'Just keep walking' I told myself. If I turned around I might do something stupid and I think I'd done enough stupid for one lifetime. With barely a pause, I pushed forward, not turning to greet him or even say goodbye.
"Violet, come on!" he was coming after me. Why was he coming after me?!
I punched the elevator button again and tapped my foot impatiently. "Come on!" I hissed under my breath. I heard the ding of it's arrival just as his hand landed on my shoulder. "Mirage - seriously...just let it go!" I practically shouted as I spun around to face him.
Only it wasn't Mirage at all. His face looked a little hurt and a lot confused.
"Nepal!" I screeched and threw my arms around his neck. "What are you...? Why...? I'm so glad to see you!" And then I kissed him....I told you I'd do something stupid if I turned around.
In the few seconds of our greeting, the elevator doors had opened and admitted a older lady who was now watching the whole scene with a disapproving look. She took in the kiss and the fact that Nepal was wearing only a towel (a fact which I'd missed until she brought it to my attention).
"And just what are you two doing out here in the hall?" she used her cane to accent her words. "Why in my day..."
"Hush up you!"
"Parading around wearing only a towel...disgraceful!" Despite her words, I thought I saw her lips curl into a small smile for a second before it disappeared.
"I was trying to catch up to her is all...I didn't have a chance..." Nepal was trying not to laugh as he explained and I was just cringing.
"What? To put on clothes! Disgraceful!" she waved her cane at us again before turning from us - the riot act apparently over.
My cheeks were flushed as I turned toward Nepal, completely embarrassed. "Well that was..."
I heard a faint chuckle from the direction of the older lady and turned back but she was already gone; into her own room no doubt.
"Strange." Nepal finished. "Why don't we go back to my room now?"
"Yeah..." I said with a nod, my gaze lingering on the spot where the woman had been before. "Let's." I followed Nepal back to his hotel room and as soon as the door clicked shut behind me, I fell into his waiting arms.
"You alright Vi?" he asked, concern etched across his face.
"No...not really." I said with a pitiful smirk.
"But I have a question..." I said, diverting the subject.
"I bet you have more than one." He said with a smile. "I went to your apartment last night - looking for you. Your roommate told me where you were."
Nepal's Point of View, the night before
It was impossible to hide my annoyance when I walked into the bar and saw her dancing with Mirage of all people. While she'd never told me the details, it hadn't taken much to piece together the facts over time. I hung back, staying in the shadows so she wouldn't see me, as they drank and danced. I almost left - I would have left if it were any less important. But I had to see her, I had to tell her. So I waited.
"So Vi..." Mirage was a smooth drunk. He'd put back at least a dozen drinks but he was stable on his feet and nearly unaffected - except he became more handsy with each drink. "How 'bout you and I...." he leaned forward. To her credit, Violet was coherent enough to dodge his move and say no.
"Been there, done that, got the t-shirt - soooo not interested Mirage." Violet said. Mirage was never one to take rejection well but he tried to brush it off before trying again.
When she got up on the counter to dance I was both afraid and amused. I couldn't take my eyes off her so I was the one who caught her when her heel slipped over the edge and she tumbled from the counter. She looked confused as she looked into my eyes but with a small smile, she closed her eyes and after assuring myself that she was fine, I set her down by the bar and turned toward Mirage.
"Hey get your hands off my girl!" he said, puffing out his chest.
"Your girl? Hardly! She doesn't seem particularly interested in you....or were you planning to drug her again?" His eyes flared with fear and anger before he lunged for me. I shoved him back and he was inebriated enough to stumble away from me for a second.
It was a full on brawl - just like the ones I was so often called in to break up but no cops were called before it was over. Mirage was nursing a fat lip and a quickly swelling eye in the corner as I scooped Violet up and carried her out of the bar. My arms and legs were screaming in pain as I did so but I wouldn't let Mirage see me limp.
After a block, I'd called a cab to get us back to the hotel. Violet slept from the moment I caught her until the next morning when she'd tried sneaking out of my room.
