Charlotte woke the next morning with a pounding headache. Travis was still wrapped around her tightly, and though she loved him being that close, she really needed to get up and pee. She looked at her watch. Five thirty. Carefully, she wiggled away from Travis and went into the bathroom.
“Ouchies!” she yelped. Gingerly, she finished up and washed her hands. She had no idea what was in the refrigerator for the kids for breakfast, so she walked down the stairs to the kitchen. Peering inside, she found some old, smelly stir fry and some basic ingredients. She threw the stir fry away and wiped down the counter.
“Butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs,” she started gathering the ingredients for pancakes. “I’m forgetting something,” she said out loud. It was a recipe she had made hundreds of times, and yet she couldn’t remember it. “Milk!” she exclaimed. That was it. She measured everything out and mixed the batter, and set it aside to rest.
She padded back upstairs and woke the kids for school. She opened Devin’s door and watched him sleep for just another moment before she gently woke him. “Devin, sweetie, time for school.” She gently touched his shoulder, and he opened his eyes, giving her the biggest smile.
“Hi Mama,” he said, reaching for her. She wrapped her arms around him and nuzzled him.
“Hi baby boy,” she whispered. “Breakfast time, honey.” He jumped out of bed and grabbed his toy, dragging it downstairs by the leg. Charlotte laughed, remembering when Chris did the same thing to his doll, Buster.
Next, she went into the girls’ room. Darcey was awake, reading, and when the door opened, her face lit up. “Mama!” she squealed, and ran for her, giving her the biggest hug.
“Good morning, my big girl! I’m so proud of you.” Charlotte held her close and kissed her cheek.
“I don’t mind if you want to cover me in kisses this morning, Mama,” she said, dead serious. The look on her face made Charlotte laugh.
“Well, if you insist!” she laughed and proceeded to kiss her daughter’s face. The happy sounds woke Danae, who wanted to join in on the fun. She loved Devin, but the bond she had with her girls was unbreakable.
Charlotte caught her breath and collected herself. “It’s breakfast time, my lovelies. I still need to cook, but it’s almost ready.” Both of them bounded down the steps, happy and loved. Charlotte followed behind them. What a stark difference a day made. She had a whole new appreciation for her sweet family, and she couldn’t love each of them more.
Travis stumbled down the stairs, and straight for the coffee pot. “Good morning, my sweet Charlotte,” he said as he kissed her cheek. “And good morning ladies and little boy!” He caught all three of them in a hug, their giggles warming his heart.
“Pancakes, my love?” Charlotte asked as he sipped his coffee slowly.
“Oh sure,” he answered. “How are you feeling?”
“Miserable,” she groaned, “but I’ll get over it.” She finished making breakfast and they all sat down together to eat. None of them mentioned or talked about the events of the previous day. They were just happy to be together. Travis collected the dishes after they were finished eating, and Charlotte brought Devin upstairs to get dressed. The girls, already dressed in matching outfits, were getting their backpacks ready for school.
“What do you want to wear today?” Charlotte asked Devin.
“I don’t want to go to school, Mama. I want to stay home with you.” The little boy started to cry.
“Aww, Punkin,” she soothed him, “but you love school!”
“No, I love you more,” he cried. Her heart broke, realizing he had been traumatized.
“I’ll tell you what, Devin,” she said. “If you go to school with Darcey and Nae today, you can stay home with me tomorrow. I have to work today.”
His eyes widened, and he cried harder. “No Mama! No work.”
She hugged him tightly. “I have to go to work today, baby boy.” She dried his tears. “Please, for me Devin.”
“Can I stay with Nae?” he sniffled. They weren’t in the same class, but maybe something could be worked out.
“I’ll talk to your teacher, okay?” She hugged him and kissed his little cheek. “Nothing is going to happen to me, I promise.”
“You bet I do.” She sure did love that little boy.
She helped him get dressed in the outfit he picked out, and she walked him downstairs to get his shoes. It was just a little after 8 am, and the bus was waiting outside.
“Ooh, we have to hurry!” she told Devin and the twins. She held her hand out for Devin, and the girls walked with them.
