Once she helped her only baby girl to bed, Patricia laid with her and held her close until she was fast asleep and even stayed there a little while longer. The news Angie had just shared with them was nothing short of heartbreaking and earth shattering. In the back of Pat’s mind she had prepared to hear that Jesse had cheated on her or lord forbid put a hand on her. She didn’t know why the latter came to mind because her daughter wasn’t some weak woman who would flinched if somebody as so much as raised a hand to her let alone run from somebody if they hit her. Les may have been a hard ass, but that was one thing he and she instilled in Angie. No matter what never back down from anybody and never ever let people see you flinch…
Sighing heavily, Pat eased from behind her daughter, fixed the cover around her and tipped out and heading to the living room where her husband of 9years and her partner of 11 waited. Her mind and her heart had still not wrapped totally around the fact she’d lost a granddaughter and that Jesse had led her to believe otherwise.
“How is she?” Jeffery asked when he felt her enter the room. He folded the newspaper and placed it on the coffee table. “Come sit down,” he urged, patting the area on the sofa next to him.
Pat reluctantly went over and laid in his arms. “She cried herself to sleep,” she answered softly. “I never imagined this,” she said in the same tone as she stared off into the distance and tried to sense if there would be a light at the end of this long tunnel her baby girl had to go through. At the moment there was nothing. “I never thought it was something this… this serious. This heartbreaking.”
“I know honey,” he sighed, leaning down and kissing her forehead. “I know.”
Patricia and Jeffery said no more and both just stared off into the distance for minutes, almost a full hour until Pat finally jumped up from the sofa and marched to their bedroom. Jeffery who initially thought she was going to get something just waited until he heard something clinking together. “Patty,” he sighed, coming to his large feet and heading to their room. When he entered he saw his wife had grabbed their luggage bags and was packing. “What are you doing?”
Jeffery rolled his eyes at the obvious. “I know that, Patty. But why?”
“I’m going to Pine Valley and I’m going to kick Jesse’s ass!” She hissed. “Killing my husband was one thing, but hurting my daughter is something totally different! I won’t stand for it!” She fussed.
“Patty, stop it. You’re not going anywhere,” he said calmly going over and starting to put her things back up.
She looked at him as if he grew three heads. “The hell I am!” She fussed again. “That man hurt my baby girl and I won’t sit back and do nothing. I will not sit back and let my baby hurt this way. He needs to be dealt with.”
“And I don’t doubt it, but you’re not going to Pine Valley.”
“And whose going to stop me, Jeff?”
Jeffery said nothing only continued to put his wife’s clothes back in the draw where they belonged. Pat stood back and watched him before she had had enough and went to stop him. “Pat, what did I say?”
“I don’t care what you said.”
“Patricia Isabelle Baxter Phillips, you are not going to Pine Valley and that’s that,” he said sternly, turning to look at her. “If you go who will Angie have? That woman in there is going through a great deal of pain and right now she doesn’t need her mother gallivanting her tail to Pine Valley and killing up folks! She needs her mother here… right here in this house ready to comfort her when she needs and wants it. She needs her mother now more than ever!”
Pat eyed her husband for a long time before turning and going to sit on the edge of the bed.
Jeffery turned and braced the dresser. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to yell, but Pat you know I’m right. As much I want to let you go down there and get into Jesse’s tail about this, you need to be here. This is where you are needed and wanted. If she wanted you to hurt that man she wouldn’t have come down here, she would have asked you to go up there.”
“He hurt her,” she repeated, shaking her head. “Jeffery, he hurt her.”
“We don’t know that. All we know is that Jesse did something and now she’s suddenly the reason for the baby’s death. That’s all we know.”
“My instincts are telling me it’s more than that. The mother in me is telling me that Jesse is the reason for this baby’s death and his ass has some kind of way turned it around and put all the blame on her.”
Jeffery eased on to the bed next to her and gently took her hand. “And I’d be a fool to think your instincts aren’t right. I’d be a damn fool to question it. But Patty, right now… right now you need to be here. And you need to hear the full story,” he said calmly, as he rested his head against hers that laid on his shoulder. “Once the initial shock has worn off a little bit, you can sit her down and get the whole story. But for right now just be here for her.”
“Where are you going to be?”
“I’ll be around. Just not as often. Like I said earlier she needs you more.”
“She needs somebody who can understand what she’s going through and… I’m not that person. I don’t know how it feels to lose a child. I can’t even begin to imagine it. But you… baby you can and… I’m sorry,” she quickly concluded when she saw his beautiful grey eyes shine over with tears he was fighting to keep from falling. For as long as they’d been together she could count on one hand how many times the man shed a tear. It wasn’t that he was a hard and cold man, he was just a man who preferred to comfort than to be comforted.
“I didn’t mean to say that… This has to be so hard for you. Baby I am really sorry.”
“It’s okay,” he said, clearing his throat and looking away. “I mean yea, it’s hard, but I’m okay.”
Pat took a deep breath and kissed his cheek. Slowly and carefully, she eased her arms around him and held him. Jeffery would usually laugh and pull away, but this time he stayed. He stayed in her arms and held her just as tightly. “Thank you baby,” he whispered. Jeffery knew first hand what it was like to lose a child. Years and years ago, he not only lost his wife of 7 years, he also lost his 2year old son.
“I need to uh… get down to the restaurant,” he mumbled before the memories could return and claim the very breath he needed.
Jeffery stood and leaned down to kiss her lips sweetly. “I’m fine. Really,” he said, giving her the most convincing look he could muster up. “How about when I get back home I whip us up something to good to eat.”
