Family Gospel


carl2_icon.gif kaylee6_icon.gif karen_icon.gif

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Scene Title Family Gospel
Synopsis No matter how many times life drags you down, get back up and try again.
Date June 19, 2021

Moooom,” Carl groans in protest as she nervously combs fingers through his hair again. It was the same color as hers, if a few shades darker. Both of his hands reach up and grab, pulling the hand away from his head. “I’m gonna be bald if you keep doing that,” he huffs out while patting his hair down.

“Sorry,” is her sheepish reply.

Kaylee can’t help herself, she is nervous.

Today is his special day, Carl’s birthday and Kaylee simply can’t believe he is nine and already showing the world the kind of person he’s going to be. Her biggest fear is that the world will break him, destroying the spirit and compassion she saw at the career night just last year. When he stood up, leading the other kids to follow suit, and showed the adults that he and the rest of the kids were no different than anyone else. Even now her heart is filled with pride.

It’s like she blinked and he had grown up so much. It still seems like only yesterday when she went into labor while washing dishes and sent little Lance to get Joseph.

Or—when the—the real Kaylee did.

Her heart hurts as she reminds herself again that she is just a high tech copy of Kaylee.

“Mom, your face is doing sad-serious at the same time thing again,” her son worries, plucking a yellow black-eyed susans from the bouquet of colorful flowers he picked for Karen, offering it up to her. “Don’t worry. I’m the one who should worry if she will like me.”

Kaylee shakes her head in wonder, he’s far too serious and grown up for one so young. It often has her wondering if he gets it from his dad or if Eileen had accidentally left a bit of her psyche deep in there.

“She won’t just like you, she’ll love you,” she states confidently, taking the offered flower and giving him a one armed hug. This is the first time she got to spend his birthday with him since the divorce. She really wants today to be perfect. Especially, since this is the moment he picked to meet his grandma.

Kaylee and her mother had agreed to let him dictate the moment and while he had been very excited to meet Karen, Carl decided that his birthday would be the best time, because having a new grandma was like a present.

Wasn't it?

Carl is especially excited because he doesn’t have to share his birthday with his cousin, Aurora. The cousins were only a couple days apart. He likes Aurora and they always had fun when they celebrated their birthday together, but today he just wanted it to be him and his mom when he meets his grandma.

A knock on the door makes mother and son jump, which in turn had them both stifling giggles behind hands. “Okay,” Kaylee says quietly, fixing the collar of the button-up he insisted on wearing and then turns him to face the door. “It’s time. Go answer the door,” she encourages while giving him a little push.

Carl stands there for a long moment, bundle of flowers clutched to his chest, looking like a deer in headlights. Only another polite knock urges him to hurry to the door and open it.

“Hi…” he squeaks out softly.

Kaylee’s normally socially adept child is struck by a sudden bout of shyness.

Twenty-Nine Years Earlier

August 22nd

It takes Karen a moment to open the door at the sound of a knock. When she does it’s obvious she’s been crying from the puffy redness around her eyes. The man on the other side of the door is still a cypher to her, and Charles Deveaux’s inscrutable expression is one of stoic placidity, offering her no further insights into him.


Little Kaylee’s squeak of delight draws Karen’s stare away from Charles and down to the little blonde missile launching herself from Charles’ side, throwing her arms around Karen’s waist. Mother crumples to meet daughter, dropping down on one knee and pulling Kaylee into the tightest embrace she can. Karen chokes back sobs, pressing her face down into Kaylee’s small shoulder.

For a time this is all that happens. A time that feels like an eternity. When Karen finally looks up over Kaylee’s shoulder to Charles, that moment dissolves into a knot in her stomach. Charles’ expression shifts into the most subtle of smiles, sympathetic and reassuring, and Karen rises to stand while at the same time scooping Kaylee off her feet.

“I was hoping I could come in and talk,” Charles says quietly, motioning into the cramped apartment behind her. Karen glances back as if trying to anchor herself in the moment and remember where—when—she is, and then looks down to the girl in her arms, stealing one more infinity with her daughter.

“Alright,” Karen concedes as she steps into the apartment. Charles follows her and closes the door.

