When I walked in the kitchen, I looked away from all the eyes that were upon me. Not only because I looked like I hadn’t slept at all last night – and I actually hadn’t – but also because the right corner of my lower lip looked like I’d been punched.
And I had.
I sat on my usual seat and started eating – with my head always lowered or eating with the toast in front of my lips so that no one would notice my lip. I didn’t want anyone to ask me questions about it, but I knew they would. I couldn’t spend my whole time hiding my mouth from everyone, but if I could somehow delay their discovery... Anyway, I already had an excuse ready for it.
Despite the sleepless night, I still hadn’t digested what I’d found out last night about Allison, Mr. Cooper... and Adam. I couldn’t believe something this big was being dug out because Adam and I had gotten involved with each other. I couldn’t believe how everything was connected. I was sure that Allison was the woman in my aunt’s story, but if Mr. Cooper was the man... then Adam had to be the son. If everyone avoided telling him something about his mother, then they had to have a really good a reason. And judging by Mr. Cooper and his father’s standards, having a mother that was a maid seemed a pretty good reason to hide everything from Adam.
As always, Becca came in the kitchen and sat beside me. “Good morning, Eva!” She said with a perky voice.
“Hi.” I slightly looked the opposite way.
Like every day, she started talking and I replied to her, never turning my face towards her. I didn’t want her to see this now. Not when we were in a kitchen full of gossipers. They’d all have noticed the wound on my lip if they’d paid the slightest attention to me, but since none of them seemed interested in me, and I had my head lowered, no one had noticed anything so far, which was good.
After we all finished having breakfast, Glenda started giving out the chores like she always did, so most of us stood in front of her waiting for further orders.
I watched everyone being given a chore to do while I just stood there motionless, my arms crossed over my chest and yet no chore. I seldom was the last one to be given something to do. All I could do was waiting. And that was exactly what I did, until the last maid walked out, and there was only Glenda, my aunt Deena and me in the kitchen.
Rudely, Glenda came up to me and forced me to lift my face with her thick fingers. “Hey!” I cried out, running away from her grip.
“Still, child,” She warned me with her calm voice. She looked me in the eyes and obliged me to lift my face again. I saw the look on her face, undecipherable again, and the look on my aunt’s – shocked.
I stepped backwards, running away from Glenda’s fingers and avoiding looking at them. “Eva, what happened?” My aunt asked with a shaky voice.
“Nothing,” I responded, gazing at Glenda. How had she noticed the wound on my lip when I’d tried so hard to hide? “Nothing happened. It was just an accident.”
“If it had been just an accident,” Glenda started sharply, “You wouldn’t have tried to hide it from us, especially when Becca sat beside you, and you didn’t dare to face her so that she wouldn’t notice your lip.” She paused, and fixed her eyes on my lip, “If it had been just an accident, you wouldn’t act like that with me and your aunt.”
“Well, it was.” I insisted.
“Eva...” My aunt stepped forward. “If someone did this to you... tell us.”
I can’t. You won’t believe. And even if you actually believed in me, you couldn’t do a damn thing against him. “No one did anything, aunt. I just happened to hit the bathroom’s door when I woke up in the middle of the night.” That was my stupid excuse. And unfortunately, that was the best I had come up with.
“I know you’re lying.”
“I’m not, aunt.” I offered her a reassuring smile. “It’s the truth.”
She wasn’t a tad bit convinced. “Someone hit you.”
“Tell us who did that, child.”
“No one did this to me, for god’s sake!” I shouted at them. God, I hadn’t had any sleep at all, I was tired of thinking! I just wanted to run away from them. Couldn’t they see I had no patience for this today?
“It’s very weird the fact that you hit a door and what came out wounded was your lip and not your head. Your face must have been in an awkward position.” I wasn’t waiting for someone to point out that little detail. I should have thought of something better!
“It’s the first time a maid appears hurt, looking like she’s been hit,” My aunt’s eyes narrowed and I now knew she’d changed the strategy. She still added, “...in many years.”
I just had to take advantage of that. “How many years?”
“Twenty-three years ago to be specific.” That’s Adam’s age, Eva, I thought for myself. The one who was hit was Allison. It just had to be. It fit! Didn’t it?
“And what happened to that maid?” I dared to ask. I knew they didn’t want me to ask any questions about Allison, but they didn’t know I was referring to her. They couldn’t guess I was thinking it was her.
After Mr. Cooper had left me last night... I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think of anything else other than the information I’d collected, and the truth I’d dug up. I was only determined to do one thing – and that was to discover the whole truth behind the story my aunt had told me.
“What happened to the woman is none of your business, child.” It is when the same happened to me, but I wasn’t about to tell them that.
