Chapter 15 ~ She's Gone
“Yes Mr Tadashi, we can have that on the contract and drawn up for you by next week…”
I was on the phone, as usual, when my secretary entered, she was looking around the room nervously, I could see by her posture she was gearing up for something. While my mind was on the call, I was assessing her movements with great curiosity, she was never very good at hiding her true feelings.
“Yes… yes… I will send through a confirmation email shortly… thank you… goodbye.”
She sat down, twisting her fingers and tapping her shoes on the floor. I cocked my brow and eyed her suspiciously, clearly, she had rehearsed what she wanted to say, now she just had to find the strength. As I seated myself, I didn’t bother questioning her about her odd behaviour, just waited for her to tell me what she wanted, though it appeared to be significant by her flighty behaviour.
“M-Mr Hutchinson…” Finally, she found her voice. “I have worked for you and this company for many years…”
“Gail, get to the point.”
She cleared her throat, tilting her head to the side like I had annoyed her by my abruptness. “My husband is due to have surgery, I know what your policy is on extended periods of absence from work. I like my job, I should like to continue it when I get back.”
“You want me to hold your position?”
“I think I deserve it, yes.”
“Everyone is replaceable Gail.”
“I understand that, but it is important. I have held my tongue and I have always acted professional, coming in when sick and always putting the company first. I need…” I held up my hand.
She was right, Gail just happened to be the most professional member of staff I had. She was kind, even when I was a jerk and she always treated everyone with respect. I stared at her, as intimidating as it seemed, what I was internally struggling with was the war between the ruthless narcissistic boss I had created and the now understanding and caring man I was becoming the more my heart began to heal. I knew it, I could feel the change within me – but my staff could never know.
“How much time do you need?”
“I understand that I just… w-wait… w-what?”
“How much, Gail?” I tapped my foot impatiently.
I never allowed this behaviour, what the fuck was I thinking? Shit, I was getting soft and I had developed… empathy… yuck, that vile emotion that allows you to be human – fuck Daniella. “Fine,” I ground out.
“Yes Gail, fine. You take the time you need but source a good replacement, preferably one that understands protocol within the company. Do not inform anyone that I have allowed this.” I began to type furiously on my keyboard, I had so much work to do and damn Danny wasn’t answering her phone. I was distracted enough, I didn’t need this too.
“W-what happened to you?”
I was slightly annoyed by her question but also hurt, I had really been a bastard of a person. “Excuse me?”
“You have grown a heart, Mr Hutchinson.”
I sat there staring at her obscurely before snapping, “do you want a job when you get back or not?”
She paled, realising her mistake, “y-yes sir, sorry. I’m leaving – I will organise my replacement to begin in a month.” She went to exit but stopped without turning around, “thank you, it means more than you’ll ever know.”
The moment the door closed, I smiled, I had made her day and the kindness of it, for once, felt good. I stood and leaned up against the glass window, observing the bustling city life – I had finally grown a heart. That would only set me up for failure… but why should I worry? I had the love of my life back and that was all that mattered to me – but why was she unreachable? Dammit.
The day was passing quickly and Danny still hadn’t answered, she hadn’t replied to texts and as much as I tried not to, internally, I was freaking out. I knew Carl was out of town and Mars and Regan were away on business, where the bloody hell is she?
I was attempting to concentrate, trying so hard to not think that she had run again, pushing myself to believe she wouldn’t disappear on me as the viperous insecure thoughts swirled through my mind – when my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognise.
…Axel? It’s Rachael. Daniella gave me your number in case of emergencies… The blood drained from my body, had something happened to my Butterfly?
“It’s okay Rachael, where is she?”
…Um, do you not know?...
“What do you mean Rach, where is she?”
…I was hoping she was with you…
“Can you not get a hold of her either?”
…No, I’m sure she’s fine, it’s just – she didn’t come home last night, I thought she might be with you…
“Shit, I’m on my way, Rachael. How long has she been missing?” I growled as I gathered my things and rushed to the door.
…Yesterday morning was the last time I saw her…
“Fuck!” I screamed, “don’t move Rachael, I’m coming.”
I hung up before she could say any more, “Mr Hutchinson? Where are you going?”
