Saturday, July 22, 2000

In/Exhale - Flashback: December 24, 2000 - Part II

December 24, 2000 - Part II

“Hey,” Jon said, sitting down on the ledge of the fireplace opposite his brother.
Kai didn’t respond, his head bent over his book, which he clutched in his lap, his other holding a pencil that moved almost mechanically. Kai was shaking.
“We can go home at any time. You know that, right?”
Kai nodded without lifting his head, but he’d stopped coloring, shaking more visibly.
“Talk to me, Kai. In sign if you prefer. But please let me help you.”
Kai shook for a moment before slipping the pencil into the book, shutting it, and setting it aside. He finally made eye contact, and Jon could see how Kai was barely keeping it together, his eyes red as if he’d been crying--or at least trying desperately not to. He lifted his hands to sign, but it took him several moments before he managed to sign anything intelligible, he was shaking so much. “I don’t belong here,” Kai signed more than once, more emphatically each time.
“Of course you do,” Jon said out loud. “Yes,” Jon then signed, using the lexicalized fingerspelled version of the word for emphasis, which looked almost like you were pulling your hand in toward your body. “Now you and me, and in the future, forever, we will be family. Will,” Jon signed, which was equivalent to the English, “You are and always will be my family.”
Kai glanced toward the kitchen, then back at Jon, and covered his face. His shoulders shook and Jon knew Kai was sobbing.
Jon hesitantly touched Kai’s arm. When Kai didn’t flinch, he pulled his brother into a hug. “I know your head is telling you all kinds of bad things right now, but listen to me instead. OK? You’re loved, and you’ll always belong where you’re loved, and that includes in this house. OK? You deserve a Christmas with family as much as anyone else. Don’t let the people who’ve hurt you in the past take your present away from you. Right now is a gift. That’s why they call it the present. Remember that.”
Kai laughed through his tears. “That’s terrible.” He pulled back, wiping his face on his sleeve. “I’m so ready for this spontaneous crying thing to be over with,” Kai groaned, scrubbing at this eyes as if to take the redness away.
“Own your emotions, Kai,” Jon said, quoting Dr. Miller.
Kai rolled his eyes. “Don’t, Jon.” But he was smiling faintly, obviously feeling better.
“Speaking of presents,” Jon said. “Should we open some?”


