Posts tagged “lies

Homecoming, Chapter 5

Posted on 22/12/2015

Phoebe’s words echoed in his head as he drove the short distance to Geraldine’s house, battling disbelief and regret at the thought of Geraldine in an unhappy marriage. It made him dislike her dead husband more than he already did. He pulled up into her driveway and wasted no time stepping out.

Her sedan was parked beside the old truck she used to drive to their house three years ago. The familiar sight made him pause at the doorstep, wondering what would’ve happened if he hadn’t left things unsaid between them.

The front door opened and Bart peeled his gaze from the truck to the door. Yelena squinted at him through the narrow crack of the door, the woman showing no intention to invite him in.

He cleared his throat. “Hola, Mrs. Pena, yi—”

“I speak English,” the woman answered in a no-nonsense tone.

Bart nodded with relief, his Spanish embarrassingly-rusty. “Hello… uh, is Geraldine home?”

Yelena regarded him for what seemed like eternity before pulling the door wider. “In the study.”

With another jerky nod, Bart stepped into the house. The sweet aroma of cheese and pork tickled his nostrils, and although he’d just eaten a scrumptious dinner courtesy of Phoebe, his stomach growled in anticipation to taste.

A baby’s cry pulled him back to the matter at hand and he followed the sound to the study, for he’d never been in Geraldine’s home before. He didn’t have time to marvel at the sturdy wooden floors or the warm colors painting the walls, adorned with family pictures. Turning the corner, letting the baby whines be his guide, he stumbled on a striking scene that arrested his steps.

Geraldine sat while cradling her baby girl close, humming a melody to soothe her. Her short hair covered part of her face but Bart could see the serene smile on her lips as she gazed down at her child. The little girl looked cross-eyed as though fighting sleep, her hand curled in a tiny fist, resting on her mother’s bosom.

Bart wanted to pull out his phone and take a picture to remember this moment forever. That thought alone rocked him off-kilter and he took a step back, shoulder bumping the side of the door.

The sound lifted Geraldine’s head and her smile froze, doleful eyes staring at him.

Too late to run now, Bart gave her a wobbly smile. “Hey…”

She didn’t smile back and instead looked down at her baby girl who was now staring at Bart. Geraldine sighed. “She’s been agitated since I got back.” Her voice was gravely as though she’d been screaming for an hour straight, or crying. Because of him.

He winced. “Can we talk?”

For a moment there, Bart expected her to ask him to leave. He prepared himself for her sharp rejection, knowing he deserved it and more for not allowing her the chance to explain.

Geraldine brushed a hand over Joselyn’s hair and slowly stood. “Wait for me in the living room. I’ll give her to Mama first.”

Bart nodded and stepped aside as Geraldine walked past, leaving a becoming scent of lavender and baby. As he followed her down the hallway, Bart realized that he preferred the simple and un-fussy quality of Geraldine. She didn’t wear exotic perfumes that could damage one’s sense of smell or wear uncomfortable shoes that made her walk like a newborn calf. No, in every way Geraldine epitomized a woman a man would be proud to call his, and she was a good mother too.

Once she passed a drowsy Joselyn to her mother, Geraldine turned and pinned him with her brown eyes. “You don’t listen very well, do you?”

He flashed her an unrepentant smirk. “Since when did I ever listen?”

She didn’t take the bait, staring with a straight face until his smile faded. Then with a sigh, she gestured to the living room.

Bart watched her walk around the sofa, her shoulders bent in defeat. Then he moved to the chair she offered and sat, facing her.

Geraldine leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees, eyes on the coffee table and not on him. Behind them, Yelena took up the duty of putting her granddaughter to sleep, mumbling the same melody Geraldine hummed in the study.

Bart didn’t take his eyes off Geraldine, noticing for the first time the lines around her mouth and lining the corners of her eyes. Though she was physically beautiful, Bart knew something had aged her. He cleared his throat. “I’m ready to hear it now, if you’ll tell me.”

Her eyes didn’t move from the coffee table. “Thought it was nonsense.”

“I apologize for saying that.”

This time she looked up, not accustomed to him apologizing.

Bart wanted to laugh aloud; what a stubborn pair they were. He didn’t laugh though, not when she looked so serious.

Geraldine frowned. “So you’ll marry me then?”

He squelched the wave of panic that rushed over him. “Why don’t we discuss why you want to marry me first?”

Something unreadable flickered in her eyes and she lowered her gaze.

Bart shifted in his chair, fighting the urge to reach for her shoulders, to make her look at him.

“Three years ago, my only living grandmother passed…” she began in a hushed tone. “We usually spend the holidays with her and this last one, I barely saw her before she died. I was devastated and so was my mom. She hurt so bad and I didn’t want to make things worse.” She shrugged. “I was foolish and desperate, feeling alone in my grief. I didn’t know how to express the emptiness that I felt… so I just kept it in.”

