Anna stepped away from Gabe, clearing a path for him to his son. In two quick paces he crossed the room and stood by Sean’s bedside. Gabe gently fingered Sean’s head desperate to comfort him without doing any more damage. Sean raised his arm slightly, but quickly dropped it again. His eyes fluttered open, trying to focus on his dad's countenance.
Anna slipped out the door to tell the nurse on duty that Sean had awoken. It seemed only seconds later that a doctor and another nurse entered the room, bustling to take vitals and examine the boy. Finally, a smile broke on the doctor’s face and she reassured Gabe that everything looked good and that Sean had made progress toward recovery. It would take some time, but she felt fairly certain Sean would be alright. “Up and driving you crazy in no time,” she added.
Sean stayed awake for twenty minutes before he had worn himself out and needed to rest again. He struggled not to close his eyes, but sleep eventually won. Reinvigorated, Gabe resumed his vigil, but Anna interrupted his plan. “You should go change. There are clothes and personal items in the bag. Once he’s awake again and needs you to be here you won’t be able to get it done. It will be hard to feel 100% if you are still wearing yesterday’s clothes, with yesterday’s grimy teeth and body odor.”
Only women think of things like that. I’m in a hospital, does it really matter if I have B.O.?
But, he did agree that washing up would wake him completely, although her kiss had done a pretty good job. He left her guarding over Sean in favor of a short shower and fresh clothes. When he walked out of the bathroom fifteen minutes later, she had also changed her shirt and smelled less like yesterday’s laundry. Sean remained asleep.
He returned to the chair that had been his home for the past 12 hours. Anna left to call the house and let them know the good news. Rose answered her cell phone and insisted that she and Doug drive to the hospital immediately. The problem was that Anna had the car at the hospital. They would wait another hour until Sue or John could take them into town.
Completely exhausted now, Anna sat in a chair and leaned against the wall to rest. Gabe offered his arm as her pillow instead of the hard, cold wall and she readily accepted. Two hours later she awakened when the doctor returned to check on Sean. His eyes were now focusing and he woke a little when she lifted his eye lid, both very good signs.
Fully awake now, Anna went in search of breakfast. She returned with two bowls of runny oatmeal, two cups of fruit, and two cups of water. She juggled her bounty while trying to open the door. A nurse stopped her and explained there were already too many people in the room and she would have to wait. “Who else is in there?” she questioned.
“The grandparents,” the nurse replied directing her to a chair against the wall where she sat to wait. After a few minutes, she ate her oatmeal before it grew cold and then her fruit before it turned warm. Finally, she asked the nurse to give them a message. Anna pulled a sheet of paper off the notebook she kept in her purse and wrote a short note.
Glad that Rose and Doug are here. I headed back to the cabin to get a little sleep and help with Thanksgiving. Call me if you need anything.
She walked half way outside before she realized that if she drove the suburban the others could not get back. Off to her left, she spotted Sue sitting in a car in the parking lot. Sue and John had come in the hospital, but Sean’s condition was still fragile and only family was allowed in, so they had to go. Sue had stopped at the bathroom and browsed the gift shop before heading out. She selected a ‘Get Well’ balloon and brought it to the attendant at the front desk to have it delivered.
Anna could catch a ride back to the cabin with them. The bright light of day shone through the glass sliding doors. She stepped outside expecting to be assaulted by sunlight, but instead a camera crew and two reporters pounced on her asking for information about Sean and Gabe. “Are you the fiance we’ve heard about?”
The other shouted, “What happened to his son? Is he hurt badly?”
The first reporter asked about Sean’s mom and if she had been notified that Gabe had allowed their son to be hurt. Anna stopped, dazed and confused by the barrage of questions, added to the exhaustion of operating on only 2 hours of sleep. The day at the beach flashed back to her. She needed to talk to these people and make nice for Gabe’s sake.
“Sean is fine; it’s just a bump on the head. No, I’m not his fiancé, just a friend. Have a good day,” she tried to push past them. She needed to catch Sue and John before they left. The questions kept coming and Anna didn’t understand any of them as her head swam. She continued smiling, being friendly, but she shook her head and ran toward Sue and John’s car, waving them down. Only when she arrived in the car with the door closed and John began to pull away did they stop harassing her.
