Perfect Illusion

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Chapter 57: Daniel Needs You

I don’t know how I feel about this.

After the Charlize Matson New Year’s episode where Daniel had basically told the whole world that our engagement was a sham and he wanted me back, the next few days had been utter hell for me.

I don’t think I’ve ever hated tabloids as much as I hate them now. I swear to god, if I see one more story about how whatever Daniel had said on the show was a publicity stunt (which I don’t get because it doesn’t help him or his father gain anything from the shit he’s told everyone) I think I might just hit someone.

This frustrates the hell out of me. The episode had gone viral and now everyone knows about what happened between Daniel and I. Everything. I can’t go to a grocery store without getting weird looks from people. I can’t talk to anyone without them saying, “Oh my god, you’re the girl that that Kerrington guy loves, right? You should get back together with him.”

Even my mother has grown to be more sympathetic towards Daniel. I think she’s finally figured out that he’s not the asshole he is, and occassionally talks to me about him. Most of the time I try to steer the conversation towards another subject (and manage to do it successfully) but other times I just nod and say ‘Mmmmhmmmm’ at everything that comes out of her mouth.

I get that she’s trying to be all motherly with me about this, but there are certain limits we cannot cross. My love life (or the lack of it) is certainly not up for discussion. Ever.

But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it all. The. Time.

His words keep replaying in my head and no matter how much I try to not think about it, I end up thinking about it anyway. I can’t keep doing this to myself.

Torturing myself with his voice, his declarations, his words. His love.

He loves me.

And I don’t know how to feel about it.

I understand why he did what he did, but I can’t forgive him. Not yet. He should never make that decision for me- allowing his own dad to blackmail him so mom and I can have a comfortable life. It’s not fair for me. Because I should have been the one to make that choice. Not him.

Now, I sit on the little swingset on the front porch, silently watching as black pours into the sky, signalling the start of the night. I sigh and look down, a book in my hand. I have been trying to read it for quite sometime now, but I kept getting stuck at the same line over and over again. Eventually I give up and place the book aside.

I peer through the window behind me and notice my mom doing the dishes. She looks so distant, her eyes not focusing on the task at hand. I have a feeling she’s thinking about dad again. She does that sometimes during the little moments to herself- when she’s watering the plants, or watching the television. Sometimes I worry about her.

Apart from missing Daniel, I sure miss my dad a lot too. Often, I find myself scrolling through the pictures of my dad and I together- him hugging me in my homecoming dress, me and him decorating the fireplace with christmas lights at our old house, and the most recent one yet: a picture I took of him and I on the day I moved out of the house to stay at the dorms. He didn’t look so great in the picture, in fact he looked quite irritated. But I still liked it.

It was the last picture we ever took together.

I hear a small sound and I see my mom at the door, looking at me with a soft expression on her face. “Alex.”

“Hey, mom.” I scoot towards the side to make room for her on the swing set.

“You okay?” She asks me, concern lacing her words. “What are you thinking about?”

“Stuff.” I merely say.

“Me too.” She sighs.

Suddenly a thought crosses through my mind.

“Mom....” I start off, “Remember what Daniel said on the show last week?”

“About him loving you and what not?” She says. “How can I ever forget?”

“Yes I mean no. Not that,” I shake my head. “About the money thing. If he did break up with me to provide you and me financial aid, where is the money?”

“I returned it back.” She says without any hesitation. “I gave it all back the minute the show was over. You see... I always thought the money was your father’s. His lawyer said that there was some money... enough to land us here and start a life here. I didn’t ask questions because I believed him. I guess Harry had made a few calls and somehow deposited the money into your father’s bank account without anyone knowing.”

I suck in a huge breath.

“But when I knew that the money isn’t actually your father’s... well, I sent for my lawyer to give it all back to Harry. Every single cent. I don’t want his money. I’m tired of people trying to help me. I know I haven’t proved to be trustworthy enough, but I think I’m capable to taking care of myself.” I smile at her, but then it wavers.

“So that means we’re broke.” I say.

“Pretty much.” She nods. “But with my new job and everything, I think I’ll be fine. I’ll be struggling for a few months, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

I cast her a puzzled look. “What do you mean ‘I’? Don’t you mean ‘we’? I mean, I’m living with you too.” I try to laugh, but when I see her face, I realize she isn’t joking.

She looks down at her sweaty palm and blows out a breath. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, Alex.”

“What is it?” I say, worried.

“I… I don’t think you should be here with me, Alex.” She shakes her head, her voice cracking a little. “I never should have suggested us moving here in the first place.” “You didn’t take me here by force. But I chose to be here, mom.”

