∙∙∙∙∙•▫▫ᵒᴼᵒ▫ₒₒ▫ᵒᴼᵒ▫ₒₒ▫ᵒᴼᵒ☼)===>July 22, 2013<===(☼ᵒᴼᵒ▫ₒₒ▫ᵒᴼᵒ▫ₒₒ▫ᵒᴼᵒ▫▫∙∙∙∙∙•
Dr. Melissa Fletcher, a mink in her mid-thirties, ushered the young ferret girl to the as she said, “I enjoyed our session today, Kaitlyn. We’ll see you again next week, okay?” As she watched ferret leave the office with her stepmother, she looked to the receptionist and nodded as she offered a , “See you in the morning,” before she turned back into her office and let the door close behind her. She slumped down in the high backed leather chair behind the desk as she started to rub her temples. It broke her heart every time she had to council the young girl.
After every session, no matter who her client was, working the young victims weighed heavily on the mink’s heart. She wished she could do so much more for them, but her position as their counselor prevented that. It had only been two years since she had shifted her private practice to concentrated more on the needs of young abuse and trauma victim from her work as a criminal psychologist and profiler. She had started out her career with the hopes of learning why people did the things they did, only to be drawn into a need to get at the root of the problem. Every time she had worked directly with abusers and violent criminals she had found that it stemmed from a past of abuse. She wanted to help them before they were beyond the point of no return. Now that she had started, she often questioned if the could handle it like she had with the adults. The world that children lived in was so harsh and unforgiving. All the bullies they encountered at school and in their daily lives was more than enough for any teen or pre-teen to need to deal with. And she was not working with those that had suffered the abuse from the ones they should have been able to trust, the ones that should have been protecting and nurturing them.
She sighed as the phone rang. She picked it up and answered, “Dr. Fletcher’s Office. How may I direct your call?”
(I’d like to talk to the sexyest headshrinker in Marblecliff, please.)
“You know how much I hate that term,” the mink said back, “So what are you and the girls up to now?”
(I knew you had that appointment this evening at the house so I was going to take them out for a ride. I fixed you a plate, it’s in the oven. Arei wanted to camp out overnight, if that’s okay with you.)
“And I’m guessing Pet is all on board with the thought of a night out under the stars with daddy and sis,” Melissa smiled as she listened to Brent relay his plans with their girls. It warmed her heart now that the girls had gotten close to him again. Their youngest, Petra, was only three when he came home from Afghanistan, and the damage to his brain from the shrapnel had cause many issues. Among them was an extreme change in his personality, violent mood swings and seizures. His first few months back had scared the girls so much that he voluntarily committed himself to seek the help that she could not give him. In the past six months after his return home, the success of the medication and continued counseling was obvious. Now he stayed home with the girls and raised horses. The summer had been the best thing for the damaged family’s relationship as the girls got to meet and spend time with the new man their father had become.
(Of course she is. As soon as Arei said camping she squeaked for a good half hour. Will pack up and camp at that spot by the river if you want to come out later.)
“I would but it’s Monday night and I have an early appointment in the morning,” She said apologetically, “You and the girls have fun. I’ll see you tomorrow night. Tell the girls I love them.”
(You are ready did, mom) the older girl’s voice sounded over the phone. The melodic sound of her entire family cascaded out of the handset into her ear as she said, (We love you too.)
“I’ll see you all tomorrow when I get home,” She said with a smile that they could not see. “you have fun, and take care of your dad, okay?”
(We will.) the voice of her oldest sat as she heard the click of the receiver hitting the cradle as they hung up. She was relieved that Brent had received the help he needed and that their lives were getting back on track. She had worried about becoming another statistic in the very field she was working in.
The hum of the sewing machine filled the dark room, as the young white mink diligently stitched the last seam into the dress she was making. She had added bright neon pink panels in the place of all the white fabric recommended by the loli goth dress pattern she had started with. She loved the dark black of the gothic style but needed to be more independent and unique. unlike all of her friends who’ parents bought them the emo goth fashions, Arelia made all of her own, and gave every piece a signature touch that let her own style show through.