The front gate was piled five deep with Paparazzi and reporters, and she was trying not to be rude, but she was more concerned with her children’s safety than being polite. She put them on the bus, and waved as it drove away. She was immediately swarmed by the reporters and overwhelmed. She pressed the call box and dialed the distress code.
Travis answered the box and saw the code. He grabbed his shoes and started running toward the gate, calling her name. “Charlotte!”
She was on the ground trembling, with at least 10 reporters around her, their cameras and mics in her face. Travis was furious.
“You all have some nerve, coming around here and harassing my wife at her own home,” he screamed at the reporters. He picked her up and held her, feeling her trembling just infuriated him more. “If any of you touch her again, you will hear from our lawyer.” He opened the gate and slammed it behind them. Together, they walked back toward the house.
“Travis, how am I going to live like this?” she cried as she sat at the table. “I still have to go to work this morning. How am I going to get out of the driveway?”
“Eventually it will die down, but we may have to hire security for a while until it does,” he said, still shaking with anger. “I’m not worried about me. It’s you and the children I am afraid for.”
“I told Devin he had to go to school today, but look at me. I’m a mess. How am I going to go to work?”
“I will drive you there, baby. We’ll figure out how to get you home safely, even if I have to leave work to come get you.”
“That will be good for all of one day, until your coach puts his foot down. That isn’t sustainable, Travis.”
“Well, it will give me some time to figure it out. Until then, that’s how it is.” He hugged her close. “I’m not letting anything happen to you anymore. I will protect you with my life.”
“I love you, honeybear,” she whispered.
“I love you with all my heart,” he whispered back.
Charlotte called in sick at the hospital that morning. Her head was pounding, and the incident outside the house didn’t help a bit, so that solved the problem for that day. Travis ran a warm bath for her, and let her soak in it until she was pruned up.
“Did you take your medication this morning after breakfast, honey?” he asked.
“No, I forgot, thank you for reminding me.” She reached for her bag and pulled out the bottle. The pills were huge, and she doubted she could swallow them in one piece, but she also knew they shouldn’t be broken, either. “Down the hatch,” she joked, and swallowed it with a large gulp of water. She made a face. The pill was bitter.
Travis laughed. “That was a yuck face if I’ve ever seen one.”
“I’m going to lay down for a while, sweetie,” she said. “My head is killing me, and I need to rest.”
“Okay, my sweet Charlotte,” he replied. “If you need me, just call my cell.”
With her being sick, he decided to call into work again. The coach was not pleased with him, but understood. Charlotte’s name and face were all over the news again that morning, so he knew that Travis wasn’t just taking unnecessary time off. Besides, he needed to be around to retrieve the children from the bus, and he would have needed to leave before they came home.
While Charlotte was sleeping, Travis looked for a private security company, but he felt odd about hiring one, sight unseen. So, he called the only person he knew he could trust.
“Sarah Laken, attorney at law, how can I help you?”
“Hey Sarah, it’s Travis Jones….”
She cut him off. “How’s Charlotte today?” she asked, concerned. She didn’t look well when they left the courthouse the previous day.
“She’s okay, nasty bladder infection and migraine headache today, but she’s otherwise okay. She’s happy as anything to be home, I can tell you that!. Hey look, we need to hire someone to protect our home from the reporters and Paparazzi and watch over her and the kids while they’re out away from home. The press swamped her this morning, and they really overwhelmed her.” He took a deep breath. “We can’t have this happening with the kids around.”
She nodded her head, taking notes. “Well, I can recommend one place I know that specializes in celebrity protection. They do homes, personal bodyguards, things like that. Would you like their number?”
“Yes, I would, thank you,” he said, readying a pen and paper.
“His name is Steve McKinnon,” she said, and read off his phone number.
“Hey, is he related to Mike McKinnon?” Travis asked.
“Yeah, Mike is his father. He kinda took over the PI and added security to it when his dad retired.”
“That is great,” Travis replied. “I know my father in law did business with Mike years ago.” He finished gathering the information and thanked her again.
Travis dialed the number Sarah had given him. “McKinnon Security and Investigation, this is Steven,” the voice on the other end answered.
“Steven, my name is Travis Jones,” he began, when Steve stopped him.
“Oh wow,” he said, stammering. “Mr. Jones! I know who you are. How can I help you out?”
