Mace had to leave and go back to his room next door even though he did not want to leave me. He is taken away by one of the nurses because he is due to have his obs done. Shale went with him to tell Silt and Thyme that I wanted to see them. Before they appeared a nurse comes into me to do my obs, and after she is finished I sit in one of the chairs, impatiently watching the door, waiting for my other two brothers to turn up.
My mind starts to wander to Forrest. I wander how long it is going to take Forrest to stop sulking before he puts in an appearance. Remembering the sap that I used to be around him in the past, I expect for him listening to what I said to him, must have come as quite a shock to him. I have actually shocked myself ... wanting to cling onto Mace when I have the option of going back to Forrest.
Thankfully I am not sat alone for very long with my thoughts, when the door opens and only one of my 'new' brothers walk in. I sit staring at him as he makes his way into the room, and stands for a moment in front of me smiling, I think a little nervously. I am trying to work out which one he might be as well as wonder where the other one is.
"You look totally different now you are awake." he laughs quietly
"Do I?" I laugh back at him.
"Yes. Dad is right, when you are asleep you do look just like your Mother, not so much when you are awake. He showed us a photograph of your Mother, because you really reminded him of her while you were in the coma. She haunts him when he is around you, he says."
I sit laughing at him because he is obviously very nervous and just mumbling rubbish for something to say. I am a little amused that Shale Rock would still have a photograph of my Mother, something that I don't even have myself. Silt sits down in the chair next to me.
"So, I am guessing you are Thyme, you look more like Turmeric than Shale, with your lighter brown skin and you have also escaped the Rock nose which Shale has. Nobody has actually said if the twins are identical or not." I smile at him
"No actually I am Silt, I am Shale's twin brother. As you can see we are far from identical." he smiles at me "Me and Turmeric take more after our Mother apparently, while Shale, Gravel and Thyme are more like Dad, they all got the awful nose."
"I guess you would not remember your Mother, T told me she faded in an accident when the twins were toddlers. I am sorry that must have been ruff growing up without a Mother."
"Yeah it was a little, but Dad made up for it." he smiles at me nervously. "Me and Shale don't remember her at all, we only know what she looks like from photographs. T and Thyme remember her, them being that much older." he smiles at me.
"So where is Thyme? I was expecting to see you both."
"He will be along in a minute, he's just popped to the toilet ... he is very nervous about meeting you. He is the shy one."
He amuses me by sitting there and just grinning at me like a cheshire cat.
I am finding this just as awkward as I did with Shale. This guy is supposed to be my brother but he is a total stranger to me ... I wander if it is too late for any of us to make the connection that we should have being brothers. I don't see me and Turmeric having a problem, it is just the other three I am not sure about.
"So, little brother, how many Neices and Nephews do I have to thank you for? I take it I am the only gay one among us." he starts to laugh "Only I am sure I have heard Mace say you, Shale and Silt all have large families."
"Yeah we do. I have two girls and two boys. Shale has three boys and Thyme has three girls and a boy. And there are Tami and Turmeric two kids." he smiles at me.
"Shale and Mace have told me all about T's son Coal." I smile at him. "Wow!! So that is thirteen ... I guess my lonely Christmas's are going to be very busy as well as very expensive from now on!!" I start laughing. "Its quite exciting to suddenly have a large family, when I have been so alone ... I've even gained a Son and I hopefully have Grandchildren on the way, which is a totally shocker. I swear I am not old enough!!" he laughs at me.
"Gravel really has been talking bullshit about you all these years, hasn't he." he mumbles as I smile at him. "He's always told us you are totally horrible and wouldn't want anything to do with us, because of Dad."
"Yeah, so I have been told. He's been talking shit, and I can just imagine what that berry hole has been saying about me." I laugh at him "Lying, jealous spite and back stabbing are just a few of his favourite games and there has never been any love lost between me and Gravel!! In fact the last twenty years have been damn good for me, not having him in my life."
"So you didn't get on with him either then?"
"No not really!! I am only back here to There is a very thin line between love and hate, and we have always been stood right on that line. I loved him because he is my brother, but hated him for the person he is. Our personalities seriously clash and we have always fought like cat and dog, since we were small kids. I guess you know now everything that he has done to me, and he probably enjoyed every second of it."
