Ties That Bind by Blue Eyes – Chapter 27
Michelle steered the car carefully out of the hospital exit, making the left hand turn that would take her home. She had made this journey thousands of times in the four years she had been practicing at the hospital, but today was different. The butterflies found their way to her stomach yet again causing a mixture of excitement and worry as her fingers gripped the steering wheel. Casting a sideways glance to her right, she gazed at her husband, his head resting against the side window with his eyes closed. This past month in the hospital had been so hard on him. After spending a week in ICU he had spent the rest of his hospital stay working fervently with a physical therapist, as well as a psychologist, trying to recover from the trauma his body and mind had undergone. She couldn’t help but be worried about the toll this was taking on him. The details of the shooting and the persons involved remained an unspoken barrier between them. She knew he was avoiding the truth, avoiding having to admit to her everything his brother had done. And if she were honest, she had to admit she didn’t want him to. As per her lengthy track record, she was pushing her own feelings down as far as possible, not wanting to face the truth herself. In her brief moments of rationalization she knew they would have to deal with this one day before it came crumbling down around them. But for now, the truth was better left unsaid.
“Hey,” her fingers gently caressing his cheek. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” he opened his eyes as he brought her fingers to his lips for a soft kiss.
She sighed silently as the knot in her stomach tightened. He had barely managed to say ten words since they left the hospital. Dr. Stewart assured her over and over again that physically Danny was fine. And in her doctor’s mind she knew he was right. But she wasn’t worried so much about his physical wounds healing she knew his wounds ran much deeper.
Turning the car into the driveway of their home, she noticed the familiar cars parked along the street down from their house. So much for being a surprise, she thought.
“So I guess everyone is here, huh?” Danny’s lips curved into a soft smile.
“They aren’t known for being very discrete,” her eyes sympathetic as she put the car in park. “I’m sorry. I know you wanted some peace and quiet, but the kids were so excited I couldn’t tell them no.”
“It’s okay. I want them to be happy.” He pulled her hand into his, “I want you to be happy.”
“We are,” she smiled, placing a tender kiss to his lips. “More so now that we have you home.”
“Well, it’s good to be home,” he muttered, his hands reaching for the handle on the door. “I don’t think I could have taken another day of Nurse Hatchet.”
“Cratchet,” she corrected him with a laugh. “She wasn’t that bad.”
“Let her stick you twenty times looking for a vein and then see if you feel the same way,” he frowned, his eyes looking through the side mirror following the slow descent of the garage door closing behind them. “I tried to tell her my wife was a doctor, but she wouldn’t listen. I still don’t see why you couldn’t have been the one treating me.”
“Because I’m your wife,” her voice caught in her throat as she reached down, trying to help him ease his still sore body from the car. “I couldn’t have done it even if they had let me.”
“I’m sorry,” he leaned against her as he stood to his feet, his palm cupping her face. “I know you were scared.”
“You know what?” she forced a smile as he slid his arm around her shoulder for support. “Let’s not think about any of that today. Today’s a day to celebrate and that’s what we’re going to do.”
He nodded his head as they slowly made their way toward the house. She eased the glass door open, leaning against the heavy wooden door behind it as she helped Danny up the few steps leading to their house. Her fingers fumbled for the light switch trying to find their way through the dimly lit kitchen. They both flinched at the sudden intrusion of the light that illuminated the room.
“I think they’re in the living room,” she whispered as they began to make their trek down the hall.
Nodding his agreement, he shouted into the air, “I guess no one is home. Sure was hoping I could see my two munchkins, but I guess they didn’t care that their ol’ dad was coming home today.”
Before they could even enter the doorway of the living room, two little bodies came flying out of the darkness, their arms clutching each of Danny’s leg.
“We’re here, Daddy,” Rachel shouted. “We wouldn’t leave you.”
“We hide,” Justin exclaimed excitedly. “We supize you.”
“Well, you did surprise me,” he chuckled as his eyes surveyed the gathering of smiling faces before him.
“Kids take it easy,” Michelle scolded, trying to pull them away from Danny. “Daddy is still sore so we have to be very, very careful around him.”
“I’m sorry,” Rachel jerked back, her eyes wide with fear. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Danny knelt ungracefully down to the floor and pulled both his children into his arms, clutching them close to his body. “You could never hurt me,” he whispered. “I promise.”
“I’m so glad you’re home,” Rachel whispered into his ear, her arms wrapped around his neck.
“Me too princess. Me too.”
