The Forgotten Claim - The Claim: Book 1

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Chapter 12 - Cameron (Part 1)

After delivering the letter, Cameron and Samuel ran for hours outside the city. Cameron needed to burn off his anxiety so he wouldn’t be tempted to drink for hours and be piss drunk by the time Olivia read his letter. He didn’t know how long it would take before she could read it but he trusted his gut that it would be after she put Chloe to bed.

He hoped she would call tonight rather than tomorrow. He wouldn’t be able to sleep until she called. The thought of her reading his story made him antsy. He wanted to hurry back to his phone and not risk missing her call.

Cameron and Sam took down a young buck together for dinner and stripped the bones clean before heading back to their motorcycles parked in a secluded area off a dirt back road and returning to the city. The sun was setting when they left and the western horizon was purple as the last bit of light quickly vanished when they arrived at the apartment.

Sam tried to sneak into the bathroom first for a shower, but Cameron over-powered him in a brief scuffle and got in there first.

Huffing, Sam turned on the TV and flopped down on the couch to wait his turn.

Even though his body was exhausted and stuffed to the brim with venison, Cameron’s muscles still twitched with anxiety.

What if she didn’t call? What if she refused to give him a chance at all? What if she burned his letter instead of reading it? Could she really shut him out for good? What about Chloe?

He forced those thoughts from his mind as he stripped down and hopped into the scalding shower, letting the steamy stream of water wash away his anxiety and negative thoughts.

Sam went in after and Cameron turned the TV on, clicking idly through the channels. When Sam came out, he swiped the remote from Cameron and settled on a zombie show as he joined Cameron on the couch. Cameron didn’t argue. His mind wasn’t on the show, but rather whether Olivia would call or not.

The show ended and Sam put a movie on, while Cameron continued to sit listlessly next to him.

It was midnight when his phone rang and her name appeared on the screen.

Cameron’s heart jumped in his throat. Even Sam’s heart skipped a beat and began to race as he stiffened on the couch next to him.

Picking up the phone, he lifted it to his ears as he rose to his feet and went out to the narrow balcony for some privacy. “Hi, Olivia.”

Goddess, simply saying her name made him sweat.

“Hi…”

Hesitation laced her voice, making him swallow as his stomach bunched up into knots.

He closed the balcony door behind him and leaned out on the metal railing. “How are you?”

“Um…” There was a rustle before she sighed. “Not sure.”

“Well, I’m scared as shit,” he admitted, hoping that a confession of his own feelings would help her to open up with her own.

“You are?”

“Yeah. You know why?”

She hesitated. “Um…”

“Because I fucked up, Olivia. You’re the mother of my child. I failed you both and now more than ever, I’m scared as shit that I fucked up so bad, I can’t fix it. I want to make it up to you. I want the chance to be a part of your lives. Five years were taken from me and there’s nothing I can do to go back and fix it. I just want a chance, Olivia. Just one chance.”

“I know,” she said in a small voice.

Silence fell on the line as he closed his eyes and listened to the sound of traffic on the streets below. A gentle, cool breeze nipped at his flesh.

“That’s all I’m asking,” he reiterated.

“Cameron, you know as well as I do that it’s not easy for me,” she said. “I can’t just pretend what happened five years ago never happened. It hurt me real bad.”

“I know.”

She sighed. “I get where you’re coming from, and thank you for writing it all down for me, but…”

“I know you’re scared too,” he said when she trailed off. “We can take things slow. Meet up in public places over coffee, dinner, with or without Chloe—it’s up to you. I’ll be on my best behavior. I can’t give up on you and Chloe without giving us a chance. I’ll always be asking myself ‘what if?’ and it will tear me apart. And if things don’t work out, then at least I can say I tried.”

He thought he could hear her swallow, but that could have been him choking down the anxiety creeping up his throat.

“I know you’re right,” she said reluctantly.

“Please, don’t push me away, Olivia.” He was begging. The pain within him resonated in his voice as he hung his head, his torso slumped over the metal railing, one hand clutching the phone to his ear and the other gripping the railing, white-knuckled.

Seconds ticked by. The silence on the other end dragged on. His legs and arms felt weak with the strain on his heart as all the blood rushed to keep it pumping.

“How… How bad is your drinking? Are you an alcoholic? I can’t have an alcoholic around Chloe.”

“Well,” he said, brushing his fingers through his hair, “let’s just say I was sober for the last four years until now. Not going to lie, when I woke up from the coma, I was so upset. I started drinking excessively and I didn’t care who I hurt when I was drunk. My father finally had enough of it and dragged my sorry ass to my—uh—like a chief. My ethnicity is mixed European and Ojibwa. My last name is Ojibwa for spear. I’m born into a family of warriors.”

He chuckled nervously. If only he could tell her what he really was... But she’d have to see it to believe it.

“I live on tribal land outside the city.”

“I didn’t know you were Native or that we had a reservation between the city and Aspen Beach... and I know my local geography.” Her voice was of soft surprise rather than snarky disbelief.

“Well, we don’t live on government-sanctioned land or receive any aid, so that’s probably why you weren’t aware of it before. We keep to ourselves mostly.”

She hummed in understanding.

“Anyway,” he continued, getting back to what he was saying before. “My father hauled my drunk ass to our leader. Sam was there too and like I said in my letter, Sam was really struggling. We were forced to attend counseling sessions before we started to lean on each other. I got clean. Sam stopped cutting…”

He closed his eyes, trying not to remember the first time he caught Sam with a knife in his hand, trembling, as he pressed the blade against his wrist with tears streaming down his face. Cameron knocked it from him and grabbed the teen by the collar of his shirt, shaking him roughly as he demanded over and over, “Why?”

“Oh my god,” she whispered. “That’s horrible!”

“Yeah,” Cameron mutter. “I still can’t believe it and we lived through it. He’s better now and the scars are proof that he pushed past it and survived.”

“No kidding.”

He coughed to clear the emotion backlogged in his throat.

“Anyway… yeah. I was clean for four years and picked up the bottle again when I saw you at the beach and you ran from me. I’m sober right now if that counts for anything.” His voice lowered. “I don’t want you to see that side of me. Ever.”

“Are you an angry drunk? Violent?”

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