Sighing, I hug my knees to my chest, the soapy water splashing around me. It’s finally time... and to say I’m scared is an understatement.
I reach over the tub, grasping the bottle of vodka and take a gulp straight from the bottle. It heats my body making me feel an ounce of lightness and I place the bottle to the ground next to its empty companion, a wine bottle.
I rest my forehead on my knees as tears slip from my eyes and pain clawed at my chest.
Eight years... She has been without him for said time and he had no idea of her... and now after a lot of convincing, they’ll meet.
I reach for the bottle again taking a swing before hugging it to my chest and stretching my legs out to as far as they’d go.
I can already see the hurt playing on Dylan’s face when he realizes I’d kept it from him. I could tell him now and save my ass from that pain but it’ll only set him off... and with the danger we’re in multiplied, we can’t afford that.
I need to be a big girl and reap the consequences of my actions.
Diana... my little Kiara... my daughter. I’ve put her through so much over the years... just because I was too scared to stand on my own, to be strong for her even in my most vulnerable time.
She has to act like my sister... my fucking sister! My baby has to be hiding her parentage... She has to be lying because of me. All because I can’t own up to my moment of weakness and celebrate the beautiful child I was blessed with.
Christan was right I’m a coward... a bad mother... I’m a horrible person...
I reach for the bottle to take another gulp as tears tumble down my cheeks. I can’t seem to find it and my anger with myself intensifies. I finally grab hold of the bottle taking greedy gulps.
“That’s all you do Indie!” Christan yells as he looks at me in disappointment.
I sit on the floor of the cellar drinking away my misery.
We were at Diana’s first birthday party, celebrating her and everything about her. She’d finally been cleared by the doctors and she didn’t need any more surgeries... The hole was small enough not to cause any heart damage and we were thankful.
I had watched my mother hold her, kiss her and introduce her as her daughter. I had watched the people gush and praise Diana’s beauty, her sweetness and how well behaved she was. They stated how happy they were that she was finally well... that she didn’t suffer from the pain I knew I’d caused for her.
When I had her in my arms, she looked up at me with no recognition... She had smiled though, looking at me with curiosity as she tried to touch my hair and my jewellery. It made me sad that she didn’t recognize me yet happy to know that her suffering is over.
Multiple persons, family friends, came up to us moments after gushing about how my sister is so adorable. I’d just nodded going along... I hadn’t had the guts to correct them... I said nothing... I’d gone along with the entire thing just because I was still broken on the inside and decided that I couldn’t handle the scandal that came with owning my child.
Yes, I was weak, stupid and unworthy of her as my child. I knew it and I’d embraced it.
Everything was going according to plan, everyone was fooled and I was sulking, scolding myself for not being able to be strong for her... Be a mother.
It was not until they were cutting the cake and singing happy birthday that I broke. When Diana looked up all sparkly eyes at my mother and said ‘mama’.
I had stood there frozen as everyone cheered and awed. I’d watched my daughter smile and giggle at my mother believing that she was indeed her mother... It’s not like I didn’t take care of her... I’d been there with her 24/7 feeding her, caring for her... up until two months ago when I went to college and mom started to look after her.
Two months were all it took for my baby to forget me...
“Leave me alone,” I slur at my brother.
“Indiana, you can’t do this...”
“Leave me alone Christan!” I yell through tears. “Let me drink away my sorrows!”
“Just like you did after Dylan,” he grits out and I glare at him.
“Don’t say his name!”
I didn’t want to hear that bastard’s name! He left me... He fucked me up and left me to deal with the aftermath!
“This is exactly what you did then and that’s what you’re doing now!” he shouts looking down at me. “Your drinking and drug abuse did that to your child! And now when she’s finally better you relapse?! She’s your child, you’re her mother you need to be up there with her not drinking!”
I could’ve shouted at him and caused a scene but I didn’t... I just wanted to be alone...
“I’m not her mother,” I mutter with a humourless laugh. “She said it herself. Leave me alone Christan.”
He gazes at me his disappointment soaring to new heights but I didn’t care. I just take a swing of my liquor.
“You’re right...” he finally mutters and I look up at him with an arched brow. “You’re no mother. You’re just a pitiful child who can’t learn to grow the fuck up! Diana deserves so much more than you for a mother! She deserves someone who will fight for her regardless of the situation. Someone who places her well-being before their own!”
His words hurt, worse than you could ever imagine because I know that they’re true. I’m not who she deserves, she deserves better!
“You’re no better than Dylan you know that?” he asks and my eyes snap to his. “You’re deserting her just like he did to you.”
His words hit me hard and I shake my head. “No! No! No! I’m not like him... I’m here with her, I’m caring for her I’m not deserting her.”
“You’re emotionally deserting your daughter and Indiana that’s what makes you exactly like Dylan!”