Violet's Point of View
"He's such a berryhole!" I shook my head and cursed Mirage under my breath. "So that explains last night...thank you, for defending me and everything."
"I'll always defend you Vi." Nepal said.
I blushed and looked down at my hands. "That doesn't explain why you're here...in town I mean, though."
"Oh right...you need to come home. Your mom..." Nepal hung his head then.
I gasped and remembered all the missed calls from home over the last week, the ones I'd yet to get around to returning. "Is she...?"
"Not yet...but she's sick - really sick."
I don't think I let go of Nepal's hand the whole way home to Sugar Valley. After I hadn't returned the calls of my Dad or my sister, he'd taken it upon himself to deliver the message personally and make sure I got home in time. "So you're a cop now?" I was trying to make small talk as the trees whizzed passed us.
"Yeah. I sort of fell into the job by chance and it suited..." he said. He didn't protest or try to pull his hand away from me.
The drive seemed to take forever but soon the familiar streets of Sugar Valley greeted us. I looked out of the windows filled with nostalgia and a twinge of regret as we drove through the town and finally pulled into the hospital parking lot.
Dad looked frail and drawn as he sat vigil by my mom's bed. He was too absorbed in his own thoughts to notice me for several minutes, allowing me to work up the strength to see them both again.
Finally Nepal tapped the ICU glass a couple times to draw his attention. Dad looked up sadly, probably expecting more doctors or nurses - the bearers of bad news. His face was quickly filled with surprise and he pushed himself out of the chair to come out.
"Violet." his voice was shallow and raspy, not at all likely I remembered it. I was suddenly faced with the fact that my parents were old - not just getting older but not likely to last much longer old.
"Daddy!" Tears were welling up in my eyes and I longed for him to reach out and hug me. To tell me everything was going to be fine and that Mom would go home soon - even if it was all a lie.
He put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me closer. "I'm glad you're home." he said sadly. "The children are in the children's waiting room one floor up." he said over my shoulder. Nepal nodded and touched my hand before departing. I started to question what was going on around me but Dad was directing me into Mom's room.
She was asleep the entire time I was there but I held her hand and talked constantly. I think I apologized at least a dozen times in the hour I sat by her bedside. "I'm sorry I left like I did Mom, I'm sorry I just cut you out...I miss you so much." I said through my tears.
"She missed you too Violet." My Dad had taken the opportunity to go home and get changed but I hadn't heard him come back in. "She was a little too stubborn to admit it but she missed you too."
"I know." he gave me a smile but it didn't reach as high up as it used to, his faced was etched with age now. "You should take the kids home...I'm sure they'll be happy to see you. Cobalt hasn't stopped talking about your movie for months."
I nodded and gave him another hug as I left the ICU. Just past the nurses station I had to stop and catch my breath. My heart was hammering in my chest as I thought about everything - mostly my children - the ones I'd abandoned almost ten years before. What must they think of me?
Nepal was standing outside the door when I found the waiting room and I moved in next to him, instinctively grabbing his hand for support. "I am a terrible mother...how am I supposed to do this?"
"You just do. And you're not terrible - you weren't ready then."
"And I am now?" I asked. I didn't feel ready for anything, especially not this.
"I think you are." he said, squeezing my hand. Together we stepped into the waiting room and two pairs of curious eyes turned toward me. Cobalt's were wide with surprise and happiness but Lazuli was reserved. Even as Cobalt jumped up and ran toward me, Lazuli stayed by the block table.
She didn't say anything to me as we drove back to the house and as soon as we got home, she disappeared up the stairs. I heard a door slam upstairs and cringed.
"Well that went well." I muttered.
The following weeks were just as awkward. Eventually Mom showed enough improvement to be released home but the doctors weren't optimistic about her long term prognosis. She spent most of her time upstairs in bed but once in awhile she insisted on coming downstairs to be with the family. She was the one who told me everything about the kids and insisted on watching dozens of home movies with me.
