by Grasshopper

Chapter 29

The dreams began the night Wyatt brought him home after the fire. Luc would wake up and walk outside with the two big dogs on either side. For three nights, he walked to the edge of the bluffs and stood, his bare toes feeling the end of the earth, his eyes black, unseeing. His head cocked, he seemed to be listening to a voice whispering in the wind. It was familiar, but different. There, but not there.

The fourth night, Wes heard the sound of a sliding glass door opening and slid out of bed. Standing at the top of the stairs, he watched as the little boy walked out with his hands on the dog's heads. "Cole," Wes shook him awake, "Luc." They padded down the stairs and out onto the back veranda.

"He's heading for the bluffs," Cole said in a panicked voice. Taking off at a run, they reached him just as his toes touched the edge of the land. "Luc! What are you doing?"

Wes whirled Luc around and the moonlight let them see the glazed blackness of his eyes. "He's asleep, I think," Wes whispered. Lifting Luc up and carrying him back toward the house, Cole didn't even have to speak to the dogs. Pat and Bob wouldn't leave Luc's side. They trotted along beside Wes as he carried the boy.

Laying Luc back in his bed, pulling the sheet back over him, Wes and Cole looked at each other. "He's sleepwalking?"

"No," a small voice said, "I am listening."

Kneeling by the bed, Cole smoothed Luc's hair back out of his eyes and asked, "Listening to what, Sweetie?"

"The lady in the wind." He yawned and snuggled up to his pillows. "Wes, get me Poppy and Leo," he asked with his hands outstretched.

Wes got the two little animals off the shelf and placed one in each of Luc's hands. "Poppy," Luc smiled, "And Leo." He curled up in a small little boy ball with his two best friends close to his heart and, after one more huge yawn, drifted into sleep.

"Okay, what was all that about?" Cole frowned, as they walked out of Luc's bedroom. "What lady in the wind?"

Wes stood by the back windows staring out into the night. "I've heard it, Cole. I never knew what to call it, but I guess 'lady in the wind' works. I used to hear her when I was in the pit. I never thought about it before, but it stopped sometime after Father died."

"Is it real, Wes?"

"You mean, like in is it connected to the spooky eyes and the stuff I can see sometimes?"

Cole nodded.

"I don't know. The voice I heard was always soft and soothing. I guess I always figured it was my mother whispering to me. Remember, I didn't know she was dead."

"Yeah, you always wanted to believe that she was just away and safe," Cole sighed. "Luc's been through a lot these last couple of days. Maybe he's just exhausted and having weird dreams."

Wes didn't say anything. He didn't have any answers. Hell, he didn't even know the questions this time.

Cole took his hand and pulled him toward the stairs. "First thing tomorrow morning, latch hooks up high on all the doors."

"If Luc wants to go out, there's not much that can keep him inside," Wes muttered. "I'm gonna stay down here tonight. I have an odd feeling going on in my head."

"You stay, then I stay," Cole smiled. "We'll hear him if he gets up."

In his bed, curled tightly around Leo and Poppy, Luc drifted through the darkness again. It didn't scare him. The lady held his hand and he could see sparkly bits of light blinking from one place to another. "What are those?" he asked.

"Those are your thoughts and your wishes, all trying to keep up with you. When one lands on your cheek, you've found another answer. It seems you have many many thoughts, young Luc."

A tiny twinkle of bright gold landed on his cheek and his eyes went black. He was in a meadow, but none like he'd ever seen before. The high, waving grass was all the colors in his crayon box and the sky was white hung with soft blue clouds. Luc giggled; this was like how he colored. Pretty! He sat down in the tall grass to find that only his nose and eyes peeked out. "This is like you, Leo" he whispered, pulling the little lion out of his pocket and setting him on the ground. "We're hiding in the grass like lions."

He heard, no, he felt, something coming. The ground under him was sending shakes. His eyes wide, he watched as a big butter-colored mare cantered up on the rise above the meadow. A beautiful lady was sitting on the horse, her golden hair flowing down her back. Luc listened as she called his name, "Lucas, where are you? I need you, darling boy."