Michelle set the ice bucket down on the counter before her and let her body collapse onto one of the nearby bar stools. She rested her elbows on the countertop and held her weary head in her hands. She was completely and utterly exhausted, but she was determined to not let it show. To everyone else, she was the loving, happy wife who was overjoyed to have her husband home. But on the inside, her emotions were warring with one another and she physically felt sick. As elated as she was that Danny was finally out of that hospital and home with her and the kids again, the fear that had hidden itself in the back of her mind once again began gnawing away at her. As long as he was in the hospital, she knew talking about the events of the past month wouldn’t be discussed, but now that he was home, she still wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready to even think about Mick or Dr. Grant or any of it. And there was a large part of her that didn’t know if she would ever be ready.
Jumping to her feet, Michelle turned around to see Abby entering through the swinging kitchen door. “Hey, I was just getting some more ice.”
“Hey, it’s me,” she pulled the bucket out of Michelle’s hands. “I know you better than that.”
“Abby, really,” she moved toward the freezer to retrieve a bag of ice. “I’m fine. I have my husband home, everything’s perfect.”
“Michelle, everything is far from perfect,” she reached around Michelle to close the freezer door. “And you are far from being fine. Sweetie, Rick is really worried about you and so am I.”
Michelle brushed past Abby as she moved toward the window, staring at the shadows cast by the moon on the lush green grass in her backyard. Emotions she didn’t want to deal with tonight were brimming on the surface and she fought them with every ounce of strength she had left in her body.
“Please,” Abby begged, resting comforting hands on Michelle’s shoulders. “You dont need to keep these feelings and emotions inside anymore. You’ve been so strong for Danny and for the kids, but it’s time you start thinking about yourself and what this all has done to you.”
“You know?” Michelle whipped around, looking into her sister-in-laws warm hazel eyes.
Abby nodded slowly. Rick told me about Mick and Dr. Grant and he told me everything.
“I can’t,” Michelle shook her head, crossing the room again toward the freezer. “Listen, Abby, I appreciate yours and Rick’s concern, but really I am fine. Danny and I will work through this and we’ll be able to put this behind us soon. It’s just going to take some time. Danny still has his continued recovery ahead of him and the kids are so happy right now. We just have to focus on the here and now. The past is over and none of it can be changed.”
“But it’s not all in the past,” Abby pleaded. “Michelle, you haven’t dealt with any of this and you have to find a way. It’s so important for you to not just sweep this under the rug, now more than ever, you have to find a way.”
“We will,” Michelle whispered. “We will find a way, just not now. Danny doesn’t need this. He just needs to stay focused on getting better right now.”
“Michelle, you have more ice?” Bill paraded into the kitchen, startled to see Abby. “I’m sorry. Am I interrupting something?”
“No,” Michelle spoke up quickly, avoiding Abby’s penetrating stare. “Here’s the ice,” she grabbed the bag of ice in her hand as she walked toward him. As she reached the door, she glanced back at Abby. “I have to go back and see if anyone needs anything.”
Abby simply nodded her head as she watched the door swing close behind her. “Oh, Michelle, I hope this does’nt all come crashing down on you, you or Danny.”
“So how are you feeling?” Ray eased his body down onto the couch next to Danny.
“Okay,” Danny’s voice betrayed his attempt to sound nonchalant.
“You’re hurting, aren’t you?”
“It’s not that bad,” he winced, trying to shift his body into a more comfortable position. “I’m just not used to moving around this much. But don’t breathe a word to Michelle. She’s worried enough as it is.”
“She has a reason to be, you know,” Ray began. “And I’m not just talking about your physical injuries.”
“I can’t, I don’t want to get into that now.”
“Now or ever?” Ray provoked. “Danny, man, you’ve been to hell and back and I understand that. But you can’t keep this all bottled up inside you.”
“You know, don’t you?” Danny looked at Ray expectantly.
Ray nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving his cousin’s tortured face. “Mick made a confession to me before he left town.”
“Well maybe his conscience is clear now,” Danny snapped, turning his head away from Ray.
“And yours isn’t?” Ray questioned.
“Ray, look around,” Danny’s eyes scanned the room. “Look at the happiness on the faces in this room. Pilar, Michelle, Justin, Rachel, heck everyonelook how happy they all are. If I go digging through the past, I’ll take that away from all of them and I can’t do that.”
“But you’ll destroy yourself if you don’t.”
