After Ben told Sofia his mother’s story, she agreed to talk to her. He needed to call his mother but he didn’t want Sofia to necessarily hear the conversation. “I’m going to go into the outer office and call Mom for you. Lock the door behind me,” he instructed. He wanted her to feel safe. “I will only be a minute.”
As soon as he heard the click of the lock, he pulled out his phone and started to call his mother.
The door opened and Jesse came barging in before he could complete his call. “Where is she!?!” he demanded. “Her car is still outside. I know she is here!” He looked half crazed, especially sporting the black eye Ben had given him. Ben knew Sofia could probably hear him yelling through the locked door. Shit!
Ben never knew what it was like to want to kill someone before that moment. The only thing stopping him from attacking Jesse was Sofia’s current state of mind. He had to take slow deep breaths to calm himself before saying anything. “She doesn’t want to see you,” he said through clenched teeth. No sooner had the words come out of his mouth than the door opened and Leroy walked in. Ben was never happier to see someone in his life.
Leroy looked between the two of them a knowing look on his face. “Jesse,” he said with obvious controlled anger, “I don’t know why you are here, but you need to get the hell out. I don’t need anymore trouble from you.”
“I came to collect what’s mine. Where is she?” he growled.
Ben had never seen Leroy lose his cool before today. It sent a shiver down his spine. He looked like an angry bear. “Yours?” he said glaring at Jesse. “She is not yours, and if she doesn’t want to go with you, then she can stay right where she is. As for you, asshole, you can leave now or I’m calling the cops and having you arrested for attacking my employees.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it Chapman. I’m the one that has a black eye. Now where is she?”
Leroy flashed him a devilish grin. Ben didn’t know which was worse, the growl or the grin. They both scared him shitless. “The way I saw it,” said Leroy, “you came in here threatening my employees and Ben hit you in self defense. I witnessed the whole thing. Isn’t that right Ben?”
“You fucking liars. WHERE IS SHE!?!”
Sofia unlocked the door and Ben’s heart sunk, she had heard it all. “Sofia, go back inside,” he urged.
Sofia grabbed Ben’s arm. “It’s okay Ben,” she said, her voice quiet and shaky. “The cops are on the way and your mother too. I will go to the hospital but it might be too late. I took a really long bath this morning.”
Then she began to sob uncontrollably. She would have slid to the floor if Ben hadn’t caught her. He held her tight trying to take away her pain.
“What is she talking about?” demanded Jesse, his eyes wild.
The next thing Ben knew Leroy rared back and punched Jesse square in the nose. Jesse went to floor, out cold, blood flowing from his nose. Leroy stood over him until he started groaning, then he sat down.
Leroy had put him out with one punch. Sofia screamed when Jesse hit the ground so Ben led her back into Leroy’s office and closed the door to wait for the police and his mother. Apparently Leroy had things under control.
The paramedics had Jesse loaded in the ambulance by the time Kaitlin arrived at the trailer.
They had just finished bandaging Leroy’s hand when she walked inside. “Oh my God! Leroy!” said Kaitlin and grabbed her husband’s hands to check on them. “What happened?”
“I’m fine. It’s Sophia that needs you,” said Leroy, motioning with his bandaged hand towards his office. The paramedic nodded her confirmation that Leroy was telling the truth. She looked at the officer sitting on the couch. “Can I go sit with her?”
“Yes Mrs. Chapman. I still need to take Mr. Chapman’s statement. Then I have to talk to Ms. Hamlin and Mr. Murdock. You can sit with her until then,” said the officer.
Kaitlin left Leroy and knocked the office door.
“Who is it?” said Ben.
“It’s me Ben. Mom. Sofia called and said you needed me here.”
Ben got up and unlocked the door and let her in.
When Kaitlin saw the state Sofia was in, she inhaled sharply. “Oh, Sofia, honey, are you okay?” she asked.
Ben looked at his mother and shook his head, effectively answering for Sofia.
Kaitlin sat down next to her. “Do you want to tell me what happened?” she asked gently.
