Me And My Shadow

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Chapter 26

It had been two days since I sat in silence with Eric. Two days of not speaking to him once. Two days of torture. It had also been two days of lectures from my mom on how I needed to always keep my medication with me, even if I thought I didn’t need it.

I apologized for making her worry again, as this was the second time I had ended up in the hospital due to my careless behavior. I tried telling her that I truly believed I didn’t need it anymore, but she insisted that the decision was up to my doctor, not to me.

My doctor, which scolded me for being oblivious, told me that it’s going to be a long while before I actually didn’t need to take it anymore. I supposed everyone knew me better than I knew myself.

Maybe that was why Eric decided it was okay to try to pay off my dad to have a relationship with us. I still wasn’t over it and I didn’t think that I would ever be, regardless of our small encounter in my hospital room.

I was home now and I had yet to share the knowledge of my dad and Eric to my mom. I kept hoping that it would all just go away, and that we could go back to before my dad came around, but I knew that was just ignorant wishing.

Keeping that in mind, I told myself that today was the day I was going to move forward with my plan.

I dragged my feet into the living room to find my mom sitting on her recliner.

“Hey mom, can I talk to you about something?” I simply asked.

“Sure sweetie, what’s up?” She muted the television and turned her attention to me as I sat down on the couch beside her.

“It’s about dad.” I began, “He... he’s not who you think he is.”

“Cecilia, this again?” She sighed.

“It’s true mom! He only came back to town because his sister has cancer and needed to be taken care of. He had no intentions on being in our lives, that’s why he was so shocked when I ran into him at the grocery store. He’s been here with a certain agenda and because of that, Eric and I broke up.” I frantically explained while inching further and further towards the edge of my seat.

“Cecilia, enough! Why are you trying to push your father away? He left and has finally come back and you don’t want any part in it, I get it. But what about Brody? Don’t you think he deserves a chance to have a father? You’re being very selfish.” My mother scolded me.

I sat, gaping at her in disbelief. She wasn’t listening to a word I was saying.

Alright, it’s time for plan B.

“You know what mom, you’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll catch you later.” I calmly replied before getting up and grabbing my keys.

I texted Layla to see if she was home, but she hadn’t responded to any of my texts since yesterday. Where is that girl when I need her?

Despite being ignored, I drove to her house anyway.

I didn’t even care to think that I might run into Eric, before I marched up their driveway and he opened the front door.

“Cecilia! I didn’t think I’d see you ever aga-“, I cut him off immediately, “Eric, no. I’m not here for you. Is your father home?”

He eyed me up and down with furrowed eyebrows, before his wide and hopeful eyes, turned into wary ones.

“Why? What are you doing?” He asked.

“I need to talk to him, about Layla.” I tried like hell to remain calm so he wouldn’t see how anxious I was on the inside.

“About what?” He kept pushing for information. That, or he wanted me to crack and tell him that I was here to out him to Larry.

“That’s none of your business.”

“Okay, well, my dad’s not home anyway.” He lied, and I could tell because he wouldn’t look me in the eyes.

Confirming my suspicion, Larry came strolling through the hallway and stopped when he saw me at the door.

I gave Eric a pointed look, to which he rolled his eyes.

“Cecilia! What a pleasure to see you again. Eric don’t be rude to your girlfriend, let her in!” He demanded.

“Oh I’m not-“, Eric instantly cut me off, “Of course dad.” He smirked.

Eric moved to the side and I slowly walked inside. As I did, he managed to whisper in my ear.

"Please don’t say anything, Cecil.”

His words were pleading and they sparked goosebumps to form against my arms. I had to though. I had to warn Larry not to sign that last check. I couldn’t let Michael get away with what he had done. I couldn’t let him take what he wanted and then leave without so much as a goodbye to my mom or to Brody.

“Larry, I need to speak with you in private, if you don’t mind.” I confidently requested.

“Of course.” Larry gave Eric a questioning look, before bringing his curious gaze back to me.

“Follow me to my office.” He said while gesturing for me to follow him.

I mustered up enough confidence to follow Larry inside of his office. I couldn’t look at Eric, I couldn’t look him in the face knowing what I was about to do. I hope I don’t regret this later.

I gaped at how enormous the room was and sighed contently as I sat down in the plush leather chair, across from his oak-wood, polished desk.

“What can I do for you?” He asked with a small smile.

I took in a deep breath, not sure how to begin.

“Um, well, it’s about Eric and... my dad.” I finally said.

“Ah yes. I just want you to know that we’re happy to help!” He replied without a second thought.

