Katie looked at Everett, before she went over to him, still at his desk typing on his computer.
“I know I am sounding like a broken record now, but let’s go home, babe. We are all caught up, whatever is not done can wait. Let’s get outta here.”
She gently rubbed his shoulders, then kissed him until he struggled free and pushed her away.
“Work is important, especially if you run your own business …” he said somberly.
“Oh, Rett, baby. I know, but you really have to start trying to find a healthy balance.”
“Oh really? Look who is the expert now.” he growled defensively, his sudden and unexpected change in tone startled Katie.
“Hey, calm down! I just mean well. You are going to make yourself sick and that would not make business better.”
“Oh, now you are the expert on business growth? I cannot fail. THIS cannot fail.” Everett’s voice cracked and he turned away.
“Baby, come on, let’s go home.” Katie closed her eyes, walked over to his other side, gently stroking his hair while trying to keep calm in the midst of his offensive behavior.
“No!” Rett sounded more like a tired toddler than a business owner as he pulled away from her again.
“So we are gonna sleep at the office?” she tried to smile at him, which only upset him more.
“You can go wherever and whenever you want. Oh, wait, that’s right, you can’t. You don’t have a functioning car. Or a home. Or money. Or anything. It’s all mine. How about that, huh?” his tone oozed sarcasm.
“Wow. You know what? I am going to let this slide and will leave now. You have fun sleeping at the office.”
She turned on her heels and left, mumbling things to herself which Rett could not hear.
But she did not go home. She called an Uber car and gave the driver Everett’s parents’ address in Brindleton Bay.
As she rung the doorbell down at the gate by the street, where she had the driver drop her off, she felt nervous.
Was she overstepping a boundary?
The intercom creaked and she heard Leonie’s voice, then said her name, after which the buzzer was activated. It took Katie a while to make it up the windy driveway on foot, as it was designed for vehicles, not foot traffic, least of all in high heels and a business suit with remnants of snow on the ground which the early Spring had not yet managed to melt away here in Brindleton Bay.
“Katie, good evening, what a surprise! Where’s Rett? And why didn’t you drive up?” Leonie was waiting for her at the door, visibly surprised to see her walking. Katie explained her situation as they hugged.
“I am here alone, Mrs. Cameron, hope that is ok…”
“Of course it is! And please, call me Leonie. Come on in.”
Katie followed Everett’s mother into the kitchen, where his dad was making coffee.
“Hey you, didn’t know you kids were coming over tonight.” he greeted Katie.
“We weren’t. And aren’t. Just me this time. I wanted to talk to you both about … well … about Everett.”
“Oh? Is he okay?” Liam asked, instantly concerned about his oldest son.
“Yes. Well no, he is not. He needs help and I am out of ideas now. I just cannot get through to him, he gets so very defensive right away. Rett is so laser focused on work, like it’s his security blanket, he is so afraid to fail. I would say he is depressed and needs help, but won’t accept it from me. Any and all attempts of mine to help him failed. He just bit my head off again when I tried to get him to go home.”
“He’s still at work?! It is past 7 PM!” Leonie said.
“That’s nothing, Mrs Cam…. Leonie. He barely goes home at all and when he does, he is so .. weird and aloof. I try, so very hard, to be understanding, you have to believe me, but this is starting to really wear on me. And I want to help him. But he won’t let me. Which is why I am here. Maybe you can get through. I know he will be very mad at me when he finds out that I came to you, he is trying to hide it from you, and make you think he is okay, but it’s a lie. He is not okay. And if he is not sad, he is angry. Very angry. I don’t know him like that at all.”
“Oh sweet girl. I am sure he will understand. You did the right thing. I had a talk with his doctor about just that the other day. We were all pretty sure that he fell into a depression. I’ll call the physician tomorrow and see what can be done in this case. Liam and I will go and talk to Rett tomorrow. Oh, come here, sweetie.” she pulled Katie into a motherly embrace, as Katie started crying.
Once emotions had calmed down, Liam drove Katie home to Willow Creek, where she lived with Everett.
Everything was still dark when they arrived and Rett’s car was not in the driveway.
“Are you sure you are okay alone?”
“Yes, sure, fine. Maybe you wouldn’t mind checking on Rett though…?”
“I was planning on it. He’ll be home shortly. If you need anything, call Leo or me, you have the numbers now, okay Katie?”
She nodded, Liam hugged her briefly, then she watched him athletically hurry down the long flight of stairs to his car, then drive off. Everett’s family was great. His mom, so gentle and warm, his dad so sweet. She swallowed hard, while remembering the warm family time she had been able to share with the grandparents and Rett’s entire family around. Even that did not change his mood swings now.
Katie decided on going for a jog to clear her head. Willow Creek tended to be warmer than Brindleton Bay, so all the snow had been gone for days here.
