I hadn’t been able to tell him. I couldn’t tell him, because I hadn’t even believed it myself. I knew the signs; the symptoms. I had been through this before. Exhaustion, vomiting, fatigue. The whole nine yards. I knew what it meant when I missed my period weeks back. I knew what it meant when my jeans no longer fit properly. How my body reacted when I would wake up from my slumber. I pushed him away because I knew. God I knew. At first he had upset me with the stunt at the funeral, but it continued because of the pregnancy. Because I knew what we had done.
He promised he would give me another baby. But I never expected it to actually happen. Not again. Not after Cooper. Surely god, the universe, whatever, didn’t want us to have happiness, or children, or any of it. But here I was again, swelling with my brother’s love child.
“Say something.” I breathed out, terrified that he wasn’t going to speak to me anytime soon. He had to acknowledge this. He had to speak to me. I wouldn’t survive if he didn’t. Oh god. Had I just ruined everything again? After we finally returned to this special place. “I know you must be mad…god you must hate me…I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t face it; I can’t face it. Eli! Eli!” I pressed on his chest, and he finally let out a grunt.
“How long have you known?” He asked me slowly, and I clenched my eyes shut.
“Since right after the funeral. I missed my monthly.” I told him.
He nodded his head, “I’m not mad, Belle. I promised you another baby. I promised you something good. Something better.” He offered, and I felt my stomach churn.
I yearned to be inside of his head right now, I longed to know what he was thinking, but he was as much a mystery as ever. “You think I will ever be happy, Eli?” I asked him, and he clenched his eyes shut, and opened them again.
“Are you not happy…with me?” He asked, and I furrowed my eyebrows.
“You are all I have ever wanted, Eli. You know that.” I looked him in the eyes, and a few tears rolled down my cheeks, “But what if this baby…what if it is like Cooper. I can’t handle another baby dying, Eli.” I insisted, and he nodded softly.
“So do you want to—have it taken care of?”
His question caught me off guard, completely, and further tears welled in my eyes, because I knew that would never be an option. I couldn’t kill an innocent baby, developing inside of me. No matter how afraid I was.
“Never. Eli, no. I would never do that.” I insisted almost immediately, my eyes level with his own, permitting him the ferocity of my will. I was not particularly religious, and ready to believe god’s will was at play here, but I did know that no matter what I could never allow one of my children to die by my own choice.
Even though I had known he was dying I still fought for him; my Cooper. I wish I could have seen him grow up, fall in love, have babies of his own—but it wasn’t to be.
“Okay.” His voice was detached, unreadable, and his eyes shifted downward.
“Did you—Do you want me to take care of it?” The idea was unthinkable to me, but was it the same for him? Could he not bear a fourth child summed up to our unending love? What would I do if he did want me to get rid of our child? Would he ask that of me?
“No…of course not. I just—I want you to be able to heal, Belle. I don’t know how to help you.” With pleading eyes that paired with my own, his voice quivered, and my eyes leaked further tears of understanding.
“I will never heal completely, but I will always love you, Eli.” I admitted with a tenderness in my eyes, trying to make him understand that no matter what I was always going to stay here with him. Even if everything around me fell to pieces, he was still going to be my entire world. I will spend the rest of my life attempting to convince him of that if I have to.
Shivers began to course through my frame, and trembles began throughout, and without prompting Eli began to gather my various articles of clothing, and hand them to me. Watching as I dressed in front of him, before he began to tug his own back on, followed by his coat.
“I will always love you too, Belle. No matter what.” He vowed to me, before he pecked my lips, standing to his feet, he offered me his hand, and I grasped it, standing to my own. It was as though he read my mind, and without prompting we headed back towards home, arm in arm, shivering against the crisp night air.
Standing in our driveway we peered down it rather puzzled, realizing that there was a large red Ford pickup truck, packed to the hilt with things in the bed parked in it. We looked at each other, and carried on into the house. Once inside I could hear the yelling even from downstairs, it was quite the storm inside. Things were scattered across the floor, and our cousin Taylor was sitting on the couch looking as though he was nursing a headache.
“Taylor….” I unlaced my arm from Eli’s, and hurried to his side, sitting beside him, whilst Eli moved to sit on the other side of our cousin. “What happened? What are you doing here?” I was frantically attempting to pry answers out of him, as the shouts from upstairs continued. If they didn’t settle down up there I was certain that my children would wake up ( if they weren’t already ) I had never heard Uncle Ned shouting before. The voices however were too muffled to make out coherent words, and sentences.
