I spent two months in Sunset Valley at a rehab center. I sobered up and learned that I needed to take responsibility. I also learned that I wasn’t ready to go home. My therapist said I needed to stay away from everything that reminded me of my wife, dammit! Ex-wife. EX-WIFE. I still struggle calling Ella my ex. So, after rehab I decided to head for a two week vacation to Egypt. I don’t know why I picked Egypt, but it was better than going home. My therapist approved of this decision and actually helped me pay for it.
Egypt was one of the most stunning places I had ever seen. I did a lot while I was here. I went and saw all the great landmarks, like the Sphinx at sunset, the Great Pyramids, and some other random places that now I can’t remember. I camped next to the Nile and when I woke up, I would see the most beautiful sunrise. This place was exactly what I needed to get away from home, from Ella.
It was hard though, at night. I would look across the river and see the Great Pyramids light up and think of my my ex-wife and my children. Oh how much I miss them. It had been almost three months since I left the safety of home, but I still wasn’t ready to leave. I still had a lot of work ahead of me.
One night while I was sitting by the fire, my phone rang. It read an “unknown” number. “Hello?” I answered.
“Daddy?” A little boy’s voice broke over the line. “Daddy it’s Travis!”
“Hey buddy. How’s it going?” My heart lifted after hearing my son’s voice after three months.
“It’s going okay. When you coming home?”
My heart broke. “I dunno, soon I hope. Hey is mom there?” I asked dreading the answer.
“Yea. She’s helping make the cake for Alice’s birthday party.”
Crap! My daughter’s birthday and I totally forgot!!!
“MOOOOOM!!! Dad wants to talk to you!” My son screamed and I had to pull my phone away from my ear.
“Hello?” Ella’s voice came on the line.
“Hey.” I said trying not to cry.
I looked down at my finger and saw the wedding band that I still wore. My therapist told me to get rid of it, but only when I was ready to finally separate my love from her. I still was in love and I wasn’t ready. “I see he finally called you. He misses you.” She told me, I was half listening. “Ally misses you too.”
“I know. Sorry I haven’t called. I’ve been. . . I’ve been busy.” I didn’t know if I should tell her where I’ve been.
“Yea I know. Your therapist called. Rain, why didn’t you tell me you were going to rehab?” She asked. I was surprised that she knew.
“It was a last minute decision. I got to the airport and got totally shitfaced. A guy came up to me and started to talk to me. He was heading to Sunset Valley. He told me he worked for this center and then gave me his card. I asked him if he would help, and he bought me a ticket. Then he drove me to the center after we landed. I didn’t call, because I didn’t know what you would say, or do.”
“Rain, I would have supported you. We may be divorced, but I still love you. I always will.”
“I know. Is, um Ally there?” I asked. I needed to change the subject before I started to cry.
“Yea. It’s her birthday today.” Ella muffled the phone and screamed for Alice and then came on. “She’s coming. Rain, come home soon. The kids really want to see you.”
“I will soon. Promise.”
“Daddy!?!” I heard as the phone was passed.
“Happy Birthday Ally.” I told her with a smile. “Hey guess what? I got a gift for you.” Mental note, buy Ally a gift! I thought to myself as I told Ally she had a gift.
“What is it?” She asked excitedly.
“It’s a surprise. As soon as I come home you’ll get it.”
“When are you coming home?” She asked as her tone of voice shifted from happy to sadden.
“Soon, very soon. I promise. Daddy, just needs to do some stuff first.”
“Okay. Well Aunt Shonda and Uncle Jimmy are here. I’ll see you later!” Click. I started to laugh, I didn’t even get to say I love you or anything. My five year old was just too excited about her birthday.
The next morning I woke and looked down the Nile as the sun started to rise. I felt my wedding band and started to play with it with my thumb. After the phone conversation I had with my family, I sat quietly and thought of everything that had happened in my life. I wasn’t quiet ready to move on from Ella, but I knew that it was time to say goodbye and start a new beginning with my life. I slowly took off my wedding ring and for a while I just tossed it in my hand. I had to let go, I needed to let go. I looked out at the sun just above the horizon and smiled. I took in one deep breath and then exhaled. I did this a few times, preparing myself. Finally, I tossed the ring as far as I could into the Nile. I wiped the last tear I promised I would ever shed for Ella.
