Everything I believed, everything I held on to was a lie…
Except her. She’s my only truth—Cal
One Day Later…
“Why the hell are you crying, Lauren? This is going to fix everything!” His voice feels like razors cutting through me, fury erupting from him. He’s angrier than I’ve ever seen him but what scares me is how casual he’s treating this, as if holding a gun to a man’s head is normal. His hands aren’t trembling, his voice isn’t shaking, and he’s not acting scared but excited. He’s going to kill him.
When I wake, my heart is in my throat demanding to be let out. My entire body trembles, replaying what happened a few hours ago, as I lie wrapped up in Cal’s body. I’m so scared of losing him, of losing Chris and I just don’t know if they can handle what’s happening. How does anyone handle knowing that they killed their mother, holding that secret inside that has been engrained in their mind? How does anyone let go of the hatred that has been motivating them year after year? Mr. Rice has agreed not to press charges. Apparently it was in some agreement he signed with Dexter Sr. all those years ago, but the least of my worries was Cal going to jail. My worry is of him getting lost. He hasn’t said a word since we pulled him out of that house.
After Lisa dropped the bomb on us and Chris shut down, I thought that was the worst of it, because what could top that? But hearing from Mr. Scott about how they came about adopting Chris, learning that Dexter Sr. is really Cal’s biological father, and how his mother tricked her own son into killing her because of some twisted Medea complex broke me. I’m terrified of what all of this is doing to the man I love. I know the body lying next to mine well, but I don’t know who will wake up next to me. It’s not Cal, it’s not Chris, and I can’t even say it’s Collin. Collin is an entirely different story, another persona that I met briefly. He seemed to come out of nowhere, but I’d even take him making an appearance right about now if only he would just wake up. At this moment, my husband’s on autopilot, I don’t know who’s in there, and I’m even more terrified that it will be someone I don’t know.
I haven’t said anything to him yet because I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know how he will come back from this, and more importantly, I don’t know who to talk to for help. Now knowing the truth that Dexter Jr. is actually Cal’s brother not his uncle-in-law. Did he know this all along? Mr. Scott knew this whole time because apparently he is the master when it comes to keeping secrets. Though I can’t blame him totally since Mr. Crestfield had him sign a non-disclosure agreement, and he said not even Gwen knew the relationship between her own son and Dexter Sr. Though he claimed to be different from Dexter Sr., it seems they have a lot of the same traits.
Still, I shudder to think what my husband would have been like if his biological father had raised him. I nestle my head in the space between his head and shoulder. I bite my lip from saying anything out loud to him each time he tosses his body and instead hold him closer to me. I close my eyes and thank God for letting him be here with me and for allowing me to comfort him during his time of need.
Suddenly I feel a jolt so hard that it makes my eyes shoot open, and I have to suppress my scream. It’s so quick and forceful that I’m almost thrown from the mattress, but I don’t let a sound escape my mouth. I squint my eyes open and see him sitting up but only for a few seconds before he falls back down on the mattress, his eyes closed the entire time, as if he’s not even awake but dreaming.
I cover my mouth to stop the whimper that’s trying to escape. I move to the edge of the bed to plant my feet on the floor, and I put my head between my legs to slow down my racing heart and catch my breath.
We’re going to come back from this. We’re going to come back from this.
I keep reciting this to myself, but still can’t stop the whimpers and sobs fighting to escape. I jump quickly from the bed and run out of our room before he can hear me. He seems to be in a semiconscious sleep, and I don’t want him to see that I’m scared, that I’m terrified about this place we’re in now. I sit outside the door and lean back with my knees to my chest not willing to be too far if he calls for me. I cry hard and ugly for the first time since Cal left me those years ago.
He’s here now, he’s not gone.
“Lauren? Are you ok?” I look up after wiping the tears that are blurring my vision and see Mr. Scott. He looks awful—an emotional mess from the fallout of the bomb dropped—but I don’t say anything and try to appear to not be an emotional mess.
