The truth finally told
***POV - Melaena
My brothers partied at Damion’s house about a million times, but I’ve never been. Not once. Never been allowed or invited for that matter. I just heard the stories.
And now I look at the house in awe, it’s a breathtakingly beautiful double-story, limestone building with lots of glass, separated by stone and wood. It almost looks like a modern mountain cottage and is L-shaped with a hipped roof. I walk on the pathway edged by green shrubs and shining lights.
A forest surrounds it, the trees forming dark silhouettes in the moonlight. On one side is a little wooden dock with a large pond, misty steam evaporates from the water, creating a magical atmosphere. Hundreds of fireflies drift like stars over the surface and it looks like a fantasy fairytale scene. I stare at it in wonderment, and then eventually cope to close my dropped jaw.
“It’s absolutely beautiful!” I manage to get out and I look up at him seeing the now-familiar unfamiliar glint in his eyes. He keeps looking at me for a while before he answers.
“Yes, it is.” His voice is very husky and I get the feeling he’s not talking about the scene.
“Is this yours?” I ask, he’s still staring at me, his eyes shining like those fireflies.
“My father had it build so I can be on my own, but it’s still on their estate.” He opens the front door with lots of square-shaped glass frames embedded into the wood. We walk into an open plan cottage design giving it a homey feeling. I stroll towards the other side where huge glass doors open up on a veranda with lots of comfortable seating, even some hang mats, and swings.
A small swimming pool hosting a waterfall and a build-in jacuzzi is at the end of the terrace and then a green lawn sweeps out separated from the golden beach by some green shrubs and colorful flowers. I can’t believe the ocean is mere meters away. To make it even more picturesque, a large barrier of rocks forms an edge on one side of the beach, forming a secluded private area. And everything is bathed in soft lights.
I pull in my breath, taking in the beauty of it all. It looks like something from a magazine or fairytale. Then there is a knock on the door and Damion rushes to open it. He pulls the woman into a big hug and swings her around, making her scream. He lets her go and they walk over to me. I’ve met his mom at his birthday party but didn’t get a chance to heartily talk to her. Damion looks like his father but he for sure has his mother’s eyes.
“Mel, you remember my mom, Hayley.” I shake her hand and get lost in her green eyes. Unlike Damion’s, they are friendly and warm and not closed off to the outside world. I wonder what caused him to be that way.
“I brought food, you can just warm it later.” She holds up some bags and my tummy rumbles.
“Great, and if you’re a good girl I’ll share with you.” Damion grabs the bags and runs to the kitchen while I shoot him a glare of destruction. Damion comes back with some drinks and I look at him with a mischievous angry smile.
“How do I say this politely … but your son is a dick,” I mumble to Hayley, still staring at the devil that looks like an angel. He just cocks his brow up with a lopsided grin, and I know he does that when he’s amused.
“Ug, I know right. He has his father’s annoying cocky attitude, unfortunately. It runs in that side of the family.” I giggle and she takes my arm and steers me to one of the sofas and pulls me down with her. Damion grabs a blanket from one of the chairs and throws it over me.
“But, they have great hearts and make pretty decent husbands when you fix them up a little and show them who’s boss.” My eyes grow big and I look at him with a winning smirk.
“And just between you and me, my son seems to need a good fixer-upper by the looks of it.” She winks at me and then turns back to look lovingly at her son that’s now scratching the back of his head.
“She’s extremely pretty. I can see why you and Luke are so smitten.” Damion glares at his mom as if he wants to scold her, but somebody is at the door again and this time it’s Uncle John. I run into his arms and he grabs me into a tight hug as if he doesn’t want to let me go. Then all my brothers arrive with Kiara and Axel. Everybody grabs a seat, Kiara snuggling in with me under the blanket on the sofa.
“I don’t know if my stupid son told you why you’re here tonight,” Hayley asks as soon as we sit down and I shake my head. Damion walks in with a beer for Uncle John and then, after a quick look around and not finding an empty chair, he asks me to shift up and sits down behind me on the backrest of the sofa, his legs on either side of my body. Kiara puts an arm around his leg now situated between me and her and leans her head against his knee. Me, I try to not touch any part of him. Hayley looks around as if to check that everybody is present before speaking.
“We think that you’re father’s past has something to do with the messages both John and Mel are getting.” I look at Uncle John. I didn’t know he also received messages. He smiles warmly back at me and then Damion puts his hand on my shoulder. So much for not touching him.
