Dancefloor Dust

Chapter 18

The walk back to my room seems endless, but finally I reach it and once the door closes behind me, the tears start streaming freely and I slide down to the floor. I feel like all strength has left me, as if listening to the truth that unmasked my life as a big lie drained all energy from me. I try to make sense of what I just learned but can't wrap my mind around the fact that the person I loved the most betrayed me like this. I just had arrived at a point where I trusted Will again after learning about his infidelity, finally believing we had arrived in a better place in our relationship. I really felt happy during the last days after everything was fine with our baby. Fresh tears stream down my face as I mentally cross out the word 'our' and say good-bye to my dream of the perfect family for good. I'll be a divorced, single parent. The thought alone leaves me scared and feeling completely alone as it sinks in that not only Will betrayed me but my whole family lied to me as well. I'm not sure what hurts more, the deceit or the fact that my mother and brother helped cover it up by staying silent.

I eventually pick myself up from the floor and walk over to the bed, sitting down with a sigh. My mind seems blank all of a sudden, the pain overshadowing everything. I take a few deep breaths, trying to focus on what is most important now, my daughter. A knock on the door startles me and I hurry to wipe the tears from my face before I call 'Come in' towards the door.

"Hi, this little lady is hungry, Mrs. Gardner." a nurse enters the room, wheeling in Grace's crib.

"Thanks. I was just about to go and get her." I scoot down the bed and walk over to take my baby from her.

"Are you all right, Mrs. Gardner?" the nurse asks, looking at me concerned.

"Yeah, I'm ok. I just had some upsetting news." I try to smile as she places Grace into my arms.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Just bring her back to us if you need some time to your own, once you're done feeding her." she returns my smile and leaves the room.

I sit back down on the bed and as I pull Grace closer to my chest new tears roll down my face. I sob silently for a few minutes until she starts whimpering and I recall why the nurse brought her over. I start nursing her, watching her little fingers grabbing at my shirt, her eyes shut tight and once more that wave of unconditional love runs through me. I've felt it every time I've held her since she was placed on my chest for the first time after she was born and I knew that moment that no matter what would happen in my life, that she would always come first. I recall those thoughts now and I know I'll get through this for her.

I keep her in my arms as she's done eating, watching her face, taking her tiny hand into mine. She yawns, holding on to my fingers and now that I know she isn't Will's I can see some resemblance with Peter. Realizing this hurts as it makes me remember what happened not an hour ago and I can feel the tears well up again. I pull my baby closer to my chest and once more the tears run freely until another knock makes me look up again.

"Who is it?" I call out while I put Grace in her crib and wipe the tears away. Instead of an answer the door opens.

"Hello pumpkin!" my Dad walks in, carrying an enormous teddy bear in his hands.

"Dad?!" I exclaim and rush over to him, flinging my arms around his neck and burying my head at his chest.

"Hey, honey. What's the matter?" he returns the hug and I start crying again. He just holds me for a while before he pushes me back gently so he can look into my face.

"Why the tears, pumpkin? Tell me." he steers me to the bed and we both sit down.

"It was all a lie, Daddy. Will betrayed me probably from the start." I whisper as I try to swallow more tears that well up as I voice what happened for the first time. He places an arm around my shoulders and pulls me close, so my head rests on his chest.

"How about you finish crying, honey. Let it out and once you feel like there are no more tears left, you'll tell me everything. Take your time." he smiles at me as I peer up into his face before I bury mine at his neck, nodding at his words.

"So, what are you gonna do now, honey?" he asks me a while later after I have told him what happened shortly before he arrived.

"I have no idea, Dad." I sigh as I take Grace out of her crib as she has started crying.

"Can I hold her?" he asks me and I realize he hasn't even seen her properly yet. He has been here for a visit shortly after Grace was born but she was still in the incubator then.

"Of course." I reply and place her in his arms.

"Hey, Gracie. I'm your granddaddy and you can be sure I will spoil you rotten." he tells her, tickling her stomach, while she's grabbing his fingers.

"See, she laughed at me." he looks up, smiling brightly at me. "She has your smile, pumpkin."

"I'm sure she did, Dad." I smile weakly at him, remembering my earlier thoughts about her looking like Peter. I'm actually wondering why I didn't see it before.

"So, when will this little princess be released?"

"I'm not sure yet. Maybe next week. That's what the doctor told me yesterday."

"So, how would you feel if you and your mother came to spend some time with me then? Would you like that, Gracie?" he murmurs to my daughter.

"You could get away from here for a while and think about what you want to do, Alicia." he addresses me now and his use of my full name makes me look up.

"I can't run away, Dad." I whisper, though it seems like the easiest solution.

"You won't. You'll just get away for some time, getting your strength back while you figure out what you'll do next. Just think about it." he smiles at me.

"I will. Thank you, Daddy."

"Hey, Peter!"

I look up from my phone, turning my head to find the person who called me.

"Hi Owen." I smile as I see him sitting on one of the benches in the corridor of the courthouse.

"What are you doing here?" I ask as I walk towards him.

"Waiting for my lawyer. My trial starts today." his glance wanders to the floor.

"Oh, I totally forgot about that. I'm sorry, Owen." I admit, feeling guilt rising inside of me.

"Don't be, Peter. You had enough on your own plate. How are you?"

"Good, I mean ok, but I've been better." I shrug and my smile fails miserably.

"I can imagine. I'm sorry I told you to go to the hospital." he flashes me an apologetic smile.

"Don't be, Owen. I'm so grateful you did. I was at least able to see Grace for a few minutes." I sit down next to Owen. "Thank you."

"I'm glad you see it that way. I never thought Will would show up and Alicia would find out that way. I'm sorry for that."

"It's fine, Owen." I hope he won't go on as the pictures of a devastated Alicia rise again before my inner eye.

"I'd love to chat but I have an arraignment scheduled in a few minutes." I glance at my watch and stand.

"Sure. I need to start looking for my lawyer. My trial starts soon." he looks around the corridor before we shake hands.

"Who'd you get? I assume Will isn't representing you any longer."

"No, he isn't and I can't say I'm sorry about that." he chuckles briefly. "Her name's Elsbeth Tascioni. A friend recommended her. I hope she's as good as he says." he adds with a skeptical glance.

"Never heard of her, but you seem to have some doubts."

"Well, she's, how should I put it, a little different. Oh, there she is. Elsbeth, over here!" he calls out and I turn around. I see a red-haired woman hurrying towards us. She's carrying two heavy-looking, oversized purses and she seems to struggle under their weight.

"Hi, Owen." she comes to a halt next to us, letting the purses fall to the floor.

"Sorry, I'm late. I met with the private investigator I hired. He had some interesting stuff for me. Wait, I got it right here." she bends down and starts rummaging through one of her purses.

"Where is that folder? Would you mind holding this?" she shoves a lunch box and a stuffed rabbit into my hands.

"Sure." I state a little irritated.

"Oh my god. I'm so sorry. I was looking for this earlier when I dropped off my son at the day care." she takes the things out of my hands and tosses them in the other overfilled bag.

"Well, I really need to go. Good luck, Owen."

"Oh, I'm sorry for keeping you, Mr….I think I forgot your name."

"I didn't introduce you, Elsbeth. That's Peter Florrick, a friend and an ASA. Peter, that is Elsbeth Tascioni, my new lawyer." Owen chimes in.

"Oh, you're an ASA. Then you can't be anywhere near that conversation with my client. I'm sorry, Mr. Florrick."

"It's alright. See you, Owen." I wave as I walk away.

"Peter?" I turn as I hear Owen calling after me.

"Could we meet up for coffee later?"

"Sure. Just drop by my office when you're done."

