Chapter 6: Candi...
The cops left several hours ago. We ate. Watched TV. Whatever the guys could think of to distract me. But I had to pee. Now I’m standing in the bathroom, staring in the mirror. I don’t know how long I’ve been in here, but I can’t stop staring. My hair… it’s completely white. I mean, I was blonde anyway, so it’s not THAT big of a change. But, now… I just keep thinking about how I never planned to have dreads forever. I was planning to have them taken out soon and get it cut short… maybe a cute little bob or something. I can’t do that now, not unless I get it dyed. And I’d have to keep up with dye jobs if I do that. Otherwise, I’m going to be a 26-year-old that looks 62. I mean, yeah… it looks sorta cute with the dreads in there. But… it won’t when I get them taken out.
Such trivial thoughts. Like my hair matters right now. Let’s move on to the huge bruise on my shoulder. For the first time in my life I broke a promise to my brother. It’s throbbing like crazy, but I’m not telling him. And I’m not going to the hospital. I don’t even know why I don’t want to go. I mean, I don’t have a problem with hospitals. And getting something for the pain would actually be helpful. But… I don’t know… it’s like there’s this little voice in the back of my mind, telling me that I’m fine and I don’t need it. Telling me that medicine will make me sick. And I’m not an idiot. I have enough intelligence to know that the meds won’t actually make me sick. But, every time I think about going… I stop myself. I don’t understand what’s happening to me.
Trying to shake off the craziness, I reach over and grab my toothbrush. We had popcorn with the movies and I need to get the kernels out of my teeth. When that’s done, I reach into the cabinet for my birth control pills. I usually take them before bed, but, with my luck, I’ll forget if I wait. When I punch the pill through the bubble pack, though, it falls down the sink drain. I stand there staring in the drain, like it’s going to magically not be gone. Of course, that doesn’t happen. I can’t take another one because it’ll mix up my days.
Hell, it’s not like I’m getting laid anytime soon anyway, so I just shrug and toss the pack back in the medicine cabinet. When I get back into the living room, the guys are asleep… Chris sitting on one end of the couch, with his head back, and Cam sitting in an arm chair, with his head propped on his fist. They’ve had a difficult day, just like I have. Especially Cam. He drove all night and then had the shit scared out of him when he got here. I hate to wake them, but they’ll both end up with sore necks in the morning if I don’t.
Just as I start towards Cam to wake him up, there’s a knock on the front door. My heart rate sky rockets immediately. The guys don’t even stir, so I have to get the door. I walk over to it and stand there for a minute, breathing in and out really deep, trying to get my panic under control. Once I feel like I can open the door without screaming at whoever’s on the other side, I latch the chain and pull it open an inch, glancing out. I turned the porch light on earlier, so it’s easy to see Kieran standing there with his hands in his jeans pockets. When I open the door, he glances up at me and smiles.
“Hang on,” I whisper, and shut the door, unlocking it and pulling it back open, slipping outside with him. “Let’s sit out here. They’re asleep in the living room.”
When he nods, I pull the door shut behind me and lead the way over to the steps. I never did get that patio furniture that I wanted. So, steps are about the best I can offer for seating. Once we’re sitting down, he runs a finger over the bruise on my shoulder. It brings chill bumps up on my skin and I look over at him. He’s sitting there staring at it with a look of concern in his eyes.
He looks up at me, “You ok?” When I nod, he continues, “You wanna talk about it?”
I shake my head and let out a laugh, “That’s all I’ve done. Talk about it.” He sits there waiting for me to continue, so I do. “I really, really don’t. I just…” I sigh, “I just want to be normal again. Ya know?”
The side of his mouth quirks up, “You seem pretty normal to me.”
“I’m not. I haven’t been… not for a really long time.” I pull my knees up to my chest, wrapping my arms around my shins, and prop my chin on my knees. I turn my head and look at him. “You sure you wanna know all my insanity right now?”
He shrugs, “Why not? Everybody has something, Candi. Nobody’s perfect. We all have some kind of insanity in our lives… or in our pasts. Would it make you feel more comfortable if I told you mine?”
Surprised, I nod, “Ya know? It really might.”
He clears his throat and leans forward, putting his elbows on his knees. “Ok. Just please don’t judge me, ok?”
I nod and he continues. “I was married once.” At my gasp, he looks over at me, “I’m not married now. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t keep showing up at your house if I had a wife waiting at home.” When I nod, he continues, “Anyway, so my wife… I met her through some friends. She was perfect. So beautiful… and so adventurous. She would take on any challenge thrown her way and give it back a hundred times stronger. Anyway… we found out right before Christmas that we were having a baby. We went to see her family and give them the news. Kind of an early Christmas present for them. It started snowing on our way home. She wasn’t feeling well, so she wanted me to hurry. I sped up. You know that curve right before your driveway?” When I nod, he goes on, “Well, we were living in the cabin then. Now it’s just somewhere I go in the summer. Kind of a way to remember her. Then, though… we were coming around that curve and I lost control. We skidded off the road, over that cliff.” I gasp and he nods, “I came out of it without a scratch. She was killed instantly. It broke her neck. So… yeah… we all have something. I lost my wife and my child in one fell swoop because I was reckless.”
