‘You’re quiet’ Frank said as he sat down next to Jamia, he wrapped one arm around her and with the other he pressed the ice pack to his swollen cheek.
‘I’m just shocked by what happened today’ she said ‘I can’t believe Gerard would behave like that in his mother’s house, it’s disgusting.’
‘I know’ Frank said tiredly ‘I should’ve controlled myself too. It was just the way he was holding Cheyenne made me so angry he was deliberately hurting her. It wasn’t right.’
‘Frank’ Jamia said sitting up straight ‘can I ask you something?’
‘Sure honey, what?’ he said turning the icepack around so the colder side was now on his bruised skin.
‘Do you like Cheyenne?’ she asked
‘Of course I do’ he replied
‘No, I mean do you like her, like her?’
‘Oh’ Frank said feeling his cheek blush at the question and thanking God that Jamia wasn’t looking at him ‘w-why do you ask?’
‘Just answer the question’
‘No…I…no…I don’t why?’
‘It’s just you spend so much time over there with her and the baby and I know I shouldn’t be but sometimes I get jealous of the attention you lavish on the both of them. Sometimes I think you prefer being with them than me.’ Jamia explained hiding her face in his chest as she spoke.
‘That’s not true’ he said softly his arm pulling her closer to him ‘Jamia when you took me back I can’t even begin to explain to you how happy that made me, I love being with you. Cheyenne and Jasmine need me right now because Gerard’s an ass and Bob isn’t around at the moment, it’s my duty as Jasmine’s God father to help out where I can. When Gerard was a functioning human being was I there as much?’
‘No’ Jamia said in a small voice. She felt stupid asking such a childish question and being so insecure. ‘But you jumped to defend her so quickly I mean you had a fight with Gerard.’
‘If I did that for her, imagine what I would do for you Mia’ he said looking into her eyes ‘I would do so much more’
Jamia pulled his arm more tightly around her and snuggled into his chest. ‘I’m sorry’
‘Don’t apologise’ he said kissing her hair ‘I can cut down my time with the terrible twosome if it makes you feel any better.’
‘No don’t do that’ Jamia said shaking her head ‘maybe I’ll come with you more often.’
‘I’d like that’ Frank said feeling his heart drop at her words. He loved Jamia but he liked it when it was just him, Cheyenne and Jasmine he didn’t welcome the change but it was something he would endure if he got to see much more of both of them.
Present: September 2012
‘Gerard have you vacuumed the living room yet?’ Cheyenne hollered form the kitchen.
‘Well get on with it for God’s sake.’ She snapped
Gerard stopped fluffing the pillows and went to find Cheyenne, she was in the kitchen taking freshly made muffins out of the oven he waited for her to place the hot baking tray on the surface before enveloping her in his arms and spinning her around to face him.
‘What are you doing?’ she gasped
‘You need to relax’ Gerard told her, his lips gently brushing hers
‘We don’t have time for this’ she said trying to push him away
‘Cheyenne’ he said his voice firm and full of authority ‘you need to stop panicking. I know they’ll be here soon but we are on schedule, you need to chill out.’
‘No buts. The living room is tidy. I’ll vacuum it right now. Jasmine is dressed, the restaurant is booked and when I’ve vacuumed I’ll get dressed. We have everything they need so please calm down. If anyone should be freaking out it’s me and I’m not so you shouldn’t either ok?’
‘Ok’ Cheyenne said leaning into him ‘it’s just... I want it to go well.’
‘And it will’ he said ‘now I’m going to go. Try and relax’
Cheyenne smiled and waited for him to leave before she began to cry. She couldn’t do this, she just couldn’t. She couldn’t watch her boyfriend, her love coo over his new daughter, a child that wasn’t theirs. She didn’t want to see the smug look on Lyn’s face when Gerard embraces his daughter for the first time. It wasn’t fair and she couldn’t do it. She really thought she could though, all week she had been psyching herself up, filling her mind with positive thoughts about the day, grocery shopping for things they might like, telling herself that this would be a good change for them but now she realised she wasn’t strong enough.