“Dad is leaving my Mom….” He explained softly, “He wants to come live here, apparently he thinks your Mom has the room for us…she isn’t too happy about any of this.” He gestured to the things strewn all over the floor.
I grabbed Taylor’s hand, as a show of support, and Eli was the next to inquire further into all of this. “Why does he want to move in here?” I shot Eli a glance, uncertain whether he recalled the fiasco on Thanksgiving all those years ago, but I couldn’t say anything out loud without pulling Taylor into the middle of our parentage secret.
“Well it is closer to my college, and he told me anywhere is better than with Mom.” He explained in a soft tone of voice, “None of my siblings wanted to leave Mom, so it’s just me.” Offering us further explanation I released a low sigh, before giving Eli another glance of warning.
“So your Dad is just leaving your mother?” Eli asked him, and I looked from Eli, back to Taylor.
“It’s been a long time coming with them. He never seemed to really love her, all of us kids knew that.” He admitted, “We just didn’t want to believe that our parents would split, you know?” he was seeking reassurance from us, but we already knew that Aunt Bessie was not the love of Uncle Ned’s life. Mom was.
“Yea, I suppose we wouldn’t know, our mother raised us alone.” I told her softly, and squeezed his hand a little tighter.
“Someone should go check on them.” Taylor spoke softly, his eyes looking towards the stairs.
“I’ll go.” Both Eli, and I stood up at the same time knowing precisely what the fight was about.
“Stay with Taylor.” I told, Eli, and he nodded, sitting back down on the couch, rubbing our cousin’s shoulder slightly.
Heading up the stairs, I shed my jacket, hanging it on the peg as I took them two at a time. As I drew in closer the loud yelling was getting louder, and when I finally made it to the top of the stairs, I headed all the way to the back where our Mother’s bedroom was, and I could see that the door was closed. Without even taking a moment to compose myself I opened it, and stepped inside.
“How could you do this?! You don’t understand! You have never understood!” Mother yelled, shoving at his chest.
He grabbed her hands, “What is there to know, Mags? I fucking love you, I’ve always loved you god damn it!” Uncle Ned shouted right on back, neither one having heard me enter over their own yelling.
“Will you two stop yelling? I can hear you downstairs, and you are going to wake up my children!” I shouted over both of them, clearly startling Mom because she immediately pulled her hands from Uncle Ned’s grasp, and released a heavy sigh.
“Your children? You have children?” Uncle Ned asked.
“You knew about my children.” I answered dryly.
“Mags? Is she telling the truth? Are they her children?” He pried further, and Mom didn’t speak she simply looked downwards.
“Holy mother of god…is everything you say a god damned lie, Mags?”
“Wait…who’s children did you think they were?” I asked now genuinely baffled.
“You want to tell her Mags?” He asked, and she sighed in an aggravated manner.
“I told him they were mine, okay? I wanted him to think I finally had moved on…” She had tears in her eyes, and she looked as though she was going to start sobbing.
“Yours? Why would you tell him the babies were yours? To what end exactly?!” I yelled at her, believing Uncle Ned had the right to know he was a grandfather.
“I didn’t want him to know—“ She cut herself off, and the realization hit me.
“He doesn’t know about us…does he?” I was becoming even more irritated with my mother and every single lie she has ever told. How she raised us, and most importantly how incredibly reckless she was, when it came to my life. It was like she just didn’t care who she hurt, or what she did. Putting my brother in the mental institution destroyed both of us, and still she showed so little remorse for any of it.
“About ‘us?’ Who the hell is us?” Uncle Ned questioned me, his tone growing more agitated by the moment.
Tears were welling in my eyes as the realization dawned on me that she was actually going to make me tell him. She still hid behind lies, and deceit on all fronts.
“The children are mine. Mine and Eli’s…” I saw the shock registering of Uncle Ned’s face. First shock, and then realization. The same disturbing reality that would sink in to me, when I let it. How twisted, and fucked up it really was that I loved Eli the way that I did. Only I wasn’t like my mother…I couldn’t ever let him go. No matter how much it twisted both myself, and my brother to be intimate all the time, I couldn’t help myself. I love him.
“You mean…Christ…” He didn’t appear as upset as I initially believed he would be, and it wasn’t disgust that was appearing within his features, but sheer anguish. It was apparent that he was saddened by what I had just told him, and as though he lost his energy he sank down onto Mom’s bed, putting his head in his hands.
“Dad…” It was the first time I had ever called him that, and the word was so foreign coming out of my mouth, but I forced myself to say it anyway. My mother was just standing rigid, her teeth sunken into her lower lip, and her eyes turned away, as though attempting to ignore the both of us.
“I never wanted this for you, Christa…” He finally spoke after several long moments of tearful silence. “You deserved better, so much better than what we have…what we are.” He released a weighted sigh, gesturing towards my Mom, but I didn’t look at her, I refused.
“I know.” I knelt down beside him at his feet, and reached up to grip one of his hands, seeking the comfort I never felt I received from my mother. “But I can’t help it…I love Eli, and he loves me. It is the way it will always be, and god knows I have tried to love other boys, but none of them have ever compared with him.” Further saddened words fell from my lips as I tried to explain what it felt like to love him, but no words ever came close. It was agonizing, beautiful, tragic, and amazing, all at once.
“It’s a curse…” My mother finally spoke up her eyes still avoiding us, but her voice was quivering, showing emotions I had never seen from her before.
“It is.” I agreed, and I knew that she had hit the nail on the head. Even though I wouldn’t trade the lovely beings that came from my love with Eli, she was right. Loving my own blood was a terrible curse, one that was always going to haunt me, and make me feel shame. But it could also provide me with this warmth that I couldn’t describe in my heart and soul.
There was a long moment where no one spoke, before I finally questioned him. “Why did you decide to move in? Why after all this time?” He had been trying to get back with my mother for such a very long time, and I couldn’t understand what would drive him to return.
“You want to tell her Mags?” Another deception.
Mom turned away.
“We have been intimate again…off and on, for a few years now.” His eyes turned up towards my mom, but her eyes were still turned away, once again shutting herself off from us.
“Jesus Christ….Mom…you have treated my relationship with Eli as though it was toxic, and disgusting, and all the while you are just falling back into old patterns yourself?” I hated her in this moment. For taking Eli away from me, and all the while she was basking in the pleasures of the same sin she scolded me for. “You put Eli away! You tore us both to pieces and still you never once comforted me while he was gone. You never made me feel better you just ignored me, like you do now! What the fuck is wrong with you?” I was finding it was very contagious to want to yell at her, and shake her. I wanted to ring her neck. Everything was pouring out of me all at once, and I felt sick.
“You did what?” Uncle Ned seemed completely clueless about Eli’s stint in the asylum.
“Didn’t she tell you? She locked Eli away. Sent him to an insane asylum, where they tortured him until he didn’t even remember anything, or anyone!” Uncle Ned was once again horrified.
“You told me he went to boarding school…and then college. What the hell, Mags!” More horrified words fell from his lips as I wiped tears from my cheeks, it always hurt a great deal to even think about the torture, and agony that my older brother endured while he was away. Most of it I still didn’t know about.
I laughed, despite myself, feeling so ill from all of these toxic lies. They were going to kill me, much faster than loving Eli ever would.
“He was raped, beaten, abused, and electroshocked, every god damned day! Did you know?! Did you fucking care? Really Mom…I want to fucking know. Did you know about all that he went through in that place?” She wasn’t going to get out of this. Standing from the floor I gripped her arms, and physically shook her, even as she stood there with tears in her eyes, I wanted her to face this. To understand how her own son suffered. How he would never have a future with academics, or basketball, the sport he used to love, and excel at. Her drastic decision had taken all of that away from him.
“I—No! Of course not…I didn’t know…” She stumbled over her words, appearing rattled, tears rolling down her face as she pulled away from me.
“I don’t believe you!” I shouted, and shook her further, “Tell me the truth! I want the god damned truth! You let them torture him! You told them to didn’t you?! No more fucking lies! No more!” I shook her harder, all the while poor Uncle Ned was watching in speechless horror as he realized what his son had endured; my kind, loving brother.
“Fine I knew! Okay! I wanted to fix him! I wanted to make him better, and I couldn’t fix you…so I tried to fix him! I tried! Okay?! It didn’t work…he is still as fucked up as before, and I wanted him to suffer! I wanted him to suffer for hurting you! For putting babies in you! I hated that he was ever born! I hated him!” She was speaking so fast, and I was so shocked at the words that were falling out of her mouth that I released her and recoiled, tears rolling down my cheeks, and sobs wracking from within as I collapsed to my knees on the floor. Disbelief rushing through me as I sat there, and that is when I noticed it. Standing in the doorway was both Eli, and Taylor. Both were standing there awestruck, and horrified. Eli had tears in his eyes.
