The Publicist's Plight (Book I in The Harrison Inc. Series)

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Chapter 27

Have you ever seen the mortified, fearful expression on a child’s face when they’re about to be disciplined by their parent? That is the exact look I see on Sebastian’s face when he sees his father. And it’s both strange, odd, and incomprehensible at the same time, seeing it on his face.

“What are you doing here?” Sebastian asks once he finally opens the car door and lets himself out.

Garret approaches him, ferocity in his blue eyes. It’s incredible how identical Garrett and Sebastian look when they’re both angry. It’s as if Sebastian is frowning in a mirror.

“Get in the house, Sebastian,” he orders quietly.

“I’m not twelve fucking years old anymore—”

“NOW!” Garrett shouts.

Sarah, Lucas and I jump at the power in Garrett’s voice, a power I have never even heard before, the time I have spent working for him. In the dead silence, only the crickets reply. Sebastian stares his father straight in the eyes; their height is both towering, with Sebastian standing at about a half an inch taller than his father.

Slowly, he steps away from the car door and marches right into the house. A small cloud of dust rises when he kicks the dirt in anger and shock at the authority his father has set on the table in front of us. None of us move. We don’t know if we should even move.

“Is it too late to hit reverse and take a ride around the acreage for the rest of the day?” Lucas whispers.

I nod, “Please do. I’m begging.”

Garrett turns and looks into the car. His eyes shift from my blood-stained blouse down to my bandaged foot.

“Oh, shit,” he places a hand over his mouth. This is one of the only times I’ve heard him curse.

I step out of the car with my belongings. Sarah and Lucas do the same, but instead they rush inside the house to check on their boss.

“Mr. Harrison. I-I didn’t expect you to be here.”

“Yeah, me neither. Mr. Collingwood called me yesterday telling me that you two had gone missing. His workers found Sebastian’s jacket in the woods, not too far from the car.”

That’s right. I remember Sebastian abandoning his jacket in the forest from the exhausting heat. I just didn’t expect Collingwood to send out a search party that eventually found it.

“Are you okay? What the hell happened?”

“I’m alright, sir,” I assure him. “Sebastian and I stepped out of the car and we got lost in the forest. This isn’t my blood, by the way.”

“Well, why did you guys get out of the car?”

I’m hesitant to say the truth.

“Leslie?”

“We got into an argument. Sebastian got out first, and I followed him. But it was my fault we got lost. I wouldn’t listen to him when he proposed we go a different direction.”

And Garrett didn’t listen to me.

His face falls when he hears my explanation, “I knew it,” he says lowly. He pivots and sets his sights on the manor with angry strides. I jog to catch up with him.

I try to plea, convince him that the blame shouldn’t be pinned on Sebastian. But he doesn’t want to hear it. Immediately when Garrett walks into the room the air grows cold. The lights illuminate the entire scene, and with said lighting you can see the true state of Sebastian’s injuries. Fiona, cheeks damp with tears, holds up Sebastian’s head while asking an abundance of questions. Elizabeth is at her side, while William and Patrick are behind them, watching their brother attentively. The maids are waiting on the sides with wide eyes, three of them at Lucas’s care cleaning his face with a cloth.

“I had a strong feeling this was your fault!” Garrett shouts.

Everyone turns quiet.

Sebastian moves his eyes from his mom onto Garrett, instantaneously making them dark with hatred. I stand behind my boss timidly, thinking of what I should do. Of course what would be the point? Garrett is refusing to listen to anything I have to say.

“What’s my fault, Dad? You’ll have to be more specific considering everything is my fault with you.”

“Don’t get smart with me, Sebastian, I swear to God I’m not in the mood for it right now.”

“Garrett,” Fiona says. “What is the meaning of this? They just got back, don’t you think this is a bad time?”

“It isn’t a bad time, Mom,” Patrick chimes in, crossing his arms over his chest. “We should know what happened. I mean look at them. They’re a mess!”

“No one fucking asked you for your opinion, Patrick.”

“Sebastian!”

“What!?” Sebastian shouts again.

“Everyone just calm down,” William says softly, stepping in between Garrett, Fiona, Patrick and Sebastian. “We’re all just tired.”

Patrick scoffs, “Well of course we are. I had to wait up all night just to find out that Sebastian is the reason for this mess? Waste of precious time!”

“No one said it was Sebastian’s fault,” Elizabeth adds.