“But first, you have to understand that you can never tell anyone else about any of this, no matter what. It’s a matter of self-preservation.”
“Ok, we promise,” I say softly and the rest shake their heads in agreement. This sounds serious and now I’m glad Damion’s legs are leaning against my body, cause for some reason it makes me feel safe. Hayley looks at Uncle John and he seems almost sad, but then he shakes his head and looks at us. For once, not one of the boys in my family is making a snotty remark or saying something random, and that itself is scary as poop.
“I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the different gangs all over San Francisco?” He starts softly.
“I’ve heard of gangs and fights over the news, but no, I’m not too familiar with them.” I look around to see if the others know something I don’t.
“My dad was part of a gang,” Kiara says softly, casting her eyes to the floor. She rarely ever talks about her parents. Her dad is still in jail and her mom fell three stories to her death while high on crack in our junior year.
“Well, not many people know this, but all the gangs in the San Francisco area are ruled by one person. It all started years ago with George Garcia.” He pauses as if contemplating what to say next.
“But let me start at the beginning. Your grandfather, my dad, Alexander Blackburn, and Deimos’s father, Derick, grew up with George Garcia in the ghettos. They were like brothers and vowed to get rich and powerful no matter what.” He takes a small sip of his beer.
I think about my grandfather, Alexander Blackburn, and a small chill runs down my spine. I can’t remember much about him except that all of us were scared of him, especially after we’ve overheard a conversation between him and our father where dad blamed him for the death of our grandmother. I would usually hide in my room whenever he came over to our house, afraid of what he might do to me.
“They started small, with drug trafficking and other illegal stuff. George excelled as a gang leader and soon they made enough money to pay for Alexander and Derick’s studies. Alexander studied law, Derick business, and accounting. Together they became a force to be reconded with, each one doing his part and soon they become the richest most powerful men in the whole of California. They surrounded themselves with the best fighters, bodyguards and managed to put police, judges, and even politicians on their payroll.”
“George created gangs all over the city under leaders of his choosing, pulling young poor kids into a life of crime and drugs, devastating neighborhoods into destructive crime-zones. From the notorious Hunters in the Bayview area to the Towerside gang based in Vistacoin Valley, all were under his rule. If anyone tried to oppose him, they simply got wiped out and replaced.”
“And then we came along. Being the children of the rulers came with all the luxury you could ever imagine. We had everything we could ever dream of and went to the best schools and universities but at a cost.” He takes another sip of beer, his eyes staring into the distance.
“We were kids of circumstance. Alberto Garcia, Deimos, and Xander, your father, were the same age, while Deimos’s younger sister, Sophia, and I were two years younger. Later on, George took in two boys, the orphans of a very good friend.” His eyes drift to look at Kiara.
“These kids were your father and uncle, and that’s why your father ended up being my best friend.” He gives a sad sigh.
“At first we were oblivious about what exactly our parents were part of, but as we got older we were pulled more and more into their world, seeing first hand the cruelty and destruction hidden away by the façade and well on our way becoming monsters like our fathers,” Uncle John wipes his hand over his face.
“But then Derick died from a heart attack and George allowed his wife to leave with all her husband’s money. Deimos and Sophia dodged the bullet and got to grow up mostly free from the burden. Xander went to study law and met your mom, Miranda, and fell in love. We had a plan to escape together, but things don’t always go as planned.” He turns the beer bottle a little in his hand as if he’s thinking about what to say next.
“You know, your dad, realizing that our father would never let us go alive, sacrificed his soul to keep me away from all the dark stuff. I was naïve, or maybe I chose to be blind, but I honestly didn’t realize back then that he took all of our father’s monsters on him, my only job being to think out strategies, make plans, and design weapons. I never got to see or participate in the tortures, killings, and other sick stuff like him. No wonder he started drinking so much.” His eyes drift off, getting misty as if he’s thinking way back. He gets up and starts pacing up and down in the room.
I grab Damion’s free leg now, holding onto it. His hand on my shoulder gives me a little reassuring squeeze and I immediately calm down again. He for sure has some or other magical power over my body.
“But a series of events occurred, changing the course of fate, sending each of us on a different path. After Mel was born, Xander wanted to save his family and we came up with a brilliant plan. Never did I, in a million years, suspect things to go the way they did.” He stops and shakes his head slightly.
“I, with your father’s help, started a company - the same company I’m running now. Xander would secretly transfer money to the company and I legally bought and sold weapons and other tools to George. Later I got some military contracts and the company boomed. I managed to cut myself loose from my past life. Things were going in the right direction just like we wanted. As soon as the company was stable and making enough money, your father would divorce your mom and I would take care of her and you away from your grandfather. But then things started going very wrong.” He sits down again.
