Posts tagged “Safety

Chasing Truth: Chapter 24

Posted on 05/12/2014

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Mari didn’t know what to say. Her biological father was finally in front of her and the questions that had clamored around in her head for years suddenly went quiet. She floundered, searching for something to ease them into conversation. Her mind kept coming up blank.

“Let’s walk the beach.”

She glanced up at him, surprised by the suggestion.

“I didn’t visit, but I kept up with you. I don’t want this to be any harder than it already is and if being on the beach will make it easier, I don’t have a problem with sand in my shoes.”

That was how Mari found herself dragging her feet through the sands of the shore with her father walking alongside her. He surprised her once more when he’d followed her example and taken his shoes off before they started to walk. She lifted her face to the sky, closing her eyes and inhaling deeply. He was right. Being out on the beach made it easier. She opened her eyes.

“So I’m guessing there’s a reason you have a live shadow.”

There were a million more important questions on her mind, but they had time to get to those. This didn’t stick in her throat and make her second guess herself.

Blake’s head jerked up and he gave her a startled smile as he kicked at the sand. She smirked.

“Yeah, good friend or not, Reese has a look to him. He’s your bodyguard, isn’t he?”

“What I said was truth. Over the years Reese has become a very good friend, but yes he watches my back too. There’s more than one reason for that.” He blew out a harsh breath.

“Would I need to get a shadow myself?”

He laughed softly and amazement was clear on his face. “I wasn’t going to say much about Reese because he’s part of a complex situation. It crossed my mind you would be afraid and probably want less to do with me than you already do. Yet here you are, and the first thing you’re asking me is what steps you might need to take. You are every inch Miranda’s daughter.”

His voice went jagged. “She was so fearless. She’d jump right in and figure it out as she went. And she always figured it out. There wasn’t a single thing that could stop her when she set her mind on something.”

Mari rubbed her finger at the corner of her eye. This man had known the woman she’d loved more than life itself, the woman who’d left a huge hole in her life when she died.

“Did you love her?”

“With everything I had in me,” was his immediate answer.

“Then why did you leave her? Leave us?”

He stopped without warning. His eyes didn’t waver in their focus on her when she stopped and turned to look at him.

“There are things I can’t tell you for your safety and mine. That’s not something I’m saying to avoid hard questions. That’s the unfortunate truth. But I’ll give you every answer I can, as much information as I can.”

“Let’s start with that.”

“I didn’t leave her. Miranda and I made a decision together to do what was best for you and her. It wasn’t one we liked, but it was one we could live with given our situation and we’d planned for it to be temporary. We agreed to stage our breakup and say you weren’t mine. She came back here to stay  until our situation was under control. It kept her out of sight and gave no one any reason to believe she or you could be used against me.”

His jaw clenched.

“What was the situation?” Mari’s press for answers was quiet, but she needed to know.

“That’s an answer I can’t give you. We made a plan for what we knew. We didn’t expect the situation to change the way it did and we had to make another choice. That choice meant she and you stayed here longer. She sent me pictures of you, stories of the things you were getting into, any little piece of your life she could get to me. She did that, gave me you and her in every way she could, until the day she died.”

“And when she died? When both of my parents were gone?” she demanded, furious with the tears stinging her eyes.

She could still remember the days of numbness and then the days of utter despair that followed as she tried to grasp the notion her mother was never coming back. If it hadn’t been for her uncle, she would’ve lost it. Blake reached out for her, but dropped his hand when she shook her head. She swallowed hard and forced the tears under control.

“When she died I thought about coming back for you. I wanted to come back for you. But the reason we made our decision hadn’t changed. It wasn’t safe for you to be connected to me. Hear me. That wouldn’t have mattered if you didn’t have anyone. I would’ve come and I would’ve made it work, but I knew Raoul. I knew how close you were to him and I knew he would take care of and protect you like his own. So instead of uprooting your entire world, taking you away to live with me when you had no clue who I was and putting you in danger, I left you to his care. That wasn’t an easy choice to make for me, but I had to put your safety above my wanting to have you with me.”

She stared at him, searching for any signs of insincerity. She couldn’t find any. Her mother hadn’t lied. Raoul hadn’t lied. Whether or not she could deal with his decision to stay away, this was a man who cared. She lowered herself down into the sand and stretched her legs out, letting the water lap at her feet. He waited a beat longer before he sat down beside her.

“You won’t tell me what the situation was, a situation that has somehow managed to last my entire life, so how am I supposed to know if what you’re telling me is the truth or a convenient excuse?”

He didn’t answer immediately.

“You don’t. You only know what I’m telling you. Whatever Raoul may have told you. And if you don’t know, that man would lay down his life for you. I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t allowed it. You’ll have to decide what you believe and who you trust. If I could change that, I would. I would’ve changed everything. I can’t do that. I can only do what I’m doing now.”

Silence fell and Mari didn’t rush to fill it. Tyler’s speculations were first and foremost in her mind. If he were involved in the things Tyler suspected then it would explain the danger and his secrecy. It would also explain why it hadn’t ended. People didn’t just walk away from running criminal enterprises.

“You’re here now,” she pointed out.

“I’m here now. And nothing has changed. It’s still dangerous. I took every step possible to hide this trip from anyone who might take notice, but that’s not a guarantee.”

“Then what makes now different?”

“You. And Raoul. He couldn’t lie to you when you asked as directly as you did, not as an adult. And I’ll admit I’m being selfish. You asking Raoul gave me the excuse I needed to see my daughter in person for the first time in over a decade. I couldn’t justify it based on my own need, but I could based on yours.”

She drew a mindless pattern in the sand.

“So now what? Explain to me how this is supposed to work. We have this little meeting, you leave in a day or two and…I just go back to pretending you don’t exist?”

He scratched at the back of his head and wet his lips. “I’ll be honest with you. I’m here with no plan. No next steps. When I found out you’d asked…I just started making the plans I needed to get here. This is the first blind move I’ve made in years, but I thought you deserved this much since you know about me. I figured we could sit down and figure it out from here together. Miranda and I made choices you were far too young to make. You’re an adult now and it’s time to let you make your own choices.”

When she’d started down this path, she hadn’t truly considered the weight of the choices she would have to make.

“You couldn’t just walk away? From whatever it is? You can’t do that now?”

He leaned forward with his elbows propped up on his knees and stared at her. “If I could’ve I would’ve done it the second you were born, but it would’ve meant the three of us spent the rest of our lives on the run and likely ended them in brutal deaths. I didn’t want that for my girls. We made a different choice. Some days I regret that choice. I know there were days she did too, but we have to live with the results.”

His entire chest lifted and fell with the force of his sigh. “What’s been started isn’t something I can walk away from. If I could, even with her gone, I would. You have to know I’d do that for you. It’s just not an option. I know that’s hard to accept without knowing everything, but I’m asking you to believe me when I say that.” He paused, rubbing at his chest. “What happens from here on out is up to you. If you want more time, for us to try to figure this out, then I’ll make that happen. If you don’t want anything beyond today…” He trailed off, turning his head to stare out at the water. “I’ll accept that and I’ll make that happen too.”

 

<< Chapter 23 || Chapter 25 >>

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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