There were four girls, two umbrellas, three cloves, and a smattering of conversation. Emily Prentiss, Jordan Norris, Penelope Garcia, and Megan Kane stood outside of Kassmeyer Bowl on a rainy Friday night. If Mr. Kassmeyer caught four teenage girls out there smoking there surely would've been a lecture. Luckily Mr. Kassmeyer wasn’t around.
So they stood there, puffing and chatting about whatever came to mind. Megan was heading to Portland tomorrow to shop with her mom. Penelope was finally going to show Morgan how it was done on a skateboard. Jordan and Owen were supposed to hang out but it was a secret. Her dad would have a cow if he found out.
“What's up with you, Em?” Penelope asked.
“Nothing really. My dad’s in town and he wants to talk to me. He’s been here since yesterday but hasn’t said a thing…its weirding me out. Ian is taking me to see Steve Perry in Portland tomorrow night so I hope it isn’t something bad.”
“It must be nice to have a boyfriend with a car.” Megan replied.
“He's not my boyfriend.” Emily said.
“But he loves her.” Jordan added.
“You think he might?” Penelope asked.
“Ian is a nineteen year old guy.” Emily reasoned. He loves his car, he loves old school metal, and he definitely loves the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Loving me…I don’t think so.”
“Well I do.” Jordan took the clove from Emily and inhaled. “He won't say so because he wants to be a tough guy.”
“Looks like we have a profiler in our midst.” Megan said smiling.
“Oh gosh, I'm way too dumb to get into the FBI.”
“That’s crap.” Penelope said before Emily could. “That’s your dad talking…and your dad is a douchebag.”
“He really is.” Megan smiled. “I know from douchebag dads so trust me, we’re right.”
All the girls were laughing. A car approached in the parking lot. When Emily saw it was her dad’s rental Benz, she scowled, took one more puff from the clove, and put it out. The other girls reluctantly did the same. Gregory Prentiss slowed to a stop.
“Emily, what are you doing outside?”
“We’re having some girl talk.” she replied. “Guys, this is my dad. He and Aunt Erin are actually twins.”
“Hey Mr. Prentiss.” they said in unison while waving.
“How are you enjoying the very little out town has to offer?” Penelope asked as her friends laughed.
“Well tomorrow I'm scheduled to see the supermarket, the high school auditorium, and the ripples of the Willamette River. I’ll be sure to bring my camera.”
“Touché.” The teenager smiled.
“We’ll get our stuff, Daddy.” Emily said. “You can wait out here.”
Gregory rolled up the window as the four girls went back inside.
“He seems cool.” Penelope said.
“That’s the first time in my life I've ever heard him joke around.” Emily replied. “OK, not the first time…I remember he used to sing made up songs with me when I was a little girl. But that was a long ass time ago. I don’t even know him. But he can't be that bad if he and Aunt Erin are so close.”
“They're twins.” Megan said. “That kind of bond is unbreakable.”
“I guess.” Emily shrugged. She and Jordan started saying goodnight to everyone as they put on their coats and winter accessories. The rain just made it colder outside.
“I’ll take your shoes back.” Sam said. “We’re gonna play one more round.”
“What's my damage?” Emily asked.
“Just give us $10 for you and Jordan.” Hotch said.
“That’s it?” Emily handed over the money.
“Yeah, we’re cool.” Sam nodded.
“I have some money too.” Jordan said. It was rare but she had squirreled away a few dollars her brothers didn’t manage to find and steal. Owen had been buying her lunch recently so that helped.
“Its cool, we’re OK.” Sam said.
“Let’s get out of here, J, before they change their minds. Bye guys.”
She kissed Sam on top of the head like she always did, and punched Morgan’s arm. She and Jordan heard the sound of everyone saying goodbye as they made their way to the door.
“Have a good night girls.” Mike Kassmeyer said as he pushed the door open for them.
“Goodnight, Mr. Kassmeyer.”
They went outside, dodging raindrops. Emily climbed into the passenger seat and Jordan got into the back.
“Seatbelts girls.” Gregory said, starting the ignition. “Am I taking you home, Jordan?”
“Yes sir. It’s the Sunshine Vista Trailer Homes.”
“I think I remember the way.” Gregory looked at his daughter. “You gonna be my first mate; keep me from getting horribly lost?”
“You can't get lost in Cambridge.” Emily replied.
