Me And My Shadow

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Chapter 22

“You haven’t said anything the entire way home, Cecil.” Eric said as we pulled into my driveway.

“I know, I just don’t get it. He leaves right, and doesn’t call or write or anything.” I thought out loud.

“I know, but you can’t keep living in the past. You need to try to reconcile what’s left of this relationship or you will regret it when you get older.” He urged, placing his hand over my knee.

“Why are you pushing this so hard?” I asked, suddenly interested in his motives.

“I’m not. I just want you to be happy.” He reassured, leaning over the seat and giving me a deep kiss.

The kiss got intense after a couple of seconds and before I knew it, I was in Eric’s lap battling him in a glorious round of tonsil hockey.

It would’ve been perfect, had it not of been for my mother suddenly tapping on the car window, startling us both.

I jumped off Eric’s lap so fast that I hit my head on the roof of the car.

“Ow! Mom!” I yelled, getting out of the car.

“It’s curfew time Cecil. Get your ass inside.” She demanded.

“Bye Eric.” I mumbled as I stomped inside the house.

“Goodnight Ms. Collins.” Eric tried to say before she turned on her slippers and followed me inside.

I ran into my bedroom just in time to look out of my window. I watched as Eric pulled out of our driveway. Once he sped off into the night, my bedroom door opened.

“Mom, don’t.” I urged walking over to my closet.

“Are you at least being safe?” She asked, a glint of a smirk resting on her face.

I pulled out a pair of sweatpants and a tank top, then walked over to my dresser.

“Mom! We aren’t having sex if that’s what you’re implying.” I deadpanned as I opened my dresser and pulled out a clean pair of underwear.

“Well, how the heck am I supposed to know? I’m certainly not going to ask. I am, however, going to ask if you’re being safe. No harm in that.” She replied casually as she sat on the edge of my bed and started looking over her nails.

“Mom, I’m safer than safe because we aren’t having sex. That’s the safest you can get, trust me.”

“Well good. My work as a parent here is done then. Now, tell me... is he a good kisser?” She urged with a smile.

“Mom! Out!” I demanded as I pointed to my bedroom door. I didn’t feel like undergoing girl talk with my mom at that point. I had a lot going through my mind at the moment.

“Fine, I can take a hint.” She got up and walked over to my bedroom door. “Just promise me you won’t get too wrapped up in this boy. I like him but I still think he might be one of those bad boys you young girls are always talking about.”

“Thanks mom, see ya.” I walked over and shut the door in her face.

I let out a sigh and grabbed my clothes as I went to the bathroom to take a much needed hot shower.

I, for the life of me, cannot figure out why Eric was trying to help me get my relationship back with my dad. One thing I knew for sure was we were going to have a nice long talk about it, and soon.

After my shower, I decided it was time to talk to Brody. I needed to figure out if he wanted to get to know our dad or not. He hasn’t said much about anything and I don’t want him to think that Michael only wants a relationship with me and not with him too.

I walked over to Brody’s room and lightly knocked on the door.

It wasn’t shut all the way so as I knocked the door slowly opened. Brody was lying on his bed upside-down with his face leaning off the edge of the bed.

“Ya know... if you stay like that all the blood will rush to your head and you’ll die.” I teased.

He looked up at me and rolled his eyes.

“Get up, I want to talk to you.” I urged, nudging his arm with my leg as I walked past him to his black beanbag chair that sat on the floor.

“Ugh, fine. Can you make it quick though? A person can only handle your voice for so long.”

I rolled my eyes and threw a plastic cup at him that I found next to me on his floor.

“I wanted to talk to you about Michael.” I replied.

“What about him?” He finally got up and sat on his bed, leaning his back against the wall.

“Well... what do you think? Do you want to get to know him?” I asked, trying to find just one emotion on his face.

“I mean I guess. I don’t care.”

“Of course you should care. You haven’t had a father figure for your entire life. I know it seems like it might be too late, but you could potentially have a father now. Doesn’t that excite you at all? You could finally have what you’ve missed out on.”

Why wasn’t this kid giving me some sort of reassurance that he was willing to at least try?

“Because Cecil...”

“Because why?” I urged.

Brody sat up straight and yelled, “Because you can’t miss what you never had!”

I instantly went silent and slowly slouched back down into the beanbag chair.

“You were older than I was. You were young but you still understood what it meant to have a dad. You saw him every day and you remember seeing him and the times that you shared together. You remember when he left and when you screamed for him. You remember it all and I don’t. He’s a stranger to me Cecil. He’s a stranger and you just can’t miss what you never had.”

“I... I guess I didn’t think about it like that.” I confessed quietly.

“Exactly. All you think about is yourself.” He rolled his eyes.

“I do not.” I scoffed.

“Do too.” He boringly argued.

“I just think that maybe if I give him a second chance that things could be better for all of us.” I said more so to myself than to Brody.

“See, point proven.” Brody chuckled.

My lips twitched up into a smirk and then I sighed.

“Well, if I give him a chance, do you think that you might try and get to know him too? I don’t want to do this without you there. You’re my little brother and deserve a dad just like I do.”

