She couldn’t see me.
She couldn’t feel that I was there.
My vision blurred even more as I waited for help to come.
“Karla…” I whispered, shaking her. “Karla, answer me…please…” I cried. “Karla!”
“Karla, do you want to join us for dinner?” I asked as she walked past the dining room to get her dinner from the kitchen. I asked her every night, and every time she gave the same monotone response: “Nope.”
She picked up her plate, and when she crossed back toward the dining room, she paused. We all did.
Out of nowhere, “Karla! No!” was hollered from a different room as Lorelai and I sat up straighter. Karla stood taller. Our conversation stopped, and we looked up, a bit confused as the yelling continued. “No! No!” the voice hollered, obviously coming from Greyson’s office.
I slid back in my chair and stood up. Lorelai and Karla both looked nervous, but I smiled at them. “Stay here, girls. I’m just going to go check out what’s happening.”
I walked off toward Greyson’s office, and my stomach knotted up because it sounded as if he was in deep despair.
“Greyson…?” I called out, knocking first. No answer. I knocked again, still, nothing. Then, I twisted the doorknob and opened his office door to find a sleeping Greyson at his desk tossing and turning.
He was in deep despair, obviously having a terrible nightmare, and it didn’t appear as if he’d awake from it any time soon. I walked in slowly and I tapped him once on the shoulder. “Hey, wake up.” He didn’t stop thrashing. I tapped him harder a few more times. “Greyson, wake up!”
He shot up, wide-eyed and terrified.
I placed a comforting hand on his shoulder to try to shake the fear away from him. “It’s okay, you’re fine. It was a dream.”
He looked at me, his eyes still wide as ever, and ripped his shoulder free of my touch. He looked around, alert, and then his eyes glared back at me. “What are you doing in here?” he barked, obviously shaken.
“I, um, we heard you shouting. I just wanted to check in on you to make sure you were all right.”
“Are you okay, Daddy?” a small voice said.
We both looked up to the doorframe where Lorelai was standing with a worried expression on her face.
Greyson cleared his throat and tried to regain his composure as he sat up straight and adjusted his tie. “I’m fine.”
“You were screaming,” Lorelai commented, still concerned about her father.
Just then Karla appeared in the doorway. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked him.
“Nothing. I’m fine!” he snapped, making all of us jump out of our skin. He slide his hands over his face and sighed. “Sorry. I’m fine. Please, go back to what you were doing.”
“But, Daddy…” Lorelai started, her eyes watering over.
I offered the girls a smile I hoped would reassure them. “He’s okay, Lorelai. Just a bad dream. How about you head back to the dining room and we’ll finish our dinner.”
“He’s not okay!” Karla barked out, staring at her father. “Nothing about him is okay! Nothing about this house is okay and I’m sick of acting like everything’s okay when it’s just not!” she cried before walking away as quickly as she could.
Lorelai stayed still with tears in her eyes.
“Lorelai, everything’s all right,” I told her. “Just go back to the table. I’ll be right there.”
Warily, Lorelai did as she was told, and I released the breath I’d been holding. I turned back to Greyson, who was now standing and staring out his office window with his back to me. “Are you alright?”
He turned to face me. His head flinched a little as he wrung his fingers together tightly and spoke. “Yes, Eleanor. I’m all right.”
“If you aren’t—”
“Close the door on the way out.”
I did as he said, knowing he was already on edge and not wanting to push him over it. I used to have those same kinds of nightmares after Mom’s death. It wasn’t an uncommon thing at all. It happened to many people after tragedy struck. I remembered being terrified to close my eyes because I wasn’t certain where my dreams would take me. I wasn’t worried about his dreams, but what concerned me most was how Greyson didn’t seem like the type to talk to anyone about his suffering.
He kept his hurts all to himself, which was the easiest way to drown.
I stayed a bit later with Lorelai that night after I put her to bed, because I knew she was a bit shaken up by her father’s outburst. That was something that happened with aging—the older you were, the scarier life became, and Lorelai was at that age where things were becoming a bit scarier.
