Stay Strong

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Chapter 13

I kept Candice behind me, clutching her hand as Gavin approached. What the hell was he doing here? I narrowed my eyes at him as he rubbed his neck awkwardly. I hid my confusion and sadness behind a cold mask, hoping he couldn’t see through it.

“What do you want?” I snapped. He visibly flinched and I mentally did a happy dance. He looked down at me with lake blue eyes filled with sadness. I notice then that he was taller than me by several inches. He was easily over six foot.

“You told me to come to see you in person. I did,” he said softly, tucking his hands into his pockets. I gritted my teeth to keep from spitting out a rude response. I had to give him credit though. I never expected him to show up. How did he even find me?

“How did you find me?” I ask suspiciously. He smiled softly but didn’t respond for a moment. When he did answer I expected him to say some other than, “You don’t need to worry about that right now.” I rolled my eyes in annoyance.

“You never answered my first question. What do you want?” I looked over him once. His black hair was graying slightly and he had wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. He either had a stressful job or he was getting old. Maybe both. His black suit was very clean and stylish. He was muscular and kind of intimidating.

He laughed gently. “Very observant. No, I didn’t give you an answer. I wanted to talk to you. But I can see that I’ve caught you at an inopportune time so I’ll get straight to the point. I want us to take a DNA test.”

I laughed out loud at that. “What makes you think that I’ll do that?”

“I thought you might say something like that so I brought these for you,” he said as he handed me a yellow filing folder. I let go of Candice’s hand and opened the folder. Inside were papers that looked to be printed emails. I recognized my mother’s email address and I assumed the other was Gavin’s.

I read over one email that was from Gavin to my mother.


I’m sorry that it has taken me so long to find the courage to talk to you. I know you can’t forgive me and I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t forgive me either. But how are you?

It was dated a few months after I was born. The next email was from the day after Gavin sent the first one.

How about you ask about your daughter instead of me. I told you to never bother me again. Leave us alone, you heartless bastard.

The emails continued like this for several months, close to almost two years. Gavin would ask how my mother was and she would respond by telling him to fuck off basically. Until it changed.


How is Aspen? How are you? Are you two doing well?

My mother’s response wasn’t as rude as the past emails.

We are fine. I still don’t want to talk to you but I appreciate that you are asking about your daughter.

I looked at the date the email was sent and realized that it was a few days after my mother married Hector. I shut the folder and shoved it back at Gavin.

“I don’t want these. Take them,” I hiss at him, fighting back tears.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered as he tucked the folder under his arm, “I... I know how she died.”

I froze at this. How did he know? I looked over my shoulder at my mother’s grave. Beloved mother, daughter, and friend. A warm breeze blew through the cemetery, carrying the smell of jasmine. The smell of my mother’s perfume.

Candice wrapped her hands around my arm. I looked down at her and saw her big eyes filled with more tears and I knew she smelled jasmine too.

I wasn’t one for the superstitious. But, honestly, that was scary as hell. I turned from the grave and looked at Gavin. He looked nervous and ready to bolt. As if I was going to attack him.

I took a deep breath and sighed, “Fine. Fine, when do you want to do it?”

He looked like a puppy the way his face lit up. “How’s Sunday?”

“This Sunday?” I think about my work schedule. It was as if he knew I didn’t have to work that day. That’s creepy.

“Yes,” he smiled. I sighed and nodded my head. Why the hell do I agree to things that I know will end badly?

“Understand something,” I growled, “if it turns out that you are my father you do not have the right to be called father. That’s a privilege. And you will have to earn it. If it turns out that you are not my father we will never speak again. You will leave me alone and God help you if you don’t.”

“I understand. But I can assure that I am your father. Look at our similarities. You have my height, my hair, and nose,” he reasoned.

I rolled my eyes at him but I knew he was being reasonable. We did have all those things in common and with the emails that he has... I mentally shook my head. I would think about that later. “I’ll meet you at the hospital at ten Sunday morning. Don’t be late,” I stated in a monotonous voice. He nodded his head.

I grabbed Candice’s hand and walked towards the car. After putting her in, I got in the driver’s seat and started to pull out. I saw Gavin watching us from a black SUV and I ignored him completely as I pulled out of the parking lot.

“Aspen,” Candice called from the back seat.

“Yes, honey?” I looked at her in my rearview mirror.

“Is-is that man your daddy?” she asked softly.

“I don’t know, Candice.” I turned back to the road. “I don’t know.”

I chewed on my nail as I rested my elbows on my knees. I stared at the white tile floor of the hospital before leaning back in my chair, sighing. I glanced at the clock. It was almost eleven. We agreed to meet at ten.

I should have known this was going to be a waste of my time. I stood up and stretched, popping my back in the process. I rolled my shoulders and walked out of the doors of the hospital.

I took a deep breath before waiting for a car to let me cross. Of course, no one would let me so I stood there and waited for a minute or two. Was everybody in this town getting sick? Lord above. There wasn’t even that many people in the waiting room so what the hell are all these cars here for?

I was about to decide to sprint across the pavement when a familiar black SUV pulled into the parking lot. It stopped at the entrance of the hospital and Gavin got out of the passenger side, telling the person that was driving that he would be back in a moment.

I crossed my arms and leaned against one of the brick pillars. “Took you long enough. But, then again, I guess you got here just in time. I was about to leave,” I snap.

He quickly turns to look at me. I noticed how quickly he covered up his surprise. “I’m sorry. I had important business to attend to.”