Twenty-Nine Years Later

Raytech Industries
Corporate Campus
Jackson Heights, NYC Safe Zone

June 19th

Karen Thatcher is transfixed by the young man standing in the doorway to Kaylee’s apartment. Her fingers curl against the wrapping-paper around a small package in her hands and jaw trembles ever so slightly. No amount of preparation that Karen could have mustered for this moment is sufficient, no amount of bracing for seeing the eyes of her grandson could prepare her. She looks down into them, mirrors of his own mother’s, and exhales a shaky and uneven breath that is an attempt at words.

Wiping tears from her eyes with one hand, Karen laughs nervously. “O-oh my gosh you’re Carl.” Her voice cracks on his name. “Look at you.” She says, jaw trembling as much as her hands.

The shyness and wonder slowly fades away, Carl’s face brightening as it really sinks in for the boy. He had a grandma and she seemed happy to see him. His lips pull into a familiar smile, bright like his mother when she was at her happiest.

“I thought you’d look like a grandma, like Aurora’s… But, you’re pretty… like mom.”

Behind him, Kaylee bites her lip against a laugh, giving her mother a mirthfilled look.

Shifting the flowers into the crook of one arm, Carl holds out a small hand to shake that is polite and gentlemanly, not unlike his father, whom Karen had met only once before the war. Still that bright happy smile rules over all. “It’s very nice to meet you. Thank you for coming to my birthday dinner.”

It sounded like he had rehearsed those words so that they were perfect.

“Do I call you Grandma?” Carl asks rather bluntly as the ice is now broken. “Granny seems silly, you don’t look that old,”

While the two are sizing each other up, Kaylee quietly circles around them so she can close the door. Taking a moment to wipe at misty eyes while her back is to them, but not before she offers a quiet wave of thanks to the security escort who offers an encouraging look.

“Well you’re—he’s very—” Karen fumbles over her words, glancing between Carl and Kaylee. “You are just such a precious little man,” she says with a tremor in her voice. “You can call me whatever you like, but Granny or Grandma is fine. I got the grays for it,” she says with a brush of one hand through her hair. Then, looking at Kaylee, Karen looks like she’s barely holding it together.

It’s hard to imagine this moment ever having happened. Even a decade ago it would have seemed—felt—impossible. But to imagine repairing this relationship with Karen, to imagine having her here for Carl, it’s unbelievable. What’s harder to swallow, however, is the notion that her painful and fraught memories are the fabrication of someone else. That keeping them apart was an agenda. Why?

“This is for you,” Karen says, leaning over to offer Carl his birthday present. “You can—you can open it if your mum’s letting you do that now. I—I’m not sure what you all’s traditions are.” She’s so afraid of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, or misstepping in any way.

Blue eyes widen at the offering being handed to him. Carl seems to practically vibrate with excitement and curiosity.

She got me a gift!!!! Carl can’t believe his luck.

A glance goes to the flowers in his arms, which he offers in exchange for the package. “I picked these for you.” He clutches the gift between his hands, uncertain of what to do.

“Why don't you open it at the counter while I get the food out,” Kaylee suggests while she moves to loop an arm around her mother’s and pull her further into the apartment, giving it a reassuring squeeze. Her daughter’s eyes are just as misty from emotions that threatened to overwhelm them - even if deep down something cautioned Kaylee to protect her heart.

Carl, completely oblivious to all these emotions, hurries towards a stool at the kitchen counter, setting the package on the black granite surface before pulling himself up.

“Come sit by me, Grandma!” He pats the stool next to him, before examining the gift like he is figuring out the best way to unwrap it. Kaylee can only marvel at how quickly her son has opened his little heart to a person he has only just met, just because they shared blood.

It helped that Kaylee never told Carl the stories of what happened in her youth. Never regurgitated the trauma that Charles created, not that she truly believed that her father’s hands were clean in that betrayal.

Karen stares at Carl for a long moment, nervous and unsure of what to do with her hands. But she doesn’t linger too long. Instead, she moves to the stool beside him as instructed and sits down, trying to keep her composure in the face of something so pure.