“Really? Because I can do it. It’s really no bi—“
“No big deal. I got it. Yada yada. I’m cooking and that’s that. So don’t snack too much while I’m away.”
After exchanging a few more words and sweet kisses with his wife, Jeff headed toward his truck and eased into the front seat. The minute he closed the door he exhaled the breath he’d been holding. “Could I have at least gotten a bit more of a warning,” he lightly fussed at God.
It would be days later before either Angie and Jesse said a word of the incidents to anybody. Angie, because she didn’t trust herself to talk about it and not break down after the first couple of words. Both Pat and Jeff understood and were there to put a smile on her face with their crazy antics. Jesse, because nobody could get in touch with him. After hours and hours of the phone constantly ringing, he’d gotten off his drunken ass and snatched the cord from the wall. His cell battery had died long ago and he wasn’t in a rush to plug it up.
“You know I don’t think we should be barging in on him like this,” Jake whispered as he and Tad stepped off the elevator. “Maybe we should give him a few more days.”
Tad shook his head and pulled his spare key from his pocket. “Now did this thought occur before or after you said let’s go check on him?” He asked cutting his eye toward him. “You can turn around and wait in the car, but I’m going in and check on him.”
Jake eyed his brother before sighing. He had begun to worry when he called Frankie and heard him say he hadn’t heard from Jesse in days and had hoped he crawled back into the hole he returned from in 2008. Jake shared this with Tad and told him that maybe they should go and make sure the guy was still hanging. They had respected his wishes by giving him some days to himself, but that was almost three weeks ago!
Anyway, after unlocking the door both Martin brothers were slapped with the heavy scent of booze! “Oh god,” Tad gagged, pushing the door open and stepping in.
“Did he bathe in booze?” Jake asked, covering his nose and mouth. He was getting drunk and hadn’t even taken a sip.
“Jesse!” Tad called flicking on the light only to stumble when he saw the living room looked worse than it smelt. If that was even possible! “Angie would have a fit,” he muttered, moving around the clutter to make his way to the back.
“If she cared.” The voice was deep, full of sleep or the lack of, raspy and a little slurred.
“Jesse?” Jake questioned looking around the room, knowing full well he wasn’t going crazy. He knew he heard a voice… Or did he?
“Angie does care,” Tad said, taking a leap of faith to make sure he and his brother weren’t both going nuts.
“She doesn’t,” he replied.
“Where are you?” Tad asked. “What happened here?”
He smirked and slapped the floor with his hand. “The shit hit the fan. That’s what happened,” he replied. “And I’m where I need to be… Up shit creek without a paddle and you wanna know why,” he started, finally showing the sign of where he laid by pulling his body up and leaning against the back of the sofa. “Because I… I Jesse Hubbard from broke down center city… Screwed up like I always do,” he chuckled his answer. “Yep, screwed up enough for all of us.”
Tad and Jake eyed Jesse closely and sighed. “How much have you been drinking?”
“When was your last drink?” Jake asked, noticing the dark-dark circles around his blood shot eyes and his unshaven face.
Jesse laid his head against the back of the sofa and sighed. “I don’t know… The day after Angie left… No probably the day after that… Yesterday. Yea!”
Tad sighed and made his way toward his friend. “Jesse,” he said slowly, “Ang’s been gone almost 3 weeks.”
Jesse raised his head. “Really?”
“Damn,” he sighed, looking down at his left hand that still held his wedding ring. “Where is she?”
“We don’t know.”
“She hasn’t called?”
This time Jake sighed and looked away with tears in his eyes. He couldn’t imagine going through anything like this. “No.”
“She’s not coming back,” Jesse concluded after a long moment of silence. “I didn’t mean all of that crap I said,” he said. “I mean I really did believe I was doing the best thing for Angela. I thought I was doing right by her… you know… I thought… God I didn’t mean to hurt her like this,” he cried.
“We know,” Tad sighed, patting his friend’s back. “We know.”
Jesse looked up at him and nodded. “Yea… But does Angela know? I need her to know.”
Silence fell over the room as Jesse turned and sat with his back against the sofa and his eyes stared hopelessly out of the window and into the setting sun. “Ho… How do I make it better?” he asked, shaking his head. “How did I make this right?”
Neither men answered because neither knew how. This was a territory in which they knew nothing about. Yea, they’ve had women leave them and knew how to get them back, but in this case. It was totally different and the women they were with before and now were nothing like the head strong, once you do me wrong I’m done Angela Baxter Hubbard.
“We’ll figure it out,” Tad finally said. “In the meantime I want you to get up and go clean yourself up.”
“For what?” Jesse mumbled. “Nobody here for me to get cleaned up for. Angie’s gone. Ellie, Lucy, Natalia, Cass… Franklin. Everybody that matters is gone and soon you’ll walk away too.”
“Jesse, I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here by your side to the end,” Tad assured. “If I wasn’t, if I didn’t care about you I would have killed you myself for hurting Angela the way you did.”
Moments later, after getting Jesse steady on his feet Tad and Jake worked on getting the placed cleaned up. In the midst of them working, Tad’s phone rung. His plan had been to ignore it but then saw the strange number and thought better of it. “Hello?”
“Don’t say my name… Where are you?” The caller said softly.
“Uh,” he cleared his throat and looked around. “Handling a few things with the guys,” he answered coolly as to not draw any attention. Even though Jesse was in the back and Jake was busy putting stuff back up on the walls he knew one word and they would be on him like white on rice.
“Walk away from them and make sure you are out of earshot.”
“Sure, Jackson I can help you out with the case. Hold on,” he said quickly. “I’ll be right back.”
Jake waved him off and moments later he was standing in the emergency staircase on the other side of the building. “Angela, where are you?”