This dress was different in many ways from what she normally made. It has a more formal victorian england maid look to it. the long sleeves ended in big lacy ruffles and the skirt has several layers of lace beneath to add the the puffy ness of the knee length bell. She looked it over one more time as she stood up from the small sewing table. She felt along each seam and double checked the zipper and buttons. Once she was happy with her own craftsmanship, she pulled it over her head. She had to make adjustments to the breast line of her patterns more often over the past two months, her sudden spurt of development was slightly embarrassing to her and she tried to hide it as much as possible with the dark clothes and tight shirts. To her dismay the shirts were now only emphasizing her budding chest and she felt like the guys were staring at her when they went out. This dress had a big ruffled lace bow centered on the neckline that she had hoped would camouflage the expanding roundness of her young breasts.
As she reached behind her the sound of a small thud hit as the door to her room swung open. She turned to see the younger black and white mink race into the room. Petra was almost five years younger than her, and as energetic as a hyperactive chipmunk. “Dinner’s ready,” the six year old mink said to her.
“I’ll be right there,” Arelia replied as she struggled with the little zipper. “Pet, Can you get the zipper fro me?”
The younger girl huffed as she said, “Okay,” and walked over to help her sister.
Once the zipper and buttons her fastened she padded over to the Victorian style free standing body length mirror and twirled in front of it. She stopped and looked at the frilly bow the dominated the front of the dress with a smile. I had done just what she wanted it to and covered most of her breast area. She turned and took hold of Petra’s paw and started out of the room. “What did he make today?” she asked as they ran down the stairs from the room above the garage.
“Tacos,” the little girls squealed with excitement. They had grown to love the homemade treat of a meal where they got to put together themselves. Their dad would put the plates of ’fixins’ on the table and they could put in as much as they wanted of whatever was there.
As the two hit the bottom of the and burst through the free swinging French doors into the dining room the stopped suddenly as the older black and white mink came into view. He was wearing shorts and an old faded “Army of One” t-shirt he turned to look at the cubs as they stopped. the large scar over his left eye still seemed to frighten them, but much less so in the past three months after he returned from the V.A. center. He smiled as he sat the last two plats of fixins on the table and said, “Mom said we were good for going camping, but she can't come this time.” he paused as the girls awed in unison. “But, you know what that means?”
“Swimming!” they shouted as one.
“That’s right and I don’t think anyone else will be out there on a Monday,” Brent said as he sat at the head of the table. “Now the question is… Are you really going to wear that for the ride?” he asked as he looked at his oldest daughter.
“No,” she said as she started to spin on her paws, “I just finished it. I was going to wear it for the first day of school. What do you think?”
“Another masterpiece of Fletcher craftsmanship as usual,” he said as he praised his daughters creativity, “I love the use of the pink instead of the white it really sets it off.”
The young petra stood up into her seat and leaned over the table to snag three crunchy taco shells and crushed them on her plate into small pieces with her paws. “Can I have some meat please,” she asked as the held her plate out to her father.
“Sure thing, crunchy,” he said as he scooped a mix of seasoned ground beef and sausage onto the pile of broken shells before he piled a line of the concoction on the three flour tortillas on his plate. “Wait Arei, before you get started I want you to try something. If you don’t like it I’ll eat it.”
The older mink girl watched as he scooped a spoonful of refried beans onto a flour tortilla and wrap it over a crispy taco shell and had it to her, “Fill’er up and give it a bite.” He watched as she reluctantly did as she was told. He smiled as she nibbled on the edge of the meat and cheese filled shells. “I said a bite, come on just one big one. Then you can go spit it out and tell me how awful it was.” He leaned back as she added, “Or maybe we don’t want to go camping tonight.” As he issued the hollow threat she crunched down on the taco and chewed in fear of him not taking them to the site. “Well?” he asked as he continued to fix his plate.
