THE PHOTO TRAVELER

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CHAPTER 44

CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

I rush out of the bedroom and into the bathroom, where I slam the door behind me.

This is too much right now. I killed my own sister. And my dad—I can’t fathom the idea that he would ever do such a thing! Did my mom ever know? I’m speechless. I don’t know what to think or say.

But Samantha’s right about one thing—my dad was human and prone to faults. But this… I just can’t—I don’t want to believe it. I wanted so badly to believe that they were absolutely perfect. The thought that they might very well be murderers or thieves or cheaters never even crossed my mind.

Samantha knocks on the door. “Are you okay?”

“Leave me alone! I need a minute!”

What I really want is to kick down the door and bring her down with it. But is she even the one I should be angry with anyway?

I finally walk back into her room. She’s still sitting on the bed.

“I want answers.” I demand.

She nods and begins haltingly telling me, “I loved Liam so much. I’m sure Virge has already told you about my alcoholism and drug addiction. Well, it was losing him that drove me to it after she was born. It was the only way I could escape the gaping hole in my heart. And seeing our daughter every day was a reminder of that pain, every living second.

“Marcus and your father knew each other well. I don’t think anyone knew they were friends, but they spoke often. They met when that a man from Europe, Norrek, reached out to them. But after what happened with Bower’s assassination, your grandparents broke away from Norrek. They wanted nothing more to do with him. Except your dad… he secretly stayed in contact with him.

“Eventually Norrek convinced Liam and Marcus to meet and let go of the past. It was the first time in decades that any of the Hoytts made contact with another photo traveler. Liam and Norrek planned the reunion at our home. Neither your mother nor your grandparents had a clue as to what he was really doing. You can imagine that at first it was a little awkward for them both, but Norrek was very strategic. He kept outlining the similarities between the two of them and ultimately Liam and Marcus discovered they had much more in common than they’d ever thought.”

“Cut to the chase, lady – how did you get involved with my dad?” I grill her.

“The first time I met eyes on him was when he came to meet Marcus. The connection between us was instant. We fought it for a while, but eventually we couldn’t deny our feelings. Of course, we knew we had to keep our relationship a secret…since we were both married. He would come visit me, making up some sort of lie each time he’d visit. No one had a clue. We were very careful.”

My breathing is picking up, but not because of my nerves. This hard air is fueled by a sudden burst of livid rage. “You disgust me.” I spit out. “You talk about having an affair with my dad like we’re walking in the park.”

Her smile quickly dissolves, washed away like sand hit by a wave. “I’m… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude about it. That was inappropriate of me…”

“No shit, genius.”

She rubs her hands together uncomfortably. “What I should have said is… shortly after Virge was born, Marcus found Liam’s letter. He was enraged, and became obsessed with making sure Liam paid for ‘stealing me away’. He started planning to find the crystal vials so he could travel back in time and make sure I never met Liam. He even went as far as to threaten that he’d make sure Liam ‘never existed in the first place’. He was fixated with the idea of having all that power. He said when he succeeded, I’d regret everything. Nothing was going to stop him, which terrified me… because I knew it was true.

“When I found two vials in a drawer, rather than just his one, I confronted him. He fessed up to killing the Pashners for it. But he refused to tell me what else he had planned.

“I tried to warn Liam. Once. I called him at his home and quickly relayed the sort of danger he was in. Your mother was around so he had to hang up quickly. It was the last time I ever heard his voice. I never tried to contact him again because Marcus seemed to have calmed down. He made it appear as if he had started to forgive my indiscretion. I later found out it was all part of his plan. He wanted to make sure no one expected his attack. He let some time pass, and I really believed he had a change of heart. Hope has a way of distorting your judgment. I was just in denial.

“I should’ve known better. The drugs had blurred my reality. And before I knew it, he attacked your parents to get their vial and do away with Liam in the process. He never found it, though, so he did what had worked with the Pashners, and set fire to the house.

“It was horrible! He would taunt me about having murdered Liam. I was a wreck because I’d barely been able to survive knowing that although I had to live without Liam, at least he was alive. After Marcus set the fire, all I had left were my memories.

“So I did the only thing I could. Since Marcus was traveling to the past and stealing drugs to pay for his escapades, I turned him in to the police. Made him look like a drug dealer. But after he disappeared from his jail cell and Virge told me she was behind it, I destroyed every image of him that I could find so he’d stay out of our lives forever. Yogi has never forgiven me for that. She tried using the only photo that was available, which was his mug shot, but I convinced her it was pointless. Even if she tried to visit, it wouldn’t have helped. There would have been too many people around Marcus.

“Virge didn’t understand. She blamed me. Blamed it on my being an addict. I suppose it was an easy explanation. And I had to let her believe it because I couldn’t tell her the truth. I’d lose her forever… But that would only last for so long.”

“That’s what my dad meant!” I interrupt. “That’s how he knew the Hoytts were behind the fire. That’s why he couldn’t say anything to me or in front of my mom. I can’t believe this! How did Yogi end up finding out the truth?”

“I never told her the truth until a few months back. And the only reason I did was because she found the letter. And I was right – she freaked out, blamed me for everything, called me the worst excuse for a mother and a wife.

“Since then, she’s been disappearing for days on end. She’s obsessed with finding the vials so she can find Marcus again. She refuses to believe that he wasn’t her real father, or that he’s an evil, maniacal, and manipulative psychopath. She keeps calling me the liar—actually, ‘a sad, depressed, pathetic liar’.”

“The last time I saw her... she said she had something to tell me. But we didn’t have time...”

“I think she’s found out that she had a brother, and that it was you.”

“Well, she came after my family for the vials. She killed my grandfather! Which is the stupidest thing she could’ve done because he was her grandfather too!”

“No! She’s not a murderer!”

“Yeah? She wasn’t a murderer, right? Just like I never thought my dad was a cheat who’d have a child with another woman. I guess we’re all wrong at some point. Life sucks, don’t it?”

I can’t believe this. Samantha and my dad. Me killing my half-sister... How much worse can things get? There’s no more color to my life. I’m forever destined to gray scale. My life is looking pretty damn abysmal at this point.

I stand up, although I’m still feeling wobbly. “I need to go. This is a lot right now.”

As I turn to leave, Samantha grabs my hand one more time. “Gavin, I am so sorry. I never ever wanted to cause any harm to anyone! I loved your father! I’ll always love him…”

I shake myself free. “I’m so glad to hear that. That’s really so sweet of you. You should know that your ‘love’ for him destroyed everything. And it destroyed your daughter, too.”

She stares at me. “What do you mean?”

I’m having trouble holding back my tears of rage and disgust—at all of them, and at myself. Instead I shrug. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out. It’s one thing your side of the family’s very good at.”

I march out of her room slamming the door behind me.

Samu is back in her recliner, apparently oblivious to what’s been going on. “Sonny,” she asks, “are we going to the dance?”

I open the door and turn to her. “No, we’re not. The party was just canceled.”

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