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Chapter Twenty One
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Chapter Twenty One

Helpless

June 2nd, 1998

Tulsa, Oklahoma

 

          Joni awoke to hear guitar playing coming from downstairs. Isaac was up; she could hear him singing. She got up, and after rubbing sleep from her eyes, reached for her housecoat. Tying the tie around her waist, she headed downstairs and to the living room, where Isaac sat on the couch, his guitar in his lap. He looked up, hearing her footsteps, and gave her a warm smile.

          “’Morning, hun.” He stopped playing, resting his arm on the top of his guitar. He looked up at the clock; it was 11am. “Have a good sleep?”

          Joni wrinkled her nose, noticing the time. She walked into the living room, maneuvering around the boxes still on the floor, and sat down next to her boyfriend.

          After hearing the news from the doctor the week before, Isaac had asked his father to help him in finding a house for him and Joni to live in together. At first, Walker didn’t like the idea of his son moving out of the house at seventeen, but he was easily persuaded when Joni entered the picture. Diana took it the hardest; her first-born child was moving out, but she accepted it, knowing it would happen sooner or later. Nobody wanted him to move out, but they knew for the sake of Joni, it had to be done.

          On Joni’s side, Kaitlynne had, at first, begged Isaac not to take her sister away, despite the fact it was for the best. Jacob had been less than willing to let his niece move in with a boy but, given the circumstances, allowed it to happen. The family would now be a city apart; Kaitlynne and Uncle Jacob were in Oklahoma City, and Joni and Isaac were back in Tulsa.

          Joni and Isaac had only been in the house for five days. Joni felt the five bedroom house was a little too big, but Isaac was not willing to buy a two bedroom house, remembering the time when there were eight people living in one really small house on the outskirts of Tulsa.

          “What’s for breakfast?” Joni asked, yawning slightly.

          Isaac shrugged. “I don’t know; what is there?”

          Joni nudged him playfully; it was the same line every time.

          He laughed, and got up. “Stay here; I’ll fix up something.”

          “What? No, it’s alright…”

          Isaac shook his head. “No, no. I feel like making breakfast.” He grinned, and disappeared into the kitchen.

          Joni cocked an eyebrow, and shook her head. She took up his guitar, and just to tease him, started playing MMMBop.

          Isaac poked his head around the corner, shaking it slightly. “You really like that song, don’t you.”

          Joni laughed. “It’s easy to play.”

          Isaac chuckled. “Yeah, I guess it is.”

          Isaac called her into the kitchen fifteen minutes later; breakfast was ready. She got up, and shuffled into the kitchen. She smiled upon seeing the food on the table; a whole bunch of pancakes.

          “Pancakes de la Isaac,” Ike smirked.

          Joni threw her head back in laughter. “Pancakes de la Isaac?” she repeated. “You’re kidding right?”

          Isaac stumbled, a hand on his chest, playfully. “Well... No more pancake breakfasts pour vous.”

          Joni laughed, and hugged him. “Aw, I’m sorry, babes. Pancakes de la Isaac sounds very nice.”

          Isaac smiled. “Thank you.” He hugged her, and placed a hand over her stomach. He could feel the growth in her stomach; she was now three months. “And besides, you have a little one to feed.”

          Joni nodded. “Yes, so let’s eat.”

          They finished breakfast, and Ike got a call from Taylor telling him to meet him and Zac at the studio A.S.A.P; they’d been called in for a meeting with Mercury. Isaac quickly got dressed, and Joni watched as he shoved his feet into his Nikes.

          “When will you be back?” she asked, leaning against the closet door.

          “Not too late, I hope,” Isaac replied. “But sometimes those meetings can go on longer than need be.” He kissed her. “I’ll call you when I’m on my way home.”

          “Okay,” Joni smiled. “I love you.”

          Isaac smiled. He loved hearing those three little words from her. “I love you too, babes.” He gave her a hug, and after telling her to be good, and begging profusely for the keys to the Mustang, left the house.

          Joni watched him pull out of the driveway in her car, gave him a wave from the doorway, then turned back into the house. She strolled into the kitchen, and put the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. After clearing the table, she went to grab a shower.

          Just after she got out of the shower, the phone rang. Rubbing the towel over her wet hair, she picked it up. “Hello?” She cradled the receiver in the crook of her neck while she dried her hair.

          “Hey, Joni, it’s Allysen.”

