Diana’s letters had a new weight to them. I couldn’t go back to them without envisioning Hunter in all of her details about her lover, painting him as a vicious mastermind. I was fighting against the revelation, trying to see where I had missed it...how we all had. After finding out that Maven had a boyfriend, I dropped my theory that he was the mystery man Dakota was searching for. But nothing gave me a clue that the father was closer than I thought. It made me wonder, with a wave of curiosity, if his niceness was fake, too.
I didn’t know what to think when Sherri told us later said that Diana’s delusion was being driven by Hunter’s promise of marrying her. I had no way of forgiving him after hearing that. The icing on the cake, per se, was that Sherri had a photo that once belong to Diana of Diana hanging off Hunter’s neck, smiling with bright eyes. It hurt, more than ever, to see how in love she looked to me—unaware of the storm and deception in the horizon. On her finger, a dazzling ring appeared on her left hand. The story was real.
I stayed at Dakota’s house that night, staying in one of the spare bedrooms. I couldn’t face my family—not today. I couldn’t walk into that house with everything I knew, with all that I felt, without wanting to scream at Hunter. Heath arrived an hour later, collecting Sherri with his parents. She didn’t waste any time to glare at Dakota the entire time while going into the car.
“I’m going to fucking murder him.”
“You can’t do that, Dakota, unless you want to room with you dad.”
His fiery gaze simmered when they landed on me, becoming tinder. “I don’t know what to do, Silvia. I’ve wanted to know for so long, but I didn’t think that once I’d find out that I’d wish for the days when I was left in the dark.”
“You think it was better to not be in the know? You’ve been searching.”
“Because I didn’t think it was Hunter. He took my first girlfriend then my sister. It’s difficult to not want to strangle that bastard.”
“I have a better idea.” I combed back his hair, using the small amount of lighting we got from the lamp on the nightstand. My hand went to the side of his face, and he turned his cheek, kissing my palm. “We’re not going to let him get away with this.”
“We? You want to help?”
“I do,” I nodded, “There’s more to the story.”
“Or he’s just an asshole,” he shrugged. “All along I thought Maven was the evil twin, but it took me years to find out that they’re equally as bad.”
“I’m not going to argue that he isn’t.” I yawned. “We’ll get to brain storming tomorrow on how we’re going to pull off my plan. I need to get to bed.”
Dakota leaned in, kissing my forehead too fast for me to refuse the advance. I chuckled when he flicked off my lamp and didn’t get off the bed right away.
“Alone, Dakota. I’m going to bed alone.”
He sighed. “It was worth a shot.”
Before our first day back to school, I had Heath install microphones on the interior of my car. We were prepared for our mission. Ronnie wanted to come up with a name for the operation, but all of her creations were more laughably awful than usable.
We were still debating on when we should approach Hunter. I wanted to go at the start of lunch, Dakota thought before homeroom, and Heath thought going to him right at the end of school was the best opportunity. We eventually went with my concept, running into him at his locker. He was dangling his backpack off one arm, unzipping it as he walked. Doug and Pierson were to his left and right, talking about the next game they were going to play against Boulder Valley High.
“Hey,” I greeted him, pushing my phone back into my pocket. “I was looking for you earlier.”
"Me?” Pierson, of course, replied in Hunter’s place when he wasn’t even being spoken to.
“No, not you. I’m talking to my step-brother,” I rectified. “Is it okay if I talk to you on your own?”
He looked at the both of them, “I’ll see you guys later.”
“Are you doing anything after school?”
“I’m not. Why do you ask?”
“I wanted to know if I could show you something. It’s more so a surprise, can’t say, but I already told my dad and your mom about it. They’ll be there, too.”
“Ooh, I like surprises.” He smirked, putting in the combo, and swung the door open. “Can I get a clue?”
“What about a riddle?”
I playfully poked him. “I can’t do that either. Just meet me at the east wing exit after school and then I’ll drive you. You’ll be there?”
“Yeah, I will. I don’t have practice today. But I do need to talk to Coach Walker. Do you mind waiting a little?”
“No, not at all.” I grinned, patting his arm. Everything was perfectly set.
Hunter didn’t shy away from asking me a million questions. His polar opposite personality, in comparison to his brother, made it harder to comprehend how he was the same villain Sherri told us about.
Hunter’s whistling abruptly came to a holt, grabbing the play on my dashboard. “Hmm, you’re reading Hamlet for your English class? I thought you had Mr. Freeman. I do, too, and we’re not going over this.”
“I do have him. I’m reading it for fun.”
“I don’t know why you’d want to do that. Isn’t it supposed to be really depressing with suicide and betrayal?”
“I think it’s a good reflection of the world around us.” I mumbled.
He flipped through the pages quickly, putting it back. “Who’s your favorite character?”
“Ophelia.” I answered, sneaking a look at him. He had gotten pale. “It’s such a pretty name, right? I like it a lot. You know, like your daughter’s name—oh, I mean Dion’s.”
I picked up my speed. With him in a confined area, speeding down the road, he wouldn’t be able to get out of this conversation. “I’ll drop the act. I know about your relationship, or whatever that tragedy of an arrangement was, with Diana.”
“I was dating Carmen at the time of Diana’s attendance at Crescent Heights.”
“You’re not one to really believe in the rules of a relationship. Let’s not forget what you did in order to get with Carmen. She wasn’t yours to begin with.”
His eyes narrowed, burning with rage. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Dakota and Carmen weren’t together when we started dating.”
“That’s a lie.” I spat. “Everyone at school knows you cheated. In honesty, I don’t give a fuck about that. That’s not why I’m bringing you here.”
“Where the hell are we going anyway?” he snapped.
“You’ll see soon enough,” I promised. “This will be a lot easier if you came out and admitted what you’ve been hiding all along. You can’t keep fooling me.”
“I don’t unders—”
“Cut the shit, Hunter. I saw the letters. I saw the photo.” I shouted. “I know that you and Diana were in a secret relationship with each other. I know you’ve been lying about your connection to her since the start. I expect actions like this from your friends—but not you.”
“Slow the hell down, Silvia. Stop the fucking car.” He ordered. “I’m getting out.”
“No you’re not.” I refused, only increasing in speed. “I’m not letting you walk away from this.”
My car eased into the lot connection a park. Hunter jumped for the door handle when I came to a slow, but I had on the child lock. I wasn’t going to risk the chance of him getting away from his reality. In the distance, stood Dakota and Heath with their backs to us.
I turned off the car, exiting with the keys in my hand. “C’mon. You’re too far to walk home.”
“I’m not going over there.”
“Fine. They’ll come here.”
I called over the two of them, and as they turned, Hunter’s breathing quickened at the sight of the infant in Dakota’s arms. Ophelia was grabbing at the air, giggling at the what appeared to be absolutely nothing.
I took a few steps forward, waving at them.
In a swift motion, Hunter took my car keys out of my hands, jogging back to where the car was parked.
“Hunter you can’t run from the truth!” I yelled. “You’ve been running this whole time, but it’s time to face the music. You can’t erase the truth. You can’t erase away your daughter.”
“I’m not doing this right now...I’m sorry, but I can’t,” he huffed, hopping into the driver seat.
When I reached the car, I had one palm against the glass, banging against it and tugging on the door. It wouldn’t budge. He had already locked himself in. “Hunter, it doesn’t have to be this way. Get out of the car so we can talk.”
My words were useless, muffled behind the glass. Still clinging on to the handle, he hit reverse and pealed out of the spot, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake.