The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 36 - Family Reunion

a/n: a little bit of introspection into Eric's character

let me know what you think :)

CHAPTER 36 - FAMILY REUNION

ERIC'S POV

I gripped the steering wheel tightly, gritting my teeth. Why the hell did I let him convince me to do this? It's useless. He's had lots of chances all over the years and he spoiled them all, why should that illness tale move me? Just because he's sick and he's finally realized he's got more than one son, doesn't mean I should be lenient. I know I won't be able to be. Because, to be honest, I've accumulated much resentment and bile all over the years. Especially because, hadn't he eloped like he did, then my childhood, my whole damn life, wouldn't have been so crappy. Maybe they would have gotten divorced anyway, but I would have had a chance to choose at least. Maybe I could have avoided all of that.

But no. He eloped. Forgot about his son for all these years and now, all of a sudden, because he's dying, he recalls he'd spread his seed somewhere else before impregnating his own secretary. After all these years, he decided I do exist and he wants to see me. Like I didn't have enough troubles. Lucky thing there's my sweet Natalie to keep me up enough not to reach the deepest gutter.

As you can guess, I was sitting in my car, which was pulled over a very specific driveway. Yeah, it was a Friday afternoon, well, almost evening, considering it was half past six already, and I was about to meet my father. My father. For the first time for real. My mother told me he eloped that I was barely two, after he found out about his secretary had given birth to his child after she left Washington (consider Kyle is only five months younger than I), so yeah, I barely remember him. Actually, I don't remember him at all. All I remember about him is his staring at me in utter shock just four years ago, at a soccer match, going so pale that he looked like he'd seen a ghost.

Although I'd seen him before. In pictures, that is. My mother has always been pretty eager to point out that it was my fault if that charming man had abandoned her to form a new family, because he too knew since the beginning what a damn waste of life I was, therefore he thought better to just elope. Because it couldn't be not wanting to take responsibilities, no. He took full responsibilities of the son he had with his secretary during an extramarital relationship, but he didn't want me. So I was the problem. Not her, not her drinking, not her being a dumb bitch attached to money. He left because he didn't want me.

Now I'm here, to comply with his last wishes. Why the hell did I agree? Oh, yeah, because my half-brother has pestered me for more than a week, showing up wherever with the excuse of having promised to Natalie to try and be friends with me for her sake. I'll admit he did play his role pretty well, I mean, he approached me always when she was in sight and could see us talk, but I highly doubt it was to make her see he was indeed trying his best, well, not just because of that. I bet it was more because he thought she was his guarantee I wouldn't snap and beat him to a pulp.

Because he knows she is my weakest point. Remember that time in the cafeteria, when my snapping brought to Natalie telling me she hated me? Yeah, that confirmed his idea that if there's one person in this world that has ever had power over me, that's her. She can manipulate me how she wants, you think I don't know that? I love her, for God's sakes. I am desperately in love with her and this week I've struggled not to let her mesmerizing eyes and smiles trick me into declaring so soon.

Every time we're cuddling, every time she looks at me so innocently while abandoning herself in my arms, as if to tell me that she indeed trusts me as she never has, every time she smiles so sweetly at me, melting my heart, I have to bite my tongue forcefully not to blurt out those three magic words that, said at the wrong moment, will only freak her out. She gazes at me with such joy in her eyes, such a bright light, that I almost always make the mistake of believing she can love me.

Part of me still chastises me, telling me I should have kept away, for her own good, but then again, uncle Sam told me we're closing in, we're close to incriminating that son of a bitch in a way that he won't be possibly bailed out by his mighty friends, we're close to dismantling his organization, and if I'm lucky, everything it's gonna be over by the time I graduate. From there, if I get to give my Natalie a reason to stick with me, maybe even ... well, feel something more than just caring for me, then my life will have a meaning, and it's only gonna be good. At least I hope so.