“Whoa, you actually care about me? Who would’ve thought?” He said sarcastically.

“Oh shut up.” I got up from the beanbag chair and stretched my legs a bit before turning to leave.

I was almost out of Brody’s bedroom door when he spoke up again. “I’ll do it... for you.”

I looked back at him and smiled before shutting his door. I went back to my bedroom and got into bed, ready to finally get some sleep.

“Put your damn seat belt on Brody!” I yelled while I stuck the key into the ignition.

“I hate seat belts Cecil... I feel like they’re chocking me!” He whined.

“Would you rather slightly choke, or be thrown through the windshield as your face smacks into the pavement?” I rose an eyebrow.

Brody let out a heavy sigh and then fastened his seat belt.

“Thank you.” I smiled.

“You’re not welcome.” He replied with a glare.

Why? Why me?

“Thanks to you we’re going to be late.” I stated as I turned on the radio. Nirvana blared from the speakers and Brody leaned forward to turn the volume down a little.

“Sheesh, do you want me to go deaf?” He blurted out, “On second thought, please make me deaf so I don’t have to hear your annoying voice anymore.” He begged teasingly.

I quickly reached over and smacked his arm.

“Ow! What was that for?” He yelled.

“For just being you, Brody. For just being you.” I smiled.

“Whatever. How long do we have to stay?” He asked.

“I assume until we all finish our breakfast.” I deadpanned.

Brody and I were going to Denny’s to have breakfast with Michael. It’s the first real interaction that they’re going to have, so I was a little nervous. I didn’t want Brody to feel obligated to do or say anything and I didn’t want Michael to bombard him or scare him.

My mom was going to come with us, but I could sense that she didn’t want to see Michael so I offered to go alone with Brody. I told her I would look after him. I didn’t want to force my mom to see the guy who broke her heart.

I talked with Layla all night last night about Michael and Brody. She told me that if they both want the relationship to work, they will figure it out together and that I can’t interfere. I told her that I am the queen at interfering, and she urged me to listen to her just this once.

She seemed as though she knew what she was talking about but I didn’t ask her for details on how she knew. It had to do with Eric though because he had been pushing me a lot lately to start this relationship with Michael and I had no clue why.

“I’m going to inhale my breakfast.” Brody admitted.

“When do you not inhale anything you eat?” I teased.

“Touché big sis, touché.”

Que another eye roll.

About fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the local Denny’s. Michael was already there and was standing out front with his hands in his pockets.

I pulled off my seat belt and looked over at Brody who had his hands clasped over the seat belt buckle, not yet removing it.

“Hey... it’s going to be okay. I won’t let him say anything that he shouldn’t say and I’ll be sitting there with you the entire time.” I stated softly.

“I know. I just don’t know what to say to him.” He confessed while looking over at me.

“I didn’t either. I was actually mad and said mean things to him at first. But he stayed, listened and understood where I was coming from. He’ll do the same to you no matter what you say. Trust me.” I smiled.

“Okay.” He unbuckled his seat belt and opened the car door stepping out.

I got out myself and locked the car doors. We walked up to the front entrance of Denny’s and Michael smiled when he saw us.

“Hey kiddos! Beautiful morning huh?” He asked.

“Sure is.” I smiled back.

Brody stood still and didn’t say a word. I softly nudged his shoulder with mine and he perked up.

“Oh, right. It sure is. We have a lot of nice mornings here. Though, you should remember.” Brody looked apologetic at first after what he said, but the look soon went away.

“Well, I remember a lot of things but that isn’t one of them.” Michael reassured, “I remember Saturday mornings at home though.” He said with a smile.

Brody looked at me with furrowed eyebrows and I felt bad that he didn’t remember. Saturday mornings used to be the time we would eat breakfast and watch cartoons with Michael. Brody was too little but I remembered.

I guess Brody was right when he said you can’t miss what was never there. I instantly felt really sad for my little brother.

“I’m sorry... you probably don’t remember. You were too little.” Michael softly stated.

“Let’s just go eat, shall we?” I insisted, heading for the door to the restaurant and holding it open.

“Right, of course! You both must be starving.”

We all walked inside and waited for the host to bring us to our table.

Once we sat down, Brody next to me, with Michael opposite of us, we ordered our drinks.

“Coffee huh? I didn’t peg you for a coffee drinker.” Michael smiled at me.

“Caffeine is my crack dude.” I chuckled.

“Everything is your crack.” Brody mumbled from beside me.

Michael laughed at that and Brody showed a small smirk.

“Hey, no ganging up on me now!” I pointed.

“So, Brody... tell me about yourself.” Michael insisted.

“Well... middle school sucks. I hate math. My mom is always working. Cecilia is a nuisance-” With that I rolled my eyes, “-and I love cars and football.” He finished after rubbing his arm.

“Huh... sounds a lot like me when I was your age. Though, my older sister wasn’t always a nuisance.” Michael laughed.

“We have an aunt?” Brody asked.

“You sure do. She actually lives here in Greensdale.” He admitted.

