In Name Only
Chapter 66: Exit stage left
A small crash from downstairs finally convinced Ann that Kat could be left alone. Lord knows, Kat hadn’t been able to do it. After her last crying jag she had pulled herself together and told Kevin’s mother that she would be okay. Ann hadn’t believed her and refused to leave her side. But leaving CJ alone downstairs…
“Well, at least the kid is good for something,” Kat said wryly to her reflection as she climbed out of the shower after a long soak. She was starting to feel human again. She wasn’t sure she wanted to, but Ann was right. She had to stop beating herself up. For CJ’s sake.
She loved that boy to distraction. Now that she had nothing left, she was going to make sure that he had everything he needed. She’d started with this stop. She knew how much it hurt Kevin not to tell his family about his son. It was time that situation was fixed. So here they were; still “on the run” as she put it, but at least she had introduced CJ to his grandmother.
What must Ann think of her? Showing up on her doorstep with a crazy story about how she loved Kevin but he didn’t love her and CJ was his son… She’d ended up telling the older woman everything. Even about what had happened with Howie. Ann must think she was some sort of freak. Well, it couldn’t be helped now. What was important was that CJ had spent some time with his family. His real family.
Whatever it was that had fallen over was cleaned up by the time Kat got downstairs. CJ was at the table stuffing his face with cereal. What part of his chin wasn’t covered with crumbs had chocolate milk on it. His dark hair stuck up in short spikes and his hazel eyes glowed as he told his grandmother some story about something he’d seen on television… in between shoving as much food as he possibly could in his mouth. He grinned mischievously at Kat when he noticed her standing in the doorway.
“Is he being a pain?”
Ann chuckled. “No. He’s being too cute for words.”
“Not ‘cute’“, CJ replied, putting a sneer on the offending word.
“That’s for sure. Did you get any milk in your mouth, sweetie? Or did you just pour it over yourself and be done with it?”
CJ looked down at his stained t-shirt, then swirled a wet tongue around his lips, trying to clean himself up a little. Kat wiped his face quickly with a napkin.
“There. Not cute anymore.”
“When you are finished go and put on another t-shirt, okay? You know where I always keep the spare one? In the side of my purse.”
He nodded and scooped out another spoonful of cereal.
“Feeling better?” Ann asked, offering her a glass of juice.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, then helped CJ get out from his seat and watched him take off upstairs to get changed.
“He has so much energy,” Ann mused.
“All that chocolate milk.”
She laughed. “True. So what are you going to do now?”
Kat took a deep breath. “I think its time we moved on.”
“Back to Orlando?” Kat didn’t answer. “You are going back aren’t you?”
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I don’t know if I can. There is nothing there for me now, and I do not want CJ to be in the middle of the media frenzy about the divorce. About the only thing I have been able to give him in the last few weeks is the chance to just be a kid, not some micro celebrity. That is what he needs.”
“He needs his father.”
Kat looked at her stonily. “Why am I not surprised that you would take his side?”
“I am not taking sides. I’m just trying to help. And I admit that I am somewhat biased.”
“Momma!” They both turned as CJ shouted from the living room.
“What is it, sweetie?”
Ann chuckled. “He must have found the family photos.”
“That’s good CJ.”
Kat and Ann exchanged confused glances and headed into the living room. CJ was sitting cross-legged in front of the television. There was a short flash of Brian; if either of them had blinked they’d have missed it. Then the announcer filled the screen.
“Brian Littrell refused to comment on the dissolution of band mate’s Howard Dorough marriage to his wife of four years, Katherine Morgan Dorough. In a statement released by Dorough’s lawyers the divorce has been accepted and will be made final by the Florida courts shortly. Dorough and …”
CJ had apparently lost interest because he changed the channel to his favourite cartoon.
“CJ…” Ann started, but Kat shook her head.
“It is going to be all over the news for days. Better it not even register with him. He usually only pays attention if there is someone he knows on the screen anyway.”
Ann nodded. “I wonder what Brian was talking about though.”
Kat shrugged. “Probably nothing. He may have just been the only one the press could find at the time.” She frowned. “Though… I thought he and Howie were together. Whatever it is I am sure we will find out. After CJ finishes monopolizing the television.”
Ann chuckled and went back into the kitchen to put a kettle on for tea. Kat looked down at her son. He was transfixed by the activities on the screen, his eyes bright and mouth hanging open. Every once and a while he’d laugh, nose crinkling. He had a clean t-shirt on (she hated to think where he’d dropped the dirty one. Probably in her purse, where the milk would leak into the fabric and curdle…), and his short dark hair was as unruly as ever.
Gods she loved him. From now on she would make sure he was happy. That he was protected.