“I’m fine, I just…” I don’t even know what to say. The reason he’s here in this house is the same reason my husband is broken. If Cal or Chris were present, he wouldn’t have been allowed to cross the threshold. I fought with my conscious the entire time to accept his help. Knowing how much his son despises him and wouldn’t want him anywhere near him, I felt guilty but had to call for help not knowing what would have happened if I didn’t. A tiny part of myself was glad to have someone else here so that I wasn’t alone. I won’t say that I can trust him, but I know he loves my husband as much as I do.
“I can keep watch if you want to go to sleep,” his voice is calm and void of the bitterness and resentment his tone used to hold toward me.
“Keep watch for what? You don’t think he’d do anything to himself, do you?” I ask almost offended. Cal or Chris would never ever think about…
“No, but just in case he needs anything.”
“No, I want to be here if he calls me,” I tell him adamantly. He only nods before turning to go back down the stairs, then he stops, turning his body halfway toward me.
“Thank you for calling me,” he says solemnly. I only nod, and there’s an awkward stretch of silence that lies between us. He stands there, not moving but looking blankly at the wall. I don’t know what to say to him, nothing that will make this better. I want to get up and yell, and scream, and hit him in the chest. I want to ask him if all of the secrets and lies were worth it, but I know that won’t make things better for anyone, and I know that anything I’d say to him is probably running through his mind already.
“Good night Mr. Scott.” I make myself comfortable where I’ll be sleeping for the rest of the night. He nods slightly before mumbling the same and making his way downstairs.
When I wake I’m no longer on the floor but in my bed, and my heart leaps. How did I get in here, did he put me in here… who he is isn’t even clear to myself. Cal, Chris, Collin, Mr. Scott, a mystery man who has yet to make an appearance? I cautiously get out of bed looking for clues to my husband’s state of mind. I should have known he’d be up before me as he always has been no matter which identity he took on. I check the bathroom which is empty, and the balcony is too. My heart beats rapidly as I make my way out of the bedroom. I’m afraid to leave the sanctuary of this room. If Cal is in the house with Mr. Scott still here, I don’t know what type of scene I’m going to walk into. I take the cowardly way out and check the rooms on the second floor which are all empty and then gather up my courage to make my way downstairs. It’s eerily quiet, and my heart stops when I see his tall, lean body leaning up against the island in the middle of our kitchen. He’s turned the opposite way so I can’t see his face.
But if he was facing my way, would I know who it was? Could I tell them apart? My brain feels like that old commercial with the fried egg in the pan. Am I awake or is this a dream? Maybe this is a nightmare, and Mr. Scott is tied up in the closet? I wish I could say the plausibility of that happening is ridiculous but after everything that’s happened, it isn’t. I let out a small breath and swallow my nerves.
“Hey.” It’s simple and sounds pathetic to my own ears but it’s all I can muster with my heart galloping as it is. He doesn’t turn around but motions his head as if to say come beside him. Before I move, I scrutinize the man in front of me—his posture, his breathing, the way he is dressed—anything for a clue as to who he is. The fact that he’s not paralyzed to the bed is a good thing, I hope. I remind my legs that their purpose is to carry my weight because for a moment it’s as if they’ve forgotten. After what seems like a mile, I stand beside him resting my own weight on the island. For a moment I’m scared to look at him, afraid to see who is or isn’t standing next to me. Whoever it is still causes my heart to speed up, still makes me light-headed, and when he moves behind me and I feel his skin against mine, it still makes me breathless. His fingers run up my thighs and I know this is Cal. Cal is here with me. No one’s touch makes me feel like this.
His hands slide up and across my stomach instead of between my legs, and his lips make their way to the crook of my neck. He rests his head there and squeezes me tightly. I’m feeling unsure, but it doesn’t stop me from crossing my arms across my body to hold on to him. When I feel his body starting to tremble and his grip lessens on me, I turn and see tears coming from his eyes. I grab onto him and hold him—his weight almost pulling me down—but I use all of my strength to hold him up as his cries shake us both.
“I’m so sorry baby,” he painfully says, his sorrow rocking us both.
“Please don’t apologize,” I tell him as we sink to the floor. I climb on top of him and cradle his head against me, as he keeps repeating how sorry he is. I rub his back and hold him as close as I can.
“We’re going to be okay. I promise you.” I can feel his sorrow, his pain, his regret, and his helplessness. I’ve never seen him like this. He’s never shown me any weakness, but I’m so grateful that he is finally opening up to me instead of running—instead of hiding it. I vow to myself for every moment he’s weak that I will be strong. The thoughts I had earlier of not being able to handle this, of being afraid, are gone. He’s always been my strength, and it’s time for me to be his. We will get through this. I’ve always wanted him to be my Prince Charming, but today—if it has to be every day from this day forward—I’ll be his superhero.
Something’s happened. I can feel it. The residue of lost time is all over me. My mind is hazy as things come into focus, and my thoughts are no longer crashing into one another. It’s been so long since I lost control like this and no matter how long I’m gone, I know it’s been awhile because my brain always feels fried when I come back. I look around and realize I’m not home, not in Michigan at least—but in Chicago. I remember this bathroom from the last time I was here. What’s the last thing I remember? I was at home, in my mom’s kitchen, and Aidan and Lauren were there. They were angry. I sit on the side of the tub, and my heart starts to speed up as I remember Lisa. Lisa telling me… she had been screwing my dad! I told my mom, and I told everyone else too because they all had to know. I swallow the anger, the regret, and the disbelief that’s radiating through me and mixing all together. Lisa has a kid! A kid with my dad! Queasiness floods my stomach as the room starts to spin.
“Focus, focus!” I yell at myself. Cal must have taken over at that point. How long was he in control, and what the hell has he done? My head is throbbing, blood coursing through my body like a floodgate has been opened.
“Are you okay?” my heart skips a beat as I hear Lauren’s quiet and timid voice. I realize I don’t have a watch on and my phone is absent. I have no idea what day or date it is.
“Cal?” She calls again, and his name causes tears to sting my eyes. I’m lost again. I have no clue of what has been going on, and for me to be back, it must mean that something is really screwed up. What could be worse than me finding out my dad has been screwing my best friend? My pulse is off the charts, and I panic even more not knowing how long it has been. That thought alone terrifies me. I open the door, and she’s here. I’m surprised every time I recover from these lapses that she’s still here. She’s not dealing with just one guy who’s pretty screwed up but two, yet she’s still here. Wearing a tentative smile, her eyes wide and hopeful but it has to be a mask, right? Who could be happy in the midst of this? Her smile’s got to be a Band-Aid over whatever disaster that’s just happened. Even though I’m not sure if it’s real, seeing her smile and hopeful hazel eyes calm me in the midst of the uncertainty. Her eyes dart over me, searching my face and she swallows as recognition crosses her face.
“Chris?” Her voice is shaky but lighter, her eyes squint at me as she tentatively approaches me. My face cracks with a pitiful smile. I can’t even manage to speak. I’m pathetic and embarrassed. She lets out a breath and wraps her slender arms around me. Her energy and warmth envelop me more than you’d think someone as small as she is should.
“Is everyone ok?” I ask her after clearing my throat. I watch her nod, and she rests her head on my chest. I can feel her heart thudding against my chest.
“Everyone is alive and well,” she says as upbeat as she can. She leans back and looks at me with warm but sad eyes.
“What do you remember?” Her bottom lip is clasped between her teeth. I let go of her and let out a deep sigh. Before I can say any more, she takes my hand leading me down the stairs and into the kitchen area. I sit down at the table and look around for signs of Caylen, but there isn’t any.
“Caylen is with your mother,” she responds as if she’s reading my mind. She sets a glass of water down in front of me and sits beside me with her own. Our eyes lock, almost asking each other to reveal things before they’ve been said. She takes my hand into her lap and squeezes mine. I decide to bite the bullet.
“How long have I been gone?” I mentally prepare myself to hear the answer. Her eyes lower to my chest, and I know the answer isn’t going to be one I’ll want to hear.
“As far as I know… about a month,” she mutters quietly.
“A month!” I listen in shocked disbelief while gripping the glass tightly in between my hands. I take deep breaths and glance at the ceiling. It’s like I’ve regressed back three years.
