Authors: Kimber S. Dawn
“What. The. Fuck. Do you think you’re doing? Who.
do you think you’re fucking with, Liam?” he shouts.
“Travis. Calm down. First of all, you offered me your wife. What’s the difference between that and your sister? You’re not with your sister, nor will you ever be. So, pardon my confusion. Is it because of Lexy?” I demand to know his reasoning. Because as of right now, I see none.
“No. It’s because, she’s my
. MY flesh and blood. You don’t do shit like that here. Jesus.” He sighs on the other end.
“Okay, okay.” I concede. And why not? She’s a riddle I won’t rhyme. I,
have chased after Summer for how long? Months. Circling her building’s block? This is a wake up call—and I’ll take it as such. “Accept my apology. It won’t happen again. Travis, I’m sorry.”
“No, you’re right, it won’t. And the fact that it has, will cost you, brother. Nothing too much, though. It isn’t like I’ll tattle to my father and spoil your entire career. No. At least, not yet. It will cost you something simple…harmless, even.” He’s quiet for few beats and then his dark voice comes back over the line, “A sampling your wife.” The silence after his statement is deafening. And ever-fucking-lasting.
It very well could have been one minute of silence, or thirty, I have no recollection of time or sequence.
I only know it takes forever for me to form the words and speak them. “Excuse me?” Sweat beads across my brow and my hackles rise. “Ex-fucking-cuse me, motherfucker?” I unbutton the buttons at my neck and begin loosening my tie.
“After the birth of your child, of course. If, and that is an extremely loud
your wife’s body is even half as decadent as it appears to be now, or the last time I saw her. I will have her after the delivery of your child. And if you’ve kept up your end of the deal, which is keeping your dick out of my sister, I won’t tell my pops at your one year evaluation that you’ve been fucking his princess. I won’t have a single bad word to speak against you as he names you the third in his legacy, directly behind first me, then my loving, endearing little sister. Capisce?”
I don’t believe I’ve ever been so stuck. I was cornered. Pissed. Stubborn. And cornered.
“I’ll talk to you about this later,” I growled, preparing to hang up.
But his words stopped me. “You can’t talk shit like that to an escort and expect her not to talk. You can’t just shit on absolutely
, Liam, and expect to continue to get away with not smelling like shit. Someone, somewhere along the line who is bigger than you— and badder than you— will come along and take what you hold so dear. And they’ll fuck it up and make it ugly. Just so you won’t have it anymore. The sooner you realize that, Liam, the better. Have a great afternoon off with your wife. I do hope she tastes as good as I’m sure she’ll look. I think more often of her than I’ll further admit. Good day, brother.”
And the line goes dead. As if what I say doesn’t matter. As if I’m being excused.
Rage, potent and untapped, flares inside me.
I pull the silver vial from my breast pocket and inhale it’s contents. After, I finger the button, sliding the visor between me and the driver down. “Drake, has my wife called?” I ask while pouring a glass of scotch and tucking the bottle back in the bin. I don’t like drinking this early, but due to my current circumstances, I’ll set my moral squabbles aside.
“Yes, sir. Twice while you were on the phone with Mr. Travis. Would you like me to reconnect you?”
I notice we’re not on our way to the house and confusion and irritation mix with the coke in my veins and the whiskey in my gut. “Where the hell are we at? Drake, Lexy’s appointment is in forty-five minutes. We still have to go by the house—“
“No, sir.” His booming voice interrupts my ranting. “She’s heading to the hospital. Mary found her bleeding in the bathtub an hour ago. She called 9-1-1. But Charles, Mary’s husband, said the ambulance couldn’t find a pulse.” I hear OnStar connect and ring, “Like I said, the ambulance dispatcher called twice while you were on the phone with Mr. Travis, would you like me to reconnect you to them?”
Drake is in his mid-thirties. His dad was my dad’s right hand, and his grandfather was my grandfather’s before that. And now Drake is following in their footsteps.
The phone rings and I hear Drake repeating, “Sir?” But I can’t respond. My brain won’t make the connection with my muscles to move, to speak, to react.
