In Name Only
Chapter 68: Memories
It was there when he came in.
They, actually. Two of them. In the middle of the table with the rest of his mail. He knew that Tina had probably recognized the handwriting (how could she not?) and was dying to open it. Now she knew why he had been so insistent that she check his mail for him while he was away. And why it had to be her, and not someone else. No one else would understand the significance.
He’d have to thank her profusely for that later. Though her relationship with AJ was over, Kevin and she had managed to remain friends. A little distant, but still friends. And NO, there was nothing sexual about it. Nick had looked at him curiously when he found out that he and Tina had stayed in touch. He just needed someone. Someone on the almost-outside. Someone he could call at 4 a.m. in tears. Someone who would listen when he rambled insensibly after one of his drinking binges. Admittedly, those weren’t happening much anymore. Not for a while now. Not since they started arriving.
He needed that too: someone who could see this, these, comprehend what they meant, but still keep it secret.
She hadn’t opened it. He did.
As usual there was no note. Why? Dammit! Why wouldn’t she say anything to him? He was desperate for that. Just one word. Even just signing her name… anything. Anything that was from her to him. He supposed that the entire package was that in a way… But it was as if she had backed out of the equation entirely. It was always CJ. Never her. She never appeared in any of it. Not a word on the tapes. Not a hint of her in the pictures. Always of CJ.
Still. After all this time. After all that they had tried to do to bring her back. Still, she believed that all he wanted was his son.
He glanced out the window to the wall he had had put up between his house and Howie’s. He knew, through Brian, that Howie was still searching. That Howie’s private investigators had come up with as little as his. It had been almost a year… why couldn’t they find them? One woman and one little boy. God, you would think after all the pictures they had of both of them… But still nothing. They could be anywhere. Hell, they could be around the corner and he’d never even know. They could be over at Howie’s and he wouldn’t even…
No. Howie wouldn’t do that. He’d break his silence with me immediately if he had heard from her. And he wouldn’t risk my temper again.
Not after the pounding I gave him when he told me what he’d done. How could he touch her? How dare he? AJ said, afterwards, that the guilt had been eating at Howie for months before he finally got so drunk that night that he had told him. He knew Howie was falling apart, but had assumed it was for the same reason he was. And Nick, AJ and Brian had known about it somehow… How dare they keep it from him?
It had taken him weeks to calm down. To talk to any of them. He still couldn’t talk to Howie. He glanced at the wall again. He knew all of Howie’s news, via Brian or AJ, but he couldn’t stand to see him.
He looked back at the packages in his hand. Here he was assuming that Howie was keeping nothing from him, and he was keeping these from Howie. Maybe after he’d watched the videos and looked at all the pictures, he could get a copy made for Howie. He was getting copies of it all made for his investigator anyway. One more couldn’t hurt. He could make the first step….
He dropped his bags in the middle of the floor and walked into the den. Photos first. About fifteen in each package. She culled them before sending as usual. And, as usual, there were no distinguishing marks on the back of the pictures. Nothing saying where they were printed or anything…
CJ walking down the street (no street sign). Him playing in a nondescript playground. Wow, look at him fly on that swing. God, he was getting so big! You couldn’t see it when he was on the swing, but here, when he is up against the slide… He must have grown at least an inch or two.
The other set was equally unexceptional. Oh sure, there were landmarks. You could tell where they were: everyone knew Mann’s Chinese Theatre in LA. And he’d done enough tours in Canada to recognize the CN Tower. And the look on CJ’s face as he munched on beignets on Bourbon Street in New Orleans… Damn, that boy was beautiful. And he loved to eat sweet things like that (there was sugar all over his face… still a messy eater). Kevin chuckled. It was amazing that the kid wasn’t overweight, but then he was always one to run it off. And wasn’t that a celery stalk he was munching on in front of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco? Clearly Kat was still regulating his diet, and not spoiling him too much.