“Was this why you didn’t give me a chore in the first place? To battle against me and say this wasn’t an accident when I’m telling you it was?” I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
Despite the fact that I wanted to confront them about everything I’d found out last night, it was better if I didn’t. At least, for now. I had to think about it. I had to be sure it was all true. And if they were... I wanted to tell Adam. I would tell Adam. That was something I’d decided last night, in case Allison was actually... his mother. God, how could they lie to him like that? Was it so bad the fact that Adam’s mother had been a maid?
“Is there anything else you want to insinuate, or am I finally going to be given something to do?” I folded my arms over my chest and waited for their reaction. I just wanted to get away from their suspicious eyes.
“Ok, then. You can go and help out Becca and Rita cleaning up pool in the backyard.” I didn’t wait to listen to anything else. I just turned my back on them and rushed out of the kitchen, happy they’d finally freed me from their doubtful – but also concerned - gazes. I knew they were just trying to help me, but I didn’t want their help. At least not with this because it wasn’t worth the effort. I knew Mr. Cooper’s father would get away with it in case they tried to do something.
When I joined the two girls in the backyard, I avoided looking straight at their faces. The fact that Glenda and my aunt already knew about it made this look less bad in case they noticed the wound – and they would notice. However, that didn’t mean I wasn’t ashamed of it. I was.
“Look who’s decided to go come down from her pedestal to join us.” Rita said as soon as she perceived no one else would come after me. “And judging from your mood, I’d say you’re probably mad because your efforts weren’t worth a dime, since you’re still stuck here with us.”
“God, Rita, don’t be a bitch.”
“Oh, but I am.” Rita replied. From the corner of my eye, I could see the malicious grin on her pretty face. “Come on, Eva. Tell us how you managed to get Adam. I mean, I wouldn’t mind sharing my bed – or his – for a while.”
Yeah, right. The fact that Adam had fallen, no, liked me, was a miracle. Honestly, I didn’t even know how I’d made him like me, because I really didn’t have any intentions at all in the beginning. And even if I had now, it wasn’t worth the effort. Adam would never replace his girlfriend for any of us. Just like Rita had said.
“I mean, I’m realistic.” Rita continued when I didn’t say anything. “I know Adam would never trade his hot girlfriend for any of us, though that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to have a little fun with him.”
“You so sound like a-”
“Slut?” Rita laughed, cutting Becca off. “I don’t care. A woman has to satisfy her sexual needs, doesn’t she?”
In that instance, I just glared at her. I was shocked. Had she really said that? What a freaking whore! She just wanted to go to bed with Adam? She just wanted to use him? Before I could stop myself, I was already saying, “Adam’s no toy.”
Before I realized what I’d done, I noted their eyes were wide-open and their jaws had fallen in surprise. Shit. They’d seen the wound. Nervously, I bit my lower lip, though I regretted a second later, since it hurt like hell.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” Slowly but surely, Rita started stepping towards me, always by the pool. She was on the far end of the pool, while I was standing opposite to her. “Let me guess, Adam’s girlfriend found out you were trying to get him, so she poked you in the face? No... If it had been that, we would’ve heard about it.”
Despite being just as shocked as Rita, Becca drew closer to her, and placed her hands on her shoulders. “If Glenda appears and sees we’re not working, she’ll make us work extra hours.”
“If that means I’ll find out who hit little Eva, then I’m all for it.” Rudely, Rita shook off Becca’s hands and resumed walking again. Eyes narrowed, she asked, “Adam?”
“Adam would never hit me!” I snapped, offended at what Rita had just said.
“Well, that just proves you don’t know him well. Adam has problems regarding controlling his dangerous temper. It’s enough for you to annoy him that, he’ll probably explode and harm you.”
“He might have his problems, but he’d be incapable of harming me.” I truly believed that.
“Until the day you push it, and he’ll burst out.”
Already out of patience for her mind games, I just questioned her, “God, what is your problem? Does it bother you that much that Adam and I... that we... that...”
“That you and Adam got involved?” It was Becca’s voice. Knowing her a little, I was sure she didn’t want to be a part of our fight, but she said it, anyway. “Yes, it does. Because she wanted him just as bad as you or me want to get the hell out this house.”
All of a sudden, Rita just spun and lifted her arm. Next thing I knew, Becca had her hand on her face and her eyes were closed. Rita had just slapped her.
Coldly, she said, “That’s none of your business.”
“You bitch!” I yelled at her, feeling like if she’d slapped me. “What the hell is wrong with you?” Furiously, I walked up to her and stood before her, just as angry as she looked.
“My problem is you!” She pointed at me, yelling now, too. “You appeared, and everything turned upside down! I’ve been here for months, and then you come and Adam falls for you? When I’ve been right under his nose all the time?”
Meanly, I said, “Maybe if you hadn’t acted like a slut, you’d have gotten him feeling something!”
“You’re one to talk!” Rita pointed at me, enraged. “You had the nerve to follow him to the stable! You probably just desperately hit on him that night!”
“I did no such thing!” I yelled at her, feeling outraged. How could she dare saying I’d gone to the stable just to seduce him? I went after him because I was curious! Nothing more! Seduce him wasn’t on my mind that night! Hell, it never was!
