Lost & Found Ch. 02bybeachbum1958©
Once again, this is only possible because of the immense help and patience of Mricemen1964, his good humour and sense of reality, and his willingness to listen, a rare quality these days! Also, I would like to acknowledge the help and gin passed to me by my wife's coven of booze-sodden man-eaters, who all seem to spend an inordinate amount of time passed-out in my study whenever the Lions are taking on the All-Blacks at Twickenham or England is batting against Australia at Lords! Their input, story curves and need to live vicariously through Robbie and Casey has proved a huge inspiration; Thank you ladies, bottoms-up!
If you like it, please rate it; if you don't tell me why, I do read all comments and act on them, unless they're physically impossible or hopelessly mad...
Part 2: Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment; Psalms 60:3
Robbie looked out of the window at the taxi dropping-off Joey and Karen.
"OK Case, last chance, you can still duck out now, you don't have to do this just yet, not for me!"
Casey took his hand, squeezed it for moment, and smiled. "It's OK Robbie; I need to do this, for you as well as for me. I'll be fine, OK?"
The knock on the door announced they were there. "It's open!" called Robbie, and then Joey and Karen were in the hallway, calling out to him.
"In here, guys!" he called back, and they walked on in, long familiarity and family ease evident in their casual dumping of coats and flight bags
Joey, slightly shorter and stockier than Robbie, with young, conventionally handsome features, tousled dark blonde hair like Sarah's, came all the way into the living room, his face splitting into a wide grin on seeing a cute girl with coppery-bronze hair standing with Robbie, not recognising her right away. He took a step forward to introduce himself, and suddenly realised who he was looking at, his mouth dropping open in shock.
Karen, a tall, quietly beautiful girl with a tumbled mass of midnight black curls framing her piquant features, came forward to hug Robbie, a wide, happy smile on her face.
"Robbie, sweetheart, it's been too long since..." and stopped, shocked recognition making her gasp as she realised who was standing there with him. Anger flashed in her blue eyes as she spat out one word, a curse and a threat all in one. "YOU!"
She started forward, towards Casey, eyes narrowed in fury, stopping short as Robbie stepped in front of her, pushing Casey slightly behind him.
"Karen, Joey, please, calm down. There's a reason Casey's here, take it easy, please, guys, come on!"
Karen backed off, staring daggers at Casey, Joey still standing with his mouth hanging open like a boated cod, his eyes narrowing as shock gave way to anger.
"Robbie, what the hell is this...this...creature doing here!?" hissed Karen, sparks spitting in her eyes, glaring at Casey, who quailed at that glare and the sheer concentrated fury in her voice.
"Yeah Bro, just what the hell's going on? What the fuck is she doing here?" gritted Joey, his shocked expression gone, face immobile but his eyes still narrowed to two angry slits.
"Guys, please, for me, just lay off her for one second, please? I said I had a surprise. Casey and I, we kind of found each other; actually, she's been looking for me all this time, I listened to what she had to say, and I believed her. All that stuff in the past, that's all gone now, none of it matters anymore. I finally let it go, only because Casey showed me the way. I have a family that loves me, you guys, and I want you to hear her out, for my sake. Will you do that? At least just listen? Please?"
"For you, Robbie, I'll listen," said Karen, "But if I don't like what I'm hearing...!" she trailed off meaningfully, eyes still fixed distrustfully on Casey. "That goes for me too!" spat Joey,"this had better be fucking amazingly good! Why you let her..." his voice trailed off into angry muttering, his slitted eyes still fixed intently on her face as he shook his head in disgust.
Robbie squeezed Casey's hand, smoothed back her hair, and looked her in the eyes.
"Say your piece, Case. Don't hold anything back, there're no secrets between any of us, just tell Joey and Karen what you told me, don't be afraid, I'm here." His sweet smile was all the encouragement she needed.
Casey swallowed nervously, and began to speak.
"Joey, Karen, you both know how I behaved, what I did to Robbie. I have no excuses that mean anything, I did what I did because no-one told me I couldn't, and I paid for it, with shame and loss, more than I can ever describe. I took everything, and left nothing for him, ever, not a scrap of my time or a thought for him, and I only realised what I'd done when it was too late to make it right."