‘It’s ok’ Gerard said pulling her into his arms. He only came into ask her a question and found her bent over the counter crying silently into her hands.
‘I’m sorry’ she cried ‘I can’t do this’
‘Shh, it’s alright. I understand’ he soothed. He knew this day would be hard on her. He had watched her over the week, trying her hardest to remain positive and give him the support he required, when he couldn’t sleep from anxiety she stayed awake with him, she gave him advice as a friend and as his partner. He watched her shop for things they may like to eat, she recommended and booked the restaurant and she urged him to call Lyn and ask her to come to their home instead of meeting at the restaurant. She had tried so hard but none of that was enough to stop the pain in her heart and Gerard understood and he wouldn’t force her to come out with them, he wouldn’t force her to watch him get to know his daughter.
‘Why don’t you go and lie down?’ Gerard suggested rubbing her back
‘Are you sure? I can still help set up, I just can’t…’ she sobbed again and Gerard held her closer.
‘I’m sure’ he said ‘come on I’ll take you upstairs.’
Once Cheyenne was settled in their bed, Gerard quietly closed the door and hurried downstairs to finish getting everything ready for Paige’s arrival. His heart felt heavy at the prospect of doing this without Cheyenne but he wouldn’t make her go, it was causing her pain just preparing for it and he wouldn’t let her endure any more by watching it.
‘Are they coming yet?’ Jasmine’s voice interrupted his thoughts he could hear the impatience in her words.
‘Yeah baby they’re on their way’ he said turning to face her ‘come give daddy a cuddle.’
Jasmine obediently walked into her father’s arms and he scooped her up and snuggled her close to him.
‘Where’s Mommy?’ Jasmine asked ‘is she getting dressed?’
‘No Mommy has a headache so she’s not coming’ Gerard told her ‘it’s just me and you.’
Jasmine shrugged ‘I’m going to go and pack some toys for me and Paige to play with.’
‘That’s a good idea’ Gerard said with a smile letting her down ‘be quiet though don’t wake your mother.’
‘Ok’ Jasmine said running from the room, her shoes making a tap tap sound on the floor.
Gerard glanced up at the clock and noted the time, they’d be here soon and he suddenly felt very vulnerable knowing he was flying solo, maybe he’d call Frank or Mikey to go with him, he really didn’t want to face this alone.
Past: January 2009
‘How are we feeling this week Gerard?’ Nancy asked
‘So so’ he said reaching for the ashtray on the table. He had been seeing Nancy for a while he couldn’t actually remember when he started therapy, he just remembered stumbling into her office drunk and demanding her help. Ever since meeting Nancy his life had improved, his outlook on life was not positive but it wasn’t negative either it was as though he could go either way depending on what route he took. If he stayed on route with Nancy and the AA meetings it would lead to a healthier life and hopefully a relationship with his daughter and if he strayed from the path it would lead to a life of drink, possible drugs and without a doubt death. In the time he had been seeing attending therapy he had strayed once and Nancy made it crystal clear that if he wanted her help she need his dedication and his focus otherwise she would walk. She said she didn’t have time for quitter’s only winners and Gerard wanted to be a winner.
‘How are things at home?’ she asked sitting back comfortably in her cream leather chair.
‘Ok my mum seems to be actually talking to me as opposed to grunting at me, Mikey’s okay with me too.’
‘What about Cheyenne?’
‘I haven’t even bothered’ he said honestly with a shrug of his shoulders.
‘You do realise it’s been four months since you’ve seen your daughter?’
‘I am well aware of that’ Gerard said trying to keep his tone light
‘How does that make you feel Gerard to know that’s she growing up every day without you?’
‘It…how do you think it makes me feel?’ He said angrily his eyes boring into hers ‘I hate not seeing her, I hate hearing everyone say how big she’s getting, how heavy she’s becoming, how fast she is, how well her speech is developing. I HATE not being a part of it.’
‘So why have you not called? It was something we agreed you would do wasn’t it?’