          Joni smiled lightly. It had been a long time since she had heard from her. “Hey. How did you know I was back in Tulsa?”

          “Well, I had to do a little phoning around,” Allysen replied. “First, I called your old house, found out you had moved, called the Hansons, was told you moved to Oklahoma City, phoned there, and your Uncle gave me this number.”

          Joni laughed. “Wow. Really?”

          “Yeah,” Allysen laughed. “So, I hear you’ve moved in with Isaac Hanson.”

          Joni smiled. “Yeah. I’m still getting used to it.”

          “Nice. Living the high life now.”

          Joni rolled her eyes. “If you would like to put it that way, sure, but I don’t think of it that way.”

          “Then how do you think of it?”

          “I’ve just moved in with my boyfriend,” Joni answered. “That’s all there is to it.”

          “Whatever.” Allysen shrugged the matter off. “Anyway, I was talking to Kyle, and he’s having a party tonight. He’d like to see you again. Do you want to come?”

          Joni hesitated in answering. She wanted to go to the party to catch up on lost time with Allysen and Kyle, but she didn’t want Isaac to phone and have her not be home. As much as she knew Isaac would kill her for it, she wanted so badly to see Kyle again.

          “Alright,” she answered. “Sure. What time is it?”

          “The party? It starts at seven,” Allysen said.

          “Okay, great. I’ll see you there.”

          “Yep. See you.”

          The girls hung up, and Joni smiled. She had something else to look forward to tonight.

 

          The day went by fairly quick, Joni managing to find a few things to do to occupy herself. She finished pulling her legs into a flowing, knee-length skirt and straightened out the tank top. She ran the brush through her hair, pulling it back into a tight ponytail. She hurried downstairs, realizing if she lingered in the house any longer, she’d be late for the party.

          As she stuffed her feet into her shoes, the phone rang. She sighed in chagrin, and went to answer it. “Hello?”

          “Hey, baby, it’s me.” Isaac’s voice came through the other end.

          “Hey,” Joni replied. “Are you on your way home?”

          He laughed sarcastically. “I wish. I just called to check up on how you were.”

          “I’m good,” she answered. “Listen, I’m going out for the evening.”

          “With who? Where are you going?”

          She mentally cursed his overprotective nature. “I’m going to a party over at Kyle’s.”

          “Kyle’s? You remember what happened last time.”

          “Isaac,” Joni soothed. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. It’s been a couple of months since I’ve seen him and my other friends from school. I won’t drink, I promise.”

          Isaac sighed. He knew he couldn’t stop her from doing something she really wanted to do; he knew from experience. “Alright. Just be careful. And if anything happens, you call me. If I’m not home, call the studio, and I’ll be there in flash.”

          She smiled. Those words he said were true; she had seen it done. “I know. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. Kyle will look after me.”

          “Okay,” Isaac answered. “Well, have fun, and I’ll see you later tonight.”

          “Yep,” Joni smiled. “Love you lots.”

          “Love you more,” Isaac returned.

          They hung up, and Joni hurried out the door. She got behind the wheel of Isaac’s car, and pulled out of the driveway.

 

          She got to Kyle’s house, and found a spot on the street close to the house. The house brought back a few unpleasant memories, but she knew that once she was inside and talking with all of her old friends, she would forget about them. Or as much as she could forget about them. She knocked on the door, and Kyle promptly answered.

          “Joni!” Kyle exclaimed, and gave her a long tight hug.

          “Hey, Kyle,” Joni smiled, hugging him back. She withdrew. “Long time no see.”

          “Tell me about it,” Kyle sighed, letting her inside the house. Over half of the invited guests were already there. He led her to the living room, where the couch still had yet to be taken. He sat down next to her. “How have you been?”

          Joni shrugged. “I’ve been alright.”

          “I hear you’ve moved in with Isaac,” Kyle smiled.

          Joni nodded. “Yes I have, so I’m back in Tulsa.”

          “How are the others?” Kyle asked. “All of them.”

          “Kaitlynne and Uncle Jacob are in Oklahoma City, and are doing well. The Hansons were pretty good when last I talked with them, which was before the move.”

          “Good,” Kyle replied. “Would you like a drink?”

          Joni bit her bottom lip slightly. A stiff drink sounded good; it always did, but she had promised Isaac she wouldn’t drink.

          “You don’t have to have one if you don’t want to,” Kyle said, noticing her hesitation.

