From Farm to Fame: Haylie- Chapter Twenty-One

It was nice waking up to a quiet house on New Year’s day, all my siblings were on the way home, and while I’d enjoyed their visit and all the excitement over the holiday the thought of life settling back down a bit and returning to normal seemed so nice. The girls apparently had only gone to sleep a few minutes before Max and I got home, so it was nice that I’d gotten to sleep late too, and they didn’t wake me early because they wanted breakfast. Though I was excited to tell them the news when they woke up and as we ate lunch in the dining room, I thought they’d be happy that Max and I were getting married, they were so happy when Max moved in, and were convinced then that we should we just get married. Maya was excited as it expected both of them to be, but Ericka was not; she folded her little arms across her chest, gave me a very serious look, and yelled “No!”

“No? Why not?” I was honestly surprised, and couldn’t figure out why she suddenly changed her mind.

“I don’t want some stupid replacement dad. I want a real dad. I don’t want you to marry that stupid fake guy.” I knew that conversation was right around the corner; I knew Max being around would make them wonder where their real father was, and that they would wonder why they didn’t have a normal family like their friends; I just didn’t expect it to come up in quite that way. Though when I thought about it I realized that Ericka had seemed to be distancing herself from Max; she didn’t ask him to read her bedtime stories anymore, or chase the scary monsters out of their room at night, and she seemed to start up conversation with her imaginary friend to avoid conversation whenever Max tried to talk to her. I’d noticed before, but I just thought it was some sort of phase or something, that she was just being a kid; I hadn’t made the connection before.

“Oh.” I didn’t know what to say, I still hadn’t figured out how to talk to them about Chase; I couldn’t lie to them, but I couldn’t tell them the truth either. I couldn’t tell them how he had just abandoned them, and that he obviously didn’t care about what would have happened to them if my siblings hadn’t been there to step up and look after them, or if they hadn’t even noticed in all of the commotion of their own lives. I didn’t even like to think about what could have happened myself, and I couldn’t hurt those innocent little girls any more than I needed to.

She put her arms down and looked less angry but sadder as she asked, “Where is our real dad? Why can’t you just marry him? Not Max.”

“He’s… I don’t know where he is. He left us, a long time ago, when you were babies, and I haven’t talked to him since.”

“Why did he leave?”

“He was mad at me. I’m really sorry… I’m sorry you have to pay the price for it.”

“Did you apologize to him?”

“I tried to, but he didn’t want to listen.”

“Then it’s his fault, not yours, we’re supposed to talk to each other and apologize to each other when we do something wrong and forgive each other. Not fight or run away, right?” I loved that innocence, and how she still believed it always went that way. Not that the need to tended to present itself, but I always tried to set the example for them; the unforgiveable situations had never presented themselves, and I’d never had to go against the theory that any problem could be worked through.

“Yes, that’s what we are supposed to do. Sometimes it’s hard to forgive people, or sometimes we just don’t want to try. He just didn’t want to try.”

“Do you think he’ll ever come back? Would you forgive him if he apologized for leaving?”

I hated that I had to admit to them that I wouldn’t forgive him if he didn’t come back, I didn’t want them to know about those times where you just can’t forgive somebody, I didn’t want to taint that innocence that didn’t even know such cruel situations could exist. “I don’t know if he’ll ever come back or not, but I can’t forgive him. There are things you girls don’t know or understand, and someday you might but right now you don’t need to. It’s boring grown-up stuff, but sometimes you just can’t forgive somebody.”

“That’s not fair! You have to forgive each other. Family has to forgive each other.” With that she went running off to her room crying as she did so, Maya who had been sitting so quietly the whole time went running right behind her. I wanted to run after her as well, but I figured she wouldn’t talk to me anyway, not until she calmed down a bit. I still remembered when I learned about my biological father, I’d had a similar reaction and wouldn’t talk to anybody but Ian for hours, he was the only one who understood and didn’t try to change my opinion. At that time we hadn’t know either what he really did, and still believed that he might be somebody worth knowing, it took a while to realize that we really did have a real dad despite what genetics had to say. I was sure Ericka would realize that eventually too.