My eyebrows instantly furrowed at his nonchalant reply, as if he knew all about everything.

“What do you mean exactly?” I inquired.

“Eric mentioned that your Aunt is very sick. I just wanted you to know that we are happy to help!” He gave me a warm and welcoming smile, as if to say he had no idea that Eric was actually giving my dad the money to help pay for my Aunt’s medical bills in return to have a fake relationship with Brody, my mom and I.

“Well, that’s not entirely the full story.” I began.

“What do you mean?”

“You see... I hadn’t seen my dad in a very long time before recently. He left a long time ago when I was very little. He only came back to town, because his sister is sick, and he was the only relative available to take care of her. He has no intentions on rekindling our relationship or being in our lives at all. Eric and I ran into him at the grocery store one day by pure accident. Eric told me that he met up with my dad some time later, after finding out that he didn’t want anything to do with us. Eric offered to pay for my Aunt’s medical bills in exchange for...” I looked down at my lap. It was so hard to say out loud, “In exchange for having a relationship with us again. Except, that isn’t what he wants at all. In fact, he just admitted to me a couple of days ago that once all of my Aunt’s medical bills are paid off, he’s leaving town again and he’s not coming back.”

After bellowing out the entire story, I took a few deep breaths as I waited for Larry’s reaction.

“So you mean to tell me, that my son lied to me?” He asked, not at all hiding the rage that started to spew from his words.

“Yes.” I mumbled, “He lied to me too, that’s why... that’s why we aren’t together anymore.” I finally confessed, feeling angry and heartbroken all over again.

“I am so sorry Cecilia. I had absolutely no idea. Certainly if I would’ve known I never would’ve allowed it.” He got up from his chair and came toward me, kneeling down beside me so we were at eye-level.

“It’s alright Larry, he fooled the both of us. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t write the last check. I don’t want Michael to think he won.”

Larry’s face fell as he stood up and stepped away from me.

“I wrote the last check yesterday morning, Michael called me personally and told me that he couldn’t wait for Eric to deliver it, so he stopped by my office yesterday afternoon to pick it up. I had no idea, I’m so sorry.”

I sunk down into my chair and frowned. This was it. After today Michael would disappear and my mom and Brody would be hurt and think that it was somehow my fault. Especially after the confrontation I had with my mom earlier today.

“Dammit.”

Larry quirked an eyebrow at my sudden outburst with a smirk.

“Sorry.” I sheepishly smiled.

“Not to worry, I’ll give my bank a call and tell them to cancel the check. That’s to say he hasn’t already cashed it.” Larry sighed while reaching for his phone.

After about fifteen minutes on the phone, Larry hung up.

“Well?” I asked with far too much hope.

“Seems as though he cashed it an hour ago.” He sighed in defeat, “Fifteen-hundred dollars, gone, just like that.”

My eyes widened in shock. Were they actually giving my dad that much money every time for this entire time the deal’s been going on? Surely, my Aunt’s medical bills didn’t add up to that much of an amount. Then again, I’m not a doctor, nor do I know the price of stage four treatment.

“I’m so sorry Larry. You’ve wasted all of this money.” My eyes began to water.

“Hey, hey, it’s alright. I’ll just look at it as good karma for myself since I helped her with her debt. As for your father, I’m sorry you had to deal with the burden of that dreadful man. No child should ever feel worthless by their parents.” His eyes drifted off as if he were remembering something from his past. I saw his eyes land on a small photo in the corner of his office on his shelf. It was a picture of Larry and Eric with a dark haired woman, who was not Rachel.

“May I ask what ever happened to Eric’s mom?” I suddenly asked, startling Larry and pulling him away from his reminiscing thoughts.

“Oh, he never told you?” He seemed surprised.

“No. He hasn’t.”

“His mother left years ago. Eric didn’t take it very well, and for a while, resented Rachel and Layla. He wouldn’t accept them as part of his family, since the only family he had ever known was broken. It took a long time for him to come to terms with the fact that his mother just didn’t want the life she made with us anymore. She was weak and selfish, and I blamed myself for a long time. I blamed myself for her leaving, and I blamed myself for Eric’s grief. Over time, we both managed to let the past go and we fully accepted Rachel and Layla as our family. Now, it’s as if the past never even happened, even though I know Eric still thinks about her from time to time.” He explained while staring at a random piece of paper that was lying on his desk.

“Wow... I’m so sorry. I had no idea. I guess Eric and I aren’t so different after all.” I softly sighed.