“Harry Brown, the bookkeeper, suddenly found some discrepancies in the books, someone was stealing money from George. Thing is, Harry’s wife, Lucy was a bit … eh … ambitious and she made her way into different beds and one of her lovers used her to steal the money. Xander panicked, thinking that Alexander and George would find out about the money he transferred to my company. I don’t know if he stole the money, or what he did, but Harry and his slutty wife got the blame. The next thing we know Lucy committed suicide and Harry received the full treatment of George’s rage, but someone helped him to escape with his two kids.” He gets a sad expression on his face, pulling his mouth into a tight lip.
“Your father never talked about it, and I never asked. Our plan was still going strong, your father still transferring money, and the company growing successfully into one of the biggest businesses in the country. But then your mom got murdered. Xander disappeared into thin air, leaving his kids in my care, and soon after that, a car bomb killed both George and Alexander. Alberto had to take over as leader. What you must understand about Alberto Garcia is that he is nothing like his father. He might be strict, but he’s also loyal and true to his word, if he makes a promise, he’ll never break it. Since he took over he started to put loads of money back into the poor areas, fixing and adding infrastructures to make life better for the people. He’s 80% a pretty decent guy.” He wipes his eyes with his fingers and down the bottle of beer.
For a while everybody just sits silently, processing what we heard. Hayley got up and disappeared into the kitchen. I’m leaning back against Damion’s chest, his one hand absentmindedly stroking my arm. My nails are digging into the upholstery of the couch.
“Did our father kill our mom?” Jackson asks and I can see that they’re all just as shocked about the story as I am or maybe even more so. I can still remember bits and pieces of my parents, but I would never have thought for a million years that they were gang leaders. Well, I was only 10 when mom died, but still.
“No, your dad has his flaws, but he loved your mother and you more than anything. We’re not sure who killed her, but we suspected that Harry did it out of revenge. It’s also conjectured that he was responsible for the car-bombing.”
“Is our dad still alive?” Logan looks at Uncle John, frowning, his eyes unreadable.
“I’m not sure. After his disappearance, he only called me a few times, but I’ve seen him from afar, standing in the shadows at the important events in your lives like your high-school graduations, your sporting events, movie premiers …” He smiles at me and a sob rips through my body. Damion slides down the backrest, puts his arms around me, and pulls me into his chest, his chin resting on my shoulder as if he wants to protect me from the world.
“He also secretly helped me to get you, hooligans, out of your little predicaments over the years …” He looks at Damion and then at my brothers. “… like the last time you ended up in jail.” I turn my head and frown at Damion.
“What, I was a wild child.”
“WAS?” I blurted out sarcastically and he does that eye-thing with a big smirk on his face. I slap my hands over my face and turn back to see everyone is now looking at us with weird faces.
Hayley walks in with a tray filled with cups of coffee, the cream slowly flowing down the sides. She hands each of us a cup and I hold mine with both hands, feeling the heat radiating through my palms. I think I might just be addicted to coffee – if that’s possible.
“Now, to get back to the messages. I believe that the messages I’m getting are connected to Mel’s stalker. Harry started sending me threatening messages around the same time D came into Mel’s life. Apparently, Harry wants revenge, as well as some money.”
“So, how is D connected to Harry then?” Ilkay asks.
“Harry had a son about the same age as the twins, so I think D might be Harry’s son. He did say that he wants revenge for his father. Maybe the boy fell in love with Mel and is now stalking her.” I can’t believe what I’m hearing. My mom was murdered by a sick maniac with a crazy son who might be coming after us. And my dad is a gangster who stole money from the fiercest gang leader ever.
“It makes sense.” I’m not sure who said that because I’m preoccupied with thinking about everything going on. My mind is on something much scarier.
“Are they going to kill us?” I feel Damion tense up as soon as the words are out of my mouth.
“NO!” He hisses. “I … eh … we won’t let that happen.” Hayley’s eyes light up and she looks at her son as if she’s seeing him for the first time. So does the rest of the family.
“Can’t we just give them some money and tell them to fuck off. It’s not as if we had anything to do with anything.” This time I know it’s Jackson talking.
“I tried, they do want money, but Harry also wants Garcia and Xander to suffer somehow. I’ve been talking to Garcia, and we’re thinking of a plan. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s finalized. Meanwhile, you have to be careful.”
