Song: Remind Me-Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley
It’s kind of ironic when I think about the situation I’m finding myself in. karma came a knocking and has literally has bitten me in the ass.I fled the room because I feel ashamed for not telling Damien the truth. In hindsight I should have told him that last day I talked to Dan, but, in all honesty, I used him avoiding me as an excuse. I could justify my choices because how could I tell him? We weren’t talking.
I also let fear guide me, I'm not sure how he would take it or if he would even believe me. I remember the day I conceived Michael. I had no idea when they were coming home, Mom and Dad said he could be gone six months. So the day they came home was a surprise to me. I was working at Frank’s Diner at the time. I hadn’t left for College because I decided to start a semester late.
I was in the process of serving a customer when I feel someone come up from behind and being lifted off the ground. There were only two people who would ever do that to me, so I knew it was my brother. Damien wouldn’t come see me.
Dan sets me back on my feet and flips me around. His big grin sits on his face as he engulfs me in his giant arms.“Well, look what the cat dragged in!” I tease and stare at him in awe. He’s always been a big dude in build but his biceps are double the size and his face is rounder. What shocks me the most is the tattoo on his neck, our parents are going to kill him. “Have mom and Dad seen that yet?” I point to the American flag with a black 365 painted on his skin.
“No, you think they’ll like it?” Typical Dan, and oh how I missed his smart ass attitude.
“I’m pretty sure they’re going to kill you when they see it, but who knows.”
“Awe, they love me to much to kill me and if they knew the reason for this ink I think they would understand.”
“What’s it mean?” I’m curious about it as well. Dan swore he was never going to get a tattoo.
“It’s kind of right of passage and it’s a reminder of who I’m going to be fighting for and to keep going when it gets rough.” I like that and my mind wonders to Damien, did he get one as well?
“You’re wondering about Damien aren’t you?” Damn, he can either read my mind or I’m just not good at keeping my thoughts a secret. “Your face gives it away Sis, and he’s okay. He’s doing what Damien does best. We’re all going out tonight.” I wanted to spend time with my brother but being the fourth wheel wasn’t my idea of fun. It would also be really awkward around Damien. I haven’t seen him since the day before he left, the day I broke us.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea Dan.” He shakes his head and envelopes me in.
“I’m not taking no for an answer Em. I haven’t seen you in six months and I want to know how life is for you.” Code for are you dating and living your life?
“Fine but I’m not drinking. Someone’s gotta keep you and Dani separated.” His bottom lip sticks out.
“You’re no fun, Sis.” My brother pouts.
“Yep, that’s me. Now, go see mom and dad, but have Frank cook something up for you first.” He raises and eyebrow and gives me a quizzical stare. Frank doesn’t just cook something up, it’s a whole process with him. He’s a sweet older man who likes to serve your food with a story.
“Shush, since you and Damien enlisted he’s been giving active duty and veterans free meals. He says it’s to honor you.”
“That’s sweet.” He states. “I’ll see you home around five?”
“Yep, I’ll be there.”
When my watch dings at five my shift ends, taking off my apron and clocking out I see a tall familiar figure sitting at the counter nursing a coffee. Nerves start to get the better of me because I have no idea why he’s here. Is he here to see me or did Dan tell him about the free food. Should I pretend I don’t see him and just walk out? No, that wouldn’t work because Damien is not the kind of guy you could ignore. He takes up the attention of all the female population.
I’ll just not pay him any mind and slyly see what he wants. I go about my end of shift list and keep my eye on him. He keeps his face down towards the counter, his finger running around the rim of his mug. He’s here for something and it’s weighing heavily on him,
Ah crap! I shout to my inner self. I can’t just let him sit there. Grabbing my pen and pad I make my way to him.
“Welcome to Frank’s what can I get ya?” Subtle I know but I’m not about to just go up and say hey what’s up? Damien finally looks up from the table and his light brown eyes meet with my blues. His gaze says so much but also nothing at all.
“Hi, Emily.” The way he says my name sounds like a reverent prayer and hearing his voice again causes an swarm of butterflies to take flight in my lower stomach.
“Hi..” I swallow the giant lump and suck in my bottom lip.
"How are you?” I guess it’s best to get the awkward conversation starter out of the way, but what should I tell him? That I’m miserable without him and he’s been the staring role in my dreams for the last 6 months? Or do I lie and hope it makes him feel okay.
“I’m okay, just staying busy.” He nods his head and seems to accept my partial truth. “How’ve you been?”
“Emily, can we just cut the bullshit and just be us?” What does that mean?
“Us?” His hand reaches across the counter and grasps mine.
“Yes, us. We were always friends Emily, you were never afraid to talk to me but now you look as if you’re seconds away from a panic attack.” He’s right, Damien may be my ex but he’s still the same boy who was always there. "Can we talk? I know we’re broken up but I’ve missed you.”
Don’t cry Emily! I scold myself as I suck back my tears.
“I missed. You, too.” I repeat. “Yeah, I just need to get my purse. Did you drive?”