“Oh, but it is. Sebastian, explain to them what happened. About how you stormed off into the woods, and my publicist had to go look for you?”

No one says anything. We all just look at Sebastian and wait for a response. Now, the Harrison’s are in some sort of circle by the staircases, staring at each other. I now stand by Lucas and Sarah, as well as the maids, with bated breath.

Sebastian shrugs, “I got a little heated. I needed some air.”

“You needed some air?”

Yes,” he grits at Garrett. “So I went into the woods to clear my mind. I didn’t know Leslie would come looking for me. We took a wrong turn from there—”

“You mean you took a wrong turn?” William says, with the condescending smile that is part of his nature. I grip my purse in the tense air.

Fiona ignores him, “Well what about those bruises? And your hand?”

“I got into a fight at the bar we ended up at…hours later,” Sebastian says shamelessly.

“Jesus Christ,” Garret whispers.

“Well it’s pretty obvious you got fucked up,” Patrick says.

Sebastian clenches his jaw and looks up at the ceiling.

“Do you have any idea how catastrophic this could have been? How catastrophic this already is!?” Garrett yells.

“Well, you know what, Dad, you didn’t have to come here in the first place! I don’t even know why you’re here if all you’re going to do is bitch about shit you know nothing about.”

“Your father came here because he was worried about you,” Fiona says sternly, trying to keep or make the peace, rather.

“Well that’s a first,” William laughs.

“William! Stop it!!” Elizabeth snaps.

“I just find it funny,” Patrick starts, ruffling his hair. “How a day without Sebastian here could be so quiet.”

“So I go missing for an entire day and all you care about is the blissful silence?” Sebastian says calmly, like he’s pointing out a fact rather than asking for it.

I grit my teeth together. Uncertain, I look around at the verbal chaos continuing throughout the Harrison family. The Big Happy Family I remember seeing on TV, in magazines, really is the dark twisted broken foundation behind the curtain of smiles they hang up. I see it in their eyes—the hope, the failure, the tiredness and pure, unchallenged hatred in their light irises. The attempt in Fiona’s eyes to make it work, merely an attempt to mask her animosity towards Garrett’s presence, reminds me of my mom’s eyes before the divorce. Before she couldn’t take the pain she had caused herself.

“You have yet to show any sort of responsibility for your actions, Sebastian,” Garrett says, in a quiet, rushed voice that’s nearly terrifying. “Is successfully turning this situation into a pity party or an outlet for your hatred your motive?”

Sebastian rolls his eyes and chuckles a bit. It makes sense to me now—it’s his way of tuning out the hate, or possibly making it stop.

Garrett suddenly slams his hand on the vase table in fury, so hard the noise echoes throughout the house and makes everyone jump up in fear. The vase sways, but no one cares about its fate, which is to sway until it stands upright again.

“You think this is funny!?” he screams at the top of his lungs at Sebastian. Sebastian doesn’t even flinch.

“Garrett!” Fiona yells. He looks down at her. “Stop yelling at him! I didn’t call you here to yell at him!”

“Then what did you call me here for, Fiona?” he says, his voice mocking her own. “Did you call me here to…to talk to him? Hug him? Tell him it’s okay he put my publicist in danger?! Yelling is the only way you can get through to that premature brain of his!”

“It wasn’t his fault!” I shout.

Silence.

Well, you got yourself this far, Leslie. No backing out now, I think to myself.

Everyone is staring at me, waiting for more words to come out of my mouth. I force myself not to look at Sebastian and talk straight to Garrett.

“I’m sorry for the outburst, Mr. Harrison, but it wasn’t his fault. If it wasn’t for me, we wouldn’t have gotten lost. I was being stubborn and refused to listen to his direction back to the car. And the reason he has those cuts and bruises is because he was defending me at the bar. I don’t think the blame should be on him. It’s my fault.”

Garrett’s jaw is on the ground. He stares at me deeply, like he’s trying to figure out if I’m the same person who met Sebastian last Monday.

And honestly speaking, I don’t think I am.

Patrick raises an eyebrow at Sebastian, “Oh, so now you’re having your girlfriend fight your battles for you?”

“She’s not my girlfriend, you prick,” his annoyed expression turns mischievous. “But I understand if it’s a little too dark in the closet for you to see that.”