          “I’ll just have a pepsi,” Joni answered.

          “Alright,” Kyle smiled. “I’ll be right back.”

          Joni sat back on the couch, and watched as the other party guests stood around talking, while music played in the other room. Her eyes scanned the room, and froze at the doorway between the living room and the dinning room. Tall, broad shoulders, blue eyes, and the darkest hair she’d ever seen. It was him; John. She turned away quickly, hoping to hide her face from his sight, and prayed Kyle would come back.

          “Hey,” Kyle spoke, a smile on his face.

          Joni sighed in relief, and took the glass of pepsi from his hand.

          Kyle sat down again, noticing her expression. What had her so nervous? “What’s wrong?”

          She motioned to the dinning room/living room doorway with her head. Kyle looked over, and immediately knew what it was that had her so nervous. She was afraid of John, and to Kyle, she had every right to be.

          “Don’t worry,” Kyle said softly. “You can hang with me all night if it’ll make you feel any better.” He lay a hand on her shoulder. “I won’t let him near you again.”

          She sighed. “It won’t matter anyway; he’s already left me something to remember him by. He’s already left his mark.”

          Kyle was slightly confused. Besides taking her virginity, what else had John done? “What do you mean?”

          She cringed. Now she had no choice but to tell him. “I guess nobody’s told you.” She paused, looking away. “Don’t say anything to anyone. You’re the only person here who’s going to know.”

          He nodded. “I won’t say anything if you don’t want me to. What is it?”

          Slowly, she brought her eyes to meet his, but only for a moment. “I’m pregnant… with John’s child.”

          Kyle’s eyes widened, and for a moment, Joni saw anger and disgust flash in them. “What?”

          Joni nodded. “That’s why you absolutely cannot say anything to anyone. I don’t want John finding out. I don’t want him hanging around because he has a child on the way. He is not going to be the man to raise it–”

          “Isaac is,” Kyle finished.

          Again, she nodded. “Isaac is,” she repeated.

          “Isaac’s a good guy. You’re a lucky girl to have a guy like him, and I don’t mean it in the celebrity sense. He’s loyal to you, he loves you for you, and will do whatever it takes to keep you safe.” Kyle laughed softly. “Trust me, I know.”

          Joni smiled, having remembered being told about Isaac’s rage towards Kyle the night of the incident until he found out it wasn’t Kyle’s fault. “Thank you.”

 

          The night wore on, Joni, having yet to have an alcoholic beverage and trying to avoid John all night until he found her in the kitchen, laughing with Kyle, Allysen and their other friends. He smiled slyly, knowing she would remember him. All of his women did.

          “Hey, baby.” He spoke in the same deep voice that had won her over three months ago.

          “Leave me alone, John,” Joni said, not bothering to look him in the eye.

          “Awww.” John pretended to sound hurt. “I just came over to see how you were doing.”

          She turned to face him, already getting frustrated and fed up with him. “Well, I’m fine, alright? Now, you can just go on your merry little way, and leave me the fuck alone.”

          When John didn’t move, Kyle stepped up to him. “You heard her. Now go, before I kick you out of my house.”

          John rose his hands in surrender, the evil smile still on his lips. That smile sent shivers up and down Joni’s spine. “Alright.” He looked at her. “I’ll see you later.” And he sauntered out of the kitchen.

          Joni heaved a huge sigh of relief once John had disappeared. “Now, I need a drink.”

          Kyle mixed her a mild rum and pepsi, knowing how her addiction was, and handed it to her. He also knew Isaac would kill him if Joni came home profusely drunk.

          “Thanks.” She took it, and took a long swig. She could barely taste the alcohol, and was going to complain, but realized what Kyle was trying to do. She ignored the lack of alcohol in her drink, vowing to herself to mix her own later on before she went home.

          She finished the mild one, and while Kyle left the kitchen with Allysen to check on some other guests, she mixed herself a stronger drink. She took a sip, and melted into the counter. That felt so much better. She downed the mix quickly, feeling the alcohol affecting her. She was beginning to feel good, but knew she should call it quits. Maybe after one more drink. She mixed herself another drink, and quickly downed it. She blinked as the kitchen suddenly got brighter. She set the glass down on the counter as Kyle and Allysen returned.

          Kyle heard the glass hit the counter in a way that only meant one thing. He passed Allysen a concerned look as they approached the counter.