“I’m not deserting her! I’m not like him! I love her! I love my daughter but I can’t be that person... I’m too broken–”
“You’re a coward Indiana, that’s what you are... A coward that won’t own up to her mistakes and rectify them–!”
“Shut up!” I yell as I throw the bottle at him in anger.
Crash... The bottle shatters into multiple pieces as it makes contact with the wall and I grip the tub as sobs tear from my lips.
Christan’s words awoke something in me that night and from that day I started to embrace my daughter.
I took part-time classes so I could spend time with her. I cared for her more. I took a greater role in raising her. I made it to her recitals, to her dance classes and I was there for every sick call or call to the principal’s office. I grew a bond with her and I tried to be the best mother I could... yet I’m still that coward who finds it hard to face her fears...
I curl up, my back against the tub and forehead on my knees as I sob, those memories tearing a hole in my chest.
“You’re a coward Indiana, that’s what you are... A coward that won’t own up to her mistakes and rectify them–”
The bathroom door is flung open and I whip my head towards it, sobs leaving my lips as my aunt rushes in. Her eyes lock on me before drifting to the pieces of glass and a look of worry crosses her face.
“Indie...” she says calmly as I sob staring up at her.
She moves the empty bottle from beside the tub and kneels, looking at me with sympathetic eyes. I continue to cry and she grabs me, pulling me against her chest.
“It’s okay,” she whispers as she runs her hand through my hair trying to calm me.
I hug my knees tighter, my chest heaving before moving so my hands are around her. I weep, soaking her top murmuring about how I don’t deserve to be a mother and how my baby deserves better.
She holds me, petting my hair and rubbing circles on my back. Soon the tears stop but my lips still release sobs and my chest heaves as I release all my pent-up emotions.
Minutes later, I finally calm down and I pull away from her puffy-eyed. Aunt Shan smiles sadly at me before grabbing a towel and helping me out of the tub. She pulls the plug allowing the water to drain before leading me towards the guest bedroom.
“Where are the guys?” I croak out as I sit on the bed, Aunt Shan rummaging through the drawers for clothing to put on me.
“They went outside to talk a few minutes before I heard the crash,” she replies pulling out a t-shirt and underpants.
She hands them to me and I take them before dropping the towel. I put them on quickly not too drained to be self-conscious, plus this was my aunt someone I was comfortable around... She gestures for me to lie on the bed before settling beside me. I lie on my side and she lies beside me propped on her elbow, her other hand caressing my face.
“It’s okay to feel disappointed in how you’ve handled things in your past Indie,” she starts and I squeeze my eyes shut, as a tear slips pass. “…but don’t go pushing yourself down because of it...”
She wipes away my tear with her thumb and I open my hazel eyes to stare at her comforting brown ones.
“You’ve always been like a daughter to me sweetheart... I’ve watched you grow. I was there with your mother soothing you when you had your first heartbreak and I’m here now to talk you through this in your mama’s place.”
She cups my cheek before smiling sadly at me.” If there’s something you did in your life that pains you and affects the persons you care about... Correct it. It may hurt you or cause pain to others during its course but it’ll all be worth it in the end.”
“I want to correct it, Aunty but I–I can’t do that to her,” I whisper shaking my head. “The media would rip my little girl apart, she’s not ready for that... They’d –”
“The media shouldn’t dictate what you do in your life,” my aunt interrupts, with a frown. “When have the Blakes ever made what people think or say about them hold them back from doing right?”
I stay silent and she chuckles petting my damp hair. “You know what I think? I think you’re scared of being a mother...”
My heart picks up its pace at her words. I don’t want to hear another speech on how much of a coward I am...
“It’s okay to be scared honey,” she coos and I look up at her in surprise.
She looks at me with understanding and affection. No disappointment anywhere on her face.
“Being a mother is a big step in anyone’s life and you’ve only been shouldering half of it,” she states. “You fear that if you tell the truth then the responsibilities will crush you. You’d be dragged through the mud as a bad mother. People will never look at you the same again and Diana, you’re afraid she’ll believe what they say and think the same...”
I close my eyes, not disagreeing with what she’s saying. She is right...
“Diana loves you Indiana... but that baby is not happy with this lie that she lives. She wants more, she wants you to own her as your child and regardless of what they say about you, she loves you...” Aunt Shan whispers to me. “Fear isn’t something you let hold you back Indie... I believe Izzy and Johnathan babied you a little too much... They should’ve given you that push to take ownership of your child from then but that’s in the past and we can’t control that... What I can say is if you love her, really love her you’ll step up and brave the storm regardless of the outcome.”
Shuffling sounds downstairs and a voice, Uncle Dimi, can be heard shouting my aunt’s name. Aunt Shan looks to the door shouting that she’ll be down before turning towards me.
