Later that evening, the Quinn’s played host to Steve and Hayley Anders. While Jason, Steve and Lisa’s husband Bobby were watching movies up in Jason’s loft apartment, Hayley spent her time cooing over baby Tommy and chatting with Lisa, a girl she had grown closer to since Aracely had started seeing her less and less.
“So you think Aracely and her parents will work things out?” Lisa asked as she watched Hayley looking affectionately at the sleeping baby boy in her arms.
“With her parents, no doubt,” she replied. “It’s with Jase that will take some time.”
“Yeah. All good things…” Lisa muttered, shaking her head. “Do you remember what it was like when all we had to worry about was whether or not we’d get asked to prom, or if we could score tickets to the Backstreet Boys.”
Hayley laughed and nodded. “Yes, yes. He just needs to realize that he needs to be patient now.”
“Patience will only go so far with a man that almost died for his country,” Lisa said truthfully. “He’ll wait, bide his time. But Aracely needs to wake up and smell the coffee sometime soon, because there are plenty of other girls in this town that would love a crack at my brother. You know that Stephanie Miller tried coming onto him while he was clothes shopping… that skank is so pathetic.”
“Yeah, well, the time while he was away, she was too dealing with her own traumas – and I count that asshole as one. I still don’t understand what she saw in him.”
“You’re telling me,” Lisa grinned. “So what did Doctor Goodman say at your last checkup? Everything okay?”
“Other than trying not to stress myself out, she said everything has been going well,” she replied. “I just want to be able to see my feet again.”
“And how’s Steve coping with everything? Bobby was a nervous wreck when the bump started to show… it’s like it became real for him then. Like my morning sickness, mood swings and cravings weren’t bad enough.”
She thought about it and shrugged. “He was okay with it I guess. I know he did try to keep the diner open longer, offer a little more where he could to make more money after it was confirmed but for the most part he’s been a champ.”
“You lucked out with him, who would have thought that the kid that convinced my brother to nuke my barbies in a microwave would grow up to be such a responsible guy,” Lisa grinned. “I still owe him some payback for that too…”
Hannah had been passing through the room when the phone rang. Answering it as she was closest, she looked confused for a moment. “Ma!! It’s for you!” she screamed.
“Who is it?” Rita asked as she put down the pink sweater she was knitting for Hayley’s baby.
“I dunno. Lady is crying hysterically,” she shrugged as she went to look in the fridge for something to snack on.
Frowning, she took the phone from her daughter. “Hello??? Oh Jennifer… what’s the matter sweetheart?”
As Rita walked through to the kitchen, Lisa frowned at Hayley. “Maybe things didn’t go so well after all with Aracely and her parents. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard Mrs Blevins cry. She’s tough as old boots.”
“Who knows. Considering that it seemed that she came really close to losing her completely, I’d be crying too,” she said as she tried to peek around the wall from where she sat.
“Do you think we should go find Aracely? See if she’s okay? I’m sure Jason won’t mind us borrowing his car,” Lisa suggested, worried for her friend.
“Wait and see what your mom has to say,” Hayley replied. “You never know.”
“Yeah, I guess your right. But to break-up with your boyfriend and have it out with your parents and your best friend in the same day must take its toll. I hope she’s okay.”
“Well, any other time I would have suggest that we drive out to the city and hit a bar or two to drink it off and crash in a hotel overnight but you and I aren’t in the position to be able to get drunk with her,” she pouted.
“To be honest, I don’t miss the drinking so much. I mean there are days, like today when I think a nice cold beer would be just the ticket to fight the head. But when I look at my baby boy, being stone cold sober for 8 months or so really doesn’t compare,” Lisa explained. “What really got on my nerves was how my Dad would take Bobby to Joe’s… sure, he put the bun in my oven, didn’t have to put up with what comes with it… the sickness and all, and yet he can go out with the old man for a few cold ones.”
“So that’s really it? It’s over!?!” Rita whispered, sparing a moment to look out at Lisa and Hayley who were both chatting away about their husbands and their parenting responsibilities. “Did she say why?”