“OK, let me get a picture of you by your big present before you open it,” Vicky said, waving the camera. She’d tried not to notice how red Kai’s eyes and nose were, obviously from tears. She’d watched the two brothers subtly from her perch in the kitchen, and she’d been able to see how badly Kai had been shaking. But Jon had urged her to not draw attention to Kai’s anxiety, to try to behave as normally as she could, and so she was. And that included photos.
Kai looked at Jon, pleading, but said nothing.
“Kai doesn’t really do photos,” Jon explained.
“Photos are part of Christmas.”
Jon shrugged.
Kai sighed. Rubbed his face. Looked up at the present. “What is this, anyway? Like, robo legs or something? Are you going to turn me into a cyborg?”
Jon was shaking his head, chuckling, but Vicky was surprised. After a second, she realized Kai was using the joke as a kind of shield, so she let it go. Before she could direct him, Kai pushed as close to the box as his chair allowed, then threw his arms out, as if he were trying to embrace it.
Now Vicky laughed, and she had to wait till she got herself under control enough the camera didn’t shake before snapping a quick picture. “OK, you’re good. Open it up. Jon?”
Jon got up and helped Kai strip the box away since it was so bulky. Vicky had wanted to surprise Kai, so she’d taped together the boxes from the front-loading washer dryer to make something that would fit over Kai’s gift, almost like a giant lid. Together, the brothers revealed the recliner underneath. Kai, whose hands still held bits of the box and wrapping paper, dropped, and he stared at it for a long while, silent. It may have been the firelight, but his eyes looked glassy.
Kai glanced over at Vicky momentarily, and she couldn’t read the expression on his face. It almost appeared . . . scared? No, that wasn’t it. Confused? No, that wasn’t quite it either. Her stomach knotted as Kai turned away from her, dropping the packaging and signing rapidly to Jon, almost frantically.
Jon signed back, but his signing was more halting, as if he had to think carefully about what he wanted to say and how. She wasn’t entirely sure if it was the language barrier, or because Jon seemed like he was always walking on eggshells lately with Kai. She wished she understood them, but realized Kai had probably switched languages precisely so she couldn’t.
Finally, Kai turned around at Jon’s urging. He took a few deep breaths and met her eyes. “You didn’t have to get me anything. Especially not . . .”
Jon cleared his throat.
Kai took in another breath. “Thank you very much. It’s a very thoughtful gift.”
The knot in her stomach hadn’t dissipated. Kai hated it, and it was only because of Jon that he was being polite. “It’s power, so it opens and closes with the touch of a button,” she said, getting closer and showing him the remote, deciding the best thing was to forge ahead. “And it does this, too,” she said, pressing another button. The recliner slowly eased up off the floor in the back, tilting at an angle. “So it’s easier to get out of if you’re walking.” The knot grew tighter. Jon had warned her that Kai might take the gift of the recliner the wrong way, but she’d thought it would be the perfect symbol that Kai really was welcome in her home. She offered him the remote, nervous.
Kai was unreadable again, but he accepted the remote. He started fiddling with the buttons until the chair was flat, the footrest tucked away. Then he set the remote aside, testing the recliner, touching it and pushing it and pulling at it. Honestly, Vicky wasn’t sure what he was doing. He kept glancing up at his brother, as if he were a little kid who’d been told he could play with a big, expensive toy and he wasn’t 100% sure he really had permission.
Jon nodded, smiled faintly, signed something that looked encouraging although Vicky couldn’t understand it.
Finally, Kai positioned himself beside the chair, locked his wheels, and transferred into it. It wasn’t easy for him to do so, and Jon looked like he wanted to help more than once, but Kai was stubborn and eventually got his butt from his wheelchair into the recliner. He paused, as if he were catching his breath, then spent several minutes getting himself situated, pulling his legs over with his hands, then pushing up against the cushion to adjust his position in the seat. Finally, he found the remote and pressed the button to recline. He adjusted his legs some more, then sighed, his eyes falling half closed. He blinked, then he squeezed his eyes tightly shut, breathed for awhile before opening them again.
Kai waved for his brother, then signed something.
Jon’s brows furrowed, but he nodded.
Kai signed, and Jon watched, voicing for his brother. Interpreting what Kai was saying. “I couldn’t trust I’d find the English words right now. Thank you. This is the third best gift anyone has ever given me.
She was curious what the other gifts were. His lungs? His wheelchair? His car? But she let it go. Kai liked it. He’d just been overwhelmed. “This is your recliner, Kai. I’m not pressuring you to decide, but even if you don’t move in, you’re always welcome here. I wanted this to be a reminder of that.”
Kai smiled then, faint, but genuine. He signed something to his brother, tight to his body, and Jon didn’t interpret, so she assumed that was the ASL equivalent of a whisper.
Jon nodded and went to the tree, pulling out a small rectangular package. He glanced at Kai and then nodded again as he offered it to Vicky. “This is for you, from Kai,” Jon explained.
Vicky remembered her camera then. “I forgot to take a picture of Kai in his recliner.”
Jon glanced over at Kai, who had shifted again, more like a cat curling up for a nap, and chuckled. “I don’t think he’s going to be moving anytime soon. But I’ll take a picture of you.”
Vicky smiled for the camera, then took the chance to look at the present, studying the card. It was written in unfamiliar handwriting. It didn’t look like Kai’s, or what she would expect Kai’s to look like, so she wondered if he’d had it wrapped. As she began tearing off the paper, she happened to see Kai in her peripheral vision. He looked like he was dozing in the recliner, but she could tell he was actually watching her. Kai was almost creepy, how he seemed to constantly be on guard, usually without overtly appearing so.
As she peeled the paper away, her suspicions were confirmed. A book. What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It was in good condition, though she could tell it wasn’t new. She knew Kai didn’t really have any money of his own, and he’d been sick for weeks. The fact that he’d still made some effort to get her something, and that it seemed to be his way of accepting her pregnancy, too, said a lot.
“Thank you, Kai.”
