CHAPTER 85 - TIME TO CHANGE MY TESTAMENT
“You look nervous.” Tess pointed out in an empty voice.
I fixed my makeup a fifth time, and took a deep breath. “I know my life is a mess, but it’s not of every day that you go all the way to a federal prison in North Carolina in order to tell your ex-boyfriend that you’re pregnant and he’s the father.”
“Is that why you’re all dressed up?” She scoffed. “You never wear dresses. Last time was ...” she trailed off, “it was a long time ago.”
I frowned, confused, and turned to look at her. She seemed pensive, or rather, conflicted. Inhaling deeply, I walked over to her, and placed my hands over her shoulders, so that she looked into my eyes. “I know we’ve been on the rocks lately, and that this whole ... amnesia drama has put a huge strain on our friendship, but I want you to know that, I appreciate everything you do for me.”
“You don’t listen, though.” She scoffed, turning away.
I cracked a small, bittersweet smile. “I appreciate it even if I disagree.”
“Sissy, it’s not about amnesia,” she pulled back, sighing, “it’s ...”
“Well, yeah.” She dropped onto the bed.
“Tess, come on, not this again ...” I went to stand before her. “You know what I think. Besides,” I rubbed my belly, cracking a bittersweet smile, “it’s a little too late, don’t you think?”
“The world is plenty of single mothers.” She scoffed.
“But I don’t want to be one.” I admitted. “To be honest, I don’t even know whether I want to be mother or not, probably not, but ... it’s here now, needless to cry over spilt milk.” I chuckled. “I mean, do I wish he’d used a condom? Yes. Do I regret what we did? Well ...” I bit my lips, “not really.”
“Even though you cheated on Joe.”
“I know, it was awful. But ...” I sat on the bed, beside her, “as crazy as it sounds, that night with Jake was the one glimmer of light that seemed to open the door to what I want the most.”
“Really, Sissy, you of all people say mushy things like that?” Tess rolled her eyes, grumpy.
I chuckled, leaving my head on her forehead. “I didn’t mean it like that. I meant that it was ... revealing.” I pulled back, sighing. I should have told her this way sooner, but I was so caught up in the whole prison drama and we’ve been fighting so much that, well, Tess and I haven’t had much time for a heart-to-heart. “Tess, I remembered.”
Her eyes widened and she gasped. “What?”
“It’s totally bonkers, I know, but ... being with Jake, that night, it triggered the one memory I didn’t even prioritize. My first time.”
“You’re kidding ...”
“No, really ... I’ve spent all this time trying to take it rationally, thinking that if I was told things, then maybe they would ring a bell, and ... poof, I’d get my memories back.” I curled my lips, thinking of what happened with Jake that time at the beach house. “But now I realize, it’s not about theory, it’s about practice.”
“Oh, so having sex with your ex serves to give you your memories back.” Tess scoffed. “Really, of all the excuses to fall back, that is the most absurd one I’ve ever heard.”
“Tess, this whole conundrum is absurd. None of this makes sense.” I bit my lips. “Not to me, at least.”
“You people talk to me as if I were some poor little thing that needs protection, a fragile flower you hide under a dome. And that doesn’t help me. Not one bit. Instead that night did. It’s totally absurd, I agree, but yeah, having sex with my ex proved to be way more effective than any other talk I’ve had with you guys.” I explained. “So yeah, maybe I want to be with Jake because maybe, if history repeats itself, there’s a good chance I’ll finally know what that history was. What’s wrong with that?”
She wiggled her eyebrows. “Are you saying you mean to date him just until you get your memories back?” She cracked the tiniest smirk, something I’ve barely seen on her these days. Her whole attitude this week was weird, and I get the feeling that this isn’t really the Tess I knew before the ‘accident’. “It would be awfully cruel.” She grinned evilly. “I like it.”
“Tess ...” I reprimanded.
“What? It’s not like he doesn’t deserve it.”
I rolled my eyes, sighing. “He’s not perfect, I know that.” I admitted, eyes on the floor. “And he’s done ... well, he’s done a lot, a lot of terrible things.” I bit my bottom lip, thinking of the letter. “Things that, in any other circumstance, would have me running for the hills.
