a million kind of kid."
"I've got a one in a million kind of mom." He leaned in and kissed her cheek. "Love you, Mom. I'll give you call tomorrow, okay?"
The half hearted smile and nod was the best she could muster as dread settled into her stomach. She watched him slowly back down the driveway, knowing stepping back into the house would mean confronting the demons – even if she wasn't sure they even actually existed.
"Kel?" He shook her softly even as his voice got louder. "Kel, you okay?"
Her eyes fluttered open before startling to focus. "Joey." She sat up quickly, her hand running quickly through her hair. "What's? Where?"
"It's fine," he said softly. "You must have just drifted off." He held the empty wine glass in his hand. "This probably helped."
"I only had the one glass," she said quickly. "Sydney's asleep and Zane left a little while ago and I was just feeling really tense and then …"
She sat up further and stopped talking as her eyes settled on the large box by the door. "What's that?" she asked.
"It was by the door when I got here. Looks like it was delivered. They didn't ring the bell?"
"Yeah, they did, but I …" She felt a bit of shame course through her. "I wasn't expecting anyone and given the stuff that's been going on."
"Honey." He sat the empty glass down beside him. "Nothing has been going on. I told you everything is fine. You don't honestly think I'd let anything happen to you or Sydney do you?"
"No, of course not. I know you wouldn't. You just weren't here and …"
"Hey." He touched her face and shifted to sit on the sofa beside her. She nestled in against him and felt her body relax a bit. "If you need someone here to help out for a while or if you weren't ready for me to go back to work, I can …"
"I don't want that." She closed her eyes tightly. "I don't want to feel like I can't handle things on my own. I've got to deal with this and I will. I swear I will." She forced herself to sit up straighter. "So what is it?" She pointed over towards the box. "Did you open it?"
"Not yet," he admitted as he stood and walked over. "It's actually addressed to Sydney," he smiled. "I figured maybe you'd ordered something for her?"
"No. I haven't, but maybe Dorian or Blair sent something." She watched as he reached into the drawer of the desk and pulled out the box cutter.
The look on his face made her even more curious and she stood to walk over to look inside. "Wow," she said softly. "It's beautiful."