“If you already have it, or you don’t want it, or whatever, Art at Lost Apple will let you trade it for something else,” Kai said in an artificially neutral voice, as if he were trying very purposefully to keep any emotion out of it. “I know it can’t compare to a recliner.”
“No, I love it. Thank you very much. It was very thoughtful.”
Kai nodded, reached up to push some of his hair off his face, his hand shaking. “Open yours next,” Kai said in a small voice, directed to Jon.
Jon went to the tree and plucked out another package. “You didn’t need to give me anything, Kai.”
Kai nodded and signed something, a hand on his head.
Jon perched on the couch arm, studying the package for a moment. Vicky could see this one had been wrapped--crudely, even though it was a fairly rectangular package. It didn’t seem like a book, although it could have been a hardcover. Jon flipped it over and slid a finger under the tape, trying to open it as neatly as possible, although the cheap paper ripped a little. He carefully peeled the tape off and unfolded the paper as if he were going to save it for later. Vicky had never seen Jon unwrap a present before, but she’d seen him act in a similarly meticulous manner with other packaging, so it didn’t surprise her at all. From what she could see, it looked like some kind of frame, perhaps. Jon carefully flipped it over, peeling the rest of the paper away.
Jon’s body language shifted, his shoulders dropping, holding the frame, just staring at it. All Vicky could see was something brightly colored. “You made this?” Jon asked, breaking his eye contact with it to look up at his brother.
Kai nodded. “I know you deserve so much better. . . .” Kai looked over at Vicky and then silenced again.
Jon finally showed the present off to Vicky. It was beautiful. A collage of a stethoscope made out of torn, brightly colored pieces of paper on a solid-colored torn-paper background, framed. On one side, there was a section of hand-written text. It was neat print, but Vicky could tell that it had to be Kai’s handwriting, since she saw a shade of Jon’s in the slant of its letters. The text read, The best medicine is love. If it doesn’t work, increase the dose. And that’s when she realized the loops of the stethoscope actually formed the outline of a heart.
“It’s stupid. It was a stupid idea.” Kai looked really ashamed and upset, which Vicky couldn’t understand. It was wonderful, and something she knew Jon would cherish.
Jon set the gift aside and rose, perching on the edge of the recliner, facing Kai, so they could speak. Vicky couldn’t make out what they were saying, only hushed whispers. Maybe Kai was signing; she couldn’t see him because Jon’s back was blocking his brother. Finally, Jon hugged Kai, a quick squeeze, and kissed Kai on the top of the head.
“It’s an amazing present. I’ll hang it in my office.” When Jon rose to go back to the tree, Vicky saw Kai had pulled his legs up to his chest and was resting his chin on his knees. He looked like he was ready to break down, staring out blankly into space, and Vicky had to remember that Kai had been a psychiatric inpatient only a few weeks ago, with a long road of recovery ahead.
“This is for you,” Jon said, and she could tell by his tone and body language that he was aware of Kai but trying to act normal.
Vicky accepted the small box, and the knot in her stomach immediately re-formed. It was the perfect size to hold a ring. Jon had assured her he didn’t want to get married. Had he changed his mind? She forced herself to smile as she undid the bow and tore off the paper, slowly revealing a small jewelry box.
Before she could open it, Jon laid a hand on hers to stop her. “Nothing has changed, but I wanted you to know I’m committed to you. To all of us,” Jon said, directing his gaze at Kai and Vicky’s belly in turn. “I love you, Vicky.”
Vicky smiled, relaxing, as she finally revealed the ring within. It was simple, just a band of white gold, or maybe silver, with an infinity symbol twisted out of it so that the whole thing seemed to flow together. It was clearly not a wedding band or an engagement ring, but a promise, and it made her love Jon even more for it. She slipped it on, smiling.
Jon glanced over at Kai, who was still curled up although he looked like he was sleeping. Again, Vicky suspected he was watching them through his eyelashes. “It was Kai’s suggestion.” It wasn’t clear if Jon meant the whole idea of the ring, or simply the design, but it again made her see Kai in a new light. He was trying. Kai obviously loved Jon and wanted him to be happy. She could see that so clearly now.
“I love it. Thank you.” She leaned in and they kissed briefly. “I need to give you your present.”
Jon leaned in and whispered in her ear, “I’d prefer you do that when Kai’s not in the room.”
She laughed, pushed him away playfully. “I meant the one under the tree.” She rose to her feet and started to go to the Christmas tree to find Jon’s present, but she noticed Kai didn’t look so good. He was curled into a tight ball, a hand on his stomach, and he was very pale. “Kai? Are you OK?”
“Is this the last present?”
That confused Vicky. “Jon has a present for you, too.”
Kai smiled faintly and nodded. “I’ll be all right.” Vicky suspected he was lying, but she let him be.
Vicky grabbed her present for Jon. She’d agonized over what to get him since she’d told him she was pregnant. She and Jon had never exchanged gifts before; Jon was the type of person who was always generous, and didn’t have much of a habit of giving out gifts, even for special occasions. He was also very practical. He would probably have loved a package of testing strips for his glucose meter or a tie, but she wanted something that was a little more personal.
“Give Kai his present, too,” Jon called out.
So Vicky tucked Jon’s present under her arm and picked up Kai’s: a big, moderately heavy box that she knew had a video game system in it, Jon's way of giving Kai something to entertain and distract him over the next few weeks while he recovered. Kai looked sick, maybe in pain, and Jon had warned her that Kai’s energy would be limited. His ability to pretend he was fine was obviously waning, because when she offered him the gift, he pulled himself into a tighter ball and shook his head.
Vicky walked to the couch, setting the gifts aside. “I think you should check on Kai.”
Jon frowned and nodded, rising and kissing her on the cheek. Vicky turned and saw Jon talking quietly to Kai, laying a hand on his forehead and then helping his brother into his wheelchair. Kai immediately hunched forward, clutching his stomach.
“I’m going to help Kai lie down. We can finish this later.”
“Of course,” Vicky said, worried and a little guilty. Kai looked like he was in a lot of pain.


