He chased after and caught up her. “What changed? This morning you snuck out of my room and now you agreed to walking alone on the beach under the moon.”
“I watched you with the girls today, it’s obvious you really love them. It made me think about how different things could be for us if we were a family,” she smiled, “I want them to be happy.”
“And what about you, what would make you happy?” Kyle asked cautiously, remembering Tank had said Camille would do anything for the girls.
“I want what is best for them. They want you in their lives, especially Willow. She feels so alone now that she knows Kent died. She was very close to my Grandpa Ben. When he died, she imploded. She did the same thing I did when my parents died, and… and I wasn’t there for her like I should have been,” Camille sounded like she thought she failed, she stopped staring at the ocean. In her mind, she could see all the dreams she lost, butterflies that got away. Camille remembered how she had started drinking again. How one afternoon she had gone up and jumped off the falls, and then stopped Willow from doing the same. They had talked for hours, then they jumped together. Camille taught Willow how to escape the trap in under the falls but she couldn’t teach her how to escape the trap of her own nature. Willow was just like her and Camille didn’t want that for her.
“What did she do, Camille?”
“She jumped off everything she could, she chased the fall, the perfect dive. It’s like a drug, Kyle. You wouldn’t understand.” She sounded sad.
“Then help me to understand,” Kyle begged.
“I.. it’s... It’s that feeling of falling, the perfect control of the dive followed by the silence under the water. There is no pain, no regret, and no grief in those moments. No matter how bad everything else is, when a diver is falling toward the water, nothing else exists.” Camille’s eyes weren’t focused on the ocean or the moon, her voice was far way. Kyle wondered what she was seeing.
“And why do you chase the fall, Cami?” Kyle murmured over the waves. He had moved to stand behind her, his hands resting on her hips, his lips mere inches from her ear. She shuddered in his arms at the warmth of his breath on her flesh.
“I don’t... I don’t want to... they hurt me and I don’t want to remember, but sometimes I can’t stop.” She tried to pull away but he closed his arms around her.
“Please tell me Camille,” he pled softly, “I’m here for you. Tell me what happened, help me understand.”
Camille choked on a sob, “I can’t.”
“You can’t or you won’t?” He stepped around her, pulling her close as she sobbed into his chest. “Camille, tell me what happened the night you were raped. Help me understand, so I can help you help Tiana.”
She shoved him so hard he tripped and fell back in the sand, “I can’t! Kyle, I can’t and I won’t. You don’t know what it was like. I was 19, an Olympic athlete, a virgin. I had never even had a boyfriend because my diving was so important to me. Being able to control every moment perfectly, more perfectly than any one else, that was my goal. But that night, I was helpless to stop them and I remember every moment of what they did to me. They took everything from me. I lost my edge. I still got bronze medals but never the gold. When we met, you made me forget, forget what they did, what they said. Forget how much I loathed myself. I don’t want you to ever know, you wouldn’t...”
Kyle stood up, interrupting, “Camille, I want to know. I don’t care about...”
“If you won’t care it then why do you want to know?” She cut him off.
“Because I care about you, and having Tiana around is hurting you.”
“I’m not sending her away. She needs me, I know what she felt,” Camille’s tone was vicious, the same threatening tone he’s heard before, the mother bear.
He shook his head, “Camille, that’s not what I mean. I don’t want you to sent Tiana away. Her talks with you help her every day. But you... you need to talk to someone too.”
“Don’t tell me what I need to do,” She hissed, “I did talk to someone, I talked to Mina and... and... because of your brothers and those pictures, I’ll never get to talk to her again.”
“Don’t Kyle... just don’t! Willamina was my sister but more than that, she was best friend, we were going to do everything together forever and I lost her. Your brother took her from me because she thought she could change him.”
“And I lost Kent because you lied to us.”
“I never lied to you! You’re the liar,” Her voice changed to a deeper imitation of his, “It’s just going to be cards and cigars and maybe a few shows,” Camille taunted. “You forgot the ‘wink wink’ part.”
“Letting us think Mina and her baby died in the crash was the same as lying, the same as if you put the gun under Kent’s chin and pulled the trigger yourself,” he accused viciously. “You killed him when you didn’t tell us Mina was in a coma.”
Her body shifted, she shrieked in rage, and he barely managed to duck away from her fist. Catching her arm, he spun her and wrapped his arms around her. But she elbowed him hard and he lost his balance. They tumbled to the sand as she wrapped her leg around his, tripping him. They rolled and he barely managed to pinned her down.
“Calm down.” He roared.
“Get off me!” She screamed and struggled, her movements became frantic. “Get off me!”
