Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson
Holden arrived back at Addison’s and looked around. He hadn't been able to stop thinking about Kari. He didn't know if he should attribute it to the fact that he hadn't been out on a date for almost a year now, or if there was some other reason. There had been a zing between them when they touched. He had purposely left his hand in place a moment or two longer this time to test the theory, but as to why that was he wasn't sure. He had to do something that would put his thoughts back in order. The house, although in decent shape, could always use some work. He needed another project to keep him busy and his thoughts far away this afternoon. Problem was that nothing was jumping up and volunteering itself to be done. It hadn't taken him long to chop some wood after Addy left for work, but that was done. He couldn’t just sit around the house like Addy would have liked. No matter what he did she would be upset, a silent brooding, about all the work he had done. As he let himself in the backdoor he entertained the idea of sitting down and writing a piece, but just as fast as he had thought it he knew he wasn't ready to write anything down no matter what his editor had to say.
No, he needed something to keep his mind and body occupied, busy, far away from the pain and the loss he had experienced and the pleasure that could be Kari. Definitely the pleasure that could be Kari, at least until he figured it out. He wasn’t sure how long he could run from everything but until they caught him he’d just keep running. He’d painted Addy’s house, inside and out over the last couple of weeks and chopped wood this morning. In fact he had chopped so much he had had enough to take a truckload over to the Cortez’s. That was a good thing in a couple of ways. It meant that Addy wouldn’t really know how much he had chopped when she got home today. Well at least not until Lora talked with her. And they both had a good start for winter. She didn’t rely on the wood burning stove all winter but right at the start and end of it she used it daily. He’d already cleaned the gutters and weather-stripped the windows. That had been in the first few weeks when getting up and moving had been harder than it was now. It had been a trick on crutches and a cane but he had managed. If he was ever going back out in the field as an imbedded journalist, he wanted to be back in shape. He had gotten the better assignments and seen more because he had been in top notch shape and the guys respected that. Scratching his head he looked around the kitchen. The clock said it was just about noon, but he wasn’t hungry yet.
Walking over to the frig he pulled out a can of soda and popped the top. As the sound of the fizz escaping filled the air he looked out the window toward the backyard. It was then that it hit him. The flowerbeds needed to be mulched in for the winter, leaves raked and here he was just itching to do it. He'd be sore tomorrow but happy, so he set down the soda can on the counter and walked out the backdoor towards the shed in the back with as much of a spring in his step as he could muster. So far he had avoided dealing with all those things that had happened to him and for now he still wouldn’t have to confront the remorse of being one of the survivors instead of one of the ones that had died.
Addison looked at her watch and then at her class. She had been a teacher at this school for the last eight years. For the last three years she had felt especially lucky. Three years ago, when Mia turned five, she had started coming to school with her. It was the perfect arrangement for the both of them. Addison loved what she did and they both loved being able to be so close to each other. It was important to her to be part of her child’s life and to be close to her but she also had to pay the bills. This job came close to meeting all those needs. The money was sometimes thin but the time with Mia was priceless.
Mia’s father had disappeared from their lives before Mia could remember him. The jerk just up and left when he found out Addy was pregnant. If he didn’t want anything to do with their child she didn’t want anything to do with him, so she never looked for him or tried to track him down. For the entire second year of her life Mia had asked for Daddy not really knowing what she was asking for. For Addy it had been hard. At first she hadn’t told Holden anything about Mia's father though she knew none of it was her fault. It wasn't until a year after Mia was born that Holden had come for a longer visit, he had sat down with her and had a good long talk about what had happened and why she hadn’t come right to him for help. It had been a long talk with tears and all, but she knew then and there she should have come clean to begin with to him. It had felt good. From that moment on Holden had become an essential part of their lives, coming back when he could and being an important part of Mia’s life, a substitute father. He even had helped with the bills to begin with. Daycare wasn't cheep but now that Mia was in school Holden hadn't needed to give them financial support. He still tried, but Addy steadfastly refused.
After Addison had let Holden back into her life, she had let Mia get to know her uncle, and she had never looked back. Holden had done what any good man would do, love that kid like his own, being a super-uncle. The connection that had developed between them had helped all of them. Him to balance the things he saw when he worked and her to have someone who was a father figure. It helped him approach his job with fresh eyes and a spirit that had made him who he was. He had become Uncle Den to Mia and she had become Me-Me to him. When Mia had started to talk she hadn’t been able to call him Holden, and Den was close enough for all of them. It had never changed. Addison smiled as she thought about why Holden had started calling Mia Me-Me. It was the end of her terrible twos and the beginning of her thrilling threes. Everything was Me-Me, hence he had started calling her Me-Me and it stuck. Mia missed him desperately when he was gone but he would always call when he could and they would talk incessantly for hours, mostly about the little things important to Mia.