Putting on a smile, Gregory drove out of the parking lot and started down the street.
“Owen was supposed to be at the bowling alley tonight.” Jordan said. “He promised to meet me.”
“Maybe his dad got peevish and wouldn’t let him come out.”
“His dad is so mean.”
“He's a douchebag.”
“Emily…language.” Her father said.
“Sorry.” She didn’t want to apologize but did anyway. Her dad had been there over 24 hours but hadn't said much to her. Emily wanted to know what was going on. She didn’t like feeling as if an anvil was going to drop on her head at any minute.
“Just call him in the morning, J. I'm sure everything is fine.”
She wasn’t exactly sure. Owen’s dad was hardcore Semper Fi. He also worked for the Sheriff’s Department with Jordan’s dad. He always threatened to send Owen to military school if he didn’t straighten up. Lou Savage’s definition of ‘straighten up’ was anyone’s guess.
“I hope so.” Jordan said quietly. She knew how her dad treated her when she hadn't even done anything. Owen’s dad could be even worse.
“Turn right up here, Dad.” Emily pointed. “That’s the entrance.”
Gregory nodded, driving a few feet and turning in. The road, usually dusty, was muddy because of the rain. He stopped in front of the Norris place. Jordan sighed; her dad’s cop car was parked outside.
“My dad’s home.” She mumbled. “Dang, I thought he was working overnights now.”
“Go straight to your room and lock the door.” Emily told her.
“He took the lock off. He said no kid will have a locked door where he pays the mortgage.”
“Put the chair under the knob like I showed you.”
“I mean it, J.”
“Are you sure you just don’t wanna go home with me tonight?” Emily asked.
“My mom will get mad. I didn’t ask permission.”
“OK.” Emily sighed. “Well if you need out, call me. I don’t care what time it is. I’ll come and get you.”
“Pinky swear.” Emily pressed, turning in her seat and holding out her finger.
Jordan wrapped her pinky around Emily’s and opened the car door.
“Goodnight, Em. Goodnight, Mr. Prentiss.”
“Goodnight.” They said in unison. Emily opened the window. “Call me if you need me.”
Nodding, she headed to the door. Gregory waited until Jordan was safely inside before pulling off. He really wasn’t sure how safe she was. He got flustered and confused in the trailer park; it wasn’t a well lit place. He finally made it back onto the road.
“Emily, what was that about?” he asked.
“What?” she asked.
“What does Jordan’s father do to her?”
“I don’t mean to be rude Daddy, but everything isn’t your business.”
“That’s certainly true.” Gregory replied.
He sighed but said nothing else. Maybe he could ask Erin about it later. This was a small town and surely people talked. Thinking about what that monster Baleman did to his little girl, Gregory gripped the steering wheel tighter. The idea that someone would do that to a child made him blind with anger. And the asshole was a cop…Jordan had nowhere to turn.
“Is he hurting her?”
“You can't keep something like that secret, Emily. You just can't, its horrible.”
“Stop the car!” she demanded.
“Just stop the damn car!”
Gregory pulled over, afraid his daughter would run. He wouldn’t be able to chase her. He didn’t know Cambridge as well as he thought he did. It served him right for rarely coming to visit. He looked at his daughter.
“I don't know what he's doing, alright? He treats her like shit, calling her dumb and stuff all the time. Jordan is not dumb. Just because it takes her a little longer to learn things doesn’t mean she can't. And he's her dad…what kind of shit is that?
“During the summer, before all that stuff happened to me, he stumbled into her room drunk one night. He got touchy, tried to cover her mouth, but she screamed bloody murder. Its happened a few more times but she told me her screaming scares him away. I don’t think she's being all the way truthful with me, which is unlike Jordan, but I refuse to push her. I just wanna protect her; she's my best friend. I never want what happened to me to happen to anyone else I love.”
“No, you don’t.” Emily’s tone was bitter. She wanted to be so angry at him. She wanted to lash out and make him hurt like she sometimes hurt all the way to her bones. What the hell was he doing here anyway?
“You're right, I don’t.” Gregory conceded. “It still hurts me. I couldn’t protect you, Emily. I was too busy 2500 miles away doing whatever the hell I was doing while someone was here hurting you.”
“What makes you think you could’ve stopped him. He was a psychopath on a mission. He wanted what he wanted so he took it.”