“Is Kai all right?” Vicky asked Jon once he finally emerged from the room she’d remodeled for him.
Jon nodded. “He still gets pretty bad intestinal cramps. I gave him some medicine and he’s sleeping it off. He should be fine when he wakes up, and maybe I can convince him to eat.”
Vicky reached for Jon’s hand to lead him to the couch. “That present he gave you was really sweet.”
Jon looked sad for a little while before forcing a smile. “He made it while he was an inpatient. Part of his therapy. Kai always seemed so independent, I never realized what a lifeline I’d become for him.” Taken on its face, the statement could have come across as arrogant, but from Jon it was tinged by such a weight of responsibility and guilt it could never be perceived that way.
Vicky grabbed Jon’s face, forcing him to look at her. “What did Dr. Miller tell you? You’re you and Kai’s Kai. You are not his father. You can’t blame yourself for everything that goes wrong in his life. You deserve a life of your own.”
Jon nodded slowly and pulled away. Vicky knew that intellectually Jon understood everything she’d just said, but that changing the way he felt about Kai and their situation was a lot harder.
Vicky followed Jon into the kitchen, where he was making a fresh pot of coffee. She came up behind him, hugging him, teasing in his ear, “I thought you were limiting your caffeine.”
Jon pulled away, his body tense. Angry. “If I fucking need some coffee, I can fucking have some. Stop trying to micromanage my life. And Kai’s, too.”
Vicky stepped backwards, bewildered and hurt by Jon’s outburst.
Jon’s body language and face transformed, as if he’d been surprised by his surge of anger. “Vic--I’m sorry. I don’t know what--” He sighed heavily, leaned against the counter as if he needed it for support, his shoulders sagging. “Have you ever wished you could put your life on pause? Just press a button and everything would freeze, and you could get away for awhile, figure things out, get your head back on straight, and then come back, hit play, and it would be like you were never gone?” He shoved his fingers through his hair. “I love you, Vic, and I do want this baby. I do. But right now . . . I feel like my life is spinning out of control and I’m just barely holding on. And I have so many people counting on me, and I don’t know if I can do it anymore.” Jon’s head popped up at that, as if he couldn’t believe he’d said that out loud.
Vicky stepped closer, laid her hands on his shoulders and kissed him. Just a reassurance. “Everything will be OK. I didn’t get a chance to give you your present. Come on.”


