In Name Only
Brian ran for it.
There was no other way to describe it.
He watched as Aunt Ann and Chris chattered away, filling each other in on everything that had happened since the last time they’d seen each other (when the heck had been the first time? Better not to ask right now) while Kevin sat there and fumed. Oh sure he conversed civilly, when spoken to directly, but anyone familiar with Kevin’s moods knew he was hurt and angry and confused. And Brian, who was more aware of Kevin’s habits than anyone knew it was the confusion that was causing his cousin the most trouble. He was probably trying to figure out why Kat had told Ann about Chris (after all who else could have done it?) and why she’d done it.
Heck, he was trying to do the same thing. And every time he came back to the same conclusion: she did it because she loved Kevin. But would his pig-headed moron of a cousin see it that way?
He must have said something because Kevin suddenly started to glare at him. His face said it plainly: ‘I think you knew about this and I am so going to kick your ass once the coast is clear.’
Oh great, just what Brian needed now! Take one annoyed cousin and add in a suspicion of duplicity and what do you get? Well, Brian had a few ideas, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to stick around to find out.
After all, Leighanne was too young to be a widow.
"Sit down, son. I know you have lots of questions and now that Chris is asleep it’s time we talked."
"Seems to me you should have talked to me about a few things a long time ago," Kevin responded with a growl.
"Like how come my own son can’t be bothered to mention that I am a grandmother? Things like that?" she shot back.
Kevin flushed. "I was going to…"
"Hmmm," Ann responded, pouring some milk into her tea. "Good thing that Kat thought enough to do it for you then, isn’t it?"
Kevin sat down heavily in his chair. He’d figured that it was Kat who had spilled the beans; after all how else would his mother get to actually KNOW Chris? And vice versa. But it didn’t make any sense? She hid from him for years, but can still hang around with his mother? No contact with anyone of the Backstreet persuasion - but his family was okay?
"She’s good people. I like her. Now that she’d come back don’t you go and mess it up again, you hear?"
"I… What did she say to you? When did she…" He broke off.
"Knocked you for a loop, didn’t it? Me knowing Chris?" Kevin nodded mutely. "Well, not too surprising. It’s been hard bitin’ my tongue for so long. Not even sure myself why I did. Probably should have told you at the beginning. But you were so tore up…" Ann clucked her teeth. "I’ll start at the beginning - or my beginning at least. Then you better tell me about yours, okay?"
Again, Kevin nodded.
"Kat came to me after it all fell apart," she said bluntly.
Kevin gasped. "But…"
"Yep, you all were trying to figure out where she’d go after leaving here and she went one of the only places you wouldn’t think to look. Oh, she didn’t come immediately. Never did tell me where she’d been the first couple of weeks - don’t even think she knows. You don’t really think straight when you are that upset. So she may not have known where they were but she held Chris together fine, even if she was falling to pieces."
"Yeah, you better hang your head, son. You took that woman who loved you to death and ripped her heart out. What Howard did - yes, I know it all - what he did… well he’s going to get a talking to too. But he couldn’t have done anything if you hadn’t opened the door. And in your typical bullheadedness, you didn’t just open the door, you ripped it off its hinges." She looked at his defeated stance, and softened a little. "You get that from your father, you know," she told him with a wink and a squeeze of the hand.
Kevin smiled wanly. "I think I knew that. I mean about me making what happened with Howie possible. I just… I couldn’t stop. I was so angry." He sighed heavily. "I just couldn’t."
"Hmm. Well, things have changed since then. I know it. And it may not be able to be fixed proper. But you better make it as good as you can. Cause I’m going to tell you that woman is one in a million. You all rip out her heart and stomp on it and what does she remember? What you said about Chris not knowing his family. And she hightails it up to me to make sure that gets fixed." Ann shook her head. "Now you name me someone else who would have done that? You name me someone who would show up on my doorstep and present my with a grandchild I knew nothing about and still manage to convince me that you weren’t to be blamed for me not knowing?"
Kevin sat silently.
"Can you name me someone?" Ann asked again, sharply.
She sighed and leaned back in her chair, rolling her shoulders to relieve the stress. "I’m gonna make this short. You two disintegrated and she came to me. Wanted Chris to meet his real family. I was trying to get her to stay; spend more time with me and give Chris a chance to meet everyone. Was really making headway too – she was so upset – then you were going to come home and she found out. Packed up Chris and headed out before I even had a chance to talk her out of it. I can understand her fear, but when you got here… Well, I knew what had happened and I wanted to get her back here and lock the two of you in a room until you came to your senses. ‘Course I couldn’t say anything then because you were so shattered." She sighed again. "Hate having to hide all this from you, but that time when Brian came over and tried to get you to talk – took me two days to get you out of your bedroom. ‘Sides, telling you she’d been here and that she was gone… well, I knew that wouldn’t help."