Ben didn’t wait for Sofia to answer. “I will leave you two so you can talk.”
Sofia looked at Ben. “Don’t leave me,” she said softly, tears still staining her cheeks.
“Sweetheart, I’ll be right outside with Leroy,” he assured her. “They have already taken Jesse to the hospital. You’re safe. But this way, you two can have some privacy. I won’t leave. I promise. I will be right outside the door.”
Sofia nodded her understanding. It pained Ben to leave her but he felt like she would be more comfortable alone with his mother. He left and went into the outer office where Leroy was sitting looking grim. The policewoman was gone. “Where did the cops go? I thought they were going to talk to Sofia.”
“She went out to the cruiser to do some paperwork. She will be back in a few minutes.”
“Damn Leroy, where’d you learn to punch like that?” asked Ben.
“Long story. I haven’t wanted to punch someone since, well, not for a long time.”
“Since my Dad and Uncle Reid?” guessed Ben with a smirk.
Leroy snorted and smirked. “Yeah. How’d you guess,” he said, sarcasm dripping from his words.
“Judging by the way you hit him, he must have hit a nerve. Mom will be a good person for Sofia to talk to.”
Leroy looked at Ben like he used to when he was a teenager – like he had done something wrong. A feeling of dread went to the pit of his stomach. “Jesse hit her didn’t he?” asked Leroy, “God, I hope this doesn’t cause her to have nightmares again, stirring up all of those old memories.” He sounded really upset.
“Who? Mom? She had nightmares?” asked Ben.
“Ben!” said Leroy incensed at Ben’s question, “look at how messed up Sofia is after just experiencing, what I hope, was one incident with that asshole. You mother put up with it for a several years and was miserable long before that. Ben, she has PTSD. You’re telling me you didn’t know that?”
He shook his head furiously. “No. I had no idea. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Fuck! I just sent her in there to talk to Sofia about the same damn thing, only that asshole raped Sofia. He may have hit her too, I don’t know. So of course she’s messed up. Dad didn’t rape Mom though, he just hit her.” Ben winced at his own words, “God that sounded fucked up. I don’t mean it wasn’t any less horrible, but, he didn’t, did he? Leroy. If he did…”
“Oh hell. That poor girl. Ben I’m so sorry. I know first hand how bad you must be feeling. But please, try to calm down. You need to ask your mother about her and your father. She never said that. But he was controlling and it messed with her head.”
Ben couldn’t barely stomach Leroy’s words. “I hate them both,” he spat out.
“Ben, look, Kate has forgiven Newt. He got help and has changed his life. Very few are able to do that. She needs calm. So please, don’t go off half cocked again.”
Ben knew he was talking about the way he had cut off his mom when he told her about Grace being pregnant. He felt sick to his stomach. It must have hurt her badly. And he never really apologized to her.
He jumped when the door opened. His Mom walked over to him. It was obvious she had been crying. “Ben,” she said softly, “Sofia needs you.”
“I’m sorry Mom. Leroy needs you too,” said Ben clamping his back teeth together to keep in control.
His mother tried to smile. “No, I need him right now, in a bad way.” Leroy was at her side before she could get the words out.
He pulled her into his big arms and Ben could see her relax.
The love and trust they shared between them was evident. That was what he had been so jealous of. Instead of being happy his mother had someone that loved her, cherished her, he had been jealous of their love for each other.
They both looked at Ben indicating for him to go to Sofia.
When Ben walked in the office, his heart broke again. Sofia was sitting alone on the couch, curled up, hugging her legs. She looked so sad. His happy, bubbly Sofia was gone and in her place was a broken shell of herself. He hoped Leroy broke Jesse’s nose. He quietly closed the door behind him.
“I told him I was going to leave him,” said Sofia quietly, not looking up.
Ben sat down next to her. He didn’t know what to say to make it better. “That doesn’t give him the right to do what he did,” he said gently.
“Will you go with me to the hospital?” she asked, still not moving.
“Of course. I will do anything for you. Just say the word.”