‘It was, but it’s easier said than done’ he murmured
‘To call would mean I’d have to hear her voice and in her voice whatever choice of words she chose to throw at me…’
‘You’re afraid of what she’ll say’
‘No Doc I’m afraid of the disappointment I’ll hear in her voice’ he said shaking his head ‘I ruined everything I let her down, I let Jasmine down. I know I’m a loser but I don’t want it confirmed when I hear the disappointment in her voice.’
‘What if she was glad to hear from you?’
‘Why would she be?’ Gerard laughed bitterly
‘Because you think she finds your absence as a blessing but in fact she’s probably wondering if with all that went on between you that she may have pushed you to drink. You see as human begins we have a vast range of emotions and one of the biggest emotions we feel is guilt. She maybe feeling guilty for your current state Gerard you didn’t get here by yourself.’
‘I’m not ready to call her’ he said thinking about his therapists words ‘I know I’m doing more damage staying away but when I do call or see her again I want to have something to show for the time I’ve been away. I want her to see that I used the time wisely, to change who I am and be a better person.’
‘And you hope that this improvement will be enough of a change for her to let you back into their lives?’
‘Yes’ Gerard said with a nod
‘And if it’s not. What will you do then?’
‘I don’t know’ He said shaking his head, his long unkempt hair swaying with the movement ‘Try harder I guess’
‘Exactly’ Nancy said with a smile. That was exactly the answer she was looking for.
Present September 2012
Cheyenne heard the door bell ring and her heart started to thud heavily against her chest. She heard the mummer of their voices and fresh tears fell from her eyes. Gerard had just clapped eyes on his new daughter for the first time and she knew that their whole world had just changed. She leapt off the bed where she was curled tightly into the foetal position and ran to the door where she opened it slightly allowing the sound of their conversation to find her easily
‘….Thank you for coming, can I get you guys anything to drink, Marcus?’
‘Yeah a beer please’ Marcus said his voice was quiet and rough.
‘May I have a drink please?’ a voice that Cheyenne had never heard before ask and her heart ached with jealousy as Gerard replied telling her she could have whatever she wanted.
She wasn’t sure how long she listened for, she heard every word and could picture every interaction that Gerard was having with his new daughter the five of them chatted and played comfortably as she sat in her darkened room sobbing her heart out.
‘Where’s Cheyenne?’ Lyn asked
‘She err wasn’t feeling very well today, so she won’t be joining us this evening.’ Gerard said not meeting Lyn’s eyes.
‘That’s a shame’ Marcus said, his voice genuine ‘It would have been nice to see her.’ Which translated to Cheyenne as, ‘it would have been nice to have someone who was also on the outside too.’ Her heart went out to Marcus he was in the same position as her, maybe even worse off than she was. How was he coping? Maybe he was just doing it for Lyn she needed his support like Gerard needed hers.
‘What am I doing?’ Cheyenne asked herself suddenly. She slowly got to her feet and walked as if in a daze to the bathroom, she splashed water on her face and patted it dry. She couldn’t. No. Wouldn’t let Gerard faced this alone. They were a family and families did things together and they faced trials together she wouldn’t let him do this by himself.
Gerard was a mess of emotions as he sat on his sofa watching his two daughters playing on the floor. He hid his mix of happiness, anger, sadness and astonishment well; his face was a smiley mask as he chatted with Marcus and Lyn about Paige who smiled at him every time he caught her eye. He was blown away by just how beautiful she was and just how much she looked like him. He could see it so blatantly the same face just with dark blonde curls framing it instead of his straight brown hair. He studied both his daughters carefully trying to find similarities between them but he saw none other than their heights and ages. Jasmine was dark haired and looked exactly like Cheyenne, barely any of Gerard in her, where Paige was all Gerard with barely a trace of Lyn save for the blonde hair on her head. They didn’t seem a like at all, but they belonged to him, they were his and the fact that his blood flowed through both their veins was a similarity enough.
