Author's note: Ages now: Winter is 41, Dakota is 33, Siobhan is 17 (almost 18), Elias is 14, Eric is 11, Alex is 74,
Knight is 77, Seth is 21
It'd been nearly two years and still Aunt Dakota didn't trust me.
"I'm sorry, but you can't go alone," she answered, digging in her heels.
"My God! I haven't had an episode in over three months. You're going overboard."
Closing her eyes, she said, "Once your doctor gives me the go ahead, fine. But until then..."
Glaring in frustration, I said, "She's just being ultra cautious. I'm not going to do anything stupid. I just want to go for a jog. It's nice outside. What are you going to do when I turn 18 and go to college? Put me in a straight jacket and leg irons?"
"You aren't consistent enough with your meds, Siobhan, and you know it."
"But I have been lately. Honest."
Aunt Dakota sighed, rubbing her temples.
Seeing her face pelted me with guilt. I guessed I had put her through a lot in the past couple of years. Right after Daddy died, it was like a massive weight fell on top of my body. I couldn't move. It was like every muscle had stopped working.
My aunt would try to coax me out of bed, but I couldn't even find the energy to brush my hair. I was lucky to get dressed for the day.
"Come on, Siobhan. I've made your favorite lasagna tonight."
But honestly, she might as well have been talking alien to me. It wasn't getting through. My body felt so weak. Tired.
She poked me in the side, so I finally answered her, "I'm not hungry." Seeing Daddy's face in that casket haunted me at that moment as warm tears trickled down my cheeks. He'd never see me graduate high school or college. Wouldn't walk me down the aisle at my wedding. Or worse, I'd never get to play a song for him again.
The emptiness swallowed me whole.
My grandfathers tried to talk sense into me. They were so thoughtful, always there to fill in where Daddy left off, but it wasn't the same. Granddad talked about depression, but I wasn't paying attention. I couldn't listen to anything then. I wanted a way out of the nightmare I was living. To wake up and someone would tell me Daddy was waiting for me at his penthouse.
"I have a doctor you need to see, sweetheart," Granddad said. "She'll help you."
I didn't think anyone could help me. If she couldn't bring back Daddy, it was just a waste of time.
I pulled away from all my friends, too. If they called, I would always make up an excuse why I couldn't go out. They knew I was lying. I just couldn't bear to see their sad faces. It would just make that night of my birthday come back to me again. I didn't want any reminders.
And when Julien called, I tried to break up with him over the phone, but he wouldn't let me. I told him not to come over because my aunt wouldn't allow him in. I'd make sure of it.
But Aunt Dakota thought Julien could help me. So the next day, he was there in my bedroom, saying the sweetest things to me.
You would think just the sight of him would fill some part of the emptiness, but it didn't. I was like a shattered pot with tiny shards strewn everywhere.
Slipping some of my hair out of my face, he said, "Darling, I'm here for you. We'll get through this together, okay?"
All I did was shake my head as the neverending tears dripped down my face. I didn't want him here. I wanted to be left alone. Why couldn't anyone understand that?
Pulling me to his chest, I tried to stop crying. I hated my life.
Finally, Granddad had to basically trick me into going to see the psychologist. I refused to speak to her, though, so she dealt with Granddad.
Folding my arms, I went inside myself like I'd been doing for several months, shutting out everything.
They talked for a long time. I had no clue about what.
But then I heard my daddy's name and how his depression took his life and how that would happen to me if I didn't do something.
If Daddy felt like this, then I understood him. I wanted the absolute torment, the heaviness to stop.
After that first visit, Granddad explained to me that depression runs in our family--it can be inherited. He suffered from it and he suspected that his mother had it as well. Granddad didn't know Daddy was plagued by it until it was too late. Daddy was a master at masking his pain, and he threw himself into his music when things went wrong. But this last turn of events was too much, and it took all of us by surprise. Granddad pleaded with me to be open to seeking help. He'd survived it by going to counseling, getting on medication. I had to try.
That conversation split open a tiny crack in the dark shell that had surrounded me since Daddy's death. It showed me there was a reason why this happened. Did I want to hurt my grandfathers and aunt? My brothers? Because unless I'd changed, I knew where I was headed.
