I almost told her. That night I felt like I was back in that terrible place, as though I was strapped to a bed that I couldn’t escape from, and touched whilst I wet myself, unable to help the whirlwind of emotions, or the hatred that I felt for my own body. But I was also thinking about Anna. As fucked up as it all was I wanted Belle to know what I had done, the true reason why I would never deserve to find happiness with her. But then I had looked into her eyes, and I knew that I couldn’t tell her. How could I ever tell her about the most dreadful betrayal that I had ever committed against her. She has placed me on this pedestal that I seem unable to step off of, and every time I blink that pedestal grows higher, and higher until one day I will hit the ceiling, and never be able to climb down from it.
That thought alone made me ill.
Telling her was not an option, not whilst she still looked at me like I was the person she fell in love with. As though I could ever fully return to the brother that I might have been once. I had just reverted to the darkest place possible, and watched her face fall as I made a mess of the bed. Even though I was supposed to be her rock, I couldn’t put the muddled pieces of who I am back together enough to be as solid as a rock.
But my greatest shame will always be the night I spent with Anna. Even now I have flashbacks of the moans, kisses, orgasms. We shouldn’t have done what we did, but there was no way that I could take it back. I wanted to cut that night from my memory as though it never existed at all, but suddenly it all came inescapably rushing back in a massive collision of horror.
After days of Belle looking over me as though I was some kind of wounded animal we had settled into a routine of working, then taking care of the children, enough to tire ourselves out, before crashing into bed each night. So weary that there was no room for any more misunderstandings regarding sex. She didn’t want it, and I wasn’t going to push her. I figured this was my karma for what I had done with Anna.
As I walked down the stairs, cradling my head in desperate need of a cup of coffee before heading into work I stopped dead in my tracks.
Anna was on the couch, Belle at her side, both lost in conversation. Belle chattering in excited, yet hushed tones, whist Anna seemed less comfortable, whilst avoiding complete answers.
“Anna—“ I hadn’t seen her since the night we’d spent together. She had been avoiding our house like the plague, which had clearly been bothering Belle, but was something of a relief to me. I wasn’t ready to face her yet—I didn’t think I would ever be ready to face her.
Both girls turned towards me, and Belle plastered a massive smile on her features, the likes of which I hadn’t seen in a while. “What’s up?” I asked, before jumping a mile when I heard the sound of the screen door closing. Taylor strolling in from the outside.
His presence only seemed to make Anna even more uncomfortable because she was beginning to fidget with her skirt.
It was everyone’s turn to stare at him briefly before their eyes returned to mine. I headed towards the coffee pot, pouring myself a bit, before taking a gulp, awaiting someone to speak in general.
“Anna’s pregnant!” Belle announced with glee, and I almost choked on my coffee—scratch that I did choke on my coffee, mid swallow.
“She’s what?” I half-breathed out in a raspy voice as I tried to regain my breath.
I stared over at Anna, but she wasn’t meeting my eyes, although she did speak. “I wasn’t going to tell anyone…”
“Well you have to tell me, what kind of best friend would I be if you didn’t tell me?” Belle teased, but I knew exactly why Anna had come.
To tell me.
Taylor stared from Belle, to Anna, “Are congratulations in order then? Or no?” He seemed to be confused, which was saying quite a bit about the situation at hand. But it wasn’t confusion that was plaguing me—mere horror.
I was the only one that knew Anna was a virgin before I had touched her. That there was only one potential father for the child that she was carrying.
“Of course congratulations are in order!” Belle kept that smile plastered on her features as though it were permanently glued there, but I couldn’t do anything more than let the lump in my stomach settle there in discomfort. Because now I knew what would have to happen eventually—even if it wasn’t right this second—I would have to tell Belle the truth.
The whole damned truth.
“No—Belle, I—I am not going to keep the baby.” That stopped everyone in their tracks.
My eyes fell to her in further shock whilst Taylor put his arms up in quiet submission, “I am just—yea I am going back outside.” That was all he said before scampering quickly back out of the sliding glass door.
I suddenly wanted to follow him, but I didn’t dare. I knew why she would give it up, and I knew that I had to talk to her about it.
“What?! Why wouldn’t you keep it? Anna you know I would help you just as you help me all the time!” Belle was clearly trying to reason with her, and Anna wasn’t having it.
“I can’t—you don’t understand, Belle. I can’t have this baby!”
“You mean—You are going to abort it?!” Belle’s face cast a shadow before she took a few steps back, collapsing onto the couch in evident shock. Tears were already welling in her eyes, as she began to break down right before our eyes.
I was still frozen rigid to the spot with my coffee mug in my hand, stains of coffee dribbling down my shirt as I finally placed the mug down on the counter, giving Anna a hard look before settling alongside Belle.
Anna avoided my eyes before sitting back down on the other side of Belle. “Belle—it is the only choice—please don’t be mad at me, I could not bear it if you were mad.”
Belle was trembling in my arms as I coiled one around her stroking my fingers through her hair as she grasped into my shirt.
