Of Roses and Thunder

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Journey to the Past


William’s helicopter landed on his property in Malibu, California a few short hours after he left New York. He found his mind wandering to the Gods, but he refused to let his thoughts continue: he was done with the Gods and had to restrain himself. He thought that it would be damn near impossible to forget, and everyone resented him for leaving and he found that his plan of action to forgetting was to throw himself down the rabbit hole of drinking.

He fucked up with Maize, and he knew it. He might never get that relationship back, and he knew it. He had gone through phases with the Gods of not speaking before, and this would eventually lead him down the path of self-destruction. But after Talia, he just couldn’t ever be the same person. After her death, the rest of his will to continue on as a God died too.

He walked into his cold, empty house, and as beautiful and expensive as it was, it lacked the fundamental thing that made a house a home: the existence of life. William Townsend lived a destitute life, and he had filled the hole in his heart with girls that came and went out of his bedroom, but after all of that, his house still remained empty. He was the solemn king in a castle over land without meaning, the bitter remnants of everything that used to be his, the empty shell of the man he used to be and the life he once led.

That made him consider: who was he? What happened in those twenty years that made him so jaded? Why were things so different between his past self and the mess he found himself in the present? The answer was waiting for him if he was willing to look in the past for it.

Little did he know, on that very day twenty years ago, on a bitterly cold winter night, Anne Leto found herself on his doorstep in New York City.

The wind was howling, slapping her face in a harsh reminder of David’s hostility towards her. The weather was almost as angry as David, but it couldn’t quite compare in nastiness. Anne was embarrassed to beat down William’s door at that time of night, she arrived without any prior notice, but she really had no other choice. He was the last person she could run to.

William hesitantly crawled out of bed to his front door where he would open it to find a dejected Anne shaking from the cold. This wasn’t the first time she had shown up to his house asking for help, for refuge, and Anne was a little embarrassed to have to reach out for help again and again, for she didn’t want to be in the position David was forcing her to be in.

Anne felt out of place, for she was in the richest neighborhood in the borough, begging on a billionaire’s front porch in her sweatpants. William himself had to process the sight before him for a moment before he realized it was Anne and he pulled her inside. The wind brought a gust of ice chips that followed Anne inside, and William closed the door to the cold quickly.

“Anne, what is happening? Are you alright?” He asked, wrapping her in a blanket.

“It’s David, we had an argument and he kicked me out, and this was the only place I could think of going to at this time of night. I don’t have anyone else, but I need a safe place to stay until he cools down.”

“Oh shit, Anne. Stay as long as you want, here, let me make a pot of coffee and we can talk.” William offered, getting up to go to the kitchen. The situation worried William intensely. He knew that David and Anne were having some problems, but he had no idea of the magnitude. He thought things were business as usual and they were having typical marital spits.

William came back to the living room with two cups of coffee, handing one to her as he sat down next to her.

“I’m just really sorry to bother you, William. You didn’t have to do all of this.”

“Anne, don’t apologize. You’re not bothering me at all. You didn’t wake me; this isn’t a burden. But I think David is a burden on your soul, Anne. Listen, I don’t think he’s good for you, I’m telling you. He’s mean, manipulative, and he doesn’t appreciate you. You need someone who will, for real. He’s not the same, something’s really changed inside of him. He can’t give you the love, and the loving you deserve.”

“I just think he’s going through a rough spot at work right now-”

“Anne. Stop. You go too far to give him the benefit of the doubt all the time. Quit wasting your energy on him because he doesn’t care. He thinks the solutions to his problems lie in taking it out on you and pushing you out of his life.”

“Just because you can balance the stability of your international businesses, placate the UN, and stay awake for so long you can no longer process any emotions other than the primal sensations of rage and hunger all at the same time doesn’t mean everybody can.”

“Anne. Why did he kick you out?”

“He just came home pissed about something, started yelling and the next thing I know I’m out on the street without my keys or anything and he locked me out.”

“You’re not telling me everything. Where did that come from?” William asked, brushing her hair aside and unveiling a bruise on the side of her face. “And that cut on your lip?”

“I stood up and went to leave at the same time he put his arm out on the doorframe and I ran into him and bit my lip.”

“Uh-huh. The bruise?”