Luc crawled on his tummy, Leo crawling by his side. With every tug of his paw to crawl forward, Leo grew larger until he was the size of a real Lion. His teeth were razor sharp, his mane crowned his stately head, but his eyes were kind and loving, still Leo Eyes.

Luc heard her voice again, "Lucas, come out. Don't hide from Mommie. I need you." Luc was confused. Daddy and Wes said Mommie had gone away on a long trip. He started to stand up, but Leo reached over with his huge paw and pulled him down. "No," Leo growled.

The lady in the wind began to call his name. "Luc, come away now. Come, Luc."

Luc rolled over and the dream fell apart. He was snuggled in his own bed, Leo and Poppy still clutched in his hands. He kissed Poppy, then Leo. "Leo, you and me haves a secret. Shhh, do not tell that we saw Mommie."

A week after the fire, Bernard Labatierre knocked on the front door. Wes opened the door and then started to slam it shut.

"Wait, please, I just wish to speak to you."

"I have nothing more to say to you or anyone else who thinks they can take Luc away from us."

"Ms. Hewett was the only person concerned with this custody suit, and so there seems to be nothing more to be said on that subject. When her roan horse, Thunder, returned to the Campbell stables without her that night, we searched but she was never found. The sheriff decided that she became disoriented after she fell and must have been consumed by the fire. Ms. Lily Campbell left for France the night of the fire and I will be leaving tonight."

"Goodbye," Wes muttered and started pushing the door shut.

"No, please wait. I have something for you." Wes stopped and Labatierre reached into his briefcase. "I was opposed to this suit from the beginning. I do not like using blackmail as a means to an end. I wanted you and Mr. Hewett to have these other copies." He handed Wes three DVDs in clear plastic cases. "There are no more copies."

Thank you," Wes said quietly, "Why should I believe you?"

"I have nothing to gain from these. Think about it. If Ms. Hewett is," he cleared his throat, "If she is no longer with us, then what good are these to anyone?"

"Okay then..... Okay," Wes murmured.

As he walked out onto the porch after the Frenchman, he asked one last question. "Why did she do that? She didn't want Luc. If she did, she'd have taken him away with her when she left after he was born. Why now?"

Labatierre sighed, "It matters not now, I suppose. She had met a very wealthy vineyard owner, Michel Arceneau, who wished to marry her. When he found out that she had a child, he insisted that she bring the child to France and they would raise him. He could not have children himself, and this would be his chance for a son to inherit his wealth."

'So it was money after all', Wes thought to himself. Callie wanted to buy that guy's money with her own child. What a price to pay!

Watching the dust rise behind the Mercedes, Wes hoped they'd never see that lawyer again.

The whole family sat down to dinner on Wednesday night. Cole had put the extra leaves in the table so it would stretch for ten hungry people. "I love eating here at your house, Uncle Cole," Katy grinned. "I can see the bluffs and the shy from right here."

"Booster seats for Violet and Luc," Mercy called. "Come hop up."

"I will be big soon," Luc grumbled. "I do not like a baby seat."

"When your chin is above the table top, you can get rid of it," Cole laughed. Until then, hop on up."

Sarah, Mercy and Wes had cooked heaps of food, with the grand help of the three kids. Wes had found that he loved to cook much to Cole's delight. "The ribs are delicious," Craig smiled, his chin smeared with barbeque sauce.

The kids played outside after dinner, while the grownups sat around the patio with coffee. "Luc seems to be doing okay," Wyatt said. "I was kinda worried during that fire."

"Yeah, he's having some trouble during the night, but he'll come out of it," Cole told them. "I think the worst is over now."

"Thank God," Sarah sighed.

As Sarah and Albert were settling down to sleep that night, he said softly, "I'm tired, Sarah. Really tired." At 3:00, Sarah woke to the sound of his muffled voice, "Sarah, help me!"

The stress of the last weeks had just been too much for Albert Hewett's weak heart. The final stab had come from his daughter's own mouth. The stroke left his left side paralyzed, had slackened the muscles in his strong face and left him unable to speak.

Sarah was a rock. She stayed at the hospital with Albert and tended to his every need, but she was wearing down. Cole spelled her, as did Mercy and Wes, but she wanted to do everything herself. "Mom, you're going to be right there next to Dad if you don't get some rest."