But it took a long time for me to understand this. Nearly eighteen months. Little by little, I was clawing my way back into the light.
Julien didn't help my situation back then either.
I couldn't blame him, though. I was the worst girlfriend during those dark months. I wouldn't answer my phone. Wouldn't text him back. Finally, we just drifted apart. I knew we weren't together anymore even though neither one of us made it official.
But it still hurt when I saw two girls fighting over him in the halls at school.
"Good God, I'm sorry, Siobhan," Naomi said. "My brother is a bloody prat."
Kailyn's voice sounded like she was spitting nails. "Want me to bust him up? I'd love to give him a black eye."
"No, guys," I said, my throat pinched tight. God, I was so fucking tired of crying. "We're not together anymore."
Naomi shook her head. "He said he'd wait for you, damn it all."
"It okay," I whispered.
Months passed, and I'd see Julien hanging out with the worst kids in school. One of them was a known drug dealer.
I'd asked Naomi about it and she just shook her head, saying she didn't have a leash on her brother. She was studying all the time while he partied. Since their father worked two jobs, they were left on their own. Both Naomi and I wanted to get into Folumbia and room together the next year.
I had no clue what Julien was going to do with his life.
But he'd moved on, so I had to.
"Listen," I tried to reason with my aunt. "I'm just going to do the loop at Center Park then I'll come right back, okay?"
"Can I come with her?" Eric asked. "I'll protect her, Aunt Dakota."
That made me half smile. Ever since Daddy died, I'd become closer to my brothers. They came over every day after school and spent every other weekend over here. It was like when Daddy vanished, they realized he'd left a hole in their hearts, too, and they really wanted us to stick together even though Mother was falling apart.
According to Eli, her drinking had gotten so bad that she'd taken a leave of absence at work. Pax was still around, but he believed it was only for them. He never saw Mother and Pax in the same room with each other, and Pax slept in the guest room upstairs.
"Okay, okay," Eli said, "I'll go with her. But she has to promise not to run too fast."
"I'm not promising anything, slowpoke," I countered.
"Thanks, Eli," Aunt Dakota said, smiling. "So, have a nice run, Siobhan."
I had to fight a huge eyeroll. I couldn't wait until I started college.
After Eli changed, I said, "Just follow me and don't get lost. I don't want to have to double back to get you."
"I won't, just try to keep a manageable pace, all right?"
I knew Shiv was mad that Aunt Dakota made her have a chaperone. So it didn't surprise me that once we got outside, she bolted away at warp speed.
"Aw, c'mon, Shiv!" I shouted. But she didn't even glance back. She was going to have a run by herself whether Aunt Dakota liked it or not.
I guessed I couldn't blame Shiv for this. I mean, yeah, she had some trouble a while ago, but not now. She'd been doing all right. Before, when Dad died, the way she acted scared me. It was like something had sucked all the life out of her. I worried she wouldn't come out of it. Like she'd kill herself, too, like Dad did.
I tried to pick up my pace but after a while, my lungs felt like they were about to explode. God. Where did she learn to run so fast?
I'm not going to lie. I sort of got distracted by all the pretty girls walking around, so I kind of lost her there for a while. If Aunt Dakota knew, I'd be in trouble. But I wasn't worried about Shiv. She wasn't going to run away again. I think Aunt Dakota was kind of nervous because of what happened around Shiv's birthday last year. But that was nearly two months away. And we'd all be on high alert then. I thought it was too early to freak out about her now.
After about thirty minutes of searching for my sister, I finally found her at the old park near the lower east side. She didn't go to Center Park. This was way out of where Aunt Dakota would have liked. Boy, Shiv loved to rebel.
But at least I found her.
But then some middle aged lady in a fancy outfit stopped her. Maybe she was asking for directions.
A special thanks to reader, writer of the wonderful DAUGHTERS OF THE WARRIORESS series, and fan, Mrs. Racooney for her wonderful tribute to Jackson. It's how the fans took the news of his death and I am so grateful for her talents in writing this. I would add this as another chapter to my story, but it's hers, so read this before you move on: JACKSON DAY TRIBUTE