"So, how did it go?" I ask Owen after the waitress has placed the coffee on our table.

"I guess it went ok. Elsbeth was pleased. She said you guys barely have a case." we both take a sip from our cups.

"That's good. You know I don't believe you did this, right?" I put down my coffee cup, smiling.

"I do, Peter. But Elsbeth told me not to talk about the case with you. She's afraid because you work for the enemy. Her words, not mine." he laughs and I join him.

"Yeah, she is a little different. But I talked to some of my colleagues earlier, who had cases against her and they all said she's very good. Unconventional sometimes but she's successful with it. I think you are in good hands, Owen." I smile at him encouragingly.

"That's good to hear because honestly she's the only one who was willing to take my case. I guess Will gave word to most of the other firms in Chicago." he spins his cup in between his hands.

"You think he'd actually do that?"

"I wouldn't put it past him. Not with what we know what he did to my sister." he sighs.

"How is she?" I ask, but regret it immediately, casting down my glance.

"Alicia?" he asks back and I just nod.

"I don't know." he states in a low voice.

"What do you mean, you don't know?" I look up, but he's avoiding my gaze.

"She refuses to talk to me and to our mother. She thinks we betrayed her by not telling her the truth." he admits with a shrug.

"Oh, Owen, this is all my fault. You wanted to tell her and I told you not to. I'm so sorry." I'm shocked at what Owen told me.

"Don't be, Peter. I could've told her if I really wanted to, but I didn't because I respected your decision. And you were right. It wasn't our secret to tell."

"I'm not so sure about that anymore. I think it was a mistake not to tell her. She had a right to know her husband betrayed her like this. She shouldn't have learned it the way it happened. I can't get her image out of my head when I told her the truth. That look in her eyes, Owen. So much pain. And all because of me." I sigh and close my eyes in a futile hope all I'll see is darkness but Alicia's hurt look is more clearly than ever. So I open them again quickly.

"Don't think like that, Peter. She'll probably need a while to realize it, but you gave her what she had wanted for a long time, a child."

"Maybe, but she never wanted it from me. She wanted a family with her husband. Sometimes I think it would've been better if we never met again. It would've spared her so much pain." I sigh.

"Don't say that, Peter. She was happy while she was with you. In fact, I think she was happier during that short time with you than she ever was with Will."

"Don't try to comfort me. She might have been happy, but she didn't love me, Owen." I shake my head at his words.

"I'm sorry, Peter. I didn't want to upset you. What are you going to do now?"

"It's alright, Owen." I flash him a half-smile. "I'm not sure I know what you mean. Do about what?"

"About Grace? Will you still stay out of her life?" he asks me challenging.

"I haven't thought about that, but Alicia was very clear that she never wants to see me again. So, I don't really have a choice."

"You are her father and Alicia can't keep you from her. And who says she hasn't calmed down by now?"

"I doubt that. And even if she has, I don't even know where she is." I state calmly, thinking that I will get Owen to shut up about this faster if I seem to agree with him. I already made up my mind that I won't bother Alicia any longer. I had made my peace with the fact that I wouldn't be there to see my daughter grow up and I won't hurt Alicia any more by fighting her over custody.

"She's at my Dad's in California. You should book a flight, Peter." he smiles.

"No, Owen. I won't add any more pain to the one I've already caused." I shake my head to emphasize my words.

"Just in case you change your mind." he hands me a piece of paper with the address of his father.

"Thanks, Owen, but I won't."

"I'll get it, Dad." I call towards the kitchen as I walk to the front door to answer the knock.

"Thanks, pumpkin. That's probably Mike from my office, dropping off some files. Just tell him I'll be right out. I'm putting Grace down for her nap."

"Ok, Dad." I open the door without checking through the window who it is.

"Hi Alicia."

"You?" I can't believe who's standing in front of the door.

"I told you I never wanted to see you again. I meant it." I call out as I slam the door shut.

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