Tom stood a short distance away from the others who had filtered into the hospital. He felt out of place even though he was considered family by both Natalia and Matt. Hell. Even Shasta seemed to think of him as family. He had been there for the family since the French Case. He had done all he could to keep an eye on Natalia throughout her journey to this point.
Yet, he felt as if he had let them all down. He had been unable to prevent this. For that, he felt as if he had betrayed their trust.
Matt, though, kept him from drinking himself into oblivion. As did Susie. God bless them both. They were his source of stability and sanity. The two things he needed the most right now.
He now stood among strangers. He had never met most of those now in the waiting room. He had briefly been in contact with the younger brothers, since they were born during the investigations that put an end to French Industries. Still, he really didn’t know them.
And their older brother Nick. He had been gone by the time Tom came into the picture. He knew Marty Venacek, though. But where was Dani? Had she made it yet? Or was she unable to do so?
There was a dark silence that had fallen over those in the waiting room. A mixture of acceptance and rejection, belief and rejection, made its way through each and every person. Like some unnamed poison, it permeated everything, causing everyone to be on edge.
Dani walked into the waiting room. She saw him and immediately came over to where he was. Putting her arms around his neck, she gave him a hug.
“Good to see you, Uncle Tom,” she whispered, “how has she been?”
Tom smiled sadly. “Not good. The virus has pretty much ravaged her. She has zero tolerance to anything anymore. Just when she gets her life turned around, she finds herself at its end.”
“It’s sad indeed,” she agreed, “I just wish we could’ve gotten her straight before now. Maybe we could’ve prevented this.”
“Natalia chose her path long before we entered it as influences.” He looked at her. “She had things all planned out before even I entered the picture. From what I understand, your uncle Mike tried his best to steer her in the right direction and failed. Well, it wasn’t his failure, but hers. She didn’t understand what he was trying to do.”
Dani nodded. “True.”
He watched her walk away. He was saddened to watch her go. She had tried to help him rein Natalia in during the sixties. But they had both failed and Nattie had slipped further away from everyone.
But that had been a crazy time. The sixties had taken their toll on everyone. The acid trips, the drug experimentation, the sexual revolution—it had all led up to the fallout of the last couple of years, right after disco. And it was still taking its toll.
Gone were the days when innocence was god. That had been stripped away in the late sixties. Of course, a large chunk of the country’s innocence had been stripped away in the late forties and throughout the fifties as well with the McCarthy led Communist witch hunts. Not to mention Eddie Hoover’s fixation with communists which ended during Nixon’s time in office.
Matt sat in the hospital parking lot, head in hands. This was almost too much to bear. He knew that his mother was nearing the end of her life and there wasn’t anything he could do to save her. just when she had found happiness, she was hit with this new and mysterious disease. And now, the disease was killing her.
His anger fed his pain. It fed his creativity. His creativity fed his career. At the moment, though, he was three steps from ending his career. Between the pain and the anger, he was beginning to overload.
Family was more important than a career at this point and his brothers and sisters now needed him. all of them. He would always be able to return to his career after he had finished raising them. He was all they had. And now, they were all he had.
He dried his eyes. This was no time to be crying. He had to be strong. He had always had to be strong. Always.
No one ever liked losing a member, but it was inevitable. Still, his mother was too young. Forty-something was too young. And right when she had finally found herself and happiness, she fell ill. It wasn’t fair.
But then, life wasn’t fair. It had never been fair. His father had been taken from him before he was old enough to really know him. At least, that was what his mother told him. After that, it was a steady stream of men where momma was concerned.
He couldn’t really call any of them dad. None of them remained in his life long enough. Some, he’d had to defend himself and his mother from. Others simply got what they wanted from her and left. That had changed in ’77 when she met Johnny.
Johnny Mark had been a porn legend. His films were the most complex in the industry. Of course, that wasn’t his real name, but he couldn’t have the world knowing his private life. It had been a risky move for Matt’s mother, getting involved with Johnny, but it had been the best thing for her.
Although he didn’t agree with the career move, he let her do her own thing. As long as it kept her out of trouble, he was willing to allow her a little leeway. Johnny got her parts in a couple of his films and things took off from there. At first, there had been multiple partners. Then only Johnny.
After twenty films, she stopped. She had made a fortune with her body and created a name for herself. In fact, she was somewhat of a Hollywood legend herself, though not under her own name. the Morrow name was never tainted by her actions. At least, not overtly.
She had tried to keep her parents from seeing her name or likeness. Of course, Iowa was a different state than California. What happened in Cali seemed to remain worlds away from Des Moines or any town in Iowa. Sure whatever made the news seemed to reach the Midwest, but it never had much of an impact. It never really touched the lives of the people. At least not personally.