“Case in point.”
“But ...” I added, before she could restart with her monologue about how Jake is the worst choice ever for me. “He’s a good man.”
“Oh, please ...” Tess scoffed, standing up. “You just said it yourself, he’s done terrible things.”
“But what? Just because he’s hot, he can be forgiven?”
“Tess, come on, be honest, you only hate him because of ...” I trailed off, not wanting to say it.
“Because he nearly killed you?” She spat. “Oh, yeah, such a lousy excuse for me to hate a man, right? I mean, what did he do so wrong? It’s not like he put you in a coma that lasted 2 years and deprived you of all your memories, right?” She rambled, her voice raising as she got more and more upset. “His recklessness, his selfishness, are what nearly took you away. So yes, maybe I hate Jake Watson with all I’ve got. Such a terrible person I am, right?”
I didn’t answer. She needed to say that out loud, I know. With all that’s been happening, we haven’t really talked things through.
“I regret it so badly,” Tess went on, tears pooling in her eyes, “I regret the way I pushed you into his arms so much, Sissy. If only I could go back ...”
“None of the things that happened are your fault, Tess.”
“But I contributed to everything!” She screeched. ”I pushed you into his arms. I basically bullied you into giving him a chance. I called you when he went AWOL. I asked you to go see him, help him.”
“Because you cared about him, he was your friend.”
“Exactly.” She burst out crying. “I ... I prioritized him.”
“I put that jackass first, forgetting who my best friend was. I got caught up with my own love drama and I forgot you.” She dropped to her knees before me, and I winced on her behalf. Tess gripped my hands, staring at me in full blown tears. “I know I’ve been hateful these weeks, but I’m just trying to protect you, Sissy. You don’t ... you don’t know how was it ...” her lips quivered as she tried to hold back tears.
“I’m sorry, okay?” Tess sobbed. “I’m sorry if I’ve been giving you such a hard time. I’m sorry I lied to you, I’m sorry for everything ... but it was always only for your protection.”
“I know that.” It still irks me to no end, but I understand where she was coming from.
“Jake was my friend, but all he did ... I cannot forgive him for what he put you through.” She wiped her tears with her sleeve. “That’s why I’ve been trying to-”
“Keep me away from him, yes, I know.” I took a deep breath, and gripped her hands. “I know he did unspeakable things.” Things I’m pretty sure would have me appalled, in other circumstances. “And I know he had to do with my ... accident.” That’s one way to call it. “But, Tess, every single fiber of my being is drawn to him.”
She opened her mouth to argue, so I shushed her, continuing. “It’s not a mere matter of attraction. I mean, yes, he is ... well, Jake is mouth-wateringly hot,” I bit my lips, “and the dirty, dirty thoughts in my head are ... well, wilder than I imagined they could ever be.” Uh, you have no idea what kind of dreams I had about Jake Watson.
“But it’s not simply that. Every single fiber of my being is drawn to him, like ... like it belongs there. Like ... I belong to him.”
“I know, I know, it’s cheesy ... but ... that’s how I feel.” I admitted. “So, no, I don’t want to be with him simply because I know for sure it will wake my dormant or hidden memories, I ...” I bit my lips, unsure. I’d like to say this to him first, but I guess that, Tess being my best friend, it’s fair. “I want to be with him because I ... I like him. Like ... for real. And not because of his blindingly gorgeous looks.”
She arched an eyebrow at me, disbelieving, and I couldn’t retain a chuckle.
“No, it’s seriously not because of that.” I looked down at my belly. It’s not even visible, yet it feels so ... familiar. And it’s cheesy, but I would lie, if I said I have never thought of ... a cozy family life. I know, I shouldn’t, especially not given Jake’s reluctance, but ... I guess I’m hopeless.
“The truth is,” I said, standing up, “I think ... I think I’m falling for him, and ... I don’t even want to stop it. Because it feels familiar, so familiar, Tess. It’s not just that I know it happened before, it’s ... I know I cannot and should not stop it, because ... it’s my place.”