She bend over and whispered, “I love you CJ” in his ear, giving him a hug. He returned it for a second, then wriggled away as some cartoon character tripped and fell on their face. Never come between CJ and his cartoons. Damn that Nick.
She headed upstairs and gathered the things that Ann had brought from the hotel. CJ’s t-shirt was actually just chucked on the bathroom floor. Kudos for the little kid! She washed it out quickly, rinsed it out and stuck it in a plastic bag. Wash time was coming soon anyway.
The phone was ringing when she came down the stairs and she dropped the small suitcase at the front door before heading into the kitchen. Ann was in deep discussion with whoever was on the phone. She gave Kat a startled, and guilty, look for a second then gestured to the teapot and waiting cup on the table.
Kat sat and poured herself some tea, then took a muffin from the basket that also sat there. Her mind was roiling. What was she going to do now? They didn’t need to worry about money; she had plenty. Most of her royalties had been invested wisely. She had enough on hand and enough ferreted away in various bank accounts across the country (she had been very busy in the few days she had before she had bolted from Orlando).
But where to go? Part of her wanted so desperately to go back to Orlando. CJ did need his father. But at the moment he didn’t know who that was. And he had said to her the other day that he liked that he was not around “all those people who shout and take pictures.”
Maybe they could go home to her home. Back to Canada. She still had her citizenship there. She hadn’t given it up when she had become an American. And CJ could travel under her passport. At least she thought he could. What if they had changed the rules?
Still. Everybody knew that she had come from there and they would be searching frantically for her. “Never underestimate the power of the press,” she muttered. An exclusive interview with the former first Backstreet wife (gods, how she had always hated that title) and now first Backstreet divorcee (had they updated her to that yet?) could set some schmuck journalist’s career. Why had they never thought of this? They had always worried about telling CJ who his father was. It never really occurred to them what the other fallout from all that would be. Well, okay so they had worried about CJ saying something at an inopportune time, but never any of the “what happens with us now” questions.
“Well, Kevin sure took care of that one,” she thought, then shook her head. No! She was not going to get into that spiral again. He didn’t love her. Onto next business.
A fragment of the conversation that Ann was having very quietly on the phone reached Kat’s ears.
“So he’ll be arriving in four hours?”
Eavesdropping is bad, Kat! she admonished herself.
“No, Brian, its fine. It’ll be nice to have him home for a while.”
Brian? Did she say Brian? Kat’s ears perked up more. Gods, please tell me it is some other Brian. Not Littrell.
“There was something… I didn’t catch but a second of it. I just saw you…”
It was Brian! And someone was arriving in a few hours… Oh gods… Kevin’s coming here. Ann had ratted her out! She hadn’t waited for Kat’s decision on this, she’d just told them where she was and…
“No, just having a late breakfast…” Ann kept her voice low and cast a nervous glance at Kat. She was rinsing her teacup out in the sink, and putting it on the sideboard. “Yes, dear, just some ladies from the shop…”
Kat left the room at a leisurely pace, then hurried into the living room and scooped up CJ just as his show ended.
“Feel like going for another car ride, sport?” she said with a smile, hoping to cover her edginess.
“Yeah!” he crowed.
“Okay then. You grab the bag and we’ll go out to the car.”
“Say g’bye to Gramma Ann?”
Kat’s stomach twisted. She was running out again… Running away again… Her mother had once told her that was her “thing.” “You just run away from things instead of dealing with them, Kat.” Usually those ‘things’ consisted of her mother telling her all the things she’d done wrong, what a disappointment she was and how her mother wished Kat had never been born.
“It’s not running away. It’s a strategic retreat,” Kat muttered.
“Nothing CJ. Ann’s on the phone and I already said goodbye from both of us. We’ll see her again soon.”
“Okay,” CJ grabbed the bag, pulling the strap over his shoulder and wobbling towards the door, his body not strong enough to handle the weight.
Kat swallowed down her distaste about lying to him, then helped him carry the bag. She pulled the front door shut quietly, buckled him into the car, and slowly backed out of the driveway.
Ann put the phone down gently. Her son was coming home. He’d collapsed, was exhausted and needed rest. She had a feeling she knew why he was exhausted. The same reason Kat was. Those two really needed to talk.
Maybe… If she could just get Kat to stay around the house. She could ask Jackie to pick up Kevin at the airport. Maybe Tim was back from his fishing trip… She really hoped that she had spoken quietly enough and that Kat hadn’t realized what the call was about. Kat hadn’t seemed fazed by it. So maybe…
It suddenly occurred to her that the house was awfully quiet. She checked the living room. No one. And the television was off. No one was upstairs either. And the car was gone. Kat and CJ were gone.
Ann Richardson was not one to take the Lord’s name in vain… but she spent a few minutes trying.