He held her down on the sand, suddenly realizing she was panicking, she was thrashing so hard. “It’s okay, Camille, it’s okay. I won’t hurt you, just stop.” Kyle tried to calm her but she fought harder. “Stop, you’re going to hurt yourself. Camille!”
Suddenly he was yanked to the side then Sheridan was pulling him to his feet. Willow and Gracie were kneeling on either side of Camille.
“Mom, mom, calm down, breathe mom. Its okay, mom. No one is going to hurt you,” Gracie’s voice was calm as she gently held Camille’s face. “Look at me, mom. You’re safe.” Slowly, Gracie got Camille to stand and started toward the house. “Come on, let’s get a cup of tea. Just breathe.”
Willow stood up and stomped up to Kyle, pointing her finger in his face. “What did you do?!?”
“We were just talking, and she got upset. Then she tried to hit me. I pinned her down, trying to calm her and she freaked out.” Kyle stammered, rubbing his jaw where Camille’s fist had clipped him. He was shaken he had never seen a woman so terrified. “I’m sorry, Willow I don’t know what happened.”
Willow ran her hand through her hair, “Did she mention my mother or when she was raped?”
Kyle nodded, admitting, “I asked her about it, then I said something stupid and she tried to hit me. I shouldn’t have held her down.”
Sheridan frowned, “You know your mom was raped?”
“Yah, since I was 10. Mom gives classes on how to escape predators, how to fight back, how to avoid situations that are risky. Gramma Doreen says it’s her way of coping with what happened in college,” Willow folded her arms around herself, “She got drugged when she tried to save Aunt Vi. Some punks injected her with a paralytic but no sedative, so she was awake the whole time. She never told us the details, but she has nightmares and anxiety attacks, she won’t even take gas when she goes to the dentist. She hasn’t had an episode like this since the bear attacks. After Grandpa Ben’s death, Tank and Gramma were afraid she was going to become an alcoholic. She couldn’t cope, then one day she went up to the waterfall and jumped. She taught me how she did it then it was like a switch. She seemed fine after that. She didn’t drink or cry or anything till you came back!” She glared at Kyle.
“I’m sorry,” Kyle breathed out, “I didn’t know.”
“Whatev,” Willow shrugged then asked, “Don’t you have problems like that after your brother died in front of you?”
“I did but I got a therapist for it.” Kyle defended himself.
“So how long did it take, for the ambulance to arrive after my dad blew his brains out. Ten minutes, twenty minutes? How long were you with him, Uncle Kyle? Cause mom spent months holding my mother’s hand, rubbing her belly, and talking to me. She spent all that time fighting with the doctors to just give us one more day and to keep them from trying to cut me out of her body too early so they could pull the plug. Gramma and Uncle Beau told us all about it. We grew up listening to mom talk about how amazing my mother was and how much she missed her. But she never talked about those months except to say, it was worth every horrible moment. Stop making her think about it. She’s stressed enough trying to help T, she doesn’t need your crap!” Willow snapped, then turned on her heel and stormed back to the bungalow.
“Damn, that is a strong little lady,” Sheridan observed.
“I know, they all are... and I screwed up.” Kyle drew a deep breath. “I don’t know what to do, Sheridan. I just want to help her, to be there for them, but I don’t know how.”
“The first thing you need is to follow the girls inside and explain,” Sheridan advised. “The only way to get through this is to get through it together.
Kyle stopped outside, listening. In the kitchen, Camille was apologizing to Gracie and Willow. “I’m so sorry girls. I need to be stronger for you both. ”
“You’re strong, mom,” Gracie insisted.
“Mom, if you want to go home. We’ll go tomorrow, we don’t have to stay here with him,” Willow spat.
“Willow, my past shouldn’t affect you getting to know Kyle and your father through him. We have a lot of pain in our pasts that I... I need to just get over.” Camille hugged Willow to her right side while Gracie leaned into her left.
“Mom, you’ve been through too much to just get over it when it’s up in your face,” Willow insisted.
“But then sometimes a girl’s just gotta let it go. Let it go, let it goooo,” Gracie started to sing a song Kyle thought he had heard children singing. He watched a wanly smiling Camille put her hand over Gracie’s mouth as Willow groaned something he didn’t quite hear about hating Disney.
He knocked, “Can I join you?”
“No,” Willow snapped.
“Chill, Sis,” Gracie cut her off.
“Girls... Come in Kyle,” Camille said.
Kyle stayed by the door, “I’m sorry. I... I just want to help. I shouldn’t have gotten angry.”
Camille was calmer as she apologized, “I’m sorry, I overreacted. Girls sit down, please.” She looked at Kyle, they were both hurting but they needed to get it out for the girls’ sakes. She couldn’t have them lashing out at Kyle like she just had. “I think we need to tell them. I mean if... if you’re ready.”