"Zuzu picked up walking pretty quickly..." Mom said between ragged breaths.
"That's because she was eager to get into trouble." Nepal said with a smirk. Everyone around me laughed.
I felt like a visitor in my own family. I'd been so disconnected from everyone I knew almost nothing about their lives.
"Oh here she goes..." The subject of the video, Zuli, was no where to be seen. She'd been avoiding me and all family time since I arrived.
"Nepal..." I whispered as the video paused at the end, Nepal was holding one year old Zuli high in the air and praising her.
The rest of the video watching was cut short as Mom was racked with a coughing fit.
"I think I ought to lay down for a bit." she said, visibly weaker than she had been only a moment ago. Nepal and Minsk helped her up the stairs, with Dad following not far behind.
"Can we watch my video now?" Cobalt asked, curled up next to me on the couch. Unlike his sister, he'd had forgiven me in a heartbeat and asked me about everything I'd done in the last few years. He told me about their school and friends whenever he wasn't peppering me with questions.
It was a few hours later when we heard the strangled sob from upstairs. Most of the other had gone home so it was just Nepal and I thundering up the stairs, followed closely by Cobalt and even Lazuli came out of her room.
"Daddy?!" I threw the door to their bedroom open. Mom looked completely still and peaceful. She even had a small smile on her face as if she'd been having a wonderful dream at the time. But her chest was still and her eyes didn't flutter in the least.
Everyone reached the same conclusion at the same time and crying broke out around the room. Nepal quickly left the room, already pulling his cell phone from his pocket.
Dad didn't come out of his room much after Mom's death, leaving the rest of us to make all the arrangements. We didn't mind of course - we were all just worried for his health now. I knocked on the door to his room a couple times and waited but he never spoke up. Finally I opened the door, afraid of what I might find.
He was sitting up, his back to me. "Dad, people are starting to arrive..."
He didn't respond for some minutes but finally nodded his head and waved me away.
By the time he came downstairs, most of the family had assembled and was milling around talking about old times, about our childhoods and catching up with each other. The chatter was, naturally, disturbed by the occasional cry or sob. Mom had lived a long, happy life but she was still our mom!
Throughout the afternoon, my phone kept buzzing irately in my purse. I ignored it until I could excuse myself without making a scene and slipping into the house. As the food was served, people were mingling both inside and out so I had to get upstairs to get away from all the noise.
With annoyance, I realized the phone calls were all from my agent. She'd been pestering me since I left town and despite telling her what was going on, she continued to call me with casting calls or readings. "It's my mother's funeral for crying out loud."
"If I didn't answer the first three times, I'm not wanting to talking right now...."
"They want to do a sequel!" she squealed over my protests. "You and Mirage are cult hits..."
"How do you do a sequel to a zombie movie? And Rose died remember...?" I shook my head in confusion. The last thing I wanted to do was ANOTHER movie with Mirage.
"Doesn't matter, they want to write the whole script around you and Mirage...or rather your characters. Apparently the audience sensed some tension and are eating it up..."
"No. Tell them I'm not interested!" I cut her off as she started to protest and snapped the phone shut as my dad stumbled inside.
"It's too much Violet, I just...I need to rest for a moment alright?" Dad said, sagging onto the bed.
"Of course. I'm done..." I showed him my phone before tucking it into the small purse. "I'll come check on you in a bit. I love you Dad."
"I love you too Violet..." He looked years older in the last week - as if he'd been holding off age for awhile and gave up the fight.
I closed the door silently behind me and nearly ran into Nepal on the landing. "Where's your dad? Haiti was asking..."
"He was feeling a little overwhelmed, he's resting..." I said pointing back to the door.
Nepal nodded but didn't take his eyes off my father's bedroom door. His face was hard to read but I sensed concern. "Vi..." Somehow I knew exactly what he was thinking and turned back toward my dad's room at the same instant he started to push past me.