“You okay?” I asked her, walking over and sitting on the edge of her bed.
She nodded as she hugged her pillow. “Is Daddy okay?”
“Yeah, he’s okay. He just had a bad dream.”
“He has a lot of bad dreams,” she whispered, her voice so low and timid.
“Really? Does he shout in his sleep a lot?”
“Yes. Sometimes it wakes me up when I’m sleeping. Is he really okay?”
I smiled, even though I wanted to frown. I combed my hands through the little girl’s hair, and bent down to give her a gentle kiss on the forehead. “Yes, he’s okay. He’s just working through some stuff, that’s all.”
She nodded, being more understanding than should have been possible for such a young girl. “I miss him.”
“You miss him?”
“Yeah, he used to hang out with me, but now…” Her words trailed away and she frowned. “I miss Mommy, too. She was my best friend, her and Daddy.”
“And Karla. She was my bestest friend, but she never wants to play anymore,” Lorelai explained. “She’s just kind of grumpy now.”
My heart hurt for her. My heart hurt for all of them. Their lives were tangled up in tragedy, and nothing could really change that.
When Lorelai finally fell asleep, I gathered my things to head home for the night, and as I walked past Greyson’s office, I noticed the door was open, which wasn’t normal.
He stood in front of his fireplace with a glass in his grip, and his stare was so hard. His brows were knitted as he inhaled and exhaled. I wished I could slide into his brain and see the workings of his mind. He seemed to think so many things yet never released those thoughts. The amount of pressure that sat on his shoulders seemed so heavy.
“Hey,” I said softly, and he snapped around to face me. When he looked my way, he looked confused as to why I was speaking to him. “I, um, I was just going to head home for the night. The girls are in their rooms.”
He nodded once. “Thank you.”
“Lorelai was really worried tonight.”
“There was nothing to be worried about.”
“Well, I disagree…” I took a step toward him and lowered my voice. “She said it happens quite often.”
“Your night terrors.”
He tilted his head toward me and those cold eyes locked with mine. “I don’t have night terrors.”
“Yes.” I nodded. “You do, and it’s completely normal after the tragedy your family has been through. After my mother passed away, I couldn’t sleep. Remember? You’d call me. You’d call and sit on the phone with me and—”
“Please don’t what?”
He stepped closer to me, and his voice lowered so much it cracked with his next words. “Please don’t do this.”
“Make it so clear that I’m failing this family.”
The sadness that dripped from his words was heart-wrenching. “No. That’s not what I’m saying. You just have so much on your plate. I don’t think I could do half of what you do, especially with everything going on. You’re doing all the right things for your children. They are involved in activities, they are staying busy, they are going to grief counselors, but, you have to do something for you, too. Do you talk to anyone?”
“No. I’m fine.”
He lied straight to my face, as if it were the easiest thing in the world. Maybe somewhere deep inside of him he truly believed that lie, too, but there was nothing about Greyson that was fine. He was living with an internal flame that was setting his soul on fire, yet he was doing nothing about it at all.
Maybe because he didn’t know how to deal with it.
Or perhaps he thought he deserved to burn.
“It’s okay to get help,” I promised him. “You taught me that when I was younger. You were the person who helped me. Let me help you, Greyson.”
He shook his head. “You just get tired of it, you know?”
“Tired of what?”
He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly as he brushed his hand against his beard and he softly said, “Everything.”
“Greyson—” I started, but he shook his head.
“Good evening, Eleanor.” He gestured toward the door. It was clear our conversation had gone on for too long.
I nodded in understanding and took a big step away from him with chills racing down my spine. “Good night.”
“So, what episode are we on with the distant lovers?” Shay asked as we sat down on her couch for our weekly reality show binge. “How are things going with our Greyson?”
“There is nothing about Greyson and I that is a reality show.”
“Right, uh-huh, so we’re still on episode two: ‘Denying the Love.’ Gah, this is so exciting! I cannot wait, because this means the ‘Slow Burn Friendship’ episode is coming up soon! I cannot wait for you two to accidentally become friends again.”