Kyle swallowed, he wasn’t ready for this. He just wanted to help Camille face her trauma, instead he was about to tell his daughter and niece about the worst 24 hours of his life. Taking a deep breath, he looked into Camille’s eyes. He could see all the pain she never spoke about, a reflection of the pain he had tried talk out at $200 an hour. He realized after the way he snapped at her on the beach, he was still struggling too. He missed Kent, and to a lesser extent Kris. Kyle thought about Kent and Mina, and decided rather that tell the girls the end, he would begin at the beginning.
“There is a lot that happened before the wedding and accident. Do you girls want to hear it tonight or get some sleep and talk in the morning?”
“Now.” “Tonight.” Willow and Gracie chorused at the same time.
Kyle took a deep breath, Camille shrugged when he looked at her and gave him a nod.
“My brother Kent was my best friend growing up, the way your moms were. We had relied on each other since we were very young. Our home life was miserable, mom and dad were always at each other when he wasn’t working and she wasn’t off doing some social thing. Dad became a workaholic. Mother… She was beautiful and selfish. Kent and I look like her, except for our eyes. We got our blue eyes from Dad, Kris had his father’s dark brown eyes. We had grown up watching our mother betray our father time and time again. Neither of us believed that there were any women who were different from our mother. Especially after what I went through with Sophia. Kent became viciously vindictive toward women, Kris became callous and shallow… And I gave up on ever finding someone to love.” His glance at Camille had her swallowing hard to keep from crying.
“What happened with Floats?” Willow asked snarkily.
“That woman’s got gold digger written all over her,” Gracie nodded. “You don’t seem that dumb, Dad.”
Kyle chuckled ruefully, “I was that dumb, very young and more than naive. I fell in love with this beautiful woman, she was exciting.”
“Exciting how??” Willow and Gracie shared a confused look, “I mean how could fashion shows and photo shoots for butt-hurt medicines be exciting?”
Kyle chuckled at Willow’s bluntness. “Let’s just say, you will never know the details and if I find a boy trying to do any that with either of you, I will send them to the end of the earth.”
Gracie’s mouth made an ‘O’ but Willow snickered, declaring, “So you fell in lust and did some freaky nasty stuff with the queen of hemorrhoid cream. What happened that made your dick stopped thinking for your brain?”
Kyle was shocked but Camille’s exasperated expression and her rubbing her temple in a tired way, said she wasn’t surprised by Willow’s blunt question. He had promised to always tell them the truth, so he did.
“Sophia got pregnant. I wanted to marry her and have a family but she was more concerned about her modeling career. Nothing I said, no amount of money my father offered her, changed her mind. She had an abortion then went to a modeling job. The pictures never even got published. We broke up a month before my father died. I found out she had cheated on me a dozen times while we were together. She showed up at Dad’s funeral and expected me to take her back. She caused a big scene. Kent went through the roof and had her removed.”
“That bi*tch!” Willow hissed.
“Willow, language,” Camille snapped.
Gracie gave them both a ‘just really?’ look, then turned back to her father, “But you did go back to her. There are dozens of photos of you and her after mom left you, and the engagement announcements.”
Kyle nodded regretfully. “I know but that’s later, just let me finish. The week after the funeral, Kent calls me and tells me the most beautiful in the world dumped coffee on him. He was so happy but I had my doubts. It was bizarre. Girls had always chased him for his good looks and our family money. He was very cynical about ever finding love like our grandparents had. Judgmental toward everyone. You’re a lot like him in that way, Willow.”
Willow looked offended but Gracie giggled, whispering,“He’s got you figured, sis.”
“Hush girls,” Camille chastised them so Kyle could continue.
“The next thing I knew, Kent was back in college working on his masters degree to be on the same campus as she was. He was asking her out, trying to impress her, trying to buy her stuff, because that’s what we were raised to think women wanted, but Mina hated it. She refused to accept the gifts he bought her and they stopped seeing each other. Our youngest brother’s reputation as a player on campus didn’t help Kent, and neither did the family money. He began following Mina around and watching her with her sister, the diver. Trying to figure out what made her so different from every woman we ever knew.”
“Wowwww,” Gracie smirked at Willow. “You’re dad was a stalker.” Willow stuck her tongue out.
“Yes, he was. He was in love, and Mina was too,” Camille added. “But Mina was very untrusting after what happened to me. She was afraid Kent was like Kris and she didn’t want to get used in that way.”
“What changed her mind?” Gracie asked.
“Your mom broke her arm.” Kyle answered flatly.