“We have a lot of recycling this week,” he remarks.
Henry starts picking up blue bags and follows Darrek to the end of the driveway. Setting them down at the curb, he realizes that there are multiple empty liquor bottles in the bags. Coming back into the house and going into the living room, he sees that the bar has been completely cleared out, and there’s not a single bottle of alcohol left.
He looks at Darrek, shocked. “Did you just throw out all your booze? Like, all of it? Because I’m pretty sure that was expensive.”
Darrek nods. “Yes, it was…but losing the trust and respect I have fought to earn from you would cost me far more.” He looks at Henry. “You and Em are more important to me than anything. And you’re both right…I have been drinking too much lately. So I thought I’d better do something about it.”
“This isn’t because I drank your scotch, is it?”
He smiles, “Sort of, yes. I realized that I’m not exactly setting the best example for you of how to cope in a healthy way, am I?”
“I’m not convinced that there IS a healthy way to cope with what’s been going on. I think the fact that none of us have started smoking crack or shooting up is a small miracle.”
Darrek reaches out and puts his arm around Henry’s shoulders. “We do the best we can, always, and we always try to do better. And we stick together, and we look out for one another.” He pauses. “Thank you for looking out for me.”
Henry smiles. “Just don’t start smoking crack instead. I’m pretty sure CYF is already difficult enough without you failing a drug test.”
Darrek laughs. “I’ll take that under advisement…although it sort of brings up something else I’ve been wanting to talk to you about.”
A long, silent moment passes before he begins to speak. “Well…Em and I were talking about the whole CYF situation, and how it stresses all of us out…and we thought if we adopted you, that they wouldn’t be an issue anymore. No more intrusive caseworkers showing up unexpectedly, no more court hearings…” He pauses.
“Look, Henry, this isn’t something you have to decide today. It’s a lot to think about, and I want you to understand that whatever you decide, you’ll still be welcome to keep living here with us, and we will continue to support you in anyway we can. Emily and I…we both care about you, very much…and we would be proud beyond measure to be able to call you our son.” Darrek looks at Henry hesitantly, trying to gauge his reaction.
After another long silence, Henry responds. “It’s definitely something to think about… later, after all this is over, and we know that we’ll even still be alive.” He pauses. “I think my mom and dad…I think they would have wanted that.”
Darrek nods. "Take all the time that you need to think it over. This isn’t a time limited offer…and this also isn’t about what your parents would have wanted, or what I want, or Em, or anyone else. It’s about what you want…and you will have our full and unconditional support, whatever you decide. "
Henry hugs Darrek. “Thanks. Now, I should probably grab something to eat, take Omar for her walk, finish my homework, and then do some magical research. The past few days have proven to me that mini-earthquakes and jets of water are not, in fact, one size fits all solutions to all of our problems.” He starts to head towards the kitchen.
“You feel like Indian food?” Darrek looks slightly embarrassed. “Today’s actually my birthday, and I’m having this insane craving for some vindaloo. I could call in an order for pickup and go get it while you finish your homework.”
Henry nods and smiles. “Indian food sounds great. And happy birthday. I’ll have to go out tomorrow and pick up a present for you.”
Darrek flushes. “You really don’t have to do that.”
“I know. That’s why it’s a present. If I had to, it would be a tax. Or a tribute. Whatever, pick one.”
“A tribute sounds narcissistic, and a tax is just depressing, so I guess I choose the present.”
“Present it is.” Henry checks his phone. “Also, there’s a place on OrderUp that will deliver an ice-cream cake. Ice-cream cake goes well with Indian, right? Too late, I ordered it. It’ll be here in 45 minutes. Hope chocolate’s okay.”
“Hen…ice cream cake goes with everything. Well…except lactose intolerance, veganism, and gluten allergies, none of which exist in this house, thank God.” Darrek grins. “And I love chocolate.”
“Awesome. I’m going to go finish my homework. Let me know when dinner’s here?”
As Henry runs upstairs, Darrek casts a long sideways glance at the empty bar before pulling his phone out to call and order their dinner. A few moments after hanging up with Mintt, his phone rings. He looks at the incoming number and a smile crosses his lips as he swipes his finger across the screen to answer.
“Hello, darling. How are you?”
“Happy birthday!” Emily exclaims. “How’s your day been? I want to hear all about it. What did you do?”
“Got a year older, had tea, read a bit of Aristotle and thought about the meaning of life, prepped for my classes this week, took out the trash, had a nice chat with the boy, and just ordered us some take out vindaloo from Mintt for dinner.”
“How is Henry?”