“Dammit, I am so sorry. I…”
“Stop it Daddy. The last thing I want to hear is how sorry you feel for yourself. It doesn’t matter. I mean what happened matters. But going back and weeping about what you didn’t do is useless. You're here, for some reason. Why don’t you start from right now? It won't be an easy road but I've always been willing to be your daughter if you just be my father.”
“I want to be your father more than anything.” He said. “You’ve been my baby since the day you were born. I gave you your name.”
“What do you mean?” Emily asked.
“Your mother wanted a little boy. Well actually, my mother wanted a little boy and Elizabeth wanted to please her. We were going to name you Barrington Colby Prentiss after your grandfather. On the way to the hospital with your mother in labor I heard Simon and Garfunkel on the radio, For Emily Wherever I May Find Her. When you were born I just looked at you and called you Emily. Your mother chose Katherine.”
“I was really named after a Simon and Garfunkel song?”
“Yes.” Gregory nodded.
“Wow, that’s something I never knew. See how easy it is to have a conversation with me. We should probably get home; I don’t want Aunt Erin to worry.”
He drove back onto the deserted road and headed to his sister’s house. Gregory needed to tell his daughter why he was there. He was leaving on Monday morning and this was the first conversation they were having. He didn’t know what he was so afraid of but it was something.
“Your mother and I have decided to divorce.” He said.
“Did you leave her?” Emily asked.
“No.” he shook his head. “I guess you can say she left me. I don’t want you blaming her for this because in the end we both decided it was the best thing to do.”
“Are you OK, Daddy?” she looked at him.
“I'm fine; your mother is fine.”
“So are you going to move here to Cambridge with us? Is that why you're visiting?”
“No, I'm going to remain in DC at the State Department. But I would love if you came out to visit during the summer. No pressure, but I’d love it. And I can come here to Oregon for Thanksgiving and Christmas too. Again though, that’s only if you want me to.
“I want to make this work…I want to be your dad. Plus Erin is the only family I have left. We’ve spent too much time apart and I want to fix that. The ball is in my court and I'm getting in the game.”
“OK.” Emily nodded.
“There's one more thing.” Gregory said as he turned into the cul-de-sac. “I've met someone. Her name is Natalie and she means a lot to me. I need you to understand that she had nothing to do with what happened between your mother and I.”
“I mean that.”
“Daddy, calm down; I don’t think you were cheating on Mother. And even if you were it’s not exactly my business. You’ve got to do your best to live your life the way you see fit. You're the only one who has to answer for it in the end. Do you love Natalie?”
“Yes.” Gregory replied without hesitation. He parked in front of the house.
“Does she love you?” Emily asked.
“I think she does. But while I was married we were just acquaintances; co-workers. Love never came into the equation. I haven’t even told her about the divorce yet.”
“What if Mother wouldn’t have dumped you? You would've stayed with her even thought you loved someone else?”
“I don’t know how to answer that.”
“Why not? It’s a simple enough question.”
“OK fine.” She put a stop to it. “I'm glad you could tell me what was going on, for real. I'm even glad you're here with us Daddy. Having you here makes Aunt Erin happy.”
“Should we hug?” Gregory asked. “I mean, is it OK to hug? I haven’t hugged you since Christmas.”
Smiling some, Emily put her arms around her father. She really loved him. She supposed she loved her mother too. Having a relationship with them both could be a good thing for the family. She just needed to make sure they understood that Aunt Erin came first. She was the one who had taken care of Emily and the one Emily loved like a parent.
That wasn’t Erin’s fault; it was Gregory and Elizabeth’s. They had to live with the consequences of their decisions. If they could then she could find a place for them in her life. She didn’t think it would be easy. There would definitely be bumps in the road. But if they were willing to really work at it than so was she.
“I love you, Emily. I'm going to do everything in my power to prove it.”
“You don’t have to perform epic feats. You just have to be here sometimes.”
“I can do that. I want to.”
She didn’t say anything else. Emily unsnapped her seatbelt and got out of the car. Gregory followed. When they got into the house, Emily locked the door and put the alarm on. They only did that at night.
“Hey guys.” Erin came walking into the dining room from the kitchen. “Would you like some tea?”
“I'm just going to go to bed.” Emily said. She was suddenly drained. “Goodnight, Aunt Erin.”
