“Done boss. It’s all here.” Mark stated.
“Good, let’s go. You-” He pointed his gaze directly on me, “You’re comin’ with us.”
“Like hell she is!” Eric retorted, not moving from standing in front of me. He looked over to Michael who hadn’t muttered a single word since Eric and I were discovered in the hotel bathroom. “Do something!”
“Calvin, you uh... you can’t take her.” Michael finally said, turning to look at who we now know to be Calvin.
“Oh yeah, and why is that? She said she was your daughter, as in not anymore. Why should you care what happens to her?” Calvin coldly asked, causing the feeling of being scared to evolve into pain at his harsh words.
“Come on Calvin, she has a mother and brother at home. She’s only sixteen.” Michael tried again.
Calvin pondered what Michael said for a few moments, before abruptly standing up and heading towards the hotel room door. “Mark, let’s go.”
“But boss, what about the girl?” Mark shot me a disgusting glance, almost eyeing me as if I were a piece of meat, but Calvin shook his head surprisingly.
“I don’t have time for this. Let’s go. Now.” Calvin sternly replied, causing Mark to nod and follow him outside.
“Oh and Michael, I don’t ever want to see or hear from you again. We clear?” Michael sent Calvin a curt nod, and Mark shut the hotel room door after them.
Eric immediately turned around to face me, and I instantly threw myself at him. I hugged him so tight, I thought he would soon pass out if I didn’t let go.
“Who the hell was that?” Eric shouted while looking over towards Michael, who seemed relaxed now.
“Nobody.” He simply replied, “You both need to wait ten minutes, and then leave.”
“Fuck that!” I found myself yelling, catching both Eric and Michael off guard. “Who was that? Explain yourself already. Enough lying. Those guys looked like mobsters, and they almost took me hostage! You can’t just say it was nobody!" I exclaimed.
“Let’s just say, I owed them some money from a while back.” Michael shrugged.
Finally, everything made sense. “Wait a minute... so that’s why you asked for way more money than you needed? You were making sure you had extra to pay off your stupid debts?” I asked, causing Eric’s eyes to harden in Michael’s direction.
“You lied to me too?” Eric asked, before Michael had the chance to say anything.
“If you really knew why I needed so much money, you never would’ve agreed to help me. Those guys were going to kill me, I had no other way.” Michael frowned.
“So you just used us? You used your sisters illness to your advantage, while simultaneously breaking your kids hearts? And moms?” I gasped, “I can’t believe you!” I shouted, “What kind of sick, coward does that?”
“I suppose me. I’m so sorry Cecilia. I really didn’t have any other choice.”
“And what would you have done if you didn’t run into us at the market that day? How would you have paid your debts then?” Eric questions. I hadn’t even thought about that myself.
“Running into you was purely coincidental, however, once I knew that Eric’s family had money, I agreed to his terms in order to receive the compensation. If I hadn’t of run into you, then I would’ve had to come up with some other plan. I’m not sure what that would’ve been, if I’m being honest.” Michael says as he scratches the back of his neck.
“Oh, I would’ve loved to see what that plan would’ve been.” I comment sarcastically, “So why are you acting so calm about all of this? Don’t you have any sympathy at all?” I asked, not believing how insensitive this man was.
“Listen, I know that I’ve hurt your mother, and you and Brody. That wasn’t my intention at all, but I became desperate and I used your boyfriend to my advantage. I had no other way, otherwise, I’d probably be dead.” He explained, “I never meant to come back here at all, I had no intentions on seeing any of you ever again. When I left, I left because I needed to, I left because I needed to be on my own for a while. I couldn’t handle the stress and pressure of being a full time husband and father, call me a coward, call me whatever you want, I just couldn’t take it anymore.” He said, causing new tears to form around my eyes.
I had never felt so heartbroken in my entire life. I could feel my heartstrings slowly tearing, piece by piece. My whole entire world was falling down around me, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Flashbacks of that night when he first left many years ago, came flooding back in an instant.
I remember my younger self, throwing my hands up against the window screaming, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”, but he never looked back. Not once.
“Why didn’t you want me?” I whispered just loud enough for him and Eric to hear me. One single tear decided to roll down my cheek just as Michael looked over at me.
