Cultivating Trust

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LuAnn

Brandt

The session at the studio turned to crap early on. A week since starting the new album and it wasn’t a good omen. Although this was a new sound system, it seemed to distort the instruments, and I forced my singing to compete; it had none of the usual depth. My mind held other distractions as well. LuAnn met me outside the studio yesterday morning with a picture of a baby, supposedly mine, and I couldn’t think of anything else since then.

Consequently, it had led to me being short with Chelsea. Acting as the new album was the issue, I covered up for the fact I could possibly have a son and tried to figure out what the fuck to do about it. Our relationship was too new to throw a baby into the mix, and LuAnn had talked about child support already, insisting on back support and wanted a payout for keeping quiet about the kid.

Was the child mine? Hell, it could have been. The boy was too young to tell if he looked like me, but LuAnn had dark hair and olive skin while the baby had my blond hair and blue eyes. I wasn’t the only person with those features, but I had been with her a year ago when the child would have been conceived. I had known she was into me and I’d used it to my advantage, but my careless fling seemed to be coming back to haunt me.

Ron had been glaring at me all day, looking at me like the impatient prick he was. He knew my focus had shifted off of the album today, and if he thought bringing Chelsea back to California with me was a bad idea, he would flip over LuAnn. I needed to tell him though. He had connections that could help, and I needed to know if the baby was mine. As he approached I tried to make up my mind to ask for his help. “Brandt, what the hell is wrong with you? You’re singing like you got your dick stuck in a wood chipper. We need to pump out an exceptional record and get it done in as little time as possible. I want Social Offender back on the road before people forget who you are. This time you will be headlining instead of being the opening band, but you need to get your head out of your ass first.”

Ron, always concerned with the almighty dollar, pushed us every which way, but I had to remember without him pushing, we would still be playing small rat-infested dives in the crappy part of town. Him badgering us proved economical as now I could afford things I’d only dreamed about. And he was right. The music industry was fickle. Here today, gone tomorrow.

“I, ah... I’ve got an issue.” He just stood there, looking like I’d told him what he already knew. “There is this groupie that came by and talked with me yesterday. She told me we had a son together.” I didn’t say much more, letting it sink in and watching Ron’s face turn twenty different shades of red.

Instead of blowing his top as expected, he surprised me as he slowly took a deep breath and calmed down. After letting out another deep breath he said, “Well, do you even remember fucking her?” He didn’t wait for my answer as my diverting my eyes from his was proof enough. “What did I tell you about those fucking groupies? They are only after your money. If you would just remember to wrap your cock before sticking it EVERYWHERE, then this shit wouldn’t happen!”

His voice escalated, and I assured him I was aware of the stipulations of our contract. “Ron, I used a rubber. She told me she fished it out of the trash. How was I supposed to know she would fucking do that?”

It never ceased to amaze me what a groupie would do to be part of the fame and get what they wanted. I knew enough to never believe the ‘STI free’ speech and the ‘don’t worry I am on birth control’ speech, but to fish my used rubber out of the garbage, well, I didn’t think LuAnn capable.

“How were you to know? Seriously? How about the fact you are now on your way to becoming a fucking multi-millionaire? That should have clued you into this. Every bitch with a cunt would be more than willing to birth you a whole slew of little bastards if they could hustle you for money.”

Calming back down, his focus landed on the problem at hand. “I need her name and details. Don’t give her any money or information until I check on this. Better yet, avoid the bitch. Don’t talk with her anymore. She will just use that as ammo.”

That I understood. I was avoiding her already, but I couldn’t for much longer. I gave Ron all the information deemed necessary. As much as I didn’t want to, I told him about the night of the supposed conception, which involved another woman. For a brief time in my life, I had been into threesomes. At least until one particular threesome where I was being ignored. My ego wouldn’t put up with it, and I gave up the idea of more than one person in my bed.

I didn’t know where LuAnn currently lived but I had her phone number and the name of the other girl involved. As much as I didn’t want to talk to Ron about this matter, he ended up delivering as we finished in the studio later that day. It was already late when we gave up on recording anything of value. Ron pulled me aside and gave me a paper with the information of a private clinic about an hour’s drive away. “Go now, they are waiting for you. They require a DNA sample, so I can prove the little bastard isn’t yours. At least, you better hope not.”

“But--”

“They are discrete. We need to jump on this before it’s too late.”