“Goodnight, sweetie. Are you alright?”
“It’s been a long 20 minutes.”
“OK. Come and give me a hug.”
Emily did, and held on for a long time. She knew Erin knew she knew and her Aunt was probably wondering just how it affected her. Emily was suddenly wondering the same thing. Was she going to mourn the family she never had and imagine all the possibilities?
She hoped not; it seemed a waste of time. Whatever the Prentisses were at one time, it never seemed as if they were a family. Pretty soon they were going to just be three people trying to make it in the world. Erin kissed Emily’s forehead and gave her a squeeze.
“Get some rest. I love you.”
“I love you too.” she let go of her Aunt and went to the stairs. “Goodnight, Daddy.”
“I think you might need a cup of tea.” Erin said to her brother.
“Do you have any brandy to go with it?” Gregory asked.
“Absolutely.” She nodded. “C'mon.”
Emily walked into her bedroom and closed the door. She wanted to scream. She wanted to cry, throw things, tear things off the wall, and possibly punch a hole in it. This was too much and she didn’t know what to do with all the feelings and thoughts. The rage had come out of nowhere, which was scary enough. She threw herself onto the bed and screamed into her pillow. The she grabbed Chauncey and held him close.
“Dammit! Dammit, dammit, dammit!”
Her heart hurt. Her chest and head hurt and Emily didn’t know how to make it stop. Why did she even care about this? This wasn’t her life; why did he have to drop it on her? Why couldn’t everyone just leave her alone?
The tears came next. They fell hot and angry down her face. Emily hated crying but sometimes had no choice. She was angry, helpless, and sad. She was so damn angry.
Putting her face into the pillow again, she surrendered to the emotion for a while. It didn’t feel cathartic or cleansing. It just felt like something that wasn’t over by a long shot. And that was enough to make her angry all over again. Nowhere else to turn, she picked up the phone and dialed his number. It wasn’t until he answered on the fourth ring that Emily remembered the time difference.
“Emily?” Jason sounded drowsy. “Emily are you alright?”
“No.” she shook her head but he couldn’t see that thousands of miles away.
“Where are you?” he sat up in bed, turning on the lamp. “Are you safe?”
“Jason, I'm sorry I woke you. I forgot about the time difference and stuff. I just…I didn’t know who else would understand.”
“What's going on?”
“My dad came to town yesterday because he said he needed to talk to me. We hadn't talked since the Christmas disaster and I didn’t know what was going on. He and my mother are getting a divorce. Why do I even care? I don’t even know these people and here I am hurting. I wish he never would've told me.”
“You're his daughter.” Jason replied. “Don’t you think you have a right to know?”
“I don't know. I don’t care, Jason. I don’t need this right now. I really, really don’t; I have enough on my plate. All I want is to be 15 and just…” Emily sighed. “Why does this keep happening to me? Why?”
“OK. OK, Emily, stop and breathe. I want you to close your eyes, lie back, and take deep, cleansing breaths. C'mon, don’t smirk; lie back.”
“How did you know I was smirking?” Emily asked, doing what he said.
“I know because I know you, Katya. Now breathe please.”
Emily closed her eyes and started to breathe. After a few minutes of inhaling through her nose and exhaling through her mouth, she started to feel lighter. She wasn’t better but definitely lighter.
“Now tell me everything.” He said. “Tell me what has you so upset.”
“I don’t want to deal with my parents’ problems. I don’t want to love my father but resent my mother. I'm so worried that Jordan’s dad is touching her and all I want to do is kill him. I mean I literally want to take his service revolver and put it to the back of his head. I want him as dead as Stephen Baleman.
“The nightmares are back, Jason. They're back and they're scary as hell. I don’t want to tell my therapist because I don’t want her to know about what might be happening with Jordan. I just want it to stop.”
“What do you want to stop?” Jason asked in a soothing tone.
“Everything. I wish I could snap my fingers and go back to the summer and never let what happen happened.”
“I'm not sure stopping it is possible.”
“Why did he do this to me, Jason?” Emily asked. “Why me?”
“I don’t have an answer for that. He was a sick and evil man who didn’t care who he hurt. He honestly didn’t plan on your living with having to cope.”
“I know. Sometimes…”
Emily stopped talking. She stopped and took more deep breaths. This was all too much to process. She needed help but wasn’t sure how or who to ask.