Patrick suddenly lunges forward, grips Sebastian’s shoulders, and pushes him into the vase table with an incredible angry force that knocks the vase onto the ground and shatters it into a million transparent pieces. The table shakes violently as Patrick attempts to knock Sebastian onto the ground while screaming profanities at his little brother, but Sebastian grabs Patrick’s shirt and flings him off.

“Punch me, bitch! Do it!”

Sebastian is hostile, ready to charge at Patrick with no restraint. William comes in between them both while Garrett holds Patrick back. But Patrick is livid, unable to control his uncaged hatred that had crawled out once Sebastian’s comment left his mouth. A comment all of us are trying to figure out is true or not.

“Hit me!” Sebastian yells again.

“Looks like someone alre—”

“STOP IT!”

Everyone ends their occupations at the sound of Elizabeth screaming deafening loud. When we all see her crying, the room grows painfully quiet.

“Just…stop it! Stop it already!” she cries, her hands on her head.

“Elizabeth.”

“Don’t!” she cuts Garrett off, but he doesn’t look fazed by her crying.

She steps back, nearing the living room dimly lit by the rising sun. I stand and watch her, and when her eyes land on me, she looks sorry for herself and for every human being around her.

“Why can’t we just be one big happy family?” she says sadly. “Why…why can’t we just be a real family? For once? Not this…shit we call family, we aren’t a family! We’re just…we’re just…blood.”

Her hand is on her protruding belly, gently rubbing the armor that protects her unborn life from the cruel outside world—the outside world of a loveless family. Elizabeth’s heart is in the right place, but in the wrong family. She strives for forgiveness, while everyone else feeds off of vengeance and grudges.

I’m stunned. What do I do? What should I do?

Elizabeth titters, almost deliriously, “You guys don’t even see it, do you? God I’m…I’m so done with this shit!”

She storms off through the living room, leaving everyone completely speechless.

“Way to go,” Patrick says to Sebastian. The guilt on Sebastian’s face after Elizabeth leaves is too prominent to hide. He looks down at his shoes.

“I want you gone before the sun is above the horizon,” Fiona tells Garrett forcefully.

“Not a problem,” he looks up at Sebastian. “I need to speak with you before I leave.”

“Do I have a choice—”

“No, you don’t,” he buttons his suit jacket. “Library. Now.”

Patrick’s eyes are glued onto Sebastian with a mixture of satisfaction and sure vengeance. Before Sebastian follows Garrett, he pulls out the red tie from his pocket and throws it at Patrick’s chest.

Sebastian passes me without having the confidence to look me in the eye. And it makes me feel like I’ve failed. What could I have done to defend him even more? To strengthen his case? I think hard about the possible methods I could have used but nothing comes to mind that would have worked.

Is it me, or the family?

“I’ll go check on Elizabeth,” Fiona says bleakly.

Sarah walks up to her, “I’ll come with you.”

Tightening her night robe around her body, she smiles at Sarah gratefully before walking through to the living room and following Elizabeth’s sobs. I want to go, too, but it just doesn’t seem right.

“God, I need a smoke,” William says. He’s the next to leave the mess as he walks out the front door. The maids rush to clean up the broken glass, and after Lucas tiredly and gloomily walks up the stairs to his room, Patrick and I are the only ones left.

He doesn’t say a word, and neither do I. We just stare at each other with empty gazes that don’t really say anything. After a minute, Patrick flattens out the wrinkles of his shirt, runs his thumb across the tie stitching, and walks up the stair case. I’m not brought back to reality until I hear his room door slam.

Now I’m alone.

It hasn’t kicked in how tired and sore I am until now, when I’m surrounded by silence. Knowing that being here by myself won’t do me any good, I haul my purse up my shoulder and start to set my sights on the guest house, where I can shower and sleep. But truthfully speaking, I don’t know how I’ll be able to close my eyes.

When I’m at the back door, my hand hovers over the latch when I hear familiar voices.

“Is this of any importance to you?”

Garrett.

They must have not even made it inside the library. My curious nature gets the best of me, and before I know it, I’m sneaking through the kitchen and to the hallway leading up to the library. Sebastian and Garrett are both in front of the door, speaking seriously. I lean against the wall and listen in.

“Do you want me to be honest?”

“I’m trying to be patient. I’m trying to work this out with you like two adults. But that isn’t working. Getting lost in the forest, I mean are you fucking kidding me?”

“I told you already, it wasn’t a big deal and we obviously made it out safe.”

“But what would be the situation if you didn’t get out safe?”