Something she never thought she’d have.

Twenty-Nine Years Earlier

August 22nd

As little Kaylee heads up the stairs to her room, Charles slowly turns his attention to Karen, seated across from him in the living room.

“There’s some things I need to outline to you, Ms. Thatcher.” Charles says quietly, folding his hands in his lap. “Now, they’re going to seem unusual, unbelievable. But I need you to keep an open mind for this, literally and figuratively.”

Karen nods slowly, wiping at her eyes with one thumb. Trying to be discreet about her emotions. “Okay.” It isn’t, but she says it is.

“What I’m going to tell you, right now, is something very few people in this world know.” Charles begins, sitting forward some. “There are people in this world, fewer than the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, who are born different.” The word different elicits a glance from Karen to the stairs and back again. “Now, I’m not saying Kaylee is slow.” He says, assuaging a concern on the forefront of her mind. “Quite the opposite, actually. She’s special in ways few people are.”

“I don’t understand,” Karen mumbles. “Why—what does this have to do with what happened at her school? The nightmares.”

Charles looks down at his folded hands, nodding slowly. “Karen, I’d like you to watch my face for a moment.” He says, gesturing to his mouth. “Right here.” Karen nods, blinking a few times, a little unsteady and confused.

My lips aren’t moving. But you can still hear my voice. Crystal clear. Like it were your own internal voice in your head.

Karen tenses, gripping her knees with both hands, eyes wide. She looks around the room, confused.

Eyes over here, Ms. Thatcher. There’s no one else in the room. This isn’t a trick. I’m speaking to you with my mind. Charles raises his brows as she makes eye contact again.


Twenty-Nine Years Later

Raytech Industries
Corporate Campus

“I hope you like it.” Karen whispers, fidgeting as she gives Carl the ok to open it. The package isn’t too large, nor too heavy. The wrapping paper is easily peeled away, revealing a simple cardboard box about the size a dress shirt might come in. It’s even taped shut the same way. But as Carl opens it, it’s not clothes. It’s paints.

A watercolor set, pencils, and paint brushes. They sit on top of a sketchbook intended for use in watercolor art. “I don’t… know if you’re into art like your mom.” That assertion has flutter of nerves tighten Kaylee’s chest, but she can’t place why. “She—she used to love watercolor so much.”

Below the art supplies, however, are Karen’s real gifts. The truly sentimental ones. There’s loose-leaf papers about the size of the sketchbook but the paper quality isn’t nearly as good. They were once badly wrinkled, some torn, others crumpled and flattened back out. But the pages have been pressed as flat as they can be again. They’re… paintings.

Watercolor paintings. All of them, signed.


Karen looks up at Kaylee, smiling timidly. “I—I hope you don’t mind. I—I held on to as many of them as I could over the years.”

The way Carl’s face lights up at the simple gift is purely genuine, as he paws through the items and examines things like the brushes. All scrutinized and arranged neatly on the counter.

“You have no idea,” Kaylee says, hands full with a bowl that is definitely filled with potato salad. Closing the door with foot, she steps to the side to draw attention to the fridge and its myriad of colorful additions. Mostly, of dragons and knights, but also cartoons of family. All in various media and degrees of childhood skill. “Should have him show you the collection of painted rocks in the garden, too, it's his new obsession.”

Mention of painted rocks makes Karen tense for a moment, glancing with concern to Carl. She says nothing.

Carl’s head pops up, eyes wide at his mom, before he awkwardly holds up the box so she can see what else is inside. “Look!” He carefully puts the box down like it is suddenly fragile and picks up the bundle gingerly. There is a bubbly giggle as he looks at a few. “You were not a great artist, mom. But, we should hang these up, too, cause you made them!”

He offers them to his mother who is dumbstruck at the revelation that Karen had kept them all this time. Kaylee didn't even remember drawing anything, then again Charles muddled so much up. So she shouldn't be surprised. Setting the bowl on the counter, she wipes her hands on her jeans before slowly reaching out to take them.