Sean recovered quickly, but the doctors wanted to keep him overnight again to make sure there was no permanent damage. They made a decision to postpone Thanksgiving until Friday so that Gabe, Sean, Rose and Doug could be there. After missing the night before, Rose and Doug had stayed at the hospital continuously until Friday morning. Doug called to let them know they were on their way to the cabin about 11:00 am. Anna, Mary, and Sue were working on food preparations in the kitchen when they heard the car pull in the gravel drive.
Rose walked to the cabin and opened the front door, while Gabe helped Sean walk slowly. Doug followed behind carrying Gabe’s over night bag from the day before. Gabe’s phone rang and he handed Sean off to Bob waiting at the door. The call came from his attorney and he stepped outside to answer it. After a couple minutes Gabe’s voice could be heard all the way in the house. He sounded very upset about something.
“Gabe, why haven't you returned my calls? I've been trying to get a hold of you since yesterday.
He stormed toward the door and threw it open. Without stopping to close the door behind him he marched into the kitchen and glared at Anna.
“What were you thinking?” he shot angrily at her.
In complete surprise Anna didn’t know how to respond. She had seen him upset before, but never so furious and never directed at her. She furrowed her brow and stared at him in confusion.
“How dare you answer questions about me or my son?” he shouted now. “Do you have any idea the disaster you have created? Why would you do that?”
Still lost as to what upset him, Anna stammered out a question for him to clarify the situation. He pulled up an article, on his phone, from an entertainment column and handed it to her. She read quickly the headline accusing Gabe of negligence and being the cause of his son’s ‘life threatening’ injuries. Gabe’s unnamed fiancé was the source for the seriousness of Sean’s condition and the cause for concern regarding his safety with his father.
Anna looked up in horror as it began to dawn on her what had happened. “I didn’t say anything. I acted pleasant and happy like you said I should be with the press. I told them Sean would be ok and that I wasn’t your fiancé and then I walked away. I would never…I don’t know why…how could they do this?”
“Why would you talk to them at all? My attorney just informed me that Sean’s mom has filed papers to contest custody based on my ‘negligence.’ You could have just cost me everything.” He spat back at her.
“I didn’t say anything. I said he was fine, just a bump on the head. I said I wasn’t your fiancé and then I walked away.” Desperately, she tried to make him understand, “You told me to be nice to your fans and the press. I was tired and they jumped on me as I left the hospital. What was I supposed to do?”
“They did jump on her, Sue and I saw it,” John came to her defense.
“Did you hear what she said?” Gabe asked him and John shook his head no.
“We were in the car, too far away, but why would she do anything to hurt you or Sean?” John asked Gabe trying to calm him down.
“It doesn’t matter if she tried or not, the fact is she did it and it’s a disaster,” Gabe, although still angry, no longer yelled.
He turned abruptly and walked over to Sean. He scooped him up and headed to the stairs. Half way up they met Chris who headed down to find out what all the shouting was about. Sean asked him to come with them and as much as Gabe didn’t want anything around that reminded him of Anna, he relented to the look in Sean’s eyes and permitted Chris to accompany them.
His footfalls pounded heavily up the stairs. He knew he shouldn’t have yelled, but he felt so afraid and exhausted that it was the only response he could muster. She may not have wanted to cause him issues, but her loose tongue already caused a multitude of problems. Gabe treasured his full custody and to have a fight on his hands because of a stupid accident and a loud mouth blonde infuriated him. Why didn’t she know how to handle them? Why couldn’t she have said nothing, smiled, and walked on? Why did she even have to be there in the first place? My parents should have been there, not her.
Anna, downstairs, felt completely floored by what had just happened. How could her short answers have been twisted into the story that appeared on that website? Through all these months, she didn’t even know anything about Sean’s mom or her life. Gabe had strictly avoided any discussion of her or their custody arrangement. Knowing how difficult it would be to lose Chris, she accepted Gabe’s anger as justified, just not justified being angry with her for it. I’m not the one that made up lies. The reporter that wrote the article altered the truth to sell papers and deceive. He shouldn’t blame me for this. It’s not my fault. The hardest part of the situation seemed that she would usually turn to Gabe for solutions but he was the one she couldn’t talk to.
Gabe stopped short as he entered his bedroom. Chris had decorated it with posters and balloons to celebrate Sean’s return. Gabe resisted the urge to tear down the papers taped to the wall that contained words in Anna’s handwriting. He knew how much that would disturb Chris. Sean delighted that they had gone to so much trouble just for him.