This set of pictures was from all over. Taken at different times, obviously. CJ was varying ages. They seemed to all be taken in North America, though. Could that be a clue? The other ones all seemed to be taken at one place, at one time. And CJ was older… God, he had to find them…
He took a moment to compose himself then popped in the first tape. She was getting better with the camera. Not so many stops and starts. He remembered back when he first got a camcorder… She seemed to be mastering it faster than he had. Either that or she had found a way to edit… hey! Maybe that was a way to check. He’d have to remember to ask.
CJ was playing in a sandbox. He’d always loved doing things like that. Building things. Today it looked like a complicated fortress. No, city.
"Over here is the downtown. And here the houses," CJ’s voice piped in.
There was a second of silence, then "No, over there is the ocean and that is the boat place. The… (again with the silence), yeah, the port."
Damn her. She was deliberately blocking the sound of her voice. Tears began to roll down his face. How could she do that to him?
He watched CJ playing swings and take the slide by storm, all the time the little boy gave a running play by play about what he was doing. It was hilarious. The boy definitely had Kat’s dry humour. Kevin was soon holding his stomach from laughing so hard. Damn, he missed CJ.
Before popping in the second tape he went upstairs. He opened the door to CJ’s room and looked in. Same old, same old. A little musty from being shut up for a while. He opened the window and let the air flow through. That was better.
The bed was still made: as Kat had left it. Toys still a jumble in the corner. Kevin had tried to organize them, then given up. It hurt too much. Every time he picked up a stuffed animal he would remember giving it to his son, and the way CJ’s eyes lit up. There were lots of toys, sure, but he, and Kat, had never spoiled CJ. So every new addition was a celebration.
He opened the drawers and looked at some of the clothes that had been left. All far too small for him now. He should probably send then to a charity or something. Let someone else get use of them. But he wouldn’t: it wasn’t the first time he’d had that thought and the clothes were still here.
This was hurting too much.
He went downstairs and started dumping his clothes in the laundry. A small pile was put aside for dry cleaning, but the rest he was doing himself. Then he ransacked the kitchen, getting rid of the old moldy things that had been in there too long, and just dusting up. He vacuumed the other main rooms in the house, avoiding the den. He knew if he went back in there he’d start watching the other video, and probably the first one again. He couldn’t lose himself in that right now.
The answering machine was full of abuse from the starlet he had just dumped. Great. Time to change the number again. The phone company must hate him. Maybe if he could actually date someone for more than a few months… But once they started with telling him that he was "emotionally unavailable" or just plain "distant" it was going to go down hill fast. And he’d rather be the "breaker" than the breakee. Having another woman walk out on him, even one he really could care less about…
He couldn’t put it off any longer. The second tape was calling him.
This time CJ was in a treehouse. Somewhere warm. He could see palm trees in the background. CJ was telling him all the places he could see from up there. The kid sure could remember places! Some of them places he’d taken him, some that Howie had and some that Kat had because they were busy with rehearsals or shows. Some were probably places that they had been since they left… he’d have to make a list. Cross-reference them.
He wished he could have heard the question, though it was pretty clear from the answer.
"No. I am up here because there are all those yelling people down there. I don’t want to get my picture taken or have someone say how cute I am." There was a touch of anger in CJ’s voice. "I am not cute!"
Kevin gave a bittersweet chuckle. Yep, CJ HATED to be called cute. Or a baby. He would accept handsome (grudgingly), but was not interested in having his looks talked about. And he hated to be belittled. He was a BOY not a baby.
And what he was saying about being photographed… God, he had never really thought about it from his son’s perspective. They, Kat mainly, had managed to protect him from too much exposure to the Boys’ fans. She had been determined to make CJ’s life as normal as possible. Hard considering the circumstances of his parents, and even worse with the circumstances of his parentage, but she tried.
