Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 31

Mike


My mind won’t shut off while laying here watching the blades of my ceiling fan spin around and around. If it’s not the unanswered questions of my dad’s past, it’s Elena swirling around in my mind like a mad wind. There’s also the fact that I haven’t seen my mom in two years since my grandpa Chuck died – I don’t miss him one bit.

Ever since Detective Cobra told me that he knew my mom, I’ve been avoiding the upcoming conversation with her. Answers. I need answers. Mom has been keeping her mouth shut for long enough from trying to protect me, no doubt. I need to know why Dad left.

Did he go after someone? Did he ever even love my mom? Did he ever even love me? Elena’s questions from last night are fucking with me. I knew she’d ask ‘family’ type of questions eventually... all they did was open the vault that I've tried so hard to lose the key to- then here she comes - just yanking that damn vault wide open.

I fiddle with my thumbs on my chest while lying here.

Elena. A part of me wants to use the feelings she has for me against her, to keep her close, to keep her safe...like a bodyguard should be doing. The other part of me knows that’s wrong, but if it’s for her own protection...then using her can’t be bad a thing - right?

The sun begins to creep up on the horizon, bringing to sight the effective light pink glow peeking into my room. I can’t take the wait anymore.

I scramble out of bed and take a shower to help clear my mind. I get dressed in my black ripped jeans and a white t-shirt, a black baseball cap, and since it’s a little chilly out -I grab my biker’s leather jacket along with my Glock and tuck it in the holster of my jacket. I always carry it; you never know what you might run into. Anything can happen out there, especially given my current career choice. I head out the door, lock it, start Layla, and head east.

The forty minutes it takes to get to my mom’s feels like days as the tires roll on the asphalt. Trying to gather my questions for her as the air smacks my face, I’m able to feel stronger about this. The nerves are settling.

Right when I turn on her road and park in front of the little shack, all that goes out the window. Even the calm waves sloshing onto the shore aren't helping the rapid thumping in my chest. Taking out my phone, I press ‘send’ on a text to Elena and begin shuffling down the pathway.

It feels like it’s my last walk - arriving at her front door - it’s a polished red. I curl my fingers into a fist and knock. When the door opens, I take a deep breath.

“Michael!” My mother exclaims while she steps out to hug me. She still looks the same: her dark hair is in a short bob cut with little wisps of grey, her small frame just as tiny as I remember, and her dark eyeglasses rest comfortably on her nose in front of her hazel eyes.

I hold her in a hug. “Hi, Ma.”

“Did you ride that thing here without a helmet, young man?” She points to my bike with disapproval.

Here we go. “No, Ma, the helmet is in the saddlebag,” I say with a grin.

Mom lets out a cackle then huffs. “You know what I mean.” She slaps my chest. “Come in, dear.” I step in and remove my hat before she whacks it off; manners are everything to her.

The moment I step inside, I smell garlic and parmesan along with the aroma of apple pie lingering in the air. The place is still as I remember it, too. It’s small, but the perfect size for her. Everything is outdated; I’ve offered to pay for an upgrade, but she says the shaggy red carpet and old appliances add a charm to the place.

“Sit, sit, I’m just about to take the lasagna out of the oven.” I hear a creak of the oven door opening.

“Do you want any help?” I offer, knowing she’ll refuse, but I ask anyway.

“No, thank you, honey, please sit, I’ll be right there.” I knew it.

Taking a seat at the dinner table - the same table where there have been so many fights with my grandpa Chuck - my fingers find the groove where he slammed a steak knife into it. Mom tried to take his empty plate away from him too soon. Why can’t she at least let me get her a new table?

“Are you still running that club of yours?” she investigates.

I roll my eyes when she isn’t looking just as she’s putting the dish on the table. “Ma, are we really going to have this conversation every time I see you?” I beg with my eyes for her to let it go.

“Fine,” she says while taking her seat across from me. “I just worry about you, sweetheart.” I know her heart is heavy.

“You know, I would really like to see more of you. Perhaps you could come to church with me on some Sundays and have a home-cooked meal afterward? Oh! Maybe you can come with me to the Christmas Eve service?” I wonder how long she’s practiced that offer; I don’t give her a definite answer.

She grabs my hands to say a quick prayer – thanking God for allowing her son to join her today.

Then, we eat.


After finishing our meal, I figure it’s time to bring up the real reason why I’ve come here. “Ma?” I start.

“Yes, dear?” she responds while digging out a piece of apple pie.

“How come you never told me that you knew an Elijah Cochran?” I observe her as she nearly drops the knife in her hand.

“O-oh my. I haven’t heard that name in so long, Mikey.” She’s surprised. “Do you know him?”