After throwing my ring into the Nile, I felt a burden rise from my body. I was free of everything. I took one more breath and turned to gather my tackle box and my fishing pole. I stood there the entire day and fished. After that, the next few days I wondered around Egypt. I mostly fished, but I found myself going to different locations. I fished in the Nile, the Red Sea, and I even found myself inside an oasis.
I didn’t only just fish. I did some exploring. I found some hidden treasure and I managed to get inside a tomb to my surprise. However when I walked in I wasn’t prepared at what I saw. The tomb was heavily protected by fire traps. It wasn’t my type of place to stay. I figured that someday, maybe, one of my decedents would be brave enough to walk in and explore what was inside.
After two weeks visiting Egypt, I was finally ready to go home. On my last night I visited the Red Sea once again. I was happy finally. I took out my phone and dialed a number, it was the same one that Travis used to call me. “Hello?” A man answered. I knew the voice, Mike.
“Hey, um is Ella there?” I asked.
“Yea, she’s here.” He said. “El! Its Rain!” He screamed before getting back on the phone with me. “She’s coming. You doing okay?”
“Yea, I’m great. How’s the face?” I smiled. I still was pretty happy that I landed one.
“It’s better. Yours?” I could just hear him grinning.
“It’s healed.” I heard the phone being passed and Mike being slapped playfully.
“Hey Rain.” Ella answered.
“Babe, I’m coming home.” I told her with a smile.
“Okay, I’ll tell the kids to head to your place on Friday after school.”
“Thanks.” After that I hung up the phone and headed to my hotel by the airport.
When I arrived home I went and prepared for the kids arrival. I bought Alice a new bed and made Travis’. I cleaned the house and tended to my garden. By Friday, the house was ready and I was excited. I couldn’t wait to see my kids. I heard the diesel engine from the bus outside and children laughing. My kids were finally home.
Travis was standing by the bus, trying to get Alice off. “Come on, dad’s home!” I walked out and smiled just as Travis turned to face the house. He released Alice’s hand and came running after me. “DADDY!” He screamed as he jumped in my arms.
“Hey buddy.” I chuckled as I put him back on the ground. “Have you been a good boy while I’ve been gone?”
“Yup.” He said happily. He then reached for my face, “Why do you have a beard?”
I started to laugh. “I grew it out while I was away. Why, you don’t like it?”
“Yea, it’s kinda cool. Mom’s gonna freak though.” I smiled at the thought, Ella always hated when I didn’t shave.
I shrugged my shoulders, “oh well.” Then we both laughed.
I saw Alice standing away from us. She was hiding. I headed to the car and grabbed out the last of my luggage from my trip. I slowly walked up to her. “Ally?” I called out. “I have a surprise for you.”
“Leave me alone.” She huffed. I looked at Travis.
“She’s shy. I don’t think she really remembers you.” He whispered to me. I felt a bit heart broken. I had only just talked to her a week ago, but then when I thought about it, she had grown so much in the last few months since I had seen her. The last time I saw her was when Ella walked out of my life, she was still a toddler. I was surprised Travis even recognized me.
I walked around with my gift in hand. “Ally, I have someone I’d like you to meet. His name is Achmed the Bear. I bought him in Egypt, just for you.”
“Why’s he in scraps?” She asked.
I smiled, “He’s a mummy. Ooooh.” I made some silly but scary sounds with the bear, which only made Alice laugh.
“Can I hold him?” She asked shyly.
“Of course, he’s yours.” I handed her the bear and she headed inside.
After making dinner, and watching a cartoon with the kids, it was time for them to go to bed. I went and tucked them in and gave them both a kiss goodnight. As I headed out the door I turned and looked at both of them. They were already asleep. I smiled, I had my kids back home. I quietly turned off the light and headed to my own bed.
That weekend went by fast. I could hardly keep up with my kids. Both Saturday and Sunday mornings I found them up before me. It was shocking. They were up at the crack of dawn watching their cartoons. They spent the weekend playing together, driving me nuts, but I was just thrilled that the two were in my house and all I heard was laughter. It was a good weekend.
Of course when that doorbell went off Sunday evening my heart sank a bit. Ella had come, and she was right on time. The kids were in their room laughing and playing games while I was making myself some dinner. I headed to the door. “Come on in.” I told her.
“The kids ready?” She asked.
“Yup.” I answered. “Hey, guys! Mom’s here.” I screamed a bit too loud. We both heard our son groan and together Ella and I chuckled.
While we waited for the kids to get their stuff ready, Ella came in. I felt really awkward standing in front of her. I kept my head down. “You look. . . good.” She finally said to me.
