Shasta had flown back to Des Moines to help her mother and father make the journey to L.A. She knew that this would likely be the last time either of her parents would make such a trip. They were getting too old to travel like they had when she and Nattie were young. Hell. they were too old.
Still, they deserved to see Nattie one last time. Perhaps she would give pops the forgiveness he so deserved and mean it. After all, pops needed to be able to forgive himself. The guilt had existed for too long. It needed to be laid to rest.
She snapped out of her thoughts as the taxi pulled into her parents’ drive. Mama stepped out to greet her. she hoped that pops was well. He wasn’t with her. She handed the driver the desired fare and got out of the taxi.
“Mama? Where’s Pops?” Her concern could be heard as she drew closer to her mother.
Valeria smiled. “He’s inside, dear. He-he is OK, just lost in thought lately. Mostly about how he might’ve handled your sister better when she was younger. What he might’ve done differently.”
Shasta smiled sadly. “I know how he feels. I doubt things would’ve been any different had he handled things any way but how he did. She was mentally shattered after Tobias did what he did. After that, it was a fight just to save her children from a life in hell.”
“And how are the children?” Valeria seemed unshakeable.
“With Matt as legal guardian now, they are well. Emotionally drained, but otherwise fine.” Shasta smiled sadly. “I fear for Matt, though. He has been the one who has had to be strong since the ’70.”
Valeria smiled knowingly. “Of course. After all, he is the oldest. Poor boy.”
Shasta put her arm around her aging mother. “Let’s go inside. We don’t have much time.”
“Alright, dear.” Valeria turned and went inside with her daughter. “Have you contacted Dmitri? What about Sasha?”
Shasta nodded. “Yes, mama. Both have been contacted. So have all who know Nattie.”
The two women grew quiet as they walked down the hall toward Michael and Valeria’s room. Michael emerged from the bedroom and Shasta rushed to hug him. “Pops.so good to see you.”
He put his arms around her. “Shasta, Dear. Wonderful to see you too.”
She hugged him tight. “Glad to see you too, Pops.”
He smiled sheepishly. “Come. We have much to do.”
They entered the bedroom, the three of them. Shasta would help them prepare for their journey. She had to. She was the only one of their children still close enough to help when it was needed. Dmitri, or Dee as he was better known by, lived in the Bahamas and had his own five-star restaurant. Dmitri’s was world renowned for world-class dishes that were well worth the price he asked. Dom, Dmitri’s boyfriend and business partner, had been welcomed into the family by Pops and mama almost immediately.
Sasha, the youngest of the siblings, lived wherever his research took him. At the moment, he was in the Patagonia. Tomorrow, he could be almost anywhere. Sometimes, Shasta believed that he had become the family’s Indiana Jones. In some ways, she felt that the boy had taken the Steven Spielberg movies too literal in his choice of what he wanted to do. Still, she was proud of him. he had done well so far.
Dee stood at the door of Natalia’s room. She was sleeping right now and he didn’t want to interrupt her. He hadn’t seen her in years, possibly since he was about five. Now, he wished he could have had more time with her. He dearly wanted to get to know his sister.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dom stop next to him. Dom’s arm went around his shoulder. Dee brought his hand up to rest upon the hand of his lover.
Dom smiled sadly. “I am so sorry, Love.”
Dee bowed his head. “I really don’t know her well. We were never that close. I was like five when she left home.”
Dom rubbed Dee’s shoulder. “Still, it ain’t easy knowing someone is that ill. I know it wasn’t easy for me when I lost my brother. It doesn’t matter how close you are or how well you know them, you still lose a small piece of your heart. What matters is how many people you have to help you heal.”
Dee nodded. “True.” He looked over at his lover. “Did you have family to help you?”
Dom smiled crookedly and nodded. “Yes. I had Cruella De Ville, Dumbo, and Attila the Hun. Mother never approved of my lifestyle, my father was a preacher who thought I was going to hell, and my little brother was just a confused little kid who tried-and failed-desperately to please mom and dad. But the grief of losing Gianni brought us together. Yep, the Candozas of Tampa were the most righteous Cubanos in Florida.” The bitter sarcasm in Dom’s voice was hard to miss. “Afterward, I was kicked to the curb and disowned. Maybe it was all for the best. Tomas rebelled after I left and was shot to death in a gang war. Guess being a minister’s son was too much for him. what hurt was that they never called me to ask me to come home and be at his funeral. Guess they were too ashamed.”
Dee turned Dom so that he could look him in the eye. “Their loss and my gain.’ He lifted Dom’s chin so that he was looking his lover directly in the eye. “No need to be ashamed for something that makes you who you are. You are a wonderful man. Don’t ever forget that.”
Dom smiled. “How can I? You continually remind me. for that, I am thankful…and I love you.”
“I love you too, Dominico.”
“How’s she doing?” A familiar voice asked, causing Dom and Dee to turn and find Sasha approaching.
Dee smiled sadly. “She is sleeping, which is why I have not gone in to visit.”
“Perhaps you can go to the commissary and whip us up one of those world class meals you’re known for.” Sasha was smiling. “Just a suggestion.”
Shasta loaded her mother and father’s luggage into the back of their station wagon. The drive would be a short one, but the journey would be long. She only hoped that they could handle what waited at the other end. Sure, they knew that Nattie was in bad shape. But how would they handle it when they realized that she was dying?