For the timing, it couldn’t be more perfect. The house was still and calm, lifeless of much activity. I wasn’t the only one home. Lenard was upstairs in the spare bedroom, snoring away the afternoon. His flight back to Maine was this week. With him reentering society since his treatment was completed, we talked about what he’d be doing once he settled in. He applied to local community classes in our hometown, taking up courses in business and mathematics.
My stepmother and dad were out of the house, too, enjoying brunch with my grandmother at the country club in Winchester Hills. I didn’t know the exact location of my twin stepbrothers, making me anxious as I let Heath come into my house. I hoped this didn’t take too much time. I wouldn’t want any of my family members to walk in, more so because I couldn’t guarantee what state I would be in once I learned the truth.
“Do you want anything to drink?” I offered, walking around the dinner table. He set his laptop on the dinner table, turning it on and bringing out a composition journal. “We have chips and cookies if you’d prefer something to snack on?”
“I’ll take a glass of water,” he answered, connection a flash drive into the USB port. I returned from the kitchen with a full glass, half full of ice. He took it graciously, and for the first time since he got into the house, I saw him smile at me. He walked into the house with a grim look painted on his face, haunting me the entire time and filling me with pure dread.
“Thank you.” He said, taking a sip. “You’re going to need to take a seat before I start.”
“Right,” I breathed, wiping my hands on the front of my shirt and yanking out the chair, crashing into it with air trapped in my throat. I had wanted to know the extent of what Dakota did with Segg. It had rattled my thoughts for weeks, consuming me in every possible way. Now that the moment was here, I couldn’t handle the fear quaking through me. Could I withstand it? Could our relationship? Things were just starting to get better.
“I’m going to start from the beginning.” He cracked open his journal, trailing a finger over the page. “I went as far to list things in chronicle order on when it happened. I haven’t talked to Dakota about any of this, but rather going based off timestamps.”
“I’m aware you haven’t spoken to him about this. He said he wouldn’t try to interfere.”
“Maybe that’s for the best,” he murmured. “For one, with some help with Ronnie, I was able to locate Finn’s black book which helped organize the timeline. It was tricky, but we got it. I got access into his computer, too, leading me to find out who made the first contact. Finn contacted Dakota, taunting him with information about Diana if he agreed to do an outsourced prank for an unnamed member.”
Heath angled his computer to me, showing me the message that was addressed from Finn to Dakota. Dakota replied rather fast, saying that he was up for the challenge. That was when Finn disclosed what he had to do.
“It started off with making those drawings for you, acting as if he accidentally dropped them.” Heath explained, and I could see it all before me. They had planned it out in the body of an email. Even the attack from Carmen was entirely constructed by Segg so that Dakota could stop the fight. I inhaled deeply, holding on to the edge of the table.
“He sketched them weeks into the school semester, but was told to date them a few days before the party you met him to make it seem like he was in to you from the start. He wasn’t. That was a lie. A complete lie. And that’s not even the worst part.”
My lips pressed together, becoming a flat line as rage struck me like a strong wind. If I wasn’t sitting down, I would’ve fainted by this point. The lies piled up. The fights we had were constructed by Finn, advising Dakota to never let me believe we were official and to appear as though commitment was what he feared.
What hurt, after it all, was when I stumbled across the talks about the party at Pierson’s house. His words were scripted. I couldn’t believe my own eyes, looking at all that had been fabricated.
Finn: I’ll make sure I get the two of them drunk
Dakota: Ronnie and Silvia?
Finn: Yeah. I’ll tell you when to come back down so that you can say some cheesy ass shit. I’ve already convinced Pierson to make a move on her, so you’ve got to cut in time to stop him and make it look like you’re saving her.
Dakota: What do you want me to do after?
Finn: Get extremely close, but don’t kiss her. Make it so she’ll want to kiss you, and then stop her, telling her that ‘Of all the ways I’ve imagined kissing you for the first time, I didn’t think you’d be half responsive in some hallway at Pierson’s house.’ Or something like that, IDK. Do that and I swear she’ll be putty in your hands. She’ll think you care.
Dakota: Haha, yeah even though I fucking don’t.
Finn: You know what that means though? You gotta take her back to your brother’s place. You got the recording devices in? Even the cameras for your car?
My eyes doubled in size, transporting me back to the night I received vague messages, warning me about the target on my head.