I can do it. With her by my side I can do everything. I know that. And if she ... well, if I can ever get her to love me just as much as I love her, then I will be the luckiest man alive.

Inhaling deeply, I stared ahead of me, at my steering wheel, just not to glance at the house. It was a pretty big house too, but that shouldn't surprise me, my father does have quite an income, for what I know. And his wife, the ex secretary, yes, works too, therefore it's not surprising that my half-brother grew up so spoiled, I mean, he's their only child, therefore he got all attention. No, I'm not jealous of him. Not even in the slightest bit. If I've ever been, it was when Natalie would be so cheery around him but so wary and scared around me, not because he's practically stolen my father, indirectly condemning me to a shitty life.

No, it's not Kyle's fault. It's his, and I underline, his father that abandoned me of his own will. Kyle just happened to be the cause, more or less. Well, his mother was, he was just the consequence. In any case I don't blame it on him, which is probably why I am more willing to renew our friendship, better said, to actually be friends, or at least try to be.

Back to freshman year, when I played in the soccer team with him, despite everything, I sort of wanted a brother, but then he turned out to be so spoiled and rotten to the core, that I only hated him more and more. Well, technically I've never hated him. I was just never able to stand his sight. That's all. Add that since he swaggered in four years ago I completely lost every chance of hope of being with Natalie, and you'll get why.

I could see how she gawked at him, how she ogled him from afar, internally fighting with herself to go talk to him. I could see how she smiled every time she saw him and, believe me, every smile she directed at him was a downright stab at my corrupted heart that's only been hers, since the very beginning. And he never even acknowledged her, which only enraged me, to the point that those times we fought, it was also my way of letting out all that frustration. I hated seeing her back away because she was sure he wouldn't want her, I hated that her self esteem would just lower and lower every time he passed by and never even noticed her. Just like she never noticed me. Well, not till I became what I became.

When my bad boy fame spread around school, people started also spreading every kind of rumors about me, like ... that I was a jailbird, even if at a young age, that I was in a gang and had possibly even killed already. Ok, maybe that was sort of true, I mean, not that I killed, but that I was in a criminal organization, that became true when I convinced my stepfather that I'd decided he was right, there was no future for me, so I better just took what it came, and if it was a life spent in crime, then so be it.

They spread rumors about me carrying a gun and that teachers were so scared of me that they never even argued about it. They said, and they say, that I haven't been expelled yet simply because even Principal Roberts fears me, because I threatened him and his family or something of the sort. Truth is, the principal knows what a crappy life I lead and he thinks that keeping me in school is the only way not to allow me to dip into crime. That doesn't mean I am allowed to violate his rules, though. That's obvious.

As a permanent punishment, since the beginning of the year, once we came back from the Christmas holidays, he's had me helping out the librarian, who is pretty old and can't do everything by herself, which should also help me raise my GPA, in order for at least one college to even consider me despite my other than immaculate record, both in school and out of it.

In his mind, condemning one like me to spend his free periods in a library was pure torture. He just doesn't know that I've always liked it, not because I am into books, no, but because the girl I love has always been, therefore I could see her pretty often, roaming the shelves in search of this or that other novel.

I could see her spending every free moment there, especially considering that since Jamie left last year she's always been alone, before she met that Aisha, and she has her own nook, in the corner. From where she could gape outside and, trust me, I do know part of her liking that spot was because from there she could see her precious Kyle training, but just as she could admire her crush without being seen, I could admire her. Much like a creepy stalker, I know, but that was the only way and I needed that. I needed and I still need to see her to remind myself that life can be better. As long as she's with me.

Thinking of her, I couldn't help but smile. She was shopping with Aisha today, something about her friend complaining that her wardrobe his too limited. Natalie complained, saying she doesn't like shopping when it's not for books, but her friend was insistent, she said, so I promised her I'd drop by tonight, be it only to wish her good night. Her mother apparently works tonight, therefore she's all alone. Normally, a girl home alone would pick up on the chance to call her boyfriend and ... well, you know ... like Dana always did. Every time she was always alone, she would text me, asking if I felt like having fun. Much to detriment of your opinion of me, I did accept almost always.