“H-He is your s-son…my brother…how could you be so cruel? How could you not love him? How?” I was shaking, and Eli went to me at once, coiling his arms around me, in as much need of my comfort as I was of his. I fell into his arms, feeling safe within the confines.
“He looks like his father…I can’t…I can’t love him…he reminds me of Ned…” Uncle Ned was still shocked into silence as he realized the true being underneath the woman he loved. A shell of a woman, a hopeless, disturbing shell.
Taylor wasn’t saying a word he didn’t seem even capable of moving as I loved over towards him, and with one disgusted look at his father he stormed out of the room, rushing down the stairs, and I could hear the front door slamming, and Uncle Ned didn’t even attempt to go after him. He seemed completely rooted to the spot.
There were no words to say about what had just fallen out of my mother’s own lips. How much had Eli heard? How long had he been watching, and listening with Taylor? I was sick; so sick.
I moved softly, and shed off Eli’s shirt, revealing the scars from the torture he’d endured forcing mom, and Uncle Ned to bear witness to what had occurred to him in that place. Eli’s head was bowed in shame as I stared back over towards my mother with sheer resentment on my face. “Does this make you happy? Can you honestly say that this gives you pleasure?” I traced the scars with my fingertips, showing the scars that would never go away on his wrists from where he’d broken the skin trying to escape from handcuffs on his wrists, whilst he was chained to a bed, and raped. Or how he was literally sliced with scissors all over his chest, and stomach as punishment for finding pleasure when he saw my pictures.
She stared at Eli, and I saw no remorse in her eyes, not even a little bit as she looked over the morbid marks that would forever mar his once pristine skin.
“Oh my god…” Uncle Ned had tears rolling down his cheeks, leaving tracks as he clearly felt just as sick as I did, from only looking at what had been done to Eli.
“If you accomplished anything by sending my brother away, you made me love him more. That is all you did.” I breathed out, hating that she had allowed Eli to be stripped of his entire being, of everything that he was, just for her own damned selfish desires.
“He destroyed you, Christa….of course all you will ever see is love when you look at him. He twisted everything about you.” She insisted, and I shook my head.
“No, Mom. He made me better. He taught me how to love, and has taken care of me better than you ever could. He is mine, and I am his, and you can’t change that.” I took my hand, and placed it over my stomach, with a defiance in my eyes. “And he put another child in me again. Our love granted us more life. And I love all of my children, I would never hurt them. Not like you hurt us.”
Her eyes filled with anger, and her face turned away refusing to look at my abdomen, and Eli was silently staring with his eyes towards the ground, tears rolling own his face, and I knew he was thinking about that dreadful place. He was somewhere else right now. I could see it in his eyes, and it hurt to know he would go elsewhere in his mind sometimes, just to escape all that had been done. I gave him back his shirt, and he pulled it back onto his body as though it were a shield to block out the world.
“I’m sorry…I could never be the perfect son…I never meant to love her…I tried not to…I tried everything…” Tears rolled further down his cheeks as he seemed to come out of it, and stare up at her.
“You put your cock in her. And for that I will never forgive you. Nor will I ever love you.” Her words were harsh, and filled with disgust, and hypocrisy, and it only distressed him further. Like a young boy begging for a scrap he was denied, and his eyes fell, and he said nothing more to her.
“Shut up Mags. Just stop talking.” Uncle Ned spoke up on our behalf, clear anger in his tone.
“You would take their side.” She breathed out in an accusing tone.
“Damn right. They are our children, and if you had an ounce of compassion in your cold, dead heart you might love something other than your work.” He shot back, before standing to his feet, “And if it weren’t for the baby growing inside of you, I would walk away and I would never come back.” He spoke swiftly, and all at once everything seemed to stop.
“You….you’re pregnant?” I looked up at my mother, and once again she turned away.
“One god damned night of him deciding not to wear a fucking condom and I am cursed with another child.” She muttered under her breath, and I looked at Eli, terrified. The thought of our mother having another kid to fuck up was the absolute worst thing in the world. Both of us could think of nothing to say.