"We all knew he was a total berry hole, but we have been seriously shocked by what he has actually done to you, Slate, Turmeric, Tami and Mace."
"Yeah, I knew he could be an evil berry hole, but he has even shocked me with some of the stuff that he has done, especially the lives he has taken!! Hiding Slate, Dad and you lot from me, I am seriously not happy about ... I still can not get my head around you lot existing ... there is just so much stuff I don't even know where to begin with it all!!"
"I can imagine. You are not so hard for us, because we have always known about you, and even though we have always wanted to find you the situation has always been very difficult for us." he rolls his eyes "I have to watch what I am saying because Dad hasn't spoken to you yet, and he really wants to explain everything to you properly."
"So have any of you been to see Gravel?" I ask ignoring his mention of Dad.
"Hell no ... we couldn't even if we wanted to, which we don't!! There are a load of armed guards preventing anyone from going near him, even family because of the situation. Only the doctors and nurses can go in. He can rot alone in hell for all we care!! He has nearly destroyed Dad, fading Tami, shooting you and what he did to Mace and Slate. I am not sure any of us can ever forgive him for what he's done ... especially Tami!!"
"What has happened about Tamarin ... her funeral ..." I mumble quietly, feeling a little awkward for even having to ask, but up until now she has been a taboo subject.
"Nothing yet, Shale and Thyme went to identify her body, but it's kind of awkward, she's still in the morgue over in Apple Hill. With Dad and Mace being in hospital, we can't even start arranging her funeral. It's not just Tami, there is also Mace's two cousins ... he is the only Brownie left, so he has those two to sort out too ... I don't know what is going to happen if Mace doesn't get bail!!"
"They are hopeful right!! They can't lock him up yet ... he will never cope!!" I start to panic.
"Yeah Dad and El are going to put their necks on the line to get him bail. Dad thinks it won't be a problem." he smiles at me "Providing he does get bail, they are going to try to get Mace clearance to travel to Orange Falls, because that is where we want her to be laid to rest. Mace being her husband, he has to be there. If he can't get clearance to travel, then we will have to bury her in Apple Hill along with Mace's cousins, which Dad is really not happy about. If Mace can not take her home to Orange Falls, and she does have to be buried in this neck of the woods, then Dad says she will have to be buried in Sugar Valley." he pulls a face.
"Why Sugar Valley? He has always hated this town." I frown at him "I would have thought Raspberry Hill would have been his preferred place, his parents being buried there."
"He has his reasons why Sugar Valley ... which he will tell you about when he speaks to you." he smiles at me awkwardly
"I want to see her." he frowns at me "Tamarin."
"What?! But ... she's ..."
"Faded yes I know. I am a doctor, a surgeon, faded bodies don't bother me, I have seen more than my fair share." I smile at him "I am really struggling with Tamarin for a few reasons, but I need to put a real face and person to the name, I need to see my Sister." he frowns at me "It is bad enough that I am never going to know her, but at least I can see her ... I need that, or she is always going to be an unreachable mysterious illusion in my head, which over time will probably drive me crazy."
"Yeah I think I can understand that, you have always weighed heavily on our minds!! You should talk to Dad about it, I know he will be straight over to see Tami once he has been released from this place, maybe you should go with him." he smiles at me "I don't want to see her, I want to remember her how she was the last time I saw her." he starts to choke.
"You are lucky ... because I will never have that, thanks to Gravel and Dad keeping his and your existence from me."
The door opens and Thyme hovers by the door, looking very nervous. The moment I see him, there is no mistaking who he is ... he looks so scarily like Gravel and how I remember Dad looking.
"It's okay you can come in Thyme." I start laughing at him "Don't worry I don't bite ... well not unless you ask me to and definitely not as hard as Gravel says I do!!"
"Mace has warned me, he says that you are a joker."
"I bet he's told you I am a tight ass too!!" they both start really laughing so I frown at them. "I've always been a bit of a scrooge, and Mace is quite an expensive article, he spends money like a maniac, and I am always moaning at him for it, and he loves to keep pointing it out to everyone."
