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It was nearly an hour and a half later when Casey knocked on the door to the barracks room, Erin by her side.
"Well, took you long enough. I said an hour," Helen huffed as they walked to the parking lot.
"I had other things to do," Casey replied. "Mom, you sit up in front with me. Sheryl and…they can sit in the back seat," she said to Erin.
Again Sheryl flinched. She didn’t miss the fact that Casey wouldn’t even address her mother. She was letting them know exactly where they stood with her. Kenny had been right. She didn’t care about them at all. Not that she had any reason to. She remembered well how Casey had been treated in the Webster home. All those years of hating her because she was so thin and pretty and made people laugh, and had boys calling her. Sheryl was starting to realize just how strong, how smart, how…sweet…Casey really was. Helen had underestimated her. If she thought that Casey was going to give in to her demands…She shook her head. She was looking at a long, miserable three days.
Helen looked around. The house wasn’t as big as she had imagined. But it was lovely. The rooms inside looked as if they had been cut from one of those fancy magazines. There were things…like museum pieces, everywhere. And lots of books. Daniel was feeding that baby when they entered the main room…Casey’s father sitting beside him, obviously playing with her.
Sheryl was looking around as well. Everything was so…tasteful. She gasped when she saw the sketch over the fireplace. It was…it was so beautiful. She could feel the love they shared. Another sketch, one of the three of them was hanging in the dining room. In it Daniel sat behind Casey, his arms around her, his face next to hers, as Casey held the baby in her arms. Again, the love could be felt.
"Please, sit down," Casey said, waving toward the living room. She lifted the lid of a slow cooker, checked the roast and the vegetables inside. "The roast is nearly done. Can I offer you something to drink? Coffee, tea, lemonade, beer, wine…"
"I’ll have a beer, if you don’t mind," Sheryl said. She could use it.
"Coffee," Helen said. She settled her large body onto one of the upholstered chairs. The furniture was top of the line, she noticed. She looked at Erin, who was sitting in the exquisitely carved rocking chair. "So, why did you give her up? Did you get pregnant too young?"
Erin flushed, looked at Aaron and Daniel.
"Actually, Casey is Immortal. Erin and Aaron are Ancients who donated their genes to the Immortal nursery. They tried to keep Casey, but were refused," Daniel said matter-of-factly.
Helen’s eyes grew wide. She had watched a program on TV about Immortals. Being here, seeing two moons above the planet, thinking about the trip through the Stargate, she realized that there was just the possibility that it was true. She took the cup of coffee that Casey had brought her, in a fancy cup on a saucer no less!
"If I had known what was to happen to Casey, I would have left the Ancients years ago and raised her myself," Aaron said coldly.
"Well, she was lucky Frank and I took her in," Helen said smugly. "We did our best for her. But she was a handful. Always causing trouble. Yessir, we did our best. She went completely wild when she hit about sixteen. Couldn’t keep track of her. Lord knows what she was doing. Probably screwing everything with a-"
"I warned you about that," Daniel said, his voice cold and deadly.
"Listen, you little pissant, I know more about that precious little wife of yours than you’ll ever know!" Helen huffed loudly.
"I doubt that very much," Daniel spat back.
"So you witnessed this…behavior?" Aaron asked.
Helen flushed, then looked over at Sheryl. That woman hid her discomfort by taking a swig of beer. "No. But my daughter wouldn’t lie about what she saw!"
"Don’t be so sure," Daniel replied. "Did you know that Casey was a virgin when she married Kenny? Did you know that was why he wanted to marry her in the first place?"
The heavy-set woman’s eyes grew rounder with each word.
Casey had returned to the kitchen and was standing silently by the counter, listening to every word. "Daniel knows everything …everything," she repeated. "Now, what I want to know is why you’re here. What is it that you want?"
Helen looked at her, then slowly nodded. Straight-forward. If that’s how she wanted to play it, fine. "Money. I need you to pay your father’s hospital bill. I can’t afford it."
Casey started. "Frank is in the hospital?"
Sheryl stood up, walked into the kitchen. "He had a heart attack about a year ago. He hasn’t been able to work since, and they don’t have insurance. He had another heart attack last week. It’s…it’s not looking very good." Her voice broke. She loved her father, and it was hard to watch him dying.
Daniel looked over at Casey, saw her pulling her lower lip between her teeth.
"You owe us," Helen said loudly. "We took you in, fed you, clothed you, sent you to school-"
"I don’t owe you anything," Casey said softly. "I will, however, think about helping you."
