Forgiven

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Forced Distance

Chapter 60:

It had been days since they last spoke in her office. Every time he texted her to request that they talk together, she would respond by saying that she was busy. Eventually, she decided to call him. The moment he saw her name on his phone’s screen, he was filled with hope once more that she was finally ready to hear him out. What he hoped for did not exactly pan out, though. She simply called to let him know that she could not bring herself to hear whatever he wanted to say and that perhaps it would be better to just take a break. If he thought she was being unreasonable to ask him to wait for a bit longer, then he was free to just break it off with her and move on with his life. He was not expected to concern himself with her, to check on her or to even bother himself with whatever threat he believed she might still be under. He was not to think that he still owed her in any way or even believe that he should pay his debt back to her by keeping an eye on her. She was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. What he had done for her already was more than enough. There was nothing more that she expected him to do.

That phone call was brief. She was the one who did all the talking and never gave him a chance to argue back. Before he could wrap his head around what she said, she wished him a nice day and ended the call. He tried phoning her afterwards, but no response came. There was only one thing he could do, and that was to seek a certain someone in the hopes that she would help shed some light on the situation. This was why he was sitting in the hospital’s cafeteria on a Sunday morning after he had requested a member of staff to inform the redhead that someone was waiting for her.

She emerged minutes later with messy hair, a frown on her face and dark circles under her eyes. It was obvious that she had just woken up from a brief nap after a grueling night shift. She grabbed a chair, drew it, slumped down and glared at him. Without saying a word, he pushed one paper cup filled with steaming hot coffee towards her. Then he watched her as she silently removed the cap and began pouring cream and sugar into it.

He waited for her until she was done with the task and got a few sips into her system. Then he asked, “Awake?”

“A bit,” she responded after she took another sip. “This better be good, Lang.”

“I’ll make it quick.”

“By all means.”

“You know why I’m here.”

“What did she do this time?” Michaela asked with a hint of boredom as she grabbed another sugar packet.

“She wants a break.”

The redhead frowned, “She wants a break or she wants to break up?”

“You tell me. I don’t understand what’s going on inside her head anymore.”

“She didn’t talk to me either. Even if she did, what makes you think I’d betray her trust by telling you everything?”

“All I’m asking for is some way I could reach her.”

The redhead took a sip of her coffee, wrinkled her nose and grabbed two more sugar packets. She emptied their contents one by one as Alec watched curiously. “She won’t budge. I can tell you this much.”

“Did she talk to you?”

“No, she won’t talk to me. I tried to sit her down and get her to let it out. She wouldn’t say a word. I swear at one point I contemplated getting her drunk just so I could get it out of her, but I know the poor woman can’t handle alcohol.”

Concerned, Alec could not help but ask, “Is she okay?”

“On the surface, yes,” Michaela nodded as she stirred the amount of sugar she added into her coffee. “She seems totally fine. However, as someone who knows her too well, I can assure you that what happened struck her hard.”

“I wasn’t planning on telling her like that,” Alec answered apologetically, “but she wouldn’t let the matter go. I don’t even know how she managed to find out.”

“You underestimate her, Lang. She had been investigating you since the incident at the venue.”

“She told you?”

“That she did,” the redhead confirmed. “Appearently Brown told her something about you that made her suspicious. Eventually, she looked into you and managed to connect all the dots. I distinctly remember her telling me that she could not believe how big of an idiot she was for not figuring it all out sooner. After listening to her list of all the clues she overlooked, I gotta tell you, her feelings for you must’ve ran so deep that they blinded her to everything that had been staring her right in the face.”

A pang of guilt gripped Alec’s chest at hearing that. He tried to inquire further about how Lesly was doing, but when he saw Michaela holding the paper wrapper of one of the used sugar packets as if asking him silently for more, he could not help but get up, grab a handful from another table and dump them on theirs all while muttering, “Good God, woman! How much sugar do you need?!!”

“Try working two consecutive shifts with only six hours apart, then we’ll talk about sugar needs,” she answered casually as she stuck the wooden stirring stick in her mouth and got to the task of pouring more sugar in her drink.

Alec was still silently staring at her, so she explained, “I need whatever energy I could get to stay awake long enough to talk to you, drive myself back home and call that crazy woman you want to win back and make sure she ate something before she went to work.”

“How’s she coping now?” He asked with a hint of worry on his face.

“How else? Work, work and more work.”

“Any advice you could offer?”

