I showered, I tried to clear up my face and eyes. Bill would be here soon. I wished I could have cancelled. I just wanted to stay in bed all day. He had texted several times while Michael was here, but I hadn’t even checked my phone till this morning after he left. He had joked about me getting cold feet meeting his family, there was no way I could cancel on him. I would get through it. I have faced worse.
There was a knock. “It’s me,” I heard Bill.
I smiled and opened the door, “Hi.”
“Hello,” he leaned in a kissed me on the lips. “Mmmm, smells like cookies in here.”
“Yeah, I baked some this afternoon to bring with us,” I tried to act normal. I wanted to tell him everything, well almost everything about last night.
“You ok? You look a little flushed?”
“I’m fine, just allergies.”
“Your not nervous are you?”
“Just a little.”
“They are gonna love you Lisa,” he grinned. “Callie you ready to go?”
I told myself to keep it together! I can’t tell him. The entire car ride I chatted with my inner self and tried to convince me, it was ok not to tell Bill. It wasn’t like I cheated, it was Michael. There was nothing normal about any of the circumstances. I am in love with Bill, I have no doubts and now I have closure with Michael. It should be easier!
“Your very quiet this morning?”
“I just didn’t sleep well.” I took his hand, “I’m fine.”
We pulled up and his mother swung open the door waving. “Hello! Hello! I’m so glad you came!” she said.
“Mom, this is Lisa, Lisa my mother, Jane.”
She hugged me, “Come in and meet everyone.”
“I love your house Mrs. Bowen.”
She interrupted, “Please, call me Jane.”
“Jane, it’s just beautiful!”
“Thank you, we’ve been here a long time, It was the year I had Bill, actually. Tom! They’re here Tom!” We walked through a swing door and into the kitchen. “This is Tom, Bills dad and this is his brother, Michael...This is Lisa.”
Oh my god! It’s Michael! I froze, I thought I’d pass out, right here and now. He looked as though he would do just the same. He ever so slightly nodded his head “no.” He locked eyes on mine, stood up quickly and extended his hand to me, “Hey.”
GOD HELP ME! that’s all I could think. I didn’t say anything.
Bill went over and hugged him, “This is my kid brother, I told you about.”
“Kid.” I whispered.
I could see Michael glaring at me and I knew that look, he was telling me to keep my mouth shut. This isn’t fair. I can’t deal with this, I can’t take anymore! Where are you God? Do you hear me...I can’t take anymore!
“Sit Lisa, please,” Jane said.
“Lisa made cookies for us Mom,” Bill said and took the plate from me.
Michael stood up again, “Listen, I’m so sorry, I’m gonna have to leave...”
“Michael! You can’t!” his mother said.
“I’m sorry Ma, I just got a call from work while you were out front, there’s an emergency. I tried to put it off I swear,” he kissed her cheek. “Dad,” he hugged him. Bill, you understand, don’t you?”
“I know how it is Kid. Work gets in the way. Another day, the three of us can go out. No worries,” Bill said.
I stood up in silence as he walked towards me.
“Lisa,” he extended his hand. “I’m sorry,” he rubbed my palm. “I hope you understand too, it’s best if I go.” Once again we were talking in code. I knew what he meant. He was stepping aside. He was trying to make this easier for me. He was once again, trying to protect me.
“Yes, I understand Michael,” I barely got the words out.
“Well, then it’s just the four of us dear, my son Michael keeps a crazy schedule.”
“I’ve heard,” I said.
I don’t know how I managed to get through diner, I don’t remember a single thing we talked about, I couldn’t even remember what I ate. I had gotten used to hiding my fears, Michael taught me to at the compound. I had gotten used to watching what I said or how loud I spoke, and how to push through me fears. I had gotten used to holding back my tears, but I could never continue to get used to this feeling, not with Bill.
“Bill, I’m sorry, I’m just not feeling very well. I think I need to go, I’m so sorry Jane and Tom, I was really looking forward to tonight.”
“It’s ok,” Bill said. “When I picked you up, I said you looked flushed and now your very pale. You should go home to bed.”
“Yes, Lisa, we can have dessert anytime! Right Bill?” Jane said.
“Yes, Mom.” he kissed her goodbye and hugged his father. He got Callie into the car and we drove off.
“I’m sorry, Bill.”
“It’s ok,” he rubbed my shoulder as he drove.
I put my head against the window and closed my eyes. Bills phone rang;
“Hi Kid ...yeah…...stop worrying…no, I’m taking her home now, she doesn’t feel well...I will…..I love you brother! Ok, talk to you later.”
Bill said to me, “Michael’s worried he ruined dinner.”
“What does he do for a living, Bill?”
“He is a traveling firefighter. It’s dangerous work, sometimes he is gone for months at a time. He’s gotten called off before spur of the moment, it’s just part of the job.”
