Chapter 3: Remembering Caiden

Hello my loyal readers. I have a new poll up concerning this story. Please take at a look at it and vote when you get a chance.

Basically I give you a question that is a bit of a stretch from the truth, but I'm hoping it would give you people something to think about. It says pretend that Ghassan's only reason for Caiden wasn't about greed, but was to help humanity. Basically Ghassan knew that they gems would save many more people's lives, but there was no way Caiden would sell them if he were alive. Would that justify murder?

Part of me is kind of hoping everyone votes no for that, but I'm still curious what you people think about the question. If you have anything to say about it please speak your mind in a review. Next chapter I'll share my answer.

Ghassan was sitting down on Thijs' couch beside Ottilia. Thijs and Susann also sat near and listened into the conversation. It had been about three hours since Ottilia had hung up on her brother during that dreaded phone call. Yuki and Yussel were now fast asleep in another room, and Norbert still hadn't bothered calling back.

"I'm sure he couldn't have been that bad to talk to." Ghassan said nonchalantly. "Maybe it just seemed worse because you were already upset."

"No, he was horrible! Even before I could say anything he started telling me off for never calling him and insulting Caiden!" Ottilia explained.

He insulted Caiden?" Ghassan repeated seeming surprised, but not pleased.

Sure anyone who had seen how Caiden had really died may assume that Ghassan secretly hated his co-worker, but in reality that statement couldn't have been further from the truth. It was true that he and Caiden had a different opinion and that difference had led to Caiden's demise, but Ghassan had nothing, but respect for Caiden's ability to speak his mind. Ghassan wanted people to remember Caiden as a good man or hero even if that meant that Ghassan had to play the villain.

"He did." Ottilia confirmed answering Ghassan's earlier question even though it had been more rhetorical than anything else.

"What did he say?" Ghassan asked.

"He basically went on about how I married the wrong person, blah, blah, blah, nothing he hadn't told me before. Don't worry about it though. Norbert's a jerk. I'm used to criticism like this so it didn't bother me at all." Ottilia explained, although Ghassan could tell that it really did bother Ottilia or else why would he be still hearing about it now?

"Don't let this get to your head. You already have enough pain to deal with without having to worry about what your brother thinks." Ghassan said, trying his best to comfort the new widow.

"Thanks." Ottilia replied solemnly.

"Don't worry about it." Ghassan said. "If there's anything that I can do for you, then just tell me."

"Thanks I will."

Ottilia wasn't tired, but somehow she had taken to falling asleep on the couch while leaning against Ghassan's shoulder. Her nap was short and dreamless. When she woke up Ghassan was gone and Susann was trying to shake her awake.

"I hope you're fine with eating now, because I just made a plate of sandwiches." Susann said.

Ottilia looked wearily at the nearest clock. It was only three in the afternoon. Somehow she had hoped to sleep longer. She knew that it wouldn't make much difference, but Ottilia just wanted the day to be over.

Ottilia gave Susann a smile that was obviously forced and said. "I'll be there in a moment."

Susann gave an understanding nod. "Take your time." Then Susann left the room.

Ottilia rolled onto her back and stared blankly up at the ceiling. She didn't expect to see anything; instead she went into deep thought. The ceiling's plain white color made it easy for her thoughts to stay focused without having to close her eyes. She found herself thinking about Caiden. Without him her soul felt so empty, yet her chest was full of pain and grief. Was there anything that she could have done different? There probably wasn't any more she could have done; after all she didn't know that Caiden was going to die, but even still this thought left Ottilia feeling uneased.

Ottilia finally stood up and walked to the kitchen. She arrived in time to find the whole group sitting around the table. Yuki sat up in a high chair and played with a bowl of dry Cheerios, while Yussel was being spoon fed on his father's lap. Ghassan had just taken a bite out of a tuna fish sandwich and talked on about how he and Thijs needed to get some more mining done soon if they wanted to make more money before the winter, but Ghassan stopped himself upon spotting Ottilia.

He pulled out the seat beside him. "How was your sleep?" Ghassan asked; his mouth still filled with food. Normally this disgusting habit phased Ottilia, but today she decided to ignore it.

"It was alright, but much too short." Ottilia confessed while taking her seat.

"Sorry. I probably should have let you sleep, but I wasn't sure if you wanted to eat." Susann confessed.

"Oh no, it's not your fault!" Ottilia assured. "I probably would have woken up soon anyway. You just saved me from having to wait until later to eat."

