Abby was not happy, after the teacher caught her dreaming out the window, totally missing the lesson.
So she lied, told her teacher she wasn’t feeling well and was sent to see the school nurse.
Standing in the hallway near the nurse’s office, she shook her head.
The last thing she needed right now was more adults babbling nonsense and having her dad come pick her up with the babies.
Those babies. If one was quiet, the other would fuss. All the time, even at night.
Maybe that was why her dad was so weird of late. Exhausted from all that screaming and dirty diapers.
Would make at least some sense, since none of this did otherwise.
She looked towards the main door, then shrugged.
After casually strolling out of the school she ran, fast as she could, hoping nobody would see her outside.
Small town living had its benefits, but also disadvantages. Everybody knew everybody and if any of those nosy old ladies would catch her out during school hours, they would lose a shoe running to tell her dad. He’d find out soon enough. At least then he would finally have a reason to punish her.
The bus stop!
No idea where she would go, but away from here, at least for a little while. Not too far though, she had to be back in time so helicopter-dad would not freak out. She just needed a change of scenery, Brindleton Bay was getting old and the only time she had ventured out recently was to the hospital when Ava was born. Ummm, yeah. Not exactly a joyride.
As she stood at the bus stop, trying to figure out where to go, a bus arrived.
The display said it ended here, so she ignored it, while studying the timetable.
Suddenly she felt her eyes covered from behind.
“Guess who?” she heard, someone was apparently trying to make their voice sound deeper.
Squealing Abby broke free and hugged him.
“Wow, do you just hug anybody who does that to you? Kinda weird reaction…”
“Only Jack Nicholson! But you’ll do in a pinch.”
He put his arm around her.
“Since you are not in school at 10 AM, but at a bus stop instead, save to assume it’s one of those days again?”
“…and then some!”
The bus drove off, and Jacob took her hand. The kids ran.
Giggling and carefree they ran until they reached an overgrown spot where they fell into the grass.
“So how come you are here?”
“Dad had a last minute thing in San Myshuno. So I begged him to take me until he got tired of dealing with me.”
“You have to teach me how to do that. Maybe I can get my laptop and phone back – permanently.”
“I wish. Mom is much stricter and so is your dad. Mine is a pushover, because he never had to raise a kid, still doesn’t. I still have a nanny. I am way too old for a nanny. Super-embarassing! And I think he feels guilty for abandoning me, so he over-compensates, all I have to do is hint around and he agrees to anything.”
“Try to get him to allow me to move in with you. I cannot deal with our parents anymore. Or those babies. I hope I never was like them. Or maybe I hope I was, much much worse, so dad got his punishment for all this early.”
“Anything about you and mom is an automatic no, every time. No matter what I try. Yeah, something is definitely weird. But mom is meeting dad and me for dinner later.”
“WHAT?! Nobody told me!” Abby exclaimed surprised.
“They probably won’t. I was told you are not coming.” Jacob sounded uncomfortable.
“My dad used to be so awesome. I have no idea what happened to him. I don’t even really like him anymore right now.”
“And I wish I could come back home to stay. I would never complain again.”
The teens talked for hours. Then Abby realized the time. Uh oh.
“I am going to get it big time now. Wanna come home so you do not have to take a bus, I don’t think there is another until like an hour from now. Small town living. We’re gonna get yelled at either way, might as well get driven back in a car while they are folding us down to size. Maybe I can go too to drop you off. Gives us a bit more time.”
“OK, let’s do this. I cannot wait for that parenting volcano to explode on us.”
Hand in hand they ran home, luckily it was only minutes away from where they had spent the afternoon.
“I’ll probably end up being send to live with the nuns somewhere on a remote mountain.”
They laughed as they went up to the front door together.
As they entered, Sam, Heath and Jacob’s dad were all in the living room. Uh oh.
“I KNEW it!” Jacob’s dad blurted out.
“Abby what were you thinking? We were worried out of your mind. You too, Jacob. How could you be so reckless?! Both of you…” Heath laid into them first.
Into the middle of more scolding Abby finally had her meltdown. She had just stood by, looking guilty, feeling sorry for worrying them, but their endless stream of words had become too much.
“If you guys didn’t act like prison warden, we would have never done this! I do not know why you all are punishing us, but at least now you have a reason too!”
“Well, I think the kid has a point…”
“Who nominated you for parent of the year?” Heath requested.
Everybody just stood and stared at Heath.
“You couldn’t abandon this woman and your son fast enough, and had nothing but coldness and dismissive words for them. At least I tried to be a father to the boy. Then you look at a calendar and realize your time is running low and you crawl out of the woodwork to have an heir and act like a father, like one of your roles. You disgust me!”
The kids looked at each other.