Jon had protested that they should wait for Kai, but Vicky finally convinced Jon to sit on the couch and open her gift to him. He peeled the paper off in his careful, meticulous way, then opened the box that contained it. But he barely reacted. He stared at it, and then his hand slid over the cover, feeling the leather of the book that had Photos embossed into it.
Vicky swallowed, wondering if it had been a mistake, watching him, holding her breath.
Jon finally removed the photo album from the box and opened it. Vicky had slipped in a few pictures, but most of the pages were blank. Finally, he laughed. “Who took this?” he asked, pointing to one from the costume party where he’d gotten drunk. The photo showed Jon dancing the Macarena and Vicky laughing and trying to pull him away.
“I don’t know who actually took it, but Kate gave it to me.”
Jon’s brows furrowed. “Oh. Your friend. The peds nurse who had the party.” He nodded and flipped. The next was a photo of the two of them, side by side, in what looked like the couch of Vicky’s office. They were both a few years younger. Vicky was smiling, and Jon just looked irritated. “So you lied!” Vicky had just gotten the camera and said she wanted to practice with it, but that she didn’t have any film in it.
Vicky shrugged. “I knew you would never go for it if I told the truth. You’re almost as camera shy as your brother. I tried to get a pic of Kai for the album, but I wasn’t able to.”
Jon chuckled faintly. Then he reached back for his wallet, opened it up and slid something out. An old cropped photo of a young blond boy sitting on a bed in what looked like a dorm room, his legs pulled up and held in place with one arm, his head bent over a book that rested against his knees. Jon smoothed a thumb over the picture and then slid it into one of the slots in the album.
“Is that Kai?” Vicky asked, hazarding a guess. At first, she thought it might be Jon, but the way he treated the photo so reverently told her it had to be his brother.
Jon nodded. “Kai’s fever was so bad the first couple days he had a seizure, and there was a strong chance he wouldn’t make it.” Jon stared down at the photo. Swallowed. “I was upset, and all I could think of was that I didn’t have a single picture of him. So David gave this to me. He had a few he’d taken when they were kids that he had managed to hold onto all these years.”
Vicky wrapped her arm around Jon and gave him a sideways hug. She knew how sick Kai had been and had offered Jon as much support as she could, but she had no idea the details. “Do you know how old he was there?”
Vicky smiled faintly. “Did you look like him when you were his age?”
Jon chuckled. Nodded. “More or less. I got taller sooner than he did, but yeah. Pretty much.”
Vicky kissed Jon’s cheek. “I know you don’t have any photos of yourself or your family, so I thought now that we’re starting our own you could--”
“Start collecting new memories,” Jon said, finishing her sentence.
Vicky nodded. “Including tonight. Our first Christmas together, and Kai’s first real Christmas in ages.”
Jon closed the book and set it and the box aside, shifting so he was more facing her. His eyes were misty with emotion, and he took both her hands in his, squeezing. “This is a wonderful gift. Thank you.” He leaned forward and kissed her, chaste at first, but it deepened into something pure and raw and full of emotion. Then he pulled back and checked his watch. “I should go check on Kai. He needs to eat again.”
Vicky wanted to make a joke about taking care of Kai preparing Jon for their baby but decided it wasn’t the time. “I’ll clean up, and if he’s up to it, we can watch some Christmas movies.”