“Why wasn’t I good enough for you? You were my dad. You and mom were my entire world, and you just left without a care in the world. How could we mean nothing to you?” I sobbed, pushing a few strands of hair out of my face.
“I guess leaving was easier than dealing with my problems. Leaving was easier than trying to work through them. It was just... easier." He confessed, looking down at his feet.
I glanced up at him, and saw the small bit of sadness resting on his features. I couldn’t tell if he genuinely felt bad, or if he was just putting on some sort of show. I know already how much of a good actor he is, he could still be playing me right now. Suddenly, fueled with rage, I began ranting again.
“Do you know what you’ve done to me? The amount of anxiety I feel on a daily basis, scared that another person is just going to walk out of my life? Scared that I’m never going to be good enough for anyone or anything? Scared that one day I’m going to wake up and I’ll be nothing but alone? Do you have any idea what you’ve put our family through? Brody doesn’t even know who you are, and now he never will. He’s going to grow up feeling the exact same way that I did. And poor mom, she’ll probably never love anyone else the way that she loved you. How could you just walk away from us? We needed you.” I was in a blind rage, just spewing off all of the random thoughts that I had worked up over the years.
“I’m sorry for hurting you. I will always regret hurting you.” Michael said, before standing up and heading towards the hotel room door. He slowly pulled it open, and stood aside while glancing back at Eric and I.
“I think it’s time that you leave now.” He simply said.
Eric didn’t say a word, he only grabbed me by my hand, and led me out into the hotel parking lot.
“Don’t worry, I’ll call your mother and tell her everything.” He finally said, “Goodbye Cecilia.”
With that, he shut the hotel room door, and I never saw him again.
I dropped Eric off at his house, and told him I would call him tomorrow. I wanted to head home to see if Michael really did call my mom to tell her the truth about what happened.
I still felt heartbroken, but I figured if I had gone this long without Michael around, then maybe I would be okay.
I went to walk inside, but found that the front door was locked. I went to grab my key from my bag, but then realized that I threw my key at my mom earlier, before I left the house. I cursed to myself, and slowly brought my hand up to knock on the door.
A few moments later, the door opened and I found my mom standing there with bloodshot eyes and tear stains against her cheeks.
We both stood there for a few moments, not moving an inch.
“Mom, I-” but before I could finish, she enveloped me into a bone-crushing hug while pulling me inside of the house. She kicked the front door shut with her foot and continued hugging me. I clung to her tightly as more tears began falling from my eyes.
“Mom, I’m so sorry!” I cried against her shoulder, “He just... he-” but she cut me off again.
“I know sweetie, I know!” She cried onto my shoulder as well.
We stood there for a few seconds, hugging and swaying back and forth before finally pulling away and walking into the living room.
“Where’s Brody?” I asked.
“He was upset, so he said he was going to bed early.” My mom frowned, “He said he needed to be alone.”
“I’m a horrible sister. I tried to figure all of this out before telling either of you anything, and instead he put the blame on me. I tried to protect you both and I ended up hurting you even more. Do you think Brody will ever forgive me?” I asked.
“Oh I don’t doubt that for a minute. You’re his big sister and he still loves you. I’ll help you explain everything to him tomorrow, after he’s had a chance to sit with the information.”
“So you believe me? You believe that he blamed me for all of his lies?” I asked, raising my eyebrows up at my mom’s tired face.
“Of course, honey.”
“When did you realize that I was telling the truth?” I asked with a small smile.
“About ten seconds after you stormed out of the house and left the driveway.” My mom looked down at her feet, “Michael only confirmed what I already knew when he called twenty minutes ago.”
Despite being mad at her for choosing Michael over me to begin with, I sent her a weak smile and leaned against her after we both sat on the couch.
“Mom he’s gone. Just like that, he left. We’re never going to see him again.”
“I know.” She replied, “I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. God, I’m a foolish woman.” She sighed.
“Don’t say that. He tricked you. He tricked all of us. He’s just a bad person and that isn’t anyone’s fault but his.” I reassured, placing my hand over hers.
“You can’t blame yourself.” I said after a few moments of silence, looking up into my mother’s eyes.