“I tried to dodge a vase.”

“That’s fucking ridiculous, Anne. No matter what happens nobody should EVER act like that or do that to you. You do anything you want while you’re here. Make yourself at home. But I think you’ve gotta leave him, Anne.” William said, embracing her. “I can’t stand seeing you like this.”

“I’ll figure it out, William. I will.” She responded and he trusted her.

“But if you need anything, any time, ever-”

“I know you’ll be here.”

“I’ll always be here for you, Anne. No matter what.” He said, running his hands down her arms from her shoulders. He held her closely at the waist and her hands were resting with one on his shoulder and the other on his lower back. She felt the soft material of his shirt and his skin was still prickly from his exposure to the cold.

“I can give you everything he can’t, Anne,” He said, his heart-wrenching. “Just give me a chance to let you know what you’re missing out on with him.”

William was baring his heart for her.

“Out of everyone you could go to, there has to be a reason that you’re here right now, Anne. There’s something here that we both feel, but it just hurts knowing that I can only have you when David doesn’t.”

She couldn’t quite look him in the eye, and he was ready to apologize and leave her alone, facing the consequences of the major risk he just took by finally addressing the connection, the tension, the chemistry between them. Instead, she bit her lip and twisted off her diamond ring, tossing it on the glass coffee table behind them.

“I can’t see that and be reminded of him when I’m thinking about you.”

William let his breath out in relief and cupped her face, she pushed up on his t-shirt and he grabbed on to the waistband of her pants. He pressed his lips to hers and she gripped onto his t-shirt a little tighter. Her cheeks instantly became flushed as he breathed against her skin. He pulled his lips away, not pushing the boundaries more than he already had.

“William, I don’t know what to do.” She admitted, being fully real about her emotions.

“You should get some rest. Everything is easier to handle in the morning after some sleep. Take all the time you need, and whenever you decide to leave him, let me know.”

“William, I want to be with you,” Anne spoke frankly. “But it’s not fair to you or to David-”

“Screw David, and I’ll take anything I can get, Anne. If this is how I can have you, and no matter if that’s selfish or not, if this is how we can both be happy then what’s stopping us?”

William and Anne had, for the last year, experienced something they couldn’t put a boundary on. David had worked with William and Anne was introduced to him at one of his exuberant parties, Gatsby style. The three of them would all be at business meetings together, Townsend Industries outings, fundraisers, anything that William and David did, Anne did too. At the time, William was working with David and Anne at the Assembly, and it was clear to everyone that neither Anne or David were happy, and William wanted something he couldn’t have. David never wanted to believe that neither he nor Anne was totally secure, totally happy. They had fallen in love young, and life changed them both. David was increasingly distant, and it showed. Anne didn’t have many friends, but one happened to be William. They seemed to have a different kind of connection, a different type of relationship that nobody had ever seen before. It was a mix of longing, lust, filling a void, infatuation and genuine compassion for the other.

William and Anne avoided talking about it, except for when they were drunk. Occasionally, they would talk about Anne leaving David, exposing their true feelings for each other, but neither would ever remember, either willingly or not, what they had said. It was easy to push it down and pretend it didn’t exist, but the night was proving that this time it wasn’t so easy.

“Anne, why don’t we just give this a try? It’s been long enough. Right now, it’s just you and me. David doesn’t even exist in my world right now.” William spoke, a few moments of closeness was just enough to make Anne’s cheeks flush. “Let me take the pain away, Anne.”

William kissed her cheek that was red with desire and for the first time, they didn’t want to forget what they had said. They didn’t want to forget what they had done. After all the time they spent avoiding it all, it was finally time to let it run free.

It was extremely hard for William to watch Anne go back to David, to leave the safety of his home, to watch Anne fall right back into David’s trap just to get hurt again. There was nothing he could do to stop her, all he had were his voice and his support for her, but it was hard to watch her walk right back into the jaws of the beast. He felt powerless.

William knew that he would be hurt, considering that they had to keep everything a secret from David. He was, for the first time in his life, the side piece, and it was extremely difficult to keep it away from David considering the three of them were almost always in close proximity. William was always hyper-aware of his body language and his words as to not clue David in on what was happening, but William and Anne had continued their brief affair.