‘She explained that when he said he wanted her to drop everything and run off with him to that Doctors program, it was the last straw but I think there was even more than that. She wouldn’t say otherwise. Just that she told him to have his things out. Mark just went with her back to the house to get some things so that she could stay here tonight,’ Jennifer replied on the other end of the phone.
“Well that’s good, at least she’s home with you for a while. It’ll help her get through it,” Rita replied. “Tell me to mind my own business Jen, but I could ask Lisa and Hayley to go over. With her friends and her mom there, she might feel better?” Maybe it was wrong to suggest it, maybe Mark and Jen needed some time with their daughter to reconnect. But she cared for that girl as if she were one of her own.
‘Oh dear, she is actually doing quite well. She spent some of the afternoon with Hayley and Steve after closing the office early. If you want to call back later when they get back, to see, I’ll ask but I have the feeling she just wants to let go and relax a little with some quiet time.’
“Okay Jen, we’ll give her some space,” Rita’s tone was an understanding one. “But if you guys need anything, some cake, a friendly ear, you know where we are.”
‘Thanks hun. I know she is going to be working a lot more now that she is by herself. I don’t think she wants to look for more help quite yet. It’s not like its a completely busy office since that fool came with her. I may help her out with some of the office work though.’
“I think that once people hear that he’s gone… and with this town, it’ll be sooner rather than later, her patient load is gonna sky rocket. Just be sure to tell her not to work too hard, because if she does, she’ll have two concerned mothers to worry about,” Rita smiled. “Give our love to Aracely and Mark, and I’ll see you tomorrow for a coffee.”
‘I will Rita. Now maybe Jason and her will finally move on together like they should have ten years ago. They both are as stubborn now as they were as children. Worse even! Anyhow, I think I hear the car in the driveway. I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye now!’
As she hung up the receiver, Rita let out a sigh of relief that had been building up ever since Eric Saunders had got his claws into Aracely. Her knitting forgotten for the moment, she went back through to the living room with a beaming smile on her face.
“Mom? Is Mrs Blevins okay?” Lisa asked, “Hannah said she was crying?”
“She’s fine dear… in fact she hasn’t felt this good in a long time. Aracely stopped by earlier tonight and they talked things out,” Rita smiled.
A smile crossed Lisa’s lips as she too breathed a sigh of relief and glanced at Hayley before looking back to her mother. “Are they okay?”
“They’re fine sweetheart, they’re just taking things one day at a time,” Rita explained. “I’m sure Aracely will fill you in better than I can, but she’s going to stay with her parents for a few days while that fool slithers his way out of town.”
“Finally,” Hayley sighed with a smile. “I think everything will be better soon as soon as she gets herself back together.”
Just as soon as she had said it, a brick came crashing through the bay window causing all three women to scream. Hayley instinctively covered herself and baby Tommy as Lisa and Rita both ducked for cover. Tommy also began screaming at the top of his lungs, having been woken up by the smash. A few moments later, Tom came through into the living room looking worried.
“Is everyone alright?” he asked as he snuck up to the window to look outside. “Rita… call the police.”
She grabbed the phone and dialed quickly, talking to the officer on the other end. “No, no one has gone outside. Everyone is inside – no, no one is hurt… Everyone alright? Do they need to send medical help?” she asked looking around before turning back to talking to the dispatcher.
Lisa grabbed her cell phone and instantly called Jason’s phone.
“Jason Quinn! G-ger out ‘ere you son of a bitch!” Eric Saunders shouted at the top of his lungs. The mixture of strong painkillers and a cheap bottle of scotch hadn’t done him any favours. As he stumbled around outside, he also tossed the glass bottle against the front door.
“You hear me you home wrecking bastard! Get your ass out here so I can kick your ass!”
“HEY!” Jason growled as he sprinted toward the drunken doctor from the barn, tackling him to the ground. “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing!?!” He straddled the struggling Doctor’s hips and punched him square in the jaw. “Calm the fuck down!”
