Chapter 10: Stages of Grief

The funeral for Nathan was one out of a movie. Men dressed in military uniforms carried the casket with the flag draped over it. When it was time to lower it into the ground the flag was folded neatly and given to Nathan's mother with her husband right beside her. Nadine held onto Cole's hand the entire service. He wanted to take her away from the pain like she had tried to do for him but he didn't know how he could do it. He silently wanted to punch the idiot from the local newspaper for taking pictures of the casket with the family sitting the in front row of chairs behind it. He didn't understand why someone would want to document this kind of thing for a newspaper.

A week later the couple were forced to return to school. Cole didn't want to think about all the rumors that had been spread and he wasn't looking forward to all the work he had missed. Nadine had started to return to her old self but she wasn't smiling as often. That was one of the things that made Cole love her was her smile that made his stomach do a flip. While they sat in their first period an announcement came over the intercom.

"Mr. Thompson?" The school's secretary asked.

"Yes." The balding teacher answered.

"Can we see Nadine Betts and Cole Martin in the office, please?"

"I'll send them down there." Mr. Thompson sighed. "Cole, Nadine, take your stuff with you just in case you don't come back before the bell."

Cole waited for Nadine to grab her bag before they both started walking towards the office together. The secretary guided them to the back to the room where the faculty has their meetings after school. Sitting in the chairs was the principal and two men dressed in nice suits. One had on glasses with the other was a bald man holding a note pad.

"You wanted to see us." Cole coughed standing behind Nadine.

"Yes, please sit down." Principal Stewart said gesturing to two empty seats at the end of the table. "This is Mr. Wilson and Mr. Davidson, they are grieving counselors. In light of recent events I thought it would be best if the two of you talked about what you're going through."

"Do my parents know about this?" Nadine asked.

"Yes, they were contacted. They feel it is necessary for you to get out your feelings so it is possible to move on."

Nadine looked at Cole then back at the three men. "Nadine, you will be going with Mr. Davidson. Cole, you and Mr. Wilson will stay in here."

Cole squeezed Nadine's hand as she leaned down to kiss his cheek before walking out with Mr. Davidson. After the door closed Cole looked at Mr. Wilson. "So, Cole, tell me about yourself."

Cole never liked therapists, just the idea of them made him want to go in the opposite direction. "What do you want to know?" Cole asked leaning back into his chair.

"Well, from what I've heard you lived with your uncle in a real bad part of town."

"I did."

"How was that?"

"I'm pretty sure you've heard how it was. It was hell." Cole grimaced thinking back at all those years. He looked down at his hands, his black hair covering his eyes.

"Cole, I'm only here to try and help. Just let out all your feeling. Tell me what happened."

"My uncle was a bastard who had no business being mine or anyone's guardian. He beat the shit out of me to the point where I wanted to die. I cut myself, that's something I haven't told Nadine about."

"Nadine seems to be very special to you."

"She's the reason I'm breathing right now." Cole said looking back up. He took a deep breath before speaking. "She was the first person I let in and it took me a while to realize that it was the best thing that I could have done for myself."

"Tell me about that day, what happened?"

"Why does this sounds like a police interrogation?" Cole asked.

"I'm trying to see if you can let out those emotions you've been holding in. Cole, I know you hold everything in, especially since what has happened with Nadine losing her brother. Before you can move on you need to let everything go."

Cole sighed and rubbed her forehead. "When I saw Nadine standing on the front porch the only thought going through my head was 'Get her out of here.' The last thing I wanted was for her to get hurt. When I heard him driving up the road I grabbed her and told her to hide. When he came inside he saw me and hit me in the face so hard I fell to the floor. I felt punches and kicks hitting me in the ribs and my stomach."

Mr. Wilson listened to what the teen said with a blank face. "Then he walked out and I saw Nadine crawl out of the closet to me. She was crying and I told her everything. But...he came back." Cole's hands started to shake. He remembered what he felt that day, after all these weeks of repressing those memories it was coming back like an avalanche. "I heard Nadine scream and I couldn't do anything to help. I have never felt so useless. Then somehow I got up, stumbled down the hall, and I shot him. I still remember how numb I felt, I wasn't sad in that moment or relieved. Everything went black after that."

"So you shot him to protect Nadine?"

"Yeah, when I came to she was still in the house. I thought she would've ran out while I was unconscious. She was the one who convinced me to go to the police." He sighed. "After that I moved in with Nadine and her family."

"You could have left at any time but you didn't."

"No, I love Nadine. I never thought I could say that about anyone."

In a room down the hallway Nadine didn't want to open up to this stranger. "Nadine, it says here you're new to the school."

"Yeah, I was a late transfer."

"I know you are grieving for your brother. I also know you have helped Cole with his demons."

"I love him, I don't want to see anything hurt him." She said rubbing her arms up and down.

"I know you don't want to talk about this but it's not a bad thing to talk about what you're going through."

"The only person I've talked to about this is Cole. I trust him."

"From what your mom told me you took your brother's death the worst. Have you talked to Cole about it."

"Yeah, me and Nathan were always close."

"He was in the Army correct?"

She nodded her head. "He didn't exactly expect it." She sighed. "At the end of Nathan's senior year he started getting into fights. I asked him about it but he never told me why. After he got arrested my dad gave Nathan the ultimatum: straighten his life up or move out on his own. Nathan didn't want to go to college so he chose the military."

"How did you take him leaving?"

"Horrible at first but then I realized he was doing something with his life that most people don't. Then when he got stationed close by my dad decided to move us and the family business here. But that didn't last long."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Right after we bought a house my brother told us that he was being deployed for six months. Then I didn't want to move because what's the point of moving to a different city when the whole reason of us being there is gone?"

"Are you glad you moved now?"

She smiled thinking about Cole. "I'm very glad I moved. If I didn't I would have never met Cole."

"I hate to bring this up, but take me back to that day you got the letter from the military."

Nadine shut her eyes. "I was the first one home, I got the mail and the letter was the first thing I see. I tore it open and the only line that stuck out to me was that he didn't make it." She leaned forward feeling tears coming to her eyes. "I don't want to talk about it."

The school day passed quickly. Cole waited at Nadine's locker and smirked when he saw her coming towards him. "So, weird day huh?"

"Yes, I never want to talk to a therapist again." She sighed pulling her bag onto her shoulder.

"I know what you mean."

"I now know one thing more than ever though." She smiled looking up at him. "I love you, and thank you for being there for me and my family."

"You couldn't have gotten rid of me if you tried." He smirked leaning down to kiss her. "I love you too."

After several weeks of late nights the two teens caught up enough to graduate. The remained a couple throughout college until Cole built up enough courage to ask Nadine to marry him. Nadine's parents moved back to their old town but left the cafe open for a reason. Cole and Nadine took over the business and even after everything that both of them had been through they were happy. Cole never expected to live past high school with the way his life was going but now he knew what he was supposed to do in life.