What had he done to the boy? He’d never really thought about how hard it must be for CJ to see the constant demand for the Boys. The sometimes bizarre things that fans did to get near them. The abuse that their wives and girlfriends faced. God, what had fans said to Kat, in front of CJ? He knew that she had put up with a lot of stuff. Being called a slut or a whore had upset her so often, especially before she had told Howie about them. Then, she did feel like one sometimes, cheating on her gay husband… If anyone had called her that in front of his son, he’d rip them limb from limb…
He brought his attention back to the screen. CJ was swimming in a pool. CJ was SWIMMING! My god! It was only a sort of dog paddle, but he was doing it on his own, without water wings. His son could swim. The swell of pride in his chest almost caused him to choke. CJ was almost at the side of the pool (a hotel pool or something. There were other people around), when one bigger kid jumped into the pool, causing a huge splash to come over CJ’s head. CJ started faltering.
Kevin threw himself out of his chair, almost about to rescue CJ, when he realized that he couldn’t. Then the angle on the screen changed and he saw Kat’s arms reach out and pull CJ to the side.
"You okay, sweetheart?"
CJ coughed and sputtered, then nodded. "You dumbass," he yelled at the kid. Then pulled himself out of the water. "Can I go again, Momma? I was almost there."
Kevin could here the relief in Kat’s chuckle. "Anything you want, sport." She gave him a quick hug, then moved back behind the camera.
He watched in pride as CJ completed his length this time, and the look of triumph on the little boy’s face was incredible, but his mind was still reeling from the slight glimpse he’d had of Kat. The few words he’d heard her speak.
She could have so easily edited out that bit. But she hadn’t. Why? To show him that she was looking after CJ properly? Or to show him her? God, please let it be that. Please let it be that she was willing to show herself, to show them. To show that she was starting to think about coming home…
There was a certain irony in his replaying that short scene over and over again, but he did it. Not looking at CJ, but focusing on her. The glimpse of those long arms… They used to hold him so tight.
He remembered that last day. The last day they had spend in bed together. Howie had taken CJ over to his parents for the weekend. CJ must have been what? Almost a year. They had made love only a few times after that. Damn, no wonder she left. He’s barely touched her in the months before their fight. How could he have been so blind?
Anyway, what had mattered that day was that he and Kat had the house to themselves. No late night feedings, no crying baby. Just the two of them. Alone. In bed.
They must have made love nine, ten times that day. Soft, slow, rediscovering each other’s bodies, learning every inch of each other. That noise she made in the back of her throat as he moved in her. Sort of a groan, a moan and a whisper all together. She’d hold his hands, then move her hands along his arms, caressing them the way her insides were caressing his most personal part. Her legs would wrap themselves around him as they ground themselves into each other: not wanting even a puff of air between them. Just the two of them together. As close that they could meld themselves.
And later, after they had come down from their incredible high… when their bodies stopped tingling, when all their senses returned to normal… Then, they would just jump each other. What was that old song? "Do it like they do on the Discovery Channel." Yeah, that would be about right. They’d grab each other, wherever they were, the kitchen, bathroom, or even just up against a wall, and just go at it. Grunting, grasping and clutching. She had another sound then. Like a growl. It seemed to come up from her toes, like a rumble or something. He chuckled, yep, just like a Kat in heat. That was what he had called her… she’d told him to shut up and fuck her. And he had, god, had he ever. It these walls had ears… they’d still be ringing from their screams of ecstasy.
"You okay, sweetheart?"
No. No he wasn’t okay. He needed her, He hated her for leaving him. He wanted her so badly. He wanted to beg her forgiveness for everything he’d said. He wanted to tell her over and over again how much he loved her. He wanted to yell at her, scream his anger and frustration at her, for abandoning him.
"Anything you want, sport."
He knew what he wanted. God, but how? How was he going to get them back? How was he going to rebuild his family? How was he going to win back her trust?
"Please come home, baby," he whispered at the screen as he saw her slip out of the picture again. He couldn’t even say it to her face: she’d never revealed that. Just to her body and to her voice. And to his son ("dumbass"? The kid was using the Backstreet curse word. Nick’d be so proud.).
"Please, please come home. I need you both. I love you both. Please, Kat. Forgive me. Give me a chance."