William, cleaning his house, noticed that Anne had left her diamond wedding ring on the glass coffee table, and it had been days since she had left. The ring was a dead giveaway, what was her excuse to him? It pained him to give it back, especially because he had to be discrete about it because it was just a physical reminder that Anne could never really be with him. She had a dedication to someone else, and it just wasn’t him.

It wasn’t long before he was hurt anyway, and he knew it was coming. He was hit by that particular train full of bricks when he was in his office with Anne, and he thought it might be a good idea after a couple of months of casual sleeping together, to suggest some options for them.

“So, Anne, how have things been at home? Is he still treating you like shit and you just haven’t been telling me, or?”

Anne sighed.

“William, I know what this is about, and I can’t leave him. Not now. Things are good again, I swear. I think he really changed, especially because I’m pregnant.”

William had spit out his water. He choked, shocked at the announcement she just made.

“Excuse me, you’re what now?”

“I’m pregnant, William.”

“Okay, I wanted to make sure I heard that right. I mean, I want to say congrats, but I can’t know that you’re staying with that asshole just because you’re growing his offspring. I can’t just let that go, Anne.”

“William, I know what you’re trying to say. I get the point you’re making-”

“Great, then you understand why I’m saying this, right? You can have everything if you’re just not with him. She can have a better life without him, you know he’s not cut out to be a dad, Anne. Don’t stay just because you feel like you have to, because you don’t.”

“William, how do you know it’s a girl?”

“Trust me, I just know. But that’s not the point, Anne, do you see that? He’s just going to get worse and worse and I don’t want to see you fall into that trap.”

“I appreciate your intent, but I’d like you to respect my choices, William! You, of all people! I thought you’d be happy for me!”

“Anne, how can I be happy for you?! You’re trapped by David, and he has everything I ever wanted, and he doesn’t deserve it. He has you, and he has her. He gets the two most gorgeous things in the world, and why?! Is this his gift for being abusive?! I’m just not getting it, Anne. Why him? Why does he get everything, why does he get to fulfill my dream, and I get nothing? I have to watch you walk right out my front door and go back to him and I can’t do a damn thing about it. I can say no all I want, but in the end, he gets you. At the end of the day, he gets to come home to you. He gets to be with you only because you chose him. And I don’t understand why. So, go- if you’re going to leave, just leave and don’t make it hurt any more than it already does.” William rambled, finally snapping. He walked past her and down the stairs, slamming the door behind him.

Anne stood, stunned, just for a moment before saying a silent goodbye to William. She slammed his office door on the way out, and they didn’t speak again until after Maize was born. The scene was a spitting image of how Anne found herself that first night she sought refuge in William, for she was standing on his doorstep with the infant in her arms. Would William even take her back? Not even romantically, but would he even be willing to talk to her again? Look at her again? Forgive her again?

William opened his door. He knew exactly who it was, for there was no one else in his life that would show up at his door in the middle of the night. He didn’t say hello, just the fact that he opened the door for her said enough, for he would always have the door open for her regardless if their relationship was rocky. There was always a part of him that would forever be dedicated to Anne,

“It’s over, William. It’s done. I left him.” Anne spoke the second William opened up the door. She blind-sighted him, and he had more questions than answers.

“What do you mean, Anne?”

“He knows. I told him everything. He knows about us; he knew for a while. It’s done, I was tired of his temper and his manipulation. I found that I know what’s good for me and I know what’s not. So, if you’ll have me-”

William needed a few moments to process what Anne had just told him. He invited her inside, but he disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of champagne in his hand and two glasses in the other. He popped the cork off after he set the glasses down, letting it bubble over onto his hand before he poured them each a glass.

“This calls for celebration, my dear. What a relief, huh?”

“William I haven’t even begun processing-”

“I know. Take your time. Celebrate with me now because the worst is over now, and you can breathe again.”

“William, the worst is yet to come. I don’t have a lawyer as good as his, there’s so much to be done, Maize...”

“His lawyer isn’t better than all of mine, Anne. Let them take care of it.”

“William, I could never ask you to do that for me.”

“Use me, Anne. Please. Whatever you need, take from me. Ask freely of me. What’s mine is yours, Anne. It always has been.”