"I must do this," she murmured, "He's my husband; my best friend."

Wes held Cole when the smells and the sounds of the hospital got to be too much. "That's how I feel, you know. I would do this. You're my husband; my best friend."

"Now do you see why I wanted you home when you were hurt?" Cole sniffled. "I wanted to be the one to do everything for you. I didn't want other people taking care of you."

"Yeah, I'm sorry." Wes stood silently, watching the nurse taking Albert's blood pressure. "Whoa, wait. I know just who can help. I know your mom wants to do it all, but she can't."

Cole looked at him, waiting for his words.


Annie Johnson drove up to the kitchen door, her old rattletrap letting out one last gasp as it seemed to rest right there at the steps. Sliding out, stretching her shoulders, she opened the back car door and a little slip of a girl about 5 tumbled out. "Now, don't you get into anything," she warned. Just then, the kitchen door slammed and Wes came out onto the porch.

"Annie! Am I glad to see you."

"Well, looky there. It's my baby boy all healthy and lookin' fine. You look grand, Wesley. Come here and let me see you."

He grabbed her up and swirled her around in a circle. "You don't know how grateful everyone is that you could come."

"When you said 'Bring my little girl', I knew this was the right thing to do. Tee is just ready for school, so this was a good time. How's Mr. Albert?"

Wes held her arm and they walked into the kitchen. "Katy, Luc, Violet... go out and introduce yourselves to Tee. She's gonna be living here while her mom takes care of Grandpa." They laughed when the back door slammed. "Wow, I've got four kids now," Wes laughed, the feeling of family washing over him in waves.

Katy and Violet became very shy and hung back on the porch, but Luc bounced across the barnyard and came to a stop in front of the little girl. "I am Luc," he announced, "That there is Katy and Violet. I don't live here," he pointed at his grandpa's house, "I live way over there at the bluffs with Daddy and Wes. I have a pony named Hawk and two dogs named Spongebob and Patrick, but we call them Pat and Bob. They sleep in my bed. You are a diffy color from me, like the wood on Daddy's lilac tree." he reached out and touched the dark skin of the little girl's cheek. "You are pretty. Kinda like the yummy chocit syrup Grandma puts on my ice cream. You like ice cream? We have lots. Want some? What is your name?" He took a breath.

He looked at the little girl, her curly, curly black hair done up in one big poof on top of her head. "I be's Tee," she said, puffing out her chest. "We droved all day. We counted cows and horsies. Moooo!! Neigghhhhhhhh!! That is what cows and horsies sound like. My name truly be's Trezangena (Teresa Angelina) but my mama says that be's too big a mouthful for little me. I love ice cream and cake and pagettse and swimming and fishies and I am going to school this time. I be's in Kimbergarden."

"Me too," Luc cut in. "We will be in Kinnygarden together. Wheee! I have new friends. Teezy, Teezy! Violet .. Katy... come here right now. Quit being poopy."

Albert took to Annie right off and Sarah slowly eased off from her 24/7 vigil. "Ms. Sarah, Mr. Albert won't leave you if you take a nap. Now, you go relax and let me take care of your man for awhile. Shoo!"

Annie and Teezy got settled in the house next to Mercy. Mercy watched the kids while Annie took care of Albert. "I'm happy to do it," Mercy told Wes, "It's just a few days til school starts and I'll take them all and pick them up just like Albert used to do. No bus for our babies." They stood quietly remembering the fear that rode with them on that old schoolbus. "Mercy? Did you ever think that maybe Mr. Cogswell didn't have an accident? Did you ever think that maybe it was.............?"

She cut him off. "All that's over now, Wesley. Even if it was Karl, he's gone, so there's nothing to be done about it. It's just another thing he did in a long list. Let him lie still now."

Luc's dreams became more vivid. He always took Leo and Poppy to bed with him for protection. He told himself not to listen-walk anymore because it scared Daddy and Wes. When he was dreaming, Pat and Bob lay close on either side, always awake, watching the windows. Sometimes, one would prowl the house while the other guarded their boy. Something was in his dreams that frightened them. Something that threatened Luc.