“I’m sure.” I didn’t say another word the rest of the car ride. I don’t know if Bill even knows what Michael does? Maybe it’s just more lies. I’m so tired of lies. Michael does it, I do it, and maybe Bill does it too?
We walked to the door. “Lisa, I have to ask you something. I know your not feeling great but, I just can’t wait.”
“Ok?” What else could go wrong? I was numb, just going through the motions. I had reached my limit and was done ever thinking my life would be normal. We went in, turned on the lights and I sat on the couch, the couch that Michael and I sort of had sex on. Bill sat next to me.
“Lisa, I know it hasn’t been that long since we met, but I am so crazy about you. I can hardly make it a few days without seeing you or talking to you. I can’t imagine my life without you, I want you to be my wife, Mrs. Lisa Bowen.” He slid down on one knee and held out a ring box, slowly opened it and said, “I love you, will you marry me?”
The tears poured, I started hyperventilating, I gasped for words, I didn’t have any. I just sobbed.
“You ok? Are they happy tears?”
“No...What does your brother do for a living?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I need you to tell me, I need you to say it, what does he do for a living? You trust me?”
“Lisa! I’m asking you to marry me and your asking about my brother? What is going on?”
“Tell me!” I shouted. “Say it! He’s not a fireman is he?”
“What does it matter?” he shouted back.
“It matters! You want me to answer you, it matters! I can’t marry you Bill,” I was hysterical again.
“What the fuck is going on!”
“I know what he does, because I know him!”
“I’m not supposed to ever tell anyone. Just like you, you can’t tell me either, so we’ll all just lie to each other, I guess.”
“What does my brother’s business have to do with you? Were you involved with drugs in the past?”
I didn’t respond, but that was enough, he knew. I could see it in his eyes now, he knew. I could tell him everything now because he knows Michael works for the FBI. I should tell him EVERYTHING! And then I will lose him.
“Lisa! You can tell me,” he leaned over and put his arms around me.
“Ok, I’ll tell you, everything,” I moved away from him. “About a year ago, I was taken, kidnapped, by a gang called the Kings…”
“My God, I saw it all over the news and I heard about it, from my brother,” he took her hand in his and thought to himself, she knows! How? Why? He tried to be patient and listen.
“I met Michael a year ago, he saved me. He took care of me, protected me. He risked his life for me, he is the reason I’m alive and here, literally here in Arkansas. He put me into the witness protection program.”
“Damn, but I don’t understand? I’m thankful to him, aren’t you? I mean, I’m sure it was a shock, seeing him again, is that why your so upset? What does it have to do with us?”
“I’m very thankful to him,” I cried.
“I’ve known what my brother does since he entered the academy and my parents know too, anyone else has to believe he’s a traveling fireman. It could mean his life, we can never tell anyone Lisa.”
“Whatever else happened, it’s not your fault.”
“You haven’t heard everything and when you do, you won’t want to marry me Bill.”
“Of course I will, give me more credit than that!”
“I love you, I really do,” I cried. “I never imagined you’d ask me, but I have thought of it. I could see us, you know the farm a few babies, I could really see it.” My voice was montone, I had no emotion left inside of me, just numbness.
“Me too! We can get through this?”
I looked at him, hesitated and then said it, “I spent about four months with Michael. I had sex with him, I loved him, in a different way than I love you.”
“What?” He was literally in shock himself.
“I didn’t know he was your brother! Actually, until yesterday, I thought he was dead!”
“I don’t understand?”
“It was all lies, a cover story. They told me...they actually did shoot at him, I saw it! but it was all a lie, and he isn’t dead.”
“Fuck. So are you trying to tell me your in love with me and my brother?”
“My best, honest answer is like I told him last night…”
“You saw him last night?”
“Yes, he just showed up, surprise! He’s alive! He is number 2 Bill. He is the guy I sort of dated, that taught me to shoot, remember? I have mentioned him to you.”
“Oh my God,” he teared up, “Keep going.”
“My honest answer is yes, I do love Michael, a part of me will always love him. He saved me. But I’m in love with you!” I cried.
“I don’t know what to say?”
“Tell me.” He hung his head down and no longer looked at me.
“My name isn’t Lisa Banksworth, it’s Allison Banks, and your brother arranged for me to literally be here, in his hometown, in case he needed to get to me, which he did last night. He had no idea I was with you Bill, you have to know that?”
“Yeah, I mean I believe you. You know he did tell me about a girl a while back,” he pulled out his phone and started scrolling through messages, “My God, a girl named Allison.”
“That’s me!” I shrugged.
“So…..What?....I should step back? ….I should let you figure out your feelings? What? What am I supposed to do Lisa?” His tears fell too. “How the hell are we supposed to….?”
“I know my feelings, Bill. I have no doubts. I told you, I’m in love with YOU.”
“So we should figure out a way to get past this, then the three of us?”
“Michael, will likely hate me for telling you.”