"Yeah ... he nearly gave Dad a coronary!! Dad took Mace saying you are a tight ass in the wrong way, he thought he was being rude and personal, with you being gay." Silt is nearly doubled up laughing.
"Oh Berry!! Yeah I can see how it could be misinterpreted!!" I start laughing with them, then something clicks in my head. "So, does it bother any of you, me being gay?"
"Hell no!! Coal is gay, so you are not on your own, and of course so is Mace." Silt then pulls a face. "Well Coal being gay is not strictly true ... I don't think he knows what he is himself, and we never know from one day to the next if it's a man or a woman he is bringing home." he laughs "He's like Atlas, it doesn't bother him either way."
"Oh right, so Coal is bisexual then." I laugh quietly
"Messed up in the head more like. His parents have kind of mashed his head up and he runs around like T, using and abusing people because he has serious emotional and commitment issues, he keeps everyone at arms length. T and Coal are very much alike in that respect ... Mel has messed both of their heads up?
"Coals Mother." he smiles at me.
"I thought Mace would be back by now." I mumble as I glance towards the door "Where is my drama queen anyway?"
"Shale, Slate and Dad are sitting on him next door." Thyme mumbles quietly "He is breaking his neck to come back in here, but we needed to keep him away while we were in here." I watch Silt and Thyme exchange a suspiciously awkward look.
"I'm sorry ... I have done it again haven't I!! I keep forgetting, me and Mace, our relationship must be a very sore subject for you because of Tamarin. I'm sorry, I guess you don't want to see us together!!"
"No it is not like that at all!! Your relationship is not so much sore, but strange and confusing ... in fact, this whole situation is rather awkward and confusing!! I for one would definitely not like to be in your shoes!!" he laughs for a moment "We are not really surprised with Mace batting for the other side, we could all see he was gay apart from Tami. We don't actually mind you two being together, however, it is very hard for us to think about Mace being with you for the past five years while Tami has been going out of her mind wandering where he was."
"Before you go shooting me down." I hold my hands up "Seriously if I had known he was my brother in law, I would never have gone there!!"
"Don't worry, it's fine, we know it was not your fault, you didn't have a clue about who he was or that he was married to your sister, who you didn't know existed. It is not even Mace's fault really under the circumstances. Gravel forced him into that situation and you can't help who you fall in love with ... and we can see Mace has turned into a right goof ball over you!!" he laughs for a moment. "However, we really don't know what to think anymore. We have Forrest saying one thing, Mace saying another, and Elderberry, Atlas and T have been confusing the situation. Mace and Forrest have been fighting like hell over you while you have been unconscious. I am surprised they didn't wake you out of that coma the fights that have been going on around your bed!!"
"Yeah I kind of gathered that they had been, I sensed the atmosphere between them." I roll my eyes "How has Elderberry got dragged into this?"
"Oh she is Mace's best buddy now, which has peed off Atlas!!" Silt laughs "She's fighting in his corner while Atlas and T have taken Forrest's side. They are like a load of cats with their claws out fighting and bickering over which way you are going to go." he pulls a face "Listen Granite, they are keeping Mace next door so we can talk to you about something." I frown at him wandering what might be coming.
"Go on ..." I mumble
"We are trying to keep out of it and not get involved, but we are really worrying about Mace. He seems to have totally lost his head where you are concerned and on top of everything else he is going through ... we are worried about you dumping on him, we dread to think what it might do to him ... we were wandering if you have any idea about what you might be doing yet? Only if you are going to dump Mace, we need to be prepared, it is going to send him off his rocker!! "
"You don't have to worry about Mace." I laugh at him "I am not dumping on him ... you obviously haven't heard yet. Relationship wise, nothing is changing and I am staying with Mace, we need each other right now. T has gone off chasing after Forrest, because I have upset him, telling him exactly that. Mace isn't the only one who has lost his head ... Forrest is crazy if he thinks I can just forget the life I have built for myself, and especially dump Mace like a cold hearted monster to just walk back into my old life and marriage that I left behind twenty years ago. It is not that easy!!"
