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Author's Chapter Notes:
Is anyone still with me, on this? I know I've been horrible with updates. I'm so very sorry! Overall, I seem to be getting my writing mojo back, so keep your fingers crossed for more LATU and LATB updates!
It had taken me forever to get to sleep, that night, and still I could hear Baylee’s voice ringing through my dreams. My head was fuzzy and my body numb, the only image in my head was from last summer. Brian and Baylee had come over so we could go out on my new boat, for a boy’s day of play. Baylee had stayed with me, to get the boat ready and make sure we had everything we would need, while Brian made a run to the store for snacks and drinks. I was in the process of checking the oil levels when…

“Nick! Nick! My dad’s back!” His curls bounced, as he jumped around, excited to see his father had returned. Brian and Baylee had always been close…it was a relationship that I envied to some degree. I was never that close with my own dad. Sure…we had our moments or whatever…but not like these two.

“Huh? What?” Letting out a long groan, I started to feel the sleep fade. Baylee’s voice seemed to float out of my dreams and into my ears. With a strong bounce, of the bed, I know that the voice hadn’t been in my dreams at all. Baylee was awake. But if it wasn’t my dream…what did he mean…his dad was back? “What are you talking about BayBay?”

“My dad! He’s back…he’s really back! I woke up and I saw him…he’s here…somewhere! You gotta help me find him!” His feet made a thump as he jumped back off my bed, and then continued to patter as they hit the floor running out of the room. “I know he’s here!” Quickly rolling out of bed, I had to chase after him.

“Bay…Bay, he’s not…” He was searching, like crazy, trying to find his dad. Closet doors were whipping open, and then he was in the bathroom, pulling back the shower curtain before looking behind the door. With a gentle touch, I rested my hands firmly on his shoulders, to make him stop his actions. “Baylee…he’s not here buddy…he’s gone…remember?” The reality of it all was hitting me in the gut hard, once again. There was no fighting the sting of tears, it was useless, they would come no matter how hard I tried to fight them. I never imagined that this poor child would have to realize the loss of his father more than once. “I’m sorry Baylee…but…he’s not coming back.”

“But I saw him! I know I did!” Those big blue yes looked up at me with a sadness that tore me apart. I felt so horrible for him, on top of my own grief. “He...he…he was…there! I just…I know it!” The burden was heavy to bear, as I knelt down to him level, pulling him into my arms. With a gentle hand, I stroked his rumpled curls.

“I’m so sorry BayBay…but…it was just…a dream.” Like a sour, bitter taste in my mouth, I nearly choked on the words, wishing so badly that they weren’t true. I hated having to break the news, to him…telling him, again…that he’d never have the chance to hear or see his dad. “I’m so sorry.”

“He has to be here Nick! He just has to be! He wouldn’t leave me!” With a shake of his shoulders, he began to cry again, the tears coming hot and quick, soaking my shoulder in no time. My own tears began to run down my cheeks as I held him close. “He…he…he loved…me!”

“Yes. He did love you. And…he still does…he’s just…not here on Earth anymore. He’s in heaven…and…in your heart.” No matter how many times I would have to explain this, I’d never get over the horrific taste the words left in my mouth. With each word, I felt like a hot knife was piercing through me. The pain was supposed to ease with time, not get more intolerable! “He’ll always love you Baylee…he’ll always watch over you…from heaven…I promise.”

“But…but…I…want him…here” What could I do? Seriously? Was there even a way to possibly ease this young boy’s heartache? I can barely tolerate my own heartache and then seeing his just multiplies it a million times over. “Why? Why…did…daddy…leave me?!”

“He…he didn’t…do it on purpose…he didn’t…want…to leave you.” My arms stayed circled around him as my hands smoothed over his back with as much care as I could portray. I needed to be his strength…his rock. Everyone was so busy dealing with their own grief, from losing Brian…and worrying about Leighanne’s recovery…that it seemed, to me, like Baylee was getting left in the dust. He needed someone to talk to…someone to help him cope…to help him grieve…to help him get through this and become a stronger person.

“Nick?” His voice was trembling although the tears have slowed and his shoulders had stilled. Pulling away slightly, he brought those pools of blue up to mine. Our eyes locked and stared into each other for a long time before a soft whisper floated into my ears. “Can I…come live…with you?” Live with me? I guess it wasn’t too odd, of a question, since he has frequently had sleepovers at my house when I’ve babysat him. But...to live with me…that sounded so permanent…as if he had lost hope of his mother getting well.

“I don’t know Bay. I’d love to have you live with me, while your mom got better…but…it’s not my choice.” My tongue darted out to wet my bottom lip as my hand came up to brush his cheek. “You would have to talk to your grandparents…and see what they say.”

“Mama…” Wrinkling my brows, I watched his whole demeanor change. The sorrow in his eyes was still there, but he looked so distant. His shoulders sagged a bit more and he almost looked as if he were going to be sick. I couldn’t even imagine the next words that would come from this child’s mouth. “…isn’t going…to get better. She…is…gonna go be…with daddy…and Jesus.”

“Oh Baylee!” Instinctively, I pulled him back into my embrace, my own eyes squeezing shut. When had he lost hope? When had he given up? Why the hell wasn’t his family encouraging him that she would be ok? The kid needs a support system damn it and his family seems to really be failing him, in that area. “We don’t know that.”

“I do.” Sniffles plagued him as he pulling out of my arms and slumped to the floor. “She’s…gonna go away too…I just know she is.” I don’t think I could have imagined a deeper frown than the one etched on his face, at that very moment. I could feel my heart shattering into a million pieces, all over again. Every time I begin to think it’s starting to heal…I see the pain my little buddy is in…and it breaks all over again.

“Do you want to…um…pray…to Jesus…about it?” I was not the best, when it came to religion and prayer, but I was ready to try anything that might help him. “We can pray that…Jesus will…make her better?” Moving to my knees, I crawled over to the couch, resting my elbows on the smooth tan leather and clasped my hands together.

“You’ll pray with me, Uncle Nick?” He looked at me a little shocked, which doesn’t surprise me, but he quickly made his way over, assuming the exact same position. “Thank you.” The tiniest smile tugged at the corners of his lips, before he bowed his head. Now came the tough part. I hadn’t actually said a prayer in years and I wasn’t even sure that I could remember how.

“Dear…” I had to pause and clear the lump out of my throat. This was for my little buddy…I could do this…it’s just like talking to any other person, right? “Dear Lord Jesus…”

“…please help my mama to get better…” I couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at him; he looked almost like a precious little angel with his hands clasped and eyes shut tight.

“…we pray that your loving hand will touch her and give her the strength to pull through.”

“I really want my mama to stay with me, please.”

“We know that Brian is with you, in Heaven but we pray that Leighanne can stay a while longer.” My own eyes were clenched tight as my heart twisted. Baylee continued on with his prayer but I sort of tuned him out as I started my own mental plea. My prayer sounded a bit more like begging. I know you have your reasons for taking Brian, and I can respect that. But Baylee is only a small child and I can’t imagine him growing up without either of his parents. I pray that you’ll heal his mother and help him to stay strong throughout this whole process. He’s hurting so badly right now and it doesn’t seem like he has very much support. I’m trying so hard to be there for him but I’m not sure that I’m enough. Please…please…help us through this…keep us strong…give us faith…stay with us…and watch over us. I know I haven’t been one to pray very often…but if you can just, please, answer this prayer…I promise that I’ll be better. It’s with nothing but faith that I ask these things, amen.
Chapter End Notes:
Thank you...THANK YOU...for sticking with the story! I hope you liked the chapter.