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Laurels
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Cause what you see isn't always the truth
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June 5, 2015, late evening

"Where the hell are they?" Angie muttered to herself, looking at her phone.

Angie looked at the chain of text messages she had sent. They were all in a similar vein. "Where are you?" "Call me." "Turn your fucking ringer on." Not a single reply in almost four hours. She thought to herself that Christian had better be doing his job of getting Kelly home, otherwise there was no excuse for this.

Angie leaned against the wall and sighed. Visiting time was almost over, and there was still no sign of Christian nor Kelly anywhere. The last few hours had been pretty rough. After Edie fainted, Angie was worried the poor old woman had finally broken down. However, by the time paramedics arrived, Edie was back to talking and responding. They still took her in to the hospital anyways to check on her, just to be safe. Angie and Ella followed along, while Arnold rode in the ambulance with his wife.

According to the doctor, Edie had collapsed from exhaustion. For women of her age, it was crucial to be eating properly and to be maintaining the environment she was in. Arnold and Angie were silent the entire discussion. To be safe, Edie was given an IV, and if she was well enough, she could go home the next day. All that remained was to wait and see.

Angie looked at her watch. They had fifteen minutes left in visiting hours. She decided to walk back into the room. Inside, Edie was lying quietly in the hospital bed. Arnold sat next to her, gently stroking her hand. Ella was curled up in a chair in the corner, resting her head against the wall. She had fallen asleep a little while ago. Angie sat in the chair on the other side of the bed.

"How're you holding up?" she asked Edie.

"I'm fine," Edie said weakly. "I'm sorry to put you all through such a scare."

"It's alright," Arnold said, tightening his grip on Edie's hand. "Just take it easy now."

"Yeah," Angie said. "You've been really busy these last few days."

Angie reached over and patted Edie on the back. Edie gave a weak smile. It had been a long week, and for Edie, it was quite an unusual one. Along with the stress of knowing if her grandson was safe or not, she had to entertain house guests and handle a lot of chores. It hadn't been the easiest time, and along the way she forgot to take care of herself. She punished herself in her mind for not eating as well as she should have, and for not getting adequate rest.

"Sorry," Edie said. "The truth is, I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. And I didn't feel like eating much today."

"I've had those kind of days," Angie said. "Believe me, it happens to everyone."

"No, it's not that," Edie interrupted. "Yesterday was the worst, and I never allowed myself to recover from it."

"Edie..." Arnold started.

Edie turned her head and faced Arnold.

"Arnold, for all the years we've been together, I shouldn't have treated you like that. I shouldn't have said such horrible things to you. Please forgive me."

Arnold's eyes started to water. He grabbed Edie's hand and held it up to his forehead.

"You did nothing wrong," Arnold said. "I was such an idiot then. You're right. I haven't been honest with Noah all these years, and that was a disservice to him. He's my only grandchild and I squandered so much time I should have spent with him. I should be taken out back and shot."

"Whoa," Angie said. "Arnold, that's extreme. What happened?"

Arnold sniffled, and rubbed Edie's hand. He looked up at his wife, her face full of pity. Arnold closed his eyes, then spoke

"Angie, the truth is, I never came to terms with-"

"Mom!"

Angie, Arnold, and Edie all turned to the door. Standing there, her face red from running, was Kelly. She stood there, panting, as Christian slowly walked in behind her. Kelly started to tear up, then broke down crying. She ran over to her father's side and hugged her mom.

"I'm sorry..." Kelly said. "I'm sorry."

Edie hugged Kelly back.

"Don't worry," Edie said. "It's fine."

"No, it's not. It's all my fault," Kelly said.

Edie rubbed the back of Kelly's head. "No, I should have been more careful. It's not your fault."

Kelly continued to cry. As she did, Angie looked over at Christian.

"Where was she?" Angie asked Christian.

"Hualapai," Christian said. "It's a resort outside of town."

"Oh, the place we sent you guys for your honeymoon," Arnold said. "That's a nice place."