Jon hated waking Kai. Since his fever, he almost always came out of sleep panicked and confused, sometimes violent, sometimes paranoid that Jon had recommitted him, sometimes stuck in a dissociation. But when Jon stepped into the bedroom Vicky had remodeled for Kai, Jon saw his brother wasn’t asleep. He was curled up on the bed, facing the door, a hand on his stomach, and Jon knew he was in pain.
“Hey,” Jon said cautiously.
“Hey,” Kai said, his voice a little rough.
“Can you rate your stomach pain for me?”
Kai swallowed. “Eight.”
Jon nodded. He set the bowl of mashed sweet potatoes on the nightstand. “I think you should take another pill. OK?” Jon went to the bathroom and got Kai a cup of water. Then he fished out a small pill case from his pocket and took out half a pill of a smooth muscle relaxant for Kai to take. Kai couldn’t take too much for his GI pain because his intestines had actually shut down at one point--which was why Kai had been released only a couple days ago--and his gastroenterologist, Dr. Eisen, wanted to be cautious. It was another reason he had to eat so frequently, to keep his GI tract stimulated.
Kai pushed up a little, but it took a huge amount of effort, and his arms shook with fatigue. He’d obviously exhausted his limited strength with all the transfers he’d done in the last few hours. Then he quickly swallowed the pill and let Jon help him sit up, his back against the headboard.
“Here, you need to eat. Just two or three bites.” Jon offered Kai the bowl he’d brought with him.
Kai’s lip curled, but he accepted the bowl and took the spoon in hand.
“I know you don’t want to eat, but remember what Dr. Eisen said.”
Kai swallowed the way he did when he was nauseous and trying to control it, but he nodded and scooped up a spoonful, shoving it in his mouth. It took him a while, but he finally managed to eat the required three bites.
“You can stay here if you want, but Vicky was going to put on a few Christmas movies. I thought you might prefer to rest out there with us.” Jon paused. “Or I can take you home.”
Kai didn’t answer for a long moment. It was clear he wasn’t feeling well, so much so he didn’t even try to hide it. But he nodded. “Movies sounds good. I’m gonna need your help, though.”
Jon nodded. Kai had lost a lot of muscle while he was sick, and he was also still undernourished, so he could get around OK on his own, but he used his strength up quickly. Jon took the bowl from his brother and put it out of the way, then aligned Kai’s wheelchair. Kai shifted on the bed a little, pushing away from the headboard, but he was almost completely tapped out and having to lift his body even that small amount was a huge effort. He slid his legs toward the edge of the mattress but then he had to pause. They’d done this dance more than once in Kai’s last week in the hospital, since getting out of bed was one way to keep Kai’s GI system working.
Jon scooted a little closer to Kai and put one of his brother’s arms around his neck. Kai pushed against the mattress while Jon wrapped his arms around Kai and pulled. Slowly but steadily guiding Kai’s body closer to his chair. When they got Kai to the edge of the mattress, Jon paused so Kai could fix his legs and readjust his hold on Jon’s neck. “Ready? On three. One, two, three.” Together, they got Kai back in his wheelchair, Jon pulling and lifting Kai’s body while Kai pushed and pulled with his free arm to maneuver his lower half into place.
“Being sick sucks,” Kai said with a groan as he set his feet on the footplate. “You’ve gotten stronger.”
“I’ve been doing pushups. David’s suggestion,” Jon said proudly, although he felt a little silly as soon as he admitted it. Unlike Kai, who had a natural athlete’s build, Jon was slighter and scrawny, but he had built up some definition in his arms over the past few weeks.
Kai seemed surprised but he offered a weak smile. Then he slowly pushed toward the door and the living room.


