I pull into the driveway and park beside the four-tiered fountain. Shutting off the engine, I stare at the ornate glass doors of my family home. This is the last place I want to be. Yet, I don’t have many options. Glancing over at Ariah, I see that she’s staring out the window. She’s been silent the whole ride; I can’t imagine what she’s going through. I would love to just wrap her in my arms and tell her that everything will be okay but things weren’t that simple anymore. I glance at the clock. 2 am. No time to waste. I get out of the car and go around to the other side to open the door for Ariah. She steps out and looks up at me. She’s been crying. After closing the door, I grab her hand and walk towards the front of the house. I knocked twice before my mother answered the door.
“Silas, sweetheart, what are you doing here at this hour?” She asks drowsily whilst tightening her lilac robe around her body. She steps aside so that we may enter. I kiss her forehead on my way in. “Goodness child, what happened to your face?” She reaches up to try to touch my face but I move away.
“Nothing. I’m sorry to wake you mother. I need to speak to David. It’s urgent. Is he home?” Just as I asked the question, he came striding down the stairs in a pair of blue pajama pants and a white t-shirt. He meets my eyes with his hard brown pair. His dark black hair was cut short and scattered about were strands of silver hair.
“We need to talk.” I assert. He raises his eyebrow for a moment before giving me a curt nod.
“Mary, why don’t you and the girl go in the kitchen and chit chat.” David says.
Ariah’s grip on my hand tightened. I look down to find her eyes throwing daggers at my father. I inwardly smile. In other circumstances, I would disagree with David however, this wasn’t a conversation I wanted her to hear. I pulled her to the side and rested my hands on her shoulders.
“Can you go with my mother please? I can bring your bags from the car and you can freshen up.”
She looks up at me with those big light brown eyes clouded with confusion and angst. Reluctantly, she agrees. I cup her face in my hands and plant a kiss on her forehead, resting there for a moment before moving away. My mother wraps her arm around Ariah’s shoulder and walks with her towards the kitchen. I take a deep breath and direct my attention back to David.
“Let’s take this to the study.” He walks down the hall. “Then you can tell me why you decided to grace me with your presence.”
He comments sarcastically. In and out, I repeat to myself. Just breathe in and out. David pushes open the mahogany set of double doors and walks in with me in tow. I close the doors behind me. Dragging my eyes around the room, I am assaulted with memories of my adolescent years. Years of being called here and scolded by my father and others of sneaking inside with Giovanni to raid his liquor cabinet. There were documents and folders resting on the desk and shelves full of books on the walls. The chairs were a bit worn.
“What is it you need to discuss?” My father’s baritone voice filters through my ears bringing me back to the task at hand.
“I need a favor.” David pours himself a glass of scotch and sits behind his desk.
“This should be good.”
“Ariah stabbed someone. I need you to pull some strings.”
David raises his eyebrows and sets his drink down on the desk. “So the girl has balls. Hmm, who would've thought.”
I grit my teeth. “Her name is Ariah. I suggest you start using it.”
“Listen here, you came into my house asking me for a favor. I’m not one of your little play things you bark orders at.” David contends with force. I clenched my jaw. This was a mistake. Why’d I even think he would help me? All he cares about is himself. I turn towards the door.
“Sit down.” He states. I close my eyes and hold them shut for awhile before opening them and turning around. I take a seat on the worn down leather couch across from his desk. “Who is this someone that she stabbed? I need a name.”
“Baker?” He repeats with a cocked eyebrow.
“Interesting.” He responds and swirls the dark liquid around in his glass. I could see that the name meant something to him. “Adam Baker is the son of Reginald Baker.”
I stared at him for moment confused. Was that name suppose to mean something to me? He stares at me expectantly. Then it hit me.
“Shit.” I say while standing.
I run my hands over my head and pace the room. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. What am I going to do now?
“You’re putting me in a bind here. The gathering is in a couple of weeks and you know we expect transparency. I’ll see what I can do Silas, but this favor comes at a price.” David takes a deep breath, returns the glass to his lips, and finishes off the drink. I already knew what he wanted. The only thing he ever wanted from me.
“What is it?”
“We want you back.”
“No. I told you I’m out and I meant it. I left all of that behind for a reason.”
