Chapter Thirty Three
When I take a look through a small, almond form window, I catch myself admiring the view. Clouds move constantly, flowing as sheets hundreds of feet apart, yet giving the appearance of one dense layer from the land below.
As we move forward, the ocean meets sky a hazy pink band separates the delicate hues, as if mother nature were rebelling against the endless blue, adding the colour of blushed petals. Somehow, I find this view calming me down. But at the same time, it’s hard to calm down; as if my heart couldn’t stop beating so fast after we left that old church.
With those fake IDs we were keeping for moments like this, it wasn’t hard to get those plane tickets to reach our destination and at the same time, be unnoticed. The hardest part was to get into that plane, because all I could think about was what I will see once I will get out of it.
Chicago. The place that I used to call home. And, my father.
My hands spread like pale starfish around my white, hot coffee cup; and they are cold as well as the rest of my body, resisting the warmth that struggles to seep into them. I keep asking myself what I should say. If I should have some sort of speech prepared for the moment when I will see my dad? Or be impulsive, and ask him the question straight away?
Speech. That is the right answer. Because the moment I will see him again, I know I will lose all the strength and anger. He’s my father, after all. A father that lied to me.
When I turn my head back to the left, I find Kai’s green eyes locked on me. Last time I checked, he was asleep; silently snoring, his head was right next to my shoulder, like the cutest inked baby I’ve ever seen.
“I haven’t noticed that you woke up.”
“Did you sleep?”
“No. I couldn’t.”
His hand slowly, gently slides into mine, the tips of his strong fingers tickling my palm. The warmth seems to electrify my icy hand, but after all, that’s what I needed. Someone to comfort me, someone to touch me. Reassure me that I am not alone in here. And yet, the only person that could do that, is Kai.
“I know how hard it is for you. But I will be there, I will be there with you.”
“That’s the point, Kai… I don’t want you to be there.”
For a nanosecond, his eyes widen, the shock he couldn’t hide for a moment after hearing my words. But then, he just tightened his fingers around mine; as the realisation makes his eyes soften. Not only realisation; support. Respect. Everything what makes me fall in love with Kai more and more with each day.
“I want you to be around, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t want you to be in there, because if he sees you, my father will refuse to talk.”
“I understand that. Just you and Brooklyn.”
“And Avery, of course.”
When I say the last syllable of her name, I suddenly catch her eyes, staring at me from the seat next to us. The window light from behind her, makes her appearance be only a silhouette, but I still can clearly see the look on her eyes. Sadness, anxiety. Sometimes I forget that it’s not only me that was hurt, or lied to. And Avery’s destiny is even sadder than mine.
“You haven’t talked about that with her, have you?”
“The chance that you girls are related.”
“No. I mean… It’s obvious, already.”
“But do you know how she feels? Does she know how you feel?”
Just like always, Kai is right. I haven’t got a chance to talk to Avery. Or, honestly, I was avoiding to. But what should I say? How the conversation should go? Oh, hey, this coffee is delicious, and by the way, how you’re feeling about us being related? That just makes me feel uncomfortable. And sad. And confused.
Before those words left Kai’s mouth, I wasn’t even thinking that I might be avoiding that conversation. There’s so much going on in our lives that’s already hard for all of us; but yet now, I’m feeling like a bad person. I haven’t asked her how she feels… Or at least told her how I’m feeling myself.
“Listen. I will take a seat next to Brent right now and plan where we’re going to stay until we’re ready to leave Chicago. I’ll ask Avery to sit with you for a moment. Okay?”
“You need to talk about it, Beverly. You might be looking at your own sister right now.”
The fear that occupies your body when you see danger, is nothing compared to the fear of the truth. Danger is there just for a moment, a few hours, for longest, but the truth will lay there forever. It’s not ephemeral, it’s permanent. The thing that you’re most scared of, or don’t want to accept, will lay in your heart from the moment you get all the right answers; but it’s better to know the nasty truth, than live on a beautiful lie.
“You’re right. I need to talk to her.”
A small lock of hair tumbled in front of my face, resting just in front of my cheek, but with one swift slide of his thumb, it was brushed out of the way. His lips touch my cheek. Time stops. In an instant, my heart starts to beat slower, I feel myself calming down. I can breathe again. Our fingers locked together similar to puzzle pieces. And after the prolonged kiss on the cheek, he pulls away. Silently, but our eyes locked, having a private conversation of their own. Reassuring. Comforting.
“Everything will be alright.”
A small curved smile played on his soft lips before his hand leaves mine and stands up, heading straight to Avery. And I prepare myself. What should I say? And God, how I actually feel about this?
After a short conversation with Avery that was impossible to hear because of the other people talking on the plane, I notice Kai exchanging places with her. She stands up with the same nervous look on her face, and for a moment, it seems like she’s avoiding the eye contact with me. Before she walks to me and forcefully smiles, taking a seat.
“Hey, are you alright?”
“Yeah, yeah… It’s just my first flight on the plane. I’m feeling a little sick.”
“I hate flights, too. I would prefer a car or a ship, but this way is faster to reach our destination.”
“Yeah… Your father.”