“Jacob, we are leaving. NOW! And Sam, you can forget about that dinner. It’s cancelled.”
“Get in the car! We are flying out right away!”
“Wait a second there! You still owe me several court ordered visits! They have to be made up. I am calling one now. Jacob is already here. Just leave him and pick him up in a week. We’ll figure out school. And if I have to close the shop for a week and homeschool him.”
“That is not how this works, Samantha!”
“It’s what we agreed on.”
“Do you have that in writing? Any proof?”
“You’re right. I think I am going to let the court know that you never brought Jacob for the scheduled visits, repeatedly for almost a whole year.”
“You cannot do that.”
“Watch me! I don’t remember what they said would happen if you miss visits… oh wait, could it have been something like they would revisit the custody decision? Let’s go for round, too, Orange. Still such a stupid name, by the way, but matches you.”
“A meltdown in front of the kids, really Samantha?”
“Threatening me in front of my kids, really Orange?”
“Well, surely you want what’s best for Jacob, so let’s ask him where HE would prefer to live.” Bailey-Moon grinned arrogantly.
“Here.” Jacob said right away.
“I want to come back home. Please mom. Sorry dad.”
“You want to trade the home you have now, for this shed in this hamlet? Don’t think you will be taking any of your toys or electronics. They will stay with me, kid.”
“Great parenting. That poor child.” Heath hated what that man was doing.
“Will you impostor of the human race stay out of this already? It is your retched daughter who caused all this!”
“Abby’s not retched – whatever that means!” Jacob chimed up.
“Kids, go upstairs please. And I dare you mutated monkey to call my daughter retched one more time!” Heath looked dangerously angry.
Abby took Jacob’s hand and they ran up to her room, where they could hear Heath’s voice resonating off the walls.
“You think your dad is going to bite him?”
“Of course not, you dork!”
“I thought you liked your dad.”
“He is okay. I hated being so average back when I lived here. Then suddenly I was special. It was sooo cool. And then I realized that it is all empty. When I was sad, dad was not there, like he never is, and if, he told me to suck it up. My grandparents are awful. My grandmother drinks all day and the only time my grandfather ever speaks to me is to say something mean. You saw it, there are no family dinners. Someone cooks my food, I eat alone at certain times. If I go outside and try to find something to do, paparazzi follow me everywhere and won’t go away. And they ask mean questions, like what learning disability I have and what being the illegitimate child of a celebrity is like. From a one night stand. I had to look up what that even was. It gets old quick, Abby. The traveling too. I wanted to sound cool when I told you, but I hardly ever see dad, and if, then he is tense. I miss this. It used to get on my nerves, the family dinners together, lunch at the kitchen table with your dad hovering over homework and you annoying me. Mom on my case about wearing a jacket. Dad would let me go out in swim trunks with snow up to my eyebrows. He just does not care. I even miss it when our parents made us go on walks or picnics as a family. I guess I just didn’t know it could be different. I’d trade it all in in a heartbeat.”
“Sorry Jacob, I had no idea. Maybe my dad or mom can get it so you live here again. Then they can have my laptop. I’ll just go to your room and talk to you.”
“I don’t want girls in my room. Yuck!”
“You are going down for that!”
The kids wrestled and giggled until they were exhausted and sat back on her bed to talk.
Eventually Heath appeared in the doorframe.
“Jacob, would you come downstairs to say your goodbyes.”
“No. Please. Just one night. Please.”
“You too Abby.”
The kids trotted downstairs. Bailey-Moon looked angry.
“Get in the car, Jacob. Now!”
“Dad, just one night … please…”
“GET IN THE DAMN CAR!”
“Watch your tone around the children!” Sam scolded him.
He just glared at her, then left.
Abby looked sad. She had hoped they would be able to get him to stay. When Heath pulled her into his arms, she let him.
“Don’t worry sweetheart. This is not final. Mom is going to address this with a lawyer. Aunt Evey mentioned she knows a good one. A tough one. We need one like that and not the pushover we had last time.”
“Don’t thank me yet. You are grounded, young lady, for skipping school!”
“Daddy, don’t you get it? Jacob needs a friend. And I miss him. We really connected. Why is that so bad? I have other friends. But he doesn’t. And then you make it near impossible to chat or talk with him. It literally makes me sick. It’s just not right. Especially without even telling me why.”
“No, dad. You are all about honesty. So be honest with me. Why?”
“I’ll go check on the little ones.” Samantha ran upstairs to give them privacy.
“When you asked me all those questions, but wouldn’t tell me why, I got worried. There are a lot of bad people out there and it is my job to protect you. So I did something I am not proud of. I looked at your laptop. And I found out that you search for info on dating step-siblings …”
“DADDY!” Abby looked shocked and appalled.