“Cut the good girl part, ok?” Rita said in an unconcerned way. “Just admit you wanted him as bad as any of us wanted! You probably took advantage of your mother’s death to have his pity! Crying all over him, acting like a little kid, broken-hearted, bla, bla, bla.”
This time, I didn’t answer. If I did, I’d probably choke on my own words, so I just stood there, staring at her. Hot fury flooded my body and if I didn’t cool down, I’d burst out. And maybe I should. Maybe I should prove to all of these maids that I wasn’t as weak as they thought I was.
My fists were clenched, burying my own nails in the palm of my hands where I’d once had wounds caused by Adam. I narrowed my eyes, breathing deeply. I was shaking. Shaking with rage. I just wanted to put my hands on her neck and strangle her.
“Eva.” Becca called me.
In that instant, I let go of all of my thoughts, except for one.
I threw myself at Rita, my hands making their way towards her neck. I wanted to squeeze the life out of her! How could she say I’d taken advantage of my mother’s death to get close to Adam? How could she? Hell, if I had to choose between Adam and my mother, I wouldn’t even need to think! My mother meant a lot more to me than any other living being on this planet!
At some point, I felt Rita’s nails on my arms, scratching my skin. It hurt, but I ignored the pain. In the background, I could listen to Becca’s shouts, as well as her hands trying to torn us apart, but neither of us wanted to let go of the other.
Rita’s hands managed to move up to my head, and then to my hair. She pulled it and that hurt. “You bitch!” I hollered, feeling as if my head was on its way to be chopped off. I wanted to choke her, but I wanted her to let go of me as well. I shook us both, but she still didn’t let go, even though we started tripping on our feet.
“Let me go, you fucking bitch!”
I didn’t, and knowing I wouldn’t, I became aware of her hand flying towards my face. I thought she’d slap me, but instead, I felt her nails craving deep in my left cheek.
I instantaneously cried out in pain, and wanting to grab my face, I just let go of Rita, and shoved her away so that she’d fall off. I thought I’d gotten rid of her, but she pulled me along with her, and we both ended up falling into the pool.
I didn’t have any time to breathe deep, because it was an unexpected fall. We’d fallen on the deepest part of the pool, so my first instinct was to swim to the surface if I wanted to breathe and live, ignoring the burning feeling on my cheek.
The moment I reached the surface, I was gasped for air and tossed my thick black hair back, since it was all wrapped around my face. Then, as my sight cleared, I watched Rita beside me, yelling at someone. I looked up and noticed Becca wasn’t alone anymore. Two maids were by Becca’s side, shouting at us.
Abruptly, and ignoring the maids, Rita turned to me and swam in my direction. “Why the hell did you push me, bitch?”
“You were hurting me!” I yelled, swimming backwards.
“You were choking me!”
“Maybe if you hadn’t said that, I wouldn’t have done-” Before I could keep going, Rita reached me, and stretched her arms towards me. I felt her hands pressing my head down, and before I knew it, I was underwater again.
What the hell was she trying to do? Drown me? Bitch! I tried once more to swim to the surface, but her hands kept me underwater, and the efforts I was making were tiring me and making me run out of the little air I had in my lungs. Not knowing what to do, I just grabbed her legs and tried to push her down as well, but she managed to maintain her head above the water. Then, I tried to carve my nails on her legs and hurt her, but I realized I was lacking strength... and air.
All the moves underwater were slow, which meant I had to try harder to swim up. Eventually, Rita would wear out as well, right? And I hoped that would be in the next few seconds, otherwise she’d really reach her goal...
Thankfully, before I reached that point, Rita’s hands stopped restraining me from swimming up. Begging for air, I swam as fast as I could, noticing Rita had suddenly vanished. Had she gotten out of the pool? Before I could, someone’s hands grabbed my arms and I felt myself being pulled out of the water.
My lungs were once more filled with air, and I rested my weary body for a couple of seconds, becoming aware there were more people in the backyard now. I lifted my face and looked around, still gasping for air. A bunch of maids were there, but I couldn’t distinguish any since my vision was blurry.
“Oh my god!” It was Becca’s familiar voice. “Are you ok, Eva?”
My urge for air was big, so I didn’t answer. I waited for some moments, until I managed to sight my aunt behind me when I looked over my shoulder. A larger, but not very tall, figure stood at her left side, quiet. I supposed it was Glenda.
At her right side was a much taller and leaner one. As my vision became clearer, I realized the person next to her was Mr. Cooper.
Aware that I was looking at him, he crossed his arms over his chest, and said, “Follow me to my office, now. You too, Rita.”
As her name was mentioned, I looked out for her, and realized she was just by my side again, not struggling for breath as bad as I was, or had been. She didn’t dare looking at me. She just got up, and followed Mr. Cooper, who had already turned and left.