He marveled silently how very different Geraldine was to Kasey although both were the only children of their parents. Geraldine was self-sacrificing and generous where Kasey was self-seeking and critical.

“Then I met this guy.”

Bart frowned.

“He was attentive; listened when I spoke, didn’t judge me when I went into one of my moods… y’know how I get.” Geraldine didn’t look at him when she said that, as though she figured he’d judge her.

Bart only felt shame for himself. He’d pushed her away and into another man’s arms.

She sighed, drawing back his attention. “My mom said it was too soon, that I was acting out of grief and needed to deal with it properly. All I knew was he made me happy and wanted. I didn’t have anything waiting for me back here so when he proposed marriage, I didn’t hesitate.”

The words felt like blows to his ears and heart, accusing him of treating her like a foe rather than the friend she’d come to be during those long days and nights arguing over the perfect shade of paint for the walls or the right size of tiles for the bathroom. He’d enjoyed her wit almost as much as he did her sharp tongue. Sure they’d fought like cat and dog, but Bart always looked forward to seeing her, talking to her, fighting with her.

“The first few weeks were fine,” Geraldine continued. “The honeymoon stage always is.”

Her tone had changed; less wistful and more exacting.  Bart sat up, reminded by the startling indication that Geraldine’s short marriage was anything but happy.

“But that’s what happens when you marry before really knowing that person, before becoming that person’s friend. The things that a friend could overlook in you, a stranger will hate with his very soul.” Geraldine licked her dry lips. “That was my husband in summary. He hated that I challenged him, told me shut up more times than I’d ever heard in my life. At first, I was shocked that this wasn’t the man that pursued me when we dated. But now I know my desperation to belong, to find comfort and refuge in someone, had blinded me to what was plainly there. He hated being challenged, being disrespected, being questioned. It just simply wasn’t done.”

Bart could feel rage rising within and he gripped his fists. “Did he hit you?”

Her silence was loud enough and he whispered an expletive, angry that she’d allowed herself to marry such a man and stayed even after finding out what a monster he was.

Geraldine looked up, sorrow in her eyes. “Yeah I know. The dumbest thing I’ve ever done.”

He scowled. “Geraldine…”

She held up a hand. “My mom begged me to leave, said it wasn’t worth it… but you know how I get.”

“Most stubborn person I know,” he said through clenched teeth. She’d probably stayed to prove to herself and anyone else that she could make her useless marriage work. He muttered another curse.

“I tried to be more subservient, hoping he’d just calm down and be normal again.”

His scowl darkened. “You, subservient?”

Slighted, she cut him a glare. “It worked… for a few months.”

Bart scoffed in disgust. “There’s nothing normal about a man who beats his woman, Geraldine.”

“I thought that maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. Maybe there was some pride in me that challenged him without me knowing it did. I tried everything from being quiet for weeks to apologizing for everything, but even the sight of me made him so angry.”

Never before had Bart wanted to drive his fist into the wall. He wished to conjure up this deceased husband of hers and beat him to death again.

“Then I got pregnant.”

He stiffened.

“So I started to pray again. Hadn’t done it in a while.”

Bart looked at her, frowning. “Pray for what?”

“Anything. I don’t know.” She lowered her head but not before Bart saw tears pools there. “I didn’t tell him about the baby, too afraid of what he’d say, what he’d do.”

Bart couldn’t look away; gone was the strong and self-assured Geraldine and in her place sat a terrified woman shaking in her chair. He wanted to go to her but feared his touch would invoke more painful memories of what that coward did to her.

“At some point, I started praying for death.”

A cold shiver trickled down his spine. He couldn’t fathom it; Geraldine dead? Bart shook his head.

She sniffed. “And then he went away on a business conference trip. Didn’t tell me where but I knew the truth, knew what he was doing.”

Bart’s face tightened. “Was he cheating?”

Geraldine shook her head adamantly. “He barely had time to deal with me. But his work was practically his first wife and often the cause of our many arguments… He got caught up in some get-rich-quick pyramid scheme and I was afraid for him and our family.”

“Rightfully so,” he forced out, getting all the more furious.

She was quiet then, eyes glued to his hands. Bart quickly loosened them. “Then I got the news,” she breathed out as though from relief. “His boat had capsized somewhere south and he plus his employees were missing. For days, we waited for news, for his body, anything. I couldn’t eat or sleep, consumed with waiting for him, for anything. I hated myself for praying—“

“You did not pray for your husband’s death, Geraldine.”

She looked up at him now, guilt plain in her eyes. “I did, Bart. Even though I prayed it would be me, I wished it would be him. And God answered me.”