“I know, and I’m grateful for that, but I don’t think you’re doing it for the right reasons.” She tells me. “When I said I needed to move on, I really meant it. I need to put some space between your dad and I. But you... you had a life back at Boston. And I robbed you from it. I thought I was doing the right thing by bringing you along with me, but now I realize it was selfish.”

“It’s not... it’s really not.” I defend. “Mom, I want to be here for you. You said we could start over here. And we did. And I like it here.”

“No you don’t.” She says like it’s a fact. “I notice things, Alex. You’re not happy here. You hole up in your room half the day, and when I do see you, you have this sad look on your face like you’re constantly contemplating about what you lost. And I don’t want that for you. I know you were happy back at Boston. You had Cara and your friends and you also had Daniel. Boston is your home, Alex. Not California.”

“California is my new home, mom. With you.”

“It’s not. You and I both know it. You’re just afraid to admit it because you don’t want to hurt my feelings.”

I try to blink back tears. Not because what she said hurts me.

It’s because what she said is true.

“It’s okay if you’re unhappy here, Alex.” She smiles weakly. “I don’t want you to stay here because you feel obligated to take care of me. I also don’t want you to stay here because you feel like it’s the easy way out of this. I get it that you think that by moving here, you will be able to erase the pain that your dad and Daniel had inflicted on you, but it won’t.”

“But how about you?” I ask. “Aren’t you running away from dad too?”

She purses her lips. “I have accepted that your dad is gone and that I have to move on from him. And besides... I love it here. I have really nice friends that help me through this. I have never felt more blissful in my entire life.”

“But I thought you wanted me here.” I protest.

“I do, Alex. There is nothing I want more than to be close to you...” She leans forward and cradles my face in her hands. “But I have to also face the fact that you’re an independent woman now and you have the right to make your own choices and live your life without any regrets. I may not have been a good mom for a long time... but I do know you like the back of my hand. And I know if you stay here, it’s going to cost you a lot more than regret.”

She wipes away an escaped tear from my cheek. “Your friends back at Boston need you. Daniel needs you. If I let you stay here, your dad would never forgive me for this. He’d want you to go back. I know it.”

“But...” I sniff. “Are you going to be okay?”

She nods. “Yes. I’ll be fine. More than fine. I’ll try to visit and if you can, you can come over during breaks. It will be difficult, but we can make it work.”

“Mom...” I reach forward and hug her, tears spilling down my face. “I’m afraid...”

She wraps her arms around me and allows me to cry over her shoulder. “Of what?”

“I’m afraid of what will happen next. With you. With Cara. With Daniel.”

“Then I guess you’ll find out soon, right?” She says, snuggling me closer. Then, she fiddles with something in her back pocket and reveals to me a plane ticket.

I stare at the ticket. “You knew I was going to go back.”

“I knew for a while now...” She places the plane ticket in my hand. “I just wanted to talk to you about it first.”

Through the tears, I manage a small smile. “Are you sure you’re not a psychic? Because if you are, Cara would make a great best friend for you.”

My mom laughs. “Just... think about it. Or don’t. Whatever you do, just don’t make the wrong decision. You tend to do that sometimes.”

“Like mother like daughter.” I hug her again. “I love you, mom.” “Love you too, Alex.” She kisses my forehead.

I spend the next week with my mom in California. Apart from cramming all my stuff back into boxes, I’ve been having so much fun. Mom decided that since we’re probably not going to see each other much anymore until spring break, she says we need to spend as much time as possible.

So, we have a mini bucket list of the things we want to do and places we want to go in California before I leave. We take endless walks on the beach and went scuba diving (Yeah. That was fun.). We ate ice-cream on sidewalks, watched all nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother in under four days, invited a homeless into the house (He turned out to be very nice. And no, he did not rob us) and we also crashed a wedding.

The whole week made me realize that even though I know that moving back to Boston is still what I need to do, I can’t help but have my doubts about it. I love my mom. She has grown into the best person imaginable and I’m going to miss her so much when I leave. I think she feels the same way about me. That’s why on the night before I leave, we stay up still 5am just talking about anything and everything.

“You know... that boy loves you.” She says and I immediately know who’s she talking about. “He does. I was wrong to judge him before. I thought that he was just playing with you. Now, I know it’s not that at all.”

“He really hurt me.” I sigh against the sheets. “I can’t... it’s just, I don’t know what to do with him. I’m not going back to Boston for him but a part of me feels empty without him.

She smiles, the crinkles on her eyes showing. “He probably feels the same way about you.”

“I know... but I’m not ready to see him yet. Or forgive him. I need time.”

“Take your time.” She nods. “I’m sure you’ll do the right thing in the end.”

I take her advice and keep it in my heart, the last piece of her I cling unto as I board the plane back to Boston the next day.

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