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Chapter 27: Kim Tries to Explain

Kim's cheeks began to burn as she reached the midway point of the staircase.  She had dozed off, only to wake to find the picture gone and a cup of tea sitting beside her bed.  It did not take much to put two and two together, so she headed downstairs just in time to hear Jeannie ask if she had an affair with Cal Winters.  She listened to Andrew's response, hearing him try to piece together the confused memories of a young boy who was lost without his father.  She felt so sorry for him, but that was only one of the emotions roiling through her.  Embarrassment, anger, and shame were all present too.

She had hoped never to have to explain Cal Winters to her children.  Just like Kim had never told Andrew about Victor Kiriakis, some secrets were worth keeping, some pains that her children should never have to experience.  She just never realized how much her son had witnessed and remembered, and, now, Andrew's disjointed memories made everything seem so sordid.  It reminded her of the way Shane would jump to conclusions without waiting for explanations, how he would throw her past back at her, always assuming the worst.

And then she heard Andrew mention her pregnancy and Jeannie say, not even as a question, "It's my fault.  I destroyed their marriage."  That cut to Kim's core and caused her to find her voice.

"No," she said.  "You didn't destroy my marriage.  Your father and I did that all on our own."

Both her children jumped up and looked at her as she came down the rest of the staircase.  She looked at Andrew, who hung his head guiltily.  Right now, she wanted to hug him and slap him simultaneously.  Not knowing which option would win out, she took a moment to steady herself.  "Andrew," she eventually said in a slow, even tone.  "I want to talk to Jeannie.  Alone."

"Mum," he said quietly.

"I said I want to talk to Jeannie."  The edge crept into her voice.  "This wasn't your story to tell, so I'll take over from here."

"But if I--"

"Enough," she snapped.  "Andrew Shawn Donovan, we'll discuss this later.  Right now, I need to explain some things to your sister -- and only your sister."

Jeannie reached over and touched her brother's hand.  "Andy, just do it, okay?  It'll be all right."

Reluctantly, Andrew pulled himself from the couch, wincing with each movement.  "Guess, I'll get cleaned up," he muttered, giving Kim a harsh glare.  He limped up the stairs to his old room, while Kim waited until she heard the upstairs door close.  Kim brushed some of the dirt away from the spot where Andrew had been sitting, took a seat, and reached out for her daughter's hands.

"I'm going to start by telling you two things, young lady.  The first thing is that your father is Shane Donovan and he loves you.  Don't you ever doubt that for a second."  Kim's chest tightened as Jeannie looked less than convinced.  "The second thing is that a lot of things happened between me and you father that split us up, but you and your brother were the best things that ever happened to us, and you are not responsible for our break-up."

Jeannie looked down at her teacup.  "But Andy said. . ."

"I know what he said, but you've got to remember that he was just a confused little boy at the time.  Until today, I didn't even realize how confused."  Exasperated, Kim let go of Jeannie's hands.  She stood back up and looked out at the waves.  "I'll try to explain.  Cal Winters was a friend, or at least I thought he was.  Andrew was right about one thing.  Shane was on a long assignment, and I did invite Cal into our lives.  I don't know what I was thinking, but it seemed to be good for Andrew to have a man around."  Kim did not mention the part about Cal being a sociopath who was involved in Shane's disappearance, but then she had not known that at the time.  Cal had duped her for many months.  "Your brother was right about something else.  When I thought I lost your father, when I was told that he died, I did fall apart.  That was the worst time of my life."  Kim turned back to look at her daughter.  Jeannie had pulled her legs up and had wrapped her arms around her knees, a classic defensive posture.   Kim could only sigh.  "And that's when I made the biggest mistake of my life."

"This Cal guy?"

Kim nodded.  The biggest mistake of her life.  It sounded so all-encompassing, but it was too simplistic.  That description barely scratched the surface.  At the time, how could she have known Shane was still alive?  And yet, deep inside, she had known, and yet she still denied it.

And there were her other doubts.  If it hadn't been for Cal, wouldn't something else have come between her and Shane?  It seemed like there was always some obstacle in the way of their happiness, whether it was Emma or Victor or Eve or Lawrence or Kayla.  But even more, they were just obstacles that could have been overcome.  It was just that they were the catalysts for a seemingly endless cycle of secrets and betrayals, in which the truly lasting damage was inflicted by her and Shane. 

"It's hard to explain, Jeannie.  When you love someone as much as I loved your father, and he loved me . . . ."  She paused, trying to find the right words.  "Well, sometimes you don't make the best decisions.  Sometimes you want to avoid hurting the person you love so much that you think it's best to keep something secret.  Shane and I did that a lot, and it always blew up in our faces."

Jeannie looked down for a moment and then raised her eyes.  Her expression was like stone and Kim could see a muscle twitch at the back of her jaw.  God, Shane did the same thing when he tried to maintain an aloof exterior and hide his emotions.  "So that's why you didn't tell me about 'Uncle Cal'?"  When Kim nodded, Jeannie added, curtly, "I guess you didn't learn anything in the past 22 years."

Kim felt like she had been gut-punched, but she reacted instinctively.  She kneeled in front of the couch and grabbed her daughter's hands, pulling them away from her legs.  "It's not the same," she said, angrily.  "I never told you about Cal Winters because he means nothing.  If he had been your father, I would have told you, but he's not, and we knew the truth when you were still a baby.  There was no reason for you to ever know.  No reason for you to ever question who your father was."

"Except I'm the reason Dad left."  That was more a statement than a question.  "It's that simple."

