Blissful Aftermath [ROMANCE]

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Twenty

December 20th 2018

“Honey, I’m home.” She grinned as she closed the door behind her, having used the key that she still had to his house.

Isaac stared at her with wide eyes, peaking at her from around the corner of the doorway.

“I thought you were Claire for a second.” He chuckled before walking up to his baby sister and pulling her in for a tight, familial hug, having not seen his sister in months now.

“I would hate to see how you were planning on greeting her.” Audrey grimaced and visibly shuddered in distaste, her nose turning up at the reminder of the seductive look on her brother’s face as he had first thought it was his wife who had walked in through the door. “I have absolutely no plans on finding out how my nephew or niece was conceived during this stay, so please try to keep your hands off each other when I’m in the room.”

“Don’t be gross, but no promises.” He chuckled and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

“Or even better, get a room.”

“All these rooms are ours.” Isaac sent her a pointed look and chuckled.

“Where is Claire by the way? She asked as they pulled away from the hug, glancing over his shoulder in hopes of catching a glimpse at her favourite and only sister-in-law.

“We didn’t expect you to get here until later today so she went out for some last-minute shopping with her sister.” He explained before leading her into the kitchen. “Are you hungry? I can make you sandwich.”

“I’ve already had lunch.” She shook her head. “But I could do with a sofa if you have any.”

“Coming right up.”

Once he grabbed a beer for himself and a soda for his sister, they moved onto the sofa in the living room.

“What made you change your mind about coming down here?” He asked curiously, not wasting any time in asking the question he had been wondering since the moment she called him up to tell him of her change of mind.

Audrey shrugged but made a show of avoiding his eyes, not trusting herself to not give it away. “I just missed you both.”

“As much as I want to believe that, I know there’s more to the story.”

Audrey sighed, tapped the top of her soda can and uncapped it before raising it to her mouth for a sip.

“I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking lately and I’ve realised I haven’t had my priorities straight for a while.”

Isaac watched her curiously, his arm braced on the back of the sofa, waiting for her to continue. “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” she took in a deep breath, mentally preparing herself for the conversation she had planned to have with her brother but didn’t think would happen the moment she stepped in through the door.

The whole ride over, she couldn’t stop fearing that she could possibly run into Calvin and be forced to face him, but she refused to give in to those demons. More than once she had seriously considered turning around and heading back home but she couldn’t continue living her life like this. If she didn’t get through this, then unless Isaac and Claire relocated themselves which was unlikely, she would hardly ever see them again and it would all be her fault.

“I haven’t been the best sister these past couple of years, and I haven’t been there for you in the ways that I should have been and for that, I’m sorry.” Audrey apologised, sending him a sorrowful, remorseful look in hopes that he would understand that she was genuine and meant every word. “I hope it’s not too late.”

“I definitely wouldn’t say you’ve been the worst sister so don’t be so hard on yourself.” Isaac frowned deeply, not fond of the way she was speaking about herself. He leaned forward and rested his beer bottle on the coffee table, no longer feeling in the mood for it when they were in the midst of such a serious conversation. “And I could say the same about myself.”

Audrey shook her head as this was the last thing she wanted. None of what had happened to her was her brother’s fault and she needed him to know that.

Everything that had happened between Audrey and Calvin was on them both. Perhaps things could have been different if she hadn’t refused to seek out help and comfort from her only family, but it was too late for regrets now.

“You’ve been nothing but perfect all this time.” Before she could continue, her brother cut her off.

“No, let me say my piece.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, trying to piece the words together in a coherent sentence, needing to get this off his chest before the moment passed. “You’ve been through so much these past couple of years, and I had absolutely no idea. As your older brother and only family, I should have known.” He bowed his head in shame, finding it difficult to swallow the harsh truth that he had been forced to live with for the last year, especially since Audrey never wanted to talk about what had led up to the divorce.

“That’s because I kept it all from you, so don’t blame yourself for being in the dark.” She shook her head frantically, a soft look on her face as she observed her brother.

“But I should have figured it out, you know?” He frowned; his expression solemn as he stared at his sister.

“I don’t blame you for anything.”

“But I do.”