The cool evening air felt good and helped her calm down, almost forgetting the aggravating conversation from earlier. It had not been the first time they clashed. Everett had been in a downward spiral of late. Yet, he did not want to see the correlation between stress and depression.
There was still no sign of Rett when she got back, she showered, made coffee, fairly convinced that Rett would not be eager to go to sleep once he got home. She could not gauge how he would react to finding out she went to his parents. Ideally, he would understand, but a small voice in her head told Katie that would not happen, at least not initially. No, he would be mad at her. They would fight, maybe this would be one of those heated arguments ending in an even more heated night in bed, since generally Rett was not much for fighting and avoided confrontations usually.
She had to smile, sipping the coffee, while standing by the large panorama window overlooking the rolling hills, thinking about how he would hold her after each of them spoke their peace, like thunder clears the air, and they would spend the rest of the night making the harsh words up to each other. And be really tired at work tomorrow. She giggled.
Finally she heard a car, not long after the door was unlocked and Everett entered. She turned around, still smiling at the imagination of a romantic ending to the impending fight, but her smile faded instantly when she looked at Everett’s face.
No, he was mad.
Livid, by the looks of it and he did not make her wait for confirmation.
“What in the world were you thinking going to my parents with your made up bullshit?! Who do you think you are?!” he downright yelled at her right away.
“Your girlfriend!” she replied as firmly as she could. He scared her somehow, but she tried not to let it show.
“What are you talking about?”
“Why are you meddling in MY affairs? Worrying my poor parents?! They are not some detached melodramatic white trash family like yours! Are you INSANE?! My mom was crying when they came to see me. CRYING!”
“Hey, get a hold of yourself! I have been letting a LOT slide, Rett, that I would not normally, but you are really going too far now…”
“Oh, am I? I got more. Try STAY THE HECK OUT OF MY BUSINESS you GOLDDIGGER or GET OUT!”
Katie inhaled sharply. It hurt. All of it hurt. Especially coming from him, the one person in the world whom she let into her protective bubble. Into her heart.
“Golddigger? What gold, you idiot?! You don’t have any, remember? You told me so yourself …” Katie tried logic.
“Well, then we’ll go with whore. Like a prostitute, I am still paying you and you have yet to contribute a penny to anything. You have no bills, so where the hell DOES all the money I pay you go?!”
“You KNOW very well where my money goes. The debts …I work for you, long hours, weekends … I pull my weight, dude!”
“Oh yeah? Is typing letters and shuffling paper while flirting with callers on the phone really THAT complicated? Cos I feel like I pay you like an anesthesiologist when all you are is little more than a glorified typist! And if you ever do anything here at home, it’s only ever test the damn smoke detector when you produce different renditions of burnt coal for meals!”
This was too much for Katie. They fought, they yelled, until she was in tears, nearly blinded and ran off to the bedroom downstairs.
Everett’s face was reddened with anger, as he grabbed a bottle of vodka and took it to the loft area upstairs where the kitchen and the home office were. Not even bothering with a glass, he took a gulp of the alcohol, which burned going down his throat since he was not much of a drinker to begin with, and he felt the effects of it right away.
He heard noises downstairs, bracing himself for the next round of fighting.
Instead he heard the front door shut. He made it over to the window in time to see Katie’s old beater car drive off, so fast that it almost went into a tailspin going around the corner. And then the silence fell like a ton of bricks.
Everett cursed himself. This had gone way too far, well out of hand. Should he go after her? She had no friends, only her uncle, which was where she probably had gone. Everett decided against it. He had not eaten all day, and felt the effects of the strong alcohol on an empty stomach. Probably not the best idea to go driving now. He’d apologize to her tomorrow, at work. Although, why did HE have to apologize. She messed up too. He would TALK to her. Yeah, that’s more like it. And maybe, just maybe, she had a bit of a point. He did feel perpetual sadness swallowing him like a black hole most of the time. Maybe seeing a doctor would not be the worst idea. Maybe.
The next morning, at the very moment he walked into the front office bordering his, he knew something was up.
It was still mostly dark and Katie was not at her desk. Most of the time they arrived together since they drove into work together now. Before she had moved in with him, she was always here first. Every day, without fail. She was probably still mad at him and called in sick as an obvious way to protest.
Fine. Take the day off then if that makes you feel better Katie, he thought.
By lunchtime Everett could barely take it anymore.
She had been with him since the beginning. Not one day without her here until now. He had never realized how much time they spent together at work.
He would still reprimand her for not actually even calling in sick. Oh yeah, absolutely, and she more than deserved it.
Just missing a day without notice was not acceptable, even for her. She should not abuse the fact that she was dating the owner and CEO.
But today he would leave her be, give her some space. Hard as it was.
