Disclaimer: Written with love, not for money
Summary: Well, if I'd tell you, you wouldn't have to read it.... ;)
Trigger-warning: this chapter discusses abuse.
5 days to Christmas
It had felt weird to Kevin to realize that he was in a different country. His journey had been longer than expected. It had taken a long flight to Ontario and a night in a hotel there. And this morning he had continued his journey with another plane, much smaller this time.
The small plane had been piloted by a friend of Chad called Chris and Kevin had appreciated the fact that Chad had made sure that there was someone there to greet him. He had felt a little lost.
Once arrived at his destination, he had had a long conversation with the lawyer of Chad’s deceased uncle. Another person who knew Chad and Chris very well and who had no issues with helping Kevin to get to the house. And now he's finally in front of the beautiful, well-maintained house in the woods.
Kevin had been worried about getting here, because of the snow, but, so far, there hadn't been much snow and the roads had been mostly cleared to a level that people could drive. Only the smaller path from the road to the house had been a bit bumpy with all the frozens snow. But Kevin had survived it so far.
Kevin puts his weekend-bag on his shoulder, but he leaves his suitcase and the bags with groceries on the seat of the rented car. He opens the door to the house, not sure what to expect, but the place looks in good shape, the light is working. It smells fresh and clean, something Kevin can appreciate.
His first place to check is the kitchen. It isn’t big, but it has all the appliances needed. Kevin checks the tabs, glad to see there’s running water. He also finds a full gas cylinder and when he opens it, he’s happy to realize he can cook now. It prompts him to bring in his groceries and his suitcase.
Tonight it will be a quick meal of beans, salad and steak. Yoghurt for dessert. And coffee. Simple. Fast. He's too tired to think or cook. The first thing he does, is make a fire in the fireplace, so he can keep the cold out. Then he does a quick walk-around.
There’s a large bedroom with a double bed. As expected Kevin finds the sheets and blankets where the lawyer had said they would be. He makes up the bed rather quickly. Like this at least he’ll have a place to sleep. He takes a look at the small bedroom, but it’s used of storage mainly, so he closes the door again.
There’s a small staircase to the attic, but the attic is empty, so Kevin keeps the attic hatch closed and locked with a pin. There’s no reason to go up there. He keeps the bedroom door open to let the warmth of the living-room into the bedroom.
The bathroom is bigger than he had expected, but only has a shower, toilet and wash-basin. He tries the hot water, it works, but it’s only a small stream… Sigh. That means quick showers, before he catches pneumonia in this cold. But perhaps he shouldn’t complain. At least he has hot water from …. somewhere? He will check it out tomorrow.
He parks the car in the large shed next to the house, so that it will stay dry and out of the snow and the cold. Once back inside, he finds an old radio and it’s on a radio-station that plays mainly music from the 1950s and early 60s. There’s no television, but he can live with that. There’s plenty of light, so he can read if he wants to and he had bought a book.
Now that he’s finally installed in the place, with food on the table, a book to read, in a warm room and all, the tension of the last few days and journey hits him hard.
After the dinner, he feels alone, tired, warm and… alone… He tries to read, but it’s hard to stay focused on the text. Eventually he gives up. It’s barely 9 o’clock at night, but Kevin is exhausted. He changes into the warm pajamas that he bought in the town, that’s nearby.
He locks up, makes sure that gas, water and all electricity is turned off. By the time he’s finally in bed, he can’t even be bothered to read another page. He turns off the light and he’s asleep before he knows it.
4 days to Christmas
It’s not even 7 o’clock yet when Kevin wakes up. It’s cold in the room, but nice and warm in the bed. He stretches out, searching for Scotty’s body to snuggle up to, but he’s alone in the bed. Andsuddenly the bed feels cold as well in his opinion.
He knows that should actually call Scotty and tell him what’s going on. None of this is Scotty’s fault. And Kevin isn’t angry that Scotty had been too busy with his own work to really listen to Kevin. He knows that Scotty isn’t disinterested in him, but more focused on providing for their little family.
Kevin has no real idea how much his little law-firm is making these days, but he figures that Scotty must make more than he does. That makes Scotty the main provider and Kevin is aware of how serious Scotty takes his job. No, he’s not angry, hurt or disappointed. Not with Scotty anyway.
He’s angry at the judge for making the wrong decision, he’s hurt to think that a young boy’s death could have been avoided. He’s disappointed that the mother hadn’t stood up for her son. And he grieves for the grandparents, who had taken such a risk and now had nothing left, with their grandson dead, their daughter in hospital and their son-in-law in prison.
He feels like there’s more that he should have done. Not even their assurance, that they weren’t mad at him and that he had done what he could, could take away the feeling of having failed.
