Nathaniel London heard the sound of a heavy thump and ran into the kitchen. His wife, Greta, was standing in front of the kitchen phone.
“What happened,” he asked, although by the look on her face, he already knew. The doctor must have called with the test results.
She turned towards him and whispered, “The results were positive. They want to start aggressive treatment right away.”
Nate felt as if the room was spinning. Aggressive treatment, which meant the cancer had spread. He reached out for Greta and she hugged him back. He knew he was crying but when you just learned that your baby girl has cancer, a few tears were justified.
“It will be alright Nate. My mother can come help with the children and I can cut back on my hours in the office. Marsha, the other secretary, can cover for me until we decide what we want to do.”
Nate straightened himself up and swiped his tears away. He had to be strong, for his wife, for his family. “Of course, Greta; that’s an excellent plan.”
Greta London was undoubtedly a tough woman. Nathaniel felt lucky to have her as a wife, but sometimes he wished she would ask for his support. In the last six months, he had not seen one tear from the mother of his three children and that worried him. He didn’t know if she was bottling it all in, or if she truly was as strong as she portrayed.
“Now might be a good time to call your brother,” she said.
He stepped back and stared at her, horrified. “My brother? You can’t be serious. That was just a foolish idea, Greta!”
“Well, now that I’ve thought about it, now that we know Amanda really is sick, I think it would be for the best.” She turned around and walked toward the kitchen sink. But Nate just stood there, watching her and trying to find ways to convince her why this was a bad idea.
“Greta, honey, you don’t know my brother. He isn’t a nice person – he hates me!”
She whirled around, “This is not about you! This is about your children – your family. I cannot take care of Amanda and be there for Patrick at the same time. And if I don’t do it, who else will? You?” She laughed; a bitter, cynical laugh. “You will call David and you will ask him for his help and that’s the end of it. There is no other choice. We cannot take care of all three of our kids and I will not let two of my children die because we couldn’t devote the time to both.”
She turned back around, effectively shutting Nate out. He sighed and turned to walk out of the kitchen. She was right, he knew that, but damned if it made him feel any better. She might survive giving her child up, but he knew he wouldn’t.
“He might not be home, you know,” Nathaniel desperately hoped David wouldn’t be home.
Charlotte looked at him, “Stop being a wuss Nate. David won’t bite.”
“You don’t know that,” he muttered so she wouldn’t hear. Charlotte loved her older brother, sometimes Nate suspected she loved David more than she loved him. But that was the story of their family. Their father had loved his eldest more than he’d loved his other children and Charlotte was no different. There was just something about David that drew people in.
Charlotte all but banged on the door until it opened to reveal their older brother. He was taller than Nate remembered, but he hadn’t seen David for over 10 years, not since he’d married Greta. That thought made him scowl.
“Brother!” Charlotte hugged David and kissed him on the cheek. “I’ve missed you.”
David laughed and hugged her back, “I’ve missed you too. You look too skinny.”
“Me? I weigh too much! I’m on this new diet where you cut out meat. It’s super healthy and totally great for the environment.”
“I’m a wolf Char, I need the protein.” When Charlotte frowned, David laughed, showing off his teeth. “I’m sure you’ll convert me soon enough.”
Then he turned to Nate, who was still standing at the threshold. “You gonna come in or just standing there looking awkward?”
What Nate wanted to do was turn around and walk away, but he knew he couldn’t. He needed his brother’s help. So he walked inside and let the door close behind him.
“When Charlotte called and said you two were coming to the Falls, I thought she was joking. But here you are, in the flesh. I imagine you need something from me?”
Nate wished, for what must have been the hundredth time, that he was anywhere but there. “Yeah, my family is going through some things and we need your assistance.”
“My assistance.” David glanced at Charlotte and smiled. “You basically just repeated what I said. What do you need my assistance with? There is only so much I’m actually good at and I thought Greta didn’t like me.”
She didn’t. “I don’t think she dislikes you, I think you make her uneasy.”
David shrugged, “Same difference.”
“Could we sit somewhere? It was a long drive from Sunset Valley.”
“Of course, where are my manners?” He showed them to the sitting room off to the right of the house. Everything was done in deep and dark colors. Fitting for David.
“You have a lovely home.”
“You think so? I think it needs some color.”
Nate looked at David. This conversation was not what he’d expected when he was planning his trip up here. That’s why he’d brought Charlotte. She’d always been able to calm David down, but he seemed different, somehow.
“Alright. We’re all comfortable now. Why are you here?”
“My son is a werewolf,” Nate said bluntly.
David sat down on the couch and frowned. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. He’d always been a bit aggressive growing up, but he was respectful to his mother and me. He liked to play outside and we put him in Scouts. But this last month, his eyes have started to change – to glow. He gets these headaches and muscle pains. The doctors don’t know what’s wrong, but I do. He’s becoming like you and you’re the only person I know who can help him.”
David rubbed a hand over his face, he looked stricken. “I’d hoped…I didn’t think she would…”
Charlotte looked at him with concern. “What’s wrong David? What happened?”
He waved her concern away, “I’m fine. I just…” He sighed and looked at Nate. “Nate, I’m so sorry. This is all my fault.”