Like Mom, Dad looked almost happy. Still, but happy. I think the weight of the world was lifted from his shoulders as he joined Mom once again. As sad as I was to lose them both so quickly, I was happy they were together. I turned into Nepal's side and he embraced me, stroking my hair.
Dad's funeral was planned quickly and once again the whole family came together for it. Like me, the others were sad to have lost him but happy that he was with Mom again.
Once all the people were gone and the messes were all cleaned up, I was left alone with my children for the first time pretty much since they were born. What was I supposed to do now?
I'd just gotten off the phone with the moving company when Lazuli happened by. "So now we're moving? Should have guessed!" she stomped up her way up the stairs, a ball full of anger.
"Lazuli! Stop right there!" I said as she was almost halfway up.
"Why?" she whirled around. "Ready to play house now?!" her words were full of venom and her eyes were filled with tears she refused to shed.
"Or are you gonna leave and dump us on someone else? Not like you wanted us anyway..." she continued.
"I'm sorry. I am so sorry for everything I've missed in your life and I'm sorry I left but it's just us now; you, me and Cobalt..." I said. I had no idea what to say to make her hate me less.
"And me." Nepal said, coming up behind me and putting his arm around my shoulder.
"You're not my father!" she spat at Nepal, but he didn't flinch. "I don't know who my father is but I bet he's better than her!" she pointed in my direction and I did flinch - it's hard to be verbally assaulted by your 10 year old. "I hate her!"
"Go to your room Zuli, now." Nepal said firmly. He may not be her father but he'd been in her life more than I had. He had her respect - most of the time. "You don't speak to anyone like that. You know better. Go!"
After one more glare at me, she stomped up the stairs and slammed her door. "It's a miracle that door is still on it's hinges as many times as she's slammed it lately." Nepal said with a small smile.
"She hates me." I said, tears brimming in my eyes.
"No she doesn't. She's a kid and she's angry and she's sad and her whole world is being turned upside down. She just needs time to adjust." He pulled me into a comforting hug.
Lazuli's Point of View
As soon as I got into my room, I threw myself on my bed and sobbed. I wouldn't let HER see me cry though. Cobalt may think it's cool having an actress for a mom but mostly it sucks. And now we were moving away from Sugar Valley! I heard her making the arrangements on the phone to pack up all our stuff. I guess Uncle Haiti would be moving into this house with his family after we'd left but Mom was eager to leave again. As much as I hated her for ditching us the first time - I wish she'd do it again. I didn't want to leave!
Everything snowballed pretty quickly from there and within a few days the moving truck and new purple SUV were sitting on the lawn. Most of the furniture was staying in the house for Uncle Haiti and Aunt Summer but our stuff and clothes were packed up and being moved out but a team of burly berries. "So it's true then." Turq and Lotus were dressed in their school uniforms - no doubt on their way to school.
"Yeah, Violet's making us move." I said. I'd recently started calling her by her name instead of Mom just because I saw how much it bugged her.
"Where to?" he asked, kicking at the rocks beneath his feet.
I just shrugged. "Back to the city I guess - she was living in Torea Bay before so I assume that's where."
"Well...call me when you get there...." he looked at the ground awkwardly. "I'll miss you and all..."
If I'd been a normal girl - ya know the non-tomboyish type - I'd probably be swooning over the fact that Turq would miss me. Fact is, there was a little bit of that normal girly-ness in me and I felt my stomach flutter a bit. "Sure..." Then I reached out and hugged him. Just a couple weeks ago he'd asked me to the school dance (as a friend) and I'd teased him mercilessly before saying yes. Now we'd never even get that far.
"We better get going Turq." Lotus said from the sidewalk. "We're gonna be late as it is..."
"See ya..." they both said with pathetic waves at us.
"This sucks." I muttered to Cobalt.
"It won't be so bad..." he said, always the optimist.
"Yeah right. Why did she ever have to come back?"
"She's our MOM Zuli!" Cobalt turned and headed into the house.