I fight an urge to draw my eyes away from her when the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety starts to scratch inside my stomach. I know I don’t want to talk about this now, because I will need to talk, hear about it when we will get to my father; yet I know it’s needed. Probably, Avery needs it more than I do. Unlike me, she’s alone. She was always alone. And I have to make sure she never feels this way again.
“My stepfather, probably.”
“I was only a teenager when I found out that I am adopted. I saw a middle aged man in my dream, and the next day my parents told me that I’m adopted.”
“Yeah. I saw him only once, but from that moment, I knew that he’s my father. That it was not just a dream.”
Her eyes glimmer with confusion below the dim white lights above us, but she doesn’t turn away from me. I watch her as my breath keeps getting heavy, as if my lungs were refusing to accept all the oxygen that it could; when more thoughts occupy my mind. The man that could be her father. Or also, my father.
“Was he talking to you? Or something?”
“I was dreaming him, standing somewhere, and when I approached him, he called me his daughter. All I remember that he had blue eyes.”
A sigh leaves her mouth; a long, almost painful sigh, as if she was letting go of all that fear that stops her from saying the words that I can already hear before her voice reaches my ears.
“Blue eyes. Like yours. Like mine.”
“I knew you will say that. I knew… Oh, God. It’s so hard to admit.”
“That we’re sisters?”
I couldn’t hold my eyes on her any longer, lifting my head back and looking at the ceiling of the plane, the dim lights and buttons to call a stewardess. And I still can’t fùcking believe that. I still can’t believe that this went too far, I refuse to. But when I start thinking about it again, it seems like the Lord had everything planned to bits. Brent met Avery for a reason. I’ve met Kai for a reason. For a reason to find my real family.
“Are you angry?”
“No, of course not. I’m just sick and tired of everything. Of all the lies and betrayals.”
“I know, I understand you. It’s confusing to think that we might be sisters, I never thought I have one…”
My eyes land on her again when I notice she looks at her feet, and nervously scratches her cuticles. She feels my gaze, and when she lifts her eyes at me I notice a flash of sadness again; a flash of shame. I can’t let her feel this way; not after everything. Not when she’s my sister.
“If you’re actually my sister, I can ask nothing better. It’s a gift to know someone like you, and even to be related to you.”
“You really think so?”
“Of course. And we have nothing to worry about. We will find our real family, sooner or later.
I’m alive for 28 years now. A long time to learn things, to choose people that you can trust, and accept into your life. People are always looking out for themselves, and you’re blessed enough to have those who care about you in the first place. Who eventually become your family, and it doesn’t mean if there’s the same blood running down your veins.
They say that home is where the heart is. And after all this time, when I see my dad’s office in front of me, I can definitely disagree with this theory. Home is not where the heart is. Home is people that you love, that you trust and care about. Home is the place where you feel safe, and loved; and it doesn’t have to be a building. It’s the smiles and hugs, the laughter, that makes all the problems disappear. It’s the will to fight for each other, even if you know that you won’t make it alive.
My heart is with all those people. And it doesn’t matter where on Earth we will be, or how many places we will change; as long as we’re together, I know I’m home.
“All I can say that I haven’t missed this place. At all.”
“Kai, please tell me that our next stop will be the sunny California. I missed the beach, and girls in bikini’s.”
Lexi slaps Aaron right on his biceps, and he starts laughing like he haven’t felt anything; teasing her like always, enjoying seeing envy in her narrowed eyes. But as much as I love seeing them fight, and hide their attraction from the world, I can’t move my eyes away from the windows of the top floor of the building. My dad’s office.
“Are you ready?”
“No. I don’t want to see him. I don’t want to talk to him. But I know there’s no turning back now.”
“We will all be outside, in case something happens. I know you’re strong enough to deal with this, baby.”
“You all are.”
I turn to the left to face Brent, who has his arm wrapped around Avery’s shoulders. Despite the smile on his face, I can notice the worry in his eyes. I know they don’t want us to go there alone, but also, they all know it’s needed. They know who my father is, and what kind of person he is. It’s already a low chance that we will make him talk; and him, seeing Kai again will shut his mouth completely.
“We shouldn’t waste anymore time. The sooner we get in there, the sooner we will get our answers.”
Brooklyn steps towards me, releasing Kevin’s hand that was holding hers. Her eyes are immobile; almost angry, but not with me. I feel the same way as she does, as we all do, coming back here with none of us wanting to.
“Brooks is right. Let’s go.”
I turn around to see Kai, who has his hands on my cheeks in an instant. He looks right into my eyes, his look so deep that it feels like he’s examining my soul, that he sees every thought in my mind. I see his breathing stop for a moment, gathering the words that need to be said before his lips finally part.
“Be careful out there. Give me a sign if anything happens. I will come, and save you.”
“I know what to do.”
“Don’t let him get inside your head. You know what answers you need, you can’t come back without them.”
With the last sound of his voice his lips slam onto mine. The feeling that can’t take over my body is already here; my knees get weaken and pleasant warmth spreads through every vein in my body as he kisses me. His tongue, already getting the taste of my lips, brushing against my teeth clears my mind from all the dark thoughts; and yet, it gives me the strength that I needed.
