A time to mourn, and a time to dance
We arrived at the hospital after just nineteen minutes, and since I'd never been to the ICU before I had to ask directions. They sent me to the fourth floor and I left the elevator to find my brother pacing anxiously back and forth before the brushed metal doors. Drev was at my back and I did not fear the pathetic panicked man before me.
He forgot himself and crushed me into his arms as soon as I stepped from the elevator. I am not sure still how I feel about that hug. He lead us to the purple and blue waiting room where my other brother was being ineptly consoled by my sister-in-law. I felt myself grow a few inches in that moment. It was petty to feel superior to these men in such a time, but I did. I went to him and knelt, saying his name. He too crushed me to him and I am not sure how I feel about that hug either. I reassured him for some moments and it wasn't before too long that he was able to sit on his little sofa and not weep uncontrollably, I grew several more inches.
Before much longer a man in green scrubs approached and asked for the Saunders Family. I stepped forward, my brothers crowding behind me. We were told that they had done everything they could, but our father had not made it, however some of his organs were viable and could be transplanted, but a decision had to be made right then. A nurse hovered behind him. Tears hung heavy in my throat, and I turned to my brothers, they had fallen apart again, and it was left to me.
I signed the woman's papers and told them to use whatever they could. I do not know if my father would have wanted that, but it seemed right at the time. I could not go to Danny and Jerry, they had to mourn with out me. I went to Drev and let myself be wrapped in his warmth and strength.
It was not too long after that that a woman in the same kind of green scrubs came into the waiting room and asked for us again. This time the news was better, but not by much. Our mother had survived, but she would be paralyzed from just below the ribcage down. She'd have control of her arms, and head, but not of her lower extremities. It was not the news were were hoping for, but we were glad she was alive.
I went in to see her first. It was only fitting in the boys opinion, and since Drev was not family, I had to go in alone. That was the worst thing I'd ever done up to that point. She was hooked up to more things than I could count, and she looked still as death in that bed. I went to her and the touch of my hand and the sound of my voice brought her awake.
We spoke quietly for a little while and I told her what the doctor had said. She cried, and asked me to stay home and take care of her. I was the only one that would treat her well and would not put her in a home. I was floored. I did not think my brothers would put her in a home, but she was certain they would.
Sadly she was right. They were speaking of that very thing when I returned to the waiting room. I told them to take their turns and sat down with Drev. It was a decision I could only make with him.
When they hugged her, I was thrown off a little. It didn't put me at ease, not by a long shot; if anything, it only made me more wary. I shook their hands when Wren introduced me, and I'm confident that they know who and what I am - in regards to Wren, I mean.
My job here is to be Wren's support. I've seen pain and suffering aplenty in my seven hundred years, so I've become more adept at dealing with it. I just hate seeing how it's affecting Wren. Her brothers have deferred to her, which is helping her cope, I think, because it gives her something to hold onto, it gives her responsibility and purpose, allowing her to keep her mind from fixating on her parents and spiraling down.
It was hard letting Wren go in to see her mother by herself. She'd probably needed my support the most in there, but I had to stay in the waiting room. I can see the pain in her eyes and it makes my heart ache. I want to hold her and soothe away her sorrow, but it will be better to let her deal with it herself. I'll give her whatever support I can, no matter what it is, but she's going to have to grieve for herself.
It is difficult to think that my brothers would be so callous toward our mother. I knew how they viewed me, and I know now that they feared Drev, which is a bit of a boon really, but I figured they held Mom on a totally different kind of pedestal.
Dad's doctor returned to speak with us again, he brought a man in a very rumpled suit with him this time. They had harvested, that's such a cold term for it, his kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, and corneas, and had sent them on their way to recipients. I was glad for that, that other people would have better live because of my father. The doctor left and the suit sat down with me to talk about what happens with his remains and sadly, money.
When that was all over, the boys were beside themselves and I'd flat had enough of them. Very firmly I sent them back to our parents house with a list of chores to do. What I gave them should take a couple of days and by then mom would be out of CCU and we could begin life as we mean to go on.