He scowled. “Stop it. God doesn’t cause people to die on account of others. You know this, so stop that nonsense talk.”

Geraldine sniffed. “His parents blamed me for pushing him to go on the trip. Said he’d been overwhelmed with the added responsibility of taking care of me, a college dropout who could barely speak the language and only caused him grief. They said he’d died trying to make me happy.” She let out a mirthless laugh.

Rage shook his inner-most being. “Don’t tell me they didn’t know what he’d done to you.” His scowl darkened. “You didn’t tell them?!”

She eyed him warily. “What mother wants to hear that her son was a wife-beater at his funeral?”

“So you quietly accepted guilt that wasn’t yours to bear?” Bart could barely mask his anger, it was suffocating him. To think that for three years he lived ignorant of Geraldine’s pain made him furious.

“It was all talk, Bart. He was the one that hurt me and he was gone.” She shrugged. “I figured their words couldn’t hurt as much.”

“Geraldine,” he forced out, impatient with her illogical reasoning. “They marred your character after their son tried to destroy you. That is not okay.”

She sighed heavily. “Which brings me to the next part.”

He stared in disbelief. “What could be worse than that?”

She snorted mirthlessly. “You have no idea.” Her face straightened. “They didn’t think I could raise Jozy well, questioned me as a mother since I was such a rotten wife.”

“They’re one to talk, after raising a monster.” He wished he could meet and call them out for blaming Geraldine,their son’s victim, and causing her unnecessary drama. “Someone needs to let them know the truth.”

“See?” Geraldine breathed, awe in her eyes. “That’s why I need you, Bart.”

He blinked; the look in her eyes and the thought of her needing him causing his brain to short-circuit. “Huh?”

Fat tears slid down Geraldine’s cheeks and she made no move to wipe them away. “Help me keep my child, Bart. Marry me and help me protect Jozy.”

<<Chapter 4 || Chapter 6>>

Chasing Truth: Chapter 18

Posted on 17/10/2014

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Mari sighed as she shifted against the window at the main house. It was after dinner, a dinner she’d half-heartedly picked at. She was curled up in the bay window while Gage settled into the closest armchair and Raoul and Allison relaxed on the sofa together. Some program was on, but she didn’t pay it any mind. The words didn’t even register.

She’d turned down a family dinner the day before, nowhere near ready to face them so soon. Tonight, she gave in.

Only two days had passed since Tyler’s confession. He’d given her the space and time she asked for so far, but it wasn’t helping her clear her head. Her entire life her father was a mystery, one she didn’t think would ever be solved. Tyler had handed her the missing puzzle piece with ease, but it only revealed that even more pieces were missing. More than once her fingers drifted over the keyboard, itching to type in the name Blake Mason and see what came up. Each time she forced herself away from the laptop without doing it, afraid of what she might find.

Her break from Tyler was quickly noticed. Todd didn’t say a word, but there were enough moments after work when Tyler was nowhere to be found that it appeared he was going to before he changed his mind. Rylee had no such restraint. Earlier that afternoon she found herself on a conference call with her best friends demanding to know what put the brakes on her relationship.

Not even with two of the people closest to her did she reveal the entirety of the truth. She settled for a half-truth, explaining that Tyler wasn’t quite the man she thought he was and she had to figure out if she could deal with that before they moved forward. Rylee accepted it with relative ease. Julia was far more curious. Still, she let Mari get away with the vague answer as if sensing she wasn’t ready to share yet.

Multiple times she thought to confront Raoul and Gage with what Tyler revealed yet every time she started to, she lost her nerve and chose another subject. She found herself looking for a resemblance between her and Gage despite having always been told she could’ve been her mother’s clone. Now that she looked for it though, she could see it in the slope of their jaws. The recognition only made the truth more unbearable. Gage, at the very least, knew the truth. Raoul more than likely did as well and that ate at her until she felt nothing but confusion and pain.

Now, after days of avoidance, it finally came out.

“Do you know who my father is?” No finesse. No lead-in. Just the question.

Raoul stiffened as if the question had struck him, tearing his eyes away from the tv. He sat up straight and rubbed the palm of his hands down his thighs before cupping his knees.

“I wish I could say that was sudden,” Raoul said slowly. “I know we talked about him. I thought you’d decided against looking for him.”

She looked at him in silence for a minute. He had raised her, loved her like his very own daughter. She knew him. He was dancing around the truth.

“Do you know who he is?” she asked so softly she wasn’t even sure she’d given voice to the words.

He held her gaze for just a moment before he let his head hang. His answering whisper was just as soft as hers had been.

“Yes.”

In that moment, with that one word, her world came to screeching halt and crashed down all around her. Her chest grew tight. Her eyes stung, making her blink to relieve them.

“All this time…” Her voice broke and she forced herself to clear her throat. “You knew I had questions, that I wanted to know.”