“Oh God, Kieran, I’m so sorry!” I’ve got tears in my eyes listening to his story. It really puts my life into perspective. I can honestly say nothing that bad has EVER happened to me.
“Thanks.” He looks off in the distance for a minute and then back at me. “Meeting you… Candi, you’re like a breath of fresh air.” He waves a hand in the air, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming love at first sight or anything like that. I just… well… I feel like I can breathe again. I’ve spent years barely surviving. Her brothers came after me after it happened. I don’t even have them anymore. And, really, I can’t blame them. I would’ve done the same.” He blows out a breath. “Here’s the thing… I know who you are.”
He nods, “I saw the video. I googled you last night.”
Oh God! “Is that why you’re coming over?” I stand up, ready to rush back inside, “I’m not that girl, Kieran. I didn’t even know he was recording it!”
He stands up and holds a hand up, like he’s placating me, “Ok, hold on. That’s not what I meant. I just meant… FUCK! Ok… I saw the video. But it was AFTER I met you. After I liked you. I saw it because I looked you up. I wanted to know more about you.” He looks away and runs a hand through his hair, “I just wanted to be honest with you. And I want you to know that you don’t need to hide from me. If that’s what’s making you hesitant, there’s no need. I don’t care about stuff like that. Like I said, the woman that I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with was up to any challenge put in front of her. If I had asked for something like that, I’m sure she would’ve happily complied.”
“Again, I DIDN’T know. I found out about that stupid video because I refused to marry him without a prenup.”
He nods, “I figured there was a reason behind it. Candi, have you actually watched it?”
I shake my head. “I saw bits and pieces. But, no, I didn’t watch the whole thing. Why?”
“Because it’s obvious… well, obvious to me… that you didn’t know there was a camera there. You’d have to be a damn good actress to fake that. Him, on the other hand… he keeps looking at the camera and smiling. It seriously made me want to rip his throat out when I saw it.”
I bark out a laugh, “You and me both.”
He nods. “Anyway… if that’s the insanity… then, we’re past it. There’s nothing to disclose because I already know. So, please just relax.”
I blow out a breath and sit back down, motioning for him to do the same, “I wish that WAS all of it. You want the full story?”
He shrugs, “Only if you want to tell me.”
I nod, “It might help, actually. I never talk about it. Cam refers to it every once in a while, but then he changes the subject. He knows how bad it hurt. He could feel my pain. Not like… literally, I guess. But… I guess it’s the twin thing. He knew something was wrong when it happened and he knew how hard it was on me and how long it took me to deal with it.”
I blow out another breath, “Ok. So, I was engaged to the douche in the video. We were together a couple years and he proposed. My parents are fairly well off and I was coming into a trust fund when I turned 25. Anyway, it was right before my birthday when he proposed. My parents never really trusted him and told me that if I wanted to access my trust fund, I needed to make him sign a prenup. The thing is… my parents are NEVER demanding. They’ve always shown both Cam and me nothing but love and support. For them to immediately jump on it like that… Well, I felt like I needed to listen to them. I had the papers drawn up and my parents took it to their lawyers. Everything was agreed on and I invited him over, showing it to him and explaining that my parents wanted it, for their peace of mind.”
“I guess he didn’t take it well?”
I shake my head, “He blew up. I’d never seen him so angry. I actually got scared he was going to hurt me. He didn’t, though. Not physically. We argued over it for about a week and then…” I clear my throat, “That’s when everything came out. He was in debt. Like, a massive amount of debt. And the only reason he proposed was because he knew about the trust fund. Then he tried to blackmail me. I’ve always been close to my parents, so I told them. They sent their lawyers after him. Cam went after him physically. He beat the shit out of that dumb ass. Anyway… he followed through on his threat. And he did it through several different ISP’s. So, we were never able to prove it was him. But, it’s obvious that it was. He posted that video on the campus website.” I pause and look back over at him, “I was still in college then. Anyway, the whole school saw me naked. And, of course, something like that doesn’t stay localized. It made its way onto a free amateur porn site. Once the pervs jacking off to my ass realized it was me, they passed it around and it got out. My parents are big in the charitable galas and things like that. They started hearing the whispers and were being uninvited to places. To top it all off, I was at school one day and an asshole cornered me in a back hallway. He shoved me under the stairway and started talking about how the “rich bitch” was going to show him that “shaved pussy” up close and personal. Another student walked by before he could really do anything and stopped him. But, I couldn’t go back after that. I finished my degree online and found the most remote place I could to move to. I hoped it wouldn’t follow me here and I could start over fresh. But, here we are. It’s been a year and it’s still creeping into my life.”
He shakes his head, “No, it’s not.”
I snort, “You just told me you saw it. All you had to do is google me.”
“Yeah, but… it’s not creeping in. That’s one reason I wanted to put it out there. I want you to know that I don’t care. I mean… obviously, I care… I hate that you went through that. But, seriously, I don’t look badly on you for it and I think anyone who does is an idiot. Honestly, I think it shows strength of character that you held your head high.”
I roll my eyes, “Yeah, I moved to a completely different state, out in the middle of nowhere. Real strong.”
“But it was strong. Look… you didn’t immediately bury your head in the sand. You held your head up and went on with your life. From the sound of it, a lot of your reasoning for moving was for your parent’s benefit. That makes you an amazing woman. Not someone to be ridiculed or pitied.”
Cam’s voice behind me startles a squeal out of me, “I agree.”
He nods, “You ARE strong, Candace. You never need to doubt that.”
I stand up, walking over to him, “Did we wake you?”
He shakes his head, “No, I woke up and went to check on you, but I heard voices out here. I sent Chris up to the spare room. He’s staying tonight.”
He looks behind me and holds out a hand to Kieran, who is standing behind me. “Hey, listen. I think we got off on the wrong foot. So, let’s start over. I’m Cam. Candi’s severely over protective brother.” They shake hands and Kieran laughs.
“Nice to meet you, Cam. I’m Kieran. Your neighbor across the woods. Hopefully a friend to ya’ll.”
I roll my eyes at their new bromance in the making and turn to Kieran. “I’m kinda beat. Please don’t think I’m being rude, but I’m gonna head in and get some sleep.”
He nods, “Of course. I’ll stop in tomorrow some time and check on you. Hope you sleep well.”
After he walks away, I turn to Cam and raise an eyebrow, “That was a serious about face.”
He grimaces, “I may have been listening a little longer than I let on.” He pulls me into a hug, “You never talk about it… but you did with him. And he said the right things. Granted he stuttered part of those things, but still… he said it right.” He pulls back, “I also heard what he said about his wife. If you’re gonna get into something with a guy like that, you need to make sure it’s what you really want. You could break him way too easily.”
“Taking up for the enemy, Cam?”
He rolls his eyes, “No, dumb ass. I’m making sure you keep your conscience clear. I know how hurting someone else would hurt you.”
I nod, “I know, Bubba. Don’t worry. I’m not getting in a relationship or anything. He’s nice to talk to, though. And, yeah… maybe someday. But, right now… I’m not ready, ya know?”
“I know. I wish I could get my hands on that fuck wad one more time, just for that.”
I laugh and we walk back inside and upstairs. He stops me right outside my bedroom, “Listen, Chris is going home in the morning to get some of his things. He’s gonna stick around for a while. Just to make sure you’re safe.”
“Ugh! Cam! I don’t need babysitters.”
He holds a hand up, “We’re not babysitters. In case you didn’t notice, we kinda love you. And we want you around for a while. This isn’t even completely for you, Candace. We were both terrified when we couldn’t find you. And then you fell out of that doorway…” He clears his throat. “I thought you were gone, for a minute there. I couldn’t take that, Candi. I can’t lose you. It’d be like losing half myself.”
I lean over and hug him, putting my head right over his heart, “I know, Bubba. I’m sorry. I love you too.” I lean back and grin, shrugging, “And who am I to complain about some extra eye candy around here?”
He growls, “No!”
I laugh, “What? He’s freaking hot! Have you seen him without a shirt?”
“Just no, Candace. You need to stop now. I don’t wanna think about that shit.”
“Oh, I haven’t seen it. I’m just wondering if you have.” I look up at the ceiling and tap my finger against my lips, “I wonder if he has one of those sexy V thingies…”
Cam puts his hands over his ears, groaning, “Walking away now.”
I laugh until he shuts his door and I’m left alone. It all starts rushing in on me when I’m alone in my room. I turn on the lights and stand beside my bed staring at the door, trying to get my breathing under control. Everybody blew it off, but was it real? Was my mind actually playing tricks on me? I can still feel someone touching my hair and hear them whispering. I don’t know what’s real and what’s not right now.
Even in my panic, I don’t want to worry Cam. So, I calm my breathing. I know he’ll know if I’m freaking out. I don’t know how, but he always knows. I manage to get myself under control, but I know I can’t stay in here by myself. So, I walk over and lightly knock on Chris’ door. When his sleep raspy voice calls out “yeah”, I go in and shut the door behind me.
He sits up in bed, flipping on the lamp beside his bed. “Candi? You ok?”
I shake my head and start crying. He jumps up and pulls me against his chest, “Talk to me, baby. What’s going on?”
I whisper, “I’m scared.”
He nods, “I get that. But… not that I mind, but why are you in here?”
I look up at him. “I don’t want to worry Cam anymore, but… Chris… I can’t sleep by myself. I can’t even be in there by myself.”
He clears his throat, looks away, and says, “Ok. Let me get a shirt on and I’ll come in there with you.”