I have spent the last three days making funeral arrangements. My brothers were completely useless and I had to make up more chores for them. Their wives were just as useless, but at least they could cook and so I set them to that task. They moved Mom to a private room in their recovery and rehabilitation unit this morning and Dad's funeral is tomorrow. Drev and I have already purchased the electronic wheelchair that Mom will begin learning to use the day after tomorrow. It is difficult to explain to mom that she will be at the funeral, she just wont be able to go to the grave side. She wants to see her husband buried, but we cant risk her being outside. She'd not well enough for that yet. It was damn near impossible to get the doctors to agree to let her go to the church for the funeral.
Drev had been nothing but my backer through all of this and I lean on him far more than is probably healthy, but what choice do I have? He and I are staying in a very nice hotel just three blocks from the hospital so that I can walk back and forth and I've rented a car that I use to go to and from my parents house.
The boys and their wives have the place in tip top shape and I think Mom will be please. I stopped by earlier to take Dad's best suit and favorite tie to the funeral home this morning and the place smelled of pine cleaner and furniture polish.
The funeral was lovely. We were able to have an evening service so that Drev could be there with me. It was eerie being in a graveyard at dusk, but I managed through it. Mom was beside herself and wept during then entire service at the church, but I expected nothing less. The boys faired little better and I think I was the only person upright enough to think. I hugged my mother's fragile body before the EMS took her back to the ambulance for the ride back to the hospital. We then all piled in limos and sedate black sedans and were transported to the graveyard. That service was just as lovely and after we tossed roses on the casket, we were escorted back to the limos and then to the house for the after funeral gathering thing that people feel compelled to do.
I feel so detached from everything. Like this is all for someone else and that I'm just here to play a part. People I didn't know I knew kept touching me and offering that sad smile everyone seemed to have, and telling me he was a good man and would be missed. Drev helped me shoo everyone away and my sisters-in-law took my brothers home and to bed, promising to have them back the next day. I didn't have the energy to tell them to stay home.
Drev made me stop cleaning by picking me up and carrying me out to the rental car, and buckling me into my seat. I couldn't help but laugh, and he managed to keep me laughing all the way back to the hotel and well into the night.
It's been two weeks since my father's funeral and my brothers are about to drive me crazy. They want to know what Dad's will said and what's going to be done about Mom and how much money did it mean for them. It didn't take them long to go from overwhelmed grieving sons to overwhelming greedy bastards. I informed them that until Mom was released from the hospital and could go to the reading the will would remain unread until then, and that they would not see one red cent if they kept at it. So finally they stopped coming to the hospital, except after work to visit mom and their wives stopped calling me and they stopped dropping by the house for no reason.
I've tried to convince Mom to move to Nachton with us and get away from the boys, but she insists on staying in Crystal Falls. Her friends, her church and her family are here. I understand that, but if I'm the one that's going to be taking care of her, don't I get a say? Obviously not. It all boils down to I'm not letting my mother go into a home, and I'm not letting my brothers get a hold of the little bit of money she will have left, so my only option is staying in Michigan.
Drev has said that he will go where ever I go and that if this is where I need to be then this is where he will be. What kind of man picks up his life and takes it where every a woman leads? A good man, according to my Mom. So we're staying here.
I shudder now at the thought.
I never really got over her, at least not deep down. I was able to move on, though, and when I did, I gave myself a vow that I would never let a woman get under my skin like that. I spent 700 years wandering the world, going wherever I wanted, with not a care in the world. I had access to Abigayle's bank accounts - and still do to this day, more or less - and I didn't have any family to make me feel obligated. I was alone and wouldn't have had it any other way. I would wander into a new town, beat the less attractive girls off with a stick, and have my way with the rest. And that was before I figured out that I was sterile, so I didn't have to worry about knocking them up, and I never got sick.
My life was the epitome of hedonism.
And then I met Wren.
