The Third Season
Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC
Break out those V-Chips, everyone!
Created, Produced, Directed and Written:
Fanatic and TNovan
Episode Eleven: No Fear
"That is really the way to fly!" Frankie exclaims, bounding off my plane. "That was awesome! It was like like " he pauses, not knowing how to express all hes feeling. "Thanks, Harper!"
I smile at his enthusiasm. I had talked to the pilot and made sure that Frankie could be up in the cockpit with him for the flight. Seventeen year old males and large flying objects are a dangerous combination.
Especially considering our current assignment. Were in Atlanta, Georgia and here to hook up with The Suicide Boys. The moniker was enough to bring them to the attention of their college president. Kendra read about them on the wire services and here we are.
The Suicide Boys is the nickname of a fraternity at Emory University. Their main joy in life is participating in extreme sports. All of the members skydive, rock climb, mountain bike and snow board together. Their initiation ceremony brings new meaning to the word hazing. Only six weeks into the semester and already one of the fraternity members is in the hospital with broken vertebrae. Hes not expected to walk again.
We have an interview with him scheduled for tomorrow, and one with the dean of students. Hes investigating whether to remove recognized status from the fraternity. It seems a bit of a moot point to me, but I suppose the bureaucracy has to work its way through the problem. We also have interviews scheduled with psychologists, students and parents.
Kendras angle on the story is the addiction of fear. We live in a nation of peace and prosperity, where young people who hunger for excitement have to search it out. Extreme sports is easy outlet. Unfortunately, one that can have tragic consequences.
Needless to say, Kels was not exactly thrilled with this assignment. She knows me. She knows I share their addiction. I love fast cars, fast food and well, thats all anymore. Once you get the brass ring, you hold the hell onto it. So while I know she trusts me with the girls down here, she doesnt trust me with the boys and their toys.
I cant wait to go skydiving with them.
Purely for research purposes, of course.
* * *
The fraternity house is, to put it nicely, a real fixer-upper. If they wanted to do something really extreme, they could try cleaning. Hell, they could start with taking out the garbage. Even Frankie is put off by the state of the residence. To offend a teenage male is bad. All right, hes gay, and so hes a bit more clued in, but still
One of the frat brothers meets us at the door. He takes a long look at Kendra, letting more than a few lecherous thoughts go through his mind, all of which are reflected on his face. And other parts of his anatomy. I take a deep breath and square my shoulders. "Im Harper Kingsley," I say, holding out my hand, getting attention back on me.
"Noah." He reluctantly drags his eyes over to me.
Now I get appraised. Joy. He likes me too. "Were here to meet with Rick Bryant."
"Oh, yeah, hes here." Noah steps aside and pushes the door open with his butt. "Want a brew?"
Kendra gives him a smile which is either condescending or flirtatious, I cant tell which. "Perhaps later."
"Ill keep it cold for you."
I refrain from sighing like Al Gore in the debates.
We follow Noah through a pile of wood which must have resembled furniture earlier in its life. In what I suppose is the game room sits our appointment, Rick, president of the fraternity. Upon seeing us, he hops to his feet. "Hi! Great to have you!" He holds his hand out to Kendra, after wiping it on the seat of his jeans first.
"Hello, Rick. Im Kendra Hayes. This is my producer, Harper Kingsley, and her assistant Frankie Hayes, and our cameraman Jacob Wilson." Kendra is always smooth. One of the things I enjoy most about working with her is her even keel in all settings. It doesnt hurt that shes breathtakingly beautiful and intelligent to boot.
"Were so excited youve come down here. We really need your help to keep our fraternity."
I give Jacob the signal to begin shooting.
"One of your brothers is in the hospital, it appears he will never walk again, and yet you want to prevent being shut down?" Kendra asks the question softly, but it carries a wallop nonetheless.
Rick blinks once, twice. "Mitch is a great guy. But hed be the first to agree with me. Being able to do these things, feeling that rush, knowing youre alive in every way that matters its worth it. Bad things happen. I hate like hell that it happened to Mitch. That doesnt mean Im willing to never go skydiving again because he cant." Recovering from her question, he gestures to the ramshackle furniture. "Please, have a seat."
"Why did you choose the nickname The Suicide Boys?"
He shrugs. "Like most nicknames, we didnt choose it, we were given it. A lot of the other Greeks are jealous of what we do. Hey, we get all the best girls because of it."
