In this installment: Skeeter returns home after a hard days work. Jenny spends time with Melissa. Problems at the Sweet household.
Skeeter gently turned the lock on the apartment door. He knew his son would be sleeping and didn’t want to wake him. He walked to the bedroom in his socked feet and saw his wife sitting on the lazy-boy recliner they kept there with her hand buried in a bowl of popcorn as she watched a movie on TV.
“It’s about time you got home.” Diane said coldly once she noticed her husband.
“I told you I was going to be late. We had to question a suspect and it couldn’t wait until Monday.”
“So is this the guy, the one who did it?” Diane asked as she barely diverted her attention from the sappy romance that seemed to be more interesting to her.
“We don’t know yet,” J.D. said as he undressed. “We have to wait on some reports to come in, but my gut tells me he isn’t our guy.”
“Too bad, you don’t know who to pin the medal on,” Diane said flatly.
“How can you say such a thing,” Skeeter tried not to raise his voice. “Don’t you ever think before you open your mouth?”
“Puh-lease,” Diane said. “The only wrong that guy did in shooting Chase was not fining the freak child of his and putting one in her too. Would serve Melissa right too, getting so busy with that disgusting mutant and forgetting about her friends.”
“You know what?” Skeeter counted to ten in his head so he wouldn’t explode. “You really need professional help. You don’t know what that child has gone through or the reasons that Chase and Melissa made their decision, but you know what, it was their decision to make and we should’ve trusted their convictions enough not to question them, or at least be honest enough with them to ask why. Not too long ago, I said something similar to what you said to Chase and he decked me; deservingly so I might add. Even as I said those words, I wondered how such a thought could enter my mind. I think I’ve discovered how and I also think I’ll do myself a favor and take up camp on the couch tonight.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Diane sighed, barely interested as her husband grabbed a few pillows from the bed. “I hope it does your back justice too,” she mumbled as her husband walked out of the room.
Skeeter didn’t bother replying or get angry. He calmly walked to the living room, deposited his things on the couch, and then went into the kitchen to fix himself a sandwich because, as he expected, no meal waited for him.
“Dad,” Shawn said as he walked into the kitchen.
“Did I wake you?” Skeeter said as he looked at his son wearing blue footed pajamas and rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“I was kind of staying up for you anyway dad,” Shawn said as he tried to peek over the counter to see what his dad was fixing.
“Want to share a sandwich with your old man?” Skeeter asked.
“Yeah!” Shawn’s face lit up and he found himself being lifted and placed on his chair that was fixed with a blue plastic booster seat. A few moments later, a quarter of a ham and cheese hero appeared on a paper plate set before him.
“A Sweet special for a special Sweet,” Skeeter said as he sat across from his child and gave a small wink.
“Dad, did you catch the bad man who hurt Jenny’s daddy?” Shawn asked between bites.
“No, not yet. But we will, we’re getting closer. I just know it.”
I know you’ll catch the bad man, daddy,” Shawn said with a certain pride. “Then all of the other good guys won’t gotta worry about being in the hopistal.”
“Do you worry about daddy being in the hopistal too,” Skeeter mimicked his son’s mis-pronunciation. Though he was joking around, he was concerned about his son’s fears.
“Not lots,” Shawn confessed, “but it be better when the bad man is in jail.”
“That it will be. Don’t worry, it’ll be soon.” Skeeter gave a slight smile.
“Dad, do you think if I asked real nice that Jenny would be my friend?”
“I think that if you treat people nicely and do good things that you won’t even need to ask,” Skeeter said as he looked at his son thoughtfully. “And I think that Jenny would be very lucky to have a friend like you.”
Shawn smiled widely and revealed two dimples. “I think I’ll be lucky too. I want to get friends and make people feel good.”
“By saying that, you make me feel good,” Skeeter said as he cleared off the table.
“And you won’t be mad that I’m Jenny’s friend?” Shawn asked as he hopped off his seat and stood by his dad at the sink.
