Written by: Kevin (KS) Sharbaugh
Chapter Ten: Little Bright Eyes
Once more a festive atmosphere reigned at the Kummon Inn. People found seats where they could among the replacements that had been brought in from the guest rooms and nearby homes. Amanda, her daughters and Terry were the heroes of the hour for having helped lift the specter of fear from the community.
"Let me know if this is too hot," Gadget advised as she applied a makeshift heating pad to her mother's left shoulder.
"It's fine," Amanda replied. "Now sit down," she gently commanded, "You'fe been doing enough today as it is, you'fe earned the right to relax and enjoy your fictory."
Taking a seat at the table with her family, Gadget broached a subject that had nagged at her since learning of her mother's condition, "Dee never told me you had problems with your shoulder."
"I didn't until fife years ago," Amanda pointed out, "It's the result of whateffer happened to me when I went missing."
"What do you remember about what happened?" Dee inquired, "I mean, from the time you were helping rescue people from those apartments to winding up here."
Amanda leaned back in her seat as she searched her memory. "I was standing near the edge of the wall," she proceeded to recount, "I was directing the platform down and keeping an eye on it's progress. There was this loud cracking sound oferhead, something large hit me on my left side... I remember tumbling down the wall and getting a brief view back up and seeing what looked like a tree laying where I'd been standing. I hit the water, but the next thing I'm aware of is being in a lot of pain and trying to walk home. I didn't recognize anything and some people led me inside somewhere. There was a lot of talking but all I really know is that it seemed like they were concerned about me, talking about me but not to me. Then I was in bed and someone asked me what my name was... I answered, like a reflex, and someone told the others to let me rest until I was stronger, then we could find my family. I remember wanting to tell them who my family was but not being able to come up with any names or faces. It was a horrible feeling. I was more or less out of things for the next few days. Once I recovered enough to really comprehend where I was and what was happening I was here."
"Witnesses said a dead branch broke loose from a tree nearby," Dee explained, "The two guys on the wall with you were killed by the impact and when no one could find you pinned beneath it anywhere they concluded you must have been knocked over the edge. The two on the platform were also lost... only one of their bodies was found later."
"And people just assumed I must've been killed, too" Amanda safely reasoned.
"Well, not everyone," Gadget joined in, "From what Dee told me, she held out hope for a couple weeks before she could statistically prove that your survival was impossible."
Amanda gently took hold of Dee's paw. She wasn't sure what to say, and eventually settled on, "I hope you're not too upset that I proofed you wrong, I hope you can forgiff me." Dee couldn't help but laugh at the unexpected answer. Then, turning to Gadget, Amanda took hold of her other daughter's paw and with heartfelt grief made the appeal she'd been holding in for twenty-eight years, "And I hope you can forgiff me for... abandoning you, and not coming back."
"Oh you didn't abandon me, well, not really," Gadget corrected, "Your mother was sick and your in-laws were trying to take custody of your firstborn, and I can understand why you couldn't let that happen, or let your sister-in-law know about me or Dad, I mean, I've met her. She was not a very nice person."
"You met Carol?" Amanda asked in surprise, "Well, I am sorry you had to go through that."
"When she heard that Gadget was a child you had while you were avoiding her," Dee proceeded to recount, "Let's see, she said something like... ‘While Doohickey's mom was gone for a year she spent all that time drinkin' and whorin' with some lecherous foreigner and popped out some b****** half-breed... Like mother like daughter'."
"Oh, I hope one of you hit her for that!" Amanda replied.
"I almost did," Gadget pointed out, "But Dee held me back."
"Don't worry," Dee assured their mother, "Gadget belted her one at the trial."
"Trial?" was Amanda's inevitable question, "Whose? Tell me it was Carol's."
"Oh, it was," Gadget responded.
"Thanks to Gadget we were able to nail her for treason and attempted mass murder," Dee elaborated.
"You're kidding," Amanda laughed, "I have to hear about this."
"Gadget had constructed a miniature recording device," Dee related, "She was wearing it on her person when she, the Rescue Rangers and myself all went to convince a disgusting French rat not to go through with a plan to impregnate the city water supply with a certain chemical. Turns out he'd set a trap to prevent people from interrupting him and we walked right into it, and as he was tying us up he accidentally activated Gadget's recorder. When we woke up we warned him that the chemical would kill thousands, he thought it would make his great artistic endeavor even more magnificent. Later, Carol walked in on all this, she was on intimate terms with this frog..."