“None of this is on you, Isaac. There was no way you could have possibly known what was going on when I didn’t want you to know.” She begged him to stop beating himself up for something he had absolutely no knowledge of. “I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to get involved, but I see that I was in the wrong now. Maybe things could have been different if I was only honest with you from the start, but I can’t go back and change the past now.”

He shook his head, not in agreeance with her.

“As your big brother, I should have figured out that something was wrong, that you were having problems with Calvin. Maybe I could have helped.”

Audrey sighed sadly, wincing slightly as his name popped up into the conversation.

“There was nothing you could have done to help, so I didn’t want to rope you into such a big mess.” She admitted honestly. “Also, I was ashamed.”

“Ashamed?” He asked incredulously, his eyes wide as he struggled to understand why she could have possibly felt that way. “Why would you feel ashamed?”

“My marriage had gone up in flames and there was nothing left of it. No even tattered, burnt pieces. I was living with my brother and his wife. I had quit my job and was losing the will to live.” Audrey sighed and closed her eyes, raising her hand to rub her temples as she felt the start of a headache coming on. Talking about the past could be so mentally draining, and she hadn’t even gone into the details of it yet.

“The list goes on, trust me. And I was just so ashamed for putting myself in that position, for not having the strength to leave sooner.”

“None of this is your fault.”

“I know that now.” She offered him a small smile, wanting to comfort her brother in some way. “But I didn’t know that then. That’s why I was so filled with shame that my whole life had gone up in flames and I kind of just stood by and let it happen.”

“Don’t say things like that.” He sighed deeply, his eyebrows furrowing together in frustration as he glared at her, not fond of her choice of words. “You say you understand now but it doesn’t sound like that.” He was quick to chastise her lightly, careful not to push her too hard. “None of this is your fault so you really need to understand that. People get divorced all the time. That’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about.”

“It’s more than just a divorce, though.” She sighed sadly.

“You know,” he began but paused when a shaky sigh escaped him, almost as if he was afraid to proceed with whatever he had queued on the tip of his tongue. When she sent him a soft, encouraging smile, he nodded and inhaled deeply before continuing.

“To this day, I don’t know what happened between you and Calvin. You never told me.”

When she didn’t say anything but instead, chewed on her bottom lip, her stomach full of nerves, he pressed further as he knew that it was now or never.

“To me, one day you were married and the next you weren’t. You spent a week living with us, not really talking about what happened or what you were going through, and then just one day, you just disappeared.”

Audrey chuckled, the sound of it strained and far from pleasant or humorous.

Salty, but so much worse.

“I really did keep you in the dark, didn’t I?”

He nodded. “And I hated it. As your big brother, I want nothing more than to see you happy. I’ll support you in whatever you want to do with your life, whether it’s to do with your job or anything else. I have your back, always. And I wish I had told you all of that sooner.”

“I know.” She nodded and bowed her head, ashamed for making her brother feel this way for so long, not realising that she wasn’t the only one that wasn’t suffering.

Audrey had been so consumed in her own pain and allowed it to manifest to such extremes that it was now hurting her loved ones and those around her, and she had no one to blame but herself. It had been her who had cut off everyone from her old life – including Joe and her brother – when she left the city, almost as if she was starting completely anew a few towns over.

She got a new job, new apartment and a new set of friends, yet she still couldn’t get rid of her past. Not that she would ever be able to.

That had been something she had discovered very quickly early on in her new life. No matter how much she did or what she changed, nothing could change her past. The only thing she could do was embrace all that she had been through, all that had made her life a living hell and turn it into something positive.

Well, that was what she had been telling herself for numerous months on end and instead, buried herself in her work so she couldn’t have to feel or think about anything that could possibly make her feel like that pathetic, weak woman that she used to be.

It wasn’t until Joe had made a reappearance in her life – bulldozed was probably a better term for the way he re-entered her life – that she truly understood, or remembered what it felt like to be happy, and not a zombie walking around, taking it one day at a time.

“All the wounds were so fresh then. I didn’t want to talk about it because talking about it just made it all feel so real. I was still living in denial, unable to believe that it had all been real.”

