Chapter 5 ~ History Repeating
The Day of the funeral had arrived. My assistant organised everything, I had given her Daniella’s phone number to organise photos, music Pamina had liked and any special touches they thought Travis would appreciate. I still had not spoken a word to her because what she said just before she left my office, sliced me deeply, but everything was true.
In the eyes of the world, we were brother and sister, despite not biologically being related, and we had born the brunt of that judgement already, the cruel, cold bullying from ill-informed twits scarred our last year of high school.
The aftermath of our intimate secret being discovered caused a lynch-mob frenzy with the brutal savageness aimed at the most vulnerable target... Daniella. Because the popular girls wanted me, I was spared most of the venomous shards but Danny wasn’t, in the days leading up to her disappearance, I had found her crying several times, with bruises and scratches marring her body – but like an idiot, I trusted she could handle it, obviously I was wrong.
I arrived at the house to collect Dad and Danny, and a crippling feeling churned around in the pit of my stomach. Shit, this was going to be a difficult day for more than one reason.
“Dad, would you stop being difficult please?” I heard a shrill screech come from the hall as I walked into our childhood house.
I found her outside the bedroom door, leaning back against the wall. I took a moment to visually evaluate her body. She was so skinny these days, despite her black heels and her skin-tight black dress, you could still see the weakening curves she had always beared, only, they looked more enticing when she had meat on her bones. Even though her chest was now tiny, all that sexiness was still there, held on a skeletal and gaunt frame, my heart fluttered wildly as I approached. I cursed my heart for reacting that way.
By clearing my throat, I announced my arrival. “Everything alright?”
She snapped her head at me with red puffy eyes, “no genius, everything is not alright. Dad has barricaded himself inside the bedroom, I give up.” She pushed off the wall and strode past me.
My insides sank, she seemed to be at breaking point and I had selfishly left her to deal with this all alone. I knocked on the door, “Trav?” I called out tenderly, “c’mon Dad...” clearly Dan’s approach to yelling at him had not worked. “Travis, it’s me, Axel, open the door please?”
“If I go it means this is all real Axel, why did this have to happen? Why?” I could hear the pained strain of crushing hurt as he wailed from the other side of the door. I knew his hurt all too well, his excruciation, his suffering.
“Dad, I have no idea why she was taken from you, from us, it’s so unfair and you have every right to feel the way you do about it. Hell, I did when my Mum died and left me behind with that sick sadistic bastard. And now I have lost another Mother, maybe it’s my fault, maybe I’m unlovable?” I slumped to the floor, feeling my own emotions begin to boil, “do you know what I remember the most?”
I waited in vain, only finding silence to meet my question, but I pushed forward regardless.
“The day you both arrived to take me home to live with you. See, when you followed the foster placement lady to get the paperwork started, Mum stayed with me, a massive toothy grin was plastered on her face and she was just staring at me. I, being the untrusting teen I was, snapped at her, ‘what? What are you so happy about?’ thinking this woman was an absolute lunatic. This made her smile wider, she said to me, ‘I’m happy because I finally get to have a son’. No one had ever used those words in quite that way to me, she leaned forward and patted my forearm and replied to my confused face, ‘it’s okay buddy, you’re home now. You are going to be one loved kid, you don’t have to be scared ever again or fear about not having enough to eat or somewhere to sleep...” my chest ached as I recounted the memory. “You will always be my son, our son, and you will always have a home, you will always be loved’. I thought this woman was absolutely off her rocker, but true to her word, that’s exactly what I got, a family, love, I was never scared and I always had a warm bed with a full belly. She was the first person to ever show me any kind of love, hope that I belonged somewhere and I will always be thankful for all of you.”
Dad’s doorknob turned and slowly the wooden door opened as Dad crawled out on all fours to wrap his brawny arms around me. We both had tears streaming down our faces. “She always wanted you, Axel, we always wanted you. You have been the best blessing to our lives and she was immensely proud of the man you are. Thank you for sharing that with me, I never knew that’s what happened. Of course, it would explain the curious looks you kept giving her on our way home before you would furrow your brow. It was as though you were trying to figure her out.”