"Rat," Gadget corrected.
"Rat-frog," Dee sort of agreed, "Anyhow, we told her about what would happen. She was even happier than her boyfriend. She realized if the city water supply was poisoned, it would kill the Chief and all the other Clan Mothers, and once she warned her toadies to avoid the city water for awhile, Carol could just take over. She could rule the tribe, or what was left of it, like a queen."
"And she said all this?!" Amanda asked in disbelief.
"Even about skinning Charity Rose and using her hide as a throw rug," Dee verified. Then, smiling broadly, she pointed out, "We played that recording at her trial, her public trial."
"It nearly caused a riot,"Gadget interjected.
"It was hilarious," Dee commented before she continued, "Carol didn't know anything about the recording. Gadget came out before the Clan Mothers to prep the playback, and once Carol realized what it was she jumped out of her seat and sprinted across the hall intent on stopping it." Dee paused before she moved on to ‘the good part', "Gadget saw her coming, reeled back and-" she emphasized the point by pantomiming the punch in slow motion, "WHAM!" Amanda chuckled at her sister-in-law's misfortune. "Carol was running so fast," Dee continued, "that she almost pin-wheeled in the air when she collided with Gadget's fist," Amanda began to laugh out loud at the image, "and no sooner had she hit the floor than she disappeared under a pile of bailiffs who then drug her back to her seat and held her there." Amanda was practically in tears by the time Dee finished.
"And that's not all," Gadget picked up, "When the people in the gallery actually heard Carol detailing her treachery on the recording they began throwing whatever they could find at her."
"The bailiffs didn't know what to do," Dee laughed, "Should they shield the defendant or let her have it?"
"Couldn't have happened to a better b****," Amanda commented in a satisfied tone.
"Now if only we could get Fat Cat life in prison so easily," Gadget added.
Dee jested, "But then what would you and the other Rangers do all day?"
"Actually, I'd like to know what it is you do all day," Amanda broke in, addressing her eldest, "I'fe heard some stories, but I think you're in the best position to fill me in... In fact, there are twenty-eight years of stories I'd like to catch up on."
Amanda was utterly enthralled by Gadget's narrative covering her childhood and recent life as a Rescue Ranger. Late afternoon passed into late evening and the joyous crowd at the inn slowly dissolved into the night. As talk drifted towards the days to come, Gadget suggested that her mother could return with her and Dee to Ranger Headquarters, if only for a short visit. Dee, pointing out their immediate proximity, then proposed stopping to pick up their brother. And so it was agreed to have an ad hoc family reunion at Ranger HQ. With a long trip ahead, and the day's activities taking their toll, it was time to retire for the night.
Once Gadget and Dee were given a room to stay overnight, Terry finally approached Amanda concerning his earlier behavior. "You have to know I'm sorry for trying to submarine your chance to get your life back," he opened, sitting down with her, "And I understand if you feel you should reevaluate our relationship, especially since you can remember your whole past, it's possible there were matters you had known of that would have prevented us from getting together in the first place if you hadn't lost your memory."
"You are right," Amanda conceded, "If we'd met otherwise I probably wouldn't haff let myself get close to you. Outside of Gadget's father I'fe had some lousy luck with males."
"I hope you don't think I would ever have intentionally tried to keep your past from you," Terry clarified, "It was a gut reaction, I just panicked."
Amanda managed a smile and sighed. "Whether you want to admit it or not, you did do it intentionally, you did put conscious thought into what you did," she began, "When people are faced with a crisis they find out who they are, deep down. It's not always the type of person we wish we were, or who we try to be, but we can't escape it either. You can take a horse cart and give it an internal combustion engine, power steering and anti-lock brakes and call it a car, but if it hits a wall it'll shatter like the horse cart it always was." Seeing Terry's expression fall, Amanda added hopefully, "But still, you're nowhere near as bad as some of the guys I'fe known, and when faced with another crisis you did come through, there was no way for you to know you'd come out of a rescue mission alife but you went ahead anyway... That has to count for something."
"So," Terry sighed, "Where does that leave us?"
"Starting over," Amanda smiled, "After all, you may decide that ‘Amanda' doesn't compare with ‘Samantha'."
Terry nodded in acceptance. "Good night," he bid.