“Ambulance 301, do you copy? This is 301.”
Drake speaks for me, “Yes, I have Mr. Dean in route. Where are you, 301?” After some static, I hear loud counting in the background and beeping. Then static, “Pulling in. Condition unknown.”
Their words circle, getting so loud the second time I can’t hear Drake’s reply, and then silence ricochets its way through the town car again.
“Pulling in. Condition unknown.”
“What’s that mean? What the hell does that mean?” I sputter, thumbing through my contacts on my phone. “Head to whatever hospital they’re at, Drake. What time is my father’s plane supposed to land?” I ask.
“It landed a little more than an hour ago, Mr. Dean.”
I glance up at him in the rearview mirror and hit my father’s number, dialing him, “Thanks,” I tell him.
Why was my wife bleeding in the bathtub an hour ago? Why wasn’t I immediately notified? Charles or fucking Mary couldn’t take a break from chaos and call? An hour ago.
An hour ago?
“Dean,” my father answer’s.
“Father, hope you’re settling in. How was your flight?” I hurry through the casualties, mentally making the connection. Had I been notified, none—
of the last hour would’ve occurred. None of it.
“I am. It was quite fine. Are you working late tonight?”
“No, I’m actually off for the remainder of the day, however, Lexy has had an accident.” I clear my throat, preparing to tell my father he’s…
going to be a grandfather. “Hopefully her and our child are alright. I’m heading to the hospital now. But I’ll keep you posted. As for dinner tonight, I’m afraid Lexy will probably be unable to make it. I should be there, though. Don’t fret.” I know my father. Too well. And if he’s in town, he’ll expect to be greeted. If not by both Lexy and I, then by one of us. And it’s not because of his health issues, it’s his pride that demands these expectations of me.
“Ah. Very well. Keep me updated. I’m uncertain whether or not to congratulate just yet, so I’ll wait. I hope all is well, son. See you at eight.”
And that’s all that’s said between father and son. That’s the conversation.
But the only thing running through my mind is…I don’t know what the hell just happened to my entire damned world in the last seven minutes, but it was the fastest any man has ever fallen, I’m fucking certain of it. And had Mary done what the hell I paid her to do, not a single minute of the seven would’ve happened.
Our mind is fucked.
If what I experienced was the end, and that’s the place we all go to when we die, then our minds are all fucked and so are we.
After my time in Hell, there was a moment of fractured purgatory where I felt suspended. Then…I don’t know, I guess I woke up.
I was cold, so much fucking colder than I’d ever felt before. I was so cold, I shivered under layers of clothes and even more blankets and comforters. I stay cold. Hell, I stayed cold. I shivered over a month after losing my baby girl.
Familiar pangs beat against my chest.
The pain is almost like a blanket to me now.
The first few weeks were hard. The last few days though, have seemed better.
I did walk today. Outside.
The March chill still has its hold on New York, as well as my bones. I huddle tighter into a ball as I hear Mary come into my room. “Upsie daisy. None of this pouting. I’ve let you rest. Now up you go. Shower time, I’ll launder your sheets this afternoon.” She’s already started plucking the ends of the fitted sheets off the mattress corners and started pulling pillows out of their cases by the time I drag myself from my bed.
“Dammit, Mary,” I whine on my way to the bathroom. “And leave the damn sheets, I’ll put them in the washing machine. Just let me shower.”
I know I’m as weak as her, but she has a reason, I don’t. She’s pregnant, and I’m not.
And until I have reason, I won’t allow Liam to see how tired I am. How exhausted I am. And how much worse he’s making it.
He’s never home. If it was bad before I lost my daughter, it’s a hundred times worse, now. I don’t know why I folded so quick and said yes when he asked for the Manhattan apartment. It seemed logical. Necessary. At least, at the time it did.
All it’s done is widen the gap between us.
All it’s done is taken our fractured marriage and completely, wholly, decimated it.
And now, it’s not just my marriage at risk, but me, if that makes any sense. I’m at risk of losing myself, somehow.
I tether myself to Mary when she’s here, and Liam when he is, but when I’m alone, it’s not good. The depression. The feeling of nothingness, bleakness. It’s dark.
And it’s so damn foreboding, like the end is near. Which is absurd, because there is no end. Not in this shitty story.
When I come out of the shower, the cold air hitting my hot skin sends chill bumps scattering across it, and I inhale a deep cool breath.
“Baby girl, you’re still so beautiful. You know it?” My eyes shoot up and see his in the bathroom mirror’s reflection. “After all that you’ve been through, you’re still just as beautiful. If not more.” His husky voice makes my breath catch in my throat. I didn’t think he would be home today, he usually doesn’t come home until Sunday.
“Shit, Liam. I didn’t hear you come in.” I duck my head to keep from having to look him in the eyes and make my way to my closet. I need clothes. I need something to do with my hands. Get dressed. I’ll get dressed.
“I took the day off.” His voice follows me as he does to my closet. “Actually, I took off the rest of the week. So, today, tomorrow, and the next day. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. I’m fucking rambling. Pardon.” He holds his hands up in mock surrender and smirks.
He smirks, and he looks just like he did when we were kids and everything was simple and easy. When everything was perfect.
“Sorry, baby girl. Please—” he nods towards me, “—finish dressing. I’ll be downstairs.”
He chuckles when he turns and leaves, and it’s almost endearing enough to distract me. Almost.
I’m flustered by the time I’ve pulled on some leggings and thrown an oversized sweatshirt on. I quickly braid my damp hair into a bun on top of my head and pull on some fuzzy socks, then make my way downstairs. All the while, trying to piece together all the different possible scenarios leading to my husband being home on a Wednesday afternoon and off for the rest of the week.
I have come to learn that people don’t change. And if anything seems too good to be true, nine times out of ten…it is.
When I make it into the main sitting room, I pause when I see him pouring a tumbler of Scotch and glance at the clock.
But my glance isn’t quick enough, when I look back to where he’s standing his attention is on me, instead of his glass.
“I called and spoke to your doctor today. We had a nice little chat.” His dark blue eyes soften their glacial glare, and his boyish smile shows off the laugh lines around his eyes. I feel my foolish heart flutter.
Stupid, stupid heart.
“Did you know you could travel? I discussed it with your doctor, and you’re cleared to travel. You have been since one week after…” His words carry off and a frown furrows his brows.
And my silly heart warms towards him even more. I keep forgetting that I used to love him before all this happened—that I used to love him—before I hated him. I keep forgetting he lost something, too.
“I know I have been. I didn’t know there was somewhere you were planning on going, let alone taking me. Where, Liam? I’ll go, I’ll be happy to go anywhere with you. You know that.”
This is when my silly heart asks my jaded mind,
“One more time?”
When I married Liam, I knew I wouldn’t be getting married again. I’m not like my mother, I’m not like Mary. There are no second lives. Or third. Or fourth. There’s only one. And the person I chose to live my one with is Liam. I decided that then, and I’ll decide it everyday for the rest of my life.
I’ll live this life with him, or I’ll live it alone.
So, today I forgive. I smile and I forgive.
His arms link around me, and he nuzzles against my ear. “I know that,” he whispers. “I just like to make you say it sometimes.” After scattering kisses on my neck and behind my ear, he steps back and buttons his suit jacket. He picks his tumbler up from the end table and sips from it before setting it back down and continuing. All business Liam, but still full of his boyish charm. “New Orleans. I have a business meeting tonight at eight, but after that, the weekend is ours. You and I, old French history, Cajun food, and some of your favorite historical suites—on Canal street. What do you say, baby girl? Will you be my date?” His smile is so boyish, his voice is just deep enough and just light enough to be called the same.
I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.
I hate it, but hope, or something that feels a lot like it, flutters back to life when he kisses my forehead and his hands squeeze the tops of my shoulders, just before he whispers, “You finish getting ready, go pack a bag. I’ll go make a few calls, and we’ll meet in the foyer, let’s say, in an hour and a half. Clarence will drive us to the airport. Sound good, baby girl?” His arms slide around my waist before tightening and lifting my feet from the floor.
