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Chapter 35: Andrew's Secret

"So how's she doing?  Jeannie's voice came through the phone and Andrew grimaced.  It had not been the easiest of nights, and being shocked awake at 6:30 a.m., barely an hour after he finally fell asleep, by the brass and percussion sections from Carmen was not in his top 10 ways of waking up.

"She's sleeping," Andrew muttered.  "Like I was.  Didn't that top-dollar education of yours teach you about time zones?"

"I'm sorry," Jeannie said, and she did sound sincere.  "I know I said I would call in the evenings, but I was anxious.  All you said last night was she was sleeping, and I just wanted to know if anything else happened."

Andrew rubbed his eyes and sat up.  It was pointless to think he was going to get off the call.  He debated lying to Jeannie, so she wouldn't worry, but his sister would probably detect the lie.  "Honestly, it wasn't the best night.  She was sick a couple of times, but that's what the doctor said might happen."

"How about you, big brother?  You handling it okay?"

"Yeah," he said.  He had seen a lot worse in his life than a sick woman.  "And we talked a little the other day, after you left."

"Good."  Jeannie sounded quite pleased with herself.

"Just remember that you have to hold up your end of the bargain, too."

There was a pause, then an appeasing, "Okay."  Then another pause.  "I really could come home."

"And miss the chance to ace. . ."  He hesitated.  ". . . whatever it is you lot read in law school."

He could almost hear Jeannie stick her tongue out at him.  She certainly would have if they had been in the same room.  "If I remember, you were no slouch academically.  And in five minutes, I have a class in defamation and privacy law."

"Better you than me," Andrew said.  "Funny, I never thought you were that interested in that lot.  Thought you were all about the greater good, protecting the poor and downtrodden."

"It's First Amendment and news, and pretty cool."  Jeannie suddenly got excited.  "Actually, it might really help me out.  I got a letter this morning from a publishing company that wants to interview me for a summer job."  She paused.  "But I probably can't even look at it, since it's not in LA."

"Where is it?"

"The joke is that they're actually in Salem."  Andrew was struck by the irony.  Unlike Andrew, Jeannie had not spent much time in Salem, and he could hear that the idea of summer there attracted her.  On the other end of the phone, though, she sighed.  "It also sounds like a decent job, and you have no idea how hard it is to find anything good right now.  Nobody's hiring first-year law students."

"Like you need to get paid for the summer?"  But he knew that was not it.  Jeannie was ambitious and always wanted new challenges, even if it meant sitting at a desk and shuffling papers during the summer.  He suspected what he was about to say was unnecessary, because she was going to look into the job regardless.  But he might as well assuage any guilt.  "Look, Sis, we have no idea what's going to happen here.  Mum could be fine by May, so why don't you look into it?  The worst thing that could happen is you have to change your mind."

Another long pause.  "You don't think Mom would mind?"

"Not at all.  I'll bet she'd be very excited that you're doing so well."

"Thanks, Andy, I knew you'd have good advice."  Especially when it was the advice his little sister wanted to receive.  "Oh, damn, I've got to run."

"Right," Andy mocked.  "You must run off and learn how to ruin someone's reputation lawfully."  He knew she was sticking her tongue out at him again because there was another long pause before he heard her voice again. "Look, don't say anything to Mom about this job thing yet.  I don't want the possibility of me not coming home this summer causing any stress."

"I won't tell a soul," said Andrew.  "Now go to class."  He hung up the phone, feeling quite grateful that he was no longer in school.  For a moment, he debated trying to go back to sleep.  He had probably only gotten about two hours sleep the entire night, and he figured sleep would be at a premium for the next few weeks.  But he did not feel sleepy, so he got out of bed and looked out the window.  The sun was barely over the horizon, but the day was clear and the waves were coming in long swells.  On most days, he would have taken advantage of the early wake-up call to go for an ocean swim or take his old surfboard out for a test run.  Too bad he couldn't leave the house. 

He reached over to the end table and picked up the baby monitor he had set up the day before.  A stroke of genius, if he had to say so, to use these to monitor his Mum at night.  During the night, he had gotten up several times to assist her.  Not only had she been sick, but she had slept fitfully, so he had checked on her constantly, always finding her tossing and turning.  For the moment, though, it sounded fairly quiet.  Still, Andrew decided to make sure, pulled on a pair of tracksuit bottoms, and went to check her.

Andrew need not have bothered, as Kim was finally sleeping soundly.  Andrew watched her for a minute.  When he had been a kid, he doubted there could possibly be a woman more beautiful than his Mum.  He remembered how she used to wear beautiful gowns and her hair, far more blond than the light red it now was, was always exquisite.  In his mind, he could see his mother in a party dress and his father in a tuxedo, the perfect picture of elegance.

Looking down at the sleeping woman, Andrew realized his Mum had aged, but she was still beautiful.  Time had taken some of the fullness from her cheeks and she had a few lines around her eyes and along her neck, but her hair still had the long waves he remembered and when she smiled, she could still light up the room, especially when the smile reached her grey-green eyes. 

It was odd to be in the position of her caretaker. That was Mum's role and no matter what issues he had with her, there was no question that she had always made Jeannie and him her top priority.  He thought about their conversation the other day.  For a time, when he was just a tyke, he had felt like a pinball going between house-to-house, but things had stabilized right around the time he started school.  Mum had married Philip, and Father returned full-time to the ISA, with his contacts with Andrew and Jeannie over the next several years limited to Shane dropping into LA for a quick visit between assignments or their going to Donovan Manor for a holiday or a few weeks during the summer.  He wondered what would have happened if she had not met Philip.  Would Mum have stayed in Salem?  Would Father have gone back there after his assignments?  Andrew suspected that was exactly what would have happened. 

And the roller coaster ride would have continued. 

Instead, Mum married Philip and Father backed away.  It dawned on Andrew that, perhaps, Kim had not gotten off the roller coaster just for herself, but had also done so to provide some much-needed stability for her kids. 

He walked out of the bedroom room, still thinking.  Until he was deployed, Andrew had never considered the possibility that a man might distance himself from his family, but he saw it among the men in his unit.  Some of the men with girlfriends made a point to be arseholes once they knew they were being deployed, trying to force break-ups before they left.  He had seen married men back away from their commitments as well, hoping that doing so would diminish any pain to the family if they died or were maimed in Afghanistan. And still others, Andrew included, figured it was better off to avoid attachments altogether.

Mum would never understand that.  Or maybe she could understand it, but she would never accept it.  Which was precisely why Andrew had to avoid her probing.  The incident in the mountains taught him that he could not argue with her.  If he felt cornered, he might explode at her.  If he instead continued his current act, she might not push and might not learn the truth.

Some things, she would never accept.

He returned to his room and looked at the baby monitor.  Were these things two-way?  He had no idea, but turned it off just to be on the safe side.  Then he picked up his cell phone, punched in a number, and waited for the prompt.

"Code Zebra, Alpha, Foxtrot, Four, Four, Seven Two."  He waited again until a voice came on the line, and he said.  "It's Donovan.  Tell me what you've got."

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Oct. 18th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
Very intriguing. Just what is Andrew up to these days?
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )