From Opposite Sides

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Chapter 34

It’s late in the night when my bedroom door squeaks open. The house has been silent for the past hour, while mum has been out on another one of her wild adventures with best pal Michelle.

Grayson stayed until my mother got back and they briefly exchanged ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’ in the front porch, which was a little awkward to say the least.

I can hear my mother’s footsteps shuffling across my carpet as she enters my room. Her voice calls out to me in the darkness and my eyes promptly fly open.

“Skye, are you awake?”

I flick my lampshade on and rub my eyes. “I am now,” I mutter, trying to bring myself out of my short lived slumber.

Mum lowers herself onto my bed, an exciting gleam in her eyes. I’m slightly worried about what she’s planning to reveal.

“I gave my heart to Jesus today.”

I don’t move an inch. My entire body has gone slack and unresponsive.

“You what?” I blurt out.

“It happened so fast,” she laughs. “Oh, it was wonderful Skye. I felt so much lighter. And I prayed for the first time in chapel.”

The smile on her face isn’t strained, she’s genuinely excited. And if she’s happy then I’m happy. I’ve got to have a positive outlook. If believing in Jesus is getting her through this difficult period, then I have to accept that.

“That’s great mum,” I say, throwing her a smile.

She hasn’t moved from her crouching position on the bed. It’s like she’s not quite ready to go yet. A strained silence stretches out between us and it’s suffocating.

“Skye—” I turn instinctively towards her voice, tilting my head to look at her. Her face is downcast and she’s not willing to meet my gaze.

She presses her lips firmly together. “I know I’ve been busy and you’ve probably felt like I haven’t been there these last few days. But I’ve been figuring things out… about myself.”

This is all very insightful, but I need closure. Maybe I’ll finally get the answers I’m looking for.

Our eyes catch, and my heart begins to pump in my ears. I’ve got to speak before I chicken out altogether. “This is really hard for me to ask, but I feel I need to. It’s been weighing on my mind heavily for a long time now,” I start.

Mum is quiet, not quite seeming to understand where this conversation is headed. “Okay,” she says, after a moment’s hesitation.

“That night we argued, you were going to tell me about the account and why you kept it a secret. At the time, I wasn’t interested in hearing you out because I was angry. But now, I’m ready to hear everything you have to say. I want you to tell me about him.”

My mother’s eyes are dark. “I want you to tell me about my father.”

She blinks, and fear takes over her expression. It’s as if I’ve just told her we’re in the middle of a war. It’s clear she does not want to talk about this. But we’ve avoided the subject long enough. I deserve to hear the truth.

Mum wets her lips. “I don’t know if I can talk about him Skye. The whole situation is complicated.”

I touch her arm. “I know it’s hard for you. But I have learned that it’s better to get things out in the open. You’ve got to deal with the past to move forward.” If Grayson and Rory have taught me anything, it’s to be completely honest.

“I promise I’m not going to criticize you. I need to hear the truth. All my life I’ve had questions about my dad.” I pause to take a breath, “I’ll constantly be wondering about him and it won’t stop.”

Mum’s brows begin to crease at the centre. I can tell she’s having a debate in her head right now. When she opens her mouth, I find myself leaning towards her, ready to hear her side of the story.

“Okay… I met your dad when I was nineteen. We were working the same shifts at a restaurant in town. We hit it off straight away and started dating not long after that. Honestly, it was as if we’d known each other for years and we grew so close within a short space of time.”

Her mouth twitches. “We’d been dating for about five months,” she continues, “He told me that he loved me and that we should make plans to be together. I was totally smitten, and I thought that he felt the same way.”

I grab onto her hand and hold it tight in my grip. “Then what happened?” I ask, trying to control my own breathing.

“Well, one afternoon, a woman turned up at the restaurant asking for me. She told me that she was his fiancé.”

I clasp my hands to my mouth, muffling my horrified gasp. “Are you kidding?”

Judging by her solemn expression, she is most definitely not joking about this. “I wish I was. But no. She told me that they had been together for five years and that he had sent her around to call things off. I had no idea he was already engaged.”

I cannot fathom what I’m hearing. What type of person carries on with two different women and then sends over his ‘other lover’ to end the relationship? That is disgusting. My mother must have felt sick to the stomach, knowing that she was being played the entire time and that she happened to be the ‘other woman.’

“I couldn’t believe it,” mum is saying. “I was devastated. I couldn’t wrap my head around what she was even admitting, because I thought I knew him – he was such an honest person Skye, everything he told me felt genuine. But really, I was just his dirty little secret.”

I wasn’t expecting my hate for this man to grow, I am furious. My blood is boiling.

“What did she say to you? Was she angry?”

“She told me that she was used to him having affairs, as he’d done it before. The most upsetting part was that he sent his partner to do all the explaining because he wasn’t man enough to do it himself.”