Sometimes Addison felt like she was using him. He had spent so much time with her and Mia that it seemed almost impossible for him to start his own life, have his own kids. Normally she worried about him when he was out on assignment until he showed up healthy and whole, and he always showed up heathy and whole. This time had been different. Whatever he had been through had affected him so deeply and more than she had ever seen before. When she first saw him she would have described him as broken and beaten down. The worrying part had been the fact that a psychologist phone call had never preceded a visit from him before. She was beginning to see the spark of the old Holden with each passing day she had hoped they could help him heal. Holden just yesterday had talked about change, about putting down roots. Roots had never been in his plans before. Whatever happened it must have been big. She recognized avoidance when she saw it, and he was doing it big time.
The murmur in her class increased a decibel or two and Addison was brought quickly back to the present. They were supposed to be writing. It was hard to keep eight and nine year olds quiet while they wrote a letter to their pen pals. They were too eager to share what they were writing with their friends here. She started walking about the room again and checking on their progress, helping them with their spelling, and in general reminding them to capitalize where they had forgotten to do so and uncapitalize when necessary.
It was nearly noon and she was ready to take them to lunch and they were ready to go. It had been a very busy morning. She glanced in the direction of her phone. Each and every day at noon she had wanted to call Holden to see what he was doing but she was afraid to. She didn’t want to sound as if she was a worrier or as if she was harping on him to just sit around and recuperate like he was supposed to be doing. Funny thing was that’s exactly what she wanted to do though. After all he was her brother, but she wasn’t his mother.
“Mrs. Westlock, I don’t know what else to write,” one of her students blurted out without waiting for her to get there and after he raised his hand. He hadn’t waited to speak but that was normal for this bunch. By the time she brainstormed some new ideas with him she looked at the clock. It was finally time to go to lunch. She lined them up and took all her wigglers down to the lunchroom, or gym that served as a lunchroom right now. Lunch was of course the most exciting part of each and every day because recess was soon to follow. She stood there and watched them go in the cafeteria doors and waited for the next class to come in. She watched as Cindy’s class bounced in right behind hers. Addison often waited just so she could give a quick wave to Mia who was in Cindy’s class.
“Daniel, head on up to the nurse’s office,” Cindy watched him lope off as the rest of her class lined up behind Addy’s class. All were standing, or wiggling really, prepared to take the plates of whatever the mystery food was today. Some days were better than others but most of the time it could be just about anything. Daniel happily left the line and smiled as he galloped and twirled his way out of the cafeteria doors toward the nurse’s office. “He’s having a good day. He’s pretending to be a horse,” she leaned over and told Addison.
“I can tell,” it made Addison smile placing one finger on top of her lips to hold in the laugh that wanted to come out. As Addison turned to look at the line Mia waved ‘Hi’ to her mother. This year Mia and Daniel were again in the same class. For some reason, on the first day of kindergarten, Mia had taken a liking to Daniel. They had become best of friends quickly and now spent a lot of time together when Holden wasn’t in town. Holden spent time with both of them when he was in town. Daniel was a good distraction for Mia when Holden left. Holden was a good distraction for Daniel and his family when he was here. In fact Mia and Holden had helped to paint the Cortez house last spring. It really hadn’t been Holden’s idea of a good time with two seven year olds but with a little pleading from Mia he had gotten on board quickly. One day they had both come home armed with smiles. It was the only thing Addison could see, the rest of them had been covered from head to toe with paint. She was still unclear of how much paint had gotten on the house and how much had gotten on them. From what she had discovered with a quick phone call, Daniel and his brother were covered as well.
“How’s Holden doing?” Cindy asked as they walked out of the cafeteria and back towards their classrooms to eat their own lunch.
“He hasn’t opened up about anything yet if that’s what you’re asking. Not that I really expect him to but I didn't known what to expect after I got that phone call,” and they went back into Addison’s classroom. Sitting down at the back table she pulled out her sandwich from the frig and sat it on the table.
“I don’t remember you saying that he ever talked about his work,” Cindy put her hand out as Addison reached back into the frig for her food.
“No he doesn’t. When I’ve asked in the past he just tells me its all in the papers for everyone to read. This time he was different though. He’s never been this restless before,” she handed Cindy her lunch from the frig as well.