“I am sorry, my angel, but that is just not right. You are both way too young and …”
“Daddy, that is just gross! You don’t even know the whole story! Just assumed stuff. I don’t want to DATE Jacob! EWWW!!”
“Then why did you even worry about that?”
“Because of something my friends said in school. They saw a picture of Jacob, thought he was cute and teased me about dating him. I mean, he does look okay and he can be really sweet. But then they said I couldn’t date him because he was my brother. But he is not REALLY my brother, I thought, so I did what I always do, I looked it up. I don’t want to date anybody. Come on, daddy. Eeew.” Abby pulled a face.
Heath looked into he big eyes of his daughter, saw his little girl, then and now, realized he was still so much a child, and felt like a fool.
“I am so sorry, my angel.”
“Me too, daddy. I just wanted to spend time with Jacob. He is all alone there. He just told me again. His dad is not nice. His grandparents are awful. He is VERY homesick and has not one friend. It would not be right for me to just dump him.”
This gave him flashbacks to when he was her age, and Evey’s tough situation. Her parents were trying to protect her, but Evey found ways to help him – and KC. And he was who he was now because of it.
“I was wrong, Abby. And I apologize.”
The moment his daughter smiled up at him melted his heart.
“It’s okay daddy. Just see that we get Jacob back home.”
“Baby, if I could … but I’ll call Aunt Evey about that lawyer friend of hers. If he is really as fierce as she said, he is the one we’ll have.”
“I am glad you are still my little girl.”
“Yeah about that …. I am not THAT little anymore and would like to talk to you about my room. More specifically: pretty much everything in it. It’s for a child. I am now a teen.”
“Yeah, Sam said this was coming…”
“So, IKEA this weekend?” she looked at him with puppy eyes.
“Nicely played, Abby. Sure, we’ll get you more suitable stuff. You can make a list of what you want, since you have the time. You are still grounded until the weekend.”
Despite of that, Abby squealed and ran upstairs, undoubtedly to browse the offerings.
Heath watched her. Spending time with Jacob maybe wasn’t so bad after all. Her explanation sure sounded logical and harmless enough and it had done wonders for her mood.
Abby’s room marked the changes that were happening within her. The childish decor, the masses of pink, unicorns all gave way to a room for a teen who would one day be a young woman.
While she would chat with Jacob daily, for quite a while, Abby spend lots of her time with her many friends.
Samantha had contacted Tyler Abernathy, who took her case, since she came recommended by Evey even though he told Heath, Sam and also Evey right away that dealing with celebrity lawyers was not always predictable, and not commonplace for such a small law firm as his and his father’s.
They all found out how unpredictable, when a letter arrived, with a court decree before they even had a chance to file.
Bailey-Moon’s lawyer team, or better: their flock of investigators, had dug up enough dirt on Sam and Heath that they managed to achieve the court to reiterate their judgment with prejudice on the sole custody for Jacob’s father. Sam was painted as an irresponsible, unfit mother who engaged in frequent one-night-stands, such as the one resulting in Jacob, Heath was depicted as a dangerous, reckless vampire with severe lack of social skills and Abby was supposedly a bad influence on the boy, skipping school. Apparently had Jacob also searched online for info as to whether romantic relationships of step-siblings were illegal. All that together was made to look as if Jacob’s sudden and very noticeable decline in school performance was due to their influence. It was a high profile case and the court seemed to want to look like the boy’s savior to the media and ruled as they had.
Jacob’s father’s only comment to all this was that he told Sam she would never get their son, no matter the cost.
And he kept his word.
He wasted no time and stuck his son on the next plane out of country to a private elite all-boys boarding school abroad, with firm instructions that no social media and no cell phone should be accessible to him. Jacob was to remain there until he completed his 18th year of life.
He was allowed one monthly call for 10 minutes with his mother.
Both Abby and Samantha were inconsolable for days. Heath was livid, as was Evey, but since the judgement was cast with prejudice, there was no way to appeal or refile again.
Nobody knew how Jacob was doing, but they all could guess. The poor boy, barely 12 years old, was suddenly ripped from all he had ever known, again, shipped across the world into a new life with strict rules and no familiar face to lean on.
Sam cried for hours when she saw on the news that Orange Bailey-Moon had married a woman he evidently had been dating secretly for a while and who had a young son by him. Once the paternity test confirmed such, Jacob had been discarded of quickly.
Evidently the new son, Clay was much more acceptable to the grandparents than Jacob, unwanted result of a one night stand, had been.
Instead of letting him return home, purely out of spite, he sent him far away with no way out.
The monthly phone calls soon became the highlights of the Grainger household. This time, there would not be a happy ending. Jacob could not get away, Sam could not get to him. The best they could all do would be to enjoy the phone calls and try to find happiness with the card they were dealt.