As soon as the door slammed shut upstairs, the doorbell rang. Usually it was somebody wanting to stop by to chat for a while, and it didn’t really seem like a good time but I’d feel rude ignoring them; right on cue, it was Chase. “What are you doing here?” I snapped. I really wanted to just slam the door in his face, perhaps cast a pestilence curse on him first, but I also wanted to hear what he had to say for himself. It wouldn’t matter what he said, I’d never forgive him; I hated him for abandoning the twins, and I hated that it was years later and Ericka was upstairs crying because of it. I hated the years that I wasted with him, the wish I wasted to bring him back to life, the promises he broke, the way I loved him too blindly to see how he really was. I hated everything about him, and I just had to know what possessed him to think that it was okay to show up on my doorstep after leaving me and the girls year before, how he could think that I would ever forgive him? I assumed he wanted forgiveness anyway; he had that stupid pleading looking across his face in those once innocent eyes that became so tainted with lies.

“You’re still mad.” He shuffled awkwardly and seemed to be searching for the right words to smooth things over.

I didn’t give him the chance to find those words before I was yelling at him. “Still mad?! Yeah, I’m still mad. You abandoned our children, you ran like a coward instead of trying to work through the issue with me, and those innocent little girls are the ones who have to pay the price. I could forgive you for leaving me, but for leaving them… you disgust me and I’ll never forgive you. You were supposed to look after them, because they couldn’t look after themselves, they could have died if my siblings hadn’t been so quick to notice you gone and take on the responsibility of looking after them. Oh, and Ericka is crying right now, because she thinks I should be marrying you so we can have a normal family, I don't want to hurt even more by telling her why I can't forgive you and give her what she wants. I hate that my innocent little girl is already so hurt. I hate that you’re the one who abandoned them, and I have to be the one to hurt them.”

I could tell that he too was angry, what he had to be angry about I couldn’t figure out, but I knew I was about to find out. “Don’t act so innocent. You abandoned them too.”

“Don’t you dare…” I had to clench my fists to keep from punching him. I wanted to, but I knew I had to be better than that, better than him.

“No, don’t you dare. I told you not to go to that stupid place in the first place. Then you had to go and get yourself stuck there. Or so you claim, but I know… you were just there fooling around with some stupid guy; you abandoned them to cheat on me. You were just using us, keeping us at home for when he saw what you’re really like and dumped you.”

I just couldn’t fight the urge to punch him any longer. I knew it was wrong no matter how much I felt he deserved it, but it just seemed like it would feel so good. How could he ever think I would do something like that? Or think that it would justify what he did either way. I pulled my fist back and aimed for his face, when something darted past me and clung to him, forcing me to just drop my fist back to my side and clench it even tighter. It was Ericka, still crying.

Chase looked down at her with disgust and tried to shake her off. I pulled her off, though she had such a firm grip that it took a bit of effort. I just felt horrible as I realized how she must’ve heard all the yelling. She just ran back inside, and all the way back up to her room with Maya rushing after her once again. I ran after them both after slamming the door in Chase’s face. Ericka still wouldn’t talk to me, and I sat locked outside their bedroom for the rest of the evening; I wanted desperately to cast a spell to unlock it, but I didn’t want to make things worse by invading their privacy. Max just sat beside me once he got home from his big game, I assumed Chase was still standing there because I heard a bunch of shouting outside before Max came in, and he didn’t say a thing he just sat down and let me lean up against him while he wrapped a comforting arm around me. We didn’t go to bed ourselves until we heard snores coming out of the girls’ room.

I didn’t get much sleep, it took forever to fall asleep as my mind chased itself around in circles worrying and trying to find a solution, and I woke up only a couple hours later when it was still dark out and I just had to go check on the girls. The door was wide open so I didn’t have to feel bad for using magic to open it; Maya was fast asleep in her bed, but Ericka’s bed was empty. I tried not to panic right away, and searched through the whole house, but she was nowhere to be found. Each empty room made the horrible feeling in my stomach worse, and by the time I’d been through the whole house I felt so sick and horrible that I just wanted to curl up and die, but that wouldn’t help bring her home. I woke Max to help look for her, and called up my siblings; I knew they were all a whole day into their journeys home, and it would be a day before they got home, but I knew they’d come as fast as they could. I hoped Ericka would show up before they could get there, but it helped a little bit to know that they were on the way to help.