Once the emotionally charged bundle is handed off, Carl leans over and gives his grandma a big enthusiastic hug. “Thank you, grandma!” Unbeknownst to the child, his mother bites her trembling lips and starts to shuffle through the pictures one by one with trembling hands. Tears blurring the images, until they start to slide down her cheeks. All these years.

Meanwhile, Carl continues solemnly, from the hug, “I always wanted a grandma. My cousin, Aurora, has two and two grandpas.” He says it like it is some strange concept.

At first the drawings Kaylee shuffles through seem innocent enough. Childish landscapes and animals, a dog she’d forgot they had for a year when she was little but had to give away to a shelter because they didn’t have enough money to feed him. But then she starts seeing things that, as an adult, make her chest tighten.


They’re in almost every drawing of herself, pictures of family. Kaylee is holding a snake or has a snake near her, always drawn in black crayon. In another drawing, there’s depictions of Kaylee and her mother and someone drawn in with brown crayon who is labeled “Mr. Dreams.” And in a lot of these drawings, he has the snake. In one, he’s handing it to Kaylee in a bow-wrapped gift box like a birthday present.

On the back of some of these drawings are scribbles. Constant circular scribbles with no end.

“Your mom was pretty gifted,” Karen says to Carl with a tender if fraught smile. “I’m sure you’ll get that from her.”

There is no preparing for the images as the first one is uncovered and then the next. Her breath catches and Kaylee just manages to keep the smile in place. However, the overwhelming emotions about the moment - of having her son meet his grandmother - just dissipate into the cold void of… fear and confusion.

“You okay, momma?”

“Hmm?” Kaylee looks up from the drawings, surprised to see Carl looking at her with concern. He had always been tuned into his mother’s moods. “I’m good, sweetie. Just weird seeing my art again,” she reassures, setting the pages on the counter and placing her hands over the image of her and… Mr. Dreams and the gift. That image especially had left a cold pit in her stomach. “Hey…. It’s supper time, why don’t you go get washed up and then you can help me set the table.”

Carl gives her a put upon look, as his head tilts with judgment and shoulders slumping. Kaylee gives a jerk of her chin towards the bathroom and her son gives an exaggerated sigh, “Fiiiine. I’ll leave and go ‘wash my hands’” he even air quotes the cheeky imp, “so that the grown ups can talk.”

Kids. Parents always underestimate them.

“Be right back, Granma.” Carl slides off the bar stool and wanders away to do as he asks.

Once he is out of ear shot, Kaylee’s smile falls away and she picks up the top picture again, not hiding the worry. “Mr. Dreams?” She asks softly, “Was that my imaginary friend? I mean. You mentioned him before.” She knew who it was but the image… it was disturbing in a way her mother couldn’t understand.

Karen glances at the drawings for only a second, then nods. “I used to think he was.” She says with a little hitch in her voice. “Think he was imaginary. The way you’d talk about him, things you’d say. But he wasn’t.” She admits, brows furrowed. “It’s that man. Charles.”

Twenty-Nine Years Earlier

August 22nd

It’s taken some time for Karen to calm down. Sitting with her face in her hands, shoulders hunched forward, she reels with the gravity of what Charles just told her. He sits as close as he dares, on one end of the sofa near to her armchair, watching her carefully. Only once she’s looked up at him with confusion and desperation in her eyes does Charles talk. This time, out loud.

“Your daughter is like me, Ms. Thatcher. Gifted.” Charles says with a smile at the end, trying to reinforce that this is a blessing and not a curse. “She has the potential to affect great change in this world, and under the right guidance that’s change for the best. But, like what you saw at her school, sometimes that gift, if left unmanaged, can manifest itself in troubling ways.”

Karen rubs her hands at her eyes, trying to dry them but the tears refuse to stop falling. Charles thinks better of it, yet still reaches out with his ability. Lightly. Just enough.


Tension bleeds out of Karen’s posture, the tears ease, and Karen is finally able to dry her eyes. This time she does not remember hearing Charles’ voice.

“Now, I can’t force you or Kaylee to do anything. I won’t.” He corrects himself. “But what I can do is provide you with options, give you information, and let you make a choice.” Charles says reassuringly, folding his hands in his lap. “What Kaylee needs most is stability. But stability comes in more than one form.”

