Chapter 13 – Well, we’ll get you another one.

Tina and I pull up to the house and she smiles at me before we exit and make our way to the backseat. I’m still very sore, but most of my strength has returned, I can move, and see the lower half of my body. It’s remarkable really, what the female body can withstand to bring new life into this world. I open my door and coo at my son, who’s sound asleep in his Orbit chair. I look across to Tina as we both start to release the babies and she smiles brilliantly at me. I never really worried that she’d love and accept them as her own, but I wasn’t very prepared for just how much she would. She’s an incredible mother. Nurturing is in her nature.

We both release the babies and pick them up gently. I cradle Chance gently in my arms as I shut the door and make my way around to meet Tina and Rory. We stroll up to the front door and I ask, “What time is Malcolm bringing Angie home from Ming’s?”

She puts her key in the lock. “Around five. He wanted to give us time to get them settled before we have a busy toddler asking questions and making inappropriate comments.”

We both laugh as she turns the deadbolt and we step inside. Just as Tina shuts the door I notice a figure standing by the table. It’s a woman and from the back she looks like… she turns and confirms a nightmare I thought was long over as bile starts to climb up my throat. “Bette, it’s good to see you. How have you been?” She starts to walk closer to us and the gleam of black metal from her hand catches my eye. I turn sideways to Tina, who’s rooted to the floor, fear and anger radiating off of her in waves, and force her to meet my eyes as I quickly and carefully settle Chance in her other arm.

I stand in front of my family and raise my hands in a gesture of surrender. “Candace, what are you–”

She raises the gun, her arm shaking in barely controlled anger as she yells, “SHUT UP!” Tears start to pour from her blank, angry eyes. I scoot Tina back against the door and shakily take a step forward. “Don’t move!” I stand as still as I can as I tremble like a leaf in a violent wind, making sure that as much of my body is in front of Tina and the babies as possible. “You fucked up my life! You fucked me, and threw me aside like TRASH, WORTHLESS FUCKING TRASH!”

The atmospheric pressure drops so suddenly that I can feel my ears pop. Her shaking becomes even more violent as empty tears pour from her empty eyes, and I try to reason with her, to stop this, whatever this is. “Candace, I’m sorry…”

I duck my head and spread my arms out against my family as a crashing, ‘BANG,’ reverberates throughout the house, the sound causing my ears to ring. There’s a spattering of plaster from the ceiling that falls down around us and again I try to put myself in the way to protect my children. They start to cry and I feel a flush of angry adrenaline race through my veins, steadying my hands and giving me renewed resolve. “You’re sorry?!” She laughs a cold laugh reserved only for the insane. “That’s bullshit and you know it!”

The babies’ cries become shrill and I can hear Tina trying to soothe them but it’s no use. “SHUT THOSE FUCKING BRATS UP!” All of my instincts come to the forefront. They’re so primal that I’m not even sure what species I am anymore. They propel me forward with inhuman speed and I grab the gun, forcing it up in the air where it goes off again as I grapple with her for control of the weapon.

I use my bigger size to push her back against the sidewall and start beating her hand onto the corner. It hits hard against the sharp edge several times before Candace grunts in pain and the weapon falls to the floor, skittering behind me. Candace screams and lunges for me, tackling me to the ground where she straddles my waist and starts to hit me in the face. One particularly explosive blow throws my head to the side where I see the gun through a hazy daze of dizziness.

She stops hitting me and notices where my eyes have focused, lunging off of me to grab the gun as I get to my feet just in time to see her aim it at Tina who’s placed our screaming children on the couch and grabbed the phone. There’s a moment of super intense quiet as all of the chaos fades away and my heart falls into my toes. I hear the 9-1-1 operator say, “9-1-1, what is your emergency?” She keeps repeating it as Tina hunkers down over the babies, turning to look me in the eye as if to say goodbye.

I don’t know what the part of my mind that just snapped is called, but at that moment, I want Candace’s blood on my hands. I feel my jaw drop as I let out a guttural bellow and lunge in front of Candace’s arm, grabbing the gun and twisting as hard as I can. It goes off with an explosive ‘BANG,’ and Candace smirks smugly as she gazes into my eyes. From somewhere far away I hear a distant shriek of, “NO!”

I stumble back from her, the gun falling between us as I clutch at the pressure in my lower abdomen. I look down at the blood blooming and gushing out to soak my white oxford shirt, as heavy drops of it fall to the floor, splattering eerily loud in the calm my mind has forced me into. Some distant part of me tries to stem the flow by clutching at it but that only makes it seep out more, covering my hands and arms as it starts to soak into my jeans. I turn to face Tina with a confused expression to see her shouting into the receiver. “T…?”

She drops the phone and stumbles as she tries to get to me, her face filled with anguish and tears pouring from her eyes. I feel remarkably cold as I drop to my knees and the peace of oblivion opens up to me. “I-I love you…,” are the last words out of my mouth as the world turns black.

Continued in Life Lingers and Hope Endures.

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