Chapter 2 ~ The Arrival
Shit, this was going to be hard.
Pamina was the only mother I had ever known, she was a strong woman with a generous heart, who loved me and took care of me when I was only a small helpless child. They both did, and now she was gone. Just like that.
How do you thank a woman that gave you everything in life, just to see you smile? How do you mourn the loss of the woman who rescued you from a life of abuse? How do you say goodbye to a woman who loved you endlessly despite not being your biological mother?
My absence from my family had nothing to do with them at all, it was only ever Axel. The mere mention of his name still made my heart race, even after all these years. He was the real reason behind why I couldn’t come back and why I stopped calling. Mum and Dad would go on and on about how well he was doing and how proud they were of Axel, it all hurt too much, especially when my life had turned in a catastrophic bomb site, I just couldn’t fake it anymore. So, silence became my saving solace and the only defence I had against going insane.
I couldn’t rest, knowing what awaited me when the plane touched down. Collecting my bag had my body break out in perspiration and I felt as though at any moment I would bring up the entire contents in my stomach. Why the fuck did this have to happen now?
I reprimanded myself again and again, here I was, fretting over seeing my… somewhat brother, when the only reason I was even here was that my adoptive mother had passed away. God, my father must be going crazy. She was his first and only love and yesterday she suffered a brain aneurysm and just like that, she was gone. Her flame distinguished in the blink of an eye. This all seemed too unreal, I don’t think I had processed anything yet and focusing on something else, was the easiest way I could stop myself from crumbling.
I had always loved to dance, it was something I was born to do, it was saving grace when I had to suddenly disappear, but seeing the other side of what it took to get there – to become a sort-after star, I realised very quickly I simply wasn’t cut out for it and after two years, the company let me go. This whole time, I have been hiding overseas, teaching others how to excel in my craft, when I myself, had failed. I had to hide from him, how could I face him after being such a coward? After throwing away the special relationship we had? I was weak.
My hair was longer these days, it hung just below my shoulder blades, I had kept it its natural mahogany colour, my agent said it made me more employable and helped me appear as though I was ‘less work and adaptable’. It was all about appearances and not my ability at all.
I took one last look at myself with my saddened soft brown eyes and exited the airport restrooms, seeking for the door that leads to the pick-up bay. Hauling the heavy suitcase that carried my entire life behind me, I finally gazed upon the only man I had ever loved with all my heart and soul, talking on the phone as he leaned against his pricy black sports car.
My stomach erupted into churning apprehension; he looked unbelievable, I could tell – even at a distance – he had developed a solid work-out routine, I had to bite back a moan that threatened to escape.
Axel had always been tall, but now, he was like a damn supermodel.
I brushed my sweaty palms against my jean-clad thighs and wandered gingerly towards him. I could feel his burning electrical gaze as it raked the length of my body upon my approach, did I hug him? He was my adoptive brother after all. I really wasn’t sure how to behave in this situation.
“You’re late,” he snapped, ending the call. Yep, we can forgo the hug shit.
“I’m sorry, next time I’ll be sure to tell the pilot that we can’t have the great Axel McKnight waiting for longer than…” I lifted my bony wrist and looked at my watch, “… fifteen minutes? Jesus, you’re pissed because of fifteen minutes?”
He arched his brow at me, I could have died of frostbite from the pure chill of hatred he threw at me. “It’s Hutchinson now, not McKnight and I wait for no one,” he simply stated, pulling the handle from my grip and tossing my bag effortlessly into his boot.
“Correction, Axel Hutchinson, you waited fifteen minutes for my ass to show.” Suck on that you prick.
I slipped into the passenger’s seat as he slid behind the wheel, “if this wasn’t about Pam, I would have left you there. Take note for the future, I won’t ever wait for you again.”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes, this was not the boy I loved, no, this man was a wanker. He was arrogant and hurtful, and yes, this man had become everything I loathed about the opposite sex, and his attitude would only make things easier for me.
Our suburb was about two hours’ drive from the airport, so, as we began our long trip back to the place I had run from, my guts and nerves were wreaking havoc on my system and I tried to remain stoic and unbothered by his frosty welcome. He would not get to me, not this time, this was about Mum and being there for Dad when he needed us the most, not about the asshole that sat next to me in his custom leather seats, smelling of money, no way. I was a strong, independent woman and if that meant biting my tongue until we made it home, just to keep the peace? Then that’s what I would do, bite my fucking tongue.
We were into the forty-fifth minute of our awkward, uncomfortable and extremely silent road trip, when out of nowhere he speaks, causing me to jolt in fright. “You’re skinnier than before.”
I slap my hand against my chest as my heart banged rapidly against my breast bone, “pardon?” I exclaimed.
“You, you’re skinnier.” His smoky husk purred hypnotically out causing a slight shiver in my tense posture. He still sounded deliciously irresistible, even after all this time apart, I pinched underneath my knee just to keep myself together.
“Oh… um… I work a lot.” I inwardly scowled at my body’s reaction to the tone he spoke in. I glanced sideways to see his hands tighten around the steering wheel as if at any second the poor, innocent inanimate object would be ripped off.
“Are you eating properly?” I was confused by his sudden concern for my well-being.
“I told you, I work a lot.”
“You say that like it explains why you look so gaunt.”
“Gaunt? Wow, I’ve been called a lot of words in my life but none so offensive as gaunt.”
“I didn’t mean…”
“You know what Axel? Enough, okay. I get it, I look ugly, wretched, you find me obscenely unattractive. I work a lot, shit jobs for little pay just so I can continue to have some minuscule amount of happiness in my life… dance.”
“That still doesn’t explain anything.”
“Why do you even care?” I snapped, “we’ve been doing fine sitting in deafening silence for almost an hour, why do you need to talk now and point out how repulsive I am? I get it, you hate me. Trust me, the feelings mutual, let’s just get this over with, so we can get on with our lives and restore our solid relationship of pretending the other doesn’t exist.”
“God you’re such a bitch, but you’re right about one thing Danny, I do hate you.”
I closed my eyes, swallowing the thickened mucus that stuck to the back of my throat as his words penetrated like a sharp blade, slicing deeply at my heart, “I hate you too,” I whispered. I knew he could hear me but he chose not to say anything further.
I leaned into the door seeking some form of comfort, this was the wrong choice, and worst of all, I had no escape plan. I had nothing left, nothing in me to fight with, he had triumphed and destroyed the last sliver of humanity he had left in my eyes. I had left this man seven years ago, completely and utterly head over heels in love with him and now, now we were strangers, forced together by the worst of situations.
But there was no one to blame but me, I had been the instigator, the cause of irreparable damage.
The moment the car stopped, I swung open the door and bolted into Mum and Dad’s house. I needed to get away from him and I needed to check Dad was okay.
I ran down the hall and into their bedroom, but he wasn’t in there. I checked every room in the house but he wasn’t anywhere to be found. Where the fuck could he have gone this late at night? I stood on the back porch, wailing like a banshee, “Dad?... Daddy-o?...” I pulled out my phone and dialled but discovered his phone, unattended, on the kitchen table. “Dad?… Dad?…” there was a rise of panic within me as the King of Dickheads, leisurely waltzes in.
“What are you hollering for?”
“Axel, Dad’s missing.”
He immediately dropped my suitcase and began searching the house vehemently as I continued to scream outside. He pushes the back door open and I spin around, “he can’t of gone far, I’ll double back, maybe we missed something on the road. You wait here in case he comes back.”
I followed him out, of course defying his order. “I’m coming too, if he’s out there I need to make sure he’s okay.”
“I’m not arguing about this with you Daniella, stay here,” he growled, I hated when he used my full name.
Just as Axel climbed into his driver’s seat, I happened to look over and spot something moving inside Mum’s truck. I took off into a solid sprint, the bright front porch light that illuminated the entire front yard, I had always found it to be the most annoying thing, but right now, I was thankful Dad had installed it. I could hear Axel’s footfalls pounding the gravel behind me as I finally reached the door of the truck and pulled it open. There he was, sobbing uncontrollably, despondent and utterly broken.
His dishevelled grey hair still remained somewhat contained in a ratty ponytail at the base of his skull and his skin was weathered and creased. I crouched down beside him with tears in my own eyes and placed my palms on his leg, which caused him to wail louder. Axel hovered above me with an emotionless face, “D-Dad… D-D Daddy?...” I was having a hard time trying to keep my own emotions under control.
He looked at me, his light shimmery blues glazed over as if he could not even see me. “I want to die,” he whispered back.
I couldn’t hold back any longer and a sob tore from my throat, Axel picked me up and moved me out the way to stand on my feet as he collected our father in his arms and pulled him out from the car, walking him unsteadily inside as I shuffled behind them with my bare arms wrapped around my body tightly.
Dad was shaking as Axel helped him to bed and placed the blanket over him while I sat on the floor beside their bed, pulling my legs to my chest and holding his hand as more tears flowed from my eyes.
“Why?” Dad wailed in agonizing pain, “I can’t live without her, not without my filly.”
I buried my head into my knees and silently sobbed while keeping a firm grip on his hand as Axel climbed on top of the bed and positioned himself beside him. Dad was rocking back and forth, thrashing around as though someone was burning his skin with fire and wailing out for death, pleading, begging to die. It was the most horrendous thing I had ever witnessed. I had bared the brunt of a broken heart for seven years, but this, this was on a whole other level.
After hours of torment and suffering, his howls of agony finally quietened and he slipped away into a restless slumber. By now I was slouched up against the side of the bed, drifting in and out of consciousness as I felt my body floating, drifting weightlessly, but to where? I did not care. It was so warm and felt safe but then I felt the softness as I drifted down. A tingle ran across my cheek and I couldn’t help the smile in my deranged and jet-lagged state.
I snuggled into the soft fluffiness as the tingles continued to gently dance across the surface of my skin. “Why did you have to come back Butterfly?” I couldn’t stop my lips as they curled upward, hearing the smoky husk in Axel’s words. “Why can’t I just hate you?”
I could feel myself falling into the darkness as it enclosed around me, I couldn’t open my eyes, it was too comforting just as I was. “Because you love me Axel, and I, I have always loved you.”