“Is—is she dangerous?” Karen asks, horrified at both the thought that she might be afraid of her daughter, and that she may have reason to be. Charles’ silence shows his uncertainty on how to answer.

“No more dangerous than anyone else.” He lies, but the intention is honest. “I can help you and Kaylee, get her proper training in how to utilize her gift safely, protect herself and others. Or—”

“She deserves a normal life.” Karen says with a quaver in her voice. “I don’t—I don’t want her to grow up thinking she’s—feeling like she—”

“Normal is hard for us.” Charles says with a sympathetic frown. “But I know what you mean. School, friends, dances, skinned knees. The works.” He searches her eyes, not for her thoughts, but for her understanding. She conveys it with a nervous smile.

“If that’s what you want, I… can suppress Kaylee’s ability.” Charles says, but there’s a hint of something underlying, a guilt in that. One he does best to sidestep. “I can help you and her forget what happened, and I can make what happened at the school go away. You might need to relocate somewhere a little more rural, just in case something like this happens again. But…” Charles spreads his hands. “I can provide a normal life for her.”

Karen nods, looking to the stairs. Tears dribble down her cheeks again, fall off her chin and stain her jeans. She swallows loudly, looking at Charles with desperation. He knows what she’s going to say. He can feel it at the front of her mind and it kills him. But he knows he can’t force this, can’t tear Kaylee away from her.

He knows what that would do.

Who she would become.

“I just want to go back to the way things were.” Karen pleads.

“I know.” Charles whispers. Because this wasn’t the first time she’d asked him to wipe their memories. How many times had he sat in this apartment, had a version of this conversation with Karen? Tried to put a door between Kaylee’s and her ability?.

This time, however, it had to last.

It had to.

Twenty-Nine Years Later

Raytech Industries
Corporate Campus

“…and he made us forget.” Karen says with a shake of her head, wringing her hands together. She tugs her sleeve down over her hand, using it to dry her eyes. “He—he made us forget, and I did. Honey. I forgot for—for so long. But it… it’s bits and pieces. Like it happened s-so many times.” She hands her head, ashamed. “I’m sorry.

She’d come here for Carl, and it turned into this. The family gospel; pain and secrets.

“I had a feeling it was him,” Kaylee says, with a soft resigned sigh. “I have memories of him talking to me.” She taps the side of her head.

Setting the picture down again, Kaylee smooths it as she carefully considers her next words. “I know that… I was a difficult child… especially a difficult teenager. I know what he did tore us apart, but trying to give me a normal life was the right thing, Mom.” She looks up to the woman across the island. “The alternative, the training he offered, would have probably been them taking me away, wiping all memory of me from your mind, locking me in a room, and training me to be one of their tools. I’ve met kids trained up under their care. Your choice saved me from that kind of life.”

It was a weird realization for Kaylee even as she said it. Her life had been perfect when compared to her ex-sister-in-law and Odessa.

Stepping around the counter, Kaylee moved to wrap an arm around her mom’s waist. “Don’t beat yourself up too much, please.”

“I’ve been able to ignore this for almost your whole life.” Karen says with a fragile quaver in her voice. “Ignorant to… to the choice I made for you. For—for everything I did to you. I didn’t have the right to take a future away from you.” She looks up at Kaylee with tear-filled eyes. “Maybe you would’ve been the difference. Maybe if I hadn’t—” She chokes up at the thought, struggling through. “If I hadn’t made you stay, maybe it would’ve been different.” She looks down at her trembling hands. “We can’t know.” And that’s what’s kept her up at night.

“You were always special to me.” Karen murmurs. “You were special to both of us.” It’s the first she’s really said about Edward and Kaylee can see even that much kills her to talk about him. “He was right. He was—he was so many things, but I always thought your father was crazy. A liar. I cursed his name so many times I—” She rubs her hands at her eyes and shakes her head. It’s only then that she remembers where she is, whose day it is.

Karen hiccups up a tearful laugh and rubs at her face, trying to compose herself before Carl comes back.