Michaela took a large sip of coffee, winced at the stinging sweetness, and gave him the best advice she could think of. “Let her be. She’s not ready to even admit to herself what exactly is bothering her about this whole thing. So far, she’s still putting an act that everything is fine, but eventually that act will crumble. Once it does, she’ll either talk to you or me. Until then, there’s nothing you can do but wait.”

Alec opened his mouth in protest, but she immediately sprang to her feet. He watched her silently as she went to the cashier, paid for something and then came back a minute later with two small eclairs. She handed him one, but he silently shook his head in refusal, so she sat down and began munching on one. He tried to mask the look of interest. Watching a person consume this much sugar in a short span of time was something he was not quite used to, especially after months of living with Lesly who barely ate anything.

Michaela noticed the look on his face and tried once more to offer him an eclair. Her mouth was full as she asked, “Are you sure you don’t want any?”

“No, thanks.”

“It’s good…,” she narrowed her eyes at the piece of pastry in her hand, “or at least I think it is. I really can’t tell anymore.”

“It’s not the kind of thing I’d eat,” he declined again.

“Oh yeah, Lesly told me you’re a health fanatic.”

Alec was more focused on trying to bring the conversation back to the matter he came for, “If she won’t take my calls, isn’t it better if I just show up and talk to her?”

“Don’t,” she warned. “You’ll only drive her further away.”

“I can’t just sit and do nothing!”

“Sadly, that’s all you can do for now,” Michaela muttered as she stuffed another bite of pastry into her mouth. “You’re free to ignore my advice at your own risk, but I’m sure you know deep down that I’m right. You’re just hoping that I’d contradict you and tell you something that you don’t know already. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have come to me instead of going straight to her.”

He glared at her as she began munching down on what was left of the eclair in her hand.

“Any other question I could answer?” She asked with a mouth half full of pastry.

“Actually, I was wondering if Chris had contacted you at all this entire time.”

“He did.”

“And?”

“He’s ecstatic that his sister finally found out who you are and decided to distance herself from you. He said, and I quote, that this is the best piece of news he heard this entire week.”

Alec was somewhat intrigued. “I honestly thought he was the one who told her about me.”

“The old Chris would’ve done it, but the current one wouldn’t rush into something like that, especially since he knows that you’re his only chance of keeping his sister safe if his connection to her were to be exposed.”

The prosecutor frowned in confusion. “You just said that he was glad she decided to distance herself from me!”

“Yeah, the Collins’ don’t make much sense. They always contradict themselves. I’ve learned that one the hard way,” Michaela answered almost absent-mindedly as she kept her gaze fixed on the other eclair on the table.

“I suppose he’s not okay with your talking to me either?”

“No sir, but he knows better than to tell me what to do.”

“So did you talk to him about my offer?”

“I did,” she answered before her hands reached for the second pastry. She arched an eyebrow to see if he still did not wish to consume it. When he shook his head, she began munching on it.

“Well?” Alec inquired when he noticed that she was distracted.

“He’s still on the fence about it…didn’t give me a conclusive answer at all. I guess you have to give him time, too.”

There was a deep sigh of frustration before he muttered, “Great…”

“Isn’t it ironic that both siblings are leaving you hanging like that?” Michaela laughed before she continued wolfing down the other eclair that she got for him.

“Yeah, I’m aware.”

“Anything else?” She inquired nonchalantly.

“No, thank you,” he muttered with a lack of interest.

She stuffed the last piece of pastry in her mouth and dusted her hands before she stood up and grabbed the cup of instant diabetes he thought she had given up on.

“The next time you want to talk to me, feel free to call. I might not pick up right away because of how busy I am, but I’ll always return the call.”

“Do you really mean that?” He asked.

Michaela smiled. “Believe me, there’s nothing I’d rather do right now than pass over the responsibility of putting enough food into that woman to keep her alive to somebody else.”

Alec chuckled, “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

Just to make sure that he caught her drift, Michaela reiterated again, “Lang, Chris might be opposed to having you involved with Lesly, but I’m not.”

His smile was genuine as he responded, “It’s nice to know. Thanks.”

She smiled back, placed the cap over her coffee cup, and gave him one last offer of support. “Hang in there. Things will work out. I’m sure of it.”

“I hope so.”

“I’m gonna head home now and sleep the day away,” she sighed in exhaustion.

“Drive safe.”

She waved goodbye and disappeared into a hallway.

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