Oh course Julian saved us. Well, maybe not ‘of course’, but he did manage to prevent Candice from killing me. I remember her smashing Keenan’s hospital room and then attacking me. After that my memory is a little fuzzy.
My next memory was the sound of machines beeping and for a moment, I thought I was in Keenan’s room and that I had dreamed the whole thing. But I quickly realized that I was laying in a bed and I hurt…everywhere.
Somehow I managed to crack my eyes open, my lids as heavy as bricks. Julian was beside me and beyond him were hospital monitors, intact, and I somehow knew that they were for me. Candice’s attack had been real.
“Is she dead?” I croaked. My throat felt raw as if I hadn’t used it for a long time. It hurt to form the words.
“I didn’t kill her,” Julian told me. “I detained her until the FBI and police arrived. They have a special vampire division. Candice will stand trial for her crimes not only against you and your family, but also here in Bridgeport and across the nation.”
Julian understood the question. He began to relate how he had been in the waiting room when the commotion started. Candice made the mistake of smashing Keenan’s monitors which alerted the hospital personnel. Julian realized what room all of the doctors and nurses were heading to. Being a vampire, he got there before they could and saw Candice feeding from me.
“I knew that I could do nothing for Keenan. If he wasn’t beyond saving, the doctors would be more equipped to handle him. I had to get Mother off of you.”
They fought, he and Candice. She was strengthened by my blood, but was still recovering from her burns in the fire. She was weakened enough that Julian was able to overpower her.
“Maybe I was just motivated to win more than she was,” He told me self-depreciatingly.
“Thank you,” I said. I closed my eyes. I wanted to ask about Keenan, but I was too afraid to find out the answer. I let oblivion take me.
Julian visited me often…or it seemed like he was always there when I opened my eyes. Once, when I was more coherent, he said, “I wanted to kill her.”
“I know. I wanted her dead, too.”
Julian continued, his eyes were full of pain. “I could have killed her before the police came. It wouldn’t have been difficult. But I couldn’t do it. She’s my mother.” He looked at me as if pleading with me to understand.
I did. I felt no familial attachment to Candice, but I wouldn’t have been able to kill her either. Even though she was responsible for Glenna’s death and the death of Keenan’s sister, Sunny, I couldn’t have killed her. Glenna loved her sister even at the end. And because Glenna loved her, I couldn’t have done it. But if she had killed Keenan, I would make sure that she ended up dead even if I wasn’t the one to do it.
I just accepted the fact that Keenan was dead when Julian never mentioned him. I don’t know why he didn’t. Maybe he was sorry that he hadn’t stopped Candice before she managed to hurt Keenan again. Maybe Julian thought I already knew. I don’t know. All I knew was that if I said Keenan’s name, I might break apart. If I mentioned it, I would have to acknowledge that I was a widow again.
It was Dr. Brewer who let me know that Keenan had survived. He came into my room on the day I was supposed to be released.
“Ms. Fields. It’s good to see you. I am sorry for your ordeal. I just thought you’d like to know how your husband is doing.”
“Yes. His condition is much improved. Of course we’re not ready to release him, but it shouldn’t be too long. He’ll need special care at the mansion. You might want to consider hiring a nurse for a month or so.”
I started crying, my relief was so great. When Julian hadn’t said anything, I just figured that Keenan was dead. To find out that I was wrong was more than I could take in. Dr. Brewer thought that I was crying because I wouldn’t be able to go home with my husband.
“Ms. Fields, your husband has suffered terrible injuries. We are still not sure yet if he will walk again. It may be months before we know. Even when he’s released, he will need a lot of care. Is the Governor’s Mansion equipped for wheelchairs?”
After talking with Dr. Brewer, I stopped by TJ’s room to speak with him. He would not be released yet either. He was being treated for his internal injuries as well as burns on his face, neck and shoulders. They wanted to do some skin grafts on his face to minimalize the scarring he’d have there. It would be a painful procedure.
“It will be ok, Mom. It’s ok if you go home. Take the kids home. The doctors are doing everything they can for me.”
