I was silent when we left the courtroom. With so much information dropped in my lap at once, I had difficulties digesting it all, and all the words that were stuck in my brain became unshapable for my tongue. Martina didn't say much, either. She just held my hand and led me over to a table with sliced fruit and crackers, and asked if I wanted coffee. I nodded absent-mindedly. Hopefully it would be strong enough to snap me back to reality.
Most of the people who had been in the courtroom were still there, and held low conversations while they glanced discreetly at Rocco and I. Then they looked at Martina, and I wondered whether it was because of what happened with Paul, or if it was because she was pregnant with my baby and they reacted to the age gap. But did it really matter? Just a few minutes ago I learned that my whole life had been a lie, and those who didn't already know earlier definitely knew now. Why couldn't they just go home?
I gave Rocco a long hug when the trial was over, and told him he'd done an excellent job. I could see it had cost him a lot, but I could also see the relief he felt, knowing that it was all out in the open. Our part in this was done. For all the others involved in the Circle of Light it had just started, and I wished them all the worst hell could offer. The pain and the fear they'd caused for all those kids... I couldn't even fathom half of it. And knowing that my mother, Bree's mother and even Bree herself had been carrying this dreadful secret for all their lives was understandable and not understandable at the same time. If only someone had poked hole in the bubble earlier, then a lot of cruelty could have been stopped.
I remembered one time I was arguing with some random chick in a bar. I wanted to get into her pants and she wanted me to find God. And not only in a meaningless way. She was literally trying to baptize me and save me from the devil's mean grip. When I realized that she actually was serious, I'd been at loss for words for a few minutes. Then I excused myself to go to the bathroom, and made a quick Google search on my phone about catholicism before I returned.
She was thrilled when she thought I came back for more spiritual crap, of course. But her face dropped when I told her that over 300.000 kids had been sexually abused in the name of their lord, and that 80% of these were boys. And that's in the Catholic church alone. Safe to say, we never spoke again, and I'd been snickering over the fact that I had the last word in our little dispute. Now that I knew the reality behind those statistics, I wasn't so sure how happy I was anymore.
"Here are a couple of crackers and your coffee, baby. You don't look so well. Do you want to sit down?"
Martina's concern was touching, but I didn't want to look like a moping child in front of all these strangers. Especially since I saw Bree came walking in our direction. So I accepted the coffee, and put one of the crackers into my mouth and chewed fast. Then I manned up and cleared my voice. If anyone had a reason to break down and cry, it was my ex-wife. Surprisingly, she showed a calmness that almost seemed unnatural, yet was incredibly admirable at the same time. Now standing in front of us, she showed a strength I never knew she possessed. I still didn't know what to say to her, though. An insult wasn't quite what she needed now.
Or was it?
"I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public," she said, and made the choice for us both. We were still on our usual jargon, only with a deeper understanding of each other.
"Yeah, I was searching for the fucks I have about your opinion."
Martina had the widest eyes and looked so startled that we laughed.
"I... Rocco! He... Uhm. Needed to talk to me," she stuttered, and pointed her thumb in his direction. We all knew it wasn't true, because Rocco was talking to Hunter, who had been waiting outside the whole time the trial had lasted. I could see them holding hands as discreetly as possible, while they whispered to each other and blushed. And their hands didn't part even when Martina approached them with a rather stiff smile.
"I knew you couldn't keep your dick in your pants when you met her," Bree snickered, and I gave her a squint.
"What can I say? It's better to have a dick shoved up your pussy than to stay with someone who calls you fat and incompetent."
"Touché," Bree said with a sigh.
"I agree that was mean. I should apologize to her."
"Yeah, you should. Especially because you canceled their wedding avenue. I was seriously close to doing an efficient hit and run, but found out that you aren't worth ruining my car for. So I plotted force-feeding you your own toenails instead, and making you listen to country music while I drowned you in the toilet."
Bree rolled her eyes.
"Typical Aaron. Always so extra."
She looked at Rocco, and Martina was quick to turn away from us, clearly still flustered by Bree and I's conversation.
"I knew they weren't right for each other," Bree said, and I could hear the fatigue in her voice.
"So? It still didn't give you the right to interfere with their marriage like that."
She gave me the eye.
"I didn't have to. You and your dick did such an excellent job that I could just sit back and relax."
Fuck. She's right, Aaron.
"Exactly. But it was the only right thing to do. She's too nice to be messed up by a family like ours."
"What family?" I mumbled, and she laughed a short, sad laugh.
"But I agree," I said, and glanced at the most beautiful woman I'd ever laid my eyes upon. And it was like Martina knew I was looking at her, because she turned briefly and gave me a shy smile.
"She's too nice for anyone."
Bree tilted her head backwards a bit and studied me.
"Do you know what? I think she ended up with the person who deserves her the most."
What the hell? Was that a compliment? From Satan?! What time is it? Did someone plot to blow up the building or something? Do I still have time for a little quickie with Martina?
"You look happy, Aaron. And after all the crap we've been through, it's good to see you smile again."
I honestly didn't know what to say. Should I return the compliment? Because we both knew that would be a lie. She looked like she had been through hell and back. But her head was held high, her back was straight and she looked stronger than ever.
"Thanks. And you look... Uhm. Strong. Have you been to the gym lately?"