The anger from before, suddenly riled up within me again, and I slowly sat up while placing my hands into my lap.
“God, why did he do this to us? It isn’t fair!” I huffed.
“Sweetie... he is weak. Always has been. There isn’t really a reason for him doing this other than that. He couldn’t handle being a father, or a man for that matter. I know it isn’t fair, it totally sucks, but we just have to live our lives as best as we can, in spite of him. Brody will understand when he gets older. I just pray he doesn’t turn out to be just like Michael.” My mom stated her thoughts out loud.
“Brody will never be like him.” I confirmed, fully confident in my answer.
“You know what? I think you’re right.” My mom softly smiled.
I let out a shaky breath I didn’t realize I had been holding. I took a few deep breaths and leaned back against the couch, completely defeated from the today’s events. It still hurt like hell, but I knew that I would eventually come out stronger because of this. I had to.
I supposed time would eventually close the wounds that were still so fresh. Time and patience.
After talking more with my mom, I decided I needed a long, hot shower.
As I stood in the shower, a feeling of numbness washed over me. Maybe this all was for the best? Maybe Brody and I weren’t meant to have a dad, and maybe my mom wasn’t meant to stay with her high school sweetheart? My mom’s a pretty woman, I’m sure she would have no trouble finding someone new, so long as she actually decided to put herself out there and start dating.
Once I got out of the shower, I dried myself off and went over to my closet to get some clothes.
Just as I pulled on my sweatpants and T-shirt, I heard a loud bang come from Brody’s bedroom.
I thought he was asleep?
I walked up to his door and heard faint sobs coming from inside.
I quietly knocked.
“Go away.” Brody mumbled.
I gripped the doorknob and opened the door anyway, letting myself in.
Brody’s back was facing me. “I said go away.”
Brody huffed and turned around. The pain behind his light brown eyes was something I never wanted to witness again. I looked deep into his puffy, red-ish eyes and it felt as if I was being stabbed in the gut.
“So he’s gone?”
“Yes. But Brody-“, I was instantly cut off.
“No! Just shut up!”
“Brody, why are you still mad at me? I told you he was the one that came up with the plan with Eric. He did all of this himself. He even told mom that everything was his idea and that he never wanted to be here to begin with. He came clean about everything. How can you still be mad at me?” I pleaded, trying to convince him that I had nothing to do with any of this.
“I know. Dammit. Why Cecilia? Why did he do this? We got a long so great. Why am I not good enough for him? Why didn’t he want me?” Brody’s tears began to fall from his eyes, and I found myself rushing over to him and pulling him into a tight hug.
He cried into my arms, and for the first time in a long time, Brody knew he could trust me with his feelings.
“Brody, please, don’t cry. Look at me.” I urged as I pulled him from the crook of my neck.
I held him at arms length, placing my hands onto his shoulders as he blinked repeatedly, before facing his heartbroken gaze on me.
“Don’t you ever second-guess yourself. Don’t you ever say that you aren’t good enough, do you hear me? He’s the weak one. He’s the coward. He came into our lives, only to jump right out of them. He’s the one who took the easy way out. You did nothing wrong. You have to believe me Brody. This is what I was trying to protect you from, from the beginning. You’re smart, and funny, and even an asshole at times-“, Brody grinned with tears still in his eyes, “But you’re amazing just the way you are, and you don’t need his approval. Not ever, okay?”
Brody only nodded as I hugged him once more.
“I’m so sorry, about everything.” I finally said after a few moments of silence.
“No, Cecil. I’m sorry.” He blinked, trying to wipe the tears from his eyes.
“Don’t worry about it. We’re going to be okay. All it takes is time.” I smiled, though my eyes told a different story. “Try to get some sleep.” I turned around to head for Brody’s bedroom door.
“Hey Cecil...” Brody said before I left his room.
I glanced behind me, “Yeah?”
“I love you.”
I smiled. “I love you too.” Then I slowly closed the door behind me.
As I was making my way into the kitchen for a glass of water, I heard a sudden knock at the front door.
Sighing to myself, since I had already had a long night, I made my way to the door and pulled it open.
“Do I know you?” I asked. The older woman’s pain-filled face locked her gaze on me.