“More important than this? Wow,” I say sarcastically. I really couldn’t care what else he had to do. I just wanted to get this done and over with.

We made our way back into the hospital, Gavin glancing at me every few moments.

I turned to him and snapped, “Is there something on my face?”

He raised his eyebrows. “What?”

“You keep staring at me. Is there something on my face?” I grumble.

“No, no. Sorry,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. He seemed to want to say something else but didn’t. I rolled my eyes.

We waited for another two hours, though it seemed like forever until we were called back. Maybe the hospital really was busy today.

I was so happy when we were called back. It saved Gavin from continuing to try to make awkward conversation. I wasn’t helping matters though. Every time he asked me a question I gave him simple one worded answers. I didn’t want to talk to him. Not about school or work or anything.

The doctor finished with me quickly and as I was waiting out in the hall for him to finish with Gavin I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation through the open door.

“Why do you need this DNA test? It is clear she is your daughter,” the doctor stated.

“Because I really messed up,” I heard Gavin mumble. I had to agree with him on that. I didn’t want to accept it, but I knew what the DNA test results would say. I just had to be sure. Plus, this brought me more time to think about this.

“Look, doctor, I need you to do me a favor,” Gavin whispered, though I could still hear him.

“And what would that be, Mr. Graves?”

“I need you to speed the test results along. I need to get them as quickly as I can.”

“Mr. Graves, I can’t do that.”

“I am FBI Agent Graves. And I am sure that you can,” Gavin growled. I froze. Did he just say... What the hell! I pinched the bridge of my nose. That’s not possible. He’s joking. He has to be.

“That is very funny Mr. Graves. Please lea-” the doctor stopped short before rephrasing his sentence. “Very well, Agent Graves. I will try to hurry the test along. But I can’t promise anything.”

“Thank you. That is all I ask.” Gavin finally came out of the room, tucking something into his pocket.

“Ready?” he smiled down at me.

I pushed off of the wall and narrowed my eyes at him. “Of course, Agent Graves.”

His smile disappeared. “Is that why you left my mother? Because you wanted to be an FBI agent?”

He looked uncomfortable but also slightly angry. I half expected him to raise his hand to hit me.

So when Gavin raised his hand, I flinched back and mentally cursed myself. And, of course, he noticed. “I’m not going to hit you, Aspen. Why would I do that?” he questioned. All of the other people that were supposed to take care of me after my mother died did. Lorelai hit me on some occasions. If I had my way Candice wouldn’t spend any time with her, but I knew what I agreed to three years ago. Even if it was before we lived with Lorelai. I knew what would happen if I went back on my word. But I didn’t tell him any of this. No one knew that Lorelai hit me. It didn’t happen often, just when she was in a bad mood. And it wasn’t too severe.

When I didn’t respond, Gavin narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists. “Did your grandmother do it? She never liked me. She’s a heartless old hag so it wouldn’t surprise me if she did,” he hissed.

“You didn’t answer my question. Again,” I mumbled, hoping to change the subject.

It worked. “I was young and stupid. When she told me that she was pregnant, I panicked. I left her. But I loved your mother, never doubt that,” he stated. But you didn’t love me. He may have loved my mother, but he couldn’t love the baby in her womb. I didn’t say anything, just nodded my head. I wanted this conversation to end. Depressing memories were already filling my head.

We left the hospital. As Gavin was about to get back into the SUV, he turned to me. “I’m sorry I left. I know that I shouldn’t have. You may not ever forgive me. You may even blame me for her death.”

I knew what he was talking about. I had blamed him before but I came to my senses and knew that if he hadn’t left my mother she wouldn’t have had Candice. “I don’t blame you. And if you had stayed with my mother, she wouldn’t have had Candice.” If she didn’t have me she would still be alive. But I didn’t voice these thoughts.

Gavin nodded his head. “I’ll be in touch when I get the results. Goodbye, Aspen.”

I tilted my head in farewell before getting into my own car.

That night, when I was in the shower, curled up in the bottom of the tub, I cried. Today was too much. It brought forth to many memories I wanted to keep buried.

I remembered overhearing the conversation my mother and Hector had the first day I meet him. It was one of my earliest memories and a few things were foggy but I remember the words they said to each other.

“You have a child? How come you never told me?” he whisper-yelled.

“It never came up in a conversation. I was planning on telling you. I never expected you to show up on my front doorstep,” my mother snapped back.

“I don’t want to raise a child that isn’t my own. If you want me to stay then put her up for adoption.” At the time I didn’t understand what many of their words meant, but as I grew older I finally understood what he was telling her to do. My mother had told him that she wasn’t going to leave me on someone’s front doorstep and Hector had left. He came back a few days later, of course. He begged my mother for forgiveness and when she finally gave it to him they got married and years later had Candice.

Hector had treated Candice with more love than me. As I got older I knew why he treated me like that and I fully accepted it. I never understood why my mother didn’t get rid of me. I drove away the first man she loved and I almost drove away the second. I am grateful she treated me with so much love. I am happy she didn’t get rid of me. But I knew, even at the age of ten, that her life would have been a lot less painful if she had just put me up for adoption. But she loved me. And I loved her so much. I still do.

My friends love me, or at least two of them do, and Candice loves me. And I love them too. I should stop complaining and be happy with what I have. But it’s hard to be happy when someone you love so much, someone you need, is no longer here. Even after three years.


Here’s the second chapter for today. Again, I’m sorry about not posting for a while. I hope you guys can forgive me.

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