I was so proud of how brave my boy was being. Franklin would have been proud of his son, too. I could tell that TJ was in a lot of agony. Even speaking had to hurt his face. But he took the time to reassure me! Seeing my baby like this made me rethink my stance on killing Candice myself. She had hurt my child!
At home Ashleigh and I tried to make things as normal as possible for the triplets. It was difficult, but eventually they seemed to put the trauma of their kidnapping behind them. They played and laughed almost as much as they used to. The hardest part of the ordeal for all of us was being separated from Keenan and TJ.
“When is Daddy coming home?” Barbara asked over dinner. Ashleigh had made a Goopy Carbonara.
“Not for a few weeks,” Ashleigh told her. “Your daddy and your brother still need doctors.”
“Why couldn’t they see doctors here in Capital City?”
“Because the Bridgeport doctors know how to care for them better.”
Nighttime was also difficult. The children had nightmares often. As for myself, I had a hard time sleeping alone. I couldn’t stop myself from checking the kids every few hours.
I told myself that I needed to be there if one of them woke from one of their nightmares. GC’s were the worst, so I often spent time looking in on him. But in reality, while they had moved on from their ordeal, I couldn’t. Candice might be behind bars for good this time, but I didn’t feel like we were safe.
After one of GC’s nightmares, I learned that he was responsible for starting the fire at the warehouse where Candice was keeping the kids. He used a technique he learned in scouting to ignite some of the old sleeping bag she had given him. He had hoped to distract her so that she would stop beating TJ. He thought fire would harm a vampire as much as sunlight. GC knew that he might burn the whole place down and everyone in it, but he did it anyway, and this is what was bothering him: in his dreams he and the others didn’t make it out of the fire.
“You did the right thing,” Julian told him when GC confessed to the fire. “Fire is even more deadly to vampires—it’s one of the few things we fear. It is probably what saved all of your lives. And it is what helped us find you.”
“So the fire saved us?” GC looked skeptically at his uncle.
“Yes,” Julian stated firmly.
“But what about Daddy and TJ? TJ got burned. Daddy broked his legs.”
“TJ doesn’t blame you for the burn, GC,” I jumped in, trying to reassure my little boy. “He told me that it wasn’t your fault. He knows that you saved his life. He told me.”
“He did?” GC’s eyes watered and his lip trembled. I gathered him up into a hug.
“Yes, sweetie. I promise. TJ loves you and thinks that you were very smart and very brave.”
After returning home from Bridgeport, I was inundated with questions and inquiries about the kids from the press and interested citizens who wanted to know the whole story. I wanted to just hole up in the Mansion, but I had a responsibility to the people. Reluctantly, I had Cedar call another press conference. We held it in front of the Mansion.
Telling the story was the easy part. I praised the Bridgeport PD and the special vampire division of the FBI. I publically thanked Dr. Brewer and the other doctors at the Bridgeport General Hospital. Then I thanked both Julian and Malcolm for supporting me in finding the children so quickly. Had it really been less than two weeks?
Finally I opened up the floor to questions. I was completely caught off guard when some young reporter asked, “In light of what happened, are you going to run for Governor again Ms. Fields?”
Was I? That had been my plan. I had always wanted to be Governor and possibly run for President. But now…?
I looked out into the eager faces, the lights from the video cameras blinding me. “I don’t know. I think it might be a good idea if I let someone else take over. For the sake of my family, I think it best that I reconsider running again.”
This announcement was met with a flurry of questions. “Will Malcolm become Governor after you? Will you ever run for office again? Are you going to finish your term?”
“Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know what I’m going to do just yet. All I know is that I won’t be seeking re-election. Perhaps my brother will run for Governor again. It will be up to the voters to decide if he should be elected. If I finish my term, I will do the best I can for the state. But I have to put my family first. If it is best I resign to take care of my husband and children, that is what I will do.”
After the press left, Julian said, “You don’t have to give up, Lila. Don’t let Mother take your dreams from you.”
