Taming a Killer

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(ch 9) When It All Falls Down (Aria)


December 20th

Little Mishu looked like marble. Her white and black fur combined beautifully that Aria had fallen in love with her. She wasn’t sure if she would have insisted to take her home, but Vernon had put his foot down, and she needed Vernon. They were on the way home now.

Aria felt a warm glow in her heart at how easy it was to please Vernon. And how much she loved to make him happy. He had clutched Mishu to his chest as they went up and down the aisles of the store, and now their trunk was full of things. Biting her lip, Aria reminded herself that Mishu and Vernon both wouldn’t be able to even stay in their home. Vernon would come and then sent away again. How can she explain this to a young child that had only recently reached their teenage years?

She didn’t realise she was crying until Vernon, his voice filled with fear and worry, asked her what was wrong.

‘Let’s go get some food. I need to talk to you before we get home.’ It looked like Vernon was about to decline her offer when his stomach growled. He gave her a sheepish smile, and she chuckled through her tears.

‘It’s okay, calm down, mama. Everything is fine. Don’t cry.’ But the sweetness of his statement and the burden of what she had to tell him made her break down even harder. Alarmed, Vernon helped her out of the car once they had parked, and put an arm around her waist to direct her.

‘Well, it’s not all bad news, okay? But the good news will make the bad news feel a little better.’ Vernon kept holding her, but she felt him stiffen his arms in return, despite not answering her.

Aria calmed herself as much as she could, requesting a private booth for the both of them. The server was about to complain, so she flashed her Centurion card from Amex. It was something Aria preferred to avoid, as showing off her wealth in any way reminded her too much of Mark. But this was a conversation that needed privacy, and needs were a must.

Vernon’s gaping mouth reminded her that the service they were receiving wasn’t normal. With four servers aiding them, the variety of entrées and appetisers increased.

‘But they haven’t even asked us what we wanted to eat!’ Vernon whispered to her, unable to hide his shock.

‘Don’t worry, they will still ask us what we want. This is only a preparation to show us their hospitality. Why don’t you look at the menu and see what tempts you? And be sure to hide Mishu in your pocket, they will not like that she is here.’

Vernon nodded, pointing at his bulging hoodie pocket. ‘Already safe and sound.’

‘I’m sure you noticed I am here alone?’ Aria began, her voice soft and calm, as if she were talking to a skittish kitten like the one in Vernon’s pocket.

‘Yes, actually. It’s the first thing I noticed when I was up in my tree...’

‘Mmm.’ Aria replied non-committally, staring at her menu while she formed her words together. ‘Well, that’s where things get complicated, I suppose.’

Vernon nibbled on some garlic bread, but stared at her like she was the only person in the world. His wide, innocent eyes, full of hope, wonder and a desperation not to get hurt again, made her hesitate again.

‘I am not in a delightful spot right now, I guess.’

‘Are you in the process of getting a divorce or something?’

Before Aria could answer, one server came back, a pen in her hand, smiling at both of them. ‘Did you decide what you wanted?’

Aria glanced at Vernon to see if he was ready, ‘I’ll have a pizza.’ He peeked at Aria, who nodded silent agreement.

‘You can get chips too if you like.’ Aria encouraged him.

‘Yes, that too,’ Vernon agreed.

‘I’ll have the pastrami burger.’ Aria nodded to the server, who noted it down in her pad.

‘Do you have any cherry coke?’ Vernon perked up at the last minute.

‘Yes, good idea, Vernon. I’ll have diet coke!’ Aria added to the woman, who nodded in agreement at both of them and walked away again. She didn’t miss the way Vernon preened under her compliment.

By this time, Aria had the time to think about what Vernon said. She never would have considered divorcing Mark, but she thought about it now. She didn’t want to be with a man who wanted nothing to do with her kids or love them. It was funny because she had offhandedly said this only the day before when Mark was being a prick. It was possible that deep down she was already considering this. Vernon was just the push she needed to get things established.

Vernon was looking at her, and she realised he was still waiting for an answer to his question. Making a split second decision, she inclined her head.

‘There is something that I need to explain to you because of this, alright?’ Aria waited for him to interrupt or ask a question, but when he didn’t, she continued.

‘Mark, my husband, or your new father... he is not happy that I have had children, it seems.’ Aria sighed, smearing butter on her garlic bread to play for time.

‘You have more than Giovanni?’ Vernon interjected, though he seemed only curious. Instead of responding, Aria unlocked her phone and handed it to Vernon. On her home screen was a picture of Giovanni and Gabriel. ‘Those are my sons.’ She smiled proudly when Vernon handed back her mobile. ‘And now you’re part of that too.’

They leaned back when the waitress returned with their food. Thanking her, they paused the conversation to take their first bite.

Aria chewed her food with care, while Vernon ate a little quicker.

‘Your father has put a new rule yesterday, wanting to send your brothers to a boarding school. Unfortunately, I lost this fight.’

Vernon had stopped eating. ‘I won’t be living with you?’

Aria had expected this question, but it still hurt to answer him. ‘Not at first, no. He’s a volatile man, and divorcing him is the right thing to do. The plan is you boys will go to school, and I will deal with the divorce and lawyers while you boys are safe and away from him.’

Vernon nodded his head slowly, taking another bite of his pizza. His face was still pale, but it seemed he was accepting the situation.

‘I will always keep in touch with you and the others, so don’t worry at all.’

‘What was the good news?’ Vernon asked her, sliding over the previous topic for a nicer one.

For the first time in their conversation, Aria smiled. ‘You will get to see when you arrive.’

‘But my father doesn’t know about me?’ Vernon frowned, his lip trembling the slightest bit. He tried to hide it by drinking, but Aria noticed anyway. It seemed Vernon wasn’t as good at hiding his emotions as Gabriel. She felt warm and happy that she could have Vernon as a son, even though that wasn’t her original intention.

‘I am going to sneak you in from the back. We will call Gabriel and let him know we are coming. It’s a door that Mark isn’t aware of, as he isn’t the exploring type. We’ve had it installed a few years ago, so it’s a secret that it’s there.’

Vernon bowed his head in acceptance.

‘Do you want some ice cream before we go?’ Aria asked him, reaching over to card her fingers through his blond, curly hair. Aria could have sworn that he purred at her action, and her affection for him increased.

There needed to be a way for her to be with her kids. She would not let Mark take control of her. She wasn’t a pushover after all.

Vernon shook his head. So, after leaving a hefty tip on the table, Aria took his hand, while Vernon used her free hand to hold Mishu. The two of them waved goodbye to the staff and headed to the car.

Vernon was swinging her arm back and forth as he cuddled Mishu to his chest, and Aria felt a sudden calmness. It was becoming clear to her the more time she spent with Vernon. Her shifting perspective was enlightening her to what was important and what she had to do.

Once they were in the car, Aria took out her tablet and opened the browser to a new page. ‘Do you want to play with my phone while I take care of something? Also, I need to get you a phone. You can’t go to school without one.’

Vernon appeared flabbergasted at her words, but took the phone from her hands gently, and found a game. When she was sure that Vernon wasn’t paying attention, she opened the airfare site and got busy. She still needed to buy aeroplane tickets. Aria Felt invigorated and excited about her alternative plan. With a flourish, Aria prepared tickets for five people instead of the original four. She would need to pack her luggage in secret. She was looking forward to seeing the mixed reactions of her family. With a smirk, she put her tablet away and started the car.

‘Now to get you a phone, kiddo.’ She smiled at her new son, and the way he grinned back made all her previous troubles melt away.

Her plan continued to develop in her brain as she drove. This would be a hectic year for sure, but she was looking forward to it.

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