“Steven, my wife and children need some personal protection. I hate that we have come to this, but the reporters outside our home mobbed Charlotte this morning.” Travis explained the situation, even though Steve McKinnon was well aware of the circumstances. The news featured little else over the past 36 hours.
“I’ve been watching the drama unfold, Mr. Jones. Our agency can undoubtedly protect your family.”
“Thank you, and please, call me Travis.”
“Absolutely, Travis. How much monitoring are we talking here?” Steve had his notebook ready, so he could give Travis an estimate.
“The children would need it during school hours, from home to school, during their school hours, and then safely home. Charlotte would need protection while she is away from home. She is the most vulnerable right now, so from early morning to evening when she comes home from work.” Travis knew this wasn’t going to be cheap, but it was worth his money to protect them when he couldn’t be there.
“And how about you, Travis? Are you needing a guard as well?”
Travis laughed. “No one is going to mess with me.” He was a big, muscular and extremely strong man. Anyone would be a fool to try.
Steve laughed on the other end. “Okay, so it looks like we’re talking about 16 hours a day total, since we’ll just lump the children in together. They are at the same school, is that correct?”
“Yes, until next year, then the girls go to middle school.” The statement hit him hard. The twins couldn’t possibly be old enough for middle school yet.
“Our usual rate is §50 an hour, but for you, I’ll cut that in half,” Steve stated.
“Wow, that’s a very generous offer,” Travis replied. “When can you start?”
“As soon as tomorrow. I have just the guards in mind for your family. I think you’ll be pleased.” Steve offered.
“Sounds good. I’ll let her know when she awakens. She’s under the weather today,” Travis stated.
“Alright!” Steve verified the address and then stopped. “Wait, is that Rog St John’s old house?”
“Yes, in fact, Charlotte is his daughter.”
“Well, that is amazing!” Steve marveled. “My dad knew Rog for years, still talks about the Estevan thing to this day.”
I’ll have to ask Charlotte about that. She’s never mentioned it, he thought. “Tell your dad hi from us, please. Charlotte will love to know we’ve hired Mike’s boy to protect them.”
“Will do. Please, send Charlotte my sincerest sympathies about her folks. I know they’ve been gone a few years, but somehow I missed it.”
“Thanks, Steve, I will.” Travis finished the call and hung up.
Travis sat by the fire until 2:45, when he would normally be leaving for work, and went to the gate to wait for the kids’ school bus. This time, he carried a baseball bat, and if anyone got near his children, they would feel its wrath. He hoped just brandishing it would be enough of a deterrent.
The bus arrived at 3:10, and all three happy children piled off the bus and into his safe, loving arms. With the bat over his shoulder, he opened the gate and let the kids in, before he closed it behind him. He walked away from the fence and waved jovially. Amazing how well that worked, he thought.
Travis got the children a small snack, and Devin wanted to see Charlotte as soon as he got home.
“She’s sleeping, punkin’,” he said. “But you can go wake her if you want to. She won’t want to miss you.”
Darcey smiled, comforted knowing their mama was upstairs safe and sound.
Devin raced up the steps and bounded into the master bedroom where Charlotte lay sleeping. He walked to her quietly and crawled up next to her, and curled up with her in bed, and fell asleep. She felt the little body near her and opened her eyes to see her son, curled up and contented. She wrapped her arms around him and snuggled him close.
“Hi baby boy,” she whispered to him, her head still pounding. He awakened from his micro nap, giggling.
“Hi Mama,” he chirped. “Tickle me!”
Charlotte could never resist an invitation for an outright tickle, so she reached over and tickled his tummy, his giggles filling the bedroom. He is such a good boy, she thought. He rolled over and wrapped his little arms around her neck, and smooched her cheek. “I love you, Mama,” he cooed at her, and she melted right into the bed.
“Oh, I love you more, little Punkin puss,” she said, hugging him tightly. “How was school?”
“It was okay,” he said. It was his usual answer, even though he secretly loved it.
“Just okay?” she said, pretending to pout. “You love school!”
“I know, Mama,” he said, wearing an impish grin. “I’s just teasing you!” And he giggled loudly. She kissed his nose.