Rick looks at Kendra in wonderment. "Because we live on the edge. The other fraternities all boast and shit, saying theyre all cool. We live it. We go out there and put our asses on the line. We jump out of planes and climb up Stone Mountain and do these big tricks while snow boarding and mountain biking. Were in shape. And, well, most of us are loaded."
Ah, yes, theres the main attraction: money. Men. Always so quick to first attribute it to their personality. Or other prominent features.
Kendra nods. "Those are all expensive sports. How do you afford to play?"
"Our parents. Kappa Tau Omega has the highest income level on campus. Need to pay to play."
Oh, wonderful. If Collin or Brennan ever want to get involved with a group like this in the future I might just join them. Admit it, Harper. Youre an adrenaline junkie, just like this kid. Kid. Hes what? Five years younger than you are.
I hope my brain doesnt explode with that realization.
"Why do you do these sports? Why not be involved on the colleges football, baseball or basketball teams?"
"Those are all team sports," Rick replies. "Were into pushing ourselves to our own limits. I played football in high school. I know how great it is to be a part of a play that scores a touchdown. But I didnt know how great I was until I did a free climb for the first time."
"Why push yourself? Why risk injury? Or death?" Kendra glances at the back of her chair and decides its safe to lean against it.
His eyes flick over to me. "You mean youve never done anything a little crazy to experience the moment?"
I hold up my hands and laugh. "Hey, Im not the one being interviewed here."
He gestures to my boots. "You ride. What do you have?"
"A Fat Boy." I am so looking forward to riding it again in a couple weeks. Robie had better kept it safe and sound for me. Otherwise, Ill kick his ass all the way down St. Charles.
He nods, impressed. "Sweet. You ski?"
I shrug. "Sure. Water and snow."
"Once or twice."
"Were going up tomorrow. Want to join us? Its like amazing sex, strong coffee and warm brandy all at once."
I let out a slow smile. "You mean, you can only get that in the air?"
We all share a laugh.
Married. About to have twins. I still got it.
* * *
"Thanks for coming over, Beth." I meet her at the door and we exchange kisses on the cheek.
"Glad to finally get the invitation," she replies, removing her wrap from around her shoulders and hanging it on our coat rack.
Oh, thats right. I wouldnt let her come to the apartment when we first got it. It was all so new, we were new, I didnt want my past intruding. Now that Im as big as a house and Harper and I are old married folks, it doesnt seem like that big of a deal anymore.
And we have a chaperone. Brian is in the kitchen making tea for us. Since Harper left, he hasnt left my side for a minute. I think hes terrified something might happen while hes gone and then hed have my dear spouse to face.
"This place is gorgeous!" Beth exclaims as I lead her down the hallway, into the living room. "I hate to admit it, but you look great. Being settled down really agrees with you."
We sit on the couch. "Why, thank you. Although to tell the truth, Ill be a very happy camper once Brennan and Collin actually get here. I want to wear my jeans again."
"Ill bet. Its not going to be much longer, is it?"
"How do you feel about that?"
"Obviously, Im excited about the babies coming, but at the same time Im scared senseless. Everything sort of makes me nervous if I think about it too long. The thing that scares me the most is that something will go wrong during delivery. Ive had a fairly healthy pregnancy, but Im high risk, and a lot could still happen. Thats why I want to get this settled as best we can now."
Brian comes in with a tray that has our tea on it. "Do you need anything else, Kels?"
"Im fine, thanks. Brian, you remember Beth, my attorney."
Beth gives Brian a thorough once over. "Good to see you again, Brian. You look different off the dance floor."
He smiles. Brian loves getting checked out, by either sex. It does his ego good. "Of course, nice to see you again. If you want, I can dance around for you here." He winks and trots out of the room.
I pour us both a cup of tea and add a drizzle of honey to mine. Thank God for decaffeinated Earl Gray. "I appreciate your help in this, Beth."
Her blue eyes register surprise. "You know Id do anything for you, Kels. Weve been friends forever." She pulls her briefcase onto her lap and pulls out a sheaf of papers. "So you know the good news New York law would permit Harper to adopt both of the twins without any termination of your parental rights. In fact, New York is only one of four states where the highest court of that state has affirmed this basic right; although more than twenty states have permitted same sex adoptions.