Speaking of Dana, I still haven't told her I am in a relationship now, considering it has to be a secret, but mostly because, if I know my ex one bit, she'll take it out on my girlfriend, like she's done since always. Yeah, that's right, I am the cause for Dana hating Natalie. Well, in the beginning it was just loathing a girl so different from her and so far from her environment, but in our last year of middle school, Dana bluntly told me not to dare think of dating anyone in high school, because I was hers and hers only, because she liked me, that I could as well forget about Natalie, because she wouldn't let me date anyone that wasn't her, I blatantly answered I didn't give a damn about her liking me, I had no interest in dating. If anything, I would make an exception for one girl only, which enraged her even more and since then she's been hating and hating Natalie.

When I, tired of seeing my true love being tormented, faced Dana and made her promise to quit, the bull got only madder and for a couple of days she enhanced her tormenting, till I caged her in a corner and, other than show her my stern side, wooed her a little, so that we came to a bargain: she would quit tormenting Natalie, but I was in no way allowed to get close to her. Fine with me. Just a couple of days before, I'd officially entered my stepfather's organization, therefore I'd lost all hopes about me and my Natalie being together.

Sighing, I glanced at my watch. I was late already. Maybe I could just reverse my car and go away. They'd think I've ditched and wouldn't be surprised, giving my reputation, which makes me unreliable to everyone's eyes. But backing off isn't in my character. I never surrender. If I had, I would have been six feet underground years ago already. Besides, I know that, if I ditch this appointment, Kyle's gonna pester me till forever, taking advantage of my not wanting Natalie to be mad at me for beating up her friend. Although sometimes my knuckles truly itch to be colliding with his cheeky face.

I remained there waiting for five more minutes. I've never been the anxious kind, I'm no chicken, I face everything with as much strength as I can, but this ... I can't just walk in there and greet them all like nothing. Although, apparently his wife won't be there, wanting to give us space or something like that. Kyle will be. I forced him to. After all, it's something between us men, isn't it? I mean, I am not renew my relationship with both my father and my half-brother. The woman doesn't have anything to do with it.

Duh, lucky thing I'm seeing my princess later. At least she'll cheer me up. Actually, by now she must be home, I might as well just reverse my car and go to her instead of facing this stupid get-together. Yeah, I guess that's what I'll do. Hopefully, I don't risk bumping into her mother, but just to be sure ... You home, baby? I texted her.

Her answer came in almost immediately: About to be. You dropping by later?

I smiled. For no reason. I just love everything that revolves around her, be it only texting her. Will your mother kill me if I do?

She hasn't told me much about her family, but I know for a fact her father doesn't live with them. I mean, she never mentions him. She's never said my parents, she always says my mother or my mom. She'll tell me when she feels like it, I guess. After all, I can't really blame her when me myself haven't told her anything about my life outside school, aside from general likings.

She's heading out in an hour. You coming?

I was surprised actually. I mean, we did agree for my dropping by to wish her goodnight at least, but for her to so clearly invite me over when she's completely alone ... I guess she truly trusts me and knows I wouldn't take advantage of the situation. She must have realized, though, because a moment later she added: Just to say goodnight

Either Aisha suggested  it or she realized on her own that that had sounded like she wanted me there for a specific reason. Oh, believe me, I do think of us together in that sense, but I'll wait. She's too innocent to spoil her like that so soon. When she'll be ready, I'll be willing.

I did tease her a little, though: What if I wanna stay and cuddle my princess on the couch?

I could picture her blushing as she read my message, but she replied pretty soon, surprising me: Yeah, why not. Pizza and movie?

I couldn't help but grin as I typed my response to her: Won't your mother have something to say about it?

I highly doubt the woman agrees. I mean, she must know by now who her daughter is truly dating and I'm actually surprised she even allows Natalie to be around me. It could be that she didn't tell her, but from what she's told me, they're pretty close and have a great relationship, so I highly doubt she'd keep the secret. Besides, I can't see my Natalie being a naughty girl and dating the bad boy behind her mother's back. Which is the dream of a few girls I've had, may I tell you. All they felt was the enthralling emotion of being caught in the act while together with someone considered as dangerous and deranged as I am.

She agrees. As long as you're out by 10.

Well, that took me completely off guard. I guess this woman puts much trust in her daughter. Normal. Who wouldn't trust one like Natalie? She's completely different from every other girl I've ever met. She's too pure and innocent to even think of betraying her mother's trust.

Smiling, I sent her my positive response, saying I'd be there by eight with pizza and she'd better pick a movie that isn't a chick flick, so she told me she'd already promised me we'd watch Frozen as first movie together. I barely got to send another positive response, even though I don't really give a damn about which movie is it, I just want to be able to cuddle her comfortably for once, other than hiding in my car or in this hidden nook of the park or even in the janitor's closet.

So, I barely got to send that response that the passenger door was opened and my mood soon dropped as the sight of my half-brother's smug face greeted me. Shouldn't have lingered here texting, right? Although Kyle looked more between pissed and disappointed, other than smug, which he's sort of quit being since a while, I'll admit, well, at least around Natalie and me.

"I'll forgive the delay if you were texting your girlfriend." He told me as a manner of greeting. I just snorted, not really giving a damn about his forgiveness. Kyle rolled his eyes, dropping his head back as he raked a hand through his hair. "You agreed." He pointed out.

I shrugged. "People change mind all the time, you know."

"Yeah, admit it, you're a chicken."

I clenched my jaw already. "Not the right way to convince me, Romano." I settled for replying, just not to start up a useless fight. Again.

He sighed. "He's waiting for you. You just have to show up, talk a little, and then you can go wherever it is that you spend your Fridays."

"With my girlfriend. I'm spending my Friday with my girlfriend. So I wouldn't want to spoil my mood." I would have sworn there was a hint of jealousy in his eyes when he looked at me.

There's not much to tell we're brothers. Physically, we have nothing in common, apart from the nose a little maybe. Considering the man that I should call father has dark hair too, I guess I took my being blonde from my mother. Much to her regret, I've got my father's eyes apparently. She's always told me that. I resemble him only in the color and form of my irises, which always made her mad at me when I was a child, because it was, she said, a reminiscence of that bastard that abandoned her.

Kyle and I share the same short temper, though, which is why so many times we've fought. He stared at me for a moment, strands of black hair almost covering his eyes too, kind of annoyed. I'm not so sure I want to know whether if it's because of what I think or not.

"Whatever. Just get inside." He eventually spat. I narrowed my eyes at him and he rolled his. "Oh, come on, it's just a damn hour. Nothing much. You can do that for a dying man, can't you?"

I sighed. "Here comes the sense of guilt card. Go ahead, explain why am I heartless for not complying with a dying man's wishes. Even though, I am. You say he wants us to be friends, and we're on that path."

He snorted. "Friends? Come on, Eric, you don't punch me only because then your girlfriend would be mad at you and you can't stand that, can you?" There was a hint of a smug smirk on his lips, but very lightly. I guess his father's illness did struck him hard, if he's so changed already. I did smirk when he mentioned that, though.

"She's not here now. Wanna let me release my anger on you, brother mine?" I put as much venom as I could in the last two words, which come from the TV show Sherlock actually. Yeah, Natalie is already hooking me to her shows. A couple of days ago she gave me her DVD of season one of that show, saying I was lucky she didn't put me through the whole series already. As cheesy as it sounds, I've spent three of my free nights watching Sherlock while on the phone with her, I mean, we watched it together but from afar, she just explained me how awesome it was and at the end of the season she very gladly said she'd give me season two as well, but I argued that I'll watch it only if I get to cuddle her on the couch as we watch it together, which made her blush, but in the end she agreed.