“Gail, cancel everything. There’s a family emergency,” I spat as I slammed my hand on the ‘close doors’ button.
I knew that if I went to the airport they wouldn’t tell me if she had boarded a flight anywhere, I needed to go home and retrace her steps. This was desperation times a thousand now and I was in full-on panic mode. Why had she bloody not gone home? We were fine, everything was beginning to work out, so why the fuck was she suddenly missing?
As I merged onto the freeway, I couldn’t believe the asshole Sunday drivers, shit, it’s not even Sunday, why the fuck are they driving so slow?
I rang Dad’s mobile.
…Axel?... He croaked out.
“Travis, why didn’t you call me and tell me she was missing?”
“Daniella,” I growled.
…Fuck, she’s missing?...
“Get out of that goddam bed. I know you’re hurt, I know life is shit for you right now but your daughter is fucken missing and I’m still over an hour away.”
…I’m going to ignore the way you just spoke to me son because I can feel how panicked and frightened you are, but calm the fuck down, we’ll find her…
He hung up on me. I know Dad is gentle most of the time but to actually hang up on me? Damn, I had really pissed him off.
My mind was frantic, think Axel, think… where would she go?
It had taken forever to get to the bloody town, I swear I’ll be receiving fines in the mail over the next few weeks but I didn’t care. The first place I could think of was our special tree. I hauled ass there, blood pumping in my veins as my heart thundered inside my throat. I ran, at lightning speed, praying she was there – but as I arrived, she wasn’t. “SHIT!” I screamed, the sound echoing through the dense thick bush.
Next came the studio at Carl’s but as I skidded into the driveway, I could see there was no life, no one was there. I pounded my fists on the steering wheel, “where the fuck are you Daniella?” I roared animalistically.
I checked her old Dance classes, the supermarket, the chemist, the fucken high school for Christ sake but I couldn’t find her anywhere. Once again she had disappeared on me, left me here alone. What happened to our vow, our promise of forever? I had believed her once again and she was ripping out my heart all over again. Seven years of emptiness was raring it’s ugly head all over again and I was powerless to stop it.
There was one last place left – Mum’s grave. Neither of us had been brave enough to go there after the funeral, I guess we both held guilt in our hearts – so that was the last place I had left to look. Please be there… please.
I jumped out of my car and ran through the graveyard, “Hutchinson… Hutchinson…” I was searching hard, reading the gravestones and plaques as I went. “Walters, Godfree, Cooper, Hutchinson, Fenders… Richards…” I froze, then took five steps back without turning around. “Hutchinson.”
There, on a large marble headstone sat Mum’s remembrance. The only thing that was left of her lay six feet underground, rotting away like she never even existed. Guilt, unlike anything I have ever felt, overpowered me. I stepped forward, pulling the new sprouts of weeds out from around her plot. Danny wasn’t there, she’d left me – she had left me here alone and the only other woman that loved and cared for me was buried directly below my expensive custom leather shoes… Dead.
Slumping to my knees, I felt tears prickle at the sides of my eyes. Pam would call me every week, most of the time I would allow it to go to voicemail because she reminded me too much of my past. I was cold and cruel and all alone… again. I had done this, she asked me to come down the night before last, she said she missed me and I chose work over her, my Butterfly, a stupid deal to make the company more fucken money – this was my fault.
I had pushed Pam away, I had driven Danny away – I had forced everyone to leave me. Why couldn’t I have just come down?
And just like that – I ruptured.
The tears came without warning, overflowing like a river that had been filled with too much rain, the torment of so much suffering lay bare and exposed. My chest collapsing in on itself as I crumbled completely – shattering into a million unfixable pieces.
“I’m so sorry Mum.” I couldn’t stop the wave of unbridled emotion as it boiled up from the ice cold caverns of my soul. “I’m so sorry,” I sobbed in splitting heartbroken hell. “I’m so sorry.”
I heaved as my heart clenched. I was a terrible son. The only reason for my being here right now was to find Danny, I would never have come otherwise. Pam had given me everything I could have ever wanted in life and like a selfish fool, I had taken her for granted. I used them both, for my own purpose, to see my dreams fulfilled even at the cost of running over the ones who truly loved me. I am an asshole.
I shook my head in disbelief, remembering just what I had done to both of them, Mum and Dad, how I was so angry I had tossed their love and care for me away and the moment I could, moved to the connectionless city, keeping my feelings imprisoned behind a shield of hatred. Now I had repeated my mistake with Daniella and she had run from me.
“Y-you don’t deserve this, none of this. God – I’m such a prick. I didn’t tell you enough, I never showed you just how much I loved you, and now, I’m only here because Danny is missing. How could you love me when I am so awful?” My chin quivered as I fell onto the dirt.
“You took me in, you showed love. You cared for me… and now you’re gone. You were the best thing to ever happen to me. I didn’t even call you my mother. Why did you choose me? Why? You could have had anyone in the foster home, why me? I didn’t appreciate you, I had years to tell you how I felt and I threw you away. Just like I do with everyone that’s precious to me. You remembered everything… a school assembly if I got an award, you were there front and centre if our class done a performance, you took photo after photo of us and yet, no one took photos of you – like you weren’t important – as though you weren’t special – you were important. You were what held us all together and we disregarded you like rubbish, now it’s too late and we still treat you like nothing.
“We were so wrapped up in our own pathetic existence that we ignored your needs, how could love us when we never showed you the same respect and courtesy? Why did I treat you so bad? You were the only person in years to remember my birthday, me… a nobody… an unwanted street kid. You filled my room with splashes of grey and green because my file said they were my favourite colours. Do you know what I thought the first night I came to live with you? I thought there was something wrong, that I had fallen asleep on a park bench somewhere and I was living a dream. I thought you were insane to choose me, to be kind to someone as worthless as me. But that night, when you brought me clean towels, when you held me lovingly and looked me in the eyes – I felt safe for the first time in my whole life and at any moment, I would realise it was a fantasy and you would be gone.
“And now you are gone, and Danny’s gone and Dad’s angry because I spoke to him like he was a piece of shit. I ruin everything. I need you to come back, I need you to fix this. Everything was better because of you and now… everything is wrong again. Just come back Mum, come home, this isn’t right without you. I’m so sorry, I’m so, so sorry for everything. Just come back.”
I had finally broken, the years of pain poured out and suddenly nothing was important. Not the board meetings or deadlines, the money or the flashy items – this, my family, the only family that loved me. I crawled into a ball on top of my mother’s grave and howled in horrendous agony. I had simply disregarded her death and moved on without a singular thought of her. She had fixed me, thirteen years old and unable to trust and she chose to love me. I couldn’t even call her and simply ask how her day was and now, now it’s too late.
“She knew you loved her,” my head snapped up to see Danny crouched in front of me. She held my hand and squeezed it tightly.
“Danny?” I whispered as the mirage nodded at me empathetically. “W-where were you? Where have you b-been?” I spluttered, sniffing back the emotion that leaked from my contorted face.
Danny sighed, seating herself and folding her legs under her. “Here,” she croaked, “doing the same thing as you.”
I righted myself, grabbing her and pulling my Butterfly into my arms. “Why? I thought you left me. I thought I had pushed you away, just like I did to Mum.”
She tenderly placed her lips against mine, wiping away the wetness. “No Axel, I love you. I’m not going anywhere. This is our home, we’ve been too messed up, for so many years. I can’t live without you and neither could Mum, she loved you – so much.” She inhaled deeply, “yesterday something happened – and do you know what I thought?” I shook my head, “I thought of Mum. But she’s not alive anymore.” Her eyes welled with tears, “dammit, why didn’t I tell her I loved her? Why c-couldn’t I just c-call and say, I l-love you Mum, I love you.”
“Fuck Butterfly.” We both sobbed, holding each other as pain tore through us.
“Axe, promise me… promise me that we will visit her here, every week. That we will tell everyone that matters how we really feel, promise me.”
I sniffled, the weight of realisation hung heavy on my chest, “I promise.”
Daniella nodded, “we need to be less self-absorbed. We need to be better people, not just for us… but for Mum, the most remarkable woman I have ever met and never appreciated.”
“I promise Butterfly, I promise.”