          Joni smiled at the two as they came up beside her. “Hey.”

          “You mixed yourself another drink, didn’t you,” Kyle said, stating the obvious.

          Joni rolled her eyes. Isaac gave her the same line. “Yes I did,” she replied. “Don’t worry; I’m fine.” She reached for the rum again to mix herself another.

          Kyle held her wrist, while, Allysen moved the bottle away, knowing that’s what Kyle wanted her to do.

          “No, Joni,” Kyle said softly, but firmly. “I know how it is with you; one drink leads to another and another, and another. I know how Isaac is when he’s worried about you, and quite frankly, you’re lucky to have a man like that; however, I do not want to be on the receiving end of his anger, nor do I want you to be.”

          “Kyle,” Joni soothed. “It’s alright. This will be my last one. I promise.” A long silence fell between them. “Please?”

          Kyle sighed, letting go of her wrist. He knew he was going to hate himself for this later. “Alright. But this is your very last one.”

          Joni nodded. “I know.”

          A couple of Kyle’s friends shouted his name from the doorway. Kyle looked back, holding up his index finger signaling them to wait a moment. He beckoned Allysen away from Joni slightly. “I’m trusting you to watch Joni–”

          “Kyle,” Allysen cut in. “I’m not her babysitter. If she wants to drink, let her.”

          Kyle sighed, and pulled Allysen out of the kitchen so he could talk to her more privately. “Allysen, I shouldn’t be letting her drink. I only gave her the one because of John, and she needed to relax. By rights, she shouldn’t even be drinking at all.”

          Allysen cocked an eyebrow. “Why not?”

          Kyle hesitated. Joni had told him not to say anything, but he had to tell Allysen in order to get her to do what he wanted. “Allysen… I shouldn’t be tell you this, but Joni is pregnant.”

          “What?” Allysen asked in joy. “She and Isaac are expecting a child?”

          “Not she and Isaac,” Kyle said. “Do you remember the last party she was at when John raped her?”

          Allysen nodded. “Yeah…” Her voice trailed off as she put two and two together. Her eyes averted to John as she saw him walk through the room to the dinning room. “Oh my God… Her child is John’s?”

          Kyle nodded. “Yes. You can’t say anything to anyone. Joni doesn’t need John being around to help her look after her child. Isaac is going to be the father of her child, not John. But that’s why I shouldn’t be letting her drink, and why I need you look out for her while she’s here. I can’t always be with her, and I can’t expect her to tag along with me all evening even though I gave her the option and it wouldn’t bother me.”
          Allysen nodded, understanding. “Alright; I’ll watch her. And I won’t say anything.”

          “Thank you.”

          “Kyle! Man, c’mon!” was heard from behind him.

          Kyle thanked Allysen again, then turned to his friends, a smile on his face. “Hey guys…”

          Allysen returned to the kitchen, where Joni was downing what was left of her drink.

          “That’s it, missy,” she smiled. “Last drink.”

          Joni laughed. “Yeah, I know.” She checked the clock, realizing Isaac would probably be home. “I should be heading home actually. Isaac’s probably up waiting.”

          “You shouldn’t drive home; I can get Kyle to drive you home,” Allysen offered.

          Joni shook her head. “It’s okay; I’ll be careful. And I have Ike’s car; he’s got mine.”

          Allysen sighed, relenting. “Alright. Just be damn careful.”

          “I will be.”

          Joni left the kitchen, and found Kyle so she could say goodbye.

          “Let me drive you home, hun,” he offered.

          “Oh no, it’s alright. I’ll be alright.”

          Kyle sighed. She was too stubborn for her own good. “Are you sure?”

          She nodded. “Yeah, I’m sure; I’ll be careful.”

          “Alright. Call me when you get home.”

          “Will do.” She gave him a hug, and headed for the doorway. As she got her shoes on, out of the corner of her eye, she saw John standing in the living room, his cell phone at his ear, a sly smile on his lips, looking directly at her. She thought it rather strange, and hoped the phone call had nothing to do with her. Her questioning look quickly turned into a glare. She flipped him the middle finger, and left the house. Except for the bright vision, she felt fine. It wouldn’t be until she got home when she would need to worry. She got in the car, started it up, and drove away.