“How so?” Cindy knew the only thing she could do for her friend was to listen. Up until now Addy hadn't said much but she knew Addison was worried this time, really worried.
“He hasn’t stopped to rest, to,” and Addison was looking off in the distance, “think. In fact he just hasn’t stopped moving except to collapse at night to sleep. It didn't matter how bad he was hurt. Don't you remember me telling you about him doing the weatherstripping on the doors and windows while he was on the crutches?" Cindy just nodded, "He's avoiding it big time and I'm not sure that is healthy.”
“He will talk when he’s ready. From what you shared with me after that doctor called, whatever happened to him was pretty bad,” Cindy unpacked her lunch. “Did that doctor give you any clues?”
“No, not one even when I tried to get him to tell me more by asking what kind of medical treatments he would need once he got here. He said the same thing you did. He’ll tell you in his own time if he wants,” Addison took a bite of her sandwich.
“Then let him be.”
“Easier said than done,” she smiled, “and I don’t know if the house can take much more of his tinkering.”
“Hey, it may be therapeutic for him,” at that moment the classroom door flew open and in popped Daniel.
“The nurse isn’t there right now,” he said in almost a whine. He wanted to be done so he could go and play. Cindy got up and walked to the door.
“Let’s go get you fed my boy,” and she patted him on the head as they both walked out leaving Addison to think about Holden. Holden, her brother, who had told her just last night that he was wanting to make a change.
Kari got back to the office just before the lunch. She had made two more home visits to a couple of very nice elderly couples. Both had been married for over forty years and it was sweet the way they had treated each other. It made her a little melancholy about her life. She was supposed to have had that, and now she still had a hard time thinking of her life without him. Arguing with no one in particular, she stated the obvious, she could still have that life. Many of their friends had even encouraged her to start looking for it again.
Slamming the car door brought her back to reality and her job. These visits had been fast and easy. It seemed that the last case manager had taken the time to set up the services needed before they left. The job had been empty for about four months but nothing had lapsed too bad and for that she was happy. After lunch she would do one more visit and then Kari planned to spend the rest of the afternoon going over the files. She would then set up training sessions for those who dealt with Daniel. He was the one who most needed her attention right now. It would be a busy few weeks just getting to know everyone that dealt with him. The list was a long one. On the top of her list for training was the school staff for Daniel and his feeding tube again. It should be done once a year and the lack of a case manager had allowed that to slip. That was only one of the things that needed to be done for them, among the various others were updating the medications he took. Lora, his mother, had said that they had been trained a little over a year ago. The last year she had gone in and instructed the teachers on how to deal with it, and although this was good, trainings like this should be done yearly and by medical staff. Kari just wanted to do a follow up to make sure all was going okay and that no one there had any questions. They were lucky to have a medical facility in town that could take care of Daniel most of the time and that hired a case manager, so she planned on giving them their monies worth.
Pulling her car into the lot it looked a lot calmer than it had earlier. There were only a few cars and a couple of SUV’s in the lot. Kari had to believe that most of these vehicles belonged to the staff. Looking at her watch Kari knew the reason for the lack of business, it was lunchtime. She put her car in park and was about to get out when she saw Jordan coming out of the front door and locking up. When Jordan turned she spotted Kari in her car and waved as she walked into the parking lot. She walked up to the car as Kari got out and closed the door.
“Hey come join me for lunch. I think I’ve earned a good meal today,” she didn’t wait for Kari to say anything or even to choose to follow not. She walked on just expecting Kari to be there, “I’m buying!”
“If it’s been that hard of a morning then maybe I should be buying you lunch,” Kari said as she slung her bag over her shoulder so she could double step it and follow. All the time amazed at Jordan’s continuously sunny attitude.
“Let’s discuss that once we get the bill,” and then as if it suddenly hit her she stopped, turned and looked straight at Kari, “Hey, how’d your visits go today?”
“Better than expected. The last case manager must have been good,” Kari had finally caught up and they started to walk again. She noticed that they were headed for the same small cafe she had eaten in last night, “Does everyone eat here?”
“Only the people who want good food. It is hands down the best place in town for home cooking,” and with that said they turned and walked up the path to the front door, “and to answer your sort of question, yes she was. Jamie was great and she would have stayed except her mom was having issues so she left rather quickly but Doc McCoy must have told you that.” The colorful latticework framing the corners of the porch and highlighting the door of this Victorian house give this place a bright cheery look. Something she hadn't noticed last night. It had looked like a handy place to eat last night, but on closer inspection today it looked warm, inviting, and lively.