I decided it was better to do the same, so I tried to get up. With Becca’s help, I managed. As she helped me following Mr. Cooper, Glenda, my aunt, and Rita, she never stopped talking and trying to apologize for not having done much while Rita was attacking me. I accepted her apologizes, of course. Becca didn’t have anything to do with it. Even so, that bitch Rita had slapped her.
When we reached Mr. Cooper’s office, Becca stayed behind, and only Glenda and my aunt were allowed to enter with me and Rita.
“Good luck, Eva.” She whispered, trying to smile.
I knew I needed luck. The odds were all against me.
As soon as I walked inside the office, my aunt closed the door since she was the last one to get in. Rita and I stepped towards Mr. Cooper’s desk and watched him sitting down on his leather chair. For a second, I dared to look at Rita, who stood at my right side. Her neck had a few minor cuts, and I’d been the author of them. To tell the truth, I didn’t feel any remorse.
“From all the years I’ve had maids working for me, they’ve all had their arguments, but none of them tried to kill the other.” Mr. Cooper started smoothly. “In fact, things have been a mess since a certain maid moved in. And yes, I’m talking about you, Eva.”
Before I could even open my mouth to defend myself, I was amazed when my aunt talked first. “Arthur, what happened this time wasn’t Eva’s fault. Rebecca was there, and she explained everything.”
“I watched what Rita was trying to do to Eva when they were both in the pool.” Wow, Glenda was speaking up for me? “Rita tried to drown her.”
As soon as Mr. Cooper’s frosty blue eyes glared at Rita, she immediately said, “Yeah, well, she tried to choke me before! Why is everyone ignoring that part?”
“Cut the crap, Rita.” My aunt suddenly said with a rather enraged tone. “If you hadn’t said what you said to Eva, she would’ve never tried to do what she did.” True. If Rita hadn’t even mentioned my mother... Maybe none of this would’ve happened. As I once again recalled her words about my mother, I just wanted to bury my fingers on her neck all over again.
“You know what?” Rita twirled around to look at my aunt, ignoring Mr. Cooper’s icy glares. “I don’t regret any of it! To me, all of it is true!”
The anger grew to fury, and I caught myself stepping towards Rita again, my hands ready to finish what I’d started. But before I could actually do something, a hand gripped my arm and stopped me from moving. I turned around, with blazing wrath stamped on my face, only to stare at a tranquil Glenda.
“Let me go,” I begged, wishing I could just kill Rita. How could she still claim all of what she’d said was true? How? “Glenda-”
“Calm down, child.” She murmured, as my aunt once again yelled something back at Rita. “We know it’s not your fault, but if you react to her provocations, Mr. Cooper might not see it that way.”
My lips set on a thin line, acknowledging Glenda was right, of course. However, that didn’t mean the urge to choke Rita had vanished.
“Yeah, right! Eva’s no different from me, Linda or any other maid in this house! Just because she’s your niece, it doesn’t make her a goddamn angel!” Controlling my anger, I looked back at Rita again, and caught her spinning over her heels to look at Mr. Cooper. “She had everything planned ever since she put her eyes on Adam!”
When she mentioned Adam, Mr. Cooper just leaned back on his chair, and massaged his temples with his eyes closed. The man was probably tired. It was still too early for him to be up, and he was already putting up with a maids’ argument... that would have never taken place if Rita’s mouth had stayed shut.
“What if I say,” Mr. Cooper slowly started, “that Adam was the one who lured Eva? Will you say I’m lying, Rita?”
Rita’s jaw fell open. I mirrored her reaction. Was Mr. Cooper on my side? Was he trying to help me? Adam had never tried to lure me on purpose! Like he’d once said, I’d been the one that had attracted him, even if not aware of it!
Rita’s next reaction was to boldly say, “You’re on her side?”
Sighing, Mr. Cooper warned her, “First of all, watch the way you speak to me. I am the one who is at an impasse about firing you or not. Secondly, I’m not on anyone’s side. Adam and Eva were both guilty regarding that issue.”
After she crossed her arms over her chest, she said, “I refuse to believe Adam was the one who enticed her. With so many maids in this freaking huge house, why the hell would he choose someone like her?”
“Because I really care for him.” I finally dared to speak up for myself, starting out with that sentence. I felt everyone’s eyes on me, but I was only looking at Adam’s father. “Because I can see beyond the looks and the money. I know how flawed... and damaged Adam is, and I know his weaknesses. I know why he’s such an angry person, and I know how miserable he was and still is. But above all, I see beyond all that.”
Only our breaths could be heard. I waited, suddenly afraid I’d said too much in front of Mr. Cooper. But none of it was a lie. My heart was suddenly aching as I pictured Adam in my mind, just like I’d seen him last night – damaged, miserable and full of sorrow. I suffered for him and with him, because I loved him with all of my heart.