"You've always been impossible to underestimate," she said and shook her head, and she laughed even more when I gave her a silly grin.
"You know what I mean. You left me stunned in there. I still am. Why didn't you say anything?"
"Like you would have listened?"
"Erhm... True," I mumbled with a guilty look. Then we were silent for a while because neither of us knew what to say. Until I spoke up.
"Let's not make this a habit."
"What do you mean?"
I took a sip of my coffee and shifted my weight from one leg to the other.
"Giving each other compliments and stuff. It makes me nervous."
She giggled, and so did I.
"Don't worry. It won't. I don't expect us to talk at all after this."
"You don't?" I asked, surprised.
"Why should we? Rocco's not your son, and..."
"He is. And he'll always be no matter what any test says," I interrupted, and pointed toward the courtroom.
"What happened in there is solid proof that family has nothing to do with DNA. You surround yourself with people who make you happy. You don't stay with anyone because you're blood related or forced by marriage."
Bree was silent for a moment, while she took in what I meant.
"That must be the wisest thing you've said since you learned to talk."
"I have my bright moments," I snickered, and made a tiny courtesy that made her giggle.
"And even though I fear for my reputation as an arrogant asshole, I must add that you're responsible for your own happiness. If you're not happy, then do something about it."
Bree looked at me with an expression I couldn't decipher, and her eyes glowed in a special way.
"Damn, you've changed," she whispered in disbelief. Then she cleared her voice to act more like her usual self.
"I'll keep that in mind."
"Good. And I'll keep your phone number saved on my phone."
She raised her eyebrows.
"Under blocked numbers of course, but whatever," I smirked mischievously, and she giggled again.
"So... See you around, then?"
"Of course. I can't keep all my brilliant insults to myself forever."
She rolled her eyes and turned in the direction of Rocco. But I stopped her.
"Hey, Bree? Take care, will you?"
She nodded and looked down. She knew the honest meaning behind my words. And when she looked back up, I could see her eyes were a bit glossy. But she still smiled.
"You too, Aaron."
"Do you wanna go home?"
Martina was fastening her seatbelt while I started the engine. The powerful purr from my Mustang felt strangely comforting, as did her gentle hand in mine.
"I'd rather not. I need to get my mind off of things, so if you don't mind I want to take you out on a lunner."
"Yeah? A mix between late lunch and dinner," I said matter of factly, and she smiled.
"I'd love that, you silly man."
I sent her an affectionate look and lifted our hands so I could kiss hers.
"But you love me even though I'm silly," I snickered.
"More than you understand," she replied, and my chest swelled with warmth.
"I love you more."
"Awe. You're such a softie," she giggled, and I squinted at her with mischief. Then I placed her hand on my crotch and noticed that she blushed.
"Not for long."
She was quiet for a moment and looked away from me and through the window. Then she mumbled something I barely heard.
"Don't make me horny."
"And why not?"
"Because Rocco's living with us."
"So? Maybe if we're at it all night he'll find another place to stay?"
"Aaron! That's so rude."
I sniffled with self-satisfaction.
"Another round of elevator sex, then. It's even more kinky now that it's actually working. We might get caught on every floor. It'll be both risky and fun."
"Oh, my God," she groaned, and hid her face in her hand while we left the parking lot.
"You just went through a quite disturbing trial, and that's what you're thinking about?"
I grinned to camouflage my embarrassment. She knew I wasn't the one to dwell with difficult things anyway. I needed time to let it mellow so it became easier to deal with. Some things were simply too hard to put into words, and the only thing that worked was something to take my mind off of my problems. One year ago that would be alcohol and pussy. It sort of still was. Only instead of alcohol, I drank Martina's sweet cum, and that was the best fucking distraction I could get.
"Pussy power," I chuckled, and made her giggle too. Then I squeezed her thigh and made her squirm.
"Where do you want to go?" I asked.
"Surprise me," she replied with a smile. I just gave her a short, secretive look.
"That'll come later."
"Oh? What kind of surprise?"
"The kind I hope you'll like," I replied, and stopped at a red light.
"Give me a hint," she pushed, and I wasn't sure what to say. I just hoped Dom had done his part.
"Well, it's new."
"New?" she frowned.
"Yep. And really soft."
"Then we can eliminate your dick," she concluded, and I laughed while I decided to go to an Italian diner not far from the Golden Gate Bridge.
"Naturally, because that shouldn't come as a surprise."
Then I kept silent and Martina became more and more impatient.
"Aren't you gonna give me another hint?"
"It depends on which one of the surprises you're talking about," I murmured, and felt pretty smart. She would never guess what they were. Hopefully.
"There are more than one?"
"Mhm," I hummed smugly.
"Okay... So it's really soft and brand new. What else?"
"Flat?" she exclaimed, more confused than ever.
"Yes. Very flat. But only temporarily, until you decide the result. And it's not a hotdog."
"What on earth...?"
I chuckled. This was amusing as hell.
"Oh, and it's fluffy," I added.
"And that was a summary of all the surprises combined."
Martina laughed, but she seemed completely lost. I could almost hear how her brain tried to puzzle the pieces together. And she didn't say much the rest of the way to the diner, until I helped her out of the car. Then she suddenly got an eureka moment and snapped her fingers.
"It's a carpet!"