I adjusted my position to get a better hold of his frailer than normal frame. I glanced up from over the top of his shoulder, seeing Daniella’s clenched fists against her chest as she silently cried from her position in the hall. She had obviously heard my story, I had never shared it before and it was causing her pain.
The funeral was lovely, I was proud Gail had managed to pull it all together in time. Dan and I sat either side of Dad, comforting him as best we could, our friends from school – well, the ones we had left – sat next to us, they were shocked to learn Dan was actually home, I had forgotten to tell them and she, obviously didn’t keep in touch with anyone. Mum’s sister, Aunty Judies, had offered to stay with Dad for a couple of nights, should we need it, to help comfort him in case it all got too much for Daniella.
As we arrived back, despite the wake being held at the funeral home in their conference room, none of us felt much like attending, Dad went to lie down and Dan solemnly walked to her old room.
I sat at the kitchen table, stirring a freshly brewed cup of coffee absentmindedly. For the last few days all I had thought about was Danny’s words, ‘I left because it hurt too much to love someone I could never be with’. The kids at school had discovered our secret and they were merciless about it. We weren’t hurting anyone and technically, it wasn’t incest, we had fallen in love – that was the crime we had committed. Love. And we were metaphorically tied to a stake and burned alive for it.
I hadn’t realised I had even moved until Danny’s bedroom door opened and my eyes fell upon her, shuddering uncontrollably as she sobbed on the floor at the foot of her bed. I crouched down in front of her and collected her petite form in my arms.
“Shhhh,” I whispered, carrying her to her king single. Her fists clutched at my shirt as if I was her only lifeline keeping her together. I gently placed her down on the sheets, her hands still gripping my shirt as she sobbed away. I kicked off my shoes and climbed in beside her, pulling her close to my chest. Her arm wrapped around me as I pulled the blanket over both of us and I nuzzled my nose against her forehead, relishing in the feeling of having her finally being close. Having her, once again, in my arms as the familiarity of warmth and comfort, of home, rolled over me with shocking repercussions, as if for the first time in years, we were finally back to where we belonged.
I don’t know what it was about her that kept me locked in a swirling vortex and addicted. But, for the first time in many years, I decided to take a week off and be there for my family. So quickly I fell, back to being at her beck and call, just as confused, just as captured, why was it so easy for her to wrap me in her web?
Every day was the same, Dad would spend the hours locked away in his room, refusing to eat or drink anything and we would spend hours outside his bedroom door, talking about our time apart and the things we were interested in now. We had fallen so easily back into conventionality, even touching, kissing her forehead, I knew I was trapped, I knew I would come off just as scarred, just as broken and collapsed as before and yet, I couldn’t stop.
Late at night, when darkness could hide her pain, she would cry, mourning the loss of the only mother she had ever known, it was heartbreaking. Yet, I was so happy she was home and slowly but surely, we were back, into that old routine we both had only ever known, spending every night together, in her bed, just her and I.
Tonight, I had tried to distance myself from her, she had become a drug, a drug I could help but have a hit of and I needed to stay sane, but when I heard her sniffles, my body moved without logical thought. I needed to – had to – comfort her.
I slid under her covers and lay on top of her, wiping away the tears that littered her angelic face. “Shhh, don’t cry please, it breaks my heart.”
“It’s not fair Axel, they are good people, why did this have to happen?”
Her soft browns, connected with my aquamarines as she stared up at me seeking a reason I couldn’t provide. The beat of my heart thundered in my chest, she looked so beautiful, so vulnerable and innocent, the girl I once knew was staring back at me, waiting for me to clear the confusion inside of her – This is where I made my irreversible mistake.
My head lowered and I pushed my longing lips against her soft, sweet, supple ones. Our mouths moved as one, connected as though they only ever belonged together. For seven long years I had tried, tried to forget her, tried to forget the way I craved her touch and tried to fuck my way out of being in love with her – but I couldn’t.
The moment her tongue slipped into my mouth, I knew it was a mistake but for the life of me, I could not stop. Her kiss was magnetic, consuming and heated, sending chills of unbridled pleasure ricocheting throughout my body, her hands as they gently glided along my shoulders and enlaced in my hair felt as natural and as welcomed as they had done all those years ago.
She pulled back – just enough to take a breath as her mouth hovered above mine. “I tried so hard to forget you Axe, but I can’t, I love you.” The words of torturous poison were whispered into the night and as I captured her lips again, I knew my heart had been opened, exposed to being destroyed all over again.
“Well, would you look at that, it’s like you two were never separated at all.” My eyes snapped open, the sound of a very recognisable murmur filtered through my ears.
Taking a minute to adjust to the piercing bright light, I noticed three sets of eyes mischievously glaring at me. “Afternoon sunshine, we were wondering when you were going to wake up, you really seemed dead to the world.”
“What fucken time is it?” I croaked out huskily, licking my dry and chaffed lips from a night spent locked in ecstasy.
A groan came from the warm body that lay beside me and I realised I had just been discovered in bed with Daniella. “After three,” the spiky red-haired, blue-eyed asshole replied.
“What the fuck Marshall, is that you?” Danny cracked an eyelid and tilted her head up before groaning and flopping back down, unconsciously nuzzling further into me as my heart fluttered wildly. “How did you get in here?”
“Hey Ballerina, your Aunt let us in. We bumped into her at the grocery store and had a very lovely conversation.”
“Us?” She cracked her eye open again and tilted her head up, this time slightly rolling her midsection around further to see Carl and his long black dreadlocks swaying untamed as he chuckled and waved and then to Regan, with his blonde man-bun and large brown eyes, scrutinising our odd – yet not – positioning in her bed.
They were the only three that stuck by us during our last year at high school and when shit went south, the only three that pulled me back together. Danny groaned again, flopping exhaustedly back down and pulling the sheet over her head. A deep rumble escaped from my chest and I laughed at her adorable movements.
“So, since you’re home Ballerina...” Regan teased.
“Daniella,” we heard her muffled growl from below the blanket.
“That’s what I said - Ballerina...” he retorted to her pained groan, “We’ve decided that your Mum’s funeral was some heavy shit and we’ve come to drag you back into life.”
“Yep,” Carl agreed.
“So, since you’re home, we are all going out and we’re catching up, it’s been years since we’ve spent time with you.”
“Guys, I don’t...”
But Marshall cut me off, “we’ve already okayed it with your Aunt. She’s going to watch over your Dad for a few days and we are going to invade Axel’s penthouse. It will be just like old times.” He wiggled his brow and smirked at me, meeting my evil glare as he emphasised the words... ‘old times’. He knew I hated having people at my place, I liked my sanctuary, without other people messing it up or dishes strewn about the place. Hell, I never even allowed my fucks there, but he also knew, that I had the most convenient abode situated in the heart of the city.
She ripped back the blanket, “penthouse? Jesus Christ Axel, how much money do you have?” Danny looked up at me with a scrunched up face.
“Oh, he didn’t tell you?” Carl chirped up, “the wankers loaded, more money than any of us will see in our lifetimes. Looks like you missed out Ballerina.”
“Whatever, it’s not like I care about that stuff, I would still love him even if he had nothing.” Her eyes grew wide and so did mine, there was a drop in the room temperature and the air grew thick and heady with implication, she did still love me, she confessed it against my lips last night but we hadn’t discussed anything further, so nobody dared to breathe. “Ah... I have to check on Dad.”
Daniella jumped out of bed and ran as quickly as possible out the door. I raked my fingers through my dishevelled hair, desperately trying to comprehend the magnitude of what she had just implied and confessed to last night. “I fucken told you,” Regan screeched pointing his finger at the other two.
“Shut up dickhead, Mum has just passed away, neither of us is thinking clearly right now,” I growled.
“Do you still love her Axe?” Carl suddenly questioned.
I scoffed at him, “please, that shit ended a long time ago, I feel nothing now.”
The weird thing was, the moment I spoke those words out loud, I felt a sharp pain to my chest. I did still love her, even after all the hurt she caused me. I loved her and there was nothing I could do about it. I didn’t want to admit it, if I hid my feelings she wouldn’t have a chance to crush me all over again – right? For the past seven years I had treated all women like useless implements, a mere tool for me to get my frustrations out on, I needed to focus, what came with Danny was nothing but pain, misery and torture, no. I choose to keep my heart guarded, safe and away from her.