I smiled, thinking of him. The scare I got upon reading that letter, it was illuminating. I was frightened. And not because it was a human life on the line. I was terrified I would ... lose Jake. Again.
Believe me when I say, nothing like the fear of losing them makes you realize just how much you care about someone. And I guess I needed just that. To see where I’m headed, and why aren’t I supposed to avoid it.
I knew since the beginning that Jake was the key to everything, and I was right. Because if there’s one thing I see clearly, that’s us. It’s not even about the baby, even though it is indeed part of the equation. It’s about ... him. Jake Watson is my future, and at this point I don’t even care what’s in the past anymore.
“I’m dead, aren’t I?” I wondered out loud. “I mean, I must be dead already, because otherwise I couldn’t explain ... this.” I pointed at the dumpster all around me. I understand that executions need to be done in places with no eyes, but come on, a dumpster? I can think of a hundred better places where I’d rather die.
He rolled his eyes so hard I think he broke his corneas. ”Oh, mon Dieu, tais-toi!!!” He growled.
I smirked. It’s pretty easy to irk Vince, he’s one of my favorite targets. I think I missed him only because I didn’t get the chance to bug him.
Yeah, I know, I scared you last time, didn’t I? In my defense, you should have seen your face. I told you since the beginning you shouldn’t grow fond of me, see the results now? Also, I am gonna die at some point, you know, you may as well make peace with it.
Anyways, heart attacks aside – you ladies are okay, right? I don’t want any further traumas on my conscience –, you might be wondering what happened. “I know Luke is nuts, but to help me escape prison even? Why?” I wondered, confused. One moment I’m heading to a prison in Massachusetts, the other these geniuses derail the truck, and get me even in more trouble.
Although, on the bright side, attempted escape is at least 5 more years added to my sentence. Considering that the warden took back the 10 he’d promised, it doesn’t sound too bad.
Eric rolled his eyes. “Lucas doesn’t know anything about this, genius. Nobody does.”
I arched an eyebrow at my cousin’s husband. “Um ... what? You guys do know you just committed a federal crime, right?” I understand the kid might still think he’s Rambo or something, but Vince? He’s got half a life of experience with this, he should know.
They both laughed in response. “You mean on top of the billion others from the past?” Eric scoffed. Case in point. I bet he misses the wild life he led before getting married. And when I say wild, I mean not exactly legal.
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, let’s not brag about that, alright? If the US government knew ... they’d lock you up and throw away the key. And I doubt even Luke could help you there.”
“Billy Boy has nothing to do with this.” Vince butted in, irritated, not sure if at the whole situation or at my comments about his best pal the billionaire. If you knew Lucas Grant like I know him, you’d have gasped just as loud as I did upon realizing that he was friends with such a high-profile criminal.
I mean, we’re talking ex-French foreign legion, freelance killer for hire. A body count that is higher than you could possibly fathom. Not exactly the kind of man you’d like around your children, yet the little Grants call him uncle.
“So where did you guys come from? And why did you even do this?” I wondered, confused. “I mean, not that I don’t like having you here, but ... seriously, why?”
“Because ...” Eric sighed, working to free me from my shackles, “those weren’t real guards, Sherlock. Well, they were, but they were corrupt. Thanks to some ... friends,” aka his pals from his previous life, I bet, “we were able to discover their plans, so we could act in time.”
“What kind of plans?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“The kind that end with you six feet underground, honey.” Vince-or should I say François? Such a common name was insulting to Mr. Bad Guy here, but that’s his actual one.
“Don’t call me that.” I grumbled, annoyed.
He smirked. “I just saved your pretty ass, Watson, I’ll call you whatever I feel like.”
I went to butt-head him, but Eric blocked me. “Easy there. We’ve got no time for that.”
“Fine.” I grumbled. “But one day or another, you and I are gonna need a ring, François. And there won’t be daddy here to protect you.” I said I liked teasing him, never said we’ve actually gotten really along.
“Jake, this is serious.” Eric huffed. “You’re a target.”
“Who wants me dead? Is it one of the hundreds of girls that crossed my bedroom? It would kind of be karma, to die at the ends of a fellow sociopath, I guess.”