“I think it’s time for Mama to get up, what do you think, little man?” she offered, sitting up. The altitude was not doing her headache any good, but laying down didn’t help it, either.
“I’ll race you,” he said, getting a good head start.
“Be careful on the stairs,” she warned him.
She heard him giggle at the bottom of the stairs, shouting “I won! I won!” Did she ever love that little boy.
The brightness of the remaining snow on the ground and the sun shining on it intensified her headache fourfold. “Ugh,” she groaned as the glare hit her eyes.
Darcey ran to her and wrapped herself around Charlotte’s waist. “Hi punkin’,” she said, rubbing her back. Danae, who had been doing homework, dropped her pencil and ran to Charlotte, wrapping herself around her other side. “Hi other punkin’,” she giggled, talking to Danae. “How was school today?”
“It was good, Mama,” Darcey said. “But some kids were being mean to me and ‘Nae today.” Charlotte feared that would happen.
“What did they say?” Charlotte asked, not sure she wanted to know.
“They said I was a lowlife’s daughter,” she sniffled. “But, I didn’t listen to them, Mama.”
Charlotte was horrified, and so was Travis. Neither of them ever expected this type of fallout for their kids.
“I’m happy you brought this up, actually,” Travis finally said, and Charlotte shot him a look. “I want to let you know, that someone is going to pick you up from home and take you to school, and bring you home again.”
“Who is this someone, Travis?” Charlotte asked.
“I hired a private security company to escort the children, and you, back and forth from home, and to secure our home.” Travis was happy with himself. “And, you’ll never guess who I hired!”
She thought to herself for a moment. “I have no idea.”
“Mike McKinnon’s son, Steve.”
“You’re kidding!” Charlotte smiled. She knew Mike and her dad went way back, and she was even more surprised to hear that Mike was still alive.
Charlotte suddenly felt peaceful about having armed security accompanying the kids to and from school. She trusted the McKinnons to do it right, and with class. “So, you mentioned I’ll have a guard, too?”
“Yes, my sweet Charlotte,” Travis answered. “You will need it, too, after what happened this morning.” He said that just a little too loudly because Darcey’s face froze in fear.
“What happened this morning?” she cried.
“Mama’s okay, honey,” Charlotte comforted her. “The reporters just got a little too close and knocked me over. It won’t happen again now.”
“Are you sure?” Darcey asked, suddenly feeling vulnerable.
“Yes, sweet girl, I’m sure.” It was very apparent to her the kids were more affected than she originally thought. All of their protection couldn’t shield them from the hurt they endured the previous day. And the idea of that tortured Charlotte down to her soul.
The next morning, Charlotte called Devin out from school. A promise was a promise, and since she had the day off from work, she made plans to play with him in their backyard in the snow. She made breakfast for the girls before school. It was Friday, and everyone had off from school the next day, and Charlotte was not scheduled to return to work until Monday. The guard for the girls came early and called the box in front. Travis opened the gate for him, so he could load the twins into the car safely. Charlotte and Travis both walked them out together and felt secure sending them to school with their new friend. Neither of them changed classrooms all day, so it was an easy job for the guard to keep a watchful eye on them.
Charlotte dressed Devin up in his snowsuit, and they went outside to play. Travis, who joined in the fun for a little while, had to return to work that day. He had missed a game and two days of practice, which wasn’t setting a good tone for his new position on the team.
“Snowman, Mama,” Devin requested. “I want to build a snowman.”
“Okay, let’s see what we have here,” Charlotte said, inspecting the snow. “Do you know how to start one?”
“No, Mama,” he replied. “Show me!”
She took a little sticky snow into her hands and made a snowball, and showed it to Devin. Then, she rolled it through the other snow, until it got big enough to make a base. “See, sweetie? Like this.”
“Oooh, cool!” Devin was so impressed. Charlotte moved the huge snowball on the ground where they could continue building it. “Can we do another one?” he asked.
“Yes, go ahead, just like I showed you,” she encouraged him. She watched him make a snowball, but it fell apart. He got frustrated and handed her the broken snowball.