"I understood then that I should have been there for him. He'd always needed me, and I was too wrapped-up in myself to know that I needed him until he was gone, and it was too late. I looked for him because I wanted my big brother, I wanted him back, and I would have made any bargain, paid any price, just to get him back, to say sorry, to beg his forgiveness, and to tell him I loved and needed him. We gave him nothing, and we cast him away for no reason, left him alone when he needed us the most, and I cried for him night after night, knowing he was lost and alone when he needed me, and I needed him so badly. When Joey told me he didn't know where Robbie was, it felt like the bottom had dropped out of my world: If the one person Robbie loved and trusted most in this world didn't know where he was, then he truly was lost to me, he really was gone forever, I could never make it right with him, and it was all my fault. When Karen confronted me, what she did was no more than I deserved."
"When I found him again, all he had to do was tell me to go and slam the door on me forever. He didn't, because, thank God, he's not like me, nor ever could be. I left him out of my life, but he pulled me back into his, because that's who he is, and I can never forgive myself for letting him go so easily.
I did the most terrible thing in the world; I only had one chance to have a big brother, and I blew it; I threw him away, I nearly destroyed him, and I laughed when I did it, and it will weigh on my heart forever. Now I know how it feels to lose the most precious thing in the whole world, and I'm never letting him go again!"
She was crying openly now, hot tears pouring down her cheeks as her shame and guilt bloomed large inside her again. Karen looked at her, her expression flinty, but tears glimmered in her eyes, wringing Joey's hand between hers, mute evidence she was feeling the powerful emotional charge in the room. Joey was still in shock; this was a side to Casey he'd never expected to see, the confident, arrogant, cheerleader babe-about-town reduced to this emotional shambles, all her defenses down, and his heart went out to her as he felt the emotional impact of her deep sorrow and even deeper sincerity.
Robbie took her in his arms, holding her against him as she sobbed, smoothing her hair, murmuring gently to her, clumsily trying to calm her as he held her close. Casey wrapped her arms around him and held him tight, letting Robbie rock her gently against his chest, her hands holding and caressing him. Karen's expression slowly softened as she watched, realisation of the true nature of Robbie and Casey's relationship gradually dawning.
At last, Robbie let her go, dabbing her eyes as she rested her head against his chest and brushing her hair gently with his lips, silence in the room as all of them sat motionless, mulling-over what had just unfolded.
Joey stirred, breaking the spell, to hunker-down in front of Casey, wonder stirring in him as he finally got what was going on between Robbie and Casey, and reached out to gently touch her arm, take her hand. Casey looked at him through her tears, gradually seeing the look on his face, all his anger gone, only concern for her there.
"Hi Casey, I'm Joey, Robbie's brother, it's nice to finally meet you at last!" he smiled, flashing a quick look of concern and enquiry at Robbie, getting a quick nod and smile back, all the affirmation he needed. Casey smiled through her tears, grateful for the love and support Robbie had been given when he'd needed it, stricken that it wasn't her who'd done that for him.
"Hi Joey, I've heard so much about you; Robbie's told me all about his family, and how much he loves you all, I'm glad I finally met you!" she quavered, smiling tremulously, her eyes still bright with unshed tears.
Joey reached behind him, Karen's hand slipping into his as she moved up behind him, smiling at Casey when she looked up at her. "Casey, this is my fiancée, Karen. Karen, I'd like you to meet Casey, she's with Robbie!"
Karen held out her hand, Casey's slipping into it, the two of them holding hands as the family reunion unfolded around them, Karen also feeling the depth of Casey's sorrow and regret, and feeling and hearing her sincerity.
"Casey, come with me, let's get you cleaned up." said Karen gently, Robbie rising and handing up Casey from the couch, the two girls making for the bathroom to fix Casey's tear-ravaged makeup.
While they were gone, Joey and Robbie sat silently for a moment or two, Joey finally breaking the silence.
"Mom's gonna have a haemorrhage, you do know that don't you!" he grinned. "So, are the two of you really...uh...?"
Robbie grinned back at him. "Yeah, we're - significant pause - 'uh'! Is that a problem, meat-head?"
Joey grinned even wider. "Hell no, Casey always was a babe, even if I hated her with depth and conviction, but this whole ...relationship thing you two seem to have begun, it's gonna open a huge can of worms, you do know that, don't you? You got the stones to keep a lid on it, Rob?"