At last, brave enough, I stared back at Mr. Cooper’s glacial eyes. I couldn’t read his face, just like I rarely could with Adam. My aunt and Glenda didn’t know what to say. Neither did Rita, otherwise she would’ve already made fun of what I’d said.
Mr. Cooper seemed completely immersed in his thoughts. He was staring at me, but he really wasn’t paying any attention. It was like he was seeing a whole different thing – or person. Maybe... Maybe he was imagining Allison in my place, saying the same things about him. He’d even mistaken me for Allison at his birthday party...
Out of the blue, Adam’s father just buried his face in his hands. Confused, I looked at my aunt over my shoulder. She shrugged her shoulders with a worried expression on her face. It looked as if Mr. Cooper would suffer a huge breakdown. But, just like Adam, he recovered fast, and gazed into my dark blue eyes.
“You speak as if... you’ve known him for years.” I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything to say. Nothing mattered.
Without warning, Mr. Cooper got up, and took a deep breath.
Then, all of a sudden, the door behind us was opened.
Startled, I looked over my shoulder... and sighted Adam standing at the entrance of the office.
No one dared to say anything. Adam looked he was about to kill someone. Had he heard what had happened between me and Rita? He wasn’t even used to get up this earlier. He had a drowsy expression, which probably meant he’d just woken up. He wasn’t even properly dressed. All he had on was a t-shirt and some shorts.
I noticed his eyes roving around the room, probably deliberating what was going on here. He looked at his father, moved on to my aunt and Glenda, and then spotted Rita. At last, when he caught sight of me, he didn’t look anywhere else.
“What is going on here?” Great. This was just what I needed - Adam’s presence. The fact that he was here would make everything worse, and if his grandfather showed up and would see him here... I’d be in big trouble. He’d probably think Adam had come to defend me, if Mr. Cooper ended up disclosing what this was all about!
Has no one replied, Adam stepped inside and slammed shut the door behind him. Folding his arms over his chest, he spoke again. “The maids are fussing around the house, talking about some argument. They even woke me up. Now, are you going to tell me what happened, or am I going to have to discover by myself?”
Mr. Cooper rushed to say, “It’s nothing I can’t take care of, son. You can go back to bed.” Then, Mr. Cooper jerked his head towards Glenda, and commanded, “You know what to do.”
Silently, Glenda just turned around and left us alone. Adam didn’t follow her. Glenda had probably been told to calm down the other maids. If they’d woken up Adam, it meant they were really making a huge fuss over this. At this point, I could only hope they hadn’t woken up Adam’s grandfather.
At the thought of Adam’s grandfather, I suddenly found myself imagining Adam, his father... and a woman without a face. His mother. Allison. It had to be. All the pieces fit their story.
All of the memories from last night popped up in my mind as well, and I once again saw Adam’s grandfather hitting me, pushing my hair, hurting me and scaring me. Threatening me. Afraid I’d do the same thing Allison had done to his son – Mr. Cooper.
“I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s wrong.” Adam said when his father was about to open his mouth to dismiss him. “Until this day, the maids never dared to speak about me or point directly at me when I was close to them. What changed that?”
I watched my aunt move towards Adam, and place her hand over his strong arm. “Everything’s ok, Adam. This is nothing your father can’t handle.”
Adam said nothing. Instead, he looked back at me. Damn. Why wouldn’t he just leave? I didn’t need him! I could take care of this on my own! Unfortunately, I failed to hold his gaze when I let my face drop.
In that moment, Adam said, “This is about Eva, isn’t it?”
“No, Adam, this-”
“Don’t lie to me, dad.” He cut off his father aggressively. “Eva has a pretty guilty look on her face, and judging from Rita’s nervous expression while looking at me, I’m guessing she’s involved. Right?”
Why did he have to be so stupidly good in reading someone’s faces?
With a heavy sigh, Mr. Cooper gave up from pushing him away. “Yes.”
I didn’t see his expression, but I still heard him once again, “And every time Eva comes here, it’s always about the same thing. I’m guessing this time is no exception.” The sharp and serious way he spoke... it made me think he’d completely recovered from last night, when he’d looked so damaged. But he was probably hiding his pain under that glacial mask.
No one said anything again, because he was right. I heard some steps towards me and Rita, and then Adam saying, “What does Rita have to do with it?”
God, why did he have to be here? Couldn’t he just leave? His father could resolve this issue! His presence wasn’t needed! It would only worsen things for me! Not only would Rita pick on me even more after this, but his grandfather would probably do something if he knew he’d been here to probably defend me!
Not being able to hold it to myself, I opened my mouth, “Adam...” I slowly spun over my heels, and faced the handsome man. “Please, leave. Don’t make this any harder.”
I hoped he’d understand my plea. Unfortunately, he did everything I didn’t want.
His eyes just widened in sheer shock as he looked at my face for the first time that morning, now that I was fully facing him. Shit! Shit, shit, shit! How could I’ve forgotten about the wounds on my face?
I watched him walking towards me, and stopping only mere inches away, his body almost touching mine. Slowly, Adam raised his hand and touched my face. Bit by bit, he stroked my left check, and that hurt. The cuts hadn’t been treated yet, and that explained the dry blood on the tip of his fingers when he pulled back and gazed at it. Still quiet, Adam’s fingers came back to my face, and this time... they touched my wounded lip. I immediately closed my eyes and unconsciously pushed back when he pressured my lip.
Finished with his assessment about my cuts, he dangerously glared at Rita. With his hands still on my face, I felt them slightly shaking. Oh, shit.
“You did this to her?”
At first, Rita remained voiceless, but knowing that it was probably better to explain herself, she spoke up, “She was hurting me as well!” I noticed her turning her head to both sides so that Adam could see the cuts I’d made with my nails when I’d tried to choke her. I didn’t regret any of them. “She tried to choke me!”
“And she had a reason for it, didn’t she, Rita?” My aunt said. She knew why I’d done it, and though she didn’t approve of it, she understood me.
“I don’t care! I didn’t hit her until she actually tried to choke me!” Rita once again tried to explain her reasons to hurt me, though everyone was against her. “I only scratched her! Nothing more!”
“I’ve never seen Eva doing that.” Adam cut her off, rage stamped on his face. Was he that angry because Rita had hurt me? “For her to get that out of control... you must have done or said something.”
As soon as Adam started stepping towards Rita, I grabbed his hand and tried to pull him to me, “Adam-”
He just cut me off when he shook my hand off his. “What did you say?”
“Don’t you dare lie to me.” He said, pressuring the red haired maid, who probably was dying to get the hell out of there. “And don’t spare me on the details.”
“I already know what she told Eva, Adam.” Mr. Cooper raised his tone, so that Adam would listen to him. He probably knew Adam would get out of control if Rita ended up telling him what she told me. “You-”
“But I don’t know! And if it was about me,” For seconds, Adam gazed at Mr. Cooper, and added, “I want to know every word she said!” Again, he focused on Rita, whose color had drained out of her face.
I knew Adam was defending me, but I could take care of this! The argument may have been about him, but this was between me and Rita, and no one else! And if he could even think clearly, he’d know Rita would take advantage of this in the near future!
Decided, I rushed to place myself between Rita and Adam. With all of my strength, I put my hands on Adam’s chest and stopped him from walking any further.
“That’s enough, Adam.” Even my hands started shaking when he looked down at me, fuming. God, it had been just a minor fight, and I was old enough to take care of my problems without him there! And he probably wouldn’t even dare to defend me if no one knew about our relation yet! “Just leave us!”
“She hurt you, kid!”
“I hurt her as well!” I said, just wanting him to leave his father’s office.
“You didn’t hurt her as bad as she hurt you! She punched you!”
“What?” Rita abruptly blurted out behind me, “What do you mean, she punched you? I just scratched her!”
“Wait a minute...” Mr. Cooper came closer to us, and stared down at my face, focusing his attention on my wounded lip. “Rita didn’t hit you? I thought... I thought she’d been the one to do that.”
Looking past Adam, I noticed my aunt was too quiet, gazing at me in a weird way. It even scared me. It was like if she knew who or why I’d been punched. I hadn’t even thought about my wounded lip when I’d come to Mr. Cooper’s office...
I felt Adam’s chest muscles stiffen. Not allowing me to avoid his icy blue eyes, he asked, puzzled, “If Rita didn’t punch you... then who did?”
Nervously, I replied, “I hit the door last night, and-”
“Bullshit, kid.” Adam interrupted me in a hostile way. “I was with you last night and you didn’t have that wound on your lips.” Was Adam thinking clearly? He’d just finished telling his father, my aunt, and Rita that we’d been together last night!
“It was after that!” I lied. Unfortunately, I couldn’t lie that well when standing before Adam, especially when he looked at me in such an enraged way. “I’m telling you the truth, Adam...” I pleaded.
“No, you’re not.”
“Rita,” Mr. Cooper suddenly said, turning at her, “You’re dismissed. I’ll think about your case later. Now, go.” The moment Mr. Cooper finished talking; Rita didn’t even look twice at any of us. She just spun and rushed in route for the way out of that office.
Then, all the attention was focused on me.
“No one hit me.” I said again, begging for them to believe me. “I’m serious. Why or who would do that to me? I mean-”
“I could think of someone.” Mr. Cooper immediately twirled his head to gaze at my aunt. He didn’t speak. I think he didn’t need to. The way he gazed at my aunt meant he knew something. It meant he knew of who she was talking about. Too into the story related to Mr. Cooper and Allison... my aunt probably knew who’d hit me, now that I thought of it. But it wasn’t worth anything, anyway.
“Kid... I know someone hit you. Tell me, I-”
And for the second time that morning, before Adam could finish his sentence, someone stormed inside Mr. Cooper’s office.