He throws aside the blankets, immediately regrets the idea because it’s bitter cold in the room, so he wraps the blanket around him. In the living room he makes a fire. By the time that coffee will be ready and breakfast will be made, the room will be more comfortable.
And he’s right. By the time his coffee and sandwich are ready, he can sit in front of the fire and enjoy the warmth that radiates off of it. Having his breakfast in silence is something that he’s no longer used to, so his mind goes back to the court-case that he had lost.
He had made the best case in his life, he’s sure of that. He got the hospital-records that showed that the boy had been there too often. He obtained a letter from the boy’s teacher, how the boy had seemed distracted, often covered in bruises and wearing long-sleeved shirts, even in summer.
There had been police-reports where the police had responded to calls from neighbors about the loud and heated fights from the couple… None of it had helped, there never had been any arrests made. And the mother had refused to admit to abuse. Fighting, yes. Words, yes. Heated moments with a lot of yelling, yes. But no abuse.
Was she really that afraid of her own husband? Had the judge just willfully closed his eyes to the obvious and just preferred to believe her blindly? All the signs had been there! In the judge’s opinion, all the facts could be explained away and without the mother’s support…
But over the last few weeks another question had slowly been set in Kevin's mind. Had he, Kevin, been wrong in reading the signs? Had he perhaps listened too much to the grandparents? Had he been lead to believe one thing to a point that he hadn't been able to see a different explanation?
Kevin sighs and he shakes his head. He should let it go. He had done what he could…. He forces himself to think of some plan for the rest of the day, while he drinks his coffee. Every time his mind goes back to the case, he refocuses on the small tasks. And today Chad’s inherited cabin and whether or not he should keep it, is the task at hand.
Because it’s still very cold in the bedroom he gets dressed in the living-room and quickly washes his face in the bathroom. The place starts to grow on him. It’s smaller than the loft that he used to have when he was just dating Scotty, but right now he doesn’t need much space anyway.
He puts on his winter-coat and his gloves. His scarf covers his nose sufficiently for him to go outside. He takes his notebook and his pencil, knowing that with the cold outside any pen would immediately stop writing. The temperature has dropped considerably since yesterday and the snow is frozen around him.
He takes a walk around the cabin, sometimes taking off his gloves to write. He writes down what it looks like, what needs to be done to the place, the quality of the construction and his estimate of the cost of the repairs. It’s not like he’s an expert of course, but if the barn doesn’t collapse when you kick the wall, it’s a good sign.
He had felt along the windows, when he was still inside, and nowhere had he felt a draft. The paint on the outside looks well looked after. And he’s done enough painting in Ojai in his youth to remember what it’s supposed to look like. Painting the shed had been William’s favorite ‘punishment’ and Kevin and Tommy had put many of layers on the shed.
Though, to Kevin, it had never felt like punishment. Knowing that Tommy would shy away from the shed, when it was Kevin’s turn, for fear of giving his father the idea that Tommy should help, he’d have the place to himself and he had always enjoyed that solitude. Kevin stops walking and looks at the house.
Tommy had hated to waste time painting the shed. He’d prefer to go fishing or hunting with Kitty. Neither of those things had ever interested Kevin who had preferred to read a book or help his mother in the kitchen, backing cookies. If he closes his eyes, he can still smell the bread that Nora would make and he can remember how she’d always put extra cheese on his sandwiches.
He remembers the little stream where he could swim, though it was too dangerous to dive there. He can still remember the sun on his skin, the smell of the dried up grass and being fascinated with ants… And of course there had been the tree-hut… Hot like a sauna in the summer, but the coolest place to be and to feel independent.
Strange, he hadn’t thought of his holidays in Ojai for such a long time. The memories were old and faded and probably not really what happened anyway, images covered with a blanket of love, tenderness, sentimentality and longing for those days when life had seemed such much easier…
The fact that his thoughts can go so easily from the warmth of those summer days to his cynical opinion, makes him pause even longer. When had he become so tough anyway? Why was it so hard for him to just accept the memory as a wonderful one? Why did he have to immediately shoot it down?
Kevin has climbed up a bit along the sloping hill, so he has good view of the place. The land is much wider than he had thought. A gust of cold wind makes him shiver and he knows that he must move on. As soon as he can, he will write a report for Chad, so Chad can make a balanced decision on how to deal with the place.
He’s glad to be back inside and he's surprised to see that a large chunk of the morning is already gone. He had been outside longer than he thought. He opens his laptop. He doesn’t have internet-access here, so he writes all his notes down in Word-file. In all, his plans to deal with Chad’s cabin had taken him more time than he had thought.
And he finds it particularly hard to write an professional review, when he’s actually quite enchanted with the little house. With the first draft written, he finally takes time to eat and have some more coffee. Back in the living-room he realizes that it’s too quiet in the little house, so Kevin turns on the radio.