And that damned hope catches another breath of air and takes flight as he peppers my face and neck and shoulders with more little kisses, tickling me.
I laugh, giggling out the words, “Okay, okay. Deal.” When he releases me, I catch my breath and sputter out, “Deal.” But before I do as I’m told, I look up at him and smile. I don’t let him go either. I keep my arms around him. And I give myself a few seconds to gauge my husband’s sincerity. That’s awful, isn’t it?
It can’t possibly be normal. And shame creeps in, but I smile, covering it up before kissing his lips. “I’m excited, Liam.” I lie. I’m excited, but I’m also fucking scared to death. “Thank you for this, whatever…this is.” I smile as big as I can before heading towards my wing of the house and making my way back to my closet to choose outfits for today and the next few following.
New Orleans. Damn, I almost can’t believe it. Mary’s going to be so excited for me. I’ll be getting out of the house. Out of my dark room, out from under my dark blankets. My warm dark blankets.
“Is it warm there?” I ask over my shoulder, glancing at him by my bedroom door, texting on his phone.
He smiles before looking over at me, “Probably as cool as it is here, it could be warm though. Definitely pack a light jacket or a warm sweater.”
Perfectly answered. Like always.
When the plane lands, hope has spiraled into something new, a feeling. One I haven’t felt in quite some time. It’s something stronger than hope. Something more.
Something more of everything—including dangerous.
But I can’t think about that right now. I can’t think about it because it’ll drive me crazy.
And that’s if I’m not already insane
The thought makes me frown.
“Baby girl? Baby girl? Hey, where’d you go in that head of yours?” Liam’s voice invades my rambling thoughts, and I look from the black baggage claim belt rolling in front of me, up to him.
“I’m sorry,” I apologize, I hate being so scatter brained. “I still…get lost sometimes,” I tap my temple, “up here. It’s weird, but I’m told it’s normal. Hormones or something.” I explain away the turmoil I mentally struggle with day in and day out. I expect he can understand, but it’s still something I can’t fully talk with him about.
“I know, baby. I understand,” he somberly says under his breath as he grabs our luggage.
Once we’re pulling off the interstate and sliding into the flow of traffic in the French Quarter, his funny banter and chill demeanor finally fracture a bit.
And for the first time in as long as I can remember, since moving to New York, I see my husband again.
Liam. The man I know and love.
This can’t be good. But that damn hope, still defibrillating my wounded-and-left-for-dead heart, won’t acknowledge the thought.
“Lexy, I know this has been hard.” I watch his knuckles blanch when his grip tightens on the steering wheel, and immediately I prepare for the worse as dread swallows my stomach.
I don’t want to know the real reason for his odd behavior lately. I don’t want him to say something he can’t unsay, as ridiculous as that sounds. But it strikes me, the realization of knowing and not knowing…what if knowing could cost me my last threads of sanity?
I just fucking can’t.
Not today. Not right now. Not so soon after…
“I’m afraid it’s going to get a lot harder before it gets easier, too.” His sigh followed by his words are enough to shatter my heart.
No, no, no, no. No.
“Liam, don’t. Please, just don’t.”
His eyes darken as his jaw tightens, but he never looks in my direction or away from the busy road. “Don’t what, Lexy? Pull your head out of the sand? Snap you into reality? Fine, if that’s the way you want it, fine. But keep these following words in mind when it comes time to accept the cost of living the way we do. These people aren’t like us, Lex. They are
fucking like us.”
“Who is, Liam? Who is nothing like us?” I quip. “Mary and Charles seem pretty sane and functioning. The people in town are all nice.” I’m so lost. So, so, fucking lost.
“No, sweetheart. My colleagues, the people I work with. The ones who live like us.” After shaking his head he lets out another exasperated sigh, “You know what, never mind. It’s work, and I shouldn’t be bringing this shit home, especially on our little get away.”
As much as I want to dig for information, I just can’t.