He rolled his eyes. “Sokolov.”
I frowned. “But wasn’t he rotting in some federal prison?”
“He hit the bucket. Pissed off the wrong dude, and got the worst of it. So now, someone close to him holds it against you for putting him in that position in the first place. You’re the reason he went to jail, you know that.”
“So he’s after me?” I rolled my eyes. “How cliché.” And here I was hoping I would die at the hands of a deluded lover. Come on, all those years, all those women, and none of them got obsessed with me to the ‘if I don’t have him, nobody else will’ point? I’m disappointed.
"She. His daughter.” Eric corrected. “And yes, she was after you. But we managed to convince her otherwise.”
“How?” I wiggled my eyebrows.
Vince smirked, showing his yellow teeth, rotten by the too many cigarettes he’s had over the years. “Let’s just say, I have my methods.”
I arched an eyebrow. “You didn’t torture her, did you?” Seriously, how can Saint Grant be friends with such a sketchy guy?
“We talked to her.” Eric butted in, eyeing the other. “Well, I talked to her, Vince had suggested a ... less legal approach.” He sighed. “I talked to her, told her what her father did and everything. In the end she burst out crying, saying she had no idea her father was involved in such things ... the point is, she’s no longer seeking revenge.”
“But ...” I suggested, knowing there was something else.
“But ... the person she hired, she can’t get a hold of him ... or her. She has no idea who he/she is.” Eric shrugged. “It’s the usual, a hitman ... or woman, is hired through secure channels, but since paycheck got there first, there’s no way to call them off.”
“We’d rather not ... involve anybody else, that’s why Lucas doesn’t know anything, nor do the others.”
“As far as Billy Boy knows, you’re still in the shoe, his lawyers are working together with your uncle’s to get you out.” Vince butted in, bored. Well, I mean, he took out his gun to clean it, that’s how bored he was.
“How did he ...”
“Silvia called him.” Eric explained. “Well, she called Byron, actually, but Byron let it slip with Will, and Will told Lucas.” He shrugged. “You know how fast word goes out, especially in a group like ours.”
When I was finally free of my chains, I stretched my muscles, groaning. “So now what?” I wonder why did Silvia go through such lengths, and how did she find out about the hole. But I guess I should have known. She probably read the letter, and put two and two together, my clever Angel with Horns.
I wrote it in a fragile moment, I didn’t mean to pour everything out like that, but I did and ... I’m not even sure I regret it. I do regret leaving her that key, though. Because if she opens the safe, the carefree and easygoing Silvia this whole conundrum created will be gone.
In my defense, when I wrote the second letter, I was drunk off my ass and kinda pissed at her and everyone, especially myself, for everything that was going on. So I let it all flow and ... it all came out. Matilde, the pool, the abortion, the street fighting ... everything.
But I don’t want her to read it. If she really has to know, it has to be either because something randomly triggers it, or because she heard it from my voice. I can’t let the whole world tumble down on her shoulders like that without even being there to hold together the pieces.
Not that I would be much useful. We’ve seen how things have gone when I tried, haven’t we? But I would like the chance to try.
“Jake?” Eric called, waving a hand before my eyes. “Did you hear me?”
He let himself chuckle for a slight moment, the lovesick glint in his eyes being insufferable. “God, you and my Tallie are so alike, it’s absurd.”
“Well, we’re family.” I shrugged. “So, what did you say?”
“I said, we need to get you to safety, but also find a way for you not to be charged with prison escape as well.”
“No, we need to fight back.” Vince mused. “The threat won’t just go away. Besides, the warden himself was in on this. If he goes back to that prison, he’s a dead man.” Not that I would care much about that. “But in the end, it’s just a hitman, as resourceful and determined he may be, he’ll slip up at some point. They always do.”
“We can’t do all that without the cops, Vince. If we don’t act now, in no time this place will be crowded with Marshalls looking for Jake. We need to come clean and explain everything. Then we can work out a plan to catch the hitman ... or woman.”