And it’s back to the music of the 50s and early 60s. The station will go into cardiac-arrest if ever they discover The Beatles, he thinks with a grin on his face. And while Buddy Holly informs him that Peggy Sue got married (though it may just be a rumor) Kevin proof-reads his review.
He adds what the lawyer had told him yesterday about selling the place and how the house itself wasn’t worth that much, but the land on the other hand, was valuable. Personally, Kevin would keep the place if he were Chad. A few years from now, he could get far more money for the place than he does now. But it’s not up to him.
He’s just finished, when he surprised to hear Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons”. For a moment it takes his breath away, because it was one of his dad’s favorite songs and in his mind’s eye, he can see William Walker, sitting behind the wheel of his car, singing along. In fact, he can almost hear William Walker’s voice over Mr Ford’s voice.
His eyes fill with tears at the sudden memory that hits him like a ton of bricks. He can still remember how William, Tommy and he had always sang along to the song as well, on their way to Ojai. Especially if there was just the three of them in the car, because Nora was either already in Ojai with the girls and baby Justin, or she and the others would join them later.
During those trips William had relaxed and he had laughed. They’d stop along the way and have soda’s and hamburgers. And William would clearly enjoy the fact that they were just ‘us men only’. And he can remember how his dad, Tommy and he had always howled along with that last line of the song.
And they’d be totally off-key of course, because none of them could hold a tune if their life had depended on it. And as Mr Ford gets to his final line of the song, Kevin can’t help it, but bellow out:
“I ooooooooowe my soooooooooooooullllllllllllll….. to the company store….”
It sounds obnoxiously loud in the small cabin and Kevin begins to laugh. How long had it been since he had actually sang along with a song? A long time. No doubt. Especially since finding out that Scotty has a beautiful voice of his own, making Kevin even more shy to sing in front of anyone or even alone.
Just as Kevin closes his laptop to let the review simmer for a while, so he can get back to it later on, Elvis Presley kicks in with “I got stung”. Kevin shakes his head. No way! He’s not going to dance to that song. Not ever again! Never, ever, ever…. Regardless of how much he just loves Elvis, he’ll never dance again….
Even now, he still remembers how, at age 11, there would be a school-musical about Elvis. And he had dreamed, prayed and wished to get the role of Elvis, because he knew all his songs (well, some of them) and Elvis was just amazing….
So, he had practiced his dance-moves in front of the mirror until his hips almost fell off and pushed up his lip until he could mimic Elvis' smile rather well. He was going to show the world what a great entertainer Kevin Walker was. It would be glorious!!! Riveting!!!! People would be in tears!!! They’d claim they had never seen anything so fabulous!!!
The day of the auditions, he had to get up in front of their teacher and he had been so excited. And so he got on that stage…. Saw his teacher…. Saw the light-beam on him…. And he froze… No longer remembering what he should sing and definitely not remembering how he should move…. Then the other kids started to giggle…. And that was the end of his dream to play Elvis…
However, here alone in this cabin, he can’t help but get up and his hips have a mind of their own and they start to move as if they remember those long evenings in front of the mirror. Kevin moves to the rhythm…. It’s too bad that the song is too short to really get into it.
But just Kevin wants to sit back down on the couch the radio throws more rock and roll into the room with Bill Haley’s ‘Shake, rattle and roll’, so Kevin swings and shimmies along, throwing his arms in the air at the ‘go!’s and clapping along. By the end of the song he’s out of breath and making a mental note to get back to the gym.
The dancing and swinging has put a smile on his face and he feels like he’s ready to face Scotty. Finally! He turns down the sound and after a bit of hesitation he dials Scotty’s number. But the phone goes to voicemail. Alright. Home-number then…. Answering-machine.
Should he call the restaurant? He turns the phone around and around between his hands. If Scotty is in the restaurant, he might hate it when they end up arguing on the phone, for everyone to hear…. And Kevin wants to talk to Scotty alone and not with the staff of Café 429 listening in….
He puts away his phone, intending to try again later on. He turns the radio back on in the hope that more music will put him a good mood again, but the station has decides to bring out Bobby Goldsboro tearjerker ‘Honey’… And figuring that it will not really help make him feel better, he turns down the sound of the radio.
He considers going into town, but his toes have just defrosted and he feels a bit lazy. So, instead he takes his book, settles on the floor, in front of the fire and he starts reading. But the story, which started off strong, loses its momentum and Kevin’s eyes get heavier with each word, until he finally closes his eyes, drifting off to sleep.
A very loud thud wakes him up with a startle. He blinks a few times trying to figure out where he is. Another loud thud. Someone is knocking… Kevin gets up, feeling all stiff, and walks to door. He carefully opens it somewhat, not knowing who it could be.
“Scotty?!?!?!” Kevin’s jaw drop, when he sees his husband standing there….
END OF CHAPTER FOUR