Giggling, she took the mound of snow from him, and fashioned it into a ball, and gave it back to him. “Now, roll it like I showed you, sweetie,” she said. He set the small snowball into the snow and began to roll it, his eyes widened with excitement as it got bigger.
“I’m doing it, Mama!” he blurted out excitedly, though it was more oval-shaped than round. She showed him how to roll it the other way, to make it rounder. He was simply amazed at her. “You really know your way around a snowman!” he said very seriously.
Charlotte burst out laughing. “I’ve made a few in my time, son,” she said, helping him lift his big snowball onto the bottom one. She noticed him shivering, so they went inside to warm up. She made tomato soup and half a grilled cheese for lunch for him, and they both warmed up by the fire. Travis came down the steps dressed to impress for work.
“Babe,” he said, “I can’t get this tie just right. Help!” He walked to her, his tie untied, and he really needed her to straighten it out.
“Here, like this, honeybear,” she said, as she tied it perfectly. “You look amazing,” she cooed, flirting with him.
“It’s too bad you’re sick, baby,” he said, winking at her.
She pouted. “I know.” She kissed him and hugged him tightly. “Go get ‘em, tiger,” she purred at him.
“You mean llama,” he laughed. She stuck her tongue out at him and blew him a kiss. “I love you,” he said.
“I love you, too.”
“Would you do anything differently with that boy, baby? Would you still have tried to save his life, knowing what you know now?” Travis asked as he sipped his morning coffee. The kids were still asleep, and they had a rare quiet morning together. They snuggled together in front of the fireplace.
“I would still try. It goes against everything I am as a medical professional to not at least try.” She thought for a moment. “It’s not my job that needs to change, it’s the law that needs to be revamped. Doctors should never be punished for doing their jobs.”
He sighed. “I agree, honey.” It seemed that lawmakers were intent on making life difficult for Shores residents and taxpayers lately. It was sickening.
Charlotte picked up the newspaper, and she was not on the front page. “Well, here’s some good news. I’m no longer the headline!” On the second page was the obituary for Logan Riggins. “Did Mary ever call you, honey?”
“No, she never did. I offered to pay their funeral costs, but no, she never contacted me.”
“Why don’t we do something special for her family?” Charlotte suggested.
“It says here that Logan was interested in sports, and was a Llamas fan. Why don’t we start a sports scholarship in his name? Or sponsor a section of the Clips center and name it for the family?”
“I love your sweet heart, baby,” he said, smiling.
She ignored his compliment. “What do you think? Scholarship?”
“I think that would do the most good, honey.”
“I’ll call Sarah and find out the legal details about getting that started, and I’ll be on it right away.”
Rather than calling her, she decided to pay Sarah a visit at her law office. It would be good to talk about fees and get her representation paid for, and take care of two things at once. She took the elevator to the third floor of The Tower building and checked in with the receptionist. Her bodyguard waited in the downstairs lobby for her.
“Sarah, you have a Dr. Jones to see you,” the receptionist called.
Two minutes later, Sarah appeared from her office. “Charlotte! It’s so good to see you out and about.”
“Thank you, Sarah. It’s because of you, you know.” She smiled. “I owe you my life.”
“Oh, you’re exaggerating. It was nothing. Come on back, let’s catch up.”
Charlotte followed Sarah back to her office, and they sat down together on the sofa in the office. “Can I get you a drink?” she offered.
“Oh, no thank you. I have two reasons to be here, actually,” she said. “First, we need to settle up your fees for my defense, and two… I want to see about starting a memorial scholarship fund.”
“Oh, well that’s sweet. Your Mom and Dad would be honored by that, Charlotte.” Sarah replied. “And don’t worry about the fees right away. We can settle that later.”
“Well, the scholarship fund won’t be in my parents’ name, though that idea has merit.” Charlotte paused. “No, we’d like to do a sports scholarship in memory of Logan Riggins.”
“Wait, isn’t that the young man who died after that accident?” Sarah looked genuinely confused.
“It is, Sarah,” Charlotte confirmed.
“Why? Why would you do this, after all of the pain you’ve suffered from this whole thing?”
“Because I want to. And, Travis and I do not want to be known as the benefactors. We’d like to keep it a secret.” She folded her hands and placed them in her lap.