"I need money for the plane tickets, too."
Casey shook her head. "That’s your problem. You figure out how to pay it. Getting a job would be a good start."
Daniel grinned. He was so proud of her! She was being so sweet, so gracious…so typically Casey, but she wasn't backing down. He was biting his tongue to keep from saying all the things he wanted to say to that…woman.
"You’ve been here for nearly half an hour now, and you still haven’t asked about my daughter," Casey said quietly.
Sheryl looked at the little girl. The child looked at her, but didn’t smile. "She’s beautiful. How old is she? What’s her name?"
"Emily Rose turned one year old two weeks ago," Casey replied. Her love and pride were shining in her eyes.
"Who’s the father, or do you know?" Helen asked, a hateful smirk on her face.
"Case, I’m sorry, babe, but I will not sit here and listen to this." Daniel looked over at the woman he most certainly hated. "I’m taking you both back to the barracks," he said, rising to his feet.
Aaron was standing also. "I’ll go with you, son."
Helen was wide-eyed. She managed to pull herself to her feet. "What about dinner? We haven’t had any dinner!" She was hungry, and that roast smelled good. Besides, she wanted to make sure that when she left, it was because she wanted to. She had to show that little whore just who was in charge!
Aaron snorted, shook his head. "I’m sure you can find something at the cafeteria."
Casey put her hand on Daniel’s arm. "If she apologizes, and agrees to…to not say things like that anymore, will you let her stay, just for awhile?"
Daniel looked into her green eyes. "Babe, you have an amazing heart. If she apologizes, and if she can control her mouth, she can stay. For a little while."
Sheryl looked at her mother, willing the woman to do both.
"I apologize," Helen said, her voice low and angry.
Daniel shook his head, but didn’t say anything. He helped Casey set the table, while Aaron entertained Emily. He didn’t know how Casey had survived her childhood. He was an adult, the woman had been in the house less than an hour and already her anger and bitterness was making him react in kind. God bless you, Grandma Rose, wherever you are, he thought silently. ‘Babe, are you okay?’ he asked her in their special way of communicating, not wanting witnesses to this conversation.
She smiled up at him and nodded. ‘I’m fine, my heart. No demons, Daniel. She can’t hurt me anymore, remember? You saved me, my love.’
He reached over and touched her cheek, kissed her lightly on the lips. "Love you, Angel," he said softly.
"Love you too, Sweetheart."
Sheryl watched the two together, the love that they felt for each other seemed to fill the room around her.
Casey put the roast on a platter, sliced it, then carefully arranged the vegetables around it. The fresh salad was already waiting, the salad dressing in a lovely crystal decanter. She called everyone to the table, putting Helen and Sheryl on one side, her parents on the other, and she and Daniel sat at either end. Emily sat between her father and grandmother.
"I see you cook like her," Helen said as soon as she took a bite of roast. That old battleaxe used all those spices on everything. Tried to pretend she was some sort of fancy chef.
"She’s the one who taught me how to cook," Casey replied calmly.
"Grandma Rose?" Daniel asked.
Casey nodded. "She was a great cook. She didn’t believe in frying everything in a cup of lard. She taught me about herbs and spices, how to use them."
Daniel didn’t miss the spark in her eyes as she made that comment. Neither did her parents.
None of them bothered to hide their smiles.
Helen refused to comment. She cleaned her plate, then reached for seconds.
Sheryl cringed as she watched her mother. She had been watching Casey and Erin eat, noticed that they ate more salad than anything else. She was quickly losing her appetite as she watched her mother and Casey, the contrast like night and day. "Your home is lovely, Casey," she said, trying to steer the conversation into more neutral territory.
"Thank you," Casey replied. She gave the woman a small smile. There was too much history, too many hurts for them to ever be friends. But she would be polite to her.
Neither woman had anything to say when Casey served sherbet and fruit for dessert. Helen again ate every bite, and would have asked for more if she hadn’t seen the look on Sheryl’s face. A look that told her that she was behaving…badly. Sheryl knew about things like that.
Erin helped Casey clean the kitchen. Daniel looked at Helen. "I’ll take you back to the barracks now. It’s time for Emily’s bath, and I want Casey to get to bed early tonight. I know she’s tired."
There was something in his voice that kept Helen from arguing. The ride was done in tense silence. Sheryl knew that Daniel wanted to say something, probably quite a few things; she watched as his jaw worked. She was going to have to talk to her mother if they were going to have any chance at all of getting money from Casey.
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