"Good night," Amanda answered. Rising from her seat, she went to prepare for bed. But as she neared the room where her girls were resting, she couldn't resist the urge to check in on them. "Hey there. You two aren't too old to haff your mother tuck you in, are you?" Amanda asked.
"Nah," was Dee's response.
"Of course not," was Gadget's.
Walking into the room, Amanda gently took a seat on the side of Gadget's bed. "I still find it hard to beliefe the two of you were dressed exactly alike when you first met," she mentioned, idly playing with Gadget's bangs, "and had your hair the same."
"And both had our own planes," Dee added.
Amanda let out a little laugh as she commented to her youngest, "And had a connection to separate aircraft called the Screaming Eagle." Finally leaving Gadget's bangs be, she asked both girls, "You two going to be able to sleep ok tonight?"
"Yeah," was Dee's response.
"Why wouldn't we?" Gadget asked.
"Well, the two of you were almost killed today," Amanda explained.
"It's not like it's the first time this has happened," Gadget reminded her mother.
"Nor even the first time with Rat Capone," Dee pointed out, "At least for Gadget."
"Well it's a first for me knowing about it," Amanda replied.
Gadget turned the subject back, "Are you going to be able to sleep tonight, Mom?"
"I'm not sure I want to," laughed Amanda.
"Why?" Dee asked.
Amanda took a deep breath. Once more she began to play with Gadget's hair, as if trying to be sure she was really there. "Out of fear this might all be a dream," she answered, "It seems too good to be true... My girls found each other on their own and became friends, one's reunited with her baby, and the one I hafen't seen since she was an infant is right here next to me all grown up and beautiful. One's a Clan Mother about to be married and the other's a hero who has safed countless lifes just because it's the right thing to do... My Niwo:ohgogah."
"What's that?" Gadget asked.
"Your name," Amanda replied softly.
Gadget's voice was as soft when she asked, "What's it mean?"
"‘Little bright eyes'," she answered, "My first child had deep brown eyes, but when your eyes opened there were these two big beautiful blue eyes. Your father was almost jealous because of all the time I'd spend looking into your eyes... and I could tell you'd be brilliant, you'd watch your father and me with those eyes whenever we were working on the Screaming Eagle, fascinated by what we were doing with our grown-up toys. You even tried to join in the fun. One time you got loose from your crib without us noticing, I placed a screw in place and all of a sudden a screwdriver began wiggling over towards me," Amanda almost had tears in her eyes as she laughed, "you were trying to hand me a screwdriver!"
"I don't remember that," Gadget giggled.
"I'm not surprised," her mother replied, "You were pretty young." As memories from nearly three decades past filled her mind and tugged at her heart, Amanda couldn't help but be drawn back to a bittersweet moment. She was holding her little baby and would be leaving, there was no way to know if she would see or hold her child again. The infant must have known something was wrong as she began to cry. Amanda's heart brought her to song, just as it had all those years ago...
"Baby mine, don't you cry,
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Lay your head close to my heart,
Never to part, baby of mine."
Unlike twenty-eight years before, she finished the first stanza without choking on her own tears...
"If they knew sweet little you,
They'd end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you,
What they'd give just for the right to hold you."
As she listened to the lullaby, one her father often sang to her, Gadget felt incredibly relaxed... much more than she usually did in a strange bed...
"Little one, when you play,
Don't you mind what they say.
Let those eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear, baby of mine."
Gadget felt a sense of warm security surround her like when her father would hold her, but she didn't feel her father as she normally did... Could she actually be remembering when her mother cradled her so many years before? Her logical mind would have dismissed the possibility as highly improbable... but the highly improbable had become reality earlier in the day, and her logical mind was too sleepy to argue...
"From your head down to your toes,
You're not much, goodness knows.
But you're so precious to me,
Sweet as can be..."
‘Little bright eyes' seemed very much asleep, so Amanda was careful to finish in a whisper...
"Baby of mine."
Moving as slowly as possible, Amanda rose from the side of Gadget's bed. One of these days I'll haff to try to figure out why I can pronounce ‘v's when I sing but not when I speak, she thought to herself as she made her way to the door. Turning about, she observed her sleeping children. If this does turn out to be a dream, she thought, somebody's going to pay. "Gönoöhgwa', Ye'shöni'," Amanda whispered, "Gönoöhgwa',Niwo:ohgogah."
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