Kyle snorted. "You think I'm afraid of you?" He asked rhetorically.

I snorted as well. "Considering you've been exploiting my weak point not to get beaten up, yeah, brother, you are afraid of me. After all, I am older, aren't I?"

He rolled his eyes. "You're older by five months." I shrugged. He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Ok, fine. If I admit I'm afraid I'd get my fingers burnt if we seriously fought, will you get that dumb ass of yours out of this car and come inside with me?"

I'll admit I did have to retain my smirk, despite everything. In the end, I agreed.

"Hallelujah!" Kyle exclaimed, gesturing for me to step off before him, just in case I decided to eat my words and drive off, which, may I tell you, did pass through my mind.

I stepped off and locked my car, rounding it in a moment, to find myself beside Kyle, who was eagerly waiting. I sighed. Remind me, why am I doing this? This man never even tried to have anything to do with me. Sure, if I have to take what his son told me for truth, I gotta believe he wanted us to be friends, yes, but when his son didn't do anything to improve our relationship, didn't he wonder why?

And then, why did he send his son and never came on his own? Oh, yeah, right, he only needs me here now to wipe off his conscience before dying, that's all. Well, screw that. I'm not gonna be anybody's means to Paradise, or wherever the fuck is that one that's been good all his life goes. If it exists, I'm pretty sure I'm going to Hell when I die. Especially for corrupting an innocent girl like Natalie.

Kyle and I walked silently to the entrance, and once at the door, I froze in my tracks. I don't have to do this. He has no right to ask me this. He's had all his chances and he's spoiled them all. Ignoring my annoyed half-brother, I closed my eyes for a moment and inhaled deeply, trying to think of a good reason why should I be doing this. I ended up thinking of my Natalie. What would she suggest me to do? Mmh, bad idea. She'd surely suggest me to give the man a chance. She'd got a truly heart of gold, her heart is pure, unlike mine, that's been so corrupted by violence.

I inhaled deeply. Guess I should do it. She doesn't know, but if she did, she'd encourage me to go on. Reopening my eyes, I nodded to an awaiting Kyle and we entered.

"This way." He told me just as he'd closed the door and started walking ahead of me. We reached a medium sized living room, all painted in a dark white, two dark white sofas across each other, both beside a fireplace, a coffee table in between them. Before anything, I noticed a piano in the background, next to a glass door. My eyes lingered on it for a moment and Kyle swiftly explained he plays that, his mother taught him. Right. Mr. Lovely Son too, apparently.

Without taking in the whole room, I let my eyes travel to the man sitting on one of the sofas, looking pretty lost in thought as he stared blankly ahead of him. For some odd reason, my first thought was that his hair isn't so dark, kind of like mine, more or less, which figures, considering my mother is blonde-blonde while my hair is more on the dark side. Ah, the irony. Even my hair tends to the dark side.

Anyhow, his hair wasn't too look, more or less like Kyle, but less ruffled and with a more specific form. He wore a two-three days beard and I could clearly see where did Kyle and I take our noses. When he turned to us, a shocked expression on his face, I could also see that my mother was right, I do have his eyes.

He stared at me for a long moment, not surprised, but clearly stunned, if not directly taken off guard. Kyle nervously cleared his throat, grazing the back of his neck as he spoke: "Uh ... dad, this is ... Eric." Wanna add "your son"? The one you forgot about when you eloped almost 17 years ago? The one you, even if indirectly, condemned to a living Hell? Ok, I shouldn't start with these thoughts already. I could snap too soon. I owe him nothing, but I guess I should take a chance at least, right?