Steve and Bobby came running up to the house breathlessly, both men more concerned for their families than what Jason was about to do to Saunders.
“Hayley! Are you guys okay in there?” Steve shouted through the window, hoping to god that nobody was hurt because if they were, he had no doubt that Jason would kill Saunders.
“Yes! We’re fine!” she called back as she stayed in the back room where they retreated in case there were more things being thrown.
“Oh thank god…. stay in the house okay? Just until the Sheriff arrives!” he said as he looked back to find Bobby trying to pull Jason from the Doctor.
“No shit!” Hayley answered as she watched Rita hang up with the station and dialed another number, assuming the Blevins household.
“Come on man, he’s out, let him be,” Bobby said as Jason shrugged him off.
“He stays here until he’s in cuffs,” Jason growled as he got a whiff of the cheap yet strong booze on Saunders’ breath. “The son of a bitch could have hurt my family! Hell, he could’ve killed someone on the drive over.”
Bobby looked up to find Saunders’ SUV, the drivers door was wide open and the engine was still running.
That’s when it dawned on him. “Steve, tell my mom to call Aracely’s cell, check if she’s okay!”
Steve nodded and went into the house, he couldn’t stand by while his pregnant wife was probably scared out of her mind.
“Bobby, go in the house and see your wife and son, check if they’re okay,” Jason told his anxious looking brother in law.
“I’m not leaving you alone with him,” Bobby shook his head, knowing just what a trained marine was capable of.
“Then send my father out,” Jason replied, “My sister and nephew need you right now.”
Reluctantly nodding, he followed Steve into the house. A moment later Tom emerged.
“The sheriff’s on his way son,” the elder Quinn announced. “What possessed him to do such a stupid thing?” He already knew the answer of course.
“I don’t know Dad, last I heard he was told to get out of town, I’m wondering how the fuck he broke his hand though…” Jason frowned. “Is Aracely okay?”
Tom smiled, “She’s fine son, she’s with her parents… though it’s my bet they’re on there way here by now.”
Jason sighed, “Wonderful… when she finds out I punched him out…”
“You did what you had to do to protect your family, she’ll understand,” Tom replied, “And if she doesn’t she can take a look at the damage that this prick caused and judge for herself how my grandson could’ve been hurt.”
With that, the Sheriff’s patrol car sped down the track leading to the main road and came to a stop outside the house. “Tom,” Sheriff Rickman said as he got out of his car, “What the hell happened here.”
“This bastard happened here,” Jason growled as Saunders began to stir.
“Is that Saunders… what the hell is going on?” Rickman’s eyes went wide.
It was only a minute or two longer than the Sheriff’s arrival that Aracely and her father got to the Quinn house. The passenger door flew open and she jumped out and made her way over to the group outside. One glance at the house and each person was she able to piece it together quickly.
“Was anyone hurt Tom?” Rickman asked as he helped Jason hoist the Doctor up. “Other than this clown.”
“No, but everyone’s pretty shook up,” he explained as he looked over at Aracely, “I’d feel a whole lot better if you checked them over though, Doc.”
She looked from him to Eric and back before nodding. “Yeah, sure. But he’s going to need to be taken over to County,” she said to the Sheriff, a round about way saying that she wasn’t going near him herself and headed off inside.
“I’ll call it in,” the Sheriff replied as Jason took the Doctor’s full weight. Shaking his head he snatched up the radio in the patrol car. “I always thought he was a dick… I never expected him to do something like this though.”
Inside the house, Lisa was rocking a still crying Tommy back and forth as she paced the dining room “Ssh honey, it’s okay…” she whispered, but the only thought running through her head was what if the Doctor’s aim had been better than it was. Both Hayley and her son could have been seriously hurt.
“I hear a healthy set of lungs in here,” Aracely commented as she slowly peeked around the doorway and looked around.
“Oh, Aracely dear, come on in,” Rita said as she stalked over to the girl and hugged her tight. “Are you okay?”