“Has Cal been in control this entire time?” I ask nervously, wondering if he’s had a chance to follow through with finding our dad, and has… no, Dexter wouldn’t let that happen. It’s the entire reason I agree to let his people follow me. My eyes land back on Lauren and now her entire lip is crushed between her teeth, and she’s gripping her wrist which I know she does when she’s nervous.
“What… tell me, what did he do?”
Her eyes land on the table. “What is the last thing that you remember?” she asks carefully.
I can feel my brows furrow. I clasp my hands together. “I remember…” I chuckle angrily at myself. “I remember telling my mom about Lisa and my dad.”
“How is she?” I ask, realizing how much pain my mom is probably in. My face is on fire from my anger, and thinking about my dad causes my fist to clench involuntarily.
“As well as to be expected,” Lauren says sullenly. I push myself away from the island and grip my head letting out a groan. I have to stop myself from kicking the stool. She says it’s been a month, but the memory is so fresh as if it just happened minutes ago. Lisa crying and telling me how sorry she is while parading the daughter she created with my dad right out in front of me. How my dad tried to explain himself to me and my mom, like what he did was explainable. As if there was anything he could say to justify screwing my best friend while we were teenagers, for lying and hiding it all of this time, for hindering my treatment for his own selfish reasons. The man who taught me about being not just a man, but a good man, is a hypocrite, a liar, a cheater and a complete asshole.
“Chris, breathe.” Lauren’s voice is tight and high-pitched, and I realize my own breathing is erratic and how tight my chest is. She tugs my hand toward the floor to sit down, and she sits across from me holding my hand, her eyes not leaving mine. I focus on her eyes, her lips, her touch, and I force myself to calm down. The worst thing that can happen is to lose control and let Cal come back again.
“Deep breaths,” she says while her hands gently cup my face.
“I’m okay.” She nods giving me a small smile, her hands moving from my face to my sides. I close my eyes tightly for a minute and then open them and try to give her a reassuring smile.
“There are things that you need to know,” she says quietly, and I nod preparing myself seeing as how her face has gone grim.
“I know you may not be in the best place now,” she keeps her tone light even though her voice is heavy and it scares me, but I refuse to let her see it.
“I’m ready to hear whatever it is,” I try to assure her squeezing her hands.
“After all that’s happened, keeping secrets just doesn’t seem to work out for this family,” she chuckles and I can’t help but do the same.
“Go ahead,” I tell her firmly.
“When you left, Cal wasn’t the person who took over,” she says hesitantly, and I scratch my head.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean another alter surfaced,” she says hesitantly, her voice even but quiet. I can’t help but cock my head to the side and look at her in confusion. I laugh at first, but when I see her voice doesn’t break, I laugh again, long and loud and my head is shaking back and forth in disbelief.
No way. There is no fucking way! I can feel a frown locked on my face as she takes in a deep breath to reveal more.
“His name is Collin.” Her eyes don’t look at mine, and I throw my head back in frustration.
“Well, that’s just fantastic,” I say bitterly. “Is he as big of a jerk as Cal is?” I shrug with indifference, but I can tell my comment has irritated her and I can’t help but feel a pinch of jealousy.
“He was different than Cal. He was different than both of you actually,” she says with a small grin, and I feel myself frown.
“You liked him?” I ask surprised, that pinch from earlier feeling like a nudge. She rolls her eyes, and I can tell she’s irritated by the question.
“He wasn’t around long enough for me to know if I liked him or not.” Her cheeks redden. “That’s not actually the point right now. He seems to be a neutral party in all of this and what’s more important is what he did,” she says firmly.
“Okay, what did he do?” I ask her, annoyance flowing through my voice. I try not to grit my teeth, but it’s pointless. She takes a deep breath and tells me all that’s transpired after I blacked out. Apparently this Collin is the mediator and knows more about what’s going on than me and Cal combined. Just peachy.
Oh, and we can’t forget that he tried to extort Dexter Crestfield who turns out is actually my biological dad. Not only that but Lauren and my other dad had to stop Cal from killing the man who he thought was responsible for killing my mother when in all actuality she set up her five-year-old son to do the dirty work for her.