“Jesus, fucking Christ, Anna—we just lost a child, and you are telling her you’re going to abort yours? What the fuck is wrong with you?!” My anger was misguided, because deep down it was my own stupid actions that I was pissed off about. Anna had nothing to do with it, even remotely, and it made me crazy that I was to blame.
It was my choice to climb into bed with Anna at that party, and now that she was carrying the consequences of that choice I suddenly felt the weight of being the perfect brother, collapsing in on me. That ceiling was about to be hit, and all that Belle had made me out to be would come tumbling down with it.
Anna was rubbing Belle’s shoulder in quiet rubs, trying not to let her eyes meet mine. The thought of Anna terminating the pregnancy rubbed me the wrong way, even if I understood why she wanted to delete the evidence of our night together. It was the most drastic decision that she could make, and she shouldn’t have told Belle, it was reckless of her.
“I know—I wasn’t going to tell you, Belle—I swear I wasn’t—“
“Then why did you?!” I snapped harshly at her, my eyes shooting daggers.
“I didn’t—she just guessed, and I couldn’t lie…”
Hearing her exasperated explanation only made me feel even worse for snapping at her, before I relinquished a sigh of understanding. Belle was merely ignoring both of us, tears streaming down her cheeks, wetting my nightshirt as I heard the sound of pattering feet down the stairs.
“Mommy—why are you crying?” Gabe asked her in his most curious tone, walking towards her in his wobbly fashion he moved to climb onto her lap, and she wiped at her eyes, retracting from my arms. This was the closest that I had been to her since my night of shame. She hadn’t barely let me hold her, let alone kissed me.
“I just am a little sad, sweetie. Nothing to worry about.” She wiped her tears, sniffling heavily in an obvious attempt to make them stop.
“Sad about what?” He pried.
“Never you mind, how about I get you some breakfast?” She inquired, which immediately defused his curiosity, and he nodded.
“Yes, I am hungry!” He cooed out, and she forced a smile.
She stood to her feet, planting Gabe on her hip before she left Anna, and I on the couch. Standing to my feet I motioned for Anna to follow me, out onto the porch, where I knew we might have a little bit of privacy, whilst Belle was preoccupied.
“You’re positive that you are pregnant.” Was the first thing that I could ask to say as she wiped at her own eyes, as I realized for the first time she was crying too.
“God, Eli—don’t you think I would have been sure first?” She asked me, and I grimaced slightly, looking away.
“You shouldn’t have told her—not after everything that she had been through. How much we have both been through!” I hissed out under my breath, fearful that we might be heard.
“Well I can’t very well have the baby, Eli—and you know why not.” She hissed right back, “And what was I supposed to do? She guessed…”
“You lie, Anna. You lie to her.” I felt sick even saying such a thing.
“Like you have been lying, Eli? Lying about the fact that she doesn’t make you happy anymore?”
I felt my insides clench, and I took a few steps back, tears welling in my eyes threatening to spill over from the shock of what she had said.
“You don’t know anything about what I feel when I am with her, okay?!” I rose my voice slightly, in my frustration, and denial.
“You told me she doesn’t touch you, doesn’t love you like you want to be loved! Doesn’t give you what you need! You needed that night with me, Eli. You told me you did!” Her voice rose in response to my own, and I shook my head.
“She is hurting, Anna! And she is your best friend—what I did was fucked up! I regret every second of it. I regret putting that child in you! I regret you ever being alone with you in the first place!” It was harsh, but I realized that every word of it was true, I was completely out of my mind, and I wasn’t the same person that I had been before I went into the asylum. Everything that I did was done out of a misguided sense of right and wrong. Even raising my own children was out of my depth, and straying from Belle was the worst thing that I had ever done in my life.
Standing before me she made heavy breaths out of her lips, gripping her chest as she let her tears fall freely. “Fuck you, Eli! Fuck you!” I felt the slap across my cheek, and I clenched my hands into fists, but I didn’t move. Instead I stood, stock still, watching her, counting the beats of my own heart in my ears.
She gave me a look of betrayal as she spoke her next words, “You were my first, Eli…don’t you remember how special that is…to have a first?” Opening the door she stormed back inside before I could stop her. I widened my eyes as I realized what she was doing.
She was across the living room, and into the kitchen by the time that I stepped foot inside. “You know what Belle? I am going to keep my baby. And you know what else…?”
Belle turned towards her and drew her eyebrows together, “No—what?” Belle appeared confused as she heard the complete 180 flip.
“Please Anna—don’t do this…” I pleaded out loud it was my last form of defense. My last plea to try to prevent what she was about to implode in this house.
Belle had Gabe at the table eating his cereal, and she folded her arms over her chest, waiting for one of us to explain ourselves, “What are you talking about?” Belle looked from her to me, clueless.
“The baby is Eli’s.” Anna blurted out, the harshest of looks thrown in my direction as she spit out the words. And my heart sank—I had wanted to tell her myself. This shame was mine to tell Belle—she had needed to hear it from me—not from her.
But the damage was now done, and all hell would break loose.