Kevin rested his head in his hands, fingers rubbing through his hair in frustration. "True. Would have driven me nuts." He looked up, eyes searching, "but it sounded like you’ve spent a lot of time with them over the last while. Why didn’t you…"
Ann shrugged. "No opportunity? No, that’s not true. It just never seemed to be the right time, I guess. You were off dating who knows who… as many who knows who’s as you could," she remarked with a raised eyebrow. "Kat always seemed to take care to make sure that there was no way for me to know where they were or even when I’d see them. You’d be off on some thing or other, and all of a sudden I’d get a call out of the blue saying ‘come to the airport, there’s a flight waiting for you.’ Next thing I’d know I was off somewhere to spend a few days with them. Heck, that girl even seemed to know where phones didn’t work! There wasn’t many ways I could tell you about this, and frankly I wasn’t too sure you wanted to know."
"He’s my son! How could I not want to know?!" Kevin protested vehemently.
"He’s my grandson! How could you not tell me about it?" she replied, equally as vehemently.
Kevin suddenly became fascinated with the fork that lay on the table. He hung his head as he started to play with the piece of silverware. "I didn’t know how, Momma. I made such a big mess of things… I couldn’t even tell you about it. Couldn’t talk to anyone about it…."
"Well, you sure could have told me when he was born… why not then? Heck, you could have said something even earlier than that. Why the hell did I have to find out when the boy was two years old? Two years, Kevin!"
"Don’t you yell at my daddy!" a fierce voice said from the door. Chris stood there with a determined look on his face, and a dinosaur wrapped in his fist.
"Wasn’t yelling, honey. Was just trying to make a point," Ann assured him.
Kevin dropped the fork back on the table and held out his arms. Chris ambled over and snuggled into them. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Want mommy," Chris said succinctly.
Kevin kissed the top of his head. "I know, son, but it’s awfully late to call her now. How about first thing in the morning? Wake her up early cos she couldn’t make you sleep," he teased.
Chris grinned. "Okay." He looked back and forth between both adults. "What you and Gramma Ann makin’ points about?"
Ann chuckled. "Just about how wonderful you are and how your dad should have brought you to see me when you were born."
"Bad to do that," Chris replied, then gave a huge yawn and crawled into Kevin’s lap, snuggling deeper into his arms.
Kevin looked at him curiously. "What do you mean, Chris?"
"Momma said you couldn’t do that before cos of all those people who was taking our pictures." He wrinkled his nose in distaste. "They was everywhere! And cos of how she was suppose to be with Unca Howie."
"She did, did she? She said all that?"
"Nu-hunh. She just said cos of the picture people and how we were always busy. I remember cos we got to be on planes all the time. I just figured out the Unca Howie stuff cos she tole me the other day. When you were hiding at the hotel. ‘Member?" Chris let out another yawn, struggling to keep his eyes open.
"You’re very smart, and yes, I remember. But I think its time I got you back to bed," Kevin said.
Chris protested – weakly – and allowed Kevin to carry him back upstairs to his bedroom.
Ann was still waiting in the kitchen when he came back.
"I guess you want to know all the other stuff – the things that Chris was saying about Howie?" he sighed.
Ann shook her head. "Did you hear what he said about the ‘picture’ people?" Kevin nodded. "Well, he used to say that to me all the time. ‘I miss my daddy but I am glad those picture people are gone.’ Kat mentioned it to me too, the first time we met. Said she wanted to give Chris a chance to grow up normally not in the middle of a media frenzy. He even used to fuss when SHE tried to take pictures of him. He once told me that you never noticed. He said ‘Kevvy wants me to take pictures, but they are all mean and pushy.’ Did he ever say anything to you?"
Kevin frowned. "Not that I can ever recall. He was never that keen on it."
"Have you ever seen him in crowds? How he gets all nervous?"
Kevin thought back to the day Brian and he had taken the three kids to Disney. Tom slept through most of it, while Bryleigh ran amok. Chris had stayed close to the two adults. At the time Brian had just said that he wished Bry had Chris’ temperament. But if he really thought about it, it was fairly strange. They were at ‘the happiest place on earth’ and Chris hadn’t chased any of the characters the way all the other kids had been doing. And it really had only been in areas that were crowded. Once things thinned out he was as, well, childish as Bryleigh. "Now that you mention it…"
"You can try and fault that woman all you want, but she did the best she could by her son. Sounds like all y’all were concerned about how things would affect you and no one looked to see how things were affecting Chris. Still, maybe she didn’t either until you all made it unbearable for her to stay," Ann mused.
"She noticed. She used to make the drivers drop us off out front and drive Chris and her to the back," Kevin said thoughtfully. Then frowned. "And it wasn’t unbearable."
Ann snorted. "Did she love you?"
"Yes," Kevin replied timidly.
"Did you love her?"
"Did you tell her you didn’t?"
Kevin just nodded, unable to form the words.
"And you wanted her to trundle along after you, bringing up your son, thinking you didn’t love her? Mighty unbearable for me."
He hung his head. "We could have worked it out… we could have reconciled…"
"Think she still loves you?"
Kevin swallowed. "I know it, ma’am. I heard her tell Chris so."
"Do you still love her?"
Kevin knew the question was coming. He just couldn’t find the words to answer. He just sat there, with his head hung low.
"Do you, son? Are you still in love with Kat?"
He tried to speak, but all that came out was a sob. And then he couldn’t hold it in any longer. He burst into tears; eyes streaming and body shaking, as he blubbered loudly. Ann folded him into her arms, holding as he wept uncontrollably, occasionally gasping out the same word over and over again.