Chapter Thirty Four
“James? Where’s your respect, you ungrateful child?!”
He stands up from his chair and I have to lift my head up because of his height. It doesn’t matter that he’s bigger, stronger than me; with the look on my face and not turning away, showing him, that I’m not afraid of him, I feel how I’m getting proud of myself. And honestly, behind all that anger, I see a flash of fear in his eyes. A realisation, that I already know the truth.
“That doesn’t answer my question. Who are my parents?”
As much as he tries to be the same angry, brave man he imagines himself as; he draws his eyes away from me, and they stop somewhere behind me. Eye contact is one of the proofs that a person is honest with you, that he’s avoiding nothing and telling the truth. James gives himself away without even knowing he is.
“Who is she?”
He points his shaky finger at Avery, who straightens herself immediately; feeling the most uncomfortable from all of us. And I understand her, of course I do. It’s better to not know who your parents are, than to know that a man like James could be your relative.
He’s heartless, cruel and overbearing. But I’m not scared of him. I’m not leaving before he tells me the truth.
“That is Avery. My sister, Avery.”
“What do you mean she’s your…”
As he draws his eyes back to me, I realise there’s a way to play dirty. He knows nothing; and I know too much to fool him.
“Yes, James, I already know the truth.”
I take a step closer to him as he looks at me, the anger slowly disappearing from his eyes. When I lift my jacket up, making it look involuntarily, for him to see a knife in its leather case, attached to my belt, he takes a step back. Now disgust fills up his eyes, as if he was seeing a monster; not his daughter.
And it’s okay. I prefer being a monster than someone he would call a daughter. I will do nothing to him; I would never, but yet it’s enough for him to believe I could. One thing that Kai taught me, is how to play with enemies. And now, James is my enemy.
“What happened to you?”
“I want to hear the truth from you. Tell me everything about the adoption.”
As I get too close to him, he stumbles, falling back on the chair behind him. I thought that I got him, that he will finally tell me the truth about my real family; but suddenly, his smile stretches out to both sides of his face, before laughter fills up the tense silence between us.
“Adopted? Who told you that you’re adopted?”
“Tell me the truth, James.”
“You were never adopted, Beverly.”
Uncomfortable with this situation, he had filled his eyes with the same emotion he was more at ease with - raw anger. The unmoving gaze is accompanied by deliberate slow breathing, like he was fighting something, but from that immobile look I can tell he’s not lying; as much as I don’t want to believe him.
“No, I am not.”
“What about a DNA test? If you’re so sure about your words, why don’t we get a proof of them?”
I am watching him without turning my head, my heart is hammering but I keep my posture calm with no hint of hesitation. Constance held her breathe, daring not to make a sound. Each second seemed to last an eternity as she lay perfectly still listening to the footsteps of the intruder, which had muted the pounding of her pulse. Tension holds my breathing, daring not to make a sound. Each second seems to last an eternity as I watch those angry eyes, which had muted the pounding of my pulse.
But the only thing that keeps me brave enough, strong enough, is James’s face. Color drained from his face, and that smile that was there a moment ago just disappeared. He’s scared. And that is the worst part. When scared he lost all rationality and became a monster that would do anything to survive. He's like a firework, either safe and in it's box, or exploding, and the fuse is doused in kerosine.
“You won’t make me.”
“I don’t have to make you. If you’re so sure about your words, why would you be afraid to prove that to me?”
“I don’t have to prove you anything.”
“I think as your daughter, I deserve to know the truth.”
Without even thinking, I said the words that touched his heart. I am his daughter, I can’t forget the fact that he raised me. Took care of me and Brooklyn. Made sure we had everything we ever wanted; and whatever happened, I won’t hurt him. None of us will. I can’t forgive him for his behaviour, but I have to respect that I didn’t have to grow in the foster care.
“Sit down, Beverly.”
“Your hands on the table, so I could see you’re not playing around with us.”
“Just sit down, okay? Then, we will have a conversation.”
After watching him for a moment, trying to read his eyes if he has some hidden intentions; I straighten myself and walk backwards to the couch, my eyes not leaving his. He places his hands on the table, just how I asked; and looks at all three of us, before his eyes land on Avery.