She lifter her head to look up at him. “Hold me?” she whispered.
Ben drew her next to him. He could feel her relax, just like his mom had when Leroy held her. He didn’t say anything, he just stroked her hair.
She began to fall asleep in his arms, the adrenaline leaving her system. When her breathing was soft and even, only then did he let himself cry. How are people so cruel? But he was one of them, wasn’t he? He told his mother to go to hell. Never again.
He would apologize and beg forgiveness for all the stupid things he had ever done and said to her and Leroy. He wasn’t so sure about his father. The thought that he ever wanted that man’s love and attention now irked him beyond belief.
Kaitlin quietly opened the door and peaked her head in. When she saw Sofia was asleep she started to leave.
“Mom,” he whispered, “Please, sit down. She crashed. I doubt she slept much last night.”
Kaitlin pulled the chair next to the sofa. She sat down and looked at her son. “You know Ben. She loves you. And not in a big brother way. I don’t think she she even realizes how much you mean to her. Look at her, she feels safe in your arms.”
She loves me? Lillie May, Leroy and now my mother, all saying the same thing. How had he not seen it? Or had he just chosen not to? He prayed they were right, that it was true, because he loved her too. “Mom…I love her too.” His whispered confession seemed loud in the quiet room. “Maybe I have for awhile, but seeing her like this, brought it home.” Ben shook his head slowly, “I never thought I would be able to fall in love with anyone else again, didn’t want to even.”
“You loved Grace very much. I could see that. And she loved you too. Your wedding pictures…”
Ben’s heart sank at his mother’s words. All she had to go by were pictures. She never got to meet Grace. He’d pushed everyone away until it was too late. “Mom, I’m sorry,” he said in one soft breath, struggling to maintain his composure. “You should have been there…for my wedding, for Cole’s birth…I was such an ass. Then when Grace…” Ben had to stop again. He took several quick deep breaths and swallowed back his tears. “You were there for me, never asking questions, just doing…and still, I sent you on your way with barely a thank you.” He looked at his mother and a few tears managed to escape. “And here you are again. Helping me, and not expecting anything in return. I don’t deserve it.”
“Ben, you are a father now. You would do the same, I know it.” Kaitlin’s voice was quiet and soothing. A mother’s voice. One he had needed for so long. “You have been hurting for a very long time. But you are here now. That’s all that matters. That and the sweet girl in your arms. We find love when we aren’t looking for it. Funny how that works. It might take her awhile. Yes, she loves you, but she has been hurt, so be patient and gentle.”
“Mom, are you okay? I mean Leroy was worried this would trigger bad memories. He said you had PTSD. I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Yes. I’m okay now,” she said unable to keep the sadness out of her voice. Then she smiled, “Leroy is my rock. I wasn’t kidding when I said I needed him. He grounds me and helps me when things get weird for me, which doesn’t happen very often anymore. Especially since you came back. I missed you.”
“Let me finish Ben. You are her rock,” she said, nodding her head towards Sofia, “She will need you to help her get herself back. With you by her side, she will come out of this even stronger than she was before. She may need therapy and may want you to go with her. Or maybe just talking to me will be enough. But let her admit her feelings for you in her own time. Don’t push her. I know you will want to, but you have to let things progress at her pace. I can speak from experience.”
There was a knock on the door and a female officer put her head through the opening. “We are finished up out here. We just need to get her statement. And take her to the hospital.”
Hadn’t she already been through enough? “Please, can we wait until she wakes up?” asked Ben, “Let her have a few minutes of peace? I will drive her. Tell me where.”
“No, I’m sorry sir. You don’t want her to go to the station. It’s better if I can get her statement now. You can go with her to the hospital when we are done. The longer we wait, the less possibility of getting evidence. And she will need to do a pregnancy test in two weeks if needed.”
Ben hadn’t even considered she might be pregnant. The thought that she would have to carry that bastard’s child made him ache for her. He hoped she wasn’t, but if she was, he would still be there for her. He would always be there for her.
He took a deep breath and gently shook her awake.