I’m strong enough to do this. And I’m not leaving before my father tells me the truth.
Not my father. James.
“I love you.”
“I love you, Kai.”
One last glance, and I turn around to head straight to his office, Brooklyn and Avery by my side; feeling everyone’s looks on our backs. I lift my head up; the windows of the skyscraper stare down at us like a many-eyed monster. The doorway that should be lit is strangely dark and it gapes like an open mouth; just like I remember. A shiny sign ‘Greenenterprises’ above it, make chills run down my spine. Here we are. The moment that I’ve been dreading of is here.
I know that James is here. He’s always here. After all, it’s business that matters to him. He proved it a very long time ago.
The lobby is painted grey, just like I remember; and its walls are only floor-to-ceiling windows, which are facing the main road. I take a glance through one of them; spotting Kai’s eyes, watching me behind the huge bush. On the grey desk in front of us, a desktop computer, a notebook lying open, and a stack of papers sitting under a turtle-shaped paperweight. In a corner, the air conditioner is blasting at medium, and there’s swivel chair by the desk.
And a woman, a secretary, that I never saw before. For a moment I wonder, what could’ve happened to Tiana, my father’s, probably, former girlfriend. This one, seems to be a lot older. Her forehead is wrinkled by many peaks and trenches, which unflatteringly crown eyes with disdainful glare, shadowing their beautifully unique shade of blue. Her entire face seems drained of any signs of joy and amusement, instead her frumpy cheeks show her regular displeasure.
“Good afternoon, ladies.”
Avery stops when the woman shouts to us, in a polite, but annoyed voice that we interrupted her. She stands up, but we head straight to the elevator; like she wasn’t even here.
“Excuse me, ladies?!”
I press the button for the elevator to go down to the first floor as the woman runs to us with an angry look on her face, stopping in front of us and blocking the elevator doors.
“I’m sorry, but you will have to tell me where you’re heading.”
“To meet James Greene.”
“Mr. Greene has no meetings scheduled today. I could see when he will have time-“
“Trust me, he will cancel all of his plans once he will see his daughters.”
The woman’s eyes widen at me when the words leave my mouth; my voice was harsh, angry. It seems like she lost the track of time and space around her, watching all three of us as the elevator’s doors open.
“Now, please excuse us, we have some talking to do with our father.”
The woman keeps staring at us but I pass through her, Brooklyn and Avery following me into the elevator. I press the button to the top floor as she turns around to us, and it seems like just now, she realised what’s happening.
“No, you can’t go-“
As she tries to stop us, the elevator door closes and we start to go up. I notice that my hands are shaking, and the confidence in my voice is fake. I’m nervous. A little scared. All of us are, standing silently and watching the door. Waiting, and preparing to talk. And still, I have no idea how I will start that conversation.
Ding. The doors open.
A huge hall with windows, and only one door in front of us. We head straight into his private office, a huge room occupying the top floor of the building with floor-to-ceiling windows.
“Ready to find out the truth?”
“Not at all.”
I’m not ready, too, but as I reach the gray wooden doors, knowing that James is behind them; I feel like I’m losing control of my body; with all the strength of my body I kick those doors, and they slam opened.
Like I thought, nothing is changed. Shelves with awards and books on the wall. Leather seats, a glass desk in the middle of the office. And two eyes, watching us behind the desk.
His eyes and his mouth are frozen wide open in an expression of stunned surprise, and I notice him taking a deep breath and holding it, while we walk towards him. He becomes as white as chalk with every second as he keeps watching us; his daughters, unexpectedly returning after more than a year.
When he hears my voice, his eyes aren’t widened anymore; he narrows them, and the surprise that for a moment made him look like an actual human, now makes him look like nothing but heartless tyrant. Just like I remember.
“Beverly Greene. Brooklyn. What a surprise.”
“It’s Woods, now.”
“You got married?”
I nod, and from the look he gives me I can tell that he’s judging me already and in his eyes I see only cool hatred. Wow, what a loving father. But at the same time, it surprises me. Because I don’t feel like I cared what he thinks about me.
“To that murderer, right? Wow, Beverly, I never thought you’re that stupid. And how about you, Brooklyn? Have you made some stupid decisions like your sister did, too?”
“We’re not here to answer your questions, dad. We’re here to ask you something.”
For the first time, Brooklyn’s voice is as angry as mine. That’s when I realise she feels just the same way like I do. Betrayed. Fooled. I know she loves him; somewhere deep in my heart, I love him too. He raised us, he took care of us. But it doesn’t mean he can treat us like we were nothing.
“And what in the world you could ask me, after running away more than a year ago?”
“Oh, let me see…”
When I reach his desk, I put my palms on it. Being so close to him, as Avery and Brooklyn take seats on the leather couch. But all I can see in his eyes, is anger. Hate. This man surprises me even more right now. After everything he did, he still makes himself look like a victim, hiding behind his wall of pride. His eyes are a knife in my ribs right now, the sharp point digging deeper. Where there had been love was an emptiness, but not in any vulnerable sense. It’s uncomfortable.
But it doesn’t surprise me. There’s no way I could be related to this man.
“Who are my real parents, James?”