The hawk circled the sloped roof and finally settled on the chimney. He could feel the ripples in the air and watched, his sharp eyes searching, for that trick in the atmosphere, that bend in the light. There was something out there that threatened Luc.

Wes couldn't get to sleep. He rolled and tossed and finally slid out of the cool sheets so he wouldn't wake Cole. Sitting down at his work table, used the moon for light and began to draw. The sketch was coming from inside him; from the feeling he had that something was in the darkness. The faster he sketched, the stronger the strokes, the more he knew that whatever it was, it threatened Luc.

Finally, exhausted, he walked down the stairs and dropped into the big comfy chair beside Luc's bed. Fingers dark with charcoal, he closed his eyes and fell into a restless sleep.

In Luc's dream, he and Teezy were playing up by the cave. They were catching no-tail lizards, naming them and letting them go. Leo was lying out in the sun, his mane shining in the bright sunlight. Teezy ran close to the edge of the bluffs. "Luc, catch me!" He jumped up and began to run.

Suddenly, the wind picked up and Teezy flew off the edge. Luc felt someone grab his shirt. "I have to catch Teezy!" he fought off the hand that held him. Falling to his tummy, he peered over the edge of the cliff. He could see Teezy way way down at the bottom of the chasm, waving to him. "I flyed," she yelled. "You fly, Luc." She held out her little arms. Just as he started to jump off, Teezy's voice changed, lower and scary, "You fly, Lucas. Fly to Mommie. Mommie needs her little man." He felt the earth begin to crumble under him and the hand that held on was torn away. He began to fall, but he knew, in his little boy way, that he wasn't going to fly. "Daddy... Wes," he called, but the wind tore the words away.

The earth grew closer. He could hear Leo roar. Then the wings caught him and he soared up, up away from the ground.

He awoke to find Wes sleeping in his cozy chair. Padding across to him, Luc crawled up into his lap and cuddled, falling back to sleep. Cole found them that way, and wondered what had happened in the night.

At breakfast, he asked, "What was going on last night? No one invited me to the party."

"I was restless," Wes said. "I didn't want to wake you up, so I checked on Luc and I guess I just zonked out."

"You sleep okay, little man?"

Luc smiled, "Yes, I sleeped good." He didn't want to worry his daddy or his Wes. It was just a dream after all and everybody tolded him that dreams are not real.

Wes went upstairs to take a shower and noticed the drawing on his work table. Walking over, he frowned at the sketch. Bold, black, harsh lines... smeared from his hand, but totally recognizable. Callie! But not Callie. The same rich tangle of long hair, the same tilt of the head, but her face was in shadow, only her eyes shown out and they held a madness that crept into Wes' bones.

What had he been dreaming to draw such an awful thing? He hurriedly shoved the sketch under the pile of drawings he had completed. He didn't ever want Cole to remember his sister that way.

The last days of summer played out. The doctor decided that Albert was strong enough for a quiet picnic by the bluffs. The family all gathered to eat and laugh the Saturday afternoon away. On Monday, the children would all be in school and Fall would be touching the air.

Luc and Teezy had become inseparable. Where one was, the other was nearby. "They're like twins," Wes said, then realized how that would hurt Cole. "Sorry," he sighed.

"It's okay, really. I have to get past all that somehow. I just wish I had seen it coming. I could have helped her." He hugged Wes tightly.

"Listen to them. It's like they speak a different language," Wes laughed. "I can't understand them half the time."

"It's called Kid Talk," Mercy chuckled. "Not all kids do it but when kids think the same way, I guess their minds run off in all directions and they have to talk fast."

"I don't know where they get all that energy," Cole groaned.

Wes snorted, "Old man!"

"I'll show you 'Old Man'," Cole spluttered, pushing Wes to the grass and pinning him.

Wes was laughing too much to speak and Cole tickling him wasn't helping.

"Remember when we used to wrestle in the cave?" Cole whispered in Wes' ear. "I would get so hard I thought I was gonna burst right there."

"Oh Lord, me too. I was so afraid you'd notice and hate me," Wes gulped in air.

"Get a room, boys," Annie laughed.

It was a good day. One of those days that you remember as being golden. They live in your memory, all the smiles, the laughter and the love.

