Sandy stirred and rolled over, his left arm instinctively reaching toward Kirsten's now-empty side of the bed. For the fourth day in a row he groaned aloud and briefly weighed the option of going back to sleep. Ceding to the reality that it would be an exercise in futility, he thought to what lay ahead of him. Maybe there would be some decent waves today; maybe Seth would babble less today; maybe today would be the day for Ryan to leave the pool house; maybe today Julie would let him see Marissa and he could actually make some headway on her case; maybe…
Sandy’s eyes popped fully open despite the disturbingly bright sunlight beaming through the window. Today was the first day Kirsten was permitted phone privileges; that was no maybe.
Regardless, the first order of business was the same as always: to surf.
When Sandy reentered the house through the kitchen around nine o’clock, he was met by Seth’s now-standard barrage of words. “Hey, Dad, how are you this morning? Anything I can do for you? How’s Marissa’s case coming? When do I need to testify? Do you need me to call Summer? Have you heard anything about Mom?”
“It‘s okay, son.”
“Today’s the first day I’m allowed to call your mother, and, well, I’ve gotta tell her about…”
“Yeah.” Seth nodded slowly and Sandy took the opportunity to study his son, noting the bags under his eyes, the greasy condition of his hair, and his attire, which consisted of the same pajamas he’d put on four nights prior layered under his bathrobe.
“Hey, Seth, have you considered--” The doorbell rang. “Forget it.”
“I’ll get it, Dad.”
“Thanks, son.” Sandy poured himself a mug of coffee and listened to the sound of the door opening.
“Hey, Summer,” he heard Seth say; he’d heard the same words a thousand times before and somehow the fact that his inflection was still the same seemed incongruous with their current situation. Sandy knew he should be thinking optimistically, at least for the kids’ sake, and Marissa’s and Ryan’s cases were not at all the hardest he’d tackled, but the emotional damage… he found himself staring into the garbage disposal, reminded of the carnage of the past Valentine’s Day.
“Oh, Cohen,” Sandy heard Summer exclaim. “You told me that last time was the last time I’d see you like this… When was the last time you slept? And, ew! Go shower, like, now.” After a pause, “I mean it, Seth!”
He heard the sounds of Seth grumbling as he ascended the stairs and the click of heels on tile as Summer walked through the foyer and into the kitchen.
“Oh, good morning, Mr. Cohen. How’re you doing?”
“I’m alright, Summer. And yourself?”
“I‘m fine.” Summer busied herself with procuring a bagel.
Sandy passed her the slicer. “Really?”
Summer lowered her voice. “Look, Mr. Cohen. I really appreciate the whole ‘Dad’ act, but I don’t talk about feelings.”
“Well, all right. But if you do want to talk…”
Summer rolled her eyes. “I know, I know, I can talk to you, I can talk to Seth, hell, I can talk to Chino!” She positioned the bagel and slammed the slicer down.
Sandy defensively backed up. “I’m just going to go see if Ryan’s awake.”
Ryan was either asleep or faking it and Sandy didn’t want to push his luck, so he re-entered the kitchen, now thankfully empty, and pushed some buttons instead.
“Julie! Just the woman I wanted to talk to.”
“Listen, Sandy, I really appreciate what you’re trying to do for Marissa but I really think it’s best that she have some space now to deal with everything.”
“Julie, if I can’t talk to her, the only space she has is going to be a prison cell. Is it okay if I come by later?”
When he heard Julie sigh, Sandy knew he had struck gold. “Fine, Sandy. How does one o’clock sound?”
“If it works for Marissa, it works for me.” He hit the ‘off’ button.
One down, one to go.
The bed was soft, tastefully decorated, and entirely impersonal. Kirsten lay atop it, reading, when a mild-mannered orderly knocked on the frame of her open door.
“You have a phone call. If you could follow me?”
The phone was in an alcove near the front desk, so her conversation could be monitored to ensure she didn’t ask for anything she wasn’t allowed to have. She sat in a plush, maroon chair and picked up the cream-colored receiver.
“Kirsten? Oh, it’s good to hear your voice.”
“Yours, too.” After the rich tones of her husband’s voice, her own sounded thin to her ears. “How are you?”
“I’m all right.” Leaning against the counter, Sandy reasoned to himself that it wasn’t a total lie. He was busy and a little bit in shock and missing his wife, but all three were temporary conditions and as a lawyer, he thrived on technicalities. “How are you?”
“I’m… going to be okay.”
“Well, don’t sound so surprised! So what have you been up to?”
“I’m in rehab, Sandy.” Kirsten’s voice was dry, and Sandy could hear the wry smile in her voice.
“Yeah, well… do you like the doctors?”
“They’re fine, Sandy. I really want to hear about what’s going on there. How are the boys? What’s new?”