"As with any other unmarried partner adoption, the court will look to the best interests of the child for whether or not to permit the adoption. Factors in your favor are your good relationship with Harper, the relationship she already has with the twins, her biological link to the twins as their aunt, her family and their link to the twins, the family structure you and Harper have created between yourselves for the twins to come into, and Harpers career and income."
"How long will it take?"
"Typically, these things take a couple months to go through." I am about to object but Beth holds up a hand to forestall my comment. "However, one of the partners at my firm was recently made a judge here in Manhattan. When you, Harper and the kids return from maternity leave in New Orleans, hell see you and make the adoption final."
Thats what I wanted to hear. I dont want any delay between their birth and the official recognition of who Harper is to our children. It infuriates me that social conservatives refuse to let us get married and, thus, prevent our children from having proper protection from birth. It would be just so threatening to heterosexuals everywhere for us to be equally protected under the law. Special rights, my ass, as my dear spouse would say. Lets start with equal and go from there.
"Thank you, Beth."
"Hey what are ex-lovers-turned-friends-who-happen-to-be-attorneys for?"
* * *
"How are things going down there?" Kels asks me as I stretch out on the hotel bed.
Why do all hotel rooms look the same? Theres the standard armoire with the television in the top, and a local Yellow Pages in the top drawer. The desk is in the corner, complete with a two line phone and a notebook with the hotels in room dining menu. Finally, the nightstand by the bed, which has another phone and the Bible from the Gideons. "Pretty good so far. We met with the president of the fraternity today."
"The president?" Kels teases. "Sounds so official for someone so young."
I chuckle. "True enough. How are you doing, chér? You taking care of yourself?"
"Always. Brian has been hovering over me all day. I cant lift a thing "
"Good." I make a mental note to give Brian a bonus.
"Youre remembering not to do anything stupid down there, right?"
Mommy Kels is on duty. "Yes, darlin."
"Dont you yes, darlin me, Harper Lee Kingsley. I expect you to come back here safe and sound, and in one piece. Do you understand?"
I have to bite my lower lip to keep from laughing. "Yes, maam."
"Dont you maam me either."
Now I do laugh. "Well, what should I call you?"
Kelsey harrumphs and changes the subject. "I spoke with Mama today. She said the rest of the baby furniture was delivered to our home. She and Papa put it in the babies room."
"Perfect." I know Kels has been worried about our New Orleans preparations. While our New York apartment is set, we, obviously, havent been down there and able to get our house ready. Kels is going through a huge nesting phase and its been driving her batty.
"Oh, I spoke with Langston today."
"And Brenda is going to be out of town for the next couple weeks. Shes going to be our special election correspondent."
Oh boy. "I thought we had decided to not have one of those."
"I was able to convince Langston that it would be good to do a piece on the marginalization of the third parties." I can hear the gloating in her voice over the phone.
"Let me guess "
Kels lets loose with an evil laugh. "Oh yeah, Brenda is currently hanging out with the Buchanan camp."
Truly a fate worse than death. And not just because its Buchanan. Reporters traditionally hate covering the candidates. The days are full of horrible food, cramped buses and airplanes, and endless, repetitive sound bites. I am completely proud of my girl for banishing Brenda to the reporters equivalent of Siberia. "How are my babies?"
"Ill have you know theyre partially mine, too," Kels teases. "And they miss you almost as much as I do."
"I was thinking back to last Thanksgiving today." I prop another pillow behind my head. "And remembering introducing you to the family and seeing you hold Clark for the first time." I cant help but chuckle a little. "You were so pitiful, but I cant wait to see you hold our children, sweetheart. They are so lucky to have you. Almost as lucky as I am." I intentionally echo her phrasing from before.
"Come home soon, Harper."
* * *
Frankie pauses just outside the doors to the hospital. He looks a little pale. "Whats wrong, Frankie?"
"I dont like hospitals."
Who does? "I can understand that. Any particular reason?"
I laugh, and then try to cover it up. "Im sorry, man. Germs are everywhere. Not just in the hospital."
"I know," he says in a plaintive voice. "Its just theyre so concentrated here."
"You want to wait to in the truck?"
He shakes his head emphatically. "No." A deep breath. "Im set."
I toss my arm around his shoulders as we walk in through the doors. "I could get you one of those doctor masks. You could look like Michael Jackson."
"Or a doctor," he counters.
I like this kid.