The rest of the day, including the evening at home, passed painfully slow and his night remained sleepless as he kept mulling over everything in his head, tossing and turning in a bed that seemed bigger and emptier than ever before. .
When he arrived at work the next day and Katie was not there again, he had enough. He was upset. How unprofessional of her. Dragging their personal fights into the workplace. She’d get an earful once she showed up again!
He called her number, naturally she did not answer, so he left her a message, firmly and businesslike, while he was torn on the inside between anger, worry and regret.
She still never called him back, and by noon he had left 5 more messages in various degrees of moods. His hands were shaking the last time he check his phone, until he slipped it into his pocket angrily.
When she still not called him back he grabbed his car keys and drove out to her uncle’s home.
Everett just about took the door off the hinges as he was pounding against it non-stop while simultaneously ringing the doorbell. Finally, he heard someone complain from the inside, the door was unlocked and Katie’s uncle appeared, seemingly drowsy.
“Hey, what the hell, kid?!”
“Is she home? If not, where is she? Just tell me, I am not leaving until you do. Is she in?” Everett pushed past the man who was still waking up.
Rett ran into the living room, kitchen, bathroom. Within not even a full minute he had checked the entire home, then stopped back in the living room as if he had ran into a wall, where Matt Clark took his chance, grabbed Rett and dragged him back outside with him, shutting the front door behind and positioning himself in front of it.
“Mind telling me what the hell this is all about, kid?”
“Where did she go?”
“Who? Katie? How am I supposed to know. Haven’t seen the girl since she ran off with you.”
“She has been gone for two days. Left one night. She came here, right?”
“Wrong. Like I said, had not seen her since..”
“Of course you would lie for her, I get it, but I NEED to see her!”
“Look, ummm…. Ray.”
“Rett. My name is Rett.”
“Okay, Rett then. I don’t know where she is. If I did I would tell you, just to get you the heck out of my life. I work nightshift so this is really not making me happy.”
“Where could she have gone?”
“Do I look like her bestie? How am I supposed to know where 18 year old girls go when they fight with their boyfriends?!”
“Katie is 23!”
“See, clearly you know her better than I do. Now, run along Roy, I need sleep.”
“RETT. My name is Everett!”
“I don’t care, kid. Now be … ummm …. Brett or whatever … somewhere else.”
Matt Clark was obviously done and just left Rett standing there shutting the door in his face.
It took minutes for him to not smell the intense cloud of alcohol anymore that had encased Matt Clark. Yikes. Definitely not the right place for Katie.
As he tried to get his bearings about him, he realized he had not even checked the closet. Had she taken her things? He drove home and sure enough, everything of hers was gone. When he went to sit down at the kitchen table, he found an envelope with a Post-It stuck to it, a handwritten note in his housekeeper’s handwriting scribbled upon.
“Miss Katie left this for you. ~Paula”
He opened the envelope and found a handwritten note and the key to his home.
Here is the key to your house back.
No. NO! he thought to himself and began dialing her number. Again and again. Relentlessly, until he finally received a text.
‘I need to see you!‘ he texted back.
When minutes passed without a response he texted
‘Cameron Park, 5 PM.’
Everett was nervous.
Finally he saw her.
Her pace was fast, yet felt like slow-motion to him. When she was near at last, he felt uncertain. What he wanted to do and what he probably should do were two very different things, last thing he wanted to do now was squander his chance to win her back. Trying to read her facial expression did not help. She seemed hesitant and uncertain as well.
So they stood for minutes that felt like hours until she started losing it, lowering her gaze, sniffling.
“Oh no, baby. Please don’t cry. I am sorry. I love you and I need you!” Rett hurried to her, pulling her close.
“I love you, too.” she whispered.
Quietly he pulled her into a tight embrace, holding her until she stopped sobbing, while remembering his grandfather’s words that the right girl will not just leave you. He had told him all along that she was the one. And if he messed this up, not only would he be heartbroken for losing Katie and hurt her, but he would do what he was so very afraid of: disappoint his parents, Katie and everybody he loved.
“Forgive me, baby. So sorry. I was an ass.”
“You were! Hold me!” she sobbed. He did and they stood in an embrace in the cold evening air, a chilly wind whistling in the tree tops.
“Hey baby, let’s go home. OUR home.” he said quietly close to her ear.
Not much more was spoken, but she agreed.
Sitting at the kitchen table at his home they talked. And talked. Everett agreed to go see a therapist about his issues, to determine if he needed medication or just therapy to work through the loss that had affected him so.
Apologies were exchanged, promises made.
Rett already felt stronger, better, having her home. His grandfather’s words came back to him, things he used to say all those times Rett had asked him about how he met his grandma and how he knew he was the one. What once were mere words, now translated into real feelings for Rett.