‘I’m sorry’ Gerard apologised as he realised that Lyn was speaking to him ‘I was miles away’
‘I was just saying that maybe we should leave for the restaurant soon, we wouldn’t want them to give our table away.’ Lyn said smiling broadly to mask the worry that had been their seconds before. She was watching Gerard watching the kids and it was very difficult to know what he was thinking. She could tell he was overwhelmed by the situation, she just hoped that he’d be able to handle the rest of the evening.
‘You’re right’ he said his voice suddenly cheerful, the fake smile plastered onto his face again. ‘I’ll just get our coats’
‘I got it’ Cheyenne said appearing at the living room door with a bundle of jackets and coats under her arms. ‘Sorry I’m late I wasn’t feeling very well earlier. I’m feeling a lot better now.’
‘Are you joining us for dinner?’ Marcus asked hopefully he had suddenly brightened up by her appearance
‘For sure’ she said walking over to where they sat and handing Lyn her coat ‘I wouldn’t miss it for the world.’
She stood in front of the children and stroked Jasmine’s head affectionately before turning to Paige. Her breath caught in her throat as the face staring back at her was exactly the same face as the man she loved except for it was more delicate and feminine.
‘Yo-You must be Paige’ she said staring at the child her eyes all but falling out of her head.
‘And you are Jasmine’s mommy aren’t you?’ the little girl said a lazy grin forming on her lips exactly the same as Gerard’s.
‘Yes that’s me’ Cheyenne said snapping out of her trance ‘My name is Cheyenne’
‘Ok’ Paige said ‘I like your name it’s very pretty’
‘And so is yours’ Cheyenne said swallowing the lump in her throat and offering the child a smile. She kept the smile on her face as she turned to speak to the others ‘let’s go shall we, we don’t want to be late.’
‘Come on Paige’ Marcus said holding out his hand to his daughter ‘dinner’s waiting for us’
‘’Kay daddy’ she said ‘but can Jasmine come in our car please.’
Lyn looked at Gerard and Cheyenne and they both nodded at the same time, both forcing their lips to continue smiling.
As they all headed for the door, Gerard wrapped his arm around Cheyenne’s waist and pulled her close to him gently kissing her head ‘thank you’ he said low enough only for her to hear.
‘Anytime’ Cheyenne replied her voice radiating a confidence that didn’t mirror how she felt. She took a deep breath as she stepped out into the cold New Jersey night air and wished that Frank had come with them tonight, she had a feeling she would need her security blanket more than ever tonight.
Past: February 2009
As people went around the group introducing themselves Gerard kept his head down, avoiding eye contact with any of the other alcoholics there. He felt embarrassed and ashamed to be sitting in a room again with people who couldn’t control themselves, he had been in this position before many years ago and hated that he had relapsed. He was weak and he hated it.
‘Gerard, why don’t you tell us about your experiences?’ Suzanne asked her face alight with encouragement.
‘Erm I…I don’t know where to start’ he said with a shrug, his eyes still not meeting any of the group members.
‘Why don’t you tell us what event led you to seek help now?’ she said crossing her legs under her long flower print skirt, which Gerard decided he didn’t like. He had attended three meetings and at all of the previous meetings he had refused to speak. Today however when he came in he seemed to be in a better mood and Suzanne was going to take full advantage of it.
He took a deep breath as a memory of Cheyenne’s pained and tearstained face flashed through his mind. He winced at the memory and hoped no one noticed. ‘I um... I have a seventeen month old baby girl and I basically ruined her first birthday with my drunken behaviour.’
‘What happened?’ Suzanne asked as she wrote something onto her clip board
‘My ex and I had been having some problems and no matter what we tried we couldn’t seem to communicate with each other and eventually I grew frustrated and I knew what I needed to do to get a quick fix, I knew what would make me feel better and so I had a drink and as every alcoholic knows one drink turns to two and two turns to three and before you know it you’ve consumed and entire bottle.’
‘You drank when your daughter was in your charge’ A dark haired lady interrupted ‘that’s disgusting.’
