Focus (Le Corbeau, #1) ✓

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13. Decisions

I went to a small diner not far from the park which was very different from Alice’s bar and grill. It possessed a sixties vibe as if it jumped straight out of the film Hairspray and I soon learned it was a preferred location for couples. The bright, luminous colours of pink, purple and yellow blinded me when I entered. Not many people were present yet the low hum of chatter travelled around the building. With the sound of milkshakes being made along the ding of a toaster, it emphasised the mundane reality of this town. It was a stark contrast with my situation, with the visions of my father and everything with Bruce. Life was never normal concerning me.

I spotted Tony at the far end of the building, holding a chocolate milkshake in one hand whilst his phone in the other. Some people, mostly girls, threw a couple glances his way which was out of awe than weariness. The town folks knew of the infamous Tony Erickson but it didn’t stop the female population from ogling him.

He frowned at his phone screen, his dark brows brightening his honey irises. Something bothered him. It was clear by his frustrated thumbs jabbing the screen. He dressed appropriately for the Louisianan heat, his white tank top showcasing his defined lean muscles which matched his dark complexion. Gathering all my courage, I strolled to his booth quietly but my figure didn’t go unnoticed by his peripheral vision. Lazily, he lifted his eyes up my body before meeting my stare. He grinned and motioned for me to sit across from him. I did, propping my elbows on the table, waiting patiently for his next words.

“I’m surprised you even came back to this dead end,” He leaned back, his biceps flexing with his folded arms. “There’s nothing interesting here,”

“Why hang around then?” I quirked a curious brow. “New Orleans is a few miles away. It’s a great city,”

“I was gonna leave the day I met you but I got a call from an old friend of yours,” He paused a beat. “Kane?”

I tensed all over, clenching my fists tightly as anxiety brimmed the surface of my cool demeanour. Last time I saw Kane was three years ago. I purposely lost all contact with him. My time working for him was limited although he tried to keep me for longer. I left New York before he got the chance to hold me down.

“What about him,” I acted nonchalantly but my jittering nerves exposed my true feelings.

“He’s very fond of you. Were you guys together or...?” He sucked the straw, drawing up the milkshake with an innocent façade. I snorted, rolling my eyes dramatically.

“That’s the bullshit he fed you?” I leaned in closer, lowering my voice. “There was nothing romantic but pure fucking. I don’t give a rat’s ass about him or the other girls he had warming his sheets,”

Tony raised both brows, amused. “You sound bitter,”

“Kane McGregor is a sociopath and whatever catches his interest, he’s obsessive about it,” I gave a strained smile. “I’m not proud to say I’m one of them,”

A waitress interrupted us, asking to get my order. I asked for a strawberry milkshake which she dotted down and stared at Tony blatantly before heading back to the till. Like a fly soaring by your vision, he didn’t notice her interest but kept his eyes on me.

“The job I want you to do is for him and he wants to see you,”

I shook my head wildly. “What job? I haven’t agreed to anything nor am I planning to,”

“Don’t be so quick to make your decision, you didn’t hear my offer.” I shrugged, wanting him to elaborate. “Last time we talked, I said twenty-five thousand, how about I raise that to fifty?”

“Seventy-five thousand,” I smirked. “And that’s only if I agree,”

He narrowed his eyes. “Why wouldn’t you?”

Clamping my mouth shut, I searched for an answer to throw but came up with nothing. He blew out an exasperated sigh, pursing his lips in disapproval.

“If it’s because of your fuck buddy, I’d reconsider your choice. You think you’re the only one?” The waitress returned and I thanked her for not only the milkshakes but for the distraction as well. Eagerly, I took a sip. It was good but the sweetness couldn’t smooth over the bitter flavour forming on my tongue. “I always see him with that girl. Tall, dark-skinned?”

“My stepsister,”

As if my words sliced through him and he winced, looking pained. “You don’t find anything wrong with that? Ken-”

His hand slithered to mine, burning my skin. I pulled away. “Don’t call me that…”

Nervously, I played with the ends of my hair, evading his sympathetic stare. He made it sound like Bruce did something. He told me there was nothing happening between them. Gradually, my thoughts went against me, my heart sunk heavily with self-doubt. Images of him and Gladys standing too close outside of his gym along my instinct to eliminate the competition flashed with neon lights in my mind, stating the obvious.