* * *
Mitch Robinson is not looking very good right now. Hes laid out on a Stryker bed. Stryker beds are used for severe spinal injuries and burn patients. It allows the patient to remain immobile but have varying pressure on their body to avoid bed sores. It looks like a piece of gym equipment from hell.
To keep Mitch from moving they have drilled a couple holes in his head and inserted big, metal rods in the holes and attached them to the bed. The doctors are uncertain about his chances of walking again. Things will be much clearer in the next few weeks, they say, once the swelling around the spinal cord has gone down.
His mother is sitting at his bedside. Its been a long week for her. Its very clear that she hasnt eaten, slept or bathed regularly since his accident. I almost start to put myself in her place, but stop. I dont want to even imagine either Brennan or Collin in Mitchs place. My heart speeds up even beginning to think about it.
My hand drifts to my cell phone on my hip. I have an overwhelming urge to phone home and check on everyone.
No time to do so. Not as Kendra and Jacob walk through the door and begin setting up for the interview. Kendra is speaking softly with the mother, prepping her. Mitch is lying quietly, apparently still groggy from his most recent medication. I wonder if well be able to do the interview today.
I almost hope we cant.
* * *
"Its really quite remarkable." Kendra tears the top of an Equal packet and dumps its contents into her iced tea. "Kappa Tau Omega has had two severe injuries and one fatal accident in the last five years and the school has let them continue on without any adverse action. This doesnt even take into account all the multiple broken bones, which as we heard from Mitch, were kinda like a rite of initiation into the fraternity. These kids were going broken, bloodied and bruised to their classes and no one did a damn thing."
"They are legal adults," I reply, playing Devils Advocate more than anything. If it were my kids dont even go there.
"Men are never really legal adults." She pats her nephew on the arm. "Sorry, Frankie."
He shakes his head and sips his shake. He learned to keep his cool from his aunt, I suspect.
"Do you think the administration didnt care because of their parents?"
"You mean, because theyre wealthy?"
Kendra chews on her salad thoughtfully. "Exactly. Forget the first angle, the addiction to fear. How about incompetence of the administration?"
"How about we go where the story leads us? And try to stay objective?" Shes about to protest my not-so-subtle admonition, but I wave her off. "Its infuriating, believe me, I know. If I stop and think about it too long, and if I let it get at all personal, Im ready to go tear down the frat house brick by brick myself."
Frankie blows a bubble into his shake. "That wouldnt take long, Harper. That place was a rat hole."
"True enough. I still think theres merit in the first take, Kendra. Why do these kids feel a need to continually tempt fate?"
"You going to join them on their jump tomorrow?" she asks, a note of disapproval evident in her tone.
I have always wanted to go parachuting. The idea of leaping out of a plane and falling to earth and living to tell about it just sounds completely cool. Since I know my beloved wont let me do this after the twins are born, this is most likely my one and only shot here.
Of course, shell never forgive me if anything bad happens.
"Well, one of us should go with them."
Frankie turns liquid brown eyes on me. "Do you think Kelsey will let you?"
Let me? Let me?
Will Kelsey let me?
I am married, not dead.
She is not my mother, last I checked.
Kendra swats her nephew once again. "Frankie," she chastises. She knows exactly what I am thinking.
"Oh, I think I will be jumping tomorrow."
* * *
Were almost at ten thousand feet. Two miles above the earth. Sitting in an airplane with an open door and were planning on jumping out of it here in a few moments. I am attached to a jump instructor. Its called a tandem freefall. All the thrill of a freefall with none of the danger. Or so the jump school brochure says.
I picked up an extra copy for Kels.
Seated by me is Rick. Since Kendra isnt with us, he has decided to be extremely flirtatious with me. "I love the rush, the way the air massages my body while Im going down."
Theres something about the words going down coming from his lips that is especially unattractive to me.
"Its so cool. And, afterwards, you either want a cigarette or to do it again. You know?"
Yes, I know, Rick. Youre as subtle as a sledgehammer.
"I gotta tell you, Harper, this is better than sex!" These are his parting words to me as he jumps out of the airplane.
My instructor and I stand up and walk over to the doorway. He does one final check of our harness and we are ready to go. He taps me on the shoulder.
I grin, thrilled beyond measure at this moment. "Shut up and jump!" I take a deep breath, pray that Kels will never hear about this, and leap.
Oh yeah! This is great!
Were falling at over one hundred miles an hour. Our free fall will last all of forty seconds before I will pull the parachute cord. Then well have five minutes of floating down to earth. All of this cost two hundred dollars. I gotta invest in one of these schools.