          She kept her eyes on the road, and obeyed all traffic laws as to not be caught by the authorities. She knew the last thing Isaac needed was for his girlfriend to be charged with drinking and driving. It was the last thing she needed too. If he found out, he’d kill her. At the moment, she cursed herself for her addiction, wishing she had have heeded what Isaac had told her before they’d hung up.

          She blinked hard, trying to keep her eyes focused on the road, and everything around her and the car. She was halfway through an intersection three blocks from her house, and in the split second it took for her to blink, she didn’t see what was coming at her. Another drunk driver was running a red light, and she was caught in the middle of the intersection, obeying her green light. It only took a second for the other driver’s front end to plow into her passenger-side door, sending her car skidding sideways through the intersection. She felt the airbag from the wheel hit her in the chest hard. Screeching tires, breaking glass, and her shrilly scream was all she heard as the car hit the island and rolled over onto the driver’s side. Her vision blurred, and faded to darkness.

 

          Voices swam, and she could hear what sounded like a mix of sirens and a running motor. Where was she? What had happened to her? Why did she ache all over? She could’ve sworn a huge bass drum was pounding inside her head. She forced her eyes open, the lights from above nearly blinding her. A middle-aged man sat at her right, dressed in a blue Tulsa Paramedic uniform, his eyes on a clear plastic bag with liquid inside hanging from a hook. Her left arm throbbed, and when she looked at it, saw a brace surrounding it. Where the hell was she? It took her several moments before everything that had happened came back to her. Her confusion immediately became fear. Isaac would kill her. She sat up, ignoring the jolting pain in her head.

          “I crashed Isaac’s car… he’s going to kill me.”

          A gentle hand from the paramedic touched her shoulder. She grimaced slightly; she ached all over. “It’s alright, sweetie. Everything is going to be alright. You’re on the way to the hospital.” He gently guided her to lay back down on the stretcher.

          She did, but it didn’t terminate her fear. “But I drank… He told me not to… I promised I wouldn’t…”

          “Calm down,” the paramedic soothed. “What’s your name, sweetie?”

          “Joni,” she replied. She knew Isaac would get mad at her for disobeying him. “He’s going to kill me… I did what he told me not to.”

          “Joni,” the paramedic said softly. “No, he isn’t. I think he’ll be more concerned about how you are, not the car, or that you defied him.”

          Defied. There was a strong word, one which described perfectly what she had done; she had defied Isaac’s orders.

          “We’re going to call him once we get you to the hospital.”

          She was at the hospital a few minutes later, and immediately rushed into a trauma room to be looked at. Just as the paramedic and told her, he got her home number, and was calling Isaac, while another doctor contacted Jacob.

 

          Isaac sat at the kitchen table, a bowl of cereal in front of him, waiting for Joni to come home. He finished the last bit of milk from the bottom as the phone rang. He got up and answered quickly, hoping it was Joni.

          “Hello?” he asked.

          “Hello,” a middle-aged man spoke from the other end. “Am I speaking with Isaac Hanson?”

          “Yes,” Isaac replied slowly. What was going on? He didn’t like the way the man addressed him. “Yes, this is Isaac Hanson.”

          A deep breath came from the man. “You’re girlfriend, Joni Donnahue–”

          “What’s wrong?” Isaac cut him off. “What happened? Is she alright?”

          “She was hit by a drunk driver coming home from a party.”

          “What?” Isaac gripped the counter. He didn’t want to believe this was happened. Joni had already been through hell, she didn’t need to go again.

          “She’s alright, Mr. Hanson,” the man assured. “She’s in a bit of pain, and she has a broken arm, but she’s okay. The doctors are taking her up to the OR right now. She’s at St. John’s Medical Centre.”

          Isaac nearly collapsed into the counter. “Oh, thank God…”

          “We have doctors contacting her uncle,” the man said.

          “Alright. Thank you.”

          The man hung up, and Isaac phoned home. His mother answered, and after explaining what happened, he hung up, and tore out the door to the hospital.

 

          In Oklahoma City, Kaitlynne sat up laughing with four of her girlfriends in her room. She was hosting a sleepover while Uncle Jacob slept one floor beneath her. Bowls of chips and pretzels, and half empty glasses of pop and juice littered the room, while music played softly in the background.

          “Hey Kaity,” Kylie piped up. “How’s your sister? Did she move in with Isaac?”

          Kaitlynne smiled. “She moved in with him five days ago. As far as I know she’s alright. It’s really weird though not having her here.”

          “Doesn’t she have an alcohol addiction?” another friend, Julia asked.