She hugged the woman back and nodded. “Yeah, should have expected something like this but I didn’t think,” she sighed. “Did anyone get hurt? Any glass scrapes?”
“No honey, we’re all fine, thank god,” Rita announced, “And don’t you go blaming yourself for this either. I know you too well. This is all on him. I hope that Sheriff Rickman hits him with the full force of the law for this. What was going through that fools mind that made him thing to do this?”
“Calm down Mom,” Lisa sighed, “The Sheriff’s taking care of it.”
She didn’t want to talk about it herself so Aracely just made her way over to Lisa and reached out for the baby to look him over. “Let me see him?” she asked.
“Sure…” Lisa replied with a soft but worried smile as she handed her still bawling son to the Doctor. “Crying like this is a good sign right?”
“Oh yes it does,” she smiled as she looked the baby over before shifting him so that she could rock him to calm him down. Considering everything going on, Aracely was strangely calm. But she also let a lot of it out before she even got there so Tommy responded more to her and quickly settled down while everyone else was still very much on edge.
“Thanks Doc,” Bobby said, still shaken by the whole ordeal. “I guess I’ll find something to clean up the mess.”
She looked at him and nodded before turning her attention back out the broken window. While she watched her father talking to the sheriff and Mr. Quinn, her eyes kept going to where Jason stood, glaring at Eric.
“You know, your ex is lucky,” Steve commented as he still held on to Hayley as if she were a life preserver. “Jason could’ve done more than knock him out. At one point I thought he would have.”
“Steven!” Rita exclaimed.
“I’m sorry Mrs Q, but he had every right to. Hell, I would’ve helped him,” Steve explained with no remorse. “He moved like a friggin blur when Lisa called him… it was unbelievable. He didn’t move that fast when we played football in high school.”
Aracely silently went over to hand the now sleeping baby to his parents before going back outside to the group. Eric sat in the backseat of the police truck as the men stood talking. “Sheriff? What is going to happen to him now?” she asked approaching them.
“Look at him Doc, he’s looking at a DUI of drugs and alcohol, criminal damage, intent to cause bodily harm. The Judge is going to love this…” the Sheriff sighed as he made notes.
She looked up at him. “I’m not going to ask the Quinns to do anything. It’s up them but please – can you just let him go for the others. I just want him out of here as soon as possible. Do you have the keys to the truck?” Really, everything in that small town that was shared, really was hers. The house, both trucks, the practice.
“They’re in the evidence bag in the trunk of my car,” Rickman nodded, “I’ll see what I can do about getting him out of your hair as soon as possible, but like you said, it’s really up to the Quinns.”
In the meantime, Jason had gone to the tool shed to fetch some materials to patch up the window until they could get it fixed. He was fuming. He could have easily killed Saunders had it not been for the fact that he was with his family. For the first time in his life, he had regretted training to be a Marine.
After they spoke some more and the Sheriff drew off while the tow truck was working on the truck, she quietly made her way around the house, knowing that he wasn’t inside and with her father and his talking, she needed to see him. The sound of things being slung around was an easy tell of where he was and she wasn’t sure anymore, after opening the door slowly, if this had been a good idea to find him in this mood.
He felt a pair of eyes on him and turned to find Aracely, she looked scared, or worried, or both. The mere sight of her looking at him in such a way forced him to take several deep breaths to try and calm himself. When he lost the urge to hit something, he finally spoke. “Look, I don’t need a lecture from you about punching that son of a bitch out.”
“I’m not saying anything,” she replied but didn’t move.
“Then why are you here?” he asked with more bitterness than he intended.
“You want me to leave?” she asked with a frown. And in an even smaller voice, she nodded and added. “Okay then. Um, if you need to buy any materials, have your mom call me or something. I’ll be happy to get what you need for you.” Slowly, she started to turn to leave, letting the door slam closed from its sprung hinge.
The kind offer was more than he deserved at that moment. He moved over to the door and quickly opened it. “I’m sorry. This isn’t your fault. I shouldn’t be taking it out on you.”
Aracely turned around and shrugged. “It is though. If I hadn’t agreed to let him come back with me, none of this would have happened Jason.”
