I stare at the photo’s caption for a few moments, reading it over and over again and hoping that maybe, just maybe, my eyes are deceiving me. But after reading it three times, I am hopelessly convinced that my eyes are not deceiving me.
Bile rises up in the back of my throat as I try to grip the shocking revelation that Hal is my father.
It can’t be...
I stare at the grainy picture, my eyes brimming with hot, angry tears. Hal’s arm is wrapped around me and we are both smiling. Filled with pure rage and disgust, I rip up the newspaper page with trembling hands and throw it to the ground.
There is a long silence as I stand there, looking down at torn pieces. The hot tears begin to stream from eyes, rolling down my cheeks and wetting the papers below. Finally, I look up at Tristan, who is staring at me with worried eyes.
For a few moments we look at each other, the pain in our eyes reflecting in each others. Then, he soundlessly walks forwards and wraps his arms around me, pulling me close.
I begin to sob. Hard. It’s as if all the emotions that I have been holding in for the past few weeks are suddenly flowing out like a waterfall. To add this horrifying fact to everything that has happened...it’s just too much to handle.
Tristan rubs his hand up and down the small of my back as I continue to so hysterically.
Wow, I am a disgusting mess. I really hope Tristan doesn’t mind that the shoulder of his shirt is soaked with tears and snot.
I don’t know how long I cry for, but I eventually run out of energy and stop. We stand like that for a few long moments in complete silence, Tristan’s arms still wrapped tightly around me.
“I can’t believe it,” I finally whisper, my voice hoarse and cracked.
“I know,” Tristan says quietly.
I break away from Tristan then angrily shout,
“How could I be the daughter of the evilest man in the world?!”
I’ve always fantasized that my parents were these amazing people. People that I would be proud to call my parents if I knew who they were. But now, I am utterly ashamed to call this wicked man my father.
Tristan shakes his head, taking a step closer towards me.
“You’re not like him. In fact, you’re the total opposite of him,” he says softly, taking another step closer to me.
I look up at him.
“Really?” I murmur quietly, blinking the remnant tears from my eyes.
He takes another step towards me, so that the space between us is nearly nonexistent.
He reaches his hand out, gently pushing a stray piece of hair behind my ear. I continue to look up into his crystalline blue eyes, which meet with mine. And the next thing that I know, the space between us completely eradicated as Tristan’s lips meet with mine.
A warm feeling rushes throughout my veins as his lips softly press against mine. His arms wrap around my waist, pulling me closer against him. There’s something about kissing Tristan that just feels right. Whenever I kissed Ian, I was overcome with a fiery sense of burning passion that I couldn’t control. But now, kissing Tristan, I am overcome with a sense of calming happiness.
Finally, we break apart. When I look up at Tristan, my heart melts when I see that his cheeks are bright red.
“Uh...I’m so sorry...I don’t know why I just did...”
But I cut him off by placing my finger on his lips.
“Shh,” I whisper, grinning up at him.
His lips curve up into a huge smile. My heart melts even more when I see how relieved he looks.
“You are so beautiful Tessa,” Tristan murmurs.
My heart pangs for a split-second when I remember that Ian uttered those same exact words in the jungle on the island. I try to block these memories out, but Ian’s face keeps swimming up in my mind.
Why can’t I just forget about him?
If I were living a normal life, being stuck between two guys would be quite a problem. But under the current circumstances, it’s definitely not the most pressing issue.
All of sudden, I am broken out of my reverie by a loud crackling noise. I jump, whipping around to look up at the intercom speaker, which has turned on.
“Tessa, please come to the control room. Now.”
Hal’s sharp words echo off the walls. I stare up at the intercom, hatred literally radiating from my body.
This cannot be good.
“I’m not going,” I retort defiantly.
As if on cue, Hal’s voice replies,
“Tessa, do you want to do this the easy way or the hard way?”
I can’t even count how many times Hal has said that stupid line.
“Fine, I’ll come,” I spit out.
Having no choice, I begin to walk towards the door, only to be stopped by Tristan grabbing my hand from behind.
“Tessa, please don’t go,” he whispers.
“I have no choice Tristan. If I don’t go, who knows what they’ll do,” I say quietly, my eyes trained on the door in front of me.
Then, without another word, I open the door and walk out into the hallway. It is only when I begin walking down the murky hallway when I realize, “How the hell am I supposed to know where the control room is?”
Using the best sense of direction that I can mister, I open the door at the end of the corridor and continue to walk forwards down another hallway. Unlike the previous one, from the ceiling to the floor, this one is completely white. Bright fluorescent lights harshly illuminate this hallway, temporarily blinding me at first. My stomach sinks when I see the words “CONTROL CENTER” painted on the large, white door at the end.
I am going in to see my dad.
The mere thought makes me almost vomit.
Before I can even reach out my hand to twist the knob, the door swings wide open. I swallow hard when I come face to face with Hal.
“Hello, my beautiful daughter.”
I ball my hands up into clenched, trembling fists. It takes all of my willpower to stop myself from punching him square in the face.
“What. Do. You. Want. From. Me.” I say through gritted teeth.
“Oh no Tessa, I don’t want anything from you. This time, I have something for you instead,” Hal says, grinning and revealing his horrible, crooked yellow teeth.
I stare at him for a few long moments. If hatred from eyes could set things on fire, then Hal would be a ball of flames right now.
Finally, I demand,
“What do you have for me?”
Hal opens the door wider, beckoning me inside the control room.