Skeeter got down on one knee and looked at his child. “Son, I was wrong to make you feel like you shouldn’t be someone’s friend for no good reason. I think we need to give her a chance and I also think that she would be a very good friend for you to have.
“Okay dad,” Shawn said as he let the words digest along with his food. It was a lot for him to comprehend.
“How about we watch a little TV before we head to sleep,” Skeeter said as he carried his son to the couch. He laid down with his son cradled in his arms. It didn’t take long for the child to fall asleep and start snoring in his cute little way. A half hour later, Skeeter fell asleep also, feeling that he accomplished some good this night and hoped the next day would be better.
“Mommy,” Jenny said softly as she still lay on Melissa’s body. The light of early morning filtered through the blinds. The child was too comfortable to move her head from her mother’s bosom that she was using as a pillow and the rhythmic beating of the heart further entranced the child, letting Jenny feel that there were still places of refuge in the world.
Melissa was combing the soft silky bangs of the child away from Jenny’s face and had watched the small being sleep soundly for a good part of a half an hour. “Yes Honey, it’s me,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“I was waking on my own, Mommy.” Jenny kept her voice low as she looked up. As soon as she saw her mother’s face she smiled, happy to be exactly where she was.
“I missed my little baby girl,” Melissa said as she pulled the child further up her body so they were face to face with one another.
“I missed Mommy,” Jenny said and then kissed her mother on the lips.
Melissa gave a kiss in return and wrapped her arms around the little girl who brought her such warmth during a very dark time. A tear escaped Melissa’s eyes as she thought back on the times she pressured Chase to get rid of the child. It was Chase’s love for the small, half-beaten toddler that allowed Melissa to discover a love so pure that it escaped comprehension. The love that filled the room was great, but incomplete, because the man who wove the bond together was still relying on machines for his very existence.
Jenny caressed her mother’s face and caught the next tear before it had a chance to hit the pillow. “Jenny misses daddy too,” she said as she pouted. Her eyes began to water as she felt her father’s absence.
“Jenny,” Melissa said as she looked up at the girl, “I love you.”
A million memories came back to Jenny all at once. She remembered all the times she wished her biological mother would utter that exact phrase, in the exact was Melissa just had, but those wishes were for naught. Now, even though those words were spoken plainly, Jenny did not need to hear them, because she felt it in every molecule of her being. A tear fell from her eye to Melissa’s cheek as the child smiled broadly.
“Let’s get ready for the day, shall we,” Melissa said as she sat up. Jenny’s legs wrapped around Melissa’s waist as the small dress covered just to the child’s stomach. “You have a very important day of play with Christine and I have to keep Daddy company in the hospital. But first I have to take a shower.”
“Can I take a shower too,” Jenny asked as Melissa stood up.
“Would you like to take one with Mommy,” Melissa asked as she walked to the bathroom with the child still in her arms.
Jenny nodded yes as she was placed on the bathroom counter.
“Good idea,” Melissa said as she pulled off her loose blouse. It wasn’t long until both mother and child were completely disrobed and standing in the tub as warm streams of water splashed against their skin. Melissa wished she was around when her child was an infant and in another’s care. She thought that in a little while she would be doing the same thing with the baby that was now developing within her.
The shower was refreshing and Melissa felt the bond between her and Jenny was somehow stronger for some reason she couldn’t quite explain. After they dried off she dressed the child first. Jenny wore a sunny yellow dress that exuded happiness. As Jenny played with the doll house that had been left unattended, Melissa dressed herself in a similar outfit and thought it cute how they matched.
By the time Melissa was walking out the door, Shawn was being abruptly woken up. He found himself still laying atop his father, in the dark, windowless, living room, but Skeeter wasn’t the one shaking his arm.
“Come on, both of you get up,” Diane said coarsely. “You can’t sleep on my couch all morning. Why don’t you go outside, play in traffic or something?”