He wouldn’t stoop that low, would he? Anybody else but Gladys. Tears blurred my vision and Tony cursed. Scrambling to his feet, he knelt down beside me.

“Don’t cry over that bastard, he ain’t worth shit,”

I’m crying over my stupidity. I couldn’t reign in my emotions and I was sure everybody was staring at me, not knowing what to do with a crying woman. Tony certainly didn’t know what to do. I was humiliated and I wanted to go home. Rummaging through my bag, I grabbed my purse but Tony scowled at me.

“Put it away,”

“No, it’s my-”

“McKenna put it away,”

Too tired to argue, I obliged as he pulled out his wallet, throwing a couple twenty dollar bills. Rising to my feet, I sidestepped out of the booth but he grasped my arm gently.

“I’ll drop you off,”

“I’m going to the restroom,” I muttered solemnly.

A breeze blew by when the door opened but I didn’t pay any mind, keeping my eyes on the basin as I washed my hands. An icy breeze brushed my skin mercilessly. It was him. The hairs rising on my arms signified his presence. Pretending he wasn’t there, I kept my gaze downwards but the chills wouldn’t allow my body to escape reality.

“He’s right, you know,” Yusuf said, standing beside me. I shifted my eyes to his tattered, oxford shoes then slowly met his brown orbs. They gleamed wickedly and I sighed, preparing myself for another round of his relentless words. “What makes you think Bruce would choose you?”

Flicking excess water off my hands, I turned to the tissue dispenser, attuned to his deep and heavy breathing.

“I didn’t know he had to make a choice,” I quipped but the humour died in his company.

“He’s a dangerous man but I’m not surprise as that's what you grew up around,” I faced him, wanting desperately to smack the disgusting smirk off his face. “You crave danger,”

“Like you said, it’s the only thing I know. Why is that so important to you?”

“You’ll turn out like your mother, subjected to the emotional abuse,” Yusuf grinned and his eyes widened a fraction, making him appear insane. They were void and the sight was terrifying. “You’re so infatuated you wouldn’t think to leave him. Your future is predestined if you stay – the abused wife,”

“Wife?” I mocked, blindly searching the room for answers to his insanity. I wasn't wifey material. Didn't aspire to be one. The idea was hilarious in my case.Uncontrollable giggles threatening to break free. “You’re out of your mind talking gibberish,”

“I’m not the one seeing or talking to the ghost of my dead father,”

“Excuse me, miss?”

I swivelled my head to a girl standing by the door opened halfway, wearily staring at me and Yusuf. When I glanced at him he was gone. Fuck! She thought I was crazy, I saw it in the way she stepped into the restroom hesitantly. Like I said before, we lived in a small town and word spread out faster than the plague itself. I could imagine more vile words coming from Mrs Porters and the snakes she associated with.

“Um, I’m sorry eh,”

I scurried out of the room, humiliation knocking me back on my ass. Tony waited right outside the ladies room, his inquisitive eyes scanning over my features. His lips parted a little but I held my hand, silencing him.

“Let’s go,”

He stretched his arm, blocking my path and lowered his head until I had no choice but to meet his gaze. “What’s your decision?”

My pent up frustration was the catalyst for the word slipping through my lips.

“Yes,"



Bruce called several times but I ignored them all. Alexis’ appointment with her therapist was late in the afternoon and I offered to drop her off as I needed her mini for grocery shopping. She went every week, every Thursday and I saw small changes in her personality. Parking in front of a regular mundane house, I frowned and she understood my unspoken question.

“Her practice is in her home, you know, like what some GPs do,”

We both got out of the car but I regarded the grey-stoned building warily, imaging a horror film taking place inside. Well, the horror was telling a qualified stranger the negative situations happening in your life. With an easy composure, Alexis bounced up the small steps and simply opened the door. Astounded, I ran after her.

“Ma, you can’t walk in without knocking!”

Tossing a look over her shoulder, she rolled her eyes and walked further inside. “There’s a reception along with a waiting area,”

She opened the second door and as she said, there was a waiting area consisting of two people. Gingerly, I sat two seats away from one of the patients and Alexis went straight up to the male receptionist. They exchanged a few words and she sent me one last look then disappeared through another set of doors. Slumping in my seat, I puffed out a breath, looking around uninterested. It was too quiet for my own comfort. My mind tends to drift off into other places when it was too quiet. As expected, my thoughts revolved around Bruce and absentmindedly, I checked my phone. There were many miscalls and a few unread texts. It was torture to neglect them with my curiosity eating the corners of my brain. There wasn’t anything else for me to do but to read them. Gulping nervously, I opened his texts and went through them with a fine tooth comb.