“Eric probably meant well at first Cecilia. He probably thought that since he couldn’t fix his own family, he felt like this was his chance to make up for that. Helping you fix your family probably made him feel better about what happened to him in the past. I’m sure his heart was in the right place.”

At Larry’s attempt to make me somehow forgive Eric’s wrong doings, the anger I had towards him still lingered, though it wasn’t as harsh. I just couldn’t get over the fact that he lied to me and involved Layla into it as well. Even though he probably did think he was only trying to help and fix my family, he actually made it worse. I know he probably didn’t mean to, but I’m still upset about the whole thing.

“Thank you for sharing that with me Larry. I know that Eric meant well, but he just made everything a lot worse. The truth is, we were doing okay and now Brody and my mom have this false hope of our family becoming a family again, and Michael leaving is only going to crush them a second time.”

“Well, you can be happy to know that I’ll be having a very stern talk with Eric about meddling into other people’s personal lives where it’s not wanted. I can’t believe he did this. He lied to me too. He never lies to me. I don’t even know who he is anymore. Oh, and I’m really sorry that this cost you your relationship with Eric.” He frowned, “I really enjoyed meeting you and I hope you still come around after this, despite everything.”

“Well I don’t think Eric and I will ever be a couple again, but I suppose with time I can try to be his friend at least. As for Layla, we’re still friends so you’ll still be seeing me around.” I smiled.

“Thank you for coming to me Cecilia. Again, I truly am sorry.”

“It’s alright. My mom and Brody will eventually see the truth and know that I had nothing to do with Michael’s behavior. Everything will eventually be fine. Thank you for this talk, it really helped.” I smiled at him and gave him a small hug before leaving his office.

Eric was standing outside of the door with an anxious look on his face.

“You told him everything, didn’t you?” He asked once he saw me.

I only nodded. Eric let out a heavy sigh and ran his fingers through his messy hair.

“Listen, I know you don’t believe me or like me at all right now, but I really was trying to help. I thought that maybe if I paid him to stick around, that in that time he would grow to see what amazing kids he’s brought into this world and that maybe he would want a relationship with you both all on his own. I had no idea he was just going to use the money and split like this. I didn’t mean to hurt you or your family.” He nervously rubbed the back of his neck while standing in front of me.

I slowly walked up to him and placed a small kiss on his cheek.

“I understand why you did it Eric. You know as well as I do that all we want in this world is to feel like we’re good enough.” I gave Eric a knowing look and he realized that I knew about his mom.

“However, how you did it is what I can’t get over so easily. It’s going to take time, but I think in the future we can possibly be friends.” I simply stated with a small smile.

“Just friends?” He frowned.

“Time is our friend Eric. Time should heal everything.”

Eric gave me a questioning look and then shrugged his shoulders. “I guess it’s for the best right now. I love you Cecilia and I always will. I’d prefer to have you as my friend as opposed to nothing at all.” He flashed me his million-dollar smile and I nodded.

“Oh, by the way, your dad wants to see you.” I said as I sent him an apologetic smile.

He groaned and made his way to Larry’s office, “Figured this was coming.”

“Don’t worry, I don’t think he will be that hard on you.” I tried to reassure.

“If only you knew how much money we’ve given to your dad...” He looked down at his feet in shame.

I lightly chuckled. “Well, I’ll pray for you.”

“Gee, thanks.” With that, he entered Larry’s office and the large brown door closed behind him.

As I made my way down the hallway to the front door, I accidentally smacked into a petite frame.

“And where have you been?” I scoffed, looking into the blue eyes of my best friend.

“Hey.” She simply stated.

“Hey? Hey! That’s all I get is hey?” I huffed while crossing my arms over my chest.

“I’m sorry Cecil! I was out.” She shrugged.

“Out? Out with who?” I asked, suspicion seeping through my face.

“I um, was on a lunch date.” She sheepishly smiled.

My anger instantly disintegrated as I smiled. “With who?”

“One of Eric’s friends.” She nervously bit her lip.

“Well, I hope he isn’t filthy rich and decides to pay off one of your sick relatives.” I rolled my eyes looking down at my feet.

“He isn’t rich at all, but he is very cute!” She beamed just thinking about him.

“Come with me to get ice cream and I’ll tell you all about it!” She grabbed my arm and looped it around hers, dragging me to the front door.

I knew I still had some unfinished business to handle with my dad, but for right now, I just wanted to forget about it all and hangout with my best friend. I needed to find out all about this boy and I needed to make sure his intentions were good.

As for Michael, well, tomorrow was another day.

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