I watch Silt and Thyme smile at each other. Thyme has been very quiet up until now, he has just sat there quietly smiling and saying nothing while Silt has done all the talking. I remember Silt saying he is shy.
"You are very quiet." I smile at Thyme
"Oh you have to ignore me." he smiles at me. "I'm very shy, it takes me a while to loosen up when I meet new people."
"Yeah well, you don't need to be worried about me!! I am nothing like what Gravel has been telling you all!!" I laugh at him.
"Yeah I know I can see that." he laughs nervously
"Shale says you are the arty one. So what job do you do?"
"I'm an illustrator." he mumbles
"That sounds interesting, so what kind of things do you illustrate?"
"Whatever is thrown on my desk." he laughs nervously "Children's books, advertisements, postcards, greetings cards, magazine and book covers, I've done all sorts, but I prefer cartoons and comic strips."
"So I guess you must be a painter ... I bet Mace loves you!!"
"I used to paint a lot when I was younger, but I don't tend to paint on canvas a lot these days. I am constantly drawing at work, so I don't really want to do it as a hobby when I get home ... unlike Mace, he used to be a maniac, he never stopped painting."
"What?! Mace paints?" I frown at Thyme he frowns at me, then Thyme and Silt frown at each other.
"Of course Mace paints ... you have to know, he is very passionate about it." Thyme looks really confused.
"No. I know he knows a lot about different painting styles and Artists and has an obsession with buying paintings, especially expensive ones, which I have never really seen what the fascination is with them. As for Mace actually doing the painting ... you are having me on right!!"
"No, seriously!! Mace is quite an artist, he was starting to make a name for himself in the art world before he vanished as well as some serious money from his paintings and all the other stuff he was doing, we used to laugh at him for being a workaholic, he never stopped."
"Well the Mace I know and have been living with for the last five years is a lazy bum, who shirked any sort of work other than housework or working out and I've definitely never seen him drawing or painting." I laugh still thinking they are having me on.
"Strange." Thyme frowns at Silt "I can only think, because of his fake identity, that he was trying to keep a low profile especially with his art publicly. However, I would have expected him to draw and paint at home behind closed doors, because for as long as I have known him he seriously never stopped drawing and painting!!"
"So what job did he do when he lived in Apple Hill or Orange Falls, wherever he was living." I pull a face "I am embarrassed a little!!! Obviously he had to keep a lot hidden from me using his fake identity, I don't really know the real facts about Mace Brownie and we have not had a chance to talk about much yet ..."
"He was a lecturer at the college in Orange Falls. Art obviously." Thyme starts to laugh at me, as my eyes nearly pop out of my head.
"Now I know you are shitting me!!" I laugh "You need qualification to be a teacher or lecturer!!"
"Straight up!! Mace has a Masters degree in art!! He was a little lost boy when we first met him ..." Thyme suddenly stops talking and I see Thyme and Silt exchange a nervous glance and I think I know why.
"It's okay, Mace and Shale have already slipped up and told me Dad fostered Mace from the age of eleven, if that is what you are worried about!!!" Silt laughs
"Well that makes it easier." he smiles a me. "When Gravel dumped him on Dad, Mace latched onto me straight away, because he was fascinated by my job. Mace was very troubled as a child, he was very quiet and withdrawn, he used to express himself through art, he shut himself away for a while and permanently had a pencil or paintbrush in his hand. He got himself arrested for covering a wall in town with graffiti art. Dad was not impressed having to haul him out of the police station, although he had to admit that what Mace had done to that wall with spray cans was actually pretty amazing. So Dad gave him an incentive to keep his head down and out of trouble, he told him if he behaved and worked hard at school, he would support him through college, so he could get some qualifications and put his talent to better use. He was never an ounce of trouble after that, as long as we kept him well stocked up with art supplies, he was very easy to buy birthday and Christmas presents for." Thyme laughs "He did quite well at school and flew through three years at college to get his Masters degree."