“Thanks. I feel good.” I said to her, keeping my head down. I was afraid to look at her. “How are you and-“ . . . “When did you –“ We both said in unison before laughing. “Sorry, you were saying?” I asked.
“When did you start growing that?” She pointed to my beard.
“Rehab. You don’t like it, do you?” I asked with a smile.
She just smiled back. “It’s just. . . different. I like the clean shaven look a whole lot better.”
I finally raised my head and smiled. It was the answer I knew she was going to give. “Well, I guess I’m keeping it.” I said back to her, brushing my chin with my hand. I was grinning. She just smiled and shook her head.
The kids came out of their room, Travis wasn’t happy. “Mom, do we have to leave? Can’t we stay for like a week? Please!” He begged her.
“Trav, you have school and homework. You’ll be here next weekend and the weekend after that. I told you that you and dad get to spend weekends together.”
“But that’s not fair! Why can’t I live here and spend the weekends with you and uncle Mike?”
This time I turned to him. “Hey bud, as much as I would love it for you to be here everyday, I want you to spend as much time with mom as you can. Your mommy needs you and I know you need her.”
“But it’s just not fair.” He started to cry. I took him into my arms. “I don’t wanna go daddy. I love you.”
“I love you too. Now, we’ll see each other next weekend. You go with mom, and be a good boy for me okay.” He nodded and took Ella’s hand. She mouthed, “thank you” to me just as she left.
Over the next few years my children and I learned how to adjust to the simple and short time we had together on the weekends, and a couple of weeks during the summer. It wasn’t much and we all wanted more time together. Alice started to bond with me right off the bat. She loved to play in the sprinklers during the summer months while I worked on my harvest. She would laugh and play and I would only watch with a smile on my face.
“Daddy, watch me!” She would shout just as she would run and jump over the sprinkler, landing just inches from my perfect lettuce plant. My heart would stop just briefly as I looked at my plant.
“Be careful, Ally!” I would shout while I tried to lower my pulse. She would look at the plant that was just inches from her big toe and smile at me and then stick her tongue out. I would just shake my head. “You are just like your mother, you know that?”
“I know.” She would laugh and then go back to playing.
As for Travis, he didn’t care about the outside world. I would find him inside everyday, reading or playing. He was always reading some book. One time I tapped his window while I was working and saw him jump. His eyes narrowed and it reminded me of Ella, it was scary. “Come on out and play!” I shouted through the window.
“No! I’m reading.” I could hear him yell out.
“Fresh air will do you good.” I called out again. He only shook his head and went back to his book. I shrugged it off. He just wasn’t into the outside world.
The only part that was difficult with my children, was helping with homework. I never finished high school, so I wasn’t sure how great I would be when it came to helping them with their work. Alice always sought out for my help. She hated school, just like me. “I just don’t get it dad. Why do I need to know where this man lived a hundred years ago?”
I tried not to laugh. “It’s on the test.” I would say, I didn’t have a true, honest answer for her. I failed history more than once. It wasn’t until my trip to Egypt that inspired me to read up on the different Pharaohs and gods.
Travis never needed help with homework. He struggled, I could tell, but he wanted to figure things out on his own. When I did offer my services he would narrow his eyes at me just like Ella, “I don’t need help. I can do it on my own.” He would bark at me.
“Okay, but if you need me, just ask.”
Shortly after Travis’ tenth birthday, I started to notice a change in my son. A week after his huge party the two arrived at the house. I was out in back tending to my crops when I started to hear some yelling. “YOU’RE SUCH A BULLY TRAV!” Alice screamed. “I’M TELLING DAD!”
“BITE ME!” I heard Travis yell back. It was at this time I started to head around the house to investigate their problem. “You’re a whiney little baby Al. Always going to mommy and Uncle Mikey. waaaaa-waaaa” He teased.
“Your only jealous!” Ally fought back.
“Jealous? Me? Ha! You’re a pathetic little excuse of a kid. I ain’t jealous.” Then as I was walking towards them I watched as my son pushed Alice down and he started to laugh. “Haha! The baby’s on the ground.” Alice’s eyes widen in my direction just as she tried not to cry.
“TRAVIS!” I yelled. My son jumped. I was standing right behind him.
“What in the hell has gotten into you!?! Go to your room!”
“But-“ He said in a whimper.
“No! Go to your room and sit on your bed. Your in big trouble, you hear me! We do not hurt anyone in this family!” I was mad. My son was not only teasing his little sister, but he was hitting her and pushing her around. I pointed my finger at the door and glared at him. “Now, Travis.”