“Think about what I’ve said, sweetheart,” she says kissing my forehead before getting up from the bed. “I’ll go keep the boys busy. You get some rest.”
She leaves after that and I curl into a ball her words playing over in my head.
She was right... Every word she said is the truth and I’m embarrassed to say that.
I’ve always had excuses when it came to owning Diana as my own. At first, it was my age, saying I was too young. Next, it was saying that I needed to establish myself and get a degree. After that, it was this idea of getting some “stability in my life” and look where it got me. And now, with all those things over and done with I’m using the media as an excuse when in truth I’m just scared.
I remember the look on my parents’ faces when they found up about me and Dylan having sex and me being pregnant. There were anger, disbelief and disappointment... They never kicked me out or alienated me from the family but I could tell they were disappointed that I’d been doing that behind their backs and I was careless enough to get pregnant so young.
Next is the look I saw on my own brother’s face on the day we decided to cover up Diana’s parentage. The look he gave me when he asked if I was going to bring up my child in a lie... the disappointment I saw in his eyes every day after that...
Disappointment... That’s what I never want to see in my daughter’s eyes... That’s my biggest fear.
I disappointed my parents and nearly drifted so far away from them because of it. I disappointed my brother. I was the reason we grew apart... He hated that I did that to my child and I was too busy wallowing in my pain and self-hatred to see that...
Looking at it now, I would’ve gone back and changed it if I could but I’ve already made my bed now I must lay in it...
My aim now should be making this right and Diana meeting her father is the way to start...
I’ll deal with Dylan’s flare of emotions when the time comes...but I won’t let fear hold me back from making this right because my daughter deserves to meet her dad and he deserves to know he has a daughter...
The door creaks open and I shuffle at the sound. I open my eyes to be greeted with darkness.
I fell asleep.
The door shuts softly behind me but I don’t look around I already have an idea who it is. My suspicion is confirmed when the bed dips as his weight is placed on it and I smile as he spoons his body against mine, an arm draped over my waist.
He breathes in taking a whiff of my hair before sighing. I sigh also, taking his hand pulling it up to my lips to place a simple kiss.
“You’re awake,” he says and I nod kissing his palm before placing my lips on each of his fingers. “I heard that you weren’t feeling well.”
I nod... technically I wasn’t.
“You smell of alcohol,” he states matter-of-factly and I tense. “…and there are broken pieces of a vodka bottle in the bathroom.”
I huff put a breath turning so I now face him, I can’t see his face but I feel his breath against my nose.
“I was angry,” I state as I intertwine our fingers. “Something was bothering me and the more I thought of it the angrier I got and threw the bottle. Aunt Shan came in and calmed me down. We talked and now I’m feeling better.”
He’s silent for a few minutes and I take that time to reach out my other hand and place it against his chest. I trail my fingers against his skin noticing the absence of a shirt.
“Are you sure?” he asks and I hum with a nod even though he can’t see me.
We lie there gazing into the darkness, hands caressing each other and I feel a feeling of calm take me over. I release his hand and opt to move closer so I’m snuggled in his chest. His legs intertwine with mine, his arm around my waist tightens and he pets my hair as I place my nose in the crook of his neck.
Safety... As crazy as it sounds even with the danger around us, I feel safe in his arms...
“So what’s going to happen tomorrow?” I ask a minute later from the crook of his neck.
“Raphael has confirmed what I’ve suspected. Most of my houses are under surveillance and even the safe houses. That means there’s a rat,” he says with a hard edge to his voice. “I’ve thought about what you’ve said and the island would be safer than remaining in the states.”
I listen to him, hands against his chest, feeling the thud of his heart.
“When we leave here, we’re going back to Burbank,” this surprises me and I pull back to stare at him, only to see darkness. “I’ve arranged a flight plan with a trusted colleague who’s flying to Miami tomorrow... We’re going to hitch a ride on their private plane, that way we don’t need to go through the security and credential check... The key is to lay under the radar. Once we’re in Miami we’re taking a helicopter to the island.”
“Won’t they trace it and find where we’re headed?”
I feel his fingers grasp my chin, tilting my head up and I allow him to. “Trust me... I’ll get you there safely and they won’t find us.”
I trust him, I do and he trusts me. That’s why it’s going to hurt when he finds out about Diana, knowing that I kept this secret from him.
I’ve already gone this far... we’re leaving tomorrow and in roughly two days they’ll meet and I’m looking forward to it.
Taking a deep breath I nod whispering ‘I trust you’ and I gasp when his lips move down to touch mine. The kiss is sweet, gentle and reassuring. He cups my face pulling my body closer and my heart flutters. The kiss screams let me protect you, let me be your hero... and I welcome the comfort it brings.
Lying here in his arms, I feel like I can face the world with him by my side and once again I think of that word... Safety.