Blue sits in the car and tries to catch his breath. So much to process. He knows Clara will take his siblings side and he may have lost her.
“You have me. You have me and Cheryl and Ocean and Mike. We’re your family.” Will says when Blue’s breathing slows.
“I know. That was so hard. It was so hard not to fall into their trap. But I am free and I’m glad they brought it to a head.” Blue says,
“Me too. You did the right thing. They need to sort themselves out and prove to you that they are worth knowing first. You do not need to do any of the heavy lifting.” Will says.
“I am so lucky to have you. So lucky you know me so well.” Blue says.
“Lets go buy some outdoor furniture. I want to study outside while you garden, it is such a nice day.” Will says.
“You have the most perfect ideas.” Blue says.
“I know.” Will grins and Blue sets off amazed at how easily Will can bring up his mood.
“I already have that bench but I guess you want a good table and chairs and a lounger of some sort.” Blue says.
“Can you afford it? I don’t want to spend all your money for you.” Will says.
“I can afford it. We deserve a treat. I have promised myself no cutting corners with my house, I buy furnishings that I love that will last.” Blue says.
Blue and Will find they are very in tune when they shop. Will finds the table he wants at the same time Blue finds a lounger and they turn out to be the same wood, from the same range, They laugh and buy the lot, along with a freestanding hammock they fancy. It is more than Blue had ever planned to spend but he knows nothing else will measure up and he feels like being a little reckless.
“It’s funny you are not a shopper, unless it is baking ingredients but you are very easy to go shopping with.” Will says as they get home.
“I like it when I have a proper goal in mind. And I love being with you.” Blue grins.
“I love being with you too.” Will says and takes a few kisses.
“You will not be doing any lifting.” Blue says as Will tries to help unload.
“You’re right. I feel so good I forgot.” Will says and heads indoors, he checks all around that Clara isn’t there and then exhales and settles down to work in the kitchen.
As Blue is unloading Cheryl and Ocean get back and are able to give a hand putting everything together. Ocean declares the hammock his and settles himself in for the afternoon with books, headphones and a flask of banana milk.
“It’s a good job he got to that before you two did.” Cheryl says with a grin.
“Oh I still have plans.” Will says.
“Please do not elaborate. How did it go with your momma?” Cheryl asks.
“Great and terrible. Did Chris talk to you about what happened to Bea?” Blue asks.
“Yes. He needed an ear to sound off, without breaking his promise not to not tell Clara. We talked about the other things too, about you and the fallout from them going public.” Cheryl says.
“I’m not going to do the triplet therapy with them. I’m not going to have a relationship with them at all, in any form unless they can prove themselves trustworthy. I didn’t tell them that last part. I told them to leave me alone.” Blue says.
“That all sounds very sensible.” Cheryl says.
“I also told momma it was her mess not mine.” Blue says with a grin.
“I have seventeen missed calls from your mother.” Cheryl grins back.
“How did last night go with Mike?” Blue asks.
“I was in with Ocean. It’s funny, he has stayed in his own bed here and has slept well from the start. Usually he isn’t good with change. At the retreat we always have to share the first few nights.” Cheryl says.
“I thought being downstairs had stopped him invading my room. I think he just really likes his room here and feels at home.” Blue says.
“I’ll have to thank Robin and Gervais.” Cheryl says.
“How was gymnastics, he seems exhausted.” Blue says.
“It was a tough session but he loved it. There is another boy his age in the squad which helped. His mom sought me out actually to say how pleased she was that we were there. She seemed nice, we’re going to go for coffee next session.” Cheryl says.
“That sounds good. You’re making friends as fast as Ocean.” Blue says.
“It’s silly but I feel settled here already. I don’t see us going back.” Cheryl says.
“I would love that. We love having you two living with us.” Will pipes up.
“I always expected to relocate up to the lake, live near you guys but it was never the right time. I always had something holding us back, from Ocean’s grandparents to his school and then his gymnastics. Being here I know those were just excuses. I love it there but didn’t want the life your mother had and I didn’t want your life for Ocean. Close but not too close to the city makes here just right.” Clara says.
“Agreed. It’s lucky the gym is this side of the city, for Ocean and Will too.” Blue says.
“And Spence.” Will says.
“Yes and Spence. You three will be able to drive in together and I can just come and get Ocean on his half days. We’ll be able to visit the galleries and museums in the city and have some quality time.” Cheryl says.