He stormed up the porch and slammed the front door closed when he walked in. I looked at Alice, “Are you okay?” She only nodded and wiped her tears.
Pretty soon, my son and I started to have a lot more problems. He was constantly picking fights and throwing tantrums around the house. I ended up putting him in time out on his bed. He wasn’t allowed a book or any toys while he sat there. Afterwards I would walk in the room, “Are you going to explain to me now why you are so angry?” I asked after an evening of timeouts.
“No!” He yelled.
“Fine. You can sit here until you start acting like the good young man I know you are and apologize to me.”
When I headed out the room to let him think some more, I heard him mumble something, that started with an “F” and ended with “you.” “Excuse me? What did you say?” I asked him, knowing perfectly well what he said to me. He just looked down at his foot and mumbled the same sentence again. “Young man, you are this close to getting a spanking.” I told him. I would never intentionally hit my kids, but Travis was on my last nerve this night.
“Screw you!” He hopped off his bed and grabbed one of his stuff animals and threw it at me. “I hate you!”
“THAT’S IT! Get over here right now!” I headed towards him as his eyes widen in fear.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Please daddy. I’m sorry.” He kept repeating with tears down his cheeks.
“I want you into bed right now and if I hear a peep from you, your ass will be red! You understand me!?!” I yelled. He only nodded and climbed into his bed.
I finally found out the reason why my son was acting the way that he was that night. It came from Alice, and it wasn’t what I expected. “Daddy.” She asked the next evening while we were eating dinner, “Daddy, when mommy gets married to Uncle Mike, does that make him my new. . . OW, why’d you kick me Travis!”
I only coughed. Ella, engaged? I looked at both my kids and back at my food. My stomach was in knots and I felt like I was going to puke. Travis looked up at me. “Sorry.” He said to me more than to his sister.
“W-when d-did this happen?” I asked the two of them.
“Last week. Uncle Mike asked her after a gig.” Alice said looking at me. “But I just don’t understand, is he now my new daddy?”
I tried to smile. “No, sweetheart. Uncle Mike will be your step-dad, but you’ll only ever have one daddy.” I looked at the clock. They were with me for another twenty-four hours. This was the first time in over three years that I wanted a drink. And if my kids weren’t home, I probably would have done so.
A few weeks later, Travis started to act strangely again. He was more secluded and he even called me up asking if he didn’t have to come over on the weekends. The one weekend he was mad at me for making him come, he barged right into the house and stormed right at me. “I WANNA GO HOME!” He yelled.
“You just got here.” I told him. I started to rub my neck, he was starting to really piss me off. “Why do you want to go home?”
“Cause, I wanna play on my computer! This place sucks. I can’t play World of Warcraft here! I wanna go home and play my gnome warlock and get to lvl 85.”
“Wait, you want to spend your weekend, at your mom’s playing a stupid computer game?” I couldn’t wrap my head around the thought. He use to look forward to spending every weekend with me, now all he wanted to do was spend time on a computer. “That’s not going to happen. In fact, tomorrow you are getting out of the house and we are going fishing.”
“Wha. . . That’s not fair! I wanna go home, I wanna play on my computer!”
“No. End of discussion, now go play or do whatever you want while I make dinner. If you continue with this argument, you’ll be back on your bed. You got that?”
“Fine.” He walked away, very unhappy.
In the morning I gathered up the kids and drove down to the river. The entire ride over there all I could hear was Travis. “This sucks!” He would say as he kicked the back of my seat. “I’m missing the Darkmoon Faire! This is so not fair!”
“Travis, chill. It’s just a freaking game!” I barked back at him. He was really pissing me off.
“But . . .” He trailed off as he looked up in the rearview mirror and saw my face. I gave him a grim look, and he stopped talking.
We fished the entire day. and when I saw we, I mean Alice and I fished. Travis sat on the dirt and worked on his homework. Then he pulled out a notebook from his book bag and started to draw. He kept quiet. I once glanced over to his work and he was drawing a dwarf with an axe. “I thought you were a gnome warlock?” I teased.
“This is my dwarf hunter named Gimby. I’m gonna draw his pet soon.”
“What type of pet does he have?”
“A wicked black scorpion that’s hard to get. I had to go to the Orc’s zone in Duatar to get him at lvl 10. It was no easy task I’ll tell you that much, but it was worth it.” I left him alone and continued to fish with Alice. She loved fishing. In fact she was the only one to catch a single thing that day. She then asked if we could release it, which I helped her do. She hated the thought of killing the fish.