With a little lie as she enjoyed the new flavor combination Arelia said, “It’s okay,” as she glanced over at her younger sister who was happily squishing a mix of meat , lettuce, tomatoes and cheese together with her fingers before she wiped them off on a paper napkin.
The younger girl sat on her knees at the table and refused to use a booster seat ever since she could say no. She has strived to emulate her sister an almost every way as she looked to her father as asked, “Can I have one too?”
“Sure thing, Squishy,” he said as she made the homemade version of the double decker taco for the small mink.
“I’m not squishy,” she protested lightly as he handed her to meal treat.
Brent smiled and started to eat his as his girls munched happily on their tacos. They had enjoyed his time over the last two months of summer vacation as he rebuilt his relationship with his children. During his time in the Mental health center he had worried that his actions and mood swings had destroyed any chance of having a good relationship with the girls. Now that he had a handle on most of his issue and was medicated for the one that could be controlled he had managed to get back to the point they did not outright fear him. It still tore him to pieces when he would see the fear in theirs like when they had first come into the room.
Melissa had told him about how much he had changed after he returned for his first year of recovery and rehab. He had big blank spots in his memories after the shrapnel had embedded itself in his brain, and had to relearn how to do many things after it was removed. He was told a year later that the removal in the field may have caused more irreparable damage than if it had been left in place. When he first returned home he did not remember one name from another, and he often had violent outbursts and sudden bouts of depression due to his inability to deal with the emotions and stress with the little practice he had with the new mental wiring that had been forced on him by the global conflict.
After another year worth of mental health rehab and training he had learned to handle much of the emotional stress, but the fear of slipping back into that state after a seizure frightened him to know end. Melissa had spent the summer teaching Arelia how to help when he was in a seizure and what she needed to do. The one thing he had insisted on was that Petra be moved to a safe place if and when an episode started. He did not want her to see him that way.
As the girls finished eating he rushed them off the back their overnight bags and change into their riding clothes. Of all the things he had forgotten caring for horses was the one thing he had retained flawlessly. He had fallen back to that skill as a hobby and way to spend his time because he had been unable to hold down a job with his limited experience and extended time it took him to relearn simple tasks. His chronic seizures also eliminated him from getting a license. He was more than relieved that Melissa was able to support their family in his absence and disabled state. He knew many of his fellow service members who lost relationships over minor disabilities, yet his wife took their vows to heart as she stayed with him through even the worst of times. And he loved her for that.
He spent the next ten or some minutes after the girls ran off to clean the dishes and dining room before they bust into the kitchen with their bags over their shoulders. He smiled as he asked, “We ready?” the two nodded their heads with huge grins on their faces. Both wore old faded jeans and button up work shirts and carried simple denim backpacks with their night worth of needs in them. “Okay then, let’s head out to the barn,” she said as he waved then toward the back patio.
The two girls ran out the back door and tore across the yard to the wooden fence that separated the horses form the main yard. As they climbed up on the crossbars of the fence he shouted to them, “So, who gets to come out with us this time?”
“Smoky, Smoky, Smoky…” the small Petra chanted as she bounced, her paws holding tightly to the top rung of the fence. She had fallen in love with the rescue Clydesdale almost as soon as she had laid her eyes on it. the huge black and white horse dwarfed even him.
He looked at her with a smile, “I think he’s too tired right now,” he offered as he thought about the horse and it’s uncooperative tendencies when trying to direct it where to go, “How about Tex and Sundance?” The two quarter horses were well tempered and easily handle when away from the house.
With a sad pouty face the young mink said, “okay.”
“I’ll make you a deal, Crunchy,” he started out as he leaned on the fence beside her, “I’ll fix up the wagon this week and we’ll take him into town on that. How does that sound?”
The prospect of riding the buckboard wagon into Marblecliff excited both girls to the point of squealing as Arelia asked, “Can we even do that?”
Brent shrugged as she started to walk to the Tack room on the barn. “I don’t know, but what can it hurt to try?”