He really is a pathetic excuse for a man. “She said that as soon as their relationship got serious, he couldn’t cope with the commitment and that’s what started the chain of affairs.”

“Why would his wife keep taking him back if she knew he was seeing other women?”

I’ve never understood how some people can forgive their partner for cheating. It’s bad enough if they do it one time, but to do it several times, should be the last straw.

Why give someone the power to continue hurting you?

Love is a powerful emotion and I get that, but cheating shouldn’t be acceptable in any relationship.

Mum shrugs. “That’s what love can do to you Skye.”

And that’s exactly why I’ve been guarding my heart.

“She was calm about it, like she expected nothing less of him. She was ready to forgive and forget.”

“Did my father already know that you were pregnant?”

“No, I never got the chance to tell him. I told his fiancé about the pregnancy and she said we would be better off not having your father around, as he would only end up hurting us. She did tell me that she’d let him know about the baby when she got home and that she would ring me the following day to sort out arrangements for supporting you.”

“Do you believe that she told him about me?”

“I was sceptical at first,” she says, “In all fairness, she did ring me the following day though. She said that they’d had a long discussion and that he wanted nothing to do with me or the baby – that he’d made a terrible mistake and wanted to focus on his marriage. She then advised me to have an abortion.”

This keeps getting worse.

“Did you consider it?”

“I did, but I knew I couldn’t go through with it. She wasn’t too happy about my decision, but she told me she would make your father set up yearly payments to support you, providing we stay away.”

I scoff. “So, she basically blackmailed you?”

“I wouldn’t call it that Skye.”

I don’t believe that she was helping my mother out of the goodness of her heart. This woman wanted my mother out of the picture and that’s evident, especially due to the fact she practically threw abortion into the mix, hoping that my mother would listen. That was an attempt to get rid of the evidence.

“Did you ever see dad again?” I almost choke on the words. “Did he ever try and get in touch?”

Mum shakes her head in response, becoming teary eyed. “No. I never saw him after that – he even quit work, proving to me that distance was what he wanted. He just vanished and it was as if I’d invented him all along.”

She sighs. “From then on, everything went downhill. Some people in town had heard about the affair and I was frowned upon. I don’t know how the information got out. I got called a homewrecker, and every bad name under the sun. People told me I should be ashamed of myself and I truly did feel ashamed. I was made to believe I was useless, disgusting – a mistake.”

I move closer, cradling mum’s hand in mine. She is shaking and I realize how difficult this must be for her. She’s had to go back in time to a place that caused her the most heartache. That can’t be easy.

“Do you remember when Rob was threatening us for money?” How could I forget? “Well, I wasn’t just working at the cafe. I was desperate, so I went back to the stripclub. That’s how I made the money.”

My heart sinks into my chest.

“And do you remember that day when the weather was really bad, and I went to get some tea bags?” I nod. “I went to see Rob. But, all his friends were there and… it didn’t go well. He made a fool of me in front of them. That’s why I was so shaken up.”

I remember suspecting something wasn’t quite right when she came home that afternoon. I just had no idea what was going on then.

“The bottom line is, your father will do anything to keep us away Skye. He doesn’t want to know. That’s the only explanation I have.”

My chest folds painfully.

My dad never wanted me.

He hates me.

I was the unwanted child.

He doesn’t even love me.

Mum wipes her eyes. The tears are streaming down her face. I’m not far behind. “When you were born, you gave me hope and a purpose, Skye. I had a responsibility to care for you – this new creation. And for that first year, I gave you as much love as I possessed, and things were good. I was having support from a close friend staying in the apartment a few doors down. She was very encouraging, especially after I lost the job at the restaurant.”

Bad luck seemed to be following her around.

“When you were about two years old, Amy moved away, and I struggled to cope on my own. I then started bothering with the wrong crowd and turned to alcohol. Sometimes I’d take drugs, depending on how drunk I was. I felt like such a bad person. My mindset was, I’m just getting what I deserve.” She wipes away a few stray tears as I watch her come apart. “The thoughts became unbearable Skye,” she says, causing a few tears to sting my own eyes.

This is a new side of my mother I’ve never been introduced to until this moment. The timing was never right before, and she was never ready to talk about the past. I’m still shocked she agreed to talk about it now. Mum is a sobbing mess and I let her head fall onto my shoulder in defeat. She stays like that, while I rub her back in slow, circular motions.

“Mum, you didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t know that he was engaged to someone else. How could you have known? He was clearly a cheat and knew what he was doing.”

Her hot breath tickles my neck. “But I’ve made so many mistakes Skye. I’ve let you down. I wasn’t there. I put you in dangerous positions, where you could have been seriously hurt. I’m so sorry for everything.”

This apology means so much more than the one she gave me at the hospital. It’s sincere and causes me to break down. We’re clinging on to each other, eyes sore, bodies heaving, faces moist from our weeping and yet for once in my life, I feel complete.

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