Looking past Adam and his father, I became aware my worst nightmare had arrived.
“Father...” As soon as Adam’s father spoke, I found myself thinking I was in a huge trouble if Mr. Cooper actually ended up revealing his father what had happened since the very moment we’d walked in this room.
“Good morning to you all!” Cooper Senior said in a very perky mood. “I’ve noticed something happened. Is everything alright?” With a fake smile on his face, Cooper Senior looked at everyone. Even at me, though he didn’t linger much. Thank god.
Sighing, Mr. Cooper replied, “Just a minor misunderstanding. Nothing I’m not capable of resolving.”
“Oh really?” Walking at a snail’s pace, Cooper Senior reached me and Adam, and gazed at the both of us. Then, out of the blue, he just started laughing.
Everyone’s eyebrow arched up, except Mr. Cooper’s. “What’s so funny?”
Cooper Senior pointed at me and Adam. Then, all of the fun vanished from his face. “This.” He said in a disgusted way. “After all that’s happening, what are these two doing here, together, so close?”
“They weren’t doing anything wrong.” My aunt finally dared to approach us, and boldly placed herself between us and Cooper Senior. Wow, for me, it took a lot of courage to face someone that looked much less merciful and benevolent than Mr. Cooper and Adam themselves.
I noticed the way Cooper Senior’s eyes roamed throughout my aunt’s face. They too, understood each other without trading any words. That was evidence that proved my theory.
Suddenly smirking, Mr. Cooper slightly shook his face. “You think I trust you?” He paused, and this nasty smiled grew on his thin lips. “If I was the one running this household, you would’ve already been fired.”
“But you’re not, are you?” My aunt folded her arms over chest, facing Mr. Cooper’s father fiercely. I wished I’d had that same boldness last night.
“No, I’m not.” He said, that malicious smile never leaving his lips. “But that doesn’t mean you can act the way you want towards me.”
“And that doesn’t mean you can take care of things the way you did back then, does it?” Having said that, Cooper Senior’s smile immediately vanished. My aunt was right. Unfortunately for us all, Mr. Cooper was acting the same way his father had acted.
“Deena, I think that’s enough.” Mr. Cooper finally said something. Ever since Adam and his grandfather had interrupted us, he’d been very quiet, like he’d been afraid to say something.
Unfortunately, my aunt wasn’t that easy to calm down. I watched her approaching Adam’s grandfather, and fearlessly pointing her finger at his chest. “I know what you did, John Cooper. I really do. If you dare to make any move again, I’ll make you regret it.”
Wow, that was my aunt talking?
Scorning, Adam’s grandfather just provoked my aunt even more. “Oh really? What will you do?”
“Remember what happened years ago?” If I was right... she was referring to what had happened between Mr. Cooper and Allison. “I’ll make it public knowledge.”
Eyes suddenly wide-open, color drained out of Cooper Senior’s face as my aunt’s words sunk deep in his mind. I noticed the clenched fists and the lips pressed against each other, turning them white. If he’d tried so hard to hide the entire story about his son and Allison from Adam and everyone else, then that meant he wouldn’t dare to do anything else. Or so I hoped.
Making sure Adam’s grandfather wouldn’t respond to her attack, my aunt spun over her heels, and violently grabbed me. Tightening her grip around my wrist, she suddenly started pulling me against the door.
She succeeded in taking me out of that office, and the last thing I saw were Adam’s eyes gazing at his relatives, and asking, “What did Deena mean with all of that?”
I couldn’t listen to anything else, because my aunt just dragged me to the same room she’d taken me when I’d walked out of Mr. Cooper’s office yesterday, wondering about who was Allison. Now, I knew. Now, I also just felt like screaming it!
As soon as we both darted inside the room, she slammed shut the door, and just started yelling at me, “John Cooper was the one who hit you, wasn’t he?”
Suddenly caught off guard, I didn’t even know what to answer. I just choked on whatever I thought of saying. At the lack of a reply, my aunt added, “I know he did it, Eva. Just tell me the truth!”
“I’m sick of this mess!” She shouted, now more than enraged. “I know you didn’t plan on falling for Adam, but I’m tired of this! How did this even reach this point?” She asked herself, suddenly incredulous.
I remained silent and quiet. My aunt was a little out of control, and I knew better than to respond to her in that very moment.
“You know what? It was probably my fault.” She abruptly said, holding her hands in the air. “If I’d made a better effort at trying to know if you and Adam had something going on, I’d have caught you two and I would’ve done something to stop you...”
“There was nothing you could’ve done that would have worked.” I told her, though she really didn’t listen to me, even if what I’d said was true. Even with Mr. Cooper’s punishment and conversations, I still went after Adam, and vice-versa.
“...but no! I convinced myself things would not happen a second time! I convinced myself that Adam wouldn’t see you the same way that Arthur saw-” In that moment, my aunt stopped talking, and stared at me. I watched her biting her lower lip. I did just the same when I was nervous... or had probably said too much, which was my aunt’s case this time.