“I don’t think so, it’s in our blood. If anyone is to blame, it’s me. I should have known that something like this would happen.”
“No, you’re wrong. This is my doing. I brought this curse upon our family. You see, it was supposed to stop with me, but I – I was foolish and proud and so angry! I did something stupid and now your family, your son is paying for it.”
“What did you do, David?” Charlotte asked in a horrified whisper.
“I tried to kill Siobhan and she cursed me.”
“Wait. Who is Shavon?” Charlotte leaned forward in her chair.
“Siobhan. She is the witch that cursed my father – my real father. When I ran away, I went to Cwen and I begged her to take me in and she did. For ten years I finally felt like I belonged somewhere. When Andrei came looking for me, I – I turned him away. I told him I didn’t want to see him. So he went to Cwen to ask her permission to take me home because she was my pack leader. He pleaded with her to let me go, to disown me like she did my father. I overheard them talking and she admitted that she’d asked Siobhan to curse him – my father – to make him suffer. The curse went farther than she’d wanted it to and he died as a result. He’d gone savage and attacked her wolves and they killed him. She took me in as an act of contrition. She’s the reason my father died!”
David went quiet, lost in memories and grief. Nate sat, stunned. He’d never known any of this. Yes, he knew that David’s father had died, that his own father had stepped in and eventually fell in love with their mother. But he’d never heard of any curse.
He started to say as much, but David continued. “That night, I decided to kill Cwen and Siobhan in some misguided belief that I was avenging the death of my father. A man I had never met; hadn’t even known existed until I was ten. But Andrei, he must have known I’d heard or was following me because he was standing outside of Siobhan’s room that night. He tried to stop me, to warn me, but I wouldn’t listen. When I went inside, she was waiting for me. She sat by the window and smiled at me when I came in. I – I lunged at her but something…some kind of barrier stopped me. When I tried again she did something, I don’t know what because Dad – Andrei stepped in front of me and took the brunt of it.”
Charlotte gasped and Nate immediately understood. Their father had left when Nate was about ten years old to go searching for David. He’d come back weak and crippled but he’d had David with him. He never spoke about what happened to him and Nate always assumed that he’d been hurt in some fight having to do with saving David. He would have never thought that David had done that to him.
“You’re the reason Dad died,” he said. When Charlotte seemed about to protest, he cut her off. “Maybe not directly, but he was weak, too weak to fight off the pneumonia that killed him. You did that to him. You and your hate.” And even then, while their father had been dying, he’d asked to see his son, to see David.
For his whole life, Nate had carried around the guilt of killing his mother. He’d thought he deserved to be treated poorly by David and ignored by his father. But this – the hypocrisy was just galling. And this was the man Greta wanted to invite into their lives. He couldn’t do that to Patrick.
“What does any of this have to do with Patrick,” Charlotte asked.
“Everything. Siobhan was furious. She cursed me. I – she said I would never have children of my own, that my descendants would be cursed like me, all the firstborn of the second sons. I would have to raise the child of the child I hated. It made no sense at the time, you were just a baby when I left – it never occurred to me…but she meant Patrick.”
A heavy silence followed that statement. Nathaniel was still so angry at David for his earlier revelation that he hadn’t even processed the latter. How many other secrets was David holding on to? How was he supposed to trust this man with his child?
“I want you to know that no matter what, I will take care of Patrick as if he were my own.” David leaned forward in his chair, his expression serious and nervous. “I won’t let this curse ruin his life like it did mine.”
Nate was a practical, sensible human being. He couldn’t wrap his brain around magic and all that entailed, so he didn’t really believe what David was saying, although he respected that David believed it. His son just happened to inherit this particular genetic code. It had nothing to do with curses and magic.
“I need to think about this. I’m still ticked off about dad. You’re not exactly my first choice for a foster parent for my son.” With that Nate stood and looked around the room. “Charlotte and I are staying at a hotel nearby. We can talk more in the morning.”
David stood up as well. “Nonsense. You two will stay here. I have the room.” Nate tried to protest, but Charlotte wanted to stay and that ended the debate.
“I don’t trust him,” Nate said to Charlotte. David had shown them their rooms and had retired for the night. Nate was grateful for the opportunity to speak to his sister alone.
“He’s our brother and he’s changed. Even you can see the difference in him.”
“Yeah, I see guilt but it’s not enough for me to just give my son away.”
Charlotte sighed. “What if – what if I moved here with Patrick, would that make you more comfortable?”
He took a step back, shocked. “Would you really do that for me, for him?”
Charlotte nodded. “Alyssa and Patrick are the same age, so they’ll have each other and Nigel is from here, his family is here. It wouldn’t be a big deal. I’d get to be closer to David and Nigel will be closer to his family, so don’t look so shocked.” She laughed a little.
“I just – I don’t know what to say. That would help a little with my doubts. David doesn’t know anything about raising children but if you were here…” He let the sentence trail off. If Charlotte was there, he might be willing to give this some real thought.
“Well think about it,” she said. “We’ll talk in the morning.” She gave him a hug and walked into her room.
He watched her close her door. He didn’t need until the morning. He knew he would give his son away. The last excuse just vanished with the closing of his sister’s door.