“I’m not giving up, Julian. I’m just doing the right thing. Family comes first. That’s a Fields family motto. Grandma Jeri believed that. She was fond of saying that and telling all of us stories about our ancestors. It’s too bad you didn’t know her.”
“I knew of her.”
“She would have liked you. You and Malcolm both.”
Thankfully, I didn’t have to resign in middle of my term. When Keenan came home, we hired a nurse to help him re-learn how to walk again. He threw himself in to his rehabilitation because he hated being weak. I continued to fulfill my duties while he was recovering. He said the state needed me to finish.
“Don’t quit just because of me. Finish what you started, Lila.”
“But I should be here,” I argued.
“No. I can do this. I have a nurse and Julian can help.”
Even though he had lost weight and muscle, I thought he was the strongest man I’d ever met. Within a few months, he had taken his first few steps. Then he was able to walk short distances. Finally, he was able to walk around with just the aid of a cane. Still, he was determined to do more and get back to his hold physical condition. With Julian’s help, he started working out again.
“Don’t do too much Kee. I don’t want you hurting yourself even more.”
“I’m fine Lil. The doctors say I should strengthen my body. They told me to listen to my muscles and not fatigue them. I’m doing that. I’m not pushing myself at all. I promise I’m not getting over-worked.”
Keenan, Julian and I were watching TV the night that Malcolm formally declared his candidacy for governor.
“You don’t have to retire,” Keenan said to me. “I’m getting better every day.”
“It’s ok. I want to retire. My heart just isn’t in it anymore.”
“Just so long as you aren’t doing this for me…I’m just sorry that you’re giving up your dream.”
I smiled. “I haven’t given up my dreams. You, the kids–you are my dreams. Maybe when the kids are older, I will consider running for office again. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter as long as we’re all happy and healthy.”
Malcolm became Governor after all. It really didn’t surprise me. I wondered if I could have beat him if I’d run, but realized that it didn’t matter. I knew my brother would do a good job.
Keenan and I decided to move the family back to Twinbrook after the election. We needed a quieter place to live. We wanted to get back to our roots. Getting off the airplane at the Twinbrook airport, I felt like I was coming home. I hadn’t been back since my grandma Jeri died. As we rode down the streets in the limo, Keenan and I pointed out landmarks we both remembered.
“There’s Westlake School,” I said.
“And there’s the police station where Uncle Julian and I used to work,” Keenan pointed.
“Are we going to go to real school here?” Barbara asked. She and the other kids had never been to school. Ashleigh had always been their teacher.
“Do I have to go to high school?” TJ was the only one not really excited about the move. He was afraid that kids at the school would make fun of him because of his scars. “Isn’t high school like a breeding ground for bullying? I’ve seen the movies. The new kid always gets picked on.”
“Does not. Bella Swan wasn’t picked on,” Barbara said. She’d been reading those vampire books where the vampires sparkled. Julian stifled a groan. He hadn’t been happy when Ashleigh suggested the books as a way to help the girls get over their fear of vampires.
“Who could ever be afraid of those vampires? They play baseball of all things!”
“No body is going to pick on you guys,” Keenan told TJ and the others. “They wouldn’t dare. Your uncle is going to be Chief of Police.”
“Yeah, he’ll arrest anyone who tries!” GC bounced against the limo seat. “Straight to jail! Do not pass go!”
“I won’t have to arrest anyone,” Julian said. “They won’t bully you because you won’t let them. Remember everything I’ve taught you.” Julian had been teaching the kids self-defense. He said it would give them confidence as well as the ability to fight back if anyone tried to attack them again.
Of course self-defense wouldn’t stop someone from looking at you funny or staring at you because you’re different which is what TJ was worried about. It wasn’t like his scar could be easily hidden, though he was trying by growing his hair out.
“Just get on one of the teams,” Keenan advised. “No one picks on the sporty kids.”
“Keenan!” Ashleigh slapped him on the arm. “Don’t encourage them to stereotype.” Keenan shrugged.
“It’s true. I was on the baseball team and I never got picked on.”
“Can girls play baseball?” Laura asked. She was the quietest of all the kids. I’d asked her and she said she was happy to be moving, but I wasn’t so sure she really was.