‘Oh yeah coz you’re so perfect, aren’t your children in care Marie?’ A burly man shouted back
‘Excuse me’ Suzanne said holding up her hand to silence the bickering ‘we do not come here to judge others; this group is about understanding each other’s experiences and working together to beat alcoholism. This group is about positivity and change and I’d like you all to remember that please. Now Gerard, please continue.’
‘Err yeah I got pissed and got into a fight with my best friend and we ended up smashing my mother’s dining table and destroying my daughter birthday cake.’
A low ‘ooh’ sounded around the room and Gerard sunk lower in his chair as he felt the looks of pity and disgust from the fellow alcoholics.
‘What happened after that?’
‘I passed out and haven’t seen them since. I miss my daughter like crazy so I’ve started going to therapy and of course these meetings, I need to be a better person for her. I hope that this will be enough for my ex to see that I’ve changed and that I’m worthy to be in their company.’
‘That’s very noble of you’ Suzanne said warmly ‘And I hope these sessions give you the help and support you need.’
‘Now Barry, why don’t you tell us about your experiences?’ Suzanne said shooting Gerard a smile before turning to a painfully thin guy to the left of him. Gerard listened to the story of the man beside him and thanked God that his life wasn’t as complicated as Barry’s and he made a decision that he’d call Cheyenne that evening and find a way to see Jasmine. She was the reason why he was doing this after all.
Present: September 2012
Frank lay in bed his eyes wide open as Jamia slept soundly on his chest. Sleep wouldn’t find him whilst his guilty conscience kept him thinking about what he was going to do. He had told Lyn that he would break up with Jamia and that was exactly what he was going to do, not right away of course, she had just returned from her mother’s and they had the dinner party tomorrow he couldn’t do it before then. He knew this decision was the right one for him and he thought about how it would affect the group as a whole, it had always been the ten of them, a solid group even when things were messed up they still came back together as one. If he split with Jamia would she stay away, would the ten suddenly become a nine and what would it feel like having an empty seat at the table during the holidays? How would the others feel about it, would they blame him? He sighed and rubbed his hand over Jamia’s back and she stirred beneath him before lying still again. He hadn’t missed her at all while she was gone, the house felt strange without her presence but he didn’t miss it and that made him sad but he knew why he didn’t miss her, she wasn’t the person he wanted to be with anymore, he wanted Cheyenne and it was her he missed. His mind played back over the last few days, the passion that radiated off of her when she kissed him, the lust he felt oozing off her as he kissed her against the wall, the love he felt when he comforted her in the utility room and the relief when he realised that they were meant to be together and the happiness he felt when she said she couldn’t live without her. All of it was wonderful and he knew he wouldn’t be able to live without more.
He cuddled Jamia closer to him as he looked to foresee how she would react to the news, would she cry or would she be angry? Would she say she hated him? Would she plead with him to reconsider? He had no idea but he wasn’t looking forward to it, he couldn’t bear to hurt her but he’d hurt her even more in the long run if he didn’t do this now. Would he still be able to talk to and see her or would she tell him to leave her alone? He couldn’t bear not speaking to her ever again she was still one of his best friends and he couldn’t imagine his life without her, he just didn’t love her the same anymore.
When was a good time to break up with someone you vowed to spend the rest of your life with? The answer was never of course, but it had to be done. As Frank eyes began to slowly close he decided he would speak with Brian first let him know what was going on and then he’d tell Jamia, he’d tell her and then give her everything she wanted, the house, the car, everything. All he wanted was his freedom, all he wanted was Cheyenne.
It was just after midnight when Gerard tucked Jasmine into bed. He covered her over and placed a soft kiss on her cheeks. He smiled to himself as she sighed softly before falling silent again.
He took a step back and surveyed her bedroom wondering what it would look like with two beds in it instead of one, with more toys and more drawings. He thought back over the course of the evening and how much easier it was once Cheyenne had joined them. He knew that she was just as anxious as he was about the whole thing but somehow with her beside him the evening was a thousand times more bearable and Marcus seemed to be more relaxed too, the laughter and light hearted jokes came easily to all of them and it gave Gerard hope that this situation, all though difficult and tricky, might be able to work. They agreed that Paige would visit Thanksgiving and over New Year as Lyn couldn’t bear not having her daughter with her for Christmas and it was agreed that Gerard and his family would go to Phoenix and visit them the day before Christmas Eve. It was an arrangement that they could all live with and one that thrilled Jasmine and Paige to no end.