Kels, honey, youd love this.
Of course, I somehow doubt youll ever do this. Even if I survive this leap.
I look over at Rick and the other frat brothers who joined us on this jump. They are all doing flips and turns and generally showing off. They are shouting at one another, but I cant make out a thing they are saying. Doesnt matter. Im having too much fun on my own.
The altimeter strapped to my jumpsuit beeps and its time to pull the cord. There is a built in buffer of ten seconds, so in case I forget to pull it, or get too scared, my instructor will. I pull it and I hear the very reassuring sound of the fabric unfolding. In a few moments, I feel the pull upwards.
Thats cool. I think I left my stomach about three hundred feet below me just now. Better than any roller coaster Ive ever been on.
"What did you think?" my instructor shouts in my ear.
"Awesome!" I call back. But, I do have say one thing. "Rick says this is better than sex but I think thats because he hasnt been doing it right."
We laugh all the way to our landing.
* * *
I lay on my side and try to get some sleep. It is not working. The twins are upset that their Mama isnt around to read to them. They are completely not fooled by the tape recording of her voice I have been piping in to them today, either. So, to protest missing their favorite toy, they have been doing advanced gymnastics tonight.
"Shh, its okay. Shes coming home soon," I soothe, rubbing my belly. "I know you miss her." I sigh. "I miss her too." One of them gives me a solid kick. "Easy now. Be nice to me. Im all you have right now." Another kick. "Hey! Settle down."
I am so tired of sleeping on my side. I cannot wait until I can sprawl out on my back and sink into this wonderful featherbed. As much as I love these two, and as healthy a pregnancy as I have had so far, I am also thrilled at the prospect of not being pregnant in the near future. Having a huge stomach is completely wrong for my self-image. I hate not being able to see my toes or do sit ups or hug Harper as tightly as I want.
Itll all be over soon. Ill be thin again and Ill have two wonderful children to show for it all.
And with these happy thoughts, I drift off to sleep.
I can smell magnolia.
There is a soft breeze coming in from the open windows.
I feel a caress on my skin. Its Harpers gentle touch. I would know it anywhere. I roll over and snuggle close to her, tossing my leg across her thighs. Her hand strokes my back, tracing gentle patterns on my skin.
I press myself close against her, molding my body to hers, my stomach flat against side, reveling in our skin on skin contact. We will never again buy pajamas. Flannel has nothing on the softness of her skin.
My hand travels up her side and moves to cover her left breast. I love the feel of her breasts, the mixture of firm and soft. I rub my thumb over her nipple, enjoying watching it come to attention. My mouth covers her right breast as it is so conveniently located for me.
"Kels," Harper groans, turning toward me.
My tongue swirls around her nipple, tasting her slightly salty skin. I take a gentle bite and am rewarded with a loud groan and her arm tightening around me, keeping me in place. I had no intention of going anywhere as it was.
Harper is now stroking my hair, murmuring words of encouragement.
I climb on top of her, still suckling her breast and settle between her legs. I can tell immediately how turned on she is and I sigh at the discovery. This release of her nipple causes her to guide my mouth up to hers for a long and probing kiss.
She tastes good. Everywhere, I have discovered. We exchange slow, moist kisses for long minutes. Harpers hands travel down to my buttocks and she kneads them, while pulling me tight against her. Her legs wrap around my calves and I groan. She knows I love feeling her curled around me.
She uses my distraction to her advantage. She rolls us over so that I am on my back and she is on top of me. I slide my arm around her neck and pull her full weight down on me.
I groan. This is nice. I love this. I feel so safe, secure, loved, when she is like this with me. Her hand finds my center and I gasp at the first touch.
"Like that, eh?" she whispers, nipping my earlobe.
"You know it," I answer, opening myself up to her more fully. I slide two of my fingers into her mouth, and she takes them readily, rolling her tongue around them. Her mouth soon matches the rhythm set by her fingers. Her entire body is moving with mine, our breasts pressing against each other. The feel of her hard nipples scraping against mine causes a new flood of wetness from my body.
She groans at this discovery and begins moving faster, her thrusts stronger. I wrap my left leg around her hips, increasing the contact. I am overwhelmed with sensation, not able to concentrate solely on her mouth or hand or body.