“Get some rest, Anne. You deserve it, you’ve been through enough. I can put Maize to bed.”

“How come you call her that? Her name is Mackenzie. I’m not sure where you’re getting Maize from.” Anne chuckled.

“Well, David chose her middle name and you chose her first name, so I just feel like I should call her by the name given to her by someone who loves her.” He explained as Anne gently passed over the tiny girl swaddled in blankets into William’s arms.

“Are you sure you’ve got it? She hasn’t slept through the night yet-”

“I’ve got it, I do have a child of my own. Please, Anne, you need sleep.” He reassured. She nodded, trusting him. She kissed Maize on her forehead and kissed William’s cheek before heading upstairs into the bedroom.

Anne slept for nearly an entire day. She finally could relax; she didn’t have any tensions or worries. She, for the first time in almost two years, could rest. Maize slept straight through the night as if she knew too that things were better, and she could be at peace.

William took care of Maize, but it wasn’t that hard for she fell asleep immediately. William spent the rest of the night up, as he had for the majority of his adult life, wondering about Anne, David, Maize, trying to wrap his head around everything that had happened. He needed answers, what did David know? Was he out for blood? What did he want from Anne?

When morning broke, William was snapped out of his trance when Anne yawned and stepped out into the living room, immediately noticing that William was up and was taking care of Maize.

“Oh, my god, William, I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize that it’s been almost a full day, why didn’t you come to wake me up so I could take care of Maize?”

“Because you needed rest, and she was an angel. She’s fed and changed; she wasn’t fussy once and slept all the way through the night.”

Maize cooed softly and burped. Anne was astounded.

“That’s a miracle, William.”

“Yeah, I know that feeling.” He said, but paused, handing Maize back to Anne. “So, you told him everything?”

Anne sat down on the couch next to William.

“Yeah. He knew from the beginning, no matter how hard we tried to hide it. He figured it out pretty easily and yeah, he was angry, but he understood. We had fallen out of love, and he wasn’t that innocent either.”

“You know what, Anne? We need to go out to dinner. This is a lot, but consider it a welcome to the first day of the rest of your new life.”

With that, William and Anne both got dressed in their fancy clothes, and William took her to the Italian restaurant, one with the Mondrian and the Shiraz.

Maybe William was trying to relive the past. After all, that’s where his happy memories were.

Friday, August 12, 2005

On this day I took Anne Leto out for a date. We sat at the table in the corner near this horrible fucking Mondrian painting. I spilled red wine on my white suit, and she splattered red sauce everywhere when I told a bad join and made her laugh while she was eating. That was the moment I knew I loved her. She, for some insane reason, loves this painting so I will always think of her when I see it.

William’s empty house haunted him; it was as if he had completely become a ghost in his former life. Who had he become? How had he fallen down so low?

William tried to find the answer at the bottom of a bottle of vodka, a bottle of pills and patterns of self-destruction. He thought he would live out his days in his Malibu mansion, but his journey actually began in an ambulance, on the news, and in rehabilitation.

He let down everyone he ever loved, and his journey to the past only made him realize that he made irreparable mistakes. He would always forgive Anne, but she may never forgive him. Maize? She would never give him a second chance. Talia was gone for good. He and Dike weren’t on speaking terms. His life as he knew it was over, and he had high hopes for the lives of those he left behind. He genuinely wanted the Gods to find happiness, peace, and success, though he could never find those himself. He found himself repeating his mistakes, he felt as if he could never learn from the past and it would keep repeating itself due to his flaws.

William noticed he always fell just short of having what he wanted. He had everything anyone could ask for, money, fame, brilliance, but he could never have Anne. He could never have a real family. This, his life, was all he would ever get, and money couldn’t buy him the family, the love, the life he craved.

The Gods had to fight their battles against aliens, robots, monsters- but William had a different kind of evil to fight, the kind that lived inside his head and tore him apart from the inside out.

The Gods couldn’t force him to stay and to be a part of the team, but they had hoped to God that William would come back to him. There was an entire team that relied on his expertise, but if he couldn’t see that or if he couldn’t find a way to be there, there was no way that they could bring him back. They wished him the best, and they had prayed that the last time they saw him wouldn’t be the last time they saw him alive.

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