Everyone felt the thick tension in the house and Anna escaped the kitchen to hide in her room for a few minutes. A flood of tears she was unprepared for erupted as soon as she closed the bedroom door. The sanctuary that had seemed so peaceful suddenly became a reminder of the man who had so cruelly accused her of wrong doing. A long while later she emerged to wash away the evidence of her emotional explosion and return to the kitchen and continue working on dinner. I need something to keep me busy and not thinking about Gabe.
The chattering about their argument had long since completed and Mary and Sue were cutting apples for pies. Anna walked in silently and began rolling out rolls and placing them in the baking dish. Her mom walked behind her and rubbed her back. Sue smiled at her and she knew that they didn’t judge her despite what Gabe accused. Soon the kitchen and whole house smelled of turkey, baking bread, and apple and pumpkin pies. When Anna asked about Chris, Doug told her that he stayed upstairs with Sean. She only nodded in response.
Adam came in the kitchen to see if he could help and Rose assigned him to stir the gravy while it came to a boil. By the icy stares and wide berth he gave Anna, she knew he sided with Gabe and blamed her completely.
The table was set and then piled with food. Doug went upstairs to tell Gabe that dinner was ready. They heard two sets of steps coming down the stairs, and Gabe emerged carrying Sean. Sean was not yet strong enough to walk up and down but Gabe wanted him with the rest of the group for dinner.
Gabe sat at the head of the table and Anna hid on the side near the other end. She wanted to be far away, but not directly in his sight lines. Matt sat down next to her. Chris sat next to Sean. The others gathered and Gabe began to speak. “This year I have a lot more than usual to be grateful for. Two days ago I thought I lost you,” he spoke to Sean, “and I couldn’t imagine my life without you,” he added in an icy, accusatory tone of voice to no one in particular. “I am reminded that family is the most important thing, and friends who have been with me for a long time,” he looked at Adam, Matt, Jayne, and Rana, pointedly avoiding the others. “The whole meal would be cold if we each shared, so let’s just have a blessing and dig in.”
Doug offered a prayer, but Anna felt Matt moving next to her stealing a bite of roll. After the ‘Amen’, dishes were passed in all directions and the plates were piled with all variety of Thanksgiving goodies. Matt kept Anna and the others around him laughing with his jokes and antics. Anna finally relaxed.
They all complained that they were too stuffed to move, but the delicious taste kept them glued to their plates. One by one they finished and carried the dishes to the sink. The dishwasher loaded, all the containers of food were filled and placed in the refrigerator. Only the pots and pans remained, but they would have to wait until everyone had digested enough so that standing no longer posed a challenge.
An hour later Rose offered to dish up desert. She pulled small desert plates from the cupboard and started slicing pies and adding ice cream. Gabe had returned to his room with Sean and Chris, so Doug carried plates up to them.
Doug heard Gabe's phone ring as he got to the top of the stairs. The door opened and Gabe stepped out onto the landing. Doug showed him the plates of pie and raised one to offer it to his son. Gabe shook his head but motioned to the room. Gabe heard squeaks of delight as Doug presented his offerings to the boys and they eagerly chose their favorite flavor. Doug suggested that after eating the pie Chris should probably sleep in his mom's room. Sean would not get the rest he needed if he stayed up all night playing with his friend. Gabe overheard the suggestion and agreed it was probably the best plan. He'd make sure Sean got to sleep early that night. Doug left the third plate of pie on the desk and stepped out the door.
Gabe stood staring at an arrangement of family pictures on the wall with his back to the stairway. “If they don't see her again, the media will die down. As for the legal case, do whatever it takes. We won't be able to do anything until after the holiday weekend, so we'll talk Monday.” A long pause indicated the speaker spoke while Gabe listened, but then responded, “I am so mad at her I don't even want to see her at all. I wish she would fall off the face of the earth and not come back. It's not like she's ever been anything but a drain on me anyway. She was nice to look at, but not worth much else.”
As Doug walked past his son he locked eyes with Anna who came up the stairs. Obvious she had heard Gabe's comments. Tears filled her eyes and she turned to hurry away, as far away as she could. Nothing Doug could do or say would erase the venom in his son's voice, so he simply walked downstairs and embraced his wife. He had a feeling the situation might get a lot worse before it got better.