David scoffs. “There is no out. You can’t keep running from the life that was meant for you son.”
The rage inside me was boiling. “NO! You mean the life you laid out for me! I never wanted any of that shit!”
“Watch your mouth boy.”
I scoff and pace around the room. Nothing with him is ever easy. Never can be and never will be. I shake my head. Sitting down in the chair, I rest my elbows on my knees with my head in my hands. I laugh incredulously. Life always comes back to bite you in the ass. We sit in silence for awhile. Ariah was my family and I loved her and my child. Our child. Realization dawned on me. This wasn’t just about me and what I wanted anymore. I had to think about them. I’d go to hell and back to protect them and just like that my decision was made.
“I don’t want her name associated with any of this.”
“Like I said, I’ll see what I can do.” I nod and stand, making my way to the door. Before I stepped out, David spoke again. “Bound by mouth...
I take a deep breath and look back at him. “Linked by blood.“
I walk in the kitchen with the luggage and find Ariah staring at the hot cup of tea sitting in front of her. My mother was sitting next to her with her hand on her back.
“Everything okay in here?” My mother looks at me with worry in her eyes. Ariah turns her eyes to meet mine. I could tell by her face that she was tired but she had questions. I transfer her bag to my left hand and hold my right hand out to her. She stands and takes it.
“Is everything alright Silas? I’m worried sweetie.” My mom stands and pushes the chairs up to the table before picking up the full cup and pouring it out.
“There’s no need to worry mother. Everything’s fine. We’re just going to crash here tonight if that’s okay with you.” Ariah leans her head onto my shoulder.
“Yes, yes. It’s fine.” She yawns as she turns off the kitchen light. “Goodnight sweetheart. Feel better hun.” She says to Ariah before going upstairs.
I scoop Ariah up in my arms and climb the stairs. I walk past a few doors in the hall until I come across the door to my old room and push it open. Switching on the light, I see that everything is exactly how I left it all those years ago. The small desk still sat in the corner by the window. I remember arranging it that way so I could look outside while I completed my schoolwork. I sat Ariah’s bag on the bedroom bench at the foot of the bed and carried her into the bathroom. After placing her on her feet, I turned on the water so that it could warm whilst I removed our clothes. She stood there in silence.
“You want to talk about what happened?” I flinched a little when she brushed her finger along the cut above my eyebrow. Tears started to form in her eyes. I pulled her into my chest and rested my chin on her head. “Don’t cry love. It’s okay.” She grabbed my hand and guided us into the shower. I took the liberty of washing her body.
“He just came in. I thought it was you. I was so scared.” She began. “Said I was suppose to be his and that he would have me one way or another.” My jaw clenched. “I didn’t know what to do or where you were. I told him to leave but he wouldn’t.”
Her dainty hands began to shake as her voice shattered. She took a deep breath before continuing. “He backed me into a corner and gripped my face. All I knew was that I wasn’t going to let him hurt me or my child.”
My blood was boiling. How dare he put his hands on her. I should've done more than just punch him. Pushing my thoughts away for now, I take her face in my hands and place a gentle kiss on her lips.
“You did what you had to do to protect yourself.”
“What’s going to happen now?”
“David is going to take care of it.”
What’s the best way I can put this? “He has ways, connections, so to speak.”
She furrowed her eyebrows. “So that’s it? We can go home?”
I took a deep breath and continued washing her. “Not exactly.”
“Okay, why not? You said everything was taken care of so why can’t we go home?” Her tone began to rise.
“David’s generosity comes at a price and isn’t safe to go back Ariah.” She took the cloth from my hand and I gave my attention to her irritated expression.
“Why are you giving me vague answers Silas?” I knew this would happen. She would have questions that I couldn’t answer.
“It’s for your own safety and that’s all I’m going to say about it Ariah.” I elicit, leaving no room for further discussion. I hated keeping things from her but it was for the better. Knowing too much could get you killed and I’m not going to make it a habit of putting her in danger. We’re already in enough as it is.
Ariah rinses off her body and gets out the shower without another word. I watch as she wraps a towel around her naked body and march into the bedroom. A question has been plaguing my mind since I agreed to my father’s terms. Would she still love me once she finds out about my past?