My phone rings on the sofa next to us, but I don’t even attempt to answer it. Damion picks it up. He looks at the screen and then he answers, his voice harsh.
“Can I help you?”
“She’s busy, can I give her a message?” He doesn’t sound very friendly. He puts the phone down without even saying bye, but that’s the least of my worries.
“Uhm, your boyfriend is looking for you.” I look at him as if he’s suddenly talking in another language.
“I don’t have a boyfriend.” But then I realize that he must be talking about Ren.
Damion snorts, his face pulled unpleasantly, “Okay, your ex then.”
“Stupid fucker,” Logan backs him up.
“I just need to get some fresh air.” It feels as if I’m going to faint. My mind is racing and I walk out on the veranda. It’s raining softly but I notice that there is a closed-off area with big sliding glass doors and Damion must have started a fire somewhere before the meeting in the fireplace. It’s very cozy and warm and I sit down on the sofa closest to the fire, folding my feet under my legs. Kiara and Logan join me, but nobody says a word, each one preoccupied with their own personal thoughts. After a while, Uncle John comes to greet us and leaves.
“We’re also going. Damion will take you back. His mom wants to talk to you a bit.” Jackson hugs me from behind and then they all go. The atmosphere is thick almost like a funeral. Hayley comes to sit next to me.
“You know kiddo, it’s just a matter of time before we get him. And having Garcia on our side is a huge advantage. He’s not such a bad person when you get to know him.” She puts her arm around my shoulders and I sniff hard.
“Mel, I know it’s none of my business, but as a mom, I need to know … how do you really feel about my son?”
The question surprises me and for a moment and I stop breathing, staring at the flames. How do I feel? I take a breath and turn my head to look at her.
“He’s a player … “ I say timidly but truthfully. He is her son after all and I know mothers can be very protective of their boys.
“That might be true, BUT maybe it’s just an act because he can’t get what he wants. Mel, Damion hides his true self in the shadows of his past and I’m scared that he’ll get stuck there. Did you know that he has ‘rules’ to keep his life under control?”
“No,” I’m surprised as I’ve never known this about my brother’s best friend. I wonder if Logan knows?
“Ja, neh … maybe I’ve said too much.” She puts a strand of loose hair behind her ear.
“Well, to tell you the truth … I’m very confused about my feelings.” I can’t look her in the eye. This is the first time I admit my feelings to anybody.
“Can I give you some advice?” I lean onto her shoulder and nod my head softly.
“When you come to a cross-road in your life, the best thing is to always listen to your heart.” I wait silently for her to explain further.
“Our bodies work on instinct and can’t think. And our minds, well it tends to think a bit too much. But the heart … the heart always knows the true path. So listen to your heart even if it’s not the easiest road.” I smile at her, trying to remember what my mom was like.
I miss her so much, especially at times like this. My mom was beautiful and she had the softest heart, she couldn’t hurt a fly – literally. She would open the window and chase any bug out instead of killing it. Yes, that was my dear, wonderful mother – an angel without wings. Oh, she could be strict, but with 5 kids as wild as us she had to be. A small smile spreads around the corner of my mouth thinking how we were almost always grounded and even double-grounded.
“I have to go, but I want you to know, if you ever need to talk, I’ll be glad to listen.” She gets up and shouts goodbye to Damion before leaving. I just sit there, not really thinking about anything, in particular, just rushing through everything said.
D: You belong to me – stay away from HIM.
And just for effect, he adds a photo of Damion and me, feeding Hawk some carrots. It was taken earlier tonight. Another message comes through.
D: Enjoyed the meeting?
Feeling cold and hungry and suddenly a little bit afraid, I get up to look for Damion. I walk as if in a trans up the stairs towards the sound of running water. The door is open and it leads to a huge bedroom. I hear movement and notice another door leading to a bathroom, the door also wide open.
From where I’m glued to the floor I have a full view of the shower and it’s only then that my muffled brain registers what I’m looking at. I close my eyes quickly, but curiosity gets the better of me and I slowly open one eye and peek in the direction of the bathroom. The glass is a bit steamy, but I can clearly make out the large male form moving around. I bite my lip and gaze at that perfect body, rubbing soap all over and everywhere. I turn my head to get a better angle, watching his hand washing and pulling at the protruding flesh hanging between his legs.
I feel a little bit guilty and I unquestionably don’t want to get caught perving but I just can’t move. He turns the shower off and drapes a towel around his waist. Then his eyes look up at me, a surprised expression on his face.