Sandy went with the last question first. “Julie Cooper is being a pain in my butt, but I guess that’s not really new, is it?” He smiled, hearing Kirsten’s chuckle. “Yeah, um… Marissa’s in a bit of legal trouble and Julie won’t let me talk to her. Actually, I guess Ryan is, too… in legal trouble, I mean.”
“What? Sandy, what happened?”
“Well, um, I guess it all started when we were in Miami. Apparently Trey was under the influence of something not entirely legal and tried to rape Marissa, who was drunk but managed to hit him with some driftwood-- they were on the beach. Marissa just told Summer, I guess right after your father’s funeral, and Summer told Seth and Seth felt that he couldn’t not tell Ryan. Ryan… flipped out. Attacked Trey. Trey nearly strangled Ryan and was about to bash his head in with… a phone? And… there was a gun. We’re still not sure whose it was and how they got it, but Marissa shot Trey. In the back. So Ryan would live.”
“When I was on the way home from Suriak.”
“Why didn’t you call?”
“Detox. No calls for three days. Believe me, honey, I tried.” The timbre of his voice incited homesickness that burned in Kirsten’s chest; she could picture his exact expression, the raised and narrowed eyebrows, the eyes pleading, ‘You have to believe me.’
“The boys are okay?”
“Everyone’s fine except Trey. He’s…” The call waiting beeped. “I’ll ignore that. Let it go to voicemail. The bullet went clean through. Lodged in the carpet three inches to Ryan’s left. Kid got lucky.”
“Can I talk to him?”
“He’s not doing much talking these days, but when has he ever?” Kirsten chuckled and it almost felt like normal “Let me go out and find him.”
He rapped on the pool house door. “Ryan? Phone. It’s Kirsten.” He heard the sounds of Ryan moving and the door swung open. Ryan wordlessly accepted the phone and as the door swung shut, Sandy heard him answering, “Hello?”
Sandy sat down at the edge of the pool and swung his bare feet in the water with no concept of the passing of time until the heard the pool house door open and Ryan’s steps towards him as the phone was again handed off wordlessly.
Her voice was thin and shaky but brimming with conviction. “I want to come home, Sandy.”
“You can’t, Kirsten. You’ve got to get better.”
He realized that she was crying. She began to shout. “Let me come home, Sandy! I want to come home! The boys need me!”
“What the boys need is for you to get better and that can’t happen here!”
Sandy heard muffled voices around her and realized she’d probably caused a scene. “No, dammit!” It wasn’t directed at him. “I’m talking to my husband! No! Sandy!”
“Kirsten?” He asked frantically.
“Hi, Mr. Cohen, I’m Dr. Smith. I’m going to take Kirsten for an individual session now and after she’s calmed down she’ll call you back. Is that all right?”
“Yes, that’s fine.” Sandy wasn’t sure where his voice had come from. The line went dead. Sandy lay back, arms splayed out to the sides. He let his whole body go limp and the phone rolled away from his grasp.
He hadn’t gotten the chance to tell her that he loved her.
Around midnight, Sandy lay back on the bed, exhausted after two extremely trying conversations with the two most demanding redheads he knew… not that he knew many redheads.
Julie Cooper, or Julie Cooper-Nichol, or Julie Cooper nee Cooper-Nichol, truly was a dragon lady, but Sandy had finally plunged a proverbial sword into her belly and rescued Marissa from the castle. He had made some real progress on the case and between Trey’s prior record, the cocaine found in his system during the autopsy, and the testimonies of the four teens, it seemed unlikely that Marissa would face anything more serious than probation or community service
Lindsay, whether she liked it or not, definitely had some of Caleb Nichol in her. It seemed that between Kirsten’s drinking, everyone’s concern about her drinking, and then all that happened with Trey, no one had notified Lindsay of Caleb’s death. If Lindsay hadn’t read the paper the morning after Caleb’s funeral, she would never have known that her biological father was dead. It had been Lindsay on call waiting while Sandy was on the phone with Kirsten. Sandy had spent a good deal of the afternoon on the phone with her, alternately explaining and consoling.
Sandy’s musings were interrupted by the ring of the telephone.
“Kirsten! How are you?” Surprised, Sandy sat up in bed.
“I’m sorry.” She sounded like a child.
“No, honey, it’s all right. I’m sorry. I should have broken it to you more gently. I just... I didn’t know../”
“It’s fine. Anyway, I have to go because one of the nurses might catch me… This reminds me of that summer, when you interned at a law firm in Newport so we could spend time together…”
“And I’d have to sneak out almost every night. That was the real reason your father hated me so much.” They both chuckled.
“I miss him, Sandy.”
“I know, and he’d better not be able to hear this, but I kind of miss him, too.”
“Oh, Sandy… You’ll call me tomorrow, right?”
“Of course! I love you, Kirsten.”
“I love you too.”
“Goodnight, sweetheart,” he said.
Sandy gently placed the phone back into its cradle.