“So this entire time that you’ve been gone, we had an aunt that lived right here?” I asked in disbelief.

“Why wouldn’t she come see us? Does she know about us? Have we ever met her?” I asked again.

“Whoa, take it easy there. She does know about you and she didn’t come see you because I told her not to.” He confessed hesitantly.

“Remember what I told you the other night Cecilia? About why I left? Well I didn’t want her in and out of your lives either. It would’ve confused you both even more.”

“Oh.” Was all I could mutter.

“But anyway, yes Brody, I have an older sister. I’m sure she’d love to meet the both of you.” He said with a smile.

Brody smiled back and seemed excited. I didn’t like getting his little hopes up before anything happened because Michael could just up and leave again whenever he wanted. I didn’t fully trust him yet.

“We’ll uh, cross that bridge when we have to. For now, let’s just focus on us.” I said calmly.

Brody frowned a little.

“Of course.” Michael replied.

“So, dad, do you like cars?” Brody asked with a bright smile.

My heart stopped when he called him dad. Was that too soon?

Michael looked at me for reassurance and I slightly nodded. If he’s ready for this then I guess there’s nothing I can do about Brody wanting to call him dad.

“Are you kiddin’? Cars are awesome!” He smiled.

“I have a box filled with antique race cars and I can show them to you!” Brody was excited and for the first time I saw a real smile on his face. The kind every little boy makes when he wants to impress his dad with something that they both shared an interest in.

I don’t know why, and I don’t know how, but for a little while we felt just like a little family again.

Maybe this will work out after all.

“Hey could you two excuse me? I have to go to the restroom.” Michael suddenly said while standing up from the table.

“Sure.” I said while eating the last bite of my waffles.

Michael darted off for the bathroom and something didn’t sit right with me.

“Hey Brody, I have to go to the bathroom too now that I think about it. Promise me you will sit here and not say a word to anyone. No talking to strangers, got it?” I scolded.

“Got it. Sheesh.” He rolled his eyes while squirting more ketchup onto his eggs.

I got up and walked over to the bathrooms. I pressed my head up against the men’s room door and could just barely hear a conversation Michael was having.

“No alright, no. I can’t keep doing this. It’s not fair to them. I don’t want to do this.”

“How can you be sure that this is what I want?”

“What if I regret this?”

“You know what, exactly. I left for a reason and I’m just not so sure that this is the right way to handle things.”

“Fine... Okay... I said all right! I will do it but you had better write me a check sooner than later. My sister can’t keep waiting for this money. Her next appointment is coming up soon.”

“Okay, bye.”

Realization set in and it felt like my heart fell into my stomach.

Is he being paid to have a relationship with us?

I heard the dryer in the bathroom start and I knew he would be walking out any second. I quickly turned around and went back to the table before he could see me.

“Have fun?” Brody laughed.

“Sure.” I said with no emotion.

A few moments later Michael came back into view and sat down in front of us.

“Sorry, took a little longer than expected. I’m old what can I say.” He laughed which caused Brody to chuckle.

“So, looks like we’re done here. Cecilia how was your chicken and waffles?” Michael asked with a smile.

“Fine.” I replied, still with no emotion whatsoever.

“Hey dad,” Brody chimed in and I almost winced at his words, “Want to follow us to our place? I can show you those cars! I’m sure mom wouldn’t mind seeing you either!” He smirked.

“Sure thi-” I cut him off. “Actually Brody, I’m sure Michael is very busy. Plus, you have chores you still need to finish. Maybe another time.”

Michael looked at me confused for a moment and then decided to go along with it.

“You know, your sister is right Brody. Another time for sure.” He added.

“Awe, okay.” We all walked outside and Brody walked up to Michael.

“Bye dad!” Brody launched himself into Michael’s arms and Michael hugged him back hesitantly.

“Bye kids.” He said calmly.

I grabbed Brody by the arm and pulled him to the car.

Every minute that passed by made me even more mad than the last. Why was he being paid to see us? Does this mean he didn’t actually want anything to do with us? Why was he letting Brody call him dad if he didn’t plan on sticking around? This was only going to hurt Brody in the long run if he got too attached. Who on earth was he talking to and why were they agreeing to pay him? Better yet, why were they forcing him to have a relationship with us?

We got home and my mom was waiting for us in the living room.

“Hey, how did it go honey?” She asked pulling Brody in for a hug.

“I like him mom. He said he’s going to come by sometime and look at my cars!” The joy on his face was almost painful to look at.

“Sweetie, have a good time at breakfast?” My mom asked looking over at me, but I was already halfway to my bedroom.

I closed the door behind me and went into my bathroom. I placed my hands firmly on the sink and looked at myself in the mirror.

How was I going to get all of the answers out of him? How was I going to protect myself and Brody? Why wasn’t he here because he wanted to be? Were we not good enough for him? We had to be, Brody would be crushed.

A single tear escaped and I wiped it away as it fell. Nothing made sense, at all. But there was one thing that I was one-hundred percent certain of.

I was not going to let him hurt Brody the way that he had hurt me.

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