I nod. “Yeah, he’s a detective in Ludowici now.”

Carefully, she places a piece of pie on my plate. “How did you come to know that? Michael, have you gotten into trouble again?” If looks could kill...

I give her a swift response, “Not enough trouble to hold me.” She lets out an exhale. Placing my hands on the table, I add, “He’s brought your name up, told me he knew you.”

Her brows rise as she starts to cut another piece of the pie. “I used to know him, not really well, though.”

Firmly, but gently I say, “Ma, I need some answers, and I don’t want you bullshittin’ me.”

“Language, Mikey,” she sneers.

Leaning back in my chair, I exhale. “Sorry. This is important, Ma, please.”

She lets out a deep sigh. “I knew him through your father back in high school. It was my sophomore year when I met your father, and that’s when I met Elijah. He and your father have always been inseparable.” She pauses to look into the distance of the hallway. “Do you want some whipped cream?”

Arching a brow - she notices and gets the point.

“Anyway, Elijah left about five years after high school to go after Lilly. You were four, nearly five at the time.” She dollops some whipped cream on my piece of the pie – both homemade, I’m sure.

“Who’s Lilly?” I ask. I know that name from my dad.

“Lilly was your father’s ex-girlfriend. Your father dated her in college. After a year and a half, they broke up. I’m not sure he ever completely got over her.” She takes a deep breath. “Your father loved me; he did. He loved you too, Mikey.” Her eyes are starting to get glossy.

“But Lilly was the one who got away. I came to terms with knowing that your father would always love her differently than me. Your father and Elijah hated each other for a while because Elijah also had eyes for Lilly. She asked him out shortly after she and your father broke up. The ‘bro code’ was broken; Elijah didn’t think that Jack would mind because he was with me at the time.” She slides the plate towards me.

“Why did my father and Lilly break up?” I ask perplexed.

She looks at me. “He hurt her. Broke her heart.”

“What did he do, Ma?” I press.

My mother chews on the inside of her lip. “Your father is a complicated man, dear. He is capable of many things and has been put in many difficult situations. Though, I promise you that when your father hurt Lilly... it was for her own good.”

My brows knit together as she goes on.

“Anyway, there was a time during their relationship where certain things didn’t add up. When Lilly fell pregnant, she ran back to Michigan; Elijah followed her, and your father was very upset that she left Georgia.”

“Elijah’s?” I ask about the baby, could it have been Elena? The age difference would be appropriate.

My mom shrugs. “We don’t know. Lilly seemed very concerned about it. From the sound of things, she was involved with something not so good at the time, and the father of the baby was up for debate. Elijah swore up and down that it was his. I have my suspicions, of course.”

“Shit,” I whisper.

“Mikey!” Mom scolds.

“Sorry,” I apologize again, then whisper, “Elena. I wonder if she knows.”

“Who’s Elena?” Mom asks with a little grin.

My palms are sweaty. “She’s a girl I’m seeing.” Like I knew she would, she gasps.

“You’re dating someone?” she squeals.

“No, Ma, not really... I’m not sure, actually... I think Elena could be Lilly’s daughter.” Her mouth gapes.

“You don’t by any chance, have an old picture of her around here, do you?” It’s a long shot, but I ask anyway.

She ponders for a moment. “You know...I think I do.” Rising from the table, she leaves to go down the hall. Minutes later, she comes back with a tiny picture in her hand.

The photo is placed in front of me.

Holy -

It’s her...but there’s an extra face in the photo that I don’t recognize with her and my dad...

“Who is this guy?” I ask, pointing at the man who is gazing after Lilly beside my father.

“Oh, he used to be a friend of your father’s...Viper is his name. He goes by Reverend now. He’s the new pastor at my church,” she informs me.

As she adjusts her glasses, a thought bursts forth in my mind looking at the picture. I ask, “Could it have been Dad’s?” The words taste like acid. If Elena’s my half-sister, then...

“No,” she snaps; I find my breath again. “Your father was many things, but he would never cheat on me. Yes, he left, but not for the reasons you think.” She covers her mouth to stop the next words from spilling out.

“What reasons, Ma? Why did he leave?” I press. I’m so close.

She keeps a palm over her mouth and shakes her head while loose tears escape her eyes and land on her small, fragile hand. I know this must be hard for her, but I need to know. I need to know that it wasn’t because of me -us.

“I can’t, baby,” she cries.

Standing up, I walk over and kneel beside her to hold her in my arms. “Ma, please. I need to know.”

“Your father has a half-brother, Mikey.” My blood runs cold as the frostbite of fear pierces my spine.

***************
What do y’all think of Mike’s mom- Carol? I just love her!

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