Petra leaned against her father’s chest as the horse swayed from side to side. He loved the ocean like feel of the ride as the let the horses set the pace. The slow lazy speed that they move rocked her into a nice calm state. She didn’t feel like she needed to be moving like she normally did. She loved this summer with her dad. He didn’t make her take her hyper pills like she had to during school. They made her feel slow and she couldn’t think like she wanted to. Everything was harder to her when she took the hyper pills. He had promised that as long as she did all her chores and helped with the horses when he ask she didn’t have to take them, so she did. She liked helping with the horses, it was fun. She had three more weeks before she would have to take them again and summer would be over.
She looked up at her dad as she felt him pull on the reins to guide the Sundance to the shoulder. He had been gone a long time before summer came. Mom had taken them to see him in the hospital a few times. When they went he was scary like after he got back from the bad place with the hurt on his head. Mom had told her that the hurt made him different than before he left for the bad place, but she didn’t really remember that long ago. She did remember that he smiled a lot more then, but he smiles now too, so he is better.
She didn’t like calling it the bad place, but they thought she was too young to understand. She understood more than they thought she did. She would hear them argue before he went back to the hospital and stayed for a long time. He would get mad about it any time mom talked about the bad place and how he changed. Then there was the night he went back to the hospital. He got really mad and hit her. She didn't remember anything after that, just that when she woke up the next day dad was back in the hospital. mom said he went by himself and that he was really sorry.
When he came back from the hospital he acted different, he looked the same, there was still the hurt on his head where his fur didn’t grow, but he didn’t get mad anymore, and he smiled again. She liked the way he had changed, but there were still times he reminded her of before when he had gotten back from the bad place. Some times that look was still in his eyes, and it scared her. But Arei was there and she protected her.
Mom had showed her what to do when he had the shakes and that she was supposed to go lock herself in her room until Arei came and let her out. Arei was brave and smart, not like she was. She didn’t have to take the hyper pills, even when she went to school. And mom t showed Arei what she needed to do to help dad stop the shakes so he would be okay and not have to go back to the hospital again. She wished she was smart and brave like Arei, but she was older. Maybe when she grew up like her sister she would be brave and smart and not have to take the hyper pills anymore and have friends come over and spend the night. Arei was so lucky she could do anything. Arei even got to ride Tex all by herself.
That night they were going camping by the river, and dad was going to let them swim. She saw the river and the campsite come into view as they led the horses off the dirt road. The bubbly energy feeling was coming back. She didn’t like the feeling, and she only had it when she couldn’t run. The hyper pills helped but she still didn’t like them, she would rather just run and play to stop the feeling. She was ready to go swimming, and make the s’mores by the fire, and sing songs, and play. She was almost bouncing when dad got off Sundance and helped her down.
Dad and Arei tied Tex and Sundance to the tree by the river so they could eat grass and drink. But now it was time to swim. It was still light out and warm summer sun. she was ready to swim and run and play in the water. She took her backpack off and sat it on the ground so she could get out her swimsuit, but dad said something.
“What do we have to do before we swim, Pet?” dad asked her she started to huff and protest until she saw his eyes. They were the scary, mean eyes, the ones she did not like. The ones that came from the bad place. She started to back away as she looked at dad’s face, but he was smiling, the look was just his eyes, he was not mad like when he hit her and went back to the hospital.
She stopped as she answered, “put up the tent?” she was too small to put up the tent, dad always had to help her and it wasn’t fun, but he always helped her put it up fast and Arie was putting her tent up, so she would not be playing yet.
“That’s right, crunchy,” dad said with the soft smile on his face. He was still happy and not mad. “We have to put up the tents before it gets dark, and pick up the firewood for s'mores.” She liked s’mores and picking up firewood, she got to run with finding the sticks for the fire. then the bubbly energy feeling started to come back.
‘Mom got you a new tent,” Dad pulled out the printed bag from under the stuff stacked on the back of Sundance, “It’s made just for you, and you can set it up all by yourself.”