Not seeing a different solution, I left right away and thought of calling Chelsea. But what would I say? She knew recording could run late, so not calling was the better plan. If this worked, I would at least know more, and then I could tell her what was going on.

When LuAnn showed up, waiting outside the studio for me, yesterday, I didn’t want to admit it. I flat out refused to accept we shared a son and told her as much. I even pushed it from my mind, as far as going home and talking with Chelsea like it never happened. What would she think? Coming all the way out to California and trying to become accustomed to a lifestyle so far from her normal, I would surely lose her, and it scared me more than I wanted to admit.

Getting in my car, I lowered the convertible roof to have the wind on my face. I had to stop avoiding talking to Chelsea about this. Starting out a new relationship with secrets wasn’t going to solidify our bond but I kept on hoping it would all work out to avoid saying anything to her at all. I needed to face this head-on, and find out what I was up against before I brought Chelsea into this mess.

The DNA test could prove that the kid wasn’t mine. I hated putting all my trust in that, but I didn’t have another solution. That kid had to be someone else’s. It had to be.

Now with a plan, I felt at least a little better, but I still could not shake the gloom of the day.


Chelsea

In the office, looking over Brandt’s finances, I still felt as though I intruded on his personal matters even though he urged me to do it. First firing his ‘maid’ service, and then taking over his bookkeeping, all in the span of a couple of weeks. It felt longer, but I had to remind myself we didn’t know each other as well as I thought. Some days it seemed as though I knew him better than myself and other days he remained foreign to me, especially lately. He had a lot on his mind with the new album and all the fighting that happened in the studio, but I also had the sense he was avoiding me.

The doorbell chimed, and I got up from the desk to go to the front door. Hesitant to open the door of a house that wasn’t even mine, I peered out the side window of the massive entrance. To the left of the opening stood a lady around my age, with long brown-black hair. I opened it to satisfy my curiosity, "Can I help you?”

The woman brushed past me as though she knew the house. “So, you are the new girl? Brandt always had a thing for blondes. Although, he honestly had a thing for women in general.” It stunned me at how blunt California people were. Did Wisconsin people beat around the bush or did they have more manners?

“Brandt is not here.” I tried to sound put off so she would get the hint and leave, but instead, she walked further into the house. “You can come back when he returns.”

“I know he is not here. That is why I came. He hasn’t been returning my phone calls, so I thought I would send a little warning with the new honey.” She turned to stare into my eyes, almost as though sizing me up. She was shorter than me. I figured about five feet two or three but still had a commanding presence. Her straight, brown-black hair went down to the small of her back, and she had green eyes with olive skin. She had a short, slender body and dressed to show it off in a low-cut green halter top and short shorts. She had on wedge sandals that improved her height, but not enough to make it past my nose.

“Tell Brandt that LuAnn stopped by, and he needs to start paying child support for his son before I take it to the press.” My gasp seemed to please her, alluding to the fact I had no previous knowledge of the situation.

Brandt had a son? He must have known for a while. Why didn’t he tell me? She looked smugly over at me, “Oh, you didn’t hear? Brandt has a 3-month-old son. A little blondie with blue eyes and boy can he scream. He sure does belt it out just like his daddy.” Could this be true? The pit of my stomach churned with the realization. The fact that the news affected me so deeply gave her even more pleasure.

“I figured out once Cami left, he would play the field a little more, but I guess you must be the rebound.” How dare she speculate on why we were together. Cami and Brandt’s relationship ended over six months ago.

The thought struck me as weird. I mentioned, “What a second. You said the baby was three months old but Brandt didn’t break up with Cami until...” I didn’t even finish before a smile curled on her lips.

“I didn’t say they weren’t together when we hooked up now, did I?” Did Brandt cheat on Cami?

“Listen, you seem nice enough, but that is not what a man like Brandt needs. We met because Cami couldn’t please him the way he wanted. Sweet and innocent will only go so far with a man like Brandt. Besides, I didn’t mind the girl-on-girl sex Brandt requested. Once we found the right girl that is, and Brandt was more than willing.” The way she described Brandt made it seem I never knew him at all. He had an affair and liked threesomes? He had a child and didn’t bother to tell me? I didn’t know what disappointed me the most, and my body turned cold with shock.

LuAnn took pity on me given the information she’d laid upon me. She wandered back over to the door shaking her head and gentling her voice. “Look, Brandt is a special man with special needs. If you can’t satisfy those needs, then let the people who can take over.” She walked out the front door and turned around one last time, her eyes became hard before she said, “And remember, I want the checks to start coming in soon, or I talk.” Shutting out the view of her as soon as I could, I vaguely remembered hearing her car start and leave the driveway through my deadened senses.

Why did I sit back and take it? Why didn’t I stand up for Brandt? Because part of me already believed her. Brandt had a past we rarely talked about but maybe it was a mistake.

My body itched for a cigarette. My old vice reared its ugly head when the stress got too much for me. Come to think of it, a bottle of wine would be a good idea right now too. I grabbed my purse and searched for the nearest gas station before my better judgment set in.


Brandt

After coming back from the clinic where I gave my DNA sample, I quietly entered the household. Although it was late, and the house dark, I got the feeling she wasn’t sleeping. The idea of telling Chelsea about LuAnn weighed heavily on my mind. She deserved to know the truth, but I kept hoping the problem would resolve on its own before I had to admit my part.

Walking into the kitchen from the garage, I noticed the door to the deck half open and smelled a familiar pastime of hers. As I traveled through the patio doors, I saw the apparent glow of a cigarette. Chelsea sat in a lounge chair, a vague shape in the night sky. Barely seeing her under the shine of the moon, I waited until my eyes adjusted to the darkness to read her face.

“Chelsea, what are you doing out here?” She knew my feelings about her smoking. I thought she had quit after I’d made it clear I didn’t care for it. Catching her with a cigarette after knowing my thoughts on the subject gave me a weird sinking feeling.

“How many girls have you been with, Brandt?” The question stopped me in my tracks, unnerving me. As my eyes adjusted to the low light, and I tried to figure out where our conversation headed, I spotted the empty wine bottle. Not being a heavy drinker, Chelsea sounded as though she drank the bottle in one big gulp.

“Chelsea, have you been drinking?” My way of diverting the question didn’t seem to be working.

“How many girls have you slept with, Brandt?” The sinking feeling formed a pit in my stomach realizing she knew what I hadn’t told her for the last couple of days. I needed to come clean now and explain before it was too late.

“Chelsea, there is something I need to tell you.”

“You mean about the fact you have a son?”

I wasn’t surprised Chelsea found out. I could even guess how and she confirmed my suspicions. “A woman named LuAnn came to see me today. She wanted me to give you a message. She said she had better start seeing her child support, or she will run to the press.” Chelsea took another drag of her cigarette and slowly blew the smoke out. The tendrils caught the wind and traveled out to sea and I felt my hope float along with it. “When did you find out about your son?”

She turned her head to look at me, her pain evident. Streaks of tears shined in the moonlight as they fell from her eyes. Fear gripped me tight making it hard to breathe. I wanted to explain, hoping she would let me, “I found out two days ago.”

“When were you going to tell me?”

The secrets I kept the last couple of days unraveled before me and the discussion I’d been dreading threatened to surface, but I guess it was long overdue. I owed Chelsea the truth. “I wanted to know if he was mine for sure before telling you. I just told Ron today and went to a clinic to give a DNA sample.” She turned her head back to the view of the beach contemplating my answer or possibly the next question. I hurt her with my indiscretion and needed to come clean, knowing that I couldn’t lie to her now.

“How many women? Tens... hundreds... thousands,” a small lifeless chuckle followed her words.

It hurt just to hear her ask. “Chelsea, I don’t think it matters.”

But it did. The way she quickly turned her head and flashed her blue eyes at me said it all. The sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach ate away at me knowing my past would be revealed, and she would hate me for it. Unworthy of Chelsea, I wondered why I even thought I had a chance with her. I deserved this. I deserved to feel like shit. Straightening my shoulders, I brought my hands out to grip my wrists in front of me, awaiting her damning questions. Let me have it. This was my purgatory.

“How MANY women Brandt?” Her voice grew louder with my inability to answer.

Shaking my head, I answered in a small voice “Too many to count.” A flood of new tears poured out of her eyes and my own eyes stung in response. I hated seeing her cry, and being the sole reason for her pain rested fully on my shoulders, making it all the worse.

"LuAnn said she was with you and another woman.” She might not know everything but what she knew about my past started to drive a wedge between us, and I was helpless to stop it. Tears came harder, rushing down her face, and she huffed in a deep painful breath with each question she threw are me. I caused this. Me and my stupid decisions.

“Have you slept with more than one woman at a time?”

I swallowed and answered, “Yes.”

“Has there been more than two women at a time?”

“Yes.” My voice merely a whisper, still managed to relay the damaging information. Her shoulders hunched over, and she turned her face away from mine. The shielding of her pain from me was an unlikely reprieve from my own sorrow.

The need to comfort her pulled me towards her. I started to walk closer when her hand came up, and a forceful voice I hadn’t heard come from her before said, “Stop!”

“Chelsea, please let me explain. I did things I am not proud of, thinking I would never be held accountable.”

Through bits of sobbing came, “Things have changed now, haven’t they, Brandt?” Her crying worsened, and I tried to touch her again. Comfort her. Hold her in my arms and try to make it right. Loving her made me better. Better than the man I was back then, and I never wanted to disappoint her again.

Bravely, I crept forward, unable to tolerate the space between us any longer, but not wanting to hurt her anymore. When I got close, she stood up on the other side of the lounge chair, keeping it as a buffer between us. “No, Brandt. Don’t come near me.” She sniffled and went on, “I need to get some sleep. I am leaving early tomorrow for Wisconsin.”

It knocked the wind out of me. Could she really be leaving me? It was my worst nightmare and I needed to stop this. “Chelsea, don’t go.” Anything but that.

“I have to Brandt; I need to think.”

“Please stay here. I will give you all the time you need, but please don’t leave me.” If she left, it would be harder to work this out and I feared she wouldn’t return once back in the clutches of her father who hated me.

“I am going up to the bedroom and locking the door. I know that you could still get in if you wanted, but I am asking that you don’t.”

She asked me to stand down, to back off and let her go, but I couldn’t give her up. I knew this was all my fault and I needed her, but she became such a large part of my life in the little time I had known her, it felt as if a part of me was being destroyed. She deserved better, but I was selfish. The thought of her with a more deserving man crept into my head, a hero to her that wouldn’t disappoint her as I did. She wasn’t raised to take sex so casually. Where I could see sex as sex, she saw it as a shared act of love between two committed people. It was a realization that had only recently overcome me. She deserved the man of her dreams, the love she dreamed about as a little girl, and not at all the asshole before her. Even with that knowledge, I still didn’t want to give up my hold on her.

My eyes fought to hold back the tears. “You can stay in the house, and I will leave.” It was my one last effort. I didn’t know what else to do to prove to her I would do anything to keep her.

She shook her head, “I can’t think clearly when I am around you.” It shouldn’t have, but the statement gave me a little hope. Proving at least she still loved me. How could I not let her go and give her the space she needed, but how could I watch her leave to never come back?

Chelsea left the outside deck and retreated into the house, but my own tears didn’t start until I watched the lights go out in our bedroom. Alone with my thoughts, I sat down, heavily, on the lounge chair. I buried my head in my hands, despondent. How could I convince her to stay?

I didn’t even bother moving, and slept out on the deck, transfixed by the ocean in front of me, which we shared a love for.

My dreams became nightmares as morning light approached. Sleep came in fits, so it didn’t take me long to wake up. When I noticed light shining through our French doors, I could only imagine her packing to leave me. I needed to talk to her but refrained from going upstairs. She locked me out for a reason.

Meeting her at the bottom of the stairs, in the entryway, I notice how rung out and pained she looked. I caused this. I caused her hurting and I didn’t deserve her. She tried to leave without a confrontation, but I couldn’t just let her go.

“Don’t leave.” It was all I could muster. I realized my feeble attempt at keeping her near me gave her pain.

“I have to go, Brandt.”

“Then at least let me drive you.” Any lasting time with her was worth it even if it meant to prolong the inevitable.

Before she could answer, a cab pulled into the driveway making us both look to the front window. It seemed I couldn’t catch a break. I was losing her, and I knew it.

“You’re not coming back, are you?”

She looked at me with her big, shining blue eyes but didn’t give me the answer I wanted. “This isn’t the end Brandt, but I need space.”

Space wouldn’t cure what was going on between us. How could she not think this was the end? When I reached for her one last time, needing to feel the connection I caused to break, she pulled away from me and it felt worse than a slap to the face.

“I can’t.” Chelsea opened the front door and my hope of reconciliation drifted out into the light breeze.

“I love you.” She paused only briefly at my affirmation and then I watched as she walked out the door and out of my life.

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