I had to audacity to meet her gaze, and out of the blue, it felt like the world had frozen when I caught myself suddenly reasoning.
Should I take this opportunity to let her know I knew about everything... or should I let her continue to think I’d probably forgotten about Allison? Well... either way, I still wasn’t sure if Mr. Cooper was really the man in my aunt’s story about her friend. But still... if fit so well! Everyone’s story – Mr. Cooper’s, Allison’s and Adam’s – fit the others! It felt as if the puzzle had been finally completed!
I knew myself good enough to know that, if I didn’t tell my aunt everything I knew this time, I’d find another moment to reveal the whole thing.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, Eva, I told myself. Take the risk.
And so I did.
“You convinced yourself that Adam wouldn’t see me the same way that Mr. Cooper saw...?” I repeated, waiting for my aunt to complete it now. Instead, she remained soundless. I pressured her even more, feeling swiftly confident. “I’m tired of being kept in the dark when everyone’s been saying stuff around me, aunt.”
“It’s none of your business, Eva.” She snapped, running away from my eyes when she just turned her back on me.
“It is!” I suddenly yelled, fuming. “It is my goddamn business when I keep listening to that name while someone talks about me and Adam!”
“Eva, forget that name.” Aunt Deena said, still not daring to face me. “That’s someone that belongs in the past, ok? I don’t care if that name keeps coming up near you! Just ignore it!”
At first, I said nothing, allowing the shock and surprise sink in.
How could she tell me to forget all about it, when she deeply knew my story was happening the same way Allison’s had? Wouldn’t it be fair to me if I knew what things to do and what things to avoid? Wouldn’t it make my life easier? I mean, wouldn’t it make everyone’s lives easier? Or was she afraid I’d tell something to Adam in case she actually revealed everything about Allison and Mr. Cooper?
Maybe... maybe it was better if I told her flat-out that I already knew about Allison. Thus, I’d avoid all of this chaos and these stupid conversations.
Sighing, I walked up to my aunt and put my hands over her shoulders. I dropped my head, and spoke softly, “Aunt... I know everything about Allison and Mr. Cooper.”
Once more, my aunt moved so quickly that I thought I really had imagined it. Not even a second later, she was already staring at me, eyes wide-open and shocked, while her hand covered her mouth.
She was thunderstruck.
“What... W-what do you mean you know everything about Allison and Mr. Cooper? They-”
“Don’t fool me, aunt.” I said, feeling very weary now. Her shocked expression told me she knew very well what I was referring to. “I really mean everything. I know Allison was once a maid that worked for Adam’s grandfather, and I know she got involved with Mr. Cooper. I know... I know she was Adam’s mother.”
After everything I’d heard about Allison – from my aunt, Mr. Cooper, his father, and even Adam – my conclusion made perfect sense. Especially after everything Mr. Cooper’s father had told me last night.
I watched my aunt drag herself towards a chair and just sat still. For moments, she said nothing. She just stared at me, and sighed often. During those instants, I became aware she looked much older now. I looked for a chair, and when I found one, I brought it over to my aunt and sat in front of her.
“Say something.” I pleaded. I didn’t want her silence. I wanted her explanations. I wanted to know everything. However, my aunt remained noiseless. Impatiently, though smoothly, I added, “If you’re thinking I’ll tell something to Adam about this, I won’t.”
You know you’re lying not only to your aunt, but to yourself as well, Eva.
“I know you won’t,” My aunt finally spoke. “But, it’s just that... this has remained buried for so long... I can’t even believe you found out about this!” Honestly, me neither.
Leaning forward, I reached for my aunt’s hands and squeezed them in a sign of understanding and support.
“I don’t want you to suffer the same way Allison did, Eva.” My aunt whispered, burying her head on her hands when she pulled back. I didn’t know how much she’d been a part of that story, but she seemed pretty down about this. Taking one more heavy breath, my aunt still added, “You can’t possible imagine what she goes through every day, knowing her son’s out there and she can’t contact him.”
In that very instant, I stopped breathing.
“That’s why I’m hoping you... y-you’re not pregnant.” My aunt kept going, like if what she’d said was nothing out of the ordinary.
I couldn’t reason, and I couldn’t speak. All I had in my mind were my aunt’s words. You can’t possibly imagine what she goes through every day, knowing her son’s out there and she can’t contact him.
Stuttering, I managed to ask, “Did you... did you just s-say that... Allison can’t c-contact Adam, even though he’s o-out there?”
“Yes, I did. And?” My aunt looked somewhat confused. Well, she wasn’t the only one.
“But... Isn’t... Isn’t she dead?” I dared to ask, my heart ready to pop out of my chest due to such discovery.
And right there, for the first time that morning, my aunt’s lips curved into a faint smile, and her eyes lit up. “No, Eva. Allison is still pretty much alive.”