Kai was curled up with a wool blanket in his Christmas present, grateful the medicine was finally starting to work and ease his pain. Dr. Eisen had warned him that the pain and discomfort would probably linger for weeks as his intestines healed and the irritation subsided. Jon and Vicky were snuggled up together on the couch. The lights were off and only the glow of the fire and the TV lit the room, but it didn’t make Kai nervous. He was . . . well, he wasn’t sure if he could quite say “content” considering the demons of depression and anxiety still haunted him, but he was happy enough. They were watching It’s A Wonderful Life, which Kai had seen bits and pieces of but never the entire thing from start to finish. Kai never had control of the remote at County House until he was older, and by that point he didn’t want to ruin his street cred by admitting he really liked sappy, sentimental movies like this one.
Kai actually wondered if Jon had chosen this movie intentionally, considering the themes it explored and the fact that Kai was still two apples short of a barrel. Part of Kai resented how Jon had been treating him lately, like a fragile child, but part of him wasn’t so far gone he couldn’t realize that’s what he’d been behaving like in a lot of ways.
Kai didn’t really think wishing you were never born and believing people were better off if you were dead were the same thing, though. Even if Kai doubted that the world would be much different if he’d never existed. Jon had always wanted to be a doctor. Maybe he wouldn’t have gone into pulmonology, but Jon would be saving lives no matter what, and maybe even doing a better job of it without Kai as a distraction. He might already be married with children. Sure, not to Vicky, since he’d have had no reason to come back to Jonesville. Again, things would be different, but only marginally. The only one that Kai thought might really have a radically altered existence if Kai had never been born was David.
Without Kai to tie David to County House, he’d have had no reason to stay, and if David had run away and wanted to stay gone, he would have. Kai wondered if it hadn’t been for him (and ultimately, Megan, too) if David would have ended up in jail or even dead. Kai didn’t like that thought and decided he would shut out his mind and just focus on the movie. This was what Christmas was supposed to be, right? Presents and cheesy movies and fireplaces and turkey. Knowing you had people who cared about you.
And Kai wasn’t in the hospital, which was celebration enough.
Kai glanced over at Jon and Vicky. Jon had his arm wrapped around her, pulling her close to him so her head rested on his shoulder. And even though through the firelight his face was partially in shadow, Kai could see his brother was happy. In love. Vicky was good for him. Maybe good for them both. Kai just had to hope that he could get better over the next few weeks, spread his wings and give Jon his life back.
“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings,” right? If only it were so easy.



  1. Beautiful, beautiful chapters. Thank you for sharing.

  2. So glad I'm finally up to date. Love this story and the characters you bring to life.

  3. I'm totally in love with your story. You did a great job on this flashback, I actually like Vicky a little now. I have problems with most females in most stories, so that means something. I can imagine Jon and Vicky as parents, caring for someone, backing each other up during hard times. They are really sweet.

  4. They all work so well together in your story. Brilliant writing job. I love this story a lot.

  5. Oh, thank you for posting both parts together!

    It sounds like I'm not alone in having turned a corner in my own attitude towards Vicky. I didn't exactly dislike her before, but I did feel very "meh" about her. I suppose she was somewhat flat compared to the other characters (through no fault of yours—mostly just because we hadn't had quite as much time with her). I really like how you've built up the little Jon-Vicky-Kai family dynamic here.

  6. Lovely chapters. I get so afraid that Kai isn't getting better or stronger. Anxiety provoking. Lol Thanks as always