CH. 4: Rise Up, Fall Down

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They were there. All of them. Well, maybe not all of them, but the farmhouse was so chocked full of Selfridges you couldn't tell the floor from the ceiling. Gregg Selfridge looked around the unsettled sea of his family and settled on the shore that was his wife, Vanessa and his children, Duane, Duane's younger sister, Courtney and Gregg's baby daughter, Ruby who nestled against her mother's chest. Vanessa looked back at Gregg stoically, but it didn't take an experienced telepath like his uncle Ray to tell that she was not a happy camper. If Mac Wyatt was back then so was the past she'd taken away with her. The lies. The cheating. The betrayal. He and Vanessa had worked so hard to put paid to the sins of their wild years, Gregg's and Vanessa's, for infidelity ran deep on both sides, and now that long dormant beast was yawning from the abyss.

Murmurs echoed off the hardwood walls of Brandon's home and he let it fester for a while before apparently deciding that everyone was good and engaged. Then, with his brothers Ray and Luke by his side, he spoke.

"Well, now. I gather there are a lot of opinions floating around about what's to be done. And if there's one thing, by Thrun, that the Selfridge clan is known for, it's our strong opinions."

"That bitch is back in Sunshine Beach!" called out Scooter Selfridge.

"She tried to steal our recipe!" said Reggie Selfridge. "If Virgil wasn't there to fight her off, she would have!"

"Yeah, we agreed with the Wyatts, the fire was both their faults," Veronica Selfridge added. "But, that was for the sake of the truce. Mac and Virgil's fight. The one that cause that fire, it wouldn't have happened had she not been at the still in the first place! We all know that Mac Wyatt is responsible for almost burning down Sunshine Beach!"

"And now Dash is in a hospital bed!" Cherylynn Selfridge yelled and pointed at Luke Selfridge. "Your very son."

"The Wyatts want war!" yelled a Selfridge Gregg couldn't place in the crowd.

"We gotta hit 'em before they hit us!" yelled another Selfridge Gregg couldn't see.

"All right," Brandon said. "All right."

But, the mob was calling for Wyatt blood and it demanded to be fed.

"All right!" Brandon yelled and the psychic force emanating from deep within him forced everyone in the farmhouse's main room back into each other.

They fell silent and Brandon waited.

"Uncle Brandon?" It was Darla. "Dash could die. She hit him in the head with a hammer."

Brandon nodded. "I assume you'd have me rein down holy hellfire on the Wyatt compound, kill 'em all, or maybe not get all of them and maybe the whole mess starts up again. Maybe this time," and he stared at Gregg and said, "we'll succeed is destroying Sunshine Beach. Is that what you want? You want to go back to that?! The despoiling of this holy land upon which Thrun has gifted us a home?"

Silence.

Gregg looked at Darla. Tears. Shaking. Her brother and best friend. Thrashed and broken. Demanding revenge. But, under her rage, Gregg saw something much worse. Impotence.

"You want blood," Brandon said. "Blood for blood. I understand. Better than most of you could ever know. But, it's not as simple as lead pipe justice. Does that mean we let this slide? No."

"Then what are we going to do about it?" Another anonymous Selfridge.

"We," Brandon said, "aren't going to do anything about it. I am. And as to those of you I chose to involve, that'll be my call. Everyone else, you are to do nothing."

Murmurs. Whispers.

"I'm sorry, what?" Brandon said and the chatter died straight away.

Gregg looked into his father's hard eyes. They all did. Brandon Selfridge's capacity for violence was well storied in Selfridge lore, but Gregg knew that violence far better than most if not all of them. After all, it made him the man he is today.

"I'm going to meet with the Wyatts and we're going to sit down and I'm going to get to the bottom of why they think they can just up and throw this woman in our faces. And I will by Thrun have retribution for my fallen nephew. Darla?"

"Yes, Uncle Brandon?"

"Go and be by your brother's side. He's gonna need you. Luke?"

Standing at Brandon's side, Darla and Dash's father nodded.

"Can I count on you? Whatever I decide?"

"You can count on me," Luke said and Gregg wondered if that was true.

"All right then," Brandon said. "I want you all to go home and trust in Thrun that this will all work out to a satisfying end. Gregg, Vanessa, Ray, we'll be leaving presently."

It took a few moments, but after Brandon's pronouncement settled, the majority of the Selfridges began to shuffle out of the farmhouse. Protocol was that Gregg, as next in line as head of the family, should stay and glad-hand and soothe and support, but protocol was never in Gregg's wheelhouse. He took to the stairs and made his way to the room he shared with Vanessa. He needed quiet. He needed to think.

Gregg walked passed his marital bed and made his way to the back closet. He opened it as he would any other day over the past four years, but this time he did something he hadn't done since those 1,461 days had passed. He knelt down, reached in and passed his hanging jeans and shirts and moved his work boots and pulled out the trunk.

Vanessa knew he had it, but chose not to speak on it. Better to let sleeping dogs lie. For four years, the trunk had acted as a bulwark to Gregg's baser nature and a reminder of what it wrought. Today, however, as he opened the trunk and looked inside, it served to stoke rather than squelch.

He looked at his worn motorcycle boots. The leather jacket. The leather bracelets. The heavy metal t-shirts. The keys to his bike, long since dismantled and disposed of. All of it. The wreckage of his past. The man he used to be. The man, he prayed, he would never be again. He moved aside the clothing and reached for the one item he was looking for. It was in there somewhere and he rummaged until he found it. He had just taken it out when he heard a creak in the floorboards. His hand instinctively closed around the item.

"Gregg," Vanessa said and he turned to face her.

"Hi."

"You're looking in the trunk."

"I am."

"We have it pretty good. Don't we?"

Gregg nodded and looked into his wife's brown eyes. She'd taken to dying her blonde hair brown to match them and Gregg had never complained.

"Yes," he said. "We do."

She walked over to him and sat him on the bed next to her.

Taking his hand, she said, "You're not going to fuck that up, are you?"

"I have no interest in seeing that woman," Gregg said and squeezed Vanessa's hand. "She ruined my life. Our lives."

"Because if I thought you were going to do something stupid, I'd have to stop you."

"I know what you're capable of."

"Good," she said and planted a kiss on Gregg's cheek. "Now, put that stuff away and come join your family downstairs. They need you."

Gregg nodded and Vanessa left him there. He looked down at the hand not taken by his wife. The hand that was still curled into a fist around the item he removed from the trunk. He opened his hand and looked down in it. Why hadn't he just thrown it away? Or at least told someone he had it? He didn't know. At least that's what he told himself. The bigger question was, since he still had it, what was he going to do with it?

In his palm was the ring. Mac's ring of invisibility. A silver skull with roses on its side. Freely given and freely taken. A symbol of what they shared. He stood up, pocketed the ring and, after putting the trunk back into the recesses of his closet, Gregg Selfridge went downstairs to join his wife and their family.

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