“What happened between you and Calvin?” Isaac probed gently, sensing that she had been preparing herself for this when she had gone silent for a while earlier.

Audrey took a deep breath and began the tragic story of marriage to her first love; very short-lived yet unforgettable, a pain that she would always carry around, regardless of how numb she became to it or how many years had passed. Audrey had been through a type of pain that entwined itself with her soul and would remain so until the very last day when she would take her last breath before leaving this world.

She may one day re-marry and be able to move forward with her life, but the pain of everything that she had ever been through would always follow her, so she needed to find a way to deal with it if she ever wanted a shot at true happiness that would last for an eternity, and not the fleeting type of happiness that was only present when she wasn’t haunted by her demons.

As of recent, she had become better at that but Audrey still had a long way to go in her journey to full recovery.

She was just glad that she had such supportive people on her side, willing her to make it to the end and cheering her along the way.

“Towards the end of the first year of being married to Calvin,” this time, she didn’t wince at the use of his name which she counted as a win, regardless of how small a win it was. “I suspected that he was cheating on me.”

“That bastard! I’m going to kill him!” As a way to express the intensity of the boiling hot rage that had consumed him, he slammed his fist down on the sofa and groaned loudly.

Audrey was just glad that he had not punched something hard like the coffee table. Otherwise, she would have had to pause her story and take her brother down to the nearest hospital or ER. She couldn’t help but laugh at his knee-jerk reaction, regardless of how serious the conversation they were having was.

“At least listen to the full story before you put yourself behind bars for murder.”

“Fine.” He huffed and watched her closely, waiting for her to continue. The angry scowl on his face remained.

“By then, things hadn’t been good for a couple of months and honestly, nothing that I tried felt like it was working. He just didn’t care and stopped putting effort into our marriage anymore. Every day that passed, it felt like I was losing him more and more and there was absolutely nothing that I could do to bring him back. Whenever I did try, it just pushed us further apart.”

“What happened for him to change like that all of a sudden?”

Audrey sighed. This was usually the part she omitted when she told people her story – in this case, only Darius so far but as soon as she got back, she planned on sitting down with her friends and being honest with them all. It was the least they deserved.

“He wanted a family and while I did too, we were having fertility issues.”

“Let me guess, he blamed it on you, didn’t he?” Isaac scoffed and rolled his eyes.

She was surprised at how hard he had hit the nail on the head, but she didn’t allow herself to dwell on the comment for too long as it brought up too many painful memories.

Instead, she nodded.

“Everything just went downhill from there. Very soon in, he didn’t care about hiding his affairs from me.”

“Please tell me you were the one that had wanted the divorce.”

“Unfortunately, not.” She sighed. “When he met Jane, the love of his life,” she laughed sarcastically, still bitter about it. “He wanted a divorce but I wasn’t ready to give up on him so we came to a legal agreement where we would give our marriage another try for 2 months.”

“What happened next?”

“Long story short, I broke the contract 2 weeks early and left him. After that, I came to live with you for a week and then, you know the rest.”

Isaac sighed and scooted up on the sofa so he could pull his sister in for a hug, more so for his sake than hers.

“I wish I could have done so much more for you.”

“None of this is your fault. I wasn’t ready to tell you so there’s nothing you could have done about it.” She reassured him, resting her head on his chest and inhaling in his familiar scent.

Her brother never failed to make her feel better. She just wished she had realised this sooner.

They sat in silence for a little while but when her phone rang from the back pocket of her jeans, she pulled away from him and glanced down at it curiously.

When a smile broke out on her face, Isaac eyed her curiously, his gaze lingering on the happy twinkle in her eyes. Her whole face had lit up, the complete opposite to how she had been mere moments ago.

Not wanting to push her any further than he already had done, he laughed softly as she looked torn, glancing between her brother and the person calling her.

“Don’t let me stop you. Go on. Pick it up.” He urged and chuckled heartily as she stood up and all but ran out of the room, jogging up the stairs to the sanctity of the guestroom.

Whoever was calling her, he just hoped that they were nothing like that scumbag, Calvin Paynter.

-

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Layla Knight

07.07.2020

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