"Well you could knock me down with a feather right now!!" I laugh
"He got his degree and walked straight into a job, he became a full time lecturer at the College of Fine Arts. However, that is not all he did. Besides lecturing he also worked free lance - anything he could attack with a pencil or paintbrush and he was on it. He has more drive than all the rest of us put together when he puts his mind to it!! He was really busy with his free lance works ... he did a lot of illustrating, commissioned by publishers and advertising agencies. You might have actually seen some of his work, Mace was the illustrator on the Mr Berry book series." My eyebrows rise, I know the Mr Berry books are a popular children's book, but I've never actually seen one, not having children I have never had a reason to look at one. "Fashion Design is one of his big things ..." this makes me laugh "He was doing quite well with that, selling his designs to fashion houses, shops and clothes manufacturers. Brown Stone is Mace's label."
"You are pulling my leg now!!" I laugh at Thyme
"No seriously, if he hadn't done one when he did, I think his label would have been up there now in the fashion world." I start to really laugh thinking about his obsession with designer labels, now I know why. "If he wasn't doing his fashion designs, he was sketching or painting, landscapes, portraits ... he was constantly up to something. Tami was always carrying onto him for being a workaholic, he wouldn't even eat his meals without a pencil in his hand doodling or working on something. He used to get up and vanish in the middle of the night sometimes and Tami would find him somewhere painting or sketching." Thyme smiles at me.
I am now a little lost for words, wandering why he has hidden this part of himself from me.
"Have you seen all the tatoo's all down T's arm and all over his back." Silt asks me
"Yeah I have."
"That was Thyme and Mace ... something else Mace used to do in his spare time ... a tattoo artist. He used to create all his own designs, which he used to sell to the tattoo shops. He is too squeamish to actually tattoo anyone, so he makes up the designs and when needed Thyme does the tattooing."
"I'm shocked, because he has hidden all this from me!!" I frown at Thyme "I don't get it ... during the police investigation, I have been led to believe that he lived in Apple Hill ... but you said he was a lecturer at the Orange Falls college."
"Yeah he was up until a few years before he vanished. I guess we should have seen something was wrong back then, because he got a bit techy and wanted to move back to Apple Hill, when everything was going so well for him in Orange Falls, especially all his free lance stuff and his fashion label, he was basically committing career suicide. He said he was home sick and missed his sister. Tami wasn't impressed but he talked her into the move, funnily enough, with Gravels help!!" he rolls his eyes "Dad was far from happy, other than Gravel for obvious reasons and Turmeric, who has always been a free spirit, we have all stayed very close to home. Gravel ... the berry hole even promised Dad he would look after them ... what a joke!!"
"I would not be surprised now if that berry hole didn't make Mace move back to Apple Hill, so he could abuse him!!" Silt tuts
"I need to talk to Mace I think, there is obviously a lot that I don't know yet."
"I need to ask you ... Slate, did any of you know he was not Gravels child?"
"Hell no!! We did not have a clue, as far as we were concerned he was Gravels kid." Silt smiles at me. "Forrest, T and Mace all say it is glaringly obvious he is your child, he is so like you in his mannerism, he is also a joker." this makes me laugh.
"So you have never had anything to do with Slate over the years?"
"No we have never seen him, we could never be a part of his life. All we have ever seen is photographs of him growing up. We couldn't let him know we existed, being a child he would not have understood that he had to keep his Grandfather, Uncles, Aunts and Cousins a secret. It upset Dad a lot, not being able to have contact with Slate, like him not seeing you, but unfortunately it was something that had to be done."
"For reasons that Dad has to tell me about right." I say sarcastically.
"Yeah. Dad has explained to Slate and he seems okay with it." Silt smiles at me. "Mace is the only one of us who actually saw Slate when he was a child, and Turmeric over the past two years, but they were both known as just a friend of Gravel's."
"So Mace has seen Slate before?"
"Yes a few times over the years, when he's been to Gravels house. Slate remembers him too, which is the funny part. He remembers mostly because he sat for hours while Mace painted his portrait."
"Where is that portrait now?"
"We don't know, Slate doesn't remember seeing it for years, he thinks it might have been put up in the attic. El is looking into it, she is trying to get Slate a few things of his back that the police have taken possession of."
"So what does Gravel have on T, do you know yet?"