“That sounds great. I know you usually take the summer off and was worried we’d be dominating your time too much.” Blue says.
“You’re in better shape than I thought and Nick and Ella have come so far. Young Ollie is a real find too. I spoke with Heidi yesterday and she says Ollie will go back to doing soup on Mondays on the understanding he doesn’t have to do any front of house work. Poor mite had been getting more and more anxious over having to do openings.” Cheryl says.
“Oh gosh he should have said. So the fight was the get out he needed. I’ll go back to doing Mondays too. I did love it in there but I am wary of Heidi. I just feel like I’m losing a friend.” Blue says.
“Give her a second chance. She apologized, she knows she was wrong. She’s a good woman and your instincts weren’t wrong about her.” Cheryl says.
“I guess. I have cheated before and it still eats me up. It was her reaction to being caught that bugs me so much. Still we work well together.” Blue says.
“You do. The menus you have done for the parlor event evenings and kids parties are great. And her bread with your soup is such a winning combination.” Cheryl says.
Blue looks up to see Clara hovering.
“How much of today was to persuade me to go to therapy and how much was to teach them a lesson?” Blue asks and Clara gives a small smile before tentatively sitting down.
“Where are they?” Will asks.
“They’ve gone to a movie. Thought they needed some distraction.” Clara says.
“Blue took me to a movie last week. It was so fun.” Ocean says getting up from the hammock and sitting on Blue’s lap as a protective barrier.
“Have you settled in okay?” Clara asks.
“We’re staying forever. We like it here. Mommy is going to marry Mike and I am going to live here and look after Blue.” Ocean says and they all laugh.
“Am I not doing a good enough job?” Will asks.
“You are away too much and it makes Blue sad.” Ocean says.
“I think your mom might miss you. Maybe you can do one week with me and the next with your mom.” Blue says.
“Yeah. I like that. I love it here and I love the farm too.” Ocean grins snuggles closer to Blue happy and secure that he won’t have to move if his mom gets married.
“You and Mike?” Clara asks.
“Have had one date.” Cheryl laughs.
“And we had a sleepover last night. Me and mommy had Larry’s room which was really cool. Do you want to see my room here?” Ocean asks.
“Maybe later, I need to talk to Blue right now.” Clara says.
“Come on, lets go check on the chickens and plants, leave them to the boring talking.” Will says.
“I can tell you all about my new routines.” Ocean says happily.
“He’s so easy going.” Clara says with a smile.
“He has adjusted so fast. It might be different in a few weeks when he really misses home. But for now he fits in, is making friends and is loving all the attention he gets from his big brother.” Cheryl smiles.
“And you are happy here?” Clara asks.
“Very. Blue and Will have made us very welcome, we never felt like guests or like we were intruding.” Cheryl says.
“You’re family. But enough small talk. Momma lay your cards on the table. I knew when you stood with me to order lunch that you were using me to teach them a lesson. There is no way you want someone studying our family dynamic. You are lucky I have Will because when we left I was a mess and thought we were done, again.” Blue says.
“I knew you’d work it out. I trusted that me not reacting to your stream of insults clued you in. And I imagine it felt pretty good to get all that out. I know I am not blameless in this whole mess, But I also know that I am not to blame for how they were raised or what they have done to you.” Clara says.
“That is debatable.” Blue says.
“You have to remember that without them you wouldn’t exist. If Lana hadn’t been so desperate for a baby we would never have become a family unit. I would never have made organic baby food because I wouldn’t have had a baby. The retreat would have folded 20 years ago and all the people we’ve helped would be struggling. Katelyn well it doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened to her.” Clara says.
“I have been thinking of the good. If I hadn’t you wouldn’t be sat here. And I get it. Paul tried to ruin your life, and you rose from the ashes. That led to Paul being jealous of your success and ruining his children because of his greed and need for revenge. They in turn were jealous of me and tried to ruin my life which has only pushed me to greater success. I get it, you’re trying to get them to break the cycle. I admire you for persevering because I don’t think I could.” Blue says.
“Letting them go wouldn’t be a failure. They were never your kids, not really.” Cheryl says gently.
“They were always my kids. Blue is right, once they came to me for child support I should have pushed for visitation. But I was selfish, if I had visitation with them then Lana would want visitation with Blue and I wanted to keep Blue away from them, to keep him for myself.” Clara says.