I can't even begin to describe how I feel about her. I never thought I'd ever let myself get attached to a woman, after Abigayle, but from the first time I met Wren in that little cafe, I've never been able to get her out of my mind. At first I think it was her vulnerability; but not because I wanted to take advantage of her. All those years of learning the Way of the Sword, Bushido, Chivalry, and being in the mafia had developed a strong need to protect. Here was this beautiful girl that bore so much pain in her life, and yet beneath it I could see her intelligence, her strength, her loving heart, like the beam of a lighthouse cutting through roiling mist.
After I'd gotten to know her, and she'd told me about her brothers, all I could think about was delivering her from her torment. As our relationship developed, I was finding thoughts and feelings that I hadn't felt in a very, very long time. Wren quickly became the center of my life. She was proving to be a challenge - not in a "conquest" way, but in a "will I be able to help her" way - and yet rewarding at the same time.
By the time I even thought about the possibility of telling her that I am a vampire, we were too deep in each other, and she was still very vulnerable. I wanted to tell her, I would have told her, but I hadn't expected our relationship to grow so strong so fast. For the record, I didn't hide it from her on purpose. But I knew that the longer I held it from her, the worse it would be. It started to bother me, like walking in shoes that are too small; at first it's just an annoyance you can put out of mind, but over time the pain builds and builds until you have blisters popping open and skin being rubbed raw.
All I ever wanted was to protect Wren. I wanted to cradle her and protect her from the real monsters in this world. I knew what was out there, and I didn't want Wren to have to experience those things. But on the other hand, if I sheltered her too much, she wouldn't be prepared for the inevitability of being exposed to some kind of pain.
I love Wren more than I've ever loved anything in my life. I've only known her for the tiniest fraction of my lifetime, and yet she means more to me than everything else combined.
I hate seeing her in this pain with her parents and brothers, and yet I'm nearly powerless to alleviate it. It's something she needs to do on her own. I can give whatever help I can - emotionally, physically, financially - but she's got to be the one to make the final decisions. Her brothers have become useless. The thought of them getting even a penny of their father's money makes my blood boil. More than once I've wished that we were back in medieval Japan so I could draw my katana and end their shameful lives.
It's funny, thinking about it that way, Wren is now my master. I am her samurai, sworn to protect her. If she were to command me, I would kill her brothers in a heartbeat.
Which takes me on another tangent. The day I told Wren that I was a vampire, I had been prepared to end my life. I was ashamed of what I'd done to her. I very nearly told her that if she felt I should die as punishment for what I'd done to her, I would have done so gladly.
You know, when I told her I was a vampire, I felt disappointment for the first and only time in our relationship. I felt disappointed that Wren didn't realize that I was incapable of lying at that point. However, i can't hold it against her. This world, this century, is rife with distrust, dishonesty, and insincerity. It was the teachings of Bushido that finally made me brave enough to accept the consequences of facing up to my lie. While I had been keeping that one secret from her, I was violating those sacred virtues of Honor, Respect, Honesty, Loyalty, Temperance, Benevolence, and Courage. It was the only lie I've told her, the only thing I've kept from her, and when I finally told her, it was a massive weight off my chest. Granted, there's going to be some rough spots in our road ahead, but I think we'll be able to get through them. I can't even begin to describe how relieved I felt when I Wren first indicated that she was planning to stay with me.
But now that I have nothing to hide from her, I am free to live by Bushido again. In feudal Japan, when the samurai were revered and honored members of society, their word was bond. When a samurai said something, you could take him at his word. There was never a doubt as to whether he meant what he said. A samurai is incapable of lying. That's what it boils down to. A samurai can no sooner lie than he can stop his heart from beating. The only way a samurai can stop his heart is to die.
So after I told Wren I was a vampire, and I told her that I never wanted to hurt her, that all I ever wanted was to protect her and keep her safe, there should have been no doubt about the integrity of my honesty. And yet she doubted me. But like I said, I can't hold it against her. In fact, I'm proud of her for listening to the doubt in her mind, because it shows that she's capable of evaluating the situation before making a decision. Perhaps I need to do a better job of educating her about Bushido and the way of the samurai.