“You were in love with the guy Ace… he might be a manipulative bastard but I doubt he’d pull the shit he pulled tonight if he didn’t care for you on some level,” Jason explained. “I get it, I do. I hurt you, I left and he was someone that you felt could fill the hole in your heart. I thought the Corps would do the same for me. But agreeing to bring him back here, to try and make a life for yourself in the one place you feel most at home isn’t a bad thing. I swear to you, this wasn’t your fault and nobody blames you.”
“Jason – just…stop that, please,” she begged. Something about that felt off and her face reflected it. Was she in love with him? She really doubted that already, but didn’t say anything. It was more a case of not wanting to be alone.
Jason sighed. He was crossing a line that she did not want him crossing again. “I’m sorry. Just promise me that you won’t blame yourself for this.”
“You know I can’t do that,” Aracely replied. “I should get back to my father, he might be wondering where I went…”
“Tell him I said hi,” Jason nodded. Even now Saunders was still messing her up, which made the marine even more angry. “And tell the sheriff I’ll give my statement when I’m done in here.”
“I think he will call you for that. They already left and towing my truck,” she said irritably. “I really did love that truck.”
“The damage doesn’t look that bad. I’m sure once the judge is done with Saunders, you’ll be able to reclaim it. I’d be happy to fix it up for you,” Jason explained, a small smile crossing his lips. “You can even pay me if it makes you feel better.”
She shrugged staying frozen where she stood. A strong part of her didn’t want to walk away as much as her mind was screaming for her to run now. “I’m probably just going to sell it or something. Not like I need two anyway.”
“Well, you’d get a better price if you let me fix it up for you,” Jason nodded. “I bet the body work will be easy to buff out. Think about it at least.”
Aracely nodded again before giving him a small wave and went back out front to see Mr. Quinn sweeping the broken glass up and her father’s car gone. “Where did my dad go?” she asked, looking around.
“He’s just calling your mom to fill her in,” Tom explained. “Still doesn’t believe in cell phones, huh?”
“He just doesn’t want to learn how to use one. It was one of the first things I got when I first came home,” she sighed.
“Are you alright Doc?” Tom asked, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Stupid question… of course you’re not. Can I get you a cup of coffee or something? A friendly ear perhaps?”
“Thanks, but no. Right now I’m shopping around for a good rock to crawl under though.”
“Of course… you’re blaming yourself for what happened,” Tom nodded. “Which is understandable considering the circumstances. You brought him here, let him become the biggest part of your life. How were you to know that he’d turn on you like this?”
She fell into one of the wicker chairs with a loud sigh. “I don’t care what people say but he wasn’t like this before. Everyone in town has a little bit of blame to take for constantly going on about Jason and I. That was one thing he was right about – being under the stress of people’s expectations and comparing them all the time.”
“I know, and you’re right. This is on all of us,” Tom replied with a hint of remorse. “Did I ever tell you that Rita and I almost didn’t marry?”
“Well, I met Rita in High School. Her family moved to town when her old man got a job at the wood mill,” he explained. “I knew from the moment I saw her that I loved her. But like Jason, I wanted to serve my country. My father had me training in preparation for boot camp. I had no time for sports, no time for friends. Just school and training. Well Rita came to me, she was the one that got the ball rolling, even though there was a school full of guys that would give their right arms for a date with her.
“We fell in love… in the most intense way. I was doubting whether or not the Corps was right for me because I was so happy with Rita. But she told me to go, she knew that I needed to go and god bless her, she waited for me, even though her mother wanted to marry her off to the son of the mayor at the time,” he continued. “Well when I got back to town, everyone was talking about the Mayor’s son and my Rita… you know what the gossiping is like in this town. So I stormed over to the Mayor’s house, asked to see his son, and I swear to you I just wanted to talk. But he was an arrogant son of a bitch, figured that he could have anything or anyone he wanted.”