I didn’t quite understand my son, but his mood shifted as he grew older. First he was just moody and throwing tantrums, but then he gained a mouth like I had never heard. Well, okay, maybe I did know that mouth, it was mine at his age. I remember talking just like him, telling my dad off, using foul language. I have to remember to call and apologize to my dad about that.
His mouth was getting him into serious trouble with me and with Ella. He was often grounded when he arrived home. I made him head straight to his room. I stuck with Ella’s rules those weekends, and if I grounded him she would stick by me. We were called more than once by the school to get him under control. Neither Ella nor I knew where to begin with him.
He was worse with Alice. She would often times come crying to me. I would look at her and she would have a red handprint on her face from being hit or a handprint on her arm from an “Indian burn” he gave her. One afternoon I found a chunk of hair missing from her head. It was then I called Ella over.
The kids had one more day with me, but I needed to separate them. Ella came over, Alice was in my room crying and Travis was on his bed babying a red toosh. I opened the door to Ella. “Come in.”
“I got here as quickly as I could.” She told me. “What’s up?”
“Travis, that’s what. Our son just pulled this out from Alice.” I showed her the handful of hair. Ella gasped. “And that’s not all, he kicked me in the groin. I had to chase him for a half a block.”
Ella fought hard not to laugh. I probably would think of it as funny if it hadn’t happened to me, but it did and I was still sore from the run and the kick. “So, what did you do?”
“I spanked his ass and called you. We need to discuss this problem of ours El. I am not going to let him treat Ally that way!”
“Alright. What do you suggest we do?”
“Right now, I want him away from here before he tempts me again. I am at my wits El. When you come pick Ally up tomorrow we can discuss this more thoroughly and when I am not this pissed off.”
“Alright.” She calmed me down. “I’ll take him. Mike and I will also discuss this tonight and I’ll talk to you later, okay.” I nodded in agreement. Ella walked into his room, and a few minutes later I watched as Ella dragged Travis off into the car. He gave me the finger and smiled. I wanted a drink, badly!
Two weeks later Travis was banned from coming over for their summer vacation with me. Ella and I had made an agreement years ago that during the summer the kids could spend a few weeks with me. This summer, however, Travis was not allowed. Ella and I both agreed and so Alice and I got to spend two weeks together, just father and daughter. It was amazing. We went fishing almost every day. We watched movies and together we memorized “Monsters VS Aliens” word for word. I loved B.O.B. and she loved Dr. Cockroach. Our favorite scene was when they first greeted Susan. Alice could do a perfect Dr. Cockroach impression, “What ever mad scientist made you, he really went all out.” She would say in a harsh accent that sounded just like the cockroach. The most fun we had together though was out in the garden where she played with the sprinklers and I worked on my garden.
After the summer months ended I found myself alone in the house. I missed Alice and Travis. Well, that was until I got a phone call from the school. It was the first day back for the kids. “Hello?” I answered.
“Mr. Rain, this is Principal Worthington from Riverview Middle School, your son’s in my office. Now we’ve tried getting a hold of Mrs. Rain, but she’s not answering. Could you come in?”
My son had just started the eighth grade and was in middle school. What’s worse was he was already in the principal’s office. This wasn’t the first time I was ever called by the school, but I wasn’t expecting this. “What did he do now?” I asked.
“He and another student spray painted one of the walls with strong language.”
“I’ll be right there.” I said through clenched teeth.
After talking to the principal I found my son in the computer lab with a security guard watching him. He was on there doing a research paper. “Travis, lets go.” I said in almost in a yell. He looked over and slid off his chair. “You are in so much trouble young man.”
“Where’s mom?” He asked me wide eyed.
“In Bridgeport playing a gig with Uncle Mike and Uncle Jimmy. You are stuck with me till she gets home tonight.” I took hold of his wrist and we were out the door. He gulped audibly.
When we got home I told him he was to go straight to his room. I didn’t know what I was going to do with him. I didn’t know what Ella and I were both going to do. I did know that we had to act soon, before he got out of hand and into some serious trouble. I walked in and headed to my sofa and sat there. I played with my cell phone. There was only one person I could ask for advice. I dialed the number. “Hello?” An old man’s voice came on the phone, but it was the voice I always enjoyed hearing.
“Hey pops. I need some advice. . . . “