Raoul lifted his head. “It was your mother’s choice at first. It was a good choice, Mari. I swear. To protect all of you. When we lost her…I wanted and maybe even needed to honor that choice. Then you stopped asking and it became easier to not say, to not complicate things.”

“And now? What’s different? 6000th time is a charm?”

“Mari,” Allison interjected softly as she rested a hand on Raoul’s back. “I know this is hard for you-”

“Don’t, Allie,” she countered immediately. “This is between us. Just. Don’t.”

She continued anyway and reminded Mari of the discussion they had when Raoul first proposed. “We agreed that I’m a part of this family. This is hard, but we don’t need for there to be any more pain than necessary.”

Mari nodded as if she understood. She uncurled her legs, pushing to her feet. “As long as I’m the one bearing it, it’s fine huh?”

Allison made a sound of protest and Raoul shook his head. Never had she felt so completely and utterly alone. Tyler was using her, the family she knew had been lying to her for years, her mother was gone, and she didn’t even want to think about her father.

“Ellie Girl,” Gage interrupted as he crossed the room toward her. “Take it easy on ‘em.”

“Take it easy?” she repeated incredulously. “He lied to me my entire life! Kept the truth from me about the one person I needed to know the most about! I lost my mom! He could have given me my father!”

“There’s usually more to the story, you know that. This is a tough one for you and I’m not downplaying that. But it sounds like Raoul is willing to give you answers now. Let’s focus on that.”

Raoul focused tortured eyes on her. “The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you. Every time you asked me questions about him, I asked myself would it hurt if I told you something or gave you a little scrap. Every time I wasn’t sure about that answer and I couldn’t risk you. Couldn’t risk my baby girl.”

“You could have just told me he didn’t want me.” She hated her words cracked and that annoying burning sensation behind her eyes. “I could have handled that. I can handle that. That would have been better than leaving me to make up tales and wonder.”

Raoul was shaking his head before she even finished. “I couldn’t tell you that because I couldn’t tell you a lie. I only saw him in person a handful of times and only once after you were born. I loved you as much as if you were my blood child. I know what it looks like. What it feels like. And I saw it in him. I couldn’t tell you the truth, but I couldn’t tell you that lie. Not that one.”

She seethed. “I haven’t seen him since I was old enough to remember. What about a lifelong absence says he cares? That he wants me?”

“It’s complicated.”

“Then make me understand!” Her emotions were spinning out of control and she couldn’t make herself stay calm. “Why? If he loves me so much then why isn’t he here? Why didn’t he come when Mom died? Why were we ever not with him? Make me understand!”

Raoul opened his mouth, but no words came. The tears Mari fought so hard against spilled from her eyes and she roughly wiped them away.

“This is pointless. Forget I even-”

“Maybe, Raoul…Maybe it’s time for you to connect with her dad and let him tell his own story,” Gage suggested quietly.

Raoul’s startled gaze jumped to him. Gage cupped the back of Mari’s neck and guided her into his chest without taking his eyes off of Raoul. She shuddered against him, wanting to burrow into the familiar safe place even as she struggled with the knowledge that his words now carried weight. Not because he was Raoul’s friend, but because he was Blake’s brother. He was giving Raoul permission. She sniffed hard. Gage’s arms tightened around her.

“It’s time,” he repeated. “We’ll get you the truth from the source.”

Mari thought about those words and what they meant. She would meet her father. Suddenly she didn’t know if she was ready for that.

She raised her head to look up at Gage. “Why would he come now? After all these years?”

His answering smile was gentle and he reached up to wipe away a tear with his thumb. “Because love makes you do things, Ellie Girl. Crazy, terrible, and wonderful things. It’s an action word. And love never believes it’s too late.”

[I]Love is action, darling.[/i] She could almost hear her mother saying the words and she wondered if it had been the Mason’s philosophy or Miranda had taught them that.

She was finding it hard to form a picture of an absent father who loved her, but Gage and Raoul were both trying to paint it.

“But what if it is too late? It’s been years. I’m an adult…He’s just a name and a distant story now.”

“Miranda loved him,” Raoul said with a gravity that commanded attention. “I knew that, but more importantly, you knew that. That’s what you told me that day at her grave, that whatever else he was, whoever he is, she loved him. And you loved her like no one else on this earth. You thought that was important then. It should be now too. Maybe I should have done this years ago, but we’re here now.” He rubbed a hand over the back of his head. “Give him a chance, Marielle. I want that for you. Miranda would want that for both of you.”

“I-” she almost choked on her words and had to take a moment to gather herself. “This is a lot. Let me…just let me…just let me think.”

“Take your time,” Gage encouraged. “Take all the time you need.”

 

<< Chapter 17 || Chapter 19 >> 

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