Sarah couldn’t believe her ears. Never had she seen such a display of selflessness and forgiveness than what Charlotte had proposed, and it touched her. “You are a true treasure, Charlotte. I don’t know many people who would do such a thing. In fact, you are the only one.”
Charlotte blushed. “I just feel in my heart this is the right thing to do. Travis said Logan’s mother was very remorseful, but she wouldn’t let us help her with expenses. So, we would love to do this instead.”
“I’ll tell you what,” Sarah posed. “Give me a few days to get this paperwork together, and you can decide how much you want to fund, and whether it’s a one-time scholarship or an ongoing thing, and once the paperwork is finished, you and Travis can come and make it official.” She was truly honored to be a part of this proposal. Sarah stood to shake Charlotte’s hand.
Charlotte stood and shook it, and gave her a hug. “Thank you again, for everything.”
“It was my absolute pleasure,” Sarah answered. And she truly meant it.
A few days later, Charlotte’s phone rang. It was Sarah.
“Hi Charlotte, Sarah Laken. All of your paperwork is finished, and once you fund it, it’s ready for this school year.”
“Oh Sarah, that is fantastic!” she beamed. “Travis and I will be there in the morning to sign the contracts and write you a check for the escrow account.” She thanked Sarah and hung up the phone.
“Travis, the scholarship paperwork is ready. We can go tomorrow to sign the papers and bring the funding. We’re in time for this school year.” She was smiling ear to ear.
‘Oh baby, that’s fantastic honey!” He held out his arms for her, and she went to him for a hug. “I am so very proud of you.”
“Oh, why is that?” She gave him a sly smile.
“You know why.”
“I know, I just want to hear you say it,” she teased.
“I love your generous, kind heart, baby. And I love you with all of mine.” He kissed her.
The morning the scholarship was announced, the news station was at the Riggins home to catch their reaction. The boy’s mother, Mary Riggins, cried tears of joy as it was announced a §10,000 sports scholarship was established in memory of her son, Logan. Charlotte and Travis wept watching the news coverage, knowing they had done the right thing. And as they had been promised, their names were not mentioned, only that the money had been given by an anonymous donor. The gift was an on-going scholarship for the next ten years, and would be given based on need and merit. Instructions for application were posted on the news channel, and no doubt Sarah’s office would have more applications than they knew how to handle to pour over. Charlotte and Travis would have the final approval of the recipient.
Soon after the broadcast, Travis’ phone rang.
“Is this Mr. Travis Jones?” the shaky voice on the other end of the phone asked.
“You found me,” he said, a smile in his voice.
“Mr. Jones, this is Mary Riggins. The news didn’t say so, and the plaque and paperwork we received never said it, but I know you and your lovely wife did this.”
“Don’t be so sure, Mrs. Riggins. Your son’s story touched many people.” Travis countered, not wanting to give up their secret so quickly.
“Ordinarily, I’d agree with you. But with your generous offer to pay Logan’s burial costs, this could have only come from you.”
“Okay, I’ll admit it, Mrs. Riggins. Charlotte wanted to do this in honor of your son. Her life has been so profoundly impacted by his, she wanted to do something special for him.” Travis hoped Charlotte wouldn’t be angry with him for spilling the beans.
“I knew it,” she said, crying. “Mr. Jones, your wife is precious. Hang onto her tightly.”
“Thank you. I think so, too, and believe me, I will.” Travis’ heart swelled with love for his beautiful wife. “Please, all we ask is that you keep our secret between us. We don’t want this to be seen as anything other than what it was meant to be.”
“I understand, Mr. Jones,” Mary replied. “I can’t thank you enough. It’s such a lovely tribute to him. You know, you were his favorite player on the team.”
Travis blushed. “I am honored to hear that. People like Logan are why I do what I do. Without my fans, I’m nothing.”
“Well, I wanted you to know that. And I wanted to thank you. Don’t worry, your secret will go to my grave with me.” Mary Riggins thanked him again and they hung up the phone.
Travis cringed when he noticed Charlotte standing nearby. “How much of that did you hear?”
“I heard the whole thing, honeybear.” She ran to him and hugged him. “You did good, baby. You did real good.”
Up Next: Chapter Eleven, Generation Four