Something for her that she could do alone, without help. She was excited again. “Show me, Show me, Show me,” She chanted as she bounced from one paw to the other.
She watched as he pulled the princess bag open and the turned to her, “Okay, you pull it out.” It cloth tent was tight in the bag as she pulled on it the most of her strength, as it came out it looked like it got bigger. When it was finally out the tent popped into shape and scared her so badly she fell over. She looked up in Dad’s eyes as he ran over to pick her up, They were the soft eyes she liked, the ones the cared about her and wiped her tears when she cried. “You Okay, Pet? Did you hurt anything?” dad asked as he picked her up off the ground.
“I’m Okay,” she said as she dusted herself of. Her smile grew as she saw the tent was already tent shaped when it came out of the bag. “It’s set up? I’m done?”
Not quite,” dad said as he picked it up with one paw, “Where do you want it?” he asked her as he moved.
“By Arei,” She bounced toward her where her sister had almost finished setting up her pup tent. “I want it by here like always.”
he sat it in the soft dirt by the older mink girls tend as she said, “Okay, Now the fun part.”
“The fun part?” she asked
Dad pulled out iron tent stakes with big flat heads as he showed her what to do. “You put them in the rings around the edge and you step on them like this,” he demonstrated with a stomp on the flat head mashing it into the ground.
Wide eyed with excitement she picked up a stake and put it in a ring and stomped. It took three stomps but the stake was finally flat on the ground like the one dad did. She looked up at him with a smile as she bounced around to do the rest.
When she was done so was arie, and then it was time to get firewood. Arie always got more, but she had fun because she could run and nobody yelled at her like at school for running. When they got enough dad would let them go swimming.
∙∙∙∙∙•▫▫ᵒᴼᵒ▫ₒₒ▫ᵒᴼᵒ▫ₒₒ▫ᵒᴼᵒ☼)===>An Empty House<===(☼ᵒᴼᵒ▫ₒₒ▫ᵒᴼᵒ▫ₒₒ▫ᵒᴼᵒ▫▫∙∙∙∙∙•
Melissa watched as the genet man walked out of sight around the Garage. She hated meeting the client in such a secretive way. But she reluctantly made the concession with the stipulation of doubled rate for home office visits only. She closed and locked the door once the client was out of view. She checked the shotgun that was hidden in the coat rack by the door as she started her way back into the empty house.
It was not often that she was left in the house alone, not after the incident when Brent’s flashback caused him to attack their daughters. The mild twinge of fear for the safety of the girls still lingered with her even though he had not had a flashback after the long stay in the Mental ward and change in his medication and treatment. He still suffered from the occasional seizure, but Arelia had become well prepared for them over the two months of summer vacation. She was proud of her daughter for taking on such a big responsibility at only eleven years old. She loved her father and never blamed him for what he had done that night.
When he came back from Afghanistan he had changed. The damage to his brain and memory loss had wreaked havoc on him. They tried for almost a year to deal with his issues themselves, but she was unable to separate his needs from her love for him. She could not bring herself to recommend the changes in medication he needed, because she could not look past the side effects. That night he had snapped, the medication had not been working and the arguing between them had gotten out of hand. As she tried to bring him out of the thought that he was still in a combat zone.
What had finally snapped him out of it was the sight of his youngest daughter falling to the floor limp by a strike from his own paw, and the shriek from his oldest daughter as she watched the unprovoked strike. The look in his eyes was burned into her memory. The absolute fear she saw in him as she stared at his daughter’s motionless body. It had seemed like time stopped as the three of them stood in the room with the youngest, most helpless member lifeless on the floor.
That night he had made a decision she was unwilling to make herself. He left the house and called the police to have himself removed for their safety. It almost killed her to lose him again, but he refused to come back until he thought his children were safe in his presence. He had himself committed to the Psychiatric Ward of Marblecliff Memorial. It was almost a full year before he was willing to try and be near them unsupervised. She was happy that he had gotten to the point he was willing to try to spend the full night with the girls without her there, but it filled her with dread at the same time. She needed to be sure they were okay.