“He’s fine, he’s upstairs finishing his homework.” Darrek pauses. “When he found out about my birthday, he ordered me an ice cream cake with some app on his phone and is having it delivered to the house. Will the miracles of modern technology never cease?”
“That’s so sweet. I’m glad he got you a cake.” Her voice chokes slightly. “Can you come and see me tomorrow?”
“Of course. How was your day? How are you feeling?”
“I’ve been up and down a lot today. I think it’s because it’s your birthday. I’ve been…really emotional…” Her voice trails off.
“What is it, love?”
She starts to cry. “I want to come home. I miss you so much.”
He swallows hard, pushing back the lump rising in his throat. “I miss you, too. I talked to your doctor this morning and she said you’re making a lot of progress. She thinks you’ll be discharged soon.”
Emily sniffles. “I hope so.”
“You will.” He pauses. “So, I did do something pretty, ehm, radical today.”
“What did you do?” Emily blows her nose. “Are we talking ‘radical’ like some kind of pre-mid-life crisis stunt?”
Her voice sharpens. “What did you do, Darrek?”
“Nothing divorce-worthy, hopefully….I just poured all the alcohol in the house down the kitchen drain.”
There is a long pause. “Even the 25-year Glenmorangie?”
“Yes, even the 25 year Glen.” He lets out a long sigh.
“I’ve been really worried about your drinking,” she says softly.
“I know. And we have more than enough to worry about right now, so…it seemed prudent.”
There is a murmur of a voice in the background. “No, I’m not done with my call yet,” Emily protests. “I’ll go when I’m done.” More murmuring, and her voice breaks. “My husband. I’ve been waiting all day to be able to talk to him. Please…” A pause, and more murmuring. “Yes, I promise, as soon as I’m done.”
“Who’s that? Everything alright?” Darrek asks.
“Yeah, one of the staff just came to get me for group.” Emily clears her throat. “How’s Omar? Is she eating enough?”
“I think that dog’s eaten three times her body weight in kibble today, so I’d say so.”
“Did she bark yet?”
Darrek smiles. “No, not yet. This morning we were having a cuddle and she jumped up all of a sudden and opened her mouth really wide and I thought one was coming…and then she farted.” He chuckles.
Emily bursts out laughing. “That’s so adorable.” She sighs. “And my phone call time is up. I have to go.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Do you really think he’ll like it?” Her eyes look uncertain, anxious.
Darrek nods. “He’ll love it.”
“Hopefully I’ll be home by Christmas to give it to him.”
“You’ll be home long before then.” Darrek moves Emily’s hair away from her face and kisses her forehead.
“What did he say, when you brought it up?”
“He said that he would think about it.”
“I hope he says yes,” she murmurs, resting her head on his chest.
“So do I,” Darrek agrees.
There is a knock at the doorway. Emily jumps, startled. The staff member looks apologetic.
“Visiting hours are over for today, honey.”
Emily wraps her arms around Darrek’s neck, fighting back tears. “God, I hate this so much.”
“Me too. You’ll be home soon, though, and this will all be behind us,” he says softly. “I’ll be by tomorrow before my class.”
Emily nods, then pulls back and kisses him. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” He squeezes her hands before letting go of her. She closes her eyes as he leaves.
As he walks down the hallway of the ward towards the main doors, Darrek hears ranting coming from inside of one of the quiet rooms. He stops, glances in the window, and sees the red-haired man with the strange tattoos he has encountered several times before.
He jumps when a female voice suddenly says in his ear, “Greetings, Darrek Tinsley.”
He spins around and sees a beautiful, red-haired woman standing next to him.
“Have we met? Sorry, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten your name…”
She smiles. “So polite. No apology is necessary. You didn’t forget anything.”
Darrek stares at the woman and can sense that she is not remotely human…and is brimming with power. He takes a small step away from her.
“Who are you?” he asks softly.
She continues to smile at him. “There is no need for you to worry about your wife while she is here. She is under my protection. No harm shall come to her.”
His eyes are confused, but grateful. “Thank you.”
She nods, and then her expression grows sad. “I also want to say that I am very sorry…I wasn’t here when they took Sam.” She looks through the window into the quiet room.
“Do you know him?” Darrek asks.
“You could say that. He’s…distant family.” She sighs. “Anyways, please send my best regards to Anita and Matthew.”
“Who should I say the regards are from?” he asks.
“Oh, they’ll know.” She smiles again. “Goodbye, Darrek Tinsley…and good luck.”
Darrek blinks, and the woman is gone. He shakes his head in disbelief, and heads for the exit.