Robbie expression became sober, thoughtful. "Joey, I really think we can do this right, if you guys are willing to help us. How 'bout it? You gonna help out a friend in need?"
"Always and forever, Bro, even if you are a butthead geek, that's what family does, we help each other out, and then we never mention it again while somehow constantly reminding each other about it, and then we mind each other's business, so if you can get Mom on-side, expect a whole lot of her minding your business!" grinned Joey, walking into the kitchen to the refrigerator, rummaging around inside for a beer and tossing a cold one over to Robbie while he popped his own.
Joey suddenly grinned.
"Mom's gonna get 'that look', you know the one I mean? And that little vein, right in the middle of her forehead! It'll be like when we did that thing with the telescope and Jodie Hollister, man she shredded us good! And somehow, once again, this will be my fault; you do know that, don't you? You were always her fair-haired little golden boy, and I'm gonna catch heat for this one, I can feel it in my bones, so you are gonna owe me big-time! I shall demand payment when I figure out what you've got that I want most, so be prepared! Come to think of it, I just love that car of yours; I would look sooo good sitting behind the wheel of it all the time!"
Robbie grinned at him.
"Yeah, right, blow it out your butt, meathead!" he said as he motioned Joey to take a seat.
He sat down, took a long slow swallow of his beer, his eyes closed in enjoyment, then suddenly began coughing as he nearly choked.
Robbie jumped up, looking at him in consternation."You OK, man? Chrissake, Joey, take it easy, you don't earn enough to pay me to give you the kiss of life!"
Joey coughed and wheezed for a few seconds, giving him the finger before he caught his breath and looked Robbie straight in the face. "Jeez, Robbie, I forgot; Uncle Frank, and Aunt Caitlin! You know how they feel about your family; the pair of them and the girls are gonna skin Casey when they find out about this, she's top of their 'shred-before-recycling' list!"
Robbie grinned. "I think that's where you guys come in; when the time's right, I'm going to need you two to corral Aunt Caitlin so I can get Uncle Frank alone and tell him what's happened, then we can all kind of gang-up on Aunt Caitlin to calm her down before she goes ground-zero on us. Leave the twins to me, I know how their devious, mercenary little minds work, I can get them on-side. The hard one is going to be Mom, and the only thing that's going to work is total honesty -- anything else and we'll both be on that shred-list!"
Joey thought about it, and slowly nodded agreement. "Better call Mom later, make sure she knows about this before Uncle Frank or you'll be sorry. I'm just glad it's you making that call; she is most definitely not gonna like this!"
The girls came back then, so discussion ended, but at least tentative plans were now in place. Casey looked better, the earlier emotional storm of earlier had calmed; now she looked fresh, happier, back on an even keel.
Robbie and Joey stood up, letting the girls sit before sitting down themselves; some of Sarah's lessons in manners at least seemed to have taken firm hold.
Casey flashed Joey a tentative smile, her smile broadening when Joey smiled back, and leaned into the circle of Robbie's arm, pulling in close when his arm closed around her, resting her head against him.
"We all good now, Case?" he murmured, Casey squeezing his hand in the affirmative. "Good, let's go to dinner, I feel like taking my family out, who likes Szechuan? There's a new place in Serramonte, I feel the need for something sweet and hot, unless anyone else has got a preference?"
No-one had, so they piled into the car, Joey driving because Robbie knew how much he enjoyed driving the GT, but mainly because he wanted to sit in the back and huddle with Casey.
Dinner was everything they could have wanted, and they eventually headed back late to Daly City. Joey and Karen had to be back in Springfield in 2 days, so there was no rush for flights or anything. In the normal course of events, Joey and Robbie would spend a day with Frank, and a couple of days just hanging, but now they had things to do, people to see, and news to break. When they got back to the apartment, Robbie insisted Joey and Karen take the master bedroom, the cable was hooked through there and he knew how Joey like to watch late night movies, he and Casey camping out in the spare bedroom.
