Things are not always what they seem;Phaedrus
the first appearance deceives many;
the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.
(in chaos theory) the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.
Brindleton Bay Cameron-Cunningham Law Firm and Cunningham Country Clinic
Anastasia kissed Chase, smiled up at him to wish him a good day at work, before they parted and she walked into the building of her law firm, located immediately next to the Cunningham Country Clinic into which Chase now disappeared with a smile and a wave back at her. This had become their daily routine for the better part of the past six months.
They would walk the children to the school bus for the private academy after breakfast each morning, then stroll across old downtown to work together, Chase would drop Ana off at her firm, then continue on to the clinic next door.
Usually they would have lunch together, but not today, as Ana would be gone all day for a deposition in town.
As she was grabbing the needed documents, Carol, her legal assistant entered.
“Mrs. Cunningham, you will not believe this, but the depo was cancelled. They just called, apparently 80% of the participants are down with a stomach bug this morning. Said they’d get back with us once there is a new date.”
“Oh, come on! You have to be kidding me. Seriously? Had I known that I would have worn more sensible shoes. Well, gives me time to start in on the Dennison case. Thanks Carol.”
“Since the schedule is clear, mind if I run over to the pharmacy real quick? I forgot to pick up my prescription last night.”
“Oh absolutely, just go. Take your time.”
Anastasia prepared some files, then realized she needed reference cases. As she went to pull them from the filing cabinet, she froze for a moment, remembering the moment, the feeling, the rush, when Riordan had kissed her right there. She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, exhaled, then opened them again.
“Jeeze Ana, what the heck!? Am I starting like that again?!” she told herself, shaking her head as if that could shake the memory out of it.
The cabinet was still locked, she grabbed her keys and realized she had Chase’s set, they must have accidentally swapped them. She exhaled loudly, shaking her head, then called for Carol, who also had keys, usually she unlocked everything before Ana got in, but this morning had been caught on a phone call. When there was no answer she peeked into an empty front office, meaning Carol had already left. So Ana walked over to the clinic next door, there was nobody at the front desk, which struck Ana as very odd. Carefully, without knocking, she walked into her husband’s office, purposely quiet, in case he was with a patient.
The scene that presented itself to her left her frozen in place and speechless, the telltale sounds of intercourse nearing its climax now underlining the betrayal, like a soundtrack of humiliation, as she stared at her husband in his lab coat, few bottom buttons undone and split open in the front, his open belt buckle clinking rhythmically to the moaning of his receptionist in front of him with her skirt slid up in the back for easy access, as the scene made a mockery of her marriage and entire life.
Anastasia turned on her heels and ran out, kept running down the street until she reached the park, where she pulled the phone out of her pocket and dialed.
“Mommy, I need you bad! Can you come meet me? I am at the park in Brindleton Bay. I’ll explain later.” she started sobbing and hung up. I didn’t need to hear more, grabbed my keys and headed out to Brindleton Bay.
Less than twenty minutes later I had parked and found my daughter on a bench, still crying. When she noticed me, she jumped up and ran into my arms, where I held her, rocking her, quietly saying calming words to her.
It took her several tries until she could tell me what happened. Whatever it was, I already knew it was going to be major and very bad. And I was right. Wow. Chase. Whaddaya know. Silent waters.
“Baby, I do not know what to say to you. Do you want to take the kids and move back home?” I offered.
“No mom. And please don’t tell daddy about this, okay? Not yet. I need to figure out what to do first. Somehow I feel that this is not the first time he did this, it looked so … routine … I think it was just the first time someone caught him. He doesn’t know I know. They were too … busy and never noticed me, like I was invisible. I need to think about this.”
“Are you sure, my sweet? This is not something you can brush off, sweetheart.” I told her, as I pulled her along to sit with me on the nearby bench.
“No, I am not sure about a single thing anymore. I don’t know, Chase overlooked me stepping out before, so maybe I can do the same. I really don’t know yet. I just need some time to get my thoughts in order. Sorry I called you like this, I just didn’t know what to do. So sorry mom. For everything. For when I was a kid and a teen and was such a bitch to you …” she cried again, starting to spiral into the next fit.
“Shhh, honey, that is long forgotten. And the door is always open, if you change your mind. No need to ask, just come home.”