There is so much her mother says that Kaylee wanted to ask about. What was her father right about? However, before she could form the question properly, she spots movement out of the corner of her eye. Her head turns just in time to see Carl duck back behind the corner he was watching from.

Her questions suddenly didn't seem so important.

Instead, her focus turns back to her tearful mother. “You’re right, Mom, maybe I would’ve had a different future. Like… I dunno, Vice President of the United States,” Kaylee offers up as an idea of how it could have been vastly different, her smile chiding. “But, one thing I do know is Dad was crazy.” And an asshole, but that she doesn't say.

“I also know it was his ability that made him that way. Anyone who deals with time is not completely…” Kaylee’s head wobbles trying to find the right way to describe it, but decides to just say it… “right in the head? It’s too much for them and I have seen what it was like in Edward’s head; a spiderweb of infinite ‘what ifs’. Carl’s father was only spared because people saw their future and he didn't. He was like a conduit.”

Realizing she was going into lecture mode like Richard, Kaylee waves her hand to dismiss all that. Her mom wasn't ready for how absolutely bat shit crazy the world truly was under the surface. “Anyway, as Granny would say, ain’t no reason to cry over spilled milk.” Giving her mother a half hug, Kaylee finally lets go and resumes prepping for the meal.

Almost as if on cue, the thump of small feet hurry into the room. “Okay, mom! Ready!” Carl turns brightly to his grandma, “Mom made fried chicken and potato salad and I helped!” Cooking had never been Kaylee’s thing, so it might come as a bit of a shock that she was cooking A meal from Granny’s own recipe box.

“He peeled the potatoes,” Kaylee offers in praise, amused at her son’s need to share.

“It was a lot of work,” Carl says solemnly, moving to take the stack of plates off the counter and towards the atrium-like dining room. At its center, the old antique table that graced Karen’s mom’s home. It looked out of place in the cold concrete of the apartment.

Once he is busy with his task, Kaylee looks at her mom, content in the moment. “I know this sounds crazy, but everything I went through, every hurt I endured, was worth it.” Kaylee pauses long enough to plop a box of Kleenex in front of Karen, “For a lot of reasons, but especially, for that amazing little boy.”

Though even as she says them, Kaylee’s heart breaks a little at her own words. Carl wasn't her son, but she knows deep down the words were true.

Karen has no response to her daughter’s kindness. A kindness that she still feels undeserving of. Instead, she smiles away her anxieties and discreetly brushes away her tears so Carl doesn’t have to see them, and turns to join her family in an expression of love and togetherness she thought otherwise impossible.

But, when has anything about Kaylee not been impossible?


Thirty-Seven Years Earlier…

A flash of lightning brightens the dark of night. Rain falls in torrential sheets from above. It swirls with blood on the slate tile, washes it to the edge of the roof and over. It is quiet here now, where less than an hour ago there was not but screaming.

November 8th

Charles Deveaux stands along on the rooftop of his penthouse, hands trembling from the cold. Broken glass litters the rooftop. Broken promises litter his mind. Through the demolished remains of his greenhouse he can see Arthur and Maury helping set Simon Broome into a chair since he can no longer stand on his own. Charles looks away, down to his palm. Blood. Rain.


“Are you going to be up here all night?” A woman calls at his back. Charles turns, hands trembling. He didn’t sense her approaching. Still doesn’t sense her now.

But the tall, well-dressed blonde woman with the red umbrella is nonetheless there. Charles doesn’t answer. Instead he asks, “Who are you?” in a guarded tone of voice that belies his fear. But her eyes are blue, not gold. It can’t be that thing.

Can it?

“A friend.” She says softly, stepping close with the confidence few other than those who know Charles well would do. She shares her umbrella with him. “A ghost.” She adds when closer.

Charles glances at her without turning his head. No sudden movements, the way one might behave around a stalking predator.

“What do you want?” Charles asks, throat tight with fear. His blonde visitor, with eyes half lidded, leans back so he can look at her more closely. She draws his attention to her other hand, turns it palm up and spreads her fingers to reveal a rounded stone. Perfect for skipping across water.

And on that stone is a snake biting its own tail.

“I want to tell you a story.”


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