“You say you’re sisters? Who are your parents?”
“I don’t know. I was adopted when I was just a baby.”
James leans back on his chair, his narrowed, angry eyes back on me, but I see them getting softer with each moment. Those words really got inside his head; for the first time, it seems like it really matters to him that I’ve called myself his daughter. My eyes don’t leave his immobile face as I take a seat on a cold leather couch between both Avery and Brooklyn, who seem to be frozen on their spots, afraid to move.
“Tell me everything.”
“Do you remember your mother?”
“What? Of course I-“
“Do. You. Remember your mother?”
Each letter that came from his mouth is prolonged, his voice getting meaner, but more silent. Like he was actually trying to make me to remember my mother.
I know why he’s asking me that; I’m the only one that actually knew her. It’s been 21 year since I saw her last time, but still, she was the warmest woman I’ve ever met. She had that quiet, but warm voice that made me stop crying over some toy. Her hands were a pure silk, something that touched you, and you never wanted to let go of it. Her embrace was the safest place for a little girl, she was that kind of mother that you could call a best friend.
But also, I remember how dad used to treat her. She was always silent, doing as he says. All he cared about was business, and all she cared about was him, and me. And I remember some fragments of my childhood, and how happy she was when she got pregnant with Brooklyn; and yet she lost her life without having a chance to get to know her daughter.
“Yes. I remember mom. And I remember how you treated her.”
“Do you have any idea why I treated her like that? Everything happens for a reason, Beverly.”
“You had no right to treat her like a maid! She was your wife, for God’s sake!”
“Yes, my cheating wife!”
My breathing stutters as soon as the last syllable leaves his mouth; his yell echoed between every crack in the building, creeping under doors and squeezing through keyholes, travelling through windows like they weren't even there. I think he liked that. I think it made him feel mighty powerful. But to me, it was nothing but shock that stopped my breathing and my mind from working.
“Don’t act like you haven’t heard me, Beverly.”
“No. That’s impossible.”
Because of the shock that occupied my body, my mind; I forgot that Brooklyn is still here, with me. Hearing all of this. Her voice was like an earthquake, it seemed to shake all of the place. It had some intense anger in it; the times that I’ve heard her talking like that could be counted on my fingers. She’s not an angry person, nor she’s someone that could lose its self-control easily, but it’s her mother we’re talking about. Even though she haven’t met her, she still was her mother.
“I have no reason to lie to you now. You wanted the truth, prepare to hear some nasty things about her.”
“Then talk. Don’t drop things like that and just shut up. Talk. Tell us everything.”
“You already know the answer, Beverly.”
“You’re not my daughter! Is that what you wanted to hear?!”
Deep in my heart, I already knew that. I just wasn’t prepared to hear that coming from his mouth. Hell, I wasn’t prepared for anything. I thought I was; but now I realise that I feel just the same way I felt the first time, when Kai told me about it. Betrayed. Destroyed. By my own father, that was a jerk to me, but I never thought he could hide things like that for almost three decades.
“We got married when we were still very young, and I was really busy with my work. All this time, Miranda felt so lonely. That’s when he got into her way.”
“Wait. So you’re saying that…”
“She was your mother, yes. You were never adopted. But my blood doesn’t run down your veins. However, only Brooklyn is my biological daughter.”
“Why the hell I should believe you?”
“It’s your decision to make, Brooklyn.”
I take all the courage I have and use it to suppress my violent impulses when I fight the urge to run away and cry all the tears out that are now stuck in my throat. And the only thing that keeps me silent calm, is thoughts about Kai. He’s always calm. He never yells, it doesn’t matter how angry, or furious he is; he’s able to control himself in every situation. I can’t believe it took me so long to realise that, to see that; giving me one more thing about him to love.
“You mentioned him, whoever ‘he’ is. Tell me about him.”
“Oh, right. The juiciest part of the story.”
He lifts his head up, letting a deep breath out, like he was letting out a smoke that burned his lungs. Even though his face is now watching the ceiling, I can’t help myself but notice a mean smile, playing on his lips. Like it was a joke to him. Like the conversation about my real father was just a joke.