Those eyes so similar to mine kept on staring me up and down, till, abruptly, the man leaped to his feet, almost robot like, letting me see that he was pretty sturdy too, kind of like me. Jeez, I resemble him much more than I ever imagined and wanted. I couldn't help but glance at Kyle. Yeah, there is something of him there too, but I guess he took more after his mother.

The man walked up to us, stopping right in front of me, still examining me. What, he thought his son didn't pick the right guy? I mean, he's trying to see if I'm actually his son too? I'm not after his money, if that's what he thinks. His precious Kyle pretty much dragged me here.

I was almost taken aback when the man in front of me cracked a small smile. "Eric." He repeated, like he wanted to try how it sounded rolling off his tongue. His smile sort of widened. "Your grandfather's name." Oh, so that's who I'm named after? I nodded, not really caring.

As I better took in his figure, I couldn't help but think that, for being a dying man, he looked pretty fit. I remained there, letting him examine me for a while longer. Seriously, does he think I'm a ghost or something? Oh, maybe the whatever illness he has is already affecting his mind.

I could feel Kyle beside me looking in between us as his ... well, ok, our father and I held a stare contest, which wasn't really mutual, considering I was gazing at him quite annoyed, while he kept smiling for some odd reason. In the end, he moved away and gestured for me to sit. Sighing, I did, followed by him and Kyle, my brother coming to sit beside me.

Silence reigned for a while more and I seriously started thinking I was only wasting my time. If his brain has been fried, by his illness, there's not much he can tell me, if he actually finds the words, I'm not so sure I want to listen to them. Honestly, all I want now is to get this over with and reach my Natalie.

The man, well, I may as well use his name: Charles. Charles Romano. My father. Well, the man I am supposed to call father, considering he conceived me with that woman I should call mother. Some bad luck with parents I had, huh? Neither of them wanted me. The only difference is, I spent my life with the worst one between the two, I think. Anyhow, the man cleared his throat, his hands clasped together as he leaned in, sitting across from me and Kyle.

"So ... I heard you have a girlfriend." Seriously? You have never talked to you 18-years-old son and that's the first thing you say?

Trying hard to calm down my nerves, I nodded: "Yeah, Natalie." I confirmed, feeling the inevitable smile tug on my lips. Natalie is my girlfriend. I may sound cheesy and gay, but you have no idea how long I've wanted that simple sentence to be true.

Charles grinned. "In love, aren't you?" He implied, which took me off guard and I blinked my eyes, making Kyle beside me chuckle. "Yeah, he's pretty smitten." I glared at him as he said that, which is the truth, though. Charles nodded and I highly hopped he wouldn't bullshit me with his "I understand", because then I would snap.

"I think I know her, don't I?" He commented instead, then turned to Kyle. "She was with you the other day, wasn't she?"

"She was what?" I couldn't retain it. The words slipped out of my mouth spontaneously, pretty enraged even. I know, I know, they're friends, I trust her and blah, blah, blah ... but, understand me, she's been head over heels for the brat beside me for four years. We got closer only a few weeks ago.

Kyle grinned as I glared at him, so he threw his hands in the air as he defended: "Calm down, Rivers. We were just working on the project." I gritted my teeth not to say anything. I was overreacting, I know, but I can't help being jealous of her.

Charles chuckled, shaking his head. "She's a cute girl. Really gracious. I don't think she'd be the kind to cheat."

"Unlike you." I muttered through gritted teeth, spoiling the mood already, which I didn't regret one bit. Charles turned serious, his expression showing sense of guilt now, but he didn't speak.

"I know you won't believe me, Eric, but ... I didn't want to leave you." I only snorted at that. Yes, I hold grudges. Hell, he's my fucking father and he fucking abandoned me when I was two! Wouldn't you be a little pissed off too?

He sighed, dropping his head. "Tell me, what did she recount about that?" He asked, which surprised me a little. So there's another version of it? I have no doubts my mother might have lied about a few things, she always does, but I thought that was the only truth.