“We can’t change any of it. You need to stop pushing Blue away and manipulating the others to make them think you are now choosing them over Blue. We both need to remember Blue is a grown man living his own life but he still hurts when his mother rejects him or belittles him.” Cheryl says firmly.
“It isn’t so bad now. I’m not depressed right now and that means I see things more clearly, react less emotionally. I can stand up to you and know the world won’t end. But Cheryl is right, please stop using me to manipulate them. Holding me up as an example just makes them hate me more and feel worse about themselves. And using them to manipulate me doesn’t work anymore, as they have no hold over me.” Blue says.
“I want them to feel bad about themselves. They have to take some responsibility for themselves and their actions, they can’t blame me and Paul forever.” Clara says.
“But you can’t set the timetable. Let them discover it all in therapy. You and Cheryl have done what you can, they are open to help which they weren’t a year ago. You have to stop fucking with everyone and just let us be. If you love us then love us consistently and equally.” Blue says.
Cheryl gives Blue a big grin of encouragement. In just a few months he has become so much stronger.
“What are they doing for the summer?” Cheryl asks.
“I would like Chris to intern with a vet down here but I know that is a bad idea for you and Andy. So he’ll be up at the lake. Incidentally Birch will be also, working with Roe on the arts program at the retreat. Bea well I’d like her to get some intensive inpatient treatment but I don’t think she’ll agree. So I expect more travel, some with me. Both she and Chris can work with their therapists via Skype or the like.” Cheryl says.
“So Bea doesn’t have to work or volunteer?” Blue asks.
“She still needs time off. Stop being jealous, it was your choice to leave college, if you were still studying you might have had this summer free too.” Clara says.
“I know. I was just saying, as it was the insistence on volunteering that sent Bea off her rocker last time. Feels like you’ve given in to her tantrums.” Blue says with a grin and Clara laughs knowing he isn’t entirely serious.
“I can’t believe you two are chatting as if this morning didn’t happen. Blue was a total mess when we came out the bakery. He thought he had lost you for good.” Will says coming back with Ocean close behind.
“I’m not sweeping it all away. Every visit momma and I seem to be starting over, with a new level of issues but also understanding. She’s not asking me for anything and is fully supportive of my stance on therapy and my lack of relationship with Chris and Bea.” Blue says.
“Ahh it was about them and not you. Please don’t do that again.” Will says to Clara.
“I am glad he has a boyfriend who will stand up to me.” Clara says.
“Are you going back to school with them?” Blue asks.
“No, I am staying here through next weekend for the market and will go back with Andy and stay with Spence until Katelyn arrives. Roe and I will come up here while they are on holiday, if that is okay? We’ll stay here for the opening and then go back with Birch and Chris.” Clara says and Blue nods.
“Roe and Katelyn are always welcome. I might ask Robin and Gervais to stay with Tad for a few days or something to make room.” Blue says.
“We’ll work it out, you boys will squish up no doubt.” Cheryl says unsure how she’ll feel about Roe being here, now she’s with Mike.
Clara leaves shortly afterwards and Blue and Ocean make dinner. Mike comes down to join them and they again dissect the day.
“Is your mother going to be a liability in the soup and community businesses?” Mike asks.
“I don’t think so. She is only a nightmare manipulator with family.” Blue says.
“Agreed. And she was the one who pushed it to happen. She manipulated Blue to get it started but has been totally professional since.” Cheryl says.
“I just worry about the effect on Blue. I’m always here when you need a chat.” Mike says and Blue smiles.
“You four are my family and that doesn’t change whatever my mother is doing.” Blue says.
“That’s right, you’re always my bested big brother.” Ocean says with a grin. He hates all the adult stuff going on. He likes Clara but knows she can be mean to Blue. He doesn’t know why anyone would be mean to Blue,
“You’re the best little brother I could ask for.” Blue grins.
“I am.” Ocean grins.
“I wish my two got on as well as you do.” Mike says.
“They should try yoga.” Ocean says.
“Thanks for dinner I’m going to head upstairs and get a few more hours in.” Will says kissing Blue’s cheek.
“Sorry we’ve messed your studying up.” Blue says.
“I’m doing okay. I’m not that behind, I think my papers are all done. I’m making sure I’ve handed everything in and am ready for finals now.” Will smiles.
“Good.” Blue smiles and squeezes Will’s hand.