“He was just some cashier that Miranda met in the grocery store. Tall, masculine, blue eyes… everything a woman would fall for. So of course, Miranda started to go to that store every single day when I was at work.”
“What’s his name?”
“Oh, that’s all I know about him. Ben. His name is Ben. And they were so good at hiding the truth from me. Secret meetings whenever I was at work, late phone calls…”
“Were they… in love?”
James draws his eyes back to me, now his face curved into a frown. Like I just poured salt on the wound that didn’t heal through all those years. Obviously, it didn’t. Cheating on a relationship hurts everyone equally; but what makes us different, is how we choose to react about it.
“Yes. She claimed, that she was in love with him.”
“So… what happened?”
“I hired a private detective to follow her, and the pictures of them kissing was enough to proof she was a goddamn cheater. That’s how their little affair ended.”
“But you were still with her. You accepted me, knowing that I’m not your daughter. What happened?”
“I loved your mother. I really did. I was sure that after I found out, she would run away with him. She left in the middle of the fight, but came back after a few hours. And I never saw Ben again.”
“So you let her stay?”
“I have never kicked her out. I told her to choose one of us. And, knowing that he won’t be able to take care of both her and their baby, she chose me.”
From the words that leave James’s mouth, and, truth to be told, his eyes seem to have some sort of honesty in them; for the first time, I feel something good about him. At least, one time in his life, he really loved someone. My mother. He loved her that much that he let her stay after she cheated on him and had a baby with another man. I don’t know how much truth is in his words.
But what I learned, is that you can see a person’s soul in his eyes. And what I see in his, for the first time, is honesty.
“What about the baby? Me?”
“A few weeks later she told me she’s pregnant. I wanted to be happy about it, but I couldn’t. Because she wasn’t hiding that the baby isn’t mine. I agreed to stay with her with only one condition, that she will never see Ben again. My private detective was following her everywhere. And from all I know, they never saw each other again.”
“And it was that easy for you? Just to raise the baby from another man?”
“Of course it wasn’t, it was hard as hell. But I tried to give everything to you. To love you like my own.”
“And yet you couldn’t love me.”
“Yes. I couldn’t. Every time I look at you, I see him. You have his eyes. That homewrecker’s eyes.”
James’s words rock my mind, leaving it moving in foreign ways, ways I have become unaccustomed to; I feel angry with him, and at the same time, I feel sad for him. As if he is an echo, but one with the power to tear down walls I have built high and deep since I left my hometown. I have no idea how I should feel right now. How I should react.
“Ben. The name suits him pretty well.”
Avery’s voice is like an alarm, waking me up from the dream that I had; that made my mind leave this place, if only for a moment. She looks at me, the way like her eyes were searching for a company in me, for someone to hold her hand through that path we just started walking towards.
“The man that I… saw. With blue eyes. Blue, like ours.”
Suddenly, James starts laughing and stands up from his chair. That laughter is nothing but pain that he was hiding inside him for all those years, hating me because I wasn’t his child. Because he had to raised a daughter of a man that he hated the most.
“Of course. You both are his daughters, there’s no doubt. I wonder how many children does he have, with other married women?”
“Shut the fùck up, James.”
I turn back to Avery as she takes my hand, and, surprisingly, a smile lightens up her face. Now we have a purpose, a new task; but this time, it’s different. It’s not the aim to find our enemies, to start one more fight, to risk our lives. It’s the aim of hope. The aim to find our father, someone who gave us life; but somehow, left us without seeing us.
He might be a bad person, he might be a homewrecker, but I don’t care. I have two sisters; two most amazing women I’ve ever met. We’re all a real family now. We will find out the truth, to have a happily ever after.
“You know how a name suits a person’s appearance? Ben would suit him really well.”
“And now we have to find out about your mother.”
Before the girls came back, it already got dark outside. I haven’t moved a bit, I haven’t answered any question others asked me; watching if Beverly would need my help, if she could be in danger. Ready to run at any moment. And yet, I didn’t need to.