Dakota: Oh yeah, long ago. But, I’m not giving you any of that back until you give me the other half of the deal. You said you’d give me some dirt about the guys who were hanging around Diana. Keep your promise.
Finn: I will, I will. Chill, Dakota. Be patient. I’ll get you your stuff the second you get this girl out of Crescent Heights. Make it unbearable for her. That’s your mission. Once you complete the task at hand, then I’ll give you what you want.
I had gotten lost in my mind, losing sense of time and space until Heath dragged me back to reality with his words. “If it makes you feel any better, he didn’t give those recordings to Finn or the videos of you too in the car. He never told you, but someone broke into his car and retrieved them without his knowledge.”
“You know about those videos?”
He nodded. “Yes, I do. Once you go over all of the messages and emails, you’ll see that Dakota does withdraw from requests after the night he called you up drunk, thinking you moved back to Maine. And even more so after you start helping out with finding the father of Ophelia. He wanted out, but Finn wasn’t done yet and after checking his black book, I saw a write in of Beth’s name for a task. Ronnie confirmed that it was the same night Beth arrived at Dion’s apartment, pretending that Franklin had done something inappropriate to her in order to gain your trust and access into the Dion’s home. That’s when she retrieved the recordings. Dakota noticed they were missing, but couldn’t tell you what was really taken, so he lied and said his laptop was stolen to find out who was in the apartment.”
“That was fake, too?” I croaked. I remembered how angry he was about me letting Beth in. But in all honesty, he was covering his ass for recording our conversations for Segg. “I...I can’t take any more of this.”
“There isn’t much else to tell you. I took the liberty of printing out their dialogue.” He brought around his backpack, pulling out a yellow folder and sliding it my way. “The last thing he did for Segg was breakup with you. At the time, he thought he’d be cut loose from the deal he had with Finn if he broke it off with you. You can read the documents yourself and see that Finn promised to not include you after that point. But clearly, things changed.”
“When Ronnie broke up with him, he said that he’d end it all if I convinced her to take him back. I didn’t take the offer so that must’ve been what triggered it.”
“Could be. It makes sense.” He shut his computer down, closing it and stuffing it into his messenger bag. He gave me a somber gander. “You know, you took this better than I thought you were.”
Oh, that’s only because I don’t want to have an emotional break down with you present. I like my anxiety attacks to not have an audience, I thought sullenly, holding back the tears that were building up.
I bit the inside of my cheek, harder than I intended and drew blood. I swallowed back the metallic taste coating my mouth, winching as a cool breath that made the new wound excruciating. I inhaled again, wanting the feel of pain to spread throughout me. It was better than the numbness that carved itself into my bones, begging for some form of release. Heath needed to leave; I couldn’t wait any longer to let this scream out from my lungs. I was ready to burst at the seams.
“I appreciate you for showing me all of this,” I said in a soft whisper. “But if you could please excuse me, I would like to be left alone to absorb all of this in.”
“Of course, of course. I’ll get out of your way,” he rushed to say, springing up to his feet and swinging his bag on to his shoulder. “Are you sure you’re ok? I can tell Ronnie to come stop by if you want?”
“I’d prefer to be alone.”
“That’s understandable.” He didn’t say goodbye, exiting the dining room and to the front of the house. I followed him, lock the door after he left. I wouldn’t allow myself to crumble in the foyer of the house. A shaky hand floated to mouth, muffling my sob as I took two steps at a time up the stairs. I had the folder Heath gave me at my side, clinging on to it until I arrived in my room. I fired the entirety of it to the wall, causing the papers to fly all around my room and falling to my knees before reaching my bed.
I heaved a breath while hot tears fell down my cheeks.
I had fallen in love with Dakota that night at Pierson’s house. Learning that the words he said weren’t his own pushed the knife in my back deeper, reminding me of his betrayal and making it difficult to even move or breath.
I crawled to my bed, hiding under the covers as though it could protect me from the horrors in the world. Time flew by. I didn’t know how long I spent weeping into my pillow when my phone began to buzz.
I wiped my puffy eyes, reading the text with blurry vision. It was Dakota, asking me if he could come over. He told me that he knew Heath had visited me today. With one hand, I replied to his message.
No, I wrote, I’ll see you at your place. We need to talk.