Mercy had taken the children to school the week before to meet their teachers, so on Monday morning when Wes and Cole drove up to the school dropoff circle, and Luc said, "Don't go with us, Daddy. We go with the teacher with the green clipboard. That's our teacher, Mrs. Harris," it was as if they had reached back in time. Back to the time Cole had first met Wesley Straihan. Back to the day, at six years old, when they had fallen in love forever.

But, this time, Cole got out of the truck. "I want to say 'Hey' to Mrs. Harris. She was my favorite teacher a zigadillion years ago." Luc laughed, kissed Wes, grabbed Teezy's hand and off they went. Total déjà vu !! Wes parked the truck and walked up to the lines of little kids standing by their teachers.

Mrs. Harris put her green clipboard down on the bench beside her and opened her arms, "Cole Hewett, come let me hug you, and oh my dear sweet lord, Wesley Straihan." She stood for a moment staring at both of them. "I should have known," she said slowly, "I think I did know even back then."

"This is our boy, Lucas. I imagine you'll get to know him and his best friend Teezy real quick."

Luc spoke up, "I am Luc and this be's Teezy. We are getting married one day like my daddy and Wes. I love my Teezy." He grabbed the tiny girl and hugged her tight.

"I am Trezangena Johnson. I be's six and this be's Luc. He be's is a crazy boy." They broke into silly giggles and Cole rolled his eyes.

Mrs. Harris had gray in her red hair, much stronger lenses in her red glasses, and more weight around her middle, but she was suddenly so glad she hadn't retired last year like her husband had wanted. This would be a firecracker of a year with these two in her class.

"Well, I can see I have my work cut out for me this year," she smiled. "You two little huckleberries go get in my line."

"I hope life is treating you well," she said. "God bless you both." She had heard the stories of the abuse, the fear, the darkness Wesley had endured and would never forgive herself for not doing more. "I'll watch over your two little angels."

Wesley put his arm around her and said quietly, "You did all you could. Don't ever think you could have done more. You taught me to sing and you gave me Cole. You helped me more than you'll ever know."

"How did you know I............?" she asked, startled.

Wes just smiled with those silver eyes.

When Wes picked the kids up from school, Katy was full of 1st grade news and Luc and Teezy sang all the new songs they had learned today. Their favorite was one about the moon. Wes smiled, remembering how many times he had sung that song in the darkness when he was so scared. It was amazing how life does tend to go on.

That night, after Cole and Wes had tucked Luc in bed, Poppy and Leo in his hands, Pat and Bob stretched out on either side; after Luc had sung Itsy Bitsy Spider and Bingo one more time and sung to the moon, they turned on his nightlight, left the door wide open and went to sit on the sofa til he was sound asleep.

"He did good today."

"Yeah, so many memories. I remember you touching my curls and me saying you had spooky eyes."

"I was so scared," Wes murmured.

"Well, there's no reason to ever be scared again. We're together and nothing will ever mess us up again."

Wes thought of the drawing he'd done of Callie and hoped to God Cole was right.

The sky was clouded and dark. Luc was flying low to the ground, his wingspan casting no shadow. There was something out here. Something he had to find. His eyes scanning, his black black eyes. He had to find it. Keep it safe.

He flew over McLaren County, cruising by lighted windows and mommies putting their children to bed... like his Mommie should have done. Teezy said his Mommie was bad. It made Luc's heart hurt when Teezy said that.

He floated in the air currents above a burnt out old house that smelled really bad like when he found that old rotty fox. But, Luc knew it wasn't death in that house; it was mean people and bad bad stuff. Soaring high away from the smell, he landed in the branches of a tall maple. The branch bent as his hawk landed beside him.

"I am looking," Luc sighed.

The hawk nudged him and flew off the branch swooping down to the blackened ground below. Luc followed him, and walking over to the remains of the black skeleton walls of the old Straihan place, he squatted down to look at something the hawk was pecking at with his sharp beak. A piece of wrinkled cloth, scorched along the edges. All Luc could see was a charred pattern of tiny violet flowers. "This?" he asked. Stuffing it in his pocket and followed his hawk into the night sky.

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