After they'd changed for bed, Karen and Joey discussed the day's revelations. Karen was still astonished at the changes in Casey; in school she'd been brash, self-assured, arrogant and uber-confident, at 16 already main contender for the school Alpha-Female crown, star of the cheer-leading squad, undisputed Prom Queen in waiting. Karen had despised her, suspected what she was like even then. When she'd discovered what Casey had stood-by and allowed to happen to Robbie, she'd been appalled and disgusted at just what kind of person Casey had really been. Now that old Casey was gone; Karen recognised the fundamental changes in her, a shift from focussing on herself to Robbie, and her obvious and profound remorse for the life she'd stood by and had let happen to him, and the reality of the relationship she and Robbie had struck-up. Karen was unconcerned that Casey was his sister; for most of her life she'd been anything but. To her own wonder, she recognised the paradigm shift she'd undergone in her own views and opinions of Casey; now she saw the girl underneath all that had gone before, and how much that girl wanted, and was wanted by, Robbie.
No, Karen was concerned for Robbie. He was a big, sweet kid, almost Joey's age but so much younger than him in every way that mattered, and emotional entanglements, with anyone, not just Casey, were going to be a minefield for him; he had no prior experience to help him negotiate that minefield, no history of dating or girls or anything that involved the opposite sex; like Sarah, she'd long been concerned that Robbie had consistently shown no interest or curiosity about girls, sex, dating, the things a young man should have been engaging in with headlong enthusiasm; instead, he'd seemed almost asexual in his lack of curiosity about the opposite sex. It was as if his sex drive, and everything that implied, had been completely sublimated, suppressed by so many layers of trauma for so long that it had ceased to become available to him, an almost autistic inability to connect with himself in this way. Age and maturity had not assisted him greatly; puberty for him had just meant he got taller and started shaving.
When she and Joey hugged and kissed in front of him, he'd always shown no reaction, no hint that he was curious about what they were doing, and that had always worried her deeply; it was like a piece of him was missing, like a door into himself that had been closed and was so well papered-over that he hadn't known it was there. It was both ironic and gratifying that Casey, of all people, had finally been able to drill down into that untapped part of him, and unlock the things that he needed to express so he could be complete. He'd needed someone that could help him re-engage with that part of his psyche, and unbelievably, Casey had been the one to get through the layers of defensive shrouding and unlock those parts of him that had lain forgotten there.
She just hoped Casey could bring him into his true adulthood in a way that matured him into who he should have been. Karen resolved to keep a close eye on her, not because she distrusted her, but because she might move too fast, damaging him in ways that none of them would be able to fix. Like Casey, Karen felt almost over-protective of Robbie, a deep sense of responsibility for him, as one would for any younger sibling; he may be almost Joey's age, but in almost every way he was still the baby of the family, a wide-eyed, almost pre-pubescent, innocent, and hurting him would be all too easy. It was all too possible to kill with kindness as easily as with malice.
In their room, Robbie and Casey were not discussing motives or maturity or emotional minefields; Robbie was still resonating with the way Casey had broken down again, pouring out her apologies in a heartfelt stream of regret and remorse, and all he wanted to do was hold her, feel her against him and protect her, to keep her safe in his family, his real family, Joey and Karen and everyone else, not that travesty back home. She was still very fragile; the emotional toll on her was high, and even Robbie, emotional juvenile that he was, recognised that these confrontations were costing her a heavy price; she couldn't do this over and over again, much as she believed she had to, it was going to break her, and he wouldn't allow that.
He got ready for bed, unselfconsciously stripping down to his shorts, Casey's eyes on him. He really was a beautiful specimen, she mused, like an anatomy exhibit of how the perfect male form should look, well muscled but not brooding or heavy, rippling without being over-developed, perfectly classically proportioned; Praxiteles would have sculpted him in an instant, she thought, smiling at the thought of Robbie being the model for the famous 'Hermes and Dionysus' at Olympia. Casey had never been particularly attracted to muscle-men; the line in 'Twins' where Danny DeVito asks Arnold Schwarzenegger if there's something wrong with him, he's all swelled-up, had always seemed apt, but now, when she looked at Robbie's sculpted form, she could understand the beauty of, and the attraction to, the well-developed, healthy male body.
"It's not right, and it shouldn't happen, but I love him" she thought, her heart filling again with regret for the years she'd lost with him. She moved up against him, hugging him around the waist, laying her head against his chest to listen to his heartbeat, strong and steady and slow, the pulse of the true athlete. Robbie smiled at her actions, folding his arms about her, holding her to him.