Susann didn't look convinced, but smiled. "That's good." She said. "Anyways, I should probably show you what we have." Susann began to point out the various items on the table. "These are egg salad. Over here is tuna. This is salmon. And finally there's bologna and ham and cheese."

Ottilia wasn't a fan of meat so she reached out and took and egg salad sandwich. She took a bite, swallowed, and then stopped. She placed down the sandwich and spoke.

"... Thank you again for your hospitality." She said.

"Don't mention it." Susann said dismissively. "It was the least we could do." She put down her food and put her hands together. "Now that we're all here though, I'd like to take a minute to say grace." The others followed Susann's lead and waited for her to speak. "Oh, Heavenly father, thank you for bringing us all here together on this day to remember Caiden. Let us not dwell on the unpleasant memories, but help us remember the happy times. Assure us that Caiden has made it to a better place than here on earth. And thank you for Caiden's loving friends and family who will keep him in their heart long past his time. Please bless Ottilia and assure her that she's not alone. Keep her surrounded by people who love her. I pray this in Jesus' name, amen."

"Amen." The group repeated. Ottilia was about to eat more, but she was stopped by Thijs.

"Ottilia, would you mind if we went around the table and shared stories about Caiden?" Thijs asked. "I know it may sound like an odd request, but it's like what Susann said about remembering the good times. My family tried this after my grandfather had passed away and you'd be surprised just how much it helps. In the end you'll feel like you know the person better because you'd have heard so much about him from many different perspectives."

Ottilia seemed hesitant, but she nodded in agreement. Thijs started the conversation out.

"Caiden and I used to go to high school together. He was always sort of timid, but kind to everyone. Certainly didn't deserve to die the way he did. I'll never forget how on the first day of high school I was sitting by myself and I remember looking at all the different groups of people and wondering how come I could never fit in with them. I couldn't blame them though. People tend to stick to who they are familiar with. They're rarely daring enough to step out of place and introduce themselves to a complete stranger. I'm sure that if at the time if the roles were reversed, then I'd have done the same. But Caiden, he was the first to break the cycle. He sat down beside me and talked with me as if we'd been friends our whole life. He invited me into his group and since then he and I had stayed close."

"Wow." Susann said. "I had no idea that that was how it happened. It's such a big part of your life though. How come you never shared it with me?"

Thijs shrugged. "I guess it just never came up."

"Well I guess I have a bit of a Caiden story of my own." Susann said. "Do you guys remember last year when I was really sick and had to spend a month in the hospital?"

"Yeah; who could forget?" Thijs asked. He seemed to know where the story was headed, but wanted to hear his wife's recollection of the events. Ottilia didn't speak, but nodded.

"Well your husband visited me every day in the hospital. He even stopped by the house and prepared dinner for Thijs."

"I'm a really bad cook." Thijs confessed sheepishly. "So I was grateful for all of Caiden's help. It's a shame that I was never able to repay him for that and what he did before."

Thijs turned to look at Ottilia and came to notice that she was sobbing. He wondered if all this talk about Caiden was really helping her like he had hoped.

"Maybe we should stop this." Thijs suggested.

Ottilia used her shirt sleeve to dry her eyes and whimpered the words, "No, please go on."

Thijs turned to Ghassan. "Do you have any stories?" Thijs asked.

Ghassan sat, stone-faced for a moment before answering. He knew it was only a matter of time until Thijs would ask Ghassan to share a story; however whenever Ghassan thought back on Caiden his only memory was him holding Caiden's lifeless body in his hands. It went without saying that Ghassan wasn't going to share that story. Ghassan wanted to just pass on this whole story sharing experience, but then again would it seem suspicious for him to do so? Ghassan had to say something, even if he had to make a story up on the spot.

"Um ... Well Caiden ... He had an excellent smile. Ghassan said. He wasn't sure where the smile thing came from, but he'd go with it. "I'll admit that in all my time with Caiden I never bothered to really get to know him, but whenever I saw Caiden's smile it felt like there was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders."

Thijs smiled. "That's really sweet."

Even Ottilia smiled, causing Ghassan to feel just a little guiltier, not just for Caiden's death, but for lying. Ghassan never noticed Caiden's smile. Had he even seen it? He couldn't picture it. All he could remember was the scowl on Caiden's face as the man's eyes dimmed and shut completely.

Ghassan looked up and stared out of the kitchen and toward the front door. He sort of wished for a way to bring Caiden back. Perhaps if Ghassan shut his eyes and thought about Caiden enough then he would come back and start knocking at the door. At that very moment the doorbell rang, but Caiden wasn't the one who rang it. It was Norbert.

-phantom130 5 (December 2012)