“Thanks, mom. I love you so much. And I am so sorry for calling you out here all this way. I just really felt very alone and somehow paralyzed, wasn’t sure I could even drive like this. I need to talk to him. I am going to tell him he has to fire that hoe and swear to me he will never do that again. And I want to know why he did it and how often. Depending on how he reacts to it, I will choose my next steps.”
“Ok, baby, sounds good. Want me to drop you off at home?”
“No, I have a case to prepare, need to get back to work. I’ll figure it out. But can you stay a little longer and just hold me like this? Please?”
“For as long as you need me to, my beautiful sweet little girl.” I told her softly.
We stayed like this for a long while, an hour or more at least, me holding her like a little girl, while we talked about memories from her childhood and teen years. When she was feeling a little better I drove back home, Ana went back to work.
Later that night she was waiting for Chase to get home from work, once he did she pulled him straight into their bedroom.
“What’s all this about? I think I may want to take a shower first.” he followed her, smirking.
“Oh quit trying to be cute, that no longer works with me! And I think you had quite enough of that today already.”
“You heard me! Quit playing. I know everything. I saw you. With her! My depo was postponed, bet you didn’t account for that happening, huh? You and I mixed up the keys so I came to trade with you but you didn’t even see me as you were way too busy with that front desk hoe bend over your desk!” Ana’s voice had progressively increased in volume, underlining her inner emotional rollercoaster.
“Anastasia, keep your voice down!”
“Oh, are we afraid mommy and daddy would realize you are not the golden boy after all?”
“We have children in this home! Pull yourself together!”
“You should have thought about that before you fucked that slut, you pitiful excuse of a husband and father!” Anastasia screamed at him, slapped him.
Before Ana realized it, he had slapped her back. Hard. So hard that she stumbled backwards, loosing her balance and landed on the floor, staring up at him in disbelief.
“How dare you!?” she struggled back up, facing him.
“How dare I? You started this, all of it. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, don’t you think?! You had your fun screwing around on me, now it’s my turn. Besides, ever since you talked me into letting you play attorney again, you seem to have forgotten you are also a wife! MY wife. And a mother. I don’t even know you anymore, but I am not sure I like what you have become. Not sure why you want to play the career chick when we don’t need the money. You certainly aren’t fulfilling your duties at home, not for the kids and certainly not with me, not to even mention the romance desert that our bedroom has become! I feel more like your brother than a husband! No wonder I look for release elsewhere!”
“WHAT!? Are you serious right now?!” Ana couldn’t fully believe this was her husband Chase.
“Dead serious! I have been so patient with you and all your many antics, but I have needs and wants too! I am so very tired of always being your fallback guy, just having to be grateful to rank somewhere in your top 10, if that, rather than firmly planted on number 1, where I should be. Especially after all you have put us through!”
“Oh no, no, not like this. You are not pinning your cheating on me. I demand that you fire that slut first thing tomorrow or I am taking the kids and leaving your nasty, chauvinistic ass!”
“I’d like to see you try! Those kids stay here, in their home, where they belong and where they get a solid education and manners. I would never let them go with their hot mess of a mother! They’d end up in the gutter in no time, especially around your dysfunctional family and your not so secret loverboy and I am not letting you draw the good Cunningham name into the mud! You should think twice about trying to gamble on all you have here, because as a lawyer you may recall you signed a prenup, which means you are not getting a single dime beyond the bare minimum, let alone the kids, that I guarantee you! This luxury life, all the trips to Sulani, the fancy clothing and expensive shoes are gonna be over then, as will your weekend family idyll. So choose your next words to me wisely!”
“Threats and blackmail now?! Oh, I don’t think so! I have had it up to here with everything about us and our children going YOUR way, the Cunningham way, the way it ‘has always been’. NO MORE! My children will attend a PUBLIC school, make normal friends and live normal lives as soon as they graduate grade school! The façade is crumbling, beneath the carefully groomed and ever composed Mr. Nice-Guy exterior lies carefully hidden a nasty, oppressive, cheating, repulsive, misogynistic ASSHOLE with a micro-dick who needs to screw his staff for power play while never letting me live down my mistakes which you supposedly ‘forgave’?! Forgave me, my ass! You bring it up every time I try to veto anything! ENOUGH already!”
Anastasia slapped him again, harder than last time, he slapped her right back again, much more powerful, it took her breath away as she landed backwards on the bed, tasting blood, before she knew it he was tearing her clothing off then forcing her down with his body weight. She struggled, pleading with him to stop, but he was much stronger.