‘You gonna stand there all night?’ Cheyenne asked, she stood lazily against the door frame, the white painted wood supporting her weight as she watched him, watching their daughter.
‘I was just thinking about tonight’ he said quietly ‘it went well’
‘It did’ she said nodding ‘I’m surprised. It wasn’t as awkward as I had imagined it to be.’
‘Thank you for coming’ he said crossing the room in two long strides to stand before her.
‘My pleasure’ she said wrapping her arms around his waist ‘and I’m sorry I freaked out before I…’
‘Don’t you dare apologise’ he said his voice low but full of meaning ‘you had every right to freak out. I know this is hard for you and I’m so grateful that you came with me tonight, I know it wasn’t easy watching me with Paige.’
‘It wasn’t so bad’ Cheyenne lied ‘It didn’t hurt so much.’
‘I hate that it hurt at all’ he said resting his forehead on hers ‘I honestly thought my days of hurting you were over.’
‘They are’ Cheyenne said ‘unless you’ve got something else under your sleeves’
‘Not a thing’ he said his eyes looking deep into hers ‘I’ll never hurt you again.’
‘Never say never’ she said kissing his lips softly to let him know that her words were just a passing comment and not to be taken to heart.
‘I think Jasmine’s going to like having a play mate’ Cheyenne said breaking the kiss
‘They get on great’ Gerard replied ‘I was afraid they wouldn’t get along’
‘I wasn’t’ she replied shaking her head ‘I knew they’d like each other from the start’
‘It was cute how they wanted the same things all the time, same dinner, same drink, same dessert.’
‘Oh give it a while they’ll want to dress the same too’ Cheyenne said laughing quietly in his arms as they both watched their sleeping daughter.
‘Are you ready for this?’ Gerard asked his eyebrows furrowed in concern ‘I mean seriously, can you handle this?’
‘I can’ Cheyenne said nodding her head for emphasis ‘Step-mom right?’
Gerard giggled at the term and kissed her hair ‘yeah something like that.’
‘I’m ready’ she said feeling confident for the first time that evening ‘we’ve got this.’
‘I hope so’ he said ‘I need this to work out for us.’
‘I think it will’ Cheyenne replied ‘come on let’s get to bed, we have a dinner party to throw tomorrow and I was thinking that we’d invite Lyn, Marcus and Paige too.’
‘You are joking’ he said shaking his head ‘how is that ever going to work?’
‘It has to’ She said ‘Paige is a part of this family now so it HAS to work.’
‘You continue to surprise me’ he said kissing her gently
‘I have some other surprises if you’re up for it’ she said raising her eyebrow as a cheeky grin formed on her lips
‘Oh yeah’ he said his hand climbing up her body until it settled on her breasts he gave it a gentle squeeze and she moaned, her breath hot against his neck. ‘Take me to bed’ she whispered and Gerard nodded silently willing to do whatever she wanted. He led them to their bedroom, where Cheyenne laid him on the bed and they made intense and passionate love until they could no longer keep their eyes open. With every thrust it seemed as though they reconnected, with every touch they felt stronger as a unit and every heated kiss was a symbol that they’d be able to face whatever may come their way as long as they did it together. They fell asleep entwined together, wrapped in each other’s arms, both dreaming of the other in a room filled with love where they were the only two who existed.
A/N Hello all, long time no see. Frank’s thinking about Cheyenne before bed but she’s not thinking of him, could he be wrong about their fate? Ah who knows? And what the hell is going to happen at dinner now Cheyenne wants to invite Lyn and Marcus, surely that won’t go down well with the others. Oh my loves so much left to tell, I really do need to crack on.
Ta ta for now Reign