This Picturesque Life

My Chest Is Feelin' Empty, Always

The day was going too slow for Eric's liking. Last night after he returned to his parents, he forced himself to fall asleep. But it didn't really work and he was staring at the back of his eyelids for 2 hours at least, before the darkness consumed him. But sleep was far from peaceful for the broken man, his slumber was plagued by nightmares; visions that only caused more damage to his shattered heart. He woke up at 9:30 just in time to see his father off for work. He helped his mother with the dishes and then offered to do house chores; anything to keep busy.

His mother sat on the family sofa knitting as he rushed around the house, chore after chore; her careful eyes never truly leaving him alone. It was 1 in the afternoon when the house phone rang. Eric was eating lunch under his mother's insistence, seated at the kitchen table closest to the phone; but it was more likely for her so he waiting for her to re-enter the kitchen and pick it up.

"Hello?" She said softly, holding the red old style receiver to her ear. She frowned before nodding, "Yes, hold on," She said pulling the receiver from her face to glance at her son. "It's John," She told him.

He stood suddenly, taking one stop towards her, and gently took the phone as she handed it to him, "John?" He questioned.

"Yeah, listen Ashley's daycare just called said they couldn't reach you; asked if Kevin could come if we couldn't find you. I told them Kevin's not one of her guardians anymore," John said quickly.

Eric's heart skipped a beat "Why'd they call, is Ashley alright?" He gasped.

"I honestly don't know; they won't tell me anything, just to find you and tell you to basically get your ass over there ASAP," John sighed.

"Shit, okay thanks John," Eric mumbled before hanging up completely forgetting his manners. He turned to his mother who was already cleaning up his lunch, "I, I got to go," He stuttered.

She merely nodded and watched as he quickly bolted to the front door; slipping into his shoes, grabbing his keys and dashing out into the bright Arizona sun. She sighed, wishing it was in a better condition that he was finally getting out of the house.

Eric pulled into the daycare parking lot in record timing, the engine was still dying as he jumped out of his car and ran to the main door. Amy was in the office holding a struggling toddler, whose cries were so loud it drowned out the sounds of her kicking and smacking. Eric walked into the room, frowning as his daughter kicked and slapped at her 'teacher'. Amy noticed him but fought to keep a grip on the little girl. Eric reached down, taking her from the black haired woman, and lifted her to his chest with ease.

She fought for a moment or too, screaming in protest before her teary hazel eyes opened and connected with his eyes. She quickly stopped all her struggles and clung onto his plaid shirt tightly.

"Da," She whimpered.

"Honey, what's wrong?" He questioned in a soothing voice as he held her close.

"Da," She repeated, her voice growing stronger.

"She's been grumpy all day, but she only started acting up when naptime started," Amy told him, her voice soft.

"What did she do?" He asked, glancing down at the little girl who was starting to fall asleep.

"At first just protested and kept getting up, then she started the screaming and crying," Amy informed him, "She's never been like this," She added staring at the sleeping girl worriedly.

Eric sighed biting his lip, "Would it be alright if I just take her home now?"

"Actually I would… the person who picked up when we called Kevin…" She started, biting her own lip as she tried to find the right wording.

"John, his older brother and my best friend," Eric nodded, "Kevin lives with him," He added.

"Well he said Kevin isn't her guardian anymore…" She trailed off.

"No, I would prefer it if he was to never be allowed to pick up Ashley again… but I don't know. Olivia may…" He sighed, using his free hand to move the hair out of his face.

Amy frowned, hearing the bitterness in his voice, "I'm sorry, I can tell this is personal; but as we're taking care of your daughter we sort of need to know what's going on in her home life," She said softly.

"Olivia and I have broken up," He stated keeping back the hurt from his voice. "I'm still here for my daughter while I'm not… off working though. Um I should probably give you guys my parent's number…" He stated shifting his posture.

She took out a pen and scribbled the number into the file as he told her it, "And what about Kevin… where does he come into the picture? Why do you dislike him?" She asked.

"He's kind of… one of the reasons we broke up," Eric sighed, biting back the pain that started welling up in his throat.

"Oh! Alright… um who do you have for back up emergency contacts then?" She asked quickly, fully understanding what had happened.

"Um, my mom's almost always at home, so use her?" He said more than asked, "I mean she's got a car is perfectly capable and loves Ashley so…"

Amy nodded quickly her hair falling into her face as she crossed out Kevin's name and wrote Mrs. Halverson entering the same number as Eric's 'new' number. "Alright, you may go now Mr. Halverson, I'm sorry," She added the last part in a soft whisper, as she studied the man who composed himself so well while in front of his daughter; but she could see past the mask.

He nodded sadly before walking out the room, picking up the bag of Ashley's things that was sitting on the floor out in the hallway. After he got Ashley into her car seat, and started the car he glanced at the time; it was only 1:30 Olivia wasn't due home anytime soon but he didn't know if she called in sick or not. He knew without a doubt she had a hangover in the morning, but the old Olivia would deal and go to work. But this new Olivia… he wasn't too sure about, the old Olivia wouldn't have gotten drunk to forget about things she didn't like. He paused and shook his head, he was being hypocritical; for it also wasn't like him to get drunk for the same purpose. With a sigh he pulled out of the parking lot heading home, not his parent's home but the home with all of Ashley's things and her own bed to finish her nap in.

He just hoped he wouldn't come to regret doing so.
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