As I feel my release building, I arch up into Harper, trying to merge us into one. We truly are one, in so many ways. This moment is just another expression of it. The pressure inside me mounts, and Harper can feel it with me because she changes her strokes, finding that place inside which she knows brings me over.
I fall, clutching her shoulders, digging into her soft skin, pulling her down on top of me completely.
We come to rest, sated.
And I wake up, frustrated.
* * *
I have to come clean. Theres no way around it. Shit. All this openness and honesty is gonna bite me in the ass. I know it will.
Is there any way I can make this sound accidental? Hi, sweetheart, I went up in the plane with them, for purely work purposes, and well, they required that I wear a parachute and be strapped onto a jump instructor just in case I accidentally fell out the open door.
Somehow, I dont think thatll fly.
I could try the Kendra made me do it line, but Kendra, the little truth-telling wench, wont back me up with Kels.
The truth is that its all Frankies fault. He dared me. Hes the one who said Kels wouldnt allow me to jump. So I had to. Of course, being coerced by a seventeen year old wont really make me look good to my spouse either.
Okay, how to play this? Am I penitent? Recognizing the error of my ways and promising not to do it again? Uck. Dont really like that plan. Plus, who knows what else Kels might decide to ban?
Okay, so I am cocky about it? More informing the little woman what I did and not caring if she likes it or not? I check my knuckles. With that type of attitude they should either be scraping the ground as I walk or have a ton of hair on the back of them.
All right. So what approach is left? Should I go for honesty with a hint of contrition? I mean, she has admitted to loving my wild child side. Maybe loving is too strong a word, but she wasnt repulsed by it. Im married, not dead, dammit.
I pick up my cell phone and hit speed dial.
"Hi there, Stud."
I love it when she calls me that, especially in that timbre of voice. Darlin, if I were home, the things wed be doing right now. Even my Mama would blush. "Chér," I reply, in a lower register.
"I miss you."
God, tell me about it. Parts of my anatomy are aching right now. And shes only said six words to me so far. "Im coming home soon. Only another day. We have an interview with a psychologist set up. The rest of the piece we can do in New York."
"Good," she purrs.
Can I go home early? "Miss me?" I tease.
She laughs. "A little. So how was sky diving?"
"Oh, God, Kels, it was so amazing! I mean, you leap out there and it feels like " I stop. She got me. "How did you know?"
"I know you, Tabloid."
Uh oh. Weve switched nicknames. I preferred Stud in this conversation. "It was really very safe, sweetheart."
"Im sure it was." She still doesnt sound quite convinced or very happy. "You are talking to me right now. Are you in one piece?"
I nod. "I am."
"I love you," I try.
"I love you too," comes the automatic response. Fortunately, I know shes sincere, its just her reply holds none of the promise our earlier discussion did.
Maybe this is why Rick says sky diving is better than sex. Once you jump, you dont get any ever again.
* * *
Brian has taken Kam up to his room for the evening, promising to take him out for his walk later so Harper and I can enjoy our time together when she gets home. I glance at my watch. It should be any minute.
We prepared dinner and Im so glad shes coming home. Too bad shes sleeping on the couch for a couple of nights. It was damned silly of her to take that chance. I left one relationship because I couldnt stand watching someone I loved take her life into her own hands every night. I shiver as the very vivid memory of watching CJ put on a bullet proof vest and gun come flooding back.
Not that I plan on ever leaving Harper. Shes young and sometimes she doesnt use all the active brain cells in her skull. I did some pretty damned silly things when I was her age too. All I can hope is that shell grow out of it.
Just as I finish lighting the candles, I hear the front door open and close.
"Im home!" Boy, does she sound happy.
I meet her about halfway and the smile that breaks across her face is brilliant. "Miss me?"
"You know it, Stud. Come over her and give me a kiss."
She grins and moves faster than Ive seen her move in a while. She almost makes a mistake by saying hello to the babies first, but a firm finger under her chin reminds her differently. "Me first." She obliges her demanding wife and gives me a kiss, slightly reminiscent of my dream the other night.
Once the kiss is complete, she gives me the look.
"Go ahead." I chuckle. Shes on her knees before the word ahead is out of my mouth.
"Hi, my sweet, little babies "
Shes so cute. "Dinner is ready."
"Give me a minute." She kisses my belly then looks up. "What are we having?"
"Blackened steak, among other things."
"Ooo, I love you." She returns to my stomach. "And I love you both too, but your mommy made me dinner so Im gonna go for a bit. Ill be back."