“That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make,” his glistening eyes trained on his two children as their laughter filled the room. “Michelle and my children have to come first.”
“Hey, what are you two talking about so seriously over here?” Michelle laughed, sliding down into the small space next to her husband.
“Nothing important,” Danny rubbed his hand up and down her leg, glancing sternly at Ray.
“I’ll go see how the kids are managing with that movie,” Ray returned Danny’s look as he walked away.
Michelle noticed the look between them and worry crept into the pit of her stomach. Her hand grasped Danny’s chin, turning his face toward her. “What’s going on ? Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” the smile that stretched across his lips didn’t reach his eyes. “Everything’s fine.”
“You know, you need to take a break,” he shifted uncomfortably against the back of the couch, trying to give her some more room as he pulled her hands into his. “You’ve been running around here like a madwoman all nightpouring drinks, getting people food…”
“I just want to make sure everyone is having a good time,” she whispered, laying her head down on his chest as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder.
“They are.” He rested his head against hers, wrapping his arms around her, holding her close. “But I think you’re night as the perfect hostess is over. The guest of honor wants you exactly where you are.”
“Well, the hostess is exactly where she wants to be,” she sighed tiredly, snuggling closer to his side. “I’ve missed this. I’ve missed you.”
His eyes continued to search the sea of faces, coming around to land on his mother and Ray in deep conversation. She had been to see him almost daily in the hospital, never once mentioning Mick’s name. She had to know that he knew what she and Mick had done, but they avoided any talk that would lead them to discussing what had happened. Pilar had been the one to tell him Mick was in California, staying with their uncle until things settled down here. Then he would be back in Springfield. One day, they would all have to talk about what happened. One day, Danny knew he would have to face the truth. One day, but not today. And he couldn’t stop the part of him that wondered if there ever would be a right day.
His wife’s voice drawing him back to the present, he glanced down into her questioning eyes. “Yeah?”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m just tired,” he mumbled, avoiding her penetrating stare.
She extricated herself from his arms and stood quickly to her feet. “Well, I think everyone is about to call it a night. Why don’t you go on upstairs and lie down?”
“I want to wait until everyone leaves,” he shook his head. “I should at least tell everyone good-night.”
“Well, that’s exactly what we were coming to do,” Rick interrupted as he and Abby made their way from across the room.
“You’re leaving?” Michelle reached up to hug them both.
“Yeah,” Rick nodded, his eyes full of concern as he looked at his little sister. “I have an early day at the hospital tomorrow and Abby has the state inspector coming for his annual visit at the day care. I’m glad you’re home, Danny. I know my sister needs you now more than ever.”
Michelle threw a stern look at her brother, shaking her head at him. “Yeah, you know the kids can be a handful, but Abby and Pilar have been great helping me out with them.”
“Well, I’m here to do that now,” Danny slowly stood to his feet, wrapping an arm around her waist.
Just dont overdo it, Rick shook his finger at him.
I have my own personal doctor here, Danny nodded his head toward Michelle. She wont let me do too much.
“Just take care of each other,” Abby forced a smile to her lips. “Please just take care of each other. And if you need anything, you know were just a phone call away.”
“Thanks,” Danny smiled, oblivious to the looks shared between the sisters-in-law.
“Thank you,” Michelle nodded. “I promise you we will be fine.”
Abby forced another smile and grabbed Rick’s hand, pulling him toward the door. Following their lead, one person after another began their departure as well. Bill, Pilar and Ray made their way to the door, reassuring them both that they were ready and willing to help in anyway they could. When the last of their guests had left, they turned to see Carmen as the only one remaining. Sensing she wanted to talk to Danny alone, Michelle excused herself to check on the kids.
“We haven’t had much of a chance to talk this evening,” Carmen began, her voice soft.
“Well, it’s been kind of hectic with so many people here,” he responded. “I’m glad you came. It meant a lot to the kids that you were here.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it,” she smiled, her hand caressing his face. “I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that you are finally home, Daniel. When I saw you in that hospitalI do’nt think I’ve ever been so scared in my life.”
“I was pretty scared myself,” he admitted. “But my fear started long before I ever landed in that hospital and it hasn’t gone away.”
“I know,” she bowed her head. “And I’m sorry about that. I didn’t know until it was too late and your brother came to me for help.”
“Mick always was one to shoot first and ask questions later,” he walked away, turning his back on her.
“I know your brother doesn’t always follow the best plan, but he loves you and he did what he thought was best.”
“Is that what you did too?” the accusation evident in his tone. “You did what you thought was best?”