Brent sat on against a tree as he watched the girls splash and play in the river. The sound of their joyful squeals no longer had the maddening effect that it once did, as long as he maintained his medication. He looked down at the bottle in his paw for a moment; the small objects held within were the only thing that allowed him to be this close to his own flesh and blood.
He looked up just in time as the youngest black and white mink ran, bouncing from the river, dripping with water, toward him. He clutched the bottle as he reached his arms out the catch the hyperactive cub. The air was knocked out of him as she slammed into his chest with a wet thud. She ‘squeed’ as she hugged him tight. after a moment she let go and looked up into his eye and asked, “is it time for s’mores yet?”
With a smiled he replied, “Tell Arei it’s time to come it, it’s getting dark and time to start the fire.”
She let out a happy “EEEeeeeEEEeeee” sound as she hopped up and ran back to the river. HE watched as the smaller girl slashed her way into the river and pulled at her sister’s arm as she dragged and begged her to come out of the water. To aid the cub’s effort he added a shout of, “Arei, It’s time for the rife and stories.” With The mention of tales she older one turned and ran paw in paw with her sister back to the small campsite. As they arrived and he moved to start the fire he said, “Towels and dry cloths, we’re not having soggy s’mores again tonight.”
“Yes, Sir,” they said in unison as they trotted off to their tents to dry off and change. He gave a weak smile as they quickly did what they were told. His biggest concern was they they listened to him out of fear and not respect and love. It was the one thing he could not get past after what he had done to his youngest child.
He looked up from the slowly building fire as the hum of the small Smart car zipped into the camp. He was thankful for the light sound of the fully electric vehicle and the fact that it did not spook the horses. With a smile he said, “I thought you needed to go to the office in the morning?”
The white mink woman stood over her husband as she spoke, “Family out weights things like that. Besides, how could I miss s'mores and stories with the minks that I love?” He saw the genuine sentiment of her words fade into the shadow of concern and worry as she sat by the fire with him. “So where are the girls?”
As summoned by her questing the too young minks ran to their mother and hugged her tight. She laughed as the started to tickle her in a traditional greeting their father had started after his last stay in the hospital. “Okay, okay, that’s enough,” Melissa cried through the fits of laughter, “Now how did you to get so wet?”
They both glanced at the older black and white mink man as if to look for an answer. In reply he said, “They fell in while fishing.”
Melissa looked at him with the stare only married mothers have, her head turned down along with the corner of her mouth and she looked toward her brow, “Fell in while fishing? with no poles?”
“Yup,” he replied as he leaned back against the tree with his paws behind his head, “while fished… Over and over and over again. It was like the fish were pulling them in or something.”
“The fish were pulling you in?” she asked as she gave the same look to the youngsters. With smiles to match their father’s they simply nodded in agreement as they looked from their father to their mother. She looked back at him and added, “So you have them trained already, do you?”
“I have no idea what you mean,” he said as he held up the bag of marshmallows, causing the too cub to run to his side.
“And bribes,” she said with a mock shocked tone, “what kind of values are you teaching our kids?”
“That dad’s version of the truth gets them swimming and s’mores,” he said as he poked a marshmallow onto the sticks that the two minks had hastily picked up as they went to him, “ and that lying to mom is Dad’s job, not theirs.” he looked over at her as she smiled back at him, “Are you just going to sit there or make some s’mores also,” he said as he held out a fluffy white puff of marshmallow to her.
She smiled again as she caved to his offer of sweet treats and walked over to sit beside him. As she leaned against him and held the stick over the fire, their two daughters did the same. He held a stick and marshmallow of his own in one paw as she tried the wrapped the other around his family. Even with all that had changed, and all that he had done to them over the past two years, they still came back to him and tried to make things work. He knew things could never be like they were before the injury, he didn’t even remember those times, but they could be better than the early years after it.