"Yeah, it took a while for us to get it out of T, but we know now." Silt laughs "Shale has looked into the case files and it was not as bad as Gravel made out to Turmeric, he conned T with his lies basically!!"
"That shouldn't surprise anyone really!!" I laugh "So what happened?"
"T came shooting over to this neck of the woods because Gravel said he thought he had found Coals Mother for him. We don't know if he was just messing with T, because if he had actually found her, he would not tell T where she was when he got here. Gravel took T to a night club in Sugar Falls, and a fight broke out, it was pretty bad apparently and T got arrested along with a few others. Gravel got out of it by flashing his badge and saying he was trying to keep the peace, when T says Gravel was the one who actually started the fight. T was off his head apparently and when they tested him they found not only alcohol but also drugs in T's system which he swears he never took, he thinks his drink was spiked. They also found drugs in T's pocket, which he swears were nothing to do with him, he says someone planted them on him."
"Yeah probably Gravel!" I mumble "T does not do drugs and we all know now Gravel was a drug dealer and he is spiteful enough to spike T's drink, he has spiked mine many a time!! He probably slipped them into T's pocket too, so he didn't get caught with them, he is one serious sly snake that so called Brother of mine!!"
"Yeah that is exactly what we think!! Gravel sent T home and said he would make his arrest and drugs charge disappear, so Dad didn't find out. Dad would have seriously battered him, that is one thing he has never tolerated, us breaking the law!! T says he had only been home a day when Gravel phoned T and told him that someone had faded a few hours after the fight, he sustained a head trauma from a blow to the head, a punch during the fight. Gravel told him the faded guy was the one T was fighting with, so Gravel made T think he had faded someone and he was covering his back and making it all disappear." my eyes widen and Silt laughs at me "It wasn't like that at all, Gravel lied, Shale searched out the files, nobody faded, Gravels name appears in the case notes as an arresting officer, but there was no mention of T, so Gravel did tamper with the files and wipe T right out of it. That is what Gravel has used to blackmail him with. Gravel has made him do things he didn't want to do, anytime T refused he kept telling him he could easily get him done for murder. T was terrified, you know how soft he is. He only came clean to Dad in the end because Gravel was telling him he had to dispose of you after the transplant, and Forrest if he came back to town. He could never have done it!!"
"Really that doesn't surprise me!!" I tut "Poor T, he has been played just like me and Mace!!" I frown at Silt "Is T really that hung up on Coal's Mother?!"
"Yeah he is."
"Surely Dad and Shale being in the force could find her easily."
"They refuse to ... they say if she had wanted the baby or T she would have come back looking for them, Dad has never moved so it is not like she can not find them easily. Dad is worried about Coal, she has obviously turned her back on him, if T was to find her and she openly rejected Coal for him to see, it might mess him up even more than he already is. Coal doesn't want anything to do with his Mother, so while he feels like that, Dad will not help T to find her."
"I don't get it ... if T is so hung up on the Mother, why does he reject Coal?"
"Coal is the spit of his Mother apparently, he has all her colouring and he definately doesn't have any visible Rock genes. It upsets T to look at him, because he is too much like his Mother.
I hear the door opening and turn my head to see who is entering the room. Thinking it is probably a doctor or nurse. I am hoping it is Mace and dreading it being Forrest, especially if he has not calmed down yet and is back for a slanging match.
The room falls into an uncomfortable silence as we all stop speaking. My Dad is standing in the doorway, holding some kind of book in his hand, it could even be a photo album. At first he does not attempt to walk in the room he just stands there staring at me silently as I stare back.
The shock of seeing him again hits me like a full force blow. I don't know how I am supposed to feel seeing him again after all this time, especially as he has been faded to me for so long. He is standing there, as large as life and an older version of the man that I remember being my Father.
All I can feel is numb and angry.
"What do you want?" I snap at him.
This prompts him to walk through the door and into the room towards my bed. I can not help but notice how the years have changed him, and that he is really showing his age as he shuffles towards me slowly, unlike the last time I remember seeing him, a lot younger, quicker on his feet and full of life.
"I think it is time we talked, don't you Granny!!"
I just sit there numbly staring at him
For once in my life, I am lost for words.