“Danny, you know enough about this business to know I did what had to be done,” she snapped. “Charles Grant had to be dealt with and if I hadn’t he would have continued to come after you, Michelle and the kids. I was NOT going to let that happen. He hurt you and he had to pay.”
“You know what, never mind,” he spun on his heels heading toward the door. “I don’t know why I even brought it up. You did what you thought you had to do and I have to do the same. My wife and my children have to be the most important people in my life and I have to keep anything dangerous from entering their lives. If that means keeping you and my brother away from them, so be it.”
“You aren’t serious,” Carmen gasped in shock.
“I’m damn serious,” he shouted, his eyes piercing into her. “I will not let my family be used by you or Mick ever again. I will die before I let either one of you hurt them.”
“And that’s exactly what you almost did,” her voice strained with unshed tears.
“Everything okay in here?” Michelle asked hesitantly from the doorway.
“Yeah,” Danny’s voice quivered, his angry eyes never leaving his mother’s face. “My mother was just saying good night.”
“Yes, I must be going,” Carmen nodded, shifting her gaze to Michelle. “I must thank you Michelle for allowing me to be a part of such a wonderful evening. Please give the children a kiss for me and tell them their grandmother loves them.”
“They know that Carmen,” the corners of Michelle’s lips lifted slightly as she wrapped a protective arm around Danny’s waist. “They love you, too.”
“Thank you,” her moistened eyes turned back to Danny. “I will do anything to make my family happy. I promise you, you are all safe now.”
Michelle felt the tremor shoot through Danny’s body as they stood in silence watching the front door close behind Carmen. Sliding her body around from his side to face him, her stomach tensed seeing the distance cloud his eyes.
“”Hey,” her hands bracketed the sides of his feverish face. “What’s going on with you and your mother?”
“I’m kind of tired,” he shook free of her touch. “Why don’t we leave this mess for tonight and I’ll help you clean it up tomorrow?”
“Michelle, please,” his eyes begged. “Not tonight, okay?”
She nodded her head slowly as she placed her hand in his outstretched hand, letting him lead her up the stairs to their room. The fear she had been feeling for the past few weeks plagued her mind as she watched her husband sit down on the edge of the bed, shrugging his arms from his pull over shirt before resting his head in his hands. She could feel him retreating behind the wall he had built around himself, not wanting to let her or anyone else in on what was happening in his mind. She wanted to tell him she knew what he was going through, yet on the other hand, she wasn’t sure she did. Battling her own emotions over what had happened, she had tried to keep her own feelings at bay in deference for her husband. But maybe if she told him that she knew, but what did she really know? Her heart and mind had been in constant struggle ever since the night Rick told her about Dr. Grant, but she couldn’t afford to allow her heart to get the better of her. There was too much at stake now.
Shaking her head, she tried to push those thoughts back into the recesses of her mind, hoping against hope that they would grant her the reprieve she so desperately needed. Praying a hot bath would help her relax, she turned on her heels marching toward the bathroom. As her body quickly shifted directions, her head began to swim and she stumbled backwards into the awaiting arms of her husband.
“Baby, what’s wrong?” his voice thick with worry.
“I just got a little dizzy,” she confessed with a frown, trying to slip from his grasp.
“No,” he shook his head, dragging her back toward the bed as he forced her to sit down. “There’s been something going on with you for weeks now. I know you were keeping things from me while I was recovering, but I’m fine now. Honey, whatever it is, you can tell me.”
She shook her head, trying unsuccessfully to keep her tears at bay. She could feel the words she had longed to say for weeks on the tip of her tongue. He was right, she was keeping so many things from him, but she hadn’t had a choice. He didn’t need the added strain she knew her words would bring him. And she worried that now wasn’t the right time either. But looking at him now, his eyes darkened with worry, she didn’t think she would be able to keep the truth from him anymore.
His fingers rested under her chin as he gently lifted her face toward him. “Honey, tell me, please.”
“Danny,” her voice trembled through her tears. “I don’t…I’m not sure how to tell you.”
“Please, just say it,” he begged. “Nothing you say could be worse than the thoughts going through my head right now.”
“I…uh…well,” the palms of her hands hastily wiped at the wetness on her cheeks. “When you were in the hospital, Dr. Stewart asked for some of us to donate blood in case he needed to give you more transfusions. So your mother and I went to the lab and we both donated blood for you.”
