I walked out of his bedroom and down the hallway after Kennedy gave me the keys to Lark’s house. I saw Rory standing by the coat closet appearing to be as lost as her brother. I was under the impression she and Lark were friends, so I was sure she was hurting as well, though I knew her loyalties lie with Kennedy.
I took her hand in mine and led her into the kitchen to give her an update. “I’m going back to Lark’s house to pack up some of Jude’s things. Kennedy’s going to call her parents, and he wants your husband to bring Jude home. Don’t let your brother out of your sight. He asked me to go get him… is Franklin still here?” I asked.
“He’s asleep in the spare room. He asked me to wake him when Kennedy gets up. Should I? Fuck, Thornton, I don’t know what to do. This is such a fucking mess.” She was sobbing, so I pulled her into my arms just as I’d done with her brother. I wasn’t sure about her yet because I hadn’t spent enough time with Aurora to figure her out, but I was sure she loved her brother. I wouldn’t judge her until I got to know her better.
She wasn’t wrong about the circumstances. It was a clusterfuck of epic proportions, and I didn’t know what would happen if anyone figured out Jude wasn’t Kennedy’s son. After all of it, that would be the straw that broke the camel’s back–Kennedy losing Jude.
I kissed the top of her head and pushed her away to look into her eyes—Kennedy’s eyes. “Here’s my suggestion. Wake Franklin and make Kennedy talk to him before he calls Lark’s family. Do not…” I demanded, but then I softened my tone and continued, “Do not let Kennedy out of your sight. If he gets to anyone, who doesn’t know him—well, he asked me to get him a bottle last night. That won’t help anything, and you know it,” I impressed upon her.
She nodded, and asked, “How long will you be gone?”
“I’ll be back in a few hours. We’ll get your brother through this, Rory. We both love him, and he’s going to need us. Are you okay?” I asked because she needed to be strong.
I’d been harsh with her earlier, but she’d wanted to wake Kennedy, and I believed his mind needed the break from reality for a while. I actually threatened to bodily remove her if she woke him. She didn’t like it, but she waited as I’d demanded before she went to check on him.
Aurora stepped back and pulled a tissue from the box on the counter, drying her eyes. I could see her strengthening her resolve, and when she looked at me, I was stunned by the determination in her features. “I’m on it. We’ll check in, right? You’ll be back?”
“I will. Hopefully, it won’t take too long. Call me if anything comes up.” She nodded, and we exchanged numbers before I left. I went home to shower and change before I went to the storage room in my apartment building to a grab a few of the ever-present boxes, and I went to Lark’s house.
I made my way to her bathroom, seeing that horrific reminder of what had happened was still present. I didn’t know what I expected, but all the blood wasn’t it, and immediately, I thought about Jude coming into his mother’s home and seeing the horrible scene. I couldn’t let that happen, so I took off my shirt and jeans, and I went to the kitchen to find cleaning supplies. I cleaned up all the blood and trash to the best of my ability, sealing the mess in a bag to take back to my apartment building to toss into the dumpster.
I went to the sink to clean my hands, trying not to dwell on the fact I was washing the woman’s blood away from the floor and tub… blood that was there in the first place because of something I’d said to her. The guilt of it was all-consuming. How would I ever tell Kennedy she’d told me Jude wasn’t his son, and basically, my callous words to her had caused her to take her own life? I didn’t think I could ever tell him the truth, and I knew I’d never un-remember it.
I reached for the soap, seeing the dispenser was empty. I carefully retrieved a tissue to keep from smearing the blood on the vanity door and opened the cabinet. I moved some things around in an attempt to find some sort of cleanser to clean my hands.
When I picked up a tampon box, it felt a lot heavier than I thought a tampon box should, so I opened it and looked inside. There weren’t any tampons, but there was a hell of a lot of little brown pill bottles with her name on the front.
I found a bottle of makeup remover to clean my hands as best I could with it. I dried them and went about removing the containers from the box, placing them on the vanity counter. There were at least three I recognized as anti-depressants, and I noticed each bottle was from a different doctor.
I went back to the bedroom to put on my clothes and looked around, finding a plastic case I believed women used for their make-up. I cleaned everything out of the vanity and medicine cabinet that I perceived as problematic, flushing the remaining pills down the toilet but keeping the bottles. I needed a professional opinion, and I knew precisely from whom I could get it.
I packed up most of Jude’s things, but quickly found they wouldn’t fit in my car, so I called a moving company, arranging for a small truck to pick them up that afternoon. I placed the boxes in the backyard as I’d told them I would, and after the house was locked up, I went to my car and sat for a while, holding the plastic case with the empty brown bottles inside.
Without really thinking, I called my Aunt Nora. She answered quickly. “Hello, darling. How are the bright lights of the big city? It’s been too long,” she chastised in her own loving way.
“Aunt Nora, can you and Uncle Rob come to Spokane? There’s a lot I need to tell you, and I will when you get here, but I could sure use your support right now.” I proceeded to fill her in on what had happened to me since the last time we’d spoken. Bless her, she was supportive during the conversation, and when I dropped the bomb, she gasped. I didn’t tell her Jude wasn’t Kennedy’s son, but I told her about the suicide.
“We’ll be there tomorrow, dear. How’s Kennedy?” she asked, the concern evident in her voice.
“He’s on autopilot right now, Aunt Nora. He’s looking at the tasks at hand, and once things are said and done, he’s going to crash, I’m sure,” I responded, making the best guess as to what was on the horizon for Kennedy.
“Are you… Will you be able to deal with it?” she asked. Aunt Nora knew the history, and I appreciated her concern.
I took a deep breath. “Regardless of whether I like it or not, I still love Kennedy. I’ve always loved him, and those feelings never faded. I just couldn’t get over him, and I’ll help him with this situation as much as he’ll allow.”
I heard her silence, and I knew what it meant. They’d dealt with me when shit fell apart between Kennedy and me years prior. Aunt Nora was worried I’d be hurt again, and I was grateful for her loving nature. “I know what you’re thinking. Yes, there’s a lot for us to discuss so please, just come. I could use your advice,” I implored.
“Of course, darling. We’ll need to shuffle some things to free up some time, but we’ll be there,” Aunt Nora promised. I thanked her, and I went back to Kennedy’s house. I wasn’t sure what I’d be met with when I arrived, but I wasn’t leaving him to weather the storm alone. I was there for him. I’d be there for him as long as he would let me.
“Where’s Jude?” I asked as I walked into the kitchen of Kennedy’s home. I saw Rory and her husband at the table with coffee, and they both looked exhausted.
“They’re in Jude’s bedroom. Kennedy’s trying to explain what happened, but I don’t even know how he’s able…” I heard Elijah sob, so I left the room to allow Rory to deal with him.
I walked down the hallway, pushing open the door to Judah’s bedroom. The two of them were crying, and I knew Kennedy had told his son the worst news a child could ever hear, because I remembered that horrific feeling. I turned to go, leaving them with their grief because they needed each other desperately.
“Thornton, please come back.”
I stopped in the doorway, turning to see Kennedy looking pleadingly at me, so I walked into the room and sat down on the side of the bed, taking his hand. I held it between both of mine, and we all just stayed still. There was nothing anyone could say to make it better, so we didn’t speak. We just were.
To be continued…