After hearing all of this, I feel like I’ve ran a marathon. Her voice is calm even though I can imagine her heart has to be pounding a million miles a minute from the way her eyes dart between my face, my chest, the ceiling, and the floor. Her gaze sweeps over me after she’s done, as if she’s waiting with bated breath for me to react. For a brief moment, I wonder what Cal would do in this situation, what Collin would do. How can I really be surprised? After hearing what my dad, my hero did to my mother, the parents I grew up with and trusted, the actions of parents I never knew doesn’t surprise me at all.
“I don’t know what to say. I guess, Cal couldn’t handle finding that out?” I ask and her eyes widen in shock.
“Cal, couldn’t handle it?” she asks me curiously. I stuff my hands in the pockets of jeans I don’t remember buying. “What I just told you doesn’t bother you at all?” she asks, confusion littering her face.
“It does. I mean some of it,” I admit with a shrug and wipe my forehead.
“I thought all of it would be overwhelming,” she answers seemingly confused by my response to all of this.
“I didn’t know my biological parents—well apparently I do since my grandfather is really my dad. But what you said happened with me as a kid, I-I don’t remember it. It…” I trail off thinking how callous it must sound, or stupid even.
“It’s as if it didn’t happen to me. It doesn’t compare to what’s already happened,” I say quietly.
“You mean like it happened to Cal?” she asks unsurely.
“You could say that. I’m seriously messed up. In some weird way I feel detached from it, like it happened to Cal and not me, which is strange but it’s how I feel. Like it happened to someone else. I even feel sorry for him. Just the fact that Dexter Crestfield is my dad, that Dexter isn’t my uncle-in-law but my half-brother is what hits home.”
Her gaze travels over my face and I see her attempting to read me, but my silence seems to be testing her resolve.
I shake my head and this time I do stand and push the chair in frustration.
“How do I even sound? You’ve just told me that my mother got me to kill her and I don’t feel any way about it. Something is wrong with me!”
“Chris.” The color drains from her face as my blood turns cold the second I hear his voice behind me. I turn to see my dad standing with groceries in both arms, his expression is timid but he looks happy to know it’s me.
“Mr. Scott, this isn’t a good time.” Lauren walks toward him quickly, her eyes wide as a cat’s. She’s obviously more intuitive than good ole dad here.
“What are you doing here?” I ask, my tone lower than I’ve ever used with my dad. He swallows hard in response.
“I-I’m here to help,” he stutters, nervously. I look at his face which looks older than I last remember. He’s tired and stressed, but I really don’t give a shit.
“Wait, you don’t think you’ve done enough?” I chuckle sarcastically. He looks down defeated. He’s so different from the man I thought he was. The man I used to look up to, who I respected, admired and wanted to be like. Now he’s nothing. He’s dirt.
“Help?” I laugh, feeling my jaw clench. “How could you help? This is all your fault. You’re a liar!” I yell at him. His face turns beet red, and his jaw clenches.
“I made a mistake.”
“Mistake?” All the muscles in my body tighten.
“You think screwing my best friend was a mistake? Cheating on my mother was a mistake? It wasn’t a mistake, Dad! A mistake is setting the time wrong on an alarm, incorrectly balancing your checkbook. That’s a mistake. What you did was not a mistake or an accident. You ruined our family! You destroyed my friendship, you broke my mother’s heart and you hid it all, regardless of what it did to me,” I walk closer to him, and I can see the water building in his eyes as I ignore the water in my own.
“I will never, ever forgive you for what you did. You are nothing to me.” I step away from him, giving him one last glance to know how serious I am, how disgusted he makes me. I look back at Lauren who has tears in her own eyes. I wonder if she’s crying for me, for him, or for herself who has been dragged into this dysfunctional soap opera.
“You can show him the door if he can’t find it himself,” I tell her before leaving the room. I wipe away the one tear that escaped my eye. It’ll be the last one that ever sheds for him. He might as well be dead to me.
I’m an orphan again.
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