He looked at her expectantly, fearful of where her story would lead. Feeling his trembling hand against her leg, she jumped to her feet, pacing the length of the room. “Rick…he was really worried about me because I hadn’t been feeling well. I tried to tell him it was just stress and worrying about you. He, uh, he didn’t tell me he was going to do it, but he got the lab to analyze some of my blood.”
What he seized her hand as she stepped in front of him and forced himself to his feet to stand in front of her. “Baby, what is it?”
“Danny, I didn’t know,” her tears resurfaced as she buried her face in his chest. “I swear I had no idea.”
He fought the bile rising in his throat as he eased his wife’s weeping body back down on the bed, sitting down beside her. “Michelle,” he whispered, cradling her wet cheek in the palm of his hand. “I need you to tell me, okay? Please, I need to know.”
“I, uh,” she pulled back from him, trying unsuccessfully to clear the tears from her face. “Danny, I wanted to talk to you about this when Rick first talked to me, but I couldn’t. You needed to focus on getting stronger and I didn’t want to worry you.”
“Worry me now,” he pleaded.
“Danny,” the tears dripped from her chin into her lap, where her hands fidgeted incessantly. “I know I should just tell you, I’m just not sure how I…we…I mean Danny, I’m pregnant.”
They sat in unnerving silence as the shock of her revelation sunk in, neither of them looking at the other. Danny felt the swirl of emotions coursing through his body; jubilation, excitement fear, worry. Turning his gaze toward her, he covered her hands with his as a fresh wave of tears fell from her eyes.
“Michelle,” his unsteady voice began. “How…I mean I thought all the doctors said…”
“They did,” she mumbled, finally lifting her head to look at him. “The chances were miniscule…they said it would take a miracle…”
“A miracle?” he repeated in a whisper. He quickly stood to his feet turning his back to her, the haunting images of the past flashing through his beleaguered mind. Michelle pale and lifeless, lying in a hospital bed for weeks fighting for her life. His son all kinds of tubes sticking from his tiny body as he fought for every breath. No, he couldn’t go through that, not again.
He felt her arms slide around his waist from behind, her lips pressing feathery kisses to his bare back. Normally his body relaxed under her soft touch, but his mind wouldn’t let him forget and his body tensed even more as each memory replayed in his mind. “Michelle…”
“Everything’s going to be okay,” she whispered between kisses. “Everything will be okay.”
“How can you say that?” his voice shook as he turned his body to face her. “Michelle, you almost died last time, I almost lost you forever. How….”
“But you didn’t,” she interrupted him, resting her hands on each side of his face. “You didn’t lose me. Honey, I know it was a difficult time, but we made it through that and well make it through this.”
“Can you promise me that?” a solitary tear slid down his face as he jerked away from her. “Can you promise me that what happened last time won’t happen again?”
Her heart splintering upon seeing the torment in his eyes, she reached for him again, but he pulled away, crossing the length of the room to sit on the bed, his back to her.
“Danny, you know I cannot make you those kind of promises. No, it’s not going to be an easy pregnancy,” her feet took slow steps toward him, sitting down on the edge of the bed beside him. She reached for his hands again and pressed their joined hands over the barely noticeable bulge of her stomach. “But this baby is our miracle, a gift from God. After you were…” she swallowed hard around the lump in her throat. “After you were shot, Ray and I had a long talk at the hospital. He told me to hold on to my faith and the day would come when God would send a blessing into my life I didn’t even know I needed. And He has. Danny, I didn’t know how much I wanted…how much I needed this baby until Rick told me I was pregnant. After everything we’ve been through, everything that has happened to us, we deserve this. And no one can take this away from us.”
“I’m afraid,” his voice broke as the onslaught of tears flowed down his face. “I’m afraid of losing you.”
She pulled him to her as they held onto to each other as if they were the others sole lifeline. “You will never lose me. That I can promise you. Whatever happens Danny, you will always have me right here,” she placed her hand over his heart. “And from there, I will never leave you.”
Clenching his eyes shut to keep the insistent tears from escaping any further, he held her tight. He wanted to believe this baby was their miracle, their gift for everything they’ve been through. But he had had so much taken away from him in his life, his grandfather, his father, his grandmother, he knew a piece of him had died right along with all of them. And somehow that emptiness he had felt over losing those people from his life seemed to be filled to some extent with Mick’s reemergence in his life. But Mick was gone again and the emptiness was back. If something happened to Michelle, if something went wrong again he knew there wouldn’t be enough pieces of him left to go on.