"Oh, Lord," Kim breathed.  "It's not that simple.  Your father and me.  Simple is the exact opposite of our relationship."  Kim took a deep breath.  How could she try to explain her relationship with Shane Donovan in a few sentences?  After a decade of therapy, even with her own training, she doubted she could even explain their dysfunctions in a single book; it would need multiple volumes. "I don't know if this is going to make sense, but I'm going to try to help you understand.  You see, when I met your father, both of us had secrets, and not just little things.  We had both experienced truly horrible events in our lives and we had spent our lives trying to hide the past and avoid that kind of pain."  Kim had spoken about her childhood abuse on her radio show, so Jeannie nodded as if she understood.  That was good for now.  Kim had never revealed some other parts of her past, and saw no reason to do so now.  "So when we met, we were both wounded souls who had built up walls designed to prevent anyone from getting close enough to ever cause us that much pain again."

"What was Dad's excuse?" Jeannie asked.  Kim winced a little at the choice of words and the bitterness of her daughter's tone.

"Before he met me, your father believed his first wife had died in a terrorist attack intended for him.  Because of his job, a mistake he made.  He carried that pain and guilt with him for years, and thought the only way he could avoid that pain again was to never form attachments.  So when he started to get close to anyone, he would run away, find a new assignment, move.  He tried to do that with me."

"Maybe you should have let him," Jeannie muttered.

Kim looked at the ceiling and shook her head.  "Oh, no, baby, God no."  She smiled indulgently at Jeannie.  "I know you can't understand, but the time I had with your father, even the bad times, I wouldn't trade for anything.  See, Shane and I started off with those walls, but we managed to tear them down.  We revealed things to each other that we never told anyone else, and that created an intimacy--"

"Mom!"  Jeannie had pulled her hand away and cupped her mouth.  She looked mortified.

Kim couldn't stifle her laugh.  "I don't mean it like that.  I'm not talking about sex."  She paused.  "But now that you mention it--" She stopped short as she saw that Jeannie's expression had switched from mortified to sheer horror.  Kim herself flushed, heat rising in her cheeks.  "Okay, okay, I won't go into that.  I get it; telling the complete truth only goes so far.  Some things that even the kids don't want to know about."  She chuckled momentarily, but then turned more serious.  "But going back to what I was saying, when you get to know somebody at the level that we did, it forges amazingly strong bonds that last forever. " She smiled, thinking.  "Your father is still the best friend I ever had."

Jeannie leaned forward.  "So if he was such a good friend and so good at . . . other things, why did you split?"

That was the million-dollar question, wasn't it?  She sighed deeply.  All that therapy and there was still not all that much she could come up with.  Sometimes she tried to convince herself that their love had run its course.  Like a hot fire, it burned quickly, but once it consumed all the available fuel, there was nothing left to sustain it.  Yet she knew that wasn't completely true, because when she was honest with herself, she had to admit that she still loved Shane and sometimes still needed him.  Wasn't that why she had saved a year-old phone message?  So if that was not the answer, what was? 

"I guess there's a downside to knowing someone as well as we knew each other.  When you know someone, I mean, know their deepest secrets and their greatest vulnerabilities, you also learn how to hurt them in the worst ways.  Your father and me, when we were going through hard times, we could be vicious."  Kim blinked back a tear as she remembered some of the things Shane had said to her during some of the worst times.  The way he would throw Victor in her face or bring up her past as a prostitute, despite all his claims that it did not bother him.  "Your father said some terrible things to me, and I guess I did too.  And eventually, I think we gave up.  It was easier for us to go back to living with our walls than continue fighting to be together."

"I don't understand."  Jeannie was watching her intently.

"Me, I found Philip.  After the roller-coaster with your father, he seemed safe."  Boring, bland and predictable were other words that came to mind.  For a time, Kim convinced herself that she was content with the life he provided.  After all, it was stable and they had been able to raise the children without constant upheaval.  But she did not need to go into that right now.  Jeannie also wanted to know about Shane.  "Your father. . . ."  She hesitated to mention Kayla.  Shane's choice to sleep with her sister had been the point of no return and his betrayal still hurt.  Yet, even so, Kim had tried at times to figure out how it happened and some conversations with Kayla had provided insight into their relationship.  She now believed Shane had likely latched onto Kayla for a lot of reasons: guilt over his role in Steve's death; his attachment to Stephanie, sort of a surrogate daughter to replace the daughter he had come so close to having with Kim; even a belief that Kayla's deep love for Steve would prevent her from ever opening herself to Shane like Kim had or demand that Shane open himself up to her.  Kayla offered a relationship with the walls intact.  Not that those reasons made Kim any less bitter about Shane's actions, even close to 20 years later.  Kim started to open her mouth to discuss the subject, but stopped.  Jeannie already resented Shane; to tell her about Kayla would only poison her daughter's mind.  Kim could not do that.  Kim reached out and patted Jeannie's hand.  "Your father went back to work, returned to being the superspy without attachments."  At Jeannie's grimace, Kim quickly backtracked.  "Except for his children.  When he was with you and Andrew, it was like seeing the best of your father return.  That's when I could see the man I had loved so desperately."

Jeannie sat back in her chair and turned away to look out the windows.  They had talked for longer than Kim realized.  The sun was setting over the water, the sky turning into a mass of red and purple.  In a quiet voice, Jeannie said, "Maybe with Andrew, not with me."

Kim could hear Jeannie's pain, the palpable hurt.  Only one person might change Jeannie's mind and heal some of her pain.  For now, all Kim could do was reach over to her daughter, wrap her in a tight hug, and whisper, "I know you feel like that, and I wish you'd believe me when I say it isn't true."  She kissed Jeannie's forehead.  "I know he loves you, and when he comes back to us, he's going to show you."