          Kaitlynne cringed. She wished nobody else knew about her sister’s addiction. She nodded. “Yeah. Isaac’s looking after her…” She paused, sighing wistfully. “Although, as weird as it sounds, I miss seeing her drinking.”

          The third girl, Greta, cocked an eyebrow. “You miss seeing your sister drunk? I thought you’d be glad not to see her drunk.”

          “I am,” Kaitlynne replied. “It’s weird. I guess I just really miss her.”

          “I know what you mean,” Susan said. “My brother moved out about two months ago; I still miss him.”

          Kaitlynne opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by the phone. She got up and answered it.

          “Hello?”

          “Hello, may I speak with Jacob Donnahue?” the man on the other end of the phone asked.

          “He’s sleeping right now,” Kaitlynne answered. “I’m his niece, may I take a message?”

          “I’m Dr. Londan and I’m calling to tell you that your sister is in St. John’s Medical Centre in Tulsa.”

          “What?!” Kaitlynne exclaimed. “What’s wrong? Is she alright?”

          “She was in a car accident. She’s in surgery right now. The doctors are fixing a broken arm, but other than that, she’s fine,” the doctor answered.

          “Oh thank God,” Kaitlynne sighed. “What room will she be in when she’s out of surgery?”

          “Room 418,” the doctor replied. “By the time you get here, she should be out of surgery.”

          “Okay,” Kaitlynne answered. “Thank you.”

          “You’re welcome.”
          Kaitlynne hung up, and looked at her friends, an apologetic look in her eyes. “I’m sorry guys. You’re going to have to do the sleepover without me.”

          “What?” Julia asked. “What do you mean?”

          “Joni’s in the hospital,” Kaitlynne answered. “I’m going to get my uncle up, and we’re going to Tulsa. You can stay here tonight; you know where everything is. I should be back in the morning.”

          Her friends nodded, knowing Kaitlynne was worried about her sister.

          “Alright,” Greta said. “Say hi to Joni for us.”

          Kaitlynne nodded, quickly throwing a pair of jeans on over her pajama shorts, and grabbing a clean shirt to change into. Not caring she wasn’t alone, she changed her top, and headed downstairs to wake her uncle.

          “Uncle Jacob,” she spoke urgently, shaking him awake.

          “Kaity… it’s one thirty…” he mumbled, nearly incoherently.

          “Joni’s in the hospital.”

          Jacob blinked and sat up. “What?”

          “She was in a car accident. She’s alright, but I want to see her.”

          Jacob nodded. “Alright. Let me get dressed. What about the sleepover?”

          “I told them they can stay here. I don’t want to wake their parents up,” Kaitlynne answered.

          Again Jacob nodded, and slipped out of bed. “I’ll be downstairs in a minute.”

          Kaitlynne hurried downstairs, stuffing her feet into her shoes, grabbing her jacket from the closet. As he had said, Jacob was down a moment later. She pulled his shoes on, grabbed his jacket, and followed his niece out of the house.

 

          Isaac paced in the waiting room, while his family sat anxiously, waiting to hear news on Joni, wishing he was at home his arms wrapped tightly around her. What else could this girl go through?

          Taylor sat uneasy, playing with a lose thread on his shirt. He was anxious about Joni and about seeing Kaitlynne; he’d only seen her once since she moved to Oklahoma City. He missed looking out his living room window and seeing her out in her front yard, playing with her puppy, hearing her laughter on the wind. He also missed watching Isaac walk across the street to take Joni on a date or to take the bottle out of her hand. It felt weird not having Kaitlynne, Joni and Jacob across the street, and not hearing Isaac’s nightly phone calls to Joni, or his almost-constant guitar playing.

          “So, what happened exactly?” Diana looked to her oldest son, adjusting ZoŽ in her arms.

          Isaac turned to his mother. “I don’t know. I know as much as you. All the guy said was that she was in a car accident, she was in surgery, and she would be fine.”

          “Thank God for that,” Walker sighed. “That girl’s been through far too much.”

          Mackenzie wriggled out of Zac’s lap, and tugged at Isaac’s shirt. “Is Aunt Joni okay?”

          The family passed hurtful, sympathetic looks around the room. This wasn’t the first time Mackenzie had referred to Isaac’s girlfriend as his aunt; he had since Ike and Joni had become serious.

