XXXVI. Stop Rewind Zoom
I’ve never heard such an entertaining sentence before in my life.
“You’re here for my children?”
“Do you want me to go out there and tell them good ole grandpapa is here and want a nice ole hug?” I didn’t bother to hide the mockery.
“I believe you had misunderstood.”
“Oh, please, clarify.”
“I’m here for the children.”
“I repeat, clarify.” I know what he meant, but I’m giving him a chance to restructure his sentence - to rethink what he just said.
“I’m here to take the children with me.”
“No,” the voice beside me said. “You have no right to be here in the first place.”
“That’s right!” I agreed with Jackson. “Where in your goddamn mind makes you believe you can come here and la dee da claim my children.”
Harrison’s sight went from me towards Jackson. “I understand why the mother is upset. But, why are you upset, Jackson Martinez.” He really researched everyone around me. I’m not surprised if he knew the situation between Jackson and me. He’s only saying that to strike a nerve.
“I care about those children. And over my dead body will you be able to take them away from us.” I’ve never heard such a threatening tone from Jackson before.
When I was in New York with Jackson, I met his parents. There is a reason why Abby is underneath Jackson’s custody. His parents aren’t the warmest people in the world.
That’s when I learned, Jackson really does take care of the people he loves.
He won’t back down without a battle.
It’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with him.
Harrison chuckled, “From us? You speak as if you’re their father.”
Harrison stepped on a soft spot, and he knows it. He smirked, “I believe these are family matters, Mr.Martinez.”
“Not according to our family records. Legally, I am still their grandfather.”
I ground my molars, “Legally?”
“Which means I’m entitled to their custody.”
“What exactly are you implying?”
He stood up, “I’m giving you a choice. Give me the children-”
“We will allow the judge to decide who is the better guardian for the children.”
I grabbed the fake teacup toy on the table.
I know what I’m about to do is rash and one hundred percent based on emotions.
I threw the cup at the old man.
It hit Jackson.
My brain stutters for a moment, and every part of me goes on pause. The blood drizzled down Jackson’s forehead. I tried to move my hand, but it didn’t work. My thoughts are still trying to play catch up.
After a wash of cold and awful realization of what I had done, I felt a warmth on my shoulder then my body. Jackson held me firmly, “It’ll be okay. Everything will be okay.”
He turned his body until it faced Harrison. “Please leave.”
Harrison smiled and nodded, “Smart man you have there.” One step after another, Harrison made his way towards the front door. One of the men opened the door, and he left the house.
“What the fuck Jackson?! Why did you do that?!” I shouldn’t yell at him. It’s not his fault. But I couldn’t help myself. Why? Why would he protect the man that wants to take away my children?
Jackson cupped my cheeks, “Hey. Take some deep breaths.”
He knows that if he told me to calm down, I’d blow up.
I took a deep breath then exhaled.
“Look,” he said. “I would love for that cup to hit him. Hell, I would love to beat him.”
Look at us—bonding over the thought of beating up an old man.
“But, we can’t do that.”
“Think about it, Piper. Really think about what would happen if that cup-” he pointed at the item, “hit him.”
My eyes went towards the cup.
“There’s a reason why he told those bodyguards to wait in another room. Why would a fragile old man be in a room with two strangers? Why didn’t he think of the consequences of what would happen if he told the mother he wants to take away her children.”
Once the calmness sinks into me, the fogs that clouded my thoughts dispersed.
Jackson is right.
Harrison had a motive.
He came into a room...alone...with two strangers and had the nerve to say he will take my children away from me.
Harrison knew I would get angry.
All those meaningless talks about my sister or this hometown were planned - a strategy to shorten my temper.
I covered my mouth with my hands and stumbled back, “If that cup hit him.”
“He’ll use it to his advantage,” Jackson said.
“He’ll use it to take away my children.” I grabbed Jackson by the arms, “No. No. He can’t take my children away from me.”
Jackson placed his hand above my head and pulled me into his chest. “And he won’t.” Jackson kissed the top of my head, “I’ll make sure of it.”
Day after day, my thoughts tangled more and more and the worries only increased. My fingers moved against the keyboards, and once I finished, I pressed send.
Crystal came downstairs in her pajamas and stuffed unicorn. “You’re going to stay at home today, too, mommy?”
I smiled, “What? Don’t want to see me?”
She flopped on the couch, “It’s weird to see you at work hours.” She fell asleep.
I sipped on the cup of coffee. With Emerson’s grandfather’s threats, I couldn’t find it in myself to go to work. On Monday, at work, I kept on thinking about Crystal and Dustin.
What if someone busted into the house and kidnapped them?
What if they went to the park and someone kidnapped them?
What if they got lured by someone and got kidnapped?
All my scenarios somehow ended with them being kidnapped, and I could never see them again.
Of course, if it were a regular old man, I wouldn’t be as worried. But, apparently, Harrison Hanson is not an average man.
Harrison Hanson is the founder of Harrison High School.
A founder shouldn’t be an issue.
Based on Jackson’s and Matt’s investigation Harrison Hanson is a powerful man.
He’s a fucking genius billionaire.
Well-respected in the educational industry.
He even won two fucking Nobel prizes, and it ain’t the peace prize.
I grabbed the laptop’s edge with Emerson, Crystal, and Dustin’s picture then shook it. “Thanks for telling me that you have this crazy wealthy father, Emmy! Thanks for mentioning that! Much appreciation!”
Once I shook off the frustration, my forehead fell on top of the laptop. I knew my children are special, but I thought it was you’re special because you’re my children, not you’re special because you came from a line of genius families.
When I turned my head, a picture came into view. I grabbed the photo and looked at it. My thumb ran across the image of a dashing young man in a suit.
The handsome, intelligent young man who attended Harrison High School.
One of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world.
I grabbed the USB and plugged it into my laptop.
After the lag time, the video played.
It was Emerson in high school.
Emerson smiled, “Hello.”
“Yes. That is me.”
They laughed, “First of all. Congratulations.”
“How does it feel? To claim yet another award.”
Emerson looked at the trophy and sucked in a deep breath, “Nice. I supposed.”
“You sound enthusiastic.”
“A mere trophy shouldn’t be a measurement of happiness.”
“What would you consider happiness then?”
Emerson hummed, “I suppose...doing things I enjoy?”
“Are you implying you do not enjoy these events?”
“I do...to an extent. However, it doesn’t bring long-term happiness.”
“What do you suppose would bring you long-term happiness?”
He shrugged, “I believe those are the types of thoughts you shouldn’t think about. If it arrives, then it arrives. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. You can’t plan happiness.”
The person behind the camera laughs again. “Agree. Agree. Well, thank you for your time.”
They shook hands, “Thank you for the interview.”
“What a fake smile,” I mumbled. “I didn’t know you can fake something like that.” I exhaled and ran fingers through my hair, “Then again. What do I know?”
I just found out that my husband is an heir.
A runaway heir.
I slapped my cheeks, “No matter the reason. Emmy ran away. He isn’t happy. So, bad man.”
The longer I thought about the situation, the more ridiculous it started to sound.
The man I had been living underneath the same roof for what feels like forever is a runaway heir. And now, his evil, wealthy father is here to take my children for some damn unknown reason.
I can feel a body flop onto my lap, “Mommy is everything okay?”
I pet Crystal’s head, “Everything is okay. Go back to sleep.”
She climbed on top of my lap and held me. “I’m here.”
I embraced her, “I know.” I kissed the top of her head. “And I’ll be here.”
Crystal fell asleep.
And I’ll do whatever it takes to protect the both of you.
My eyes flicker towards the screen showing a young Emerson. I reached for the mouse control and played the video again.
I watched as Emerson walked away from the camera and another person appeared. I halted the video, zoomed in on Emerson, and then played it again.
He made his way towards the large double doors then stopped.
He’s talking to someone.
I stopped the video, rewind, and then zoomed in more towards Emerson.
My eyes narrowed, and I leaned towards the screen.
Stop, rewind, and zoom.
Stop, rewind, and zoom.