“I know my brother, Lisa, he won’t hate you, and I have to know, so keep going... when you walked into the house today, that’s when you both realized the connection?”
“It just doesn’t make sense to me, Why didn’t one of you say something at the house?.”
“Are you kidding me? Fuck, tell me!” he tried to stay calm.
“You have to understand that when Michael left me, I didn’t know he was going to let me go until that very moment. He arranged a pick up with the FBI, it all happened so fast, he didn’t tell me I was never gonna see him again. I didn’t get to say goodbye...and then they shot at him and I truly believed I’d seen it with my own eyes, and the FBI told me he was in fact dead.”
“I understand, you told me that already. I’m sure seeing him has brought up a ton of emotions for you both.” He now sounded monotone as well.
“Yes,” I tried to explain it to him so he might really understand.
“You should talk to him? You should tell him whatever you need to? I get it, you have things to work out with my brother, for sure.”
“We talked last night, Bill. We, we had closure, until I walked into your house and found out he was your brother!”
“I don’t know what to do Lisa! I don’t know what the right answer is? I mean it’s a nightmare! But it doesn’t change my feelings for you...I can’t just turn it off cause you had another life. I don’t care what your name is! What should I call you? Let’s start with something easy.”
“I’m Lisa now. I like being Lisa, I love my new life, and I love being with you! But I can’t forget Allison or Michael. If it weren’t for him, I’d have never even met you, really, talk about irony, Allison would never have come to Arkansas!”
“I have to talk to my brother Lisa. I need to hear from him where he stands in all of this, you understand? I love my brother and we will all have to get through this mess.”
“I’m not finished.”
Again he sighed, “There can’t be too much more?”
I looked directly into his eyes, “Please try to understand, it’s like I’m two different people Bill. Allison was with Michael but Lisa is with you.” I cried more and more.
“I do understand that,” he put his hand on my knee. “I don’t like it, but I’m going to have to find a way to deal with it.”
“Yesterday, when I saw Michael for the first time again, I was Allison! I didn’t choose to be, I couldn’t control it. I just was,” I continued to cry.
“My God, Lisa,” he hugged me. “I can’t imagine what you went through those four months. I want to listen, if you want to tell me.”
“It doesn’t matter, the only thing that really matters is that …Allison slept with Michael….”
“Yeah, I hear you! I don’t like hearing you say it ...but It doesn’t make me not love you anymore. I mean, you didn’t even know me yet! I have to talk to Michael, maybe the three of us should try to…I don’t know? Lisa, I’m trying to find a way, ok, I’m really trying here. I don’t know how to make this easier? We can’t change what happened a year ago. We have to find a way to deal with it.”
“You didn’t let me finish, Allison slept with Michael…yesterday.”
“Yesterday? What? You had sex with my brother yesterday? Not a year ago, not six months ago, not while you were kidnapped? You fucked him last night!” Now he understood and he was angry.
I just cried. There was nothing else I could say. Two of the men I loved would now both hate me for telling the truth, but how could I not?
“I want to be honest, Bill. I couldn’t keep it from you!” I pleaded with him.
“So if you didn’t happen to meet Michael at the house today and realize he was in fact, my kid brother, would you have told me you fucked someone last night?”
“I’m telling you now!” I shouted.
“Because you have to now, your not listening! Would you have told me anyway? Answer me!”
“Your lying! Why didn’t you tell me this morning then? How could you keep that from me. Did you just forget to mention it when I picked you up? Or while we were driving? Or anytime before I brought you in to meet my family? When were you going to tell me? Huh? when?”
“That’s not fair, Bill. You have to try and see things from my side.”
“Fair, none of this is fair! But...My brother doesn’t owe me an explanation as to who he chooses to fuck. He didn’t know who you were to me. I get that part. So as I see it, this is on you Lisa. I was trying to understand, I really was. Ok it’s a fucked up situation, I can see that,” he was pacing now.
I remained on the couch with my knees folded to my chest, crying. “I’m sorry! I don’t know how to make it better either! I didn’t ask for any of this to happen!”
“There’s your mistake Lisa! I could try to get past it all...all of it! Until you got to last night. You CHOSE to fuck someone, regardless of who it was, you CHOSE to do it. Am I right? AM I RIGHT?” he shouted.
“Yes! I guess… I did! But I also chose not to stay with him! Your forgetting that part! I want to choose you!”
“You should have said NO last night! Allison, Lisa, whoever, it doesn’t matter, YOU should have said NO, if you wanted to be with me. That’s the part I can’t get passed. Obviously, you forgot about me? About us? You forgot that YOU WOULD owe me an explanation, after you chose to fuck someone. But your right, it doesn’t really matter now, does it? Try seeing it from my side Lisa!” he walked out and slammed the door behind him.
I literally fell to the floor and Callie came over to lick my tears.
He was gone.