When they came back, the silhouette of the skyline pierced through the warm glow like a jagged mountain ridge. Millions of lights caused the dense mass of skyscrapers glitter. Cars were only the blood cells flowing through the veins of the city. Despite the time, the hustle never came to a halt.
And the news they brought with themselves were shocking; but not in a way I would be too surprised. I could expect anything from that man, and if Beverly believes him, I have to, too. Now we know why he was treating her like that. Why her life was so miserable.
Because she grew up with the wrong person.
“Fùck, Aaron, will you stop chewing so loud?”
Aaron leans closer to Brent, shoving more french fries into his already full mouth and chewing them right next to Brent’s ear; his own way of cheering us up. Brent frowns and pushes Aaron with his shoulder, a slight push, but he almost falls of his chair.
But that’s what we all need. Cheering up. Smiling, and laughing. Because somehow I feel that the hard times are only ahead of us.
And I am goddamn right.
“How are you feeling, baby?”
My fingertips carefully touch Beverly’s, trying not to startle her. Somehow, she seems to be so sensitive about everything; always drowning in her own thoughts. When she feels my touch, she slowly draws her eyes to me; but surprisingly, they’re light. With such warmth in them, that I haven’t seen for a long time. Probably, since the day she was wearing a white dress, and gave me an opportunity to change her last name.
“Honestly… I feel good.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I wanted the truth, and I got it. It feels good to have an aim, to find Ben, and allow myself to think of our next stop.”
“After tonight, we’re leaving this city. Forever. And we will find your real father.”
A warm, genuine smile starts to play on her full lips, which electrifies my whole body. My every vein is lit on fire, but in the way that is pure happiness. Because I see my woman, my wife happy. Everything I ever wanted.
“Thank you, Kai. For respecting me. For staying with me through everything.”
“I will stay with you forever, like I said when we got married. Till death do us apart. I will love you until my last breath, and after. I promise.”
“I promise to fight with you, and to stay with you forever. I don’t need anything, but you, Kai.”
I can’t help myself but smile, leaning closer to her, like no one was sitting by the table in our hotel room, as if there was just two of us. When our lips burn on each other’s, my brain is lit on fire and the warmth spreads through my entire body. She’s my drug, the one that I’m addicted to, I know I couldn't bare not to be with her and I can barely breathe when she wasn’t around. My drug. My oxygen.
I have never thought it was possible to love someone that much. To be addicted to someone. To see nothing but her, to live for nothing, but her. I would always choose to die myself, than to watch her getting hurt. I would always choose to kill anyone that dares to touch her. I know I will do everything I can, just so I can make sure she’s safe, and happy.
Suddenly, the most pleasant kiss is broken by Brent’s serious, almost inhuman voice. The one he uses when something is wrong. When I pull back, I notice him already standing by the window, his eyes locked somewhere deep into the night. Without having other thoughts, I get up from my chair and walk to him, my eyes locked at the point where he’s looking.
“He probably followed us when we left his office.”
I let out a long sigh; damn it, I should’ve been more careful. I should’ve been prepared for this; it’s not the first time that it is happening, yet I was too busy to find out what Beverly has to tell. In that moment the quiet had become like icy drips onto already cold skin. The street was never like this, like some movie set when the cops surround the villain’s house. But this time, they surrounded the hotel. Ten. Twenty. Thirty cars. Dozens of cops with their guns and shields, silently walking towards the entrance.
Fighting with our enemies is one thing, but fighting with well-aimed cops is different. I’m well-aimed, too, I’ve been a cop myself. But it’s never easy to fight with someone you once saw yourself as.
“Who’s out there?”
As I turn back, I see that no one is sitting anymore. Everyone stands and looks at us, Aaron stopped eating, and all those eyes are locked on me.
“James. Like we should’ve been expecting.”
“Fùck! He did the same thing the last time. How stupid were we to stay?”
“It doesn’t matter now, baby. We won last time, we will win this time, too.”
“What should we do?”
I take a glance back to the street, when one of the cops lifts his head up and looks straight at me. I put a smile on my face and give him a friendly wave, before Brent pulls his gun out to start shooting.
“If daddy wants to play, I will show him my toys.”