“Mom,” Shawn whined as he was tugged off his still waking father.
“And you,” Diane addressed her husband. “You need to clean the vents again. All of this dust is making my allergies go like crazy.”
“I’m going to have to get some new filters, I think,” Skeeter said as he sat up.
“I don’t want your excuses,” Diane snapped. “Just get it done.”
Skeeter shook his head and wondered why the day had to start off in such a way. It seemed so long ago that they were a happily married couple, but things deteriorated rapidly and he couldn’t understand why.
Diane slumped on the couch after Skeeter got up to change his clothes. She turned on the TV and placed a large mug of coffee on the table.
“Mom,” Shawn said as he leaned on the arm of the couch. “What’s for breakfast?”
“Ask your father,” Diane said roughly. “Can’t you see I got important things to do? All I ask for is a moment of rest and a little enjoyment in my life.”
Shawn looked up at his father, but didn’t repeat the question.
Skeeter glanced at his son and then looked at his wife who seemed perfectly content on wasting the day by watching television.
“If you must know, it’s a marathon of my favorite soap. They’re showing the forth season today,” Diane said as she felt her husband’s eyes staring.
Skeeter looked blankly at his wife, trying to figure it out.
“It’s the season where Erica gets shot,” Diane said as if that knowledge was known by all and that he was stupid for not being informed.
“We’ll go out to McDonald’s for breakfast and then maybe we’ll go to the park,” Skeeter addressed his son before a war of words started.
“What about taking care of the vents?” Diane diverted her attention from TV watching.
“Can’t you see I’ve got more important things to do?” Skeeter said pointedly.
Shawn smiled at his father’s words, knowing they were the truth.
Diane sneered at the child, causing him to dash to his bedroom, before shrugging the whole thing off, taking a sip of coffee, and returning to her planned activity.
Skeeter didn’t say another word as he headed to the bedroom to put on a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. He then joined his son in the boy’s bedroom and took some clothes out of the dresser and placed them on the bed.
“Don’t worry,” Skeeter said. “Mommy’s just in one of her moods. She loves you as much as I do, her allergies are probably just bothering her a lot.”
“They must bother her all the time,” Shawn said as his dad pulled the zipper of his pajamas down and helped the pudgy boy out of them.
“Things will get better,” Skeeter said as he pulled the pajamas down his son’s leg, revealing a lack of underwear but the presence of two large, hand-shaped bruises along the child’s outer thigh.
“I hope so,” Shawn whispered as if the words were a secret.
“When did you get these,” Skeeter said as he pointed towards the dark purple and yellow bruises.
“Yesterday,” Shawn said as a look of fright entered his eyes like if he were in trouble. “I was running and I hit the end of the table,” he rushed through the excuse.
“It looks like it really hurts. Did mommy put ice or medicine on it?”
“No,” Shawn answered. “It looks worst than it really is,” he added mechanically.
“How did it happen?” Skeeter was hoping to find out the truth.
“I tripped and landed on my toy cars,” the boy answered, not realizing that he changed his story in such a short time.
“We’ll try to see what we can do to keep this from happening again,” Skeeter said calmly.
“Okay, Dad,” Shawn said as he was on the verge of tears, but fighting hard to keep them at bay.
“we better get you dressed before a little birdie comes to snatch that away thinking it’s a worm, or should I just take you to the park in your birthday suit,” Skeeter joked, trying to put the previous conversation behind them, knowing he’d deal with it later.
“No Dad!” Shawn protested and crossed his hands in front of him in embarrassment.
Skeeter held open a pair of Superman Funderoos. “You better step in before I let the little birdie in.”
Shawn quickly hopped into the underwear and had them pulled to their proper position. Though his father originally laid out a pair of shorts, they were changed to a pair of loose fitting sweat pants to hide the deep bruises and avoid questioning eyes.
Skeeter let his son get on his back and gave him a piggyback ride as they walked out the door.
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