She gets up and we go to the dining room.
Settled at the table, I look over and grin. "So did you enjoy your little adventure, Tabloid?"
She pales slightly. "Umm, well, yeah, Kels, I did. I mean, come on. You knew when you married me I was an adrenaline junkie. Thats why I got into this business to begin with."
I nod. Its true, I did, but things have changed a bit now. "Point taken. I did know you were crazy. And you know, normally, I would never deny you anything that makes you happy, right?"
She looks up at me a bit surprised. "Right."
"Okay. Will you at least admit that what you did this week was stupid and dangerous?"
"Stupid and dangerous? I dont know, sweetheart. I mean, its a safe sport, really. More kids have been sent to the hospital this year because of those new scooters than from skydiving accidents."
"Youre not a kid. Youre an adult, married, with two children on the way, and a wife you knew would not want you to do it."
"Honey." She looks down at the table then back to me. "It was something I had to do."
"All right. I can respect that. Doesnt mean I have to like it. But think about this: you could have been killed. What would have happened if you had been seriously injured? Maybe paralyzed from the neck down and never able to hold our babies."
I can feel tears welling in my eyes. Vivid pictures of Christopher Reeve flashing in my mind and for one, brief, second see Harper in that state. I blink them back, determined not to make this an emotional outburst.
"Kels, dont say anything like that." I watch as she crosses herself. "Sweetheart, I wouldnt have done it if I thought there was any serious danger. Im sorry to have upset you, though, chér. I didnt mean to. And I would never do anything to jeopardize our family."
"See, theres the problem I have with this. You didnt think. Harper, we have far more responsibilities here now. We cant go and do these things without thinking about what if. It seems to me that purposely putting yourself two miles into the air, attached only to a large sheet of nylon, is just damned silly. Whether you see it or not, or whether you admit it or not, you did jeopardize our family. You know, if youd been hurt and someone had to call me with that news " I pause, I know Im getting emotional. I take a deep breath. "Can you say early labor?"
She takes my hand. "I am sorry. You are right. We have a lot more responsibilities. I knew you wouldnt like it. I disagree with you about how safe it is, but, I should have factored in your feelings about it all. Forgive me?"
"Harper, youre an adult. Theres nothing for me to forgive. You have free will to do what you want. All I ask is that from now on, you take a look past your ego and the need for an adrenaline fix and consider other factors. Okay?"
"I dont think its about my ego, sweetheart. Or being an adrenaline junkie. Its just I should have been more considerate of your feelings and concerns. For that, I apologize and will do things differently. But you knew going into this that I like to play. I cant - and dont want to - change that part of me."
I chuckle and nod. Im too upset to continue this conversation. I understand what shes saying but she doesnt seem to be getting my point so Ill stop. Maybe another time. In the meantime, Ill simply try to keep her on the ground. Besides, I can see that taking the time to point out the only reason someone does this is for the danger factor isnt going to work right now. She enjoyed it and will find a way to justify it, no matter what I say. It is, after all, an addiction to fear that calls my spouse and those college kids and others to do these wild stunts.
The most important thing I can do right now is stay calm. Getting upset isnt good for the babies or me. And I wont risk them over a silly argument. "So other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" I grin. "Did you get a good story?"
"We did. Frankie did a good job, Kels. Youd be proud of him. I want to give him a piece of his own soon."
"How about the Halloween piece we were scheduled to do before I got the desk? It was supposed to be a fluff piece. Something soft. Ill bet you could find something there."
"Thats a great idea. Ill do that. He might pass out when I tell him the good news."
I groan. "We need to attach an oxygen tank to that boy."
With dinner done, its late and Im tired. Time for Mommy and babies to go to bed. We head toward the bedroom. I stop at the entrance to the living room.
"Heres where you get off, Tabloid." I point to the couch that has been made up for her.
She looks at it, then back to me and groans. "Youre kidding me."
"Do I look like Im kidding?"
"Unfortunately, you dont. Im banished because of one free fall?"
I tuck her bottom lip back in. "Yup." I lean up and give her a little kiss. "You play, you pay. Good night, Tabloid."
"Can I come into our," she emphasizes our, "bedroom and get my pajamas, at least? Maybe brush my teeth, stuff like that?"
"Darling, you can do all that stuff, if you like. It is our room. But one of us is sleeping on the couch so if you even try to get into our," now its my turn to emphasize our, "bed, Ill be the one on the couch."