"Oh. I see," Angie said, looking away from Christian.

Christian stared at his wife, noticing her expression turning forlorn. He glanced downwards, then looked back at Kelly and her parents. As he did, Ella began to stir in her chair. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the adults in the room.

"Is Edie going to be fine?" Christian asked.

"Yes," Arnold said. "We just had a scare. I'm just surprised more of us haven't broken down like this."

Everyone in the room was silent. They all began to move their eyes away from one another, letting the statement hang in the air. Ella looked at the adults, then spoke.

"So Noah didn't get his sense of humor from you," Ella said.

The adults all turned towards Ella. Ella sat in her chair, hands in her lap, staring at them. After a few seconds of silence, Kelly let out a snicker. She covered her mouth as soon as she did.

"Sorry, that wasn't appropriate," she said.

Christian smirked. "When have you ever been?"

"Oh shut up," Kelly said. "Don't talk to me about appropriateness when you're telling our son gross jokes about leprechauns in truck stops."

"Leprechauns?" Edie asked, chortling in bafflement.

"Yeah," Kelly said. "This guy walks into a truck stop to-"

"Nope. Nope. Nope," Angie said. "Not with Ella in the room. Don't tell her that one."

"Mom, I'm not a baby," Ella said. "I watch Noah's show."

"Yeah, and you shouldn't follow his example," Arnold said.

"Oh really?" Ella said.

Ella slacked her jaw and stuck her chest forward, putting one hand on her hip.

"Hi, y'all!" she shouted. "I'm Pina Bucket! I'm so dumb that when I heard it was raining cats and dogs, all I could think was 'Yay, now I've got dinner for a week!'"

All the adults in the room began to snicker. Even Arnold had to hold a fist to his mouth as he smirked. Ella continued to pose with her mouth wide open, her teeth jutting out, and her back bent forward.

"Was that in one of his videos?" Arnold asked.

"Yeah. The one about idioms," Ella said, settling back into a normal expression and position.

"Oh, I see," Arnold said.

"You didn't watch it?" Christian asked.

"No, I must have forgotten," Arnold said.

Ella rolled her eyes, which Angie raised an eyebrow at. Angie clapped her hands together.

"Listen, I'm glad you guys are back," Angie said, "but we're going to be kicked out soon. Should we go?"

"I want to stay," Kelly said.

"Kelly, your mom needs to rest," Christian said. "Give her space."

"Look, we came in separate cars," Arnold said. "You three can go ahead first. We'll catch up soon."

"Sure," Christian said, looking to Angie and Ella. "Ready to go."

"Okay," Ella said, hopping down from her chair.

"Yeah," Angie said. "You take care, Edie."

"Take care," parroted Ella.

"Thank you," Edie said.

Arnold handed a house key to Christian, and he, Angie, and Ella walked out of the room. Christian peered back in before they left.

"Okay, we'll see you at home," he said.

"Bye," said Arnold.

Kelly continued to nuzzle against her mother, waving without looking at Christian. Christian left the room, joining up with Angie and Ella.

"Alright. Let's go home," Christian said.

The three began to walk down the hallway towards the elevator. As they did, Ella walked close to her dad, then flared her nostrils.

"Dad, you smell sweaty," Ella said.

"I do?" Christian said, sniffing his armpit. "Yuck! I do."

"Yeah. You smell gross."

"Oh, well, sorry honey," he said. "I was outside talking to Noah's mom tonight, and he was hot."

"I thought you were in a bar," Angie said.

"We started in the bar, but then we moved outside to talk. You know how warm Arizona in June is."

Angie raised an eyebrow as the three stepped into the elevator. She looked up and down Christian as the elevator began to move. She could see beads of sweat trickling on his brow, even though the hospital was well air conditioned. He wasn't looking over at Angie, staring off at the elevator door before him. Angie's eyes squinted as she noticed Christian bite his lip. He was hiding something, and she was going to figure it out.

But that could wait until everyone was home.
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