“… and then, whenever your first child will be born, it will be the forth generation of Camerons of Brindleton Bay.” Liam’s flood of words ended in a reminiscent smile, but the words itself caused Katie to nearly spit out the red wine she was drinking, while Everett stopped chewing, eyes wide, aimed at his father.
“Umm … dad. Can you back up for a second. Can we make the baby first. After we got married and engaged in like a decade or so from now?” he said.
“A decade?!” Now it was Leonie’s turn to be shocked.
“Yeah, we are not in a hurry, mom.” he exchanged looks with Katie.
“You’ll be in your thirties! At that age I had the forth child, Rett. Why that late?!” Leonie could not get over it.
“I’d like to know too …” Liam looked at his son.
“Guys, I never said I’d get married and multiply right away. I have a business on my hands I am still trying to build. And if we are ever NOT working, Katie and I want to travel and see the world.” Everett explained.
“And by that he means WE are trying to build that business, right Rett?” Katie interjected, he looked at her discombobulated while his mother continued her arguments against their choice.
“But you can do that, still, and dad and I watch the baby … and the one after that. And so on. While you guys work – and travel. A little.”
Another uncomfortable glance exchange between Rett and Katie.
“About that, mom. We kinda only want one kid. Total. Ever. And a very much planned and intentional one at that.”
“What?! Why?! We have the room! You can afford it! Dad and I’d gladly help if this is about money. And if you were to have more kids and think you have not enough room here, we’ll trade houses. Dad and I move in here and you get the big one. There is more than enough room. For four kids easily, maybe even more with a little remodeling.”
“MOM! No! ONE! End of story! Jeeze!” Everett rolled his eyes.
“What if it’s a girl?” Liam asked.
“What about it?” Everett casually took a drink, still shaking his head.
“Don’t you want a boy to continue the Cameron name?”
“DAD!? Seriously?!” Rett’s was taken aback, while Katie started giggling, finally left the room. Everett followed her outside.
“Sorry about that. I had no idea. I always thought they were more modern that THAT!” he told her.
“But they do have four kids, and they already had you and your sister when they were about our age … I kinda figured this was coming. Your aunt Vivian predicted it, almost to the day. Dang, she’s good!” Katie giggled.
“So, but you did not change your mind, did you? About kids and marriage, I mean.”
“Oh no! This gold digger is perfectly happy as Miss Wilson, girlfriend to her impoverished boss, and NOT mother to anything but maybe a puppy for the foreseeable future.” she chuckled, nudging him.
“I thought I apologized for the gold digger thing … and I am not impoverished, just have not made a lot of money yet and still want to pay my parents back every cent they gave me for my business, so it truly is 100% build by me on my own devices one day.” Everett shuffled his feet uncomfortably.
“Relax, just teasing. Do you feel guilty at all? I mean, bursting their lil bubble like that? You were pretty rough with them.”
“Nope. I have three healthy siblings, all in relationships. One of them a brother, let him breed on for the name preservation. One of us is bound to have a boy at some point.”
“Figured that was why your grandparents had your dad so long after your aunt …”
“Oh no. Dad was an accident. Grandma was done with kids, grandpa wanted a bunch with her. Dad was fate’s way to help out grandpa … come to think of it, I was an accident, too, as was Natty. My aunt Vivian had some surprise pregnancies too. There is some family joke about the Cameron curse. Guess we are just very fertile people…” Everett chuckled.
“I am really grateful for fate …” Katie kissed Rett, snuggling into his embrace, before she continued
“But I also will make double sure that we do NOT end up with some Cameron curse ‘surprise’ … not for a long time.” she giggled.
Similar scene, another day.
Liam, Leonie, Natalie and Rhys around the dinner table at Natalie and Everett’s parents’ home.
“So, when are you planning on getting married and starting a family, kids?” Leonie asked, causing Rhys to nearly suffocate on his food, coughing hard, while Natty’s mouth fell open as she stared at her parents who were in turn looking at her awaiting an answer.
“Mom, dad! Rhys and I are just barely done with college!”
“When your dad and I were your age we already had Everett and were about to expect you …”
“Hey Liam?” Leonie said into the dark bedroom, laying next to her husband.
“Hmm?” he responded.
“I really thought at at least one of our kids would have gotten married and/or be having a kid by now.” she told him.
“What worked for us, may not be everybody’s thing. We have to respect that. Besides, who knows if we would have had our kids so young if we had been the ones making the choice.” he chuckled, winking at his wife.
“Liam? How about a bet on which one will be first?” she giggled.
“We shouldn’t bet on our kids happiness.” he chuckled.
“Not like we’d tell them. Would be our dirty little secret…”
“What’s the prize?” he grinned at her.
She leaned over to whisper in Liam’s ear, making him smile wider.
“All right, I am in! Two bets. One for who gets married first and the other for who gets preggers first!” he said.
“Four! Two more for the last ones.” she suggested.