“I miss you so much; I really wish you were here.” She whispered.
“Perhaps I can talk to your Aunt and we can arrange a visit.”
“Really?” that lifted her spirits a little.
“Really, really. I'm no therapist but I'm worried about you.”
“I'm doing the best I can.”
“I know that. You’re dealing with a lot right now. You’re also a teenage girl and that is its own special time in purgatory. You told me that Erin once suggested that you guys move. Are you still against that?”
“With everything else, how I can also deal with being a stranger somewhere?” Emily countered. “My friends are here; the people who love me. I could never leave Jordan or Sam or Penelope. I know every leaf, every cloud, and every shingle in this Podunk town. I don’t want to go anywhere right now. Maybe I’d reconsider if I was sure I could leave the memory of Stephen Baleman here. Unfortunately, that can't happen.”
“Does anyone besides your therapist know what happened to you?” Jason asked.
“This isn’t about that.” Emily replied in a snappy tone.
“OK, then tell me what it’s about.”
“Everything else! I just need to breathe, Jason. I need all those rocks to stop falling out of the sky and hitting me in the head. Just give me a fuckin break.”
“I understand.” Jason held back his sigh. He didn’t want Emily to think she was exasperating him because she wasn’t. She didn’t need to feel like a burden. That wasn’t why he was sighing.
Jason wanted to hold her. He wanted to comfort her and tell her that everything would be alright. The pain of not being able to do that was nearly palpable. “You may hate me for saying this but its going to be alright. This too shall pass.”
“I know.” She sighed. “Right now it’s just difficult to breathe.”
“I’ll stay until you're better, Katya.”
“You can't.” Emily lay back against her pillows again. She held Chauncey close, breathed, and looked at her alarm clock. It was after midnight in Cambridge, which meant it was seriously o’dark thirty in Washington, DC.
“I can do what I want, thank you. Tomorrow is Saturday; I don’t have to go to Quantico. Even if I did, I’d still stay with you.”
“You need to go to sleep, Jason. I think I'm going to be OK. Thanks so much for talking me through it.”
“I'm always here.” He said. “And this weekend I’ll call Erin to discuss a good time to come and visit you guys.”
“If you bring Uncle Dave with you she’ll tell you to come right now.”
“I bet.” Jason laughed some. Wow, she was already calling Uncle Dave. He’d truly made an impression on the teenager. Jason knew that was no easy feat. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“I’ll live. Sleep is probably my best bet right now.”
Emily bit back a yawn as she said it. Suddenly she was exhausted. Friday hadn't been so bad and then…blammo! She was getting kind of tired of blammo.
“Well have sweet dreams and if you need anything, or even if you just want to talk, please call me. I don’t care about the time; I mean that.”
“I will. Goodnight, Jason.”
Emily hung up the phone. She lay in bed, held her teddy bear, and cried again. What the hell were the tears about? Erin knocked on the door and poked her head in.
“Em? Oh sweetie, are you alright?”
“Despite the tears, the answer is yes.” Emily replied.
Erin came in and sat on the side of her niece’s bed. She stroked her raven hair.
“Are you sure?”
“Mmm hmm. Is Daddy OK?”
“He's fine. He was worried about you though.”
“It is what it is, Aunt Erin. I can't mourn a marriage that I didn’t know anything about. He just decided to tell me when a bunch of other things were going on.”
“Like what?” Erin asked. “Do you want to talk?”
“No, I really just want to sleep.”
“OK, but you know you can talk to me whenever you need to.” She bent and kissed her cheek. “Sweet dreams.”
“Goodnight, Aunt Erin.”
Erin gave her an encouraging smile and left the room. Though she was exhausted, Emily climbed off the bed and took off all her clothes. She grabbed a pair of pajama pants and an FBI Academy tee shirt Dave gave her when they when they were in DC over Christmas. She cracked the window to hear the rain better, turned off all the lights, and slid under the blanket and comforter. Emily would sleep it off. Tomorrow was a new day.
It was a new day to eat pancakes, paint toenails, read a book, and spend time with friends. Then Ian was taking her to Portland for dinner and the Steve Perry show. That was something happy; it was very happy. The rest of it Emily would do her best to sleep off and leave behind. Insanity snuck up on her today…she thought she handled it better than she could have. Now it was deep breaths, closed eyes, and hopefully sweet dreams.