“That micro-dick big enough for now, huh?!” Chase hissed at her as he was taking her against her will, while she eventually gave up and just endured it while crying silent tears, the only thing she could think about was that she was grateful Chase had a vasectomy some years ago. After he finished he didn’t look at her, said nothing, just left to take a shower, while she labored her aching body up off the bed, pulled on her clothing and ran out the door past Chase’s surprised parents.
Windenburg Lake House Later that same night
“What the actual fuckity fuck?!” Blaine growled. We had just turned in to sleep when there was banging at the door.
“I’ll go.” I offered yawning, peeling back the covers.
“Nah, I will. That’ll be the day that I make my woman open doors late at night. They’ll get a face full of grumpy Blaine, that should make anyone remember that we have phones nowadays for a reason! If it is that goddamn Riordan again, I swear I will spank his needy ass into next year! His badonkadonk will be glowing bright red through his pants, no more of that sneaky bullshit then! He’s got a fucking family, why does he always need to sit on some Cameron lap whining about his rough, unfair life?!”
Blaine tore open the bedroom door, it was about two steps to the front door, by the time I heard voices I was already in the hallway and saw him pull in our daughter.
She had a very noticeable black eye and a busted lip, her clothing was tattered, torn and bloody, she was sobbing and in a state of shock, I let out a surprised scream.
“OH MY GOD ANA! BABY!”
“WHO THE FUCK DARED!?” Blaine roared, instantly combative.
“Chase…. I confronted him and he did this …” Ana cried as she tried to hug her father, but Blaine was already about to blow up and in that state, he wasn’t very cuddly.
“Confronted?!” he growled, looking at me.
“Blaine, long story. He cheated on her, she caught him today. She asked to to hold off on telling you until she could talk to Chase, since you would turn into the Incredible Hulk. Ana baby, I am so glad you came home right away.” I was barely able to function. This, you read about, but it happening to our own daughter, especially some force of nature like Ana was a tough pill to swallow?
“He … raped me, mommy. Daddy.” Ana sobbed.
“I am going there right now – lean, green and very mean! He and my Hulk fists are going to have a talk about acceptable behavior, it’ll be a lesson he will never forget!” Blaine’s voice was eerily calm.
“No, Blaine, please, stay. I need you here. We need to take her to the ER, have them do a rape kit and all that.” I pleaded and begged but Blaine was already in his most volatile state, there was no stopping him now.
He rushed into the bedroom, getting dressed, he looked dangerous and scary, while pulling on a shirt he told me.
“Call our son, he makes a living with that sorta shit! He’ll know what all to do. I’ll handle her husband. She may well be a widow after I get done what that sad impersonation of a male!” Blaine roared, his voice vibrating with danger.
“Blaine, no! STAY! Don’t you dare! BLAINE!” I pleaded, threatened, in vain.
I tried and tried but Blaine shook me off, ran out the front door, hopped on his motorcycle, dubbed “The Beast” and off he went, the loud engine roaring into the distance. I couldn’t leave our daughter now, so I went inside, calmed Ana, still holding her pressed against me, while I called Brendan, told him to go after his father, then got dressed and took Ana to the hospital for the rape kit procedure.
By the time I was back home with Ana, the call came in. Brendan had not been able to prevent his father from beating Chase to a pulp and straight into the hospital, Blaine had to spend the night in jail, no matter how much Brendan tried to play favors with his old colleagues.
I didn’t want to wake Natalie and the boys, so lacking better options I called Riordan over, told him briefly what happened, then had to keep this bundle of testosterone from wanting to rip Chase’s skin off, which I did by dangling a much better steak in front of this hungry wolf’s face.
“Ri, shut up, knock that off and listen to me! She needs you now. Badly. She cannot be alone, and I have to go and get some of her things, few basics. Her clothing is torn and bloody, the longer she has to wear this, the longer it takes to get over it, she needs to get comfortable, we have nothing of hers here anymore, don’t want our Cameron Barbie to be even more miserable in her mom’s unfashionable clothing, so Brendan will meet me at the Cunningham Estates. Can you stay with her until I return? Do not leave her side for even one second, got it? I am putting a lot of trust in you right now. If she wants to shower, let her and give her my robe to wear, but stick around. Okay?”
“Okay, got it. You can count on me, aunt Vik, I won’t disappoint you. Can