“Sure they can. But it’s called softball because they use a softer ball.”
Pretty soon the limo pulled up to our new home.
“Is this it?” Barbara asked. She looked a little disappointed. I suppose she’d never really known a home that wasn’t the size of the Governor’s Mansion.
“This is it. Help your mom get your bags.” Keenan and Julian went to open up the doors and do a security sweep. They’d installed state of the art equipment.
“There’s a playground out back,” I told the children as we brought things inside. “You can go check it out after you put your things in your rooms. We had them decorated in your favorite colors.”
The kids pounded up the stairs to check out their new rooms and I went out to get the rest of our luggage.
“Are you sure you two don’t want to stay with us? There are enough rooms if we convert the study,” I asked Ashleigh for like the thousandth time.
“No thank you,” she said. “I convinced Julian to marry me and now I’m going to live with him, just he and I.” She looked over at Julian coming around from the back yard like he was a pastry and she wanted to eat him up. I still didn’t understand her attraction to my brother. I looked away as his eyes lit up as they always did when he saw her.
“We’re just a few houses down,” Julian said, kissing Ashleigh on the lips. Of course he’d heard my comment. Vampires and their super-senses!
“We’ll see each other all the time. I told the kids they’d still be seeing me. I’ve been offered the job of principal at the school.”
“That’s wonderful, Ashleigh!” I hugged her. She and Julian got back into the limo and headed off to their new home a few blocks away.
“It’s sort of strange,” I said to Keenan as we went into the house. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do now that I don’t have a state to run. Am I going to get bored?”
“I can think of something you can do if you get bored,” Keenan wiggled his eyebrows at me suggestively. “And if I get bored, I’m sure you can think of something to occupy me.”
“Oh I’m sure I can.” We laughed.
The problem was that even sex…fabulous sex…can not fill every hour of every day. And I was used to being busy. I was used to people needing me. Now the most people needed was my participation in a children’s holiday party at the school.
One day while Keenan and I were playing our millionth game of chess since we moved back, I decided I had had enough of retirement. “I’m going stir-crazy Keenan! I didn’t know being a stay at home mom could be so dull! I thought it would be relaxing, but I just can’t stand it.”
“We’re both retired, Lila. It’s not like that means we’re dead. If you want to get a job, go ahead.”
“But that’s just it. I don’t want a job. I’m not sure what I want!”
“Volunteer then. You used to be on all of those committees before you were governor. Do that again. No one said you had to stay home just because you were no longer running things.”
“I could do that…” I had enjoyed being on the various neighborhood committees I’d belonged to in Capital City. There had to be something I could do in Twinbrook.
“And I’ve decided to go back to being on the force. Julian says there’s an opening in the forensic lab. I wouldn’t even have to pass the physical.”
“But the doctors…”
“…told me not to do too much physical activity. I know I couldn’t pass the physical agility test to be an officer again, but I am perfectly capable of working in the lab. It’s what I always wanted to do anyway.”
I started to laugh. “Look at us, Keenan. We’re awful workaholics! It hasn’t even been a whole year since we got here and we’re already going back to work. What are we going to do when it comes time for us to really retire?”
“I suppose we’ll just have to keep working until we die.”
I gasped. “Don’t even say that!” I shuddered. As much as I wanted to keep working, we’d come too close to death to joke about it.
“Don’t worry Lila. Maybe when we’re old and gray, we will be ready to retire.”
“Ha! I’m never getting old and gray.”
“Good. Me either.”
In the end, the only presidential position I ever ran for was the Twinbrook Improvement Society. I joined the group so that I’d have something to do, but I quickly grew to enjoy it. Originally the Society’s goals had been to make Twinbrook more appealing to live in than a swampy little town. Now the goal was to maintain Twinbrook’s home-town appeal. One of our focuses was on keeping the town as eco-friendly as possible. Recycling, cleaning up the parks and other community buildings, these became my causes. I don’t know if I would have made a good President, but it doesn’t matter. I am happy and my family is safe. That is what was important.