          Isaac bent down to his youngest brother, a light smile at his lips. “Aunt Joni will be okay.”

          “Where is she?” Mackenzie asked.

          “The doctors are fixing her and making her all better,” Isaac answered.

          “When will she be better?”

          “Soon, Mackie,” Isaac replied. “Soon.” He gave Mackenzie a long, tight hug. He knew his brother didn’t understand what was happening, yet was worried. That had to be hard on a four year old.

          The family turned upon hearing two sets of footsteps enter the room. Kaitlynne and Jacob stood in the doorway of the waiting room.

          Taylor shot up and wrapped Kaitlynne in a long, tight hug. “How are you?”

          Kaitlynne nearly collapsed into his arms. “I’m alright.” She withdrew. “You?”

          Taylor sighed. “I’m alright I guess. It does me good to see you.” He kissed her.

          “Me too.” She looked to Isaac. “Anything on my sister?”

          Isaac shook his head. “No, not yet.”

          Jacob sighed, sitting in one of the empty chairs. “How long has she been in surgery?”

          Zac shrugged. “She was in when we got here. She hasn’t come out yet.”

          Kaitlynne looked around, feeling helpless; she hated that feeling. “Can this year get any worse?” She paused, trying to keep herself from losing it. “First our parents, then the alcohol…The rape, the divorce, the baby…” her voice wavered. “…And now this.” She felt her eyes growing warm and wet, but made no attempt to wipe the tears away. “What else can happen to her?” The last statement was nearly concealed in sobs.

          Taylor immediately wrapped his arms around her, and guided her to the chairs. She buried her face into his shoulder. It tore him up to know there was nothing else he could do besides hold her and let her cry into him. He had to get her out for some air.

          “Kaity,” he spoke softly. “Kaitlynne,” he repeated when she didn’t look up.

          She sniffed, and slowly, rose her head to meet his gaze.

          “Come on, let’s get something to eat,” Taylor suggested.

          Kaitlynne shook her head. “No, I want to stay–”

          “Kaity,” Taylor insisted. “C’mon, hun. We won’t be long, I promise.”

          She nodded after a moment. “Alright.” She got up, and with Taylor’s hand in hers, left the waiting room.

 

          Taylor and Kaitlynne returned to a full waiting room. Isaac was now awkwardly sprawled across three of the chairs, attempting to get some desperately needed rest. Jessica had her head rested on Zac’s shoulder, while he rested his cheek gently on the top of her head. Diana held a sleeping Avery, while Walker fed a cranky ZoŽ, Mackenzie lay his head on Walker’s lap, and Jacob sat reading an out-of-date magazine.

          As not to disturb the sleeping family, Taylor led Kaitlynne to a chair, hoping their wait would not be too much longer.

          A light rap sounded at the door. Isaac awoke immediately, and shot up, ignoring the head rush and slightly sore neck, and turned to face the doctor, who now stood just inside the room.

          “Where is she? Is she alright?” he asked.

          Dr. Londan nodded. “She’s fine. She’s in recovery right now if you would like to see her.”

          Isaac thanked the doctor and started to leave, but then turned to Kaitlynne. “C’mon. She’s your sister.”

          Kaitlynne smiled, and followed Isaac into the recovery room, to where Joni lay, still asleep from surgery. Kaitlynne swallowed hard, and felt her stomach do a slow, lazy roll. It was weird, and frightening, to see her sister laying helpless, and sedated in a hospital bed, an IV running through her right arm.

          Isaac wrapped an arm around Kaitlynne’s shoulders, bringing her close to him. He didn’t say anything; there was nothing he could say that would make the situation any better. He offered her the chair to sit in, which she accepted.

          Kaitlynne couldn’t believe how helpless Joni looked, her left arm in a cast, the small gash on her forehead, the breathing tube down her throat from the surgery, and the bruises she knew were hidden by the hospital gown. She looked up at Ike, and though she tried hard not to, she couldn’t stop herself from crying.

          Isaac could see the tears building, and as he hugged her, began to wonder if this was a little too much for the thirteen year old to handle all at once.

          “Do you want me to call you when she wakes up?” he asked.

          As much as Kaitlynne wanted to stay by her sister’s bedside, she knew it would be better for her if she did wait with the rest of the family. She nodded reluctantly. “Yeah… Alright.” She wiped the tears from her cheeks. She stood up, and after passing Ike a small smile, left recovery, returning to the waiting room.

