“Choose, Caitlin.” The wind from the north nearly blew the words away before Caitlin could hear them. She stood on her front porch, between her front door and her boyfriend. “It’s either me, or your family.”
Caitlin Walker blinked, staring at the young man in front of her, even as she shivered from cold. She had thought she was in love. She certainly knew better know. “Sorry, Bob. No man can make that demand and win. We’re through. Good bye.” And with that, Caitlin went into her house, not even giving Bob Peters the satisfaction of having the door slammed in his face.
Despite the poise Caitlin had recently shown, she wanted nothing more than to escape the prying eyes of her family. It wasn’t to be done, at least, not for several more hours, all eleven tongues and twenty-two eyes bombarded her with questions. These people knew her better than she knew herself and they could read her every movement. There were no secrets in the Walker family.
“What’s the matter, Cait?” that was her brother, Jack. She wouldn’t be able to hide anything from him, had she stood half a chance with the others.
“Caitie!” a little brother came running to grab her around the legs.
“Where’s Bob?” came the dreaded question.
“I’m through with Bob,” she announced to the entire family in general. “Please, don’t mention him to me again.” What a relief it was just to say it, and to say it here, where reasons didn’t matter. The fact that she had done it was enough for them. Whether the situation had called for such actions or not, it didn’t matter because they were on her side.
“Oh, sweetie,” that was her mother, coming to hug her tight.
“I’m fine, mom. Just-just leave me alone. I’ll be out of this by morning.” But Caitlin returned the hug, nevertheless. Stepping into her home was like stepping into a hug, it had her surrounded by warmth, and the love was so thick you could almost cut through it.
“Did he hurt you?” Caitlin’s heart went out to her father and the fire smoldering in his eyes, even as she was drawn to the arms he held open to her. As long as she didn’t find anything that couldn’t be cured by daddy’s hug, she’d survive. Behind him ranked her five brothers, all staring intensely at her, each more than ready to do battle for her, all she had to do was say the word.
“No,” she laughed, just because she couldn’t help it. This was home, and there was no way she’d ever be able to choose to leave it for a man. She was crazy for having considered it. “No, daddy, he didn’t.”
“Did he hurt your heart, honey?” And that was her daddy. Physical pain wasn’t all that mattered. When it came to his daughters he was ever on the lookout for their mental and emotional well being, too.
“He hurt my naivety, daddy. That’s all. I thought he cared about me, and now I see he didn’t.”
Derogatory murmurings came from the five boys behind him. “If we see him, Caitie,” Jack promised. “He won’t be left in any doubt as to what his mistake was.”
“Go on to bed,” her mother urged. “You’re tired and you want to be alone. We understand.”
A half hour later, Caitlin had showered and was curled up in her bed in the bedroom she shared with her sisters. A mug rested on the bedside table, emptied of the hot cocoa that bore testament to how loved she was. A box of tissues was beside it, due to the thoughtfulness of one of her sisters. Her mother had already checked in, just to see if Caitlin needed to talk. No, talking wouldn’t do any good. She had tears that needed to come out, but couldn’t cry when she had company. She had to cry away the anger she felt at herself for ever believing that someone could love her more than her family did, for ever getting her hopes up that someone might love her and her family as one inseparable package. Then she had to question her reasoning for ever wanting more love than she had. Sometimes, Caitlin concluded, she was just stupid, and couldn’t see a good thing when she had it. At least she could be thankful to Bob for showing her what she couldn’t see. And that was that her family was all she needed.
By eleven o’clock that night, Caitlin, in her moonlit room, was propped against the headboard of her twin bed. The sobbing and crying had subsided, and now she just couldn’t sleep.
“What’s the matter, sis?” questioned the voice from the bed beside her. “Is it Bob?”
“I’m hating my innocence, Judy. I fell for the stupid guy. That’s all.”
“You okay, honey?”
Caitlin thought about that for a minute. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m alright.” And with that statement, she was able to curl up in her bed, closing her eyes, and fall sound asleep. Because with this family behind you, how could you not be alright? They had her back, and they were always going to have her back. That’s what families were for, and with that knowledge, she could sleep.