There's a point to all this, and I think it's this: Wren is my world. I have no other friends to whom I feel a strong enough tie to keep me from moving to Michigan with Wren. I have no business obligations in Nachton that can't be handled in Michigan. I was a wandering retired rock star trying to plant roots somewhere, and Nachton was as good a place as any. But now I'm a bodyguard, a best friend, a lover. Everything that means anything to me is moving to Michigan. So there's nothing holding me back. I will go with her and I won't look back.
It took me over seven hundred years to find Wren, and I'm not going to let her go. She's changed my life and I'm looking forward to what it will bring.
A couple days before Wren got the phone call about her parents, I bought a ring. It's a simple gold band; a never-ending circle unbroken by decoration. We have dinner reservations for Saturday night at 8. After we finish dessert, I'm going to ask her to marry me.
I had never in my life shopped in the exclusive boutiques on Main Street, and I felt a bit strange going in them now, but I had the money now and I didn't care who's tongues wagged to who or what they said. Small towns never changed and I had, so I could walk in with my head high and not care.
I found a lovely black and white cocktail dress at the Lord and Taylor boutique and some incredible Gucci shoes at Saks. And at Frederick's I found a white satin corset and matching thong. I don't generally wear a thong, but it looks smashing with the corset.
I spent a lot of time on myself Saturday afternoon, including a trip to the salon to have something done with my hair. They did this cute casual up do that was nothing more than fat curls pinned and flowing against my head. The woman that did it for me, used just enough product to make the curls hold, but if I took the pins out it would flow down my back. My hair is down past my shoulder blades now and it amazes me every time I brush it, but Drev loves it so I keep it.
I met Drev in the lobby of the hotel, almost like our first date again, only I was in black this time. The memory brought a smile to my lips and I kissed him for the joy of it. Drev had done some shopping of his own and was wearing a dramatic black suit with a topaz banded collar shirt. I tucked my arm around his and he took me out to, to my surprise, a waiting limo. Drev seemed to have gone all out and I was the happier for it. I needed some time to be me, to be Drev and Wren, and not someone's daughter, executor, or sister.
We were given the best table the place had to offer and wine, perfectly chilled was brought to our table. We talked of nothing and everything as our first course was served. It was turning out to be exactly what I needed. The roaming violinist came to our table during our main course and gave us a lovely rendition of Moonlight Serenade. It was not a song meant for a single violin, but he did an amazing job of it just the same. I was completely charmed as our dinner plates were taken and we were left alone once more.
I returned my attention to Drev and he took my hands in his. He became very serious and smiling I patted his hand and asked what was wrong.
He rested both of my small hands in his one and reached into his jacket packet. This couldn't be happening, I told myself. Drev wasn't doing what I thought he was doing. His hand returned to the table with a small black velvet box and my heart began to beat hard against my chest. He gently placed my right hand to the table and then pried open the box.
My heart leapt as my eyes were drawn to the gold band with in. He spoke my name and I looked back up at him through the tears swimming in my eyes. He took a deep breath and smiled at me. I'm not sure I will ever forget what he said to me.
"You have given me the most amazing gift. You have taught me that love is so much more than physical attraction or emotional obsession. You have shown me that it is kind, forgiving, strong, and loyal. You have given me a purpose in this life and I want nothing more than to share it with you. Wren, will you honor me in becoming my wife?"
I was with out words, and so could only nod my head. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. No one had ever thought enough of me to say such beautiful things or to want to marry me for such extraordinary reasons.
He took that simple gold band from its nest of velvet and slipped it on to my left ring finger. It was warm there on my finger and fit perfectly. I wondered briefly how he knew my size, but I didn't care enough to dwell. I pushed back from the table and went to him. Jumping into his lap I rained kisses all over his face.
I was going to stay in Crystal Falls to take care of my mother and I was going to get married. Now all I needed was a house...