          Isaac took the chair, and with his hand cupped in her limp one, waited for her to wake. He could only imagine how she felt right now about what had happened. He knew she was going to feel bad about his car, but he wasn’t worried about a metal frame and wheels. That could be replaced. The life of his girlfriend couldn’t.

 

          It was another thirty minutes before the anesthetic began to wear off, and the nurse came around to remove the breathing tube from Joni’s throat.

          Joni’s head swam; it felt like her head weighed a hundred pounds. Her throat was dry, and she couldn’t stop coughing. She could feel a hand in hers, and knew by the feel of it, it was Isaac. She was both relieved and nervous about him being there. She was afraid he would yell at her for drinking and driving, and for smashing the car, even though she wasn’t at fault.

          She removed the oxygen mask from her mouth, a hard cough wracking her body. Isaac promptly went to replace it, but Joni moved her head away. She couldn’t stand it; it was just getting in the way.

          “Joni…” he pleaded.

          She shook her head, slight nausea sweeping over her momentarily. “No…”

          He sighed, and complied. There was no use arguing with her; she always got the last two words anyway. “Alright.”

          She opened her eyes, cursing her blurred vision. She could barely make out Isaac’s face, and if it wasn’t for the sound of his voice and the feel of his lightly guitar-calloused fingers she wouldn’t know it was him.

          “Ike…” she whispered, her throat sore and scratchy from coughing. She tightened her grip on his hand, and he responded by rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand. “I’m sorry… the car…”

          “Shh,” Isaac soothed, brushing her bangs from her forehead. “It’s okay. I’m not worried about the car.” He smiled softly, unsure if she could quite make out his expression. The slightly glazed look in her eyes told him otherwise. “You just rest. I’m not going anywhere.”

          “Kaity…”

          “She’s in the waiting room,” he replied. “She’s alright. We’re all here.” He kissed her forehead. “You just rest.”

          She nodded. Sleep did sound really good right now. She let her eyes fall closed, and was almost immediately asleep.

 

          She was barely aware of the change of place; when she awoke she was in a semi-private room. Isaac sat in the chair next to the bed, and Kaitlynne was perched at the bottom of the bed. At least her vision had cleared a bit, and she could now make out Isaac’s face. It made her want to cry. The look of pure concern, and pure love was unimaginable.

          The crashed car and the fact that she was drinking and driving hit her again, and she turned her face away, trying to hide the guilt she felt.

          Isaac sighed inwardly, knowing she was still beating herself over what had happened to his car. He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb. “Joni…”

          “Are you mad at me?” she asked, her voice small.

          That question nearly broke his heart.

          Kaitlynne passed Ike a sympathetic look, knowing from years of experience how hard it was to stop Joni from blaming herself for something she was involved in, even if it wasn’t her fault.

          “No, Joni,” Isaac replied, his voice wavering slightly. Shit, he thought. He swallowed, knowing what the upcoming conversation was going to do to him. “I’m not mad at you. Why would I be?”

          “I smashed your car… I drank… I was drinking and driving… you told me not to drink–”

          He nudged her chin to get her to look at him. “I don’t care about that. You drank; so what?”

          She looked away. “But I–”

          “Joni.” He cupped her cheek. “Look at me.” He waited until her eyes were fixed on his before he continued. “I don’t care about that. The car can be replaced; it’s not like I can’t afford another one. You, however; cannot. You cannot be replaced, Joni.” He blinked, feeling his eyes getting hot. His voice cracked as he continued. “I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you. You’ve had one hell of a few months, and whether you know it or not, you’ve taken me along for the ride.” He sniffed softly. “Joni, I wouldn’t trade these last few months with you for all the gold on this earth. I couldn’t bear to lose you; I love you too damn much.”

          Joni found herself at a loss for words, and with wet eyes. “But I defied your orders–”

          “That’s nothing new, Joni,” Isaac smiled. “You defy me all the time. But you know what? I don’t care. All I care about is you, and I am just so damned thankful that you’re alright, and so is the baby.”

          Joni sighed, and nodded. She still cursed herself for what had happened, but knew there was no use in arguing with him. If she did, he would end up sounding like a broken record. She leaned up a bit, and he wrapped his arms around her tightly.

          “I love you, Ike,” she whispered.

          He nearly laughed. She had no idea how good it did him to hear those three little words, especially after everything that had happened. “I love you too, baby.”