Leaning in, actually mimicking his posture, I spoke: "She told me you eloped with your secretary, the mother of this spoiled brat here beside me, when I was barely two. She told me you left because you, just like her, didn't want me. I was a mistake. You guys conceived me in a drunken night and she wanted to abort me as soon as she found out but her brother didn't let her." Just as he apparently didn't let her suffocate me in my sleep when I was a child. She's proudly confessed she did try once, but "immaculate Samuel", as she calls him, was unfortunately there to protect me.

"She told me you preferred to run away instead of acknowledging me." I shut up at her telling me he ran off because he'd seen already what a waste of life I was, I just let my words sink in. From the corner of my eyes I could see Kyle clearly taken off guard. I guess daddy here didn't recount him the story. Charles instead, he looked pretty aggravated, or ashamed, couldn't say.

He remained silent for a moment, but in the end he spoke, sighing: "How typical of Portia, huh? To spread so many lies." I frowned, confused. What does he mean lies? Isn't that the truth? If it isn't, then why did he never tried to reach me? If she lied and he didn't want to leave me, then why did he never tried to have contacts with me? We even live in the same shithole of a town, for God's sakes.

Charles sighed once more, leaning back on the couch, his head dropped back as he stared at the ceiling for a long silent minute. "I left because I was forced to, Eric." He told me. "I can't exactly explain why, but believe me, I never meant to leave my son behind." He was forced to leave me. By who? Why?

He looked at me. "I know you have questions, but I can't answer to them." My frown only deepened at that and he sighed, once more leaning in on the couch. "It's not safe for you to know. Neither it is for you to be here actually, but I needed to be face to face and talk to you at least once." He inhaled deeply, shaking his head. "I've been regretting it since forever. If I had been braver, I would have taken you out of there."

There? What is he talking about? Wait, it can't be that ... come on, it's not possible. I only met him years ago, why would he have ... it's possible that he wanted to keep me away from my father, maybe just to keep me miserable, but he can't have had anything to do with ... fighting the lump in my throat, I dared ask: "Is it his fault?"

Charles locked gazes with me, staring into my eyes for a long moment before nodding. I closed my eyes. That son of a bitch. "Why?" I breathed out, my voice raspy.

Charles shrugged. "I was never told. All I know is that, hadn't I left, they would have ... killed you."

I clenched my fists. In cahoots, weren't they? My so called mother and her new husband. Yeah, that's right. Robert Dillinger. Always him. The real bane of my existence. Why the hell did they want to keep me away from my father? Considering she never wanted me, she could have just let Charles take me into custody and live her life with Mr. Dumbass there. But of course, she didn't let uncle Sam acknowledge me as his, why should she let my real father do that? Is it just a wicked pleasure she felt in messing my life? Isn't a mother supposed to care for her son? At least in the slightest bit. Apparently not mine. Revenge, wasn't it? She got back at me for ruining her life when I was born.

I could feel Kyle beside me was pretty shocked, but I didn't give a damn about that, I just demanded, directed at Charles, eyes fixed on the floor: "Tell me." I sighed. "Tell me everything."

"Eric ..."

"At least tell me what you can. I need-I deserve to know."

He sighed, dropping his head. Then, once he'd inhaled deeply, he recounted me everything: he didn't leave when I was two. He left the day before my fifth birthday. He passed over the reasons behind it, saying he couldn't risk telling me, but he did tell me that he did try to reach me. He tried till I was ten, he sought me, talked to uncle Sam even, but he denied his help for some reason.

Charles said he tried to approach me every time when he came to Washington, lying to his wife about his trips, of course, but he never could, because there was always someone to hold him back. Someone dangerous he had to beware of. They never directly tell him anything, but he said he could see ominous men hanging around the park I played in, or my school and things like that, and those men stared menacingly at him when he neared the place where I was, slyly hinting at the guns behind their backs. I can only think they were Robert's men, but why? Why all the trouble? Why did they want me away from my father? It can't be just simple being wicked.