‘When can I meet you?’ He sent it two days ago but my silence wasn’t an obstacle for him.

‘I’m sorry for my behaviour the other night, call me.’

‘Why aren’t you answering my calls? I need to see you’

‘Don’t ignore me. I’m coming over’

He sent the last one today. I planned to stay out a little longer. My thumbs hovered over the text box, tempted, but I refrained from doing anything I’d regret. Switching off my cell, I put it away and leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees. Fifteen minutes when the door opened and Alexis poked her head out, causing me to frown. There was still forty-five minutes before her session ended, was there something wrong?

“She wants to see you,” She waved me forward and confused, I followed her. Immediately, my eyes landed on the raven-haired therapist. She was Japanese and petite, looking professional yet casual all at once.

She stood, outstretching her arm and offered her hand. I took it with a slight shake.

“I’m Diana,”

“McKenna,”

“I know,” She said casually and I glanced at Alexis. Her head was down, staring at her entwined fingers on her lap. I lowered myself next to her and before I could ask any questions, Diana beats me.

“You’re probably wondering why you’re here. Don’t worry, your mother expressed your… lack of interest in therapy so my question hasn’t nothing to do with you directly,”

Still, everything felt directed at me. Anxiously, I dragged my sweaty palms down my thighs, my lips thinning grimly. I was very uncomfortable, to the point where the room felt extremely warm and it was suffocating. Alexis’ pale cheeks were tinted with a hint of crimson.

“You’ve been away from your mother for seven years?”

“Um…” I nodded. “Yeah, I left right after high school,”

“Could you explain why?”

At her question, ma turned to me fully. I never told her why I left. Suddenly, my knees were the most interesting thing I’d ever seen. I replied to her with silence and she twisted her lips.

“Alright then, did you leave because of your mother?”

“No!” Why the hell would she think that? I spun to her, confused. “Is that what you think?”

“For a while,” She said timidly.

“So your relationship with your mother is healthy, stable?”

“Yes!”

She wrote something on her notepad with a content nod. I grasped Alexis’ hand with a light squeeze. “Why would you think that?”

She smiled sheepishly. “Why else would you leave? I wasn’t good to you after Yusuf’s death. I was remarried four months after the funeral-”

“I’m happy you were able to move on, one of us had to,”

Diana lowered her brows at my statement. She cocked her head to the side. “What do you mean by that?”

I blinked at her then looked away. That’s where I drew the line; this session wasn’t about me. I stood and wiped my hands on my jeans one last time before glancing around the room.

“Am I done? Mama, just know whatever you think I did had nothing to do with you,”

“McKenna-”

I rushed out the room and didn’t stop until I met the cool breeze of the evening. I dodged a large fucking bullet, tonight. I waited until ma returned from the depths of hell. Folding my arms, she threw me off guard when she wrapped her arms around me.

“Thank you,” She whispered then kissed my cheek. I rubbed her back reassuringly. “Thank you,”




Wiping the steamed mirror, I stared into my tired eyes. I didn’t get a wink of sleep at all. It was one in the morning and I prayed a hot bath would cure my insomnia. I eyed my towel, exasperated. Note to self: buy a new towel. I bought it when my dad wasn’t taking extra cash to feed his addiction. It came to the point I stored money away for groceries. Also, it was the reason why he was alive for so long until his overdose. Alcohol couldn’t fuel his body itself.

Digging my fingers into my moisturiser, I dotted it across my face before kneading my cheeks. Turning the doorknob, I walked into my bedroom and frowned. Some things were out of place like my clothes that were sprawled all over the floor were in the hamper. I didn’t suffer memory loss. I didn't put my clothes in the hamper.

I never did.

Hesitantly, I walked to one the side of my bed, sinking to the mattress stiffly. Did Alexis come by say goodnight before going to bed? Maybe she put them away. I could imagine her frustration the times she did put my clothes away. Or maybe little gnomes put them away? My imagination spiked at the most inappropriate times… but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Yusuf…

The hairs on my arms stood to attention, hearing deep breaths right in my ear. I jumped, half falling, half turning to meet a dark figure looming over me.

Someone was in my room.

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