He held up his left hand, pointing to a scar on his knuckle. “You see that, I got that when I punched him and chipped his two front teeth. The point is, I can understand the anger that Saunders feels. The town made him out to be second best. But the thing is, he started to believe it himself and he acted poorly, just like I did all those years ago. It’s hard not to. But his actions pushed him to risking the lives of others. If he truly cared for you as you say, he would have tried to talk things out with Jason. Jason would have backed off if he had.”
“At some point, he may have but I don’t know. Whatever the case now, Eric is leaving. Somehow, in someway. I just can’t deal with the way he had been treating my friends and family anymore. I know I should have done, said something to him sooner but I thought he would have gotten over it himself or something.”
“Let me tell you something, despite everything that’s happened tonight, I feel lucky as hell. My son survived a war and has come home. I have a beautiful wife who still puts up with me after all these years. I have a grandson that I know will excel at whatever he chooses to do with his life,” he smiled proudly. “And I have all four of my daughters in my life. I don’t blame you for the choices you made because I had a hand in raising you, you have a good head on your shoulders and a strong heart in your chest. The day you returned to this town a fully trained Doctor was one of the proudest days of my life. And yes, I was hurt when you started seeing us less and less, but I have and will never turn you away and neither will anyone else in this town.”
She smiled at him feeling bad for everything still. “Thanks,” she said. “I really am sorry about everything.”
“Oh will you stop apologising girl!” Tom grinned. “Do yourself a favour and leave all this in the past, otherwise it’s going to gnaw at you for the rest of your life. And I’d hate to see one of my girls get put through that.”
“I only promise to try,” Aracely shook her head. “There is still a lot of work that I’m going to have to deal with coming up that will have me adequately distracted.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” Tom smiled, “Just make sure you keep Thursday nights free for dinner. I expect you to join us and keep us informed about how things are going.”
“Because Jason has night classes on Thursdays and I know that your feelings for him are messing with your head, just as much as Saunders,” he replied honestly.
“Oh. When did he start classes? For what?”
“Well, he learned that Sheriff Rickman is planning to retire at the end of the year and Jason’s been giving some thought about joining the force when he retires. He’s taking some criminology classes, learning the procedures,” Tom explained. The fact that they hadn’t yet talked about it spoke volumes. They still had a long road to walk before they could be friends, Tom understood that, but he was sure that they’d work things out eventually. “He’s also training up at the Police Academy on the weekends.”
She nodded as she thought about that. “I’ll keep it in mind. I got a lot of work to do at the office though. Starting with going through the charts for those that Eric was dealing with and reschedule everyone and still fit in the house visits. I don’t even want to think about all that now. May end up just closing the door for the next couple days except for emergencies and deal with paperwork.”
“Talk to old Doc Hanson,” Tom suggested, “We were talking in Joe’s just the other night. He might not be practicing anymore but I’m sure he’d be happy to help out or knows someone who can help. He knows how tough it is to run the only medical practice in Mullens better than anyone.
“Yeah, I still have his number in the Rolodex. I guess I’ll see what he can do. Maybe if he’s up to driving around, if he can do the regular house calls while I get caught up with everything else. That would definitely help save three to four hours at a time.”
“Every little helps,” he said as Jason emerged from the shed with the tools and wood needed to patch the hole in the window. “Need a hand son?”
“Nah, I’m okay pop. It won’t take long,” he replied, sidestepping as Aracely’s father stepped outside.
“Thanks for letting me use your phone Tommy boy,” he said with a grateful smile, “Your mom’s stopped pacing now Aracely, I think it’s safe to go home.”
She nodded and looked back at Mr. Quinn. “Thanks for everything. We’ll talk more about that thing later,” she said, glancing at Jason uncomfortably.
“You know where we are, take care of yourselves,” he replied. “Give our love to your mother.”
“Jason,” Mark nodded politely, “Stop by the bait shop tomorrow. It’s about time we caught up.”
“Sure thing Mr Blevins,” Jason replied before looking to Aracely and offered her a smile. “I guess I’ll see you around, Ace?”
“Yeah,” she said as she followed her father. “See you.”