That’s a stupid question since I see his black beauty in the parking lot. “Never mind, I’ll have Mom pick up my car.”
“Okay.” After grabbing my bag we head for the door, Damien’s hand is splayed on my lower back. That old familiar tingle rises to the surface. I hear Damien suck in a breath when our skin touched, yep, he still feels it too.
After a few minutes Damien pulls into a very familiar sight. One where a lot of memories were made and shared.
“Our lake!” Damien flinches when he hears my school girl squeal. “I haven’t been back since that night.” Caramel pearls swirl with darkness and guilt. He gave me that promise ring and a few weeks later he left me.
“I know and that’s why I brought us back here. I screwed up Emily, I thought signing up with the Army was what I needed. It still is but I fucked up by making a huge decision without you, and what makes it worse is I promised to always put us first. I’m so sorry Emily, I’m so fucking miserable without you. These last six months have been brutal and all I could think about was coming home to you.” This time I don’t hold back the tears, I need him to see how much he means to me.
"Damien, since we’re being honest with each other I need to tell you that I’m miserable too. I haven’t been able to sleep a full night because when I close my eyes you’re there with all the memories. I was a bitch and didn’t think of how much this would truly affect us, I was just so hurt and felt betrayed. I’ve had time to think about it and I was just stupid and all I wanted was to be back in your arms; where I’m safe and loved.” Without a word being said Damien stretches his body over the bench seat and pulls me onto his lap and into his arms.
“Can we make this work Em?”
“Yes.” I respond with a sniff. “Welcome home, Solider. With my final word he bends down and kisses me.
That night I promised myself to Damien, I promised to never leave him, even if things got tough. Only that’s were hindsight 20/20 comes in. If I had known about the dream I never would have made such promises.
We broke up a week later and I found out I was pregnant 2 days before he was scheduled to leave for his new home. When I got the opportunity to tell him he walked away without even listening.
I understand now breaking it off was a bitch move and not the wisest of decisions. Had I known he was going to walk into the war with death on his mind and not knowing he was going to be a dad, I wouldn’t have shattered his heart. Maybe things would have been different for us.
However, that’s the beauty of hindsight. We can’t undo our past but we can move forward and try to make amends for those we’ve hurt. The hurt and betrayal flashing in Damien’s eyes was too much for me to bear. He hates me and I don’t know if he’ll ever forgive me for keeping something so big from him.
I don’t blame him for hating me since I hate myself too. I’ve made so many decisions and now I have to face the consequences. Which happens to be telling me family I lied to them.
After leaving Days’ room, I look for an empty room so I can make a call. I found the family waiting room empty and spot a comfy chair the sit. I pull out my phone and pull up my older brother Tuck’s number.
I dial Tuck’s number and hit the face time button when he answers.
“Hey, baby girl.” Tuck’s nickname has always been baby girl, because of me being the baby in the family. Granted I was six when I joined them but he just said it was going to stick. At first I hated it but it grew on me over time, and now I just tool with it.
“Hey, Truck, how is everything? He chuckles.
“Emily, what’s wrong?”
“Why is that the first thing you ask everytime I call? Are you saying I’m a drama queen?”
“Shut it Tuck! If you want to give Jules that second baby I wouldn’t even think it.”
Well, in that case no, you aren’t a drama queen but wherever you go a cloud of drama follows.”
I can’t help but laugh at his comment. Jules has been wanting another baby since their daughter is now three but Tuck isn’t quite ready for it yet.
“Jules is going to have my balls in a vice now!” Well, okay.
“Doesn’t she already have them hanging by a thread?” Yeah, this is who my oldest brother and I communicate.
Well, yeah but it’s going to be worse thanks to you!”
“Uh uh big bro, that’s all on you. I have no control over you. ” I giggle. Jules loves me more anyway.”
“You’re so right about that. I need to start plotting revenge since the last prank you two pulled on me. I’m still getting toothpaste out of beard.”
“Oh my gosh, that was epic!” Jules and I put toothpaste in razor as payback for hiding her car keys.
“Yeah, yeah, all I have to say is sleep with one eye open.”
“Sure.” I giggle again. “Thanks for the banter, I needed it.
I tried to keep my voice peppy but just like Dan and Damien he sees right through me.
“You sound upset, baby girl, what’s wrong?”
“Well, I don’t know if mom or dad called you but Dan survied the surgery, but the bullets shattered his L4 and L5. He’s paralayzed Tucker.”
“Mom called me a earlier but didn’t give me a lot of information. What does this mean for Dan?”
“The doctor says he’s likely to never walk again.” I sob into the phone.
“Oh, shit! How’s he taking the news?”
“Honestly, he’s scary calm but more upset that Dani isn’t here when she should be.” The line goes quiet for a second, I guess my brother is trying to process the news.
“Em, I don’t know how to tell you this because I know you two used to be close and all but I’m not surprised she isn’t there.”
“Why? What happened?” The idea that something happened to her doesn’t sit well with me.
“Oh, she’s fine, so to speak. The other night Jules and I were out getting dinner with Haylee at Frank’s. Dani was there with another guy and she was all over him.”
I should have expected Dani to pull this because she already complained about being lonely when Dan had only been out a week. Still the news hits me like a punch to the gut.
“Are you sure it was her, Tuck?” He sighs loudly.
“Yes, I’m sure. Jules saw her as well and wanted to confront her but Dani looked really wasted. I talked her out of it.” I believe Tuck but now I have to tell my disabled brother his girlfriend of five years has been cheating on him.
“This is going to destroy him, he loves her. They had their entire lives planned out and then he’s gone for a few months and she up and pulls this crap. I don’t get it Tuck, and what am I going to tell him?”
“I don’t know, maybe just give it few days. Hopefully, she’ll come clean. As for why, some are just not strong enough to handle the separation, it’s very common for a partner to stray in this situation. It sucks and it hurts but it happens.”
“Do you think I would have cheated on Damien, if we hadn’t already broken up?”
“I really can’t give you that answer Em. I mean look what happened after he sent you that letter. You had convinced yourself there was no one else for you and you were going to wait for him. However, the second you met Zeek and he paid an ounce of attention to you, you were taken with him. So I really can’t tell you what you want to hear.” He wasn’t trying to be a dick and hurt my feelings, Tuck isn’t like that. He’s the brother who tells you how it is and doesn’t shy away from the truth, yet he doesn’t know the truth of my sham engagement.
“Okay, ouch!” I say to him.
“I know, and I’m sorry but you wanted the truth and you don’t come to me unless you want that. Dan and Damien were good for you in a way but not when it came to sheltering you. I do know one thing Emily and that is you still love Damien, and even though you aren’t together right now, your heart still belongs to him. You feel as if you did cheat on Damien because you tried to give your heart to another.” Tuck has a point.
“I never saw it that way but it makes sense. I could never completely give everything to Zeek, could you that be why he turned out to be an asshole?”
“Emily, nothing you did made him behave that way. He is a product of over indulging, rich and unethical parents. Zeek never had to pay for his actions because his parents would just brush it under the rug or pay off the judge. Don’t blame yourself for his actions towards you.
“I’m really trying not too but sometimes those words slip in and I let them consume me.”
“That’s normal for an abuse survivor Sis, and you are doing so much better then most women I meet with. They are barley getting themselves out of bed and can’t function. You are doing a great job at living your life.”
“Thanks for the encouragement, Detective Woods.”
You’re welcome but I know that’s not the only thing bothering you.”
“It’s not, Damien hates me.” An ice cold feeling of emptiness fills my veins.
“I don’t think that’s true but why do you feel that way?” If I tell Tucker he would be the first one I told. Damien figured it out and I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.
“Talk to me baby girl. Tell me what’s going on.” He encourages me.
“Damien figured out he’s Michael’s father.” There I said it, now let the judging and slut shaming commence. Tuck was so quiet I thought he might have hung up on me.
“Tucker, you still there?”
“Yeah, I was just doing the math.” Great, now he’s going to think the worst of me if he doesn’t already.
“It’s not hard to add up nine months, Tuck.” I snap. My bitchy side was starting to make an appearance and that is never a good thing. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped at you. I’m just a bit overwhelmed.”
“It’s alright and I get it. Did you know when he left for El. Paso?”
“Yes, and I tried to tell him right before but he was so angry with me. He couldn’t look me in the eyes or spend more then a minute with me. I know I should have made him listen but fear ruled me again. Just like it did when we broke up the second time.
“So now Damien is upset because you knew all this time and didn’t tell him? Why didn’t you tell him Em?” Now, I’m really feeling judged and I hate that it’s Tucker making me feel that way.
“Please don’t judge me, I’m doing enough to myself.” I sniff.
“I”m not judging, I’m just trying to understand.” I thought about my answer and nothing I came up with didn’t make it any better.
“I really think I should explain all this to Damien before I talk to the family.” I tell my brother.
“That’s a good idea but just remember he is hurting too. You and Damien are going to come back from this. It may or not be as a couple but you both have this innocent little boy who needs his mama and dad. You can do this baby girl.”
This is a big reason why I love Tucker and come to him for advice. He has always been the polar opposite of the two boys when it came to me. He was never one to shy away but he would still kick someone’s ass if they hurt me. I’m the baby and the only girl so of course all four of my brothers would jump into a brawl to protect me.
However, he did often argue with them, he felt they weren’t doing me any favors by fighting my battles and never letting me face my problems. Now that’s I’ve had first-hand experience with life and Zeek, I have to agree with Tuck.
As much as I love those two I need to take a step back and learn to stand on my own two feet. I need to be the mother Michael needs and to show him I’m not a coward. He needs to a strong mom who has survived and that starts with me sucking up my pride and my shame and facing the one obstacle waiting to be defeated.
“Tuck, I need to go. Mom left Michael with Jamie and Olivia. I need to go relieve them.
“Stay strong, Emily.” Are Tuck’s last words before he hangs up. Putting my phone away I brace myself for the biggest challenge I may ever have to face, confessing to the love of my life and the father of my son all my mistakes.