Charles added that he's tried the legal ways, but my Robert has too many high-leveled friends. He said he moved here because he knew I was in this town. Yes, he did know it was dangerous to bring his family here, but he wanted to try and take me out of that Hell in some way. Be it even risk his life to kidnap me. But he couldn't and I can seriously believe him.

To an indifferent eye, the house I live in might seem normal, but it's more protected than a fortress, with armed guards everywhere, with orders to shoot anybody that enters without having permission. When you lead such a vast criminal organization, you make enemies too, not just friends, and you need to keep you guard always up, right?

In the end, he gave up, trying to console with the thought that, being his son in my same classes, he could exploit that to keep an indirect eye on me. Kyle beside me pointed out that he guessed that was why his father was always asking odd questions about if was I healthy or if I showed up at school with bruises of any kind, said he kept pestering him to know about me, said he's been doing that since they moved here and hasn't stopped. Said in the end he realized what a mistake he'd made in not collaborating.

"In my defense, I didn't know the whole story." I couldn't help but roll my eyes. Just how childish can he get? I snapped my eyes at him when he apologized. I repeat, Kyle apologized for all the nasty years and, stretching his hand, asked if we could start over, being friends and, maybe, step by step, brothers. I remained there staring at his hand for a while, part of me doubting he was sincere, even though I could hear it in his tone that he was.

In the end I shook his hand, be it only because, after all, I should try, be it only for Natalie, who's so attached to her friend Kyle. It makes me shudder the thought of having, at some point, tell her about everything, but the funny thing is, that me and Kyle being actually brothers will be the less worse, so I could start from there maybe.

When we broke our handshake, I turned to Charles, who was smiling, clearly happy to see his sons getting along, or at least trying to. I scrutinized him for a long moment. Be it all of his words, but I was starting to see him in a different light. While I've always thought of him as that bastard who abandoned me when I was two, now I know he had his reasons. What I don't understand is what reasons did my mother and Robert have. It seriously can't be just taste for being wicked.

As I gazed into my father's eyes, I only found gentleness and regret. He's so much different from how I imagined him. Lightning struck me when I realized ... he's dying. Now that I've finally met him, he's gonna leave me again soon. I guess it's never over for me, huh?

In the end, Charles asked if I wanted, better said, could, stay for dinner, but I refused, saying I was seeing my girlfriend for a pizza and movie night at her place, to which he gave me a harsh look, like indirectly warning me to be kind with her. I remained there half an hour more, trying my hardest to lighten the mood just as they did, and in the end we partially succeeded.

By ten to eight, I stood up, saying my girlfriend awaited me by eight, so I better get a move. Charles nodded and stood up along with me, just like Kyle did. They escorted me to the door, me flinching when my father patted on my shoulder, kind of ... affectionately.

Once at the door, we gave our goodbyes, but before going, I couldn't help but ask: "What is it exactly this incurable illness of yours?"

He frowned while Kyle went pale. I turned to him, pretty confused, but my expression soon became annoyed. He lied, didn't he? Before I could verbally abuse my refund brother, our father burst out laughing as he patted both our shoulders while speaking: "Oh, Kyle ... did you seriously need to make up a lie like that to convince him?"

I narrowed my eyes at the boy beside me, who looked, for the first time ever, pretty flustered, as he slumped his shoulders while speaking: "Sorry, Eric. But you're so damn stubborn. I had to come up with something."

I glared at him for a moment, but then I turned to my father, who was still laughing. Well, I guess it's better this way. I won't be able to live this refund relationship till I'm over with what I have to do and I actually need to know the details about this story, but I guess that ... for now, I can be content enough with just attempting a smile and saying: "Bye, dad."

As I moved towards the door. I could see his eyes brightening as they widened in both surprise and joy. He came closer as I opened the door and squeezed my shoulder before letting me go out with a simple: "See you soon, son."

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