She gives me a heavy sigh. "How long is my being cast out into utter darkness lasting?"
"Until Im not mad anymore." I head into our room.
* * *
What the hell happened?
Why am I sleeping here on this couch instead of in my own goddamned bed?
I said I was sorry for not taking Kels concerns more into consideration before I jumped. But, Jesus, this is over the top. Its not like I fucked around. And, Lord knows, Ive had plenty of opportunities to do just that.
No. I took one little free fall and now Im banished.
I push myself up from the couch and start to head toward the door. And stop myself.
Youre mad. Youre hurt. But you are not stupid and insane. Walking out would be the most asinine thing you could ever, ever do. So get yourself back into the living room.
I go back, pick up my cell phone and head out onto our balcony. I punch in Gerrards phone number and will him to be home. "Tante Harper!" Danielle squeals into the phone, recognizing my number from caller ID.
"Hello, sweetheart. How are you?" I force myself to sound happy, despite my mood. I half listen as Danielle goes off on a five minute dissertation about her day. I make appropriate listening noises. Come on, Harper, pay attention. This is family. I follow the end of the story and congratulate her on getting first chair in the flute section of the school orchestra. "Is your Papa around?"
"Sure. We cant wait for you and Aunt Kelsey to come down for the babies to be born! Can I hold them?"
"Mais, oui. Youre their older cousin. Were counting on you to be there for them growing up."
"I will, Tante Harper, I will." She places the phone gently on the table and runs off to find my brother.
"What did you do this time?"
I sigh and suddenly find myself on the brink of tears. Pull it together, Harper. This is not the end of the world. "Hey, Gerrard."
He can tell Im upset. "Whats wrong, little sister? Is Kelsey okay? The twins?"
His tone is gentle. "Whats wrong, chér?"
"She threw me out of the bedroom! She even had the stupid couch made up before I came home! She threw me out, Gerrard," I finish quietly. What if she never lets me back in? Well done, Harper. You managed to fuck up the best thing in your life. Youll never get to see your kids grow up. Hell, they wont even be your kids. I suck in a deep breath.
"What happened, Harper? Start from the top."
I tell him about the piece, my sky dive, my homecoming and Kels irrational response to my apology. He listens like the judge he is and then he clucks at me. What the hell? "Sit down, Harper."
"I dont want to," I protest.
"Harper," he says in his best big brother tone.
"Fine, fine." I wander over to the hammock and flop down in it. "Im sitting."
"Lets think about this piece you just did." I groan. I could have seen that coming. "Why do those kids like doing those sports?"
"To prove theyre not afraid. To prove theyre alive. At least, thats the angle were taking on the story."
"Ah," he says softly. "Alive. At the end of the day, they did this crazy thing and theyre still alive, right? Feels wonderful."
"Sure does." It did. I rocked when I came down.
"These kids you interviewed, what do they have to lose if something goes wrong?"
"Their lives, their health." Thoughts of Mitch in that hospital bed hit me.
"Exactly. Who else do they belong to?"
I frown, not quite understanding what hes getting at. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, if something happens to them, who is affected?"
Mitchs mom. "Their parents."
"Right. These kids dont have wives or kids, do they?" He pauses for a moment to let that sink in. "They do all these wild stunts because they dont have much to lose. They only have themselves, really, at the end of the day."
"Now, if I went and hopped out of an airplane, knowing that Katherine wouldnt be thrilled with that idea, what am I telling her that I think of her opinion?"
"What am I saying about how I value our family? And my role in it?"
"Or, to put it in a way you might understand better, what if you came home and found out that Kelsey had been going to work while you were down in Atlanta? And that every night to relieve the stress, she was drinking down a bottle of wine?"
I feel myself getting mad at the mere idea of it. "Id be pissed."
"There you go. Harper, this woman just stood by you after you were blinded less than three months ago. She was so stressed, so worried about you. You repay her by jumping out of an airplane, even when you know she wont like it? Even when she is pregnant with your children?"
"Suck it up. Take your punishment. And crawl to her on your hands and knees and beg her forgiveness."
Way to go, Harper Lee. "You ever have to do that with Katherine?"
He laughs, long and hard. "The only way you get wisdom is from completely screwing up. Over and over again."
"Thanks, Gerrard. But I dont recall saying you were wise."
"You will, little sister. You will."
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