“It wouldn’t—”

“What would be the situation if she didn’t get out safely?”

Sebastian doesn’t respond. The quiet is painful, plaguing the air with impatience and curiosity.

“I…I don’t know,” Sebastian finally replies, his voice not as assertive as before.

“You don’t know. What’s that bandage on her foot, hm? Is that your idea of fine? What if it was worse?”

Again, no immediate response.

“You putting Leslie in danger like that? Unacceptable. And this isn’t about our-our little unbalance anymore, nor is it about this whole self-cleansing trip that she is here for. This is about her safety. I assigned her here to help your public image, not to put her life on the line for your reckless endeavors.”

“I wasn’t going to let anything happen to her—”

“That’s not good enough, Sebastian! You couldn’t guarantee anything in the situation you were in. And what is this about a bar fight? What happened?”

“This man was um…this man was saying crude things so I took initiative.”

“By starting a fight? Again, how can you guarantee her safety like that? Who’s to say someone wouldn’t have attacked her, and you being too busy throwing punches wouldn’t have seen it?”

I know Sebastian is thinking of when Skinner grabbed me, which is why he isn’t saying anything in his defense. The memory makes the hairs on my arms stand up, as if his hand is around my arm again.

“For once, stop thinking about how things affect you, and start thinking about how they affect other people. Because if you weren’t so lucky, there’s a possibility she wouldn’t be here right now, from what I see on you.”

“I told you, I did everything I could! She’s safe, I’m safe, why is this shit still an issue!?”

“Because you’re an issue!” Garrett snaps. “You’re an issue. You have issues. You’re a bitter angry boy living in a grown man’s body, unable to let go of the past so you let it define your future. You’re the only one out of my children who has this pent up anger towards me and it’s clouding your judgment, Sebastian. It is clouding your judgment.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know exactly what I’m talking about. You couldn’t make anything out of your life with your pathetic aspirations so you threw all of it down the drain and became a drunk, a drug addict, a deadbeat, a man whore! And tell me, how fulfilling is your life with those choices you make?”

“Well who’s fault is it that this is what it’s come to!?” Sebastian barks discretely. “Who’s fault is it? I had ambition, dad. I had passion, I had love and-and I actually started wanting to wake up in the morning and you stripped all of that away from me! All of it!”

You don’t know the first thing about suffering, about passion, about love or about…anything!

“I didn’t take passion away from you, Sebastian. I didn’t take away love or anything else you might have had. I took away your illogical thinking. I took away that hope you had that would have made you a failure. You’re the one who took passion and love and happiness away from yourself. So don’t blame me because you have nothing left.”

Sebastian chuckles, “Nothing left?”

“Yes, nothing left! Think about it this way, Sebastian. When all of your money is gone, when your cars are towed, when you lose your house and when you are no longer the name in everyone’s mouth, name one person who will be by your side. Name one.”

I think of a list of names he could possibly say, but the sad and unbearable truth is, no one on that list would be a likely candidate. Not even his family.

“That’s never going to happen,” he answers. There’s a heavy sadness in his voice. “It’s not going to happen.”

“Then all I can do is pity you, son. I pity every single fiber of your being, because everyone you surround yourself with is built on the ticking clock of security you claim your possessions provide. They don’t love you, Sebastian. They love your money. So when that ticking clock stops? You’ll be a lonely has-been who will die with only your cash to sit by your death bed.”

My mouth drops open, and I don’t have the simple decency to close it. There’s no chance at a comeback, or even a closing phrase. Garrett simply walks away from Sebastian and out of the hallway, without even seeing me in the corner eavesdropping. He leaves the house. Just like that. And now nothing even seems right or wrong or…anything, really. Just numb and confusing. And painful.

When I look up from my thoughts, I see Sebastian at the beginning of the hallway, staring at me. I don’t try at all to hide my shock and second hand hurt, but he does—he tries and tries with a lot of his will. And it makes it harder for me to keep myself together.

“I’m assuming you heard all of that.”

I nod.

He bows his head once, understanding my current disbelief. There’s a long expanse of quiet in the air.

“I’m sorry about…all of this. I didn’t mean for…I just…I-I’m sorry.”

I try to say something but nothing comes out. He manages the smallest smile I’ve ever seen on him, and even that is hard for him to keep up. Then he sticks his hands in his front pockets and walks into the living room.

And I can’t move until I hear his bedroom door slam shut above.

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