While they bickered, I looked around, scanning my surroundings. We weren’t too far from the prison. Probably just a few miles, but far enough for the execution to be carried out without witnesses. They’d have taken me to the woods, and then with one single shot to the head, I’d have been gone.
Too painless, if you ask me. My death can’t be that easy. So maybe it was luck that these two geniuses intervened. But now what? I mean, do I fight it, or do I just let it happen? In the end, it’s what I’ve always wanted, and I don’t really have anything that holds me back anymore.
Serene is fine. As much as I hate to admit it, Colin is a great boyfriend, he’ll take good care of her. Besides, given the relationship between us, I doubt she’ll miss me much, she kinda hates me at the moment.
As for Silvia ... well, we know how that went, don’t we? As far as I know, she’s got that physiotherapist. If that doesn’t work out, there’s always Sir Douche. I’m sure he’ll drop anything and anyone if she decides to go back to him.
So maybe I could just go back there, sit tight, and wait for it to happen. I’d rather die in a more decent way, yes, but why be picky? It’s not like I’ve got that luxury. Besides, I was actually just gonna starve myself to death, or I’d have gone completely insane in the hole, and painted the walls with my brains.
“We do nothing.” I claimed, cutting off the guys’ banter. “We say it as it is: the truck derailed, there was an accident. You guys were passing by and saw it. Seeing me in orange obviously made you suspicious, so you brought me back to prison.”
“That’s only gonna prove that you were trying to escape ...” Eric argued.
I shrugged. “Like I even care.”
“Jake, you don’t get it. We need to stop this hitman ... or woman,” pretty sure his wife’s rants about feminism and gender equality got under his skin, “before he/she gets to you. You can’t go back to that prison, they’ll execute you in no time.”
“Again, like I even care.”
“Come on, let’s be adult here. You went through all this trouble to rescue me ... but who said you had to?” I scoffed.
“Told you he’d think it that way.” Vince rolled his eyes. “And it’s not like you can really blame him.”
“No.” Eric huffed. “No, it doesn’t work that way. I should know.” Uh, the kid got balls now, huh? “Your life doesn’t belong to you, Jake. You told me that years ago. It’s not about you or your lack of perspectives. It’s about the people around you. Those that love you. It’s about Silvia, Serene, even Colin and everyone that cares for you.”
“They’re all fine, I-”
“You can’t do something like that to her.” Eric claimed, grim. “Hear it from someone that has done the same shit, and knows the full extent of the consequences it brings. Hell, you should, too. You took care of my Tallie during those times. You can’t have forgotten her state ...”
“But that’s different.” Really, do I have to point it out? “Your wife remembered you. She didn’t have amnesia, she didn’t have a whole goddamn wall separating her from the memories of you two together. Silvia does. She doesn’t have the slightest fucking clue as to what we went through, what we have been.”
“And you’re fine with that? Seriously? After all we’ve said, after all this time, you’re still fine with it?”
“Hell, yeah, I am. Because it means she doesn’t remember what a shitty boyfriend I was, and maybe ... I don’t know, maybe, she can live with a less painful memory.” I sighed, dropping against the truck. “This is not just about her traumas and everything that happened. This is about me and her, the things I did, the ways I hurt her ...”
I dropped my head back, closing my eyes to block out any possible tears. “Before the whole Sokolov mess, before the coma, before all that, I ... I broke her trust, crushed her heart. I did everything I said I wouldn’t. I destroyed the faith she had in me, and for what? I didn’t even need to, I had no reason to. No excuse.”
“If you’re talking about Olivia, I’m sure she’d have gotten past it, eventually.” Eric argued.
I laughed hysterically. “You don’t know her one bit, kid. She’d have never forgotten me. And it’s fine, because I didn’t even deserve it. So now what, we should just wipe it all clean, act like nothing happened? Like I didn’t cheat on her, I didn’t endanger her in ways any other normal boyfriend would have never even fathomed. Like I didn’t nearly kill her.”
“You think I don’t know why she’s insisting so much?” I blurted out. “You think I don’t know why is she so hell bent on keeping me in her life?” I raked a hand over my face, drained out of everything I have. “She’s catching feelings. Again. Like I knew she would.”
“And that’s a bad thing why?”
“Because history is repeating itself, and that’s never a good thing.” I pointed out. “Falling for me destroyed her once, I’m not gonna let it happen again.”
“But you don’t have a choice.” Vince butted in, taking both me and Eric completely off guard. “You don’t choose what to have her feel. Neither does she. It just happens. It’s really as simple as that, even a 5-year-old could tell you that.”
“Bullshit.” He scoffed. “All these talks about protecting her and crap like that ... all bullshit.” Wow, he was serious. He’s the sketchiest guy I know, yet there he was now, talking about feelings like the cheesiest of poets. I guess being friends with such a mushy guy as Luke did rub off even on this cold-stone, impenitent criminal.
“You don’t know what happened.” I pointed out. Why does everybody claim they know best? They have no idea.
“Maybe not, but let me tell you something, from one fucked up dude to another,” Vince stated, dead serious, “those like us don’t even deserve to be called human, we know where will we end up when we kick the bucket, and we know the trail of lost souls behind us is endless.” He claimed. “But sometimes, it happens that the universe, of God, or whatever puts someone in your path. Someone that will look beyond the piece of shit you are, and appreciate you for that.
Take it from me, when you find the one person that connects you to the world, the one person that looks into the deep abyss you’ve been all your life, and not only doesn’t she run off, but she even climbs down to come get you. When you meet someone like that, then, you idiot, you do not fucking let her go. Because that’s your goddamn second chance, and unlike movies, those are damn rare.”
“I understand what you say,” even though I had no idea he’d experienced something like that, but judging by Eric’s look, he did, “nevertheless, I-”
“Nevertheless nothing. Get your head out of your ass, Watson. Leaving her behind is not a selfless choice, if anything, it’s just egoistic. Because it means you don’t wanna be bothered with her anymore.”
“That’s not true, I-”
“It is.” Vince scoffed. “You think that falling on your sword is the noble thing to do?” He scoffed. “It’ll only be worse. Especially because she’ll think it was her fault.”
“He’s right.” Eric butted in. “We’ve told you this so many times, Jake.”
“Besides,” Vince laughed, lighting himself up a cigarette. “You don’t wanna leave the girl now that you’ve knocked her up, right?”
My eyes bulged out of their sockets. “What??”
He shrugged, while Eric looked just as bewildered as I. “You didn’t think I would just trust you people, right?”
“You keep tabs on us?” Eric accused, outraged.
“It’s my job.” He claimed, while I was trying to think of ways to strangle him.
“You mean Lucas put you up to this?”
“Oh, no,” Vince laughed, “Billy Boy doesn’t know anything, and he’d probably get mad. It’s just a precaution. Things happened in the past, so, better safe than sorry.”
I think I know what he’s referring to. Poor Sam. Either way, that’s not the goddamn point. “Let’s go back to what you said, though.” I frowned. “What do you mean, I knocked her up?”
“That’s what happens when you don’t wrap your sausage, idiot.” He shrugged. “So now she’s got a bun in the oven.” Vince smirked, I’d dare say evilly, when he came to pat me on the shoulder. “And we both know I can’t let you leave that child fatherless.”
He doesn’t think he can scare me, does he? I rolled my eyes. “So what, you’ll kill me if I kill myself?”
He squeezed my shoulder. “You should know by now, Watson, death is only the destination, the path can be oh, so long and painful.”
“Right.” I stepped back, annoyed. “Now I really gotta head back to prison.” I need to talk to Silvia. Stat. And a lawyer, probably.
When Silvia and I got together, I decided I’d leave everything to her. But then she got pregnant, so I changed the testament to leave a trust fund for the kid. Don’t look at me like that, I get in life danger, willingly or not, half the time, of course I’d think about a testament. Hell, I wrote the first one that I was 18.
When we broke up, though, I changed the testament again. Out of spite, I left everything to Planned Parenthood. But now ... time to change my testament again, I guess. That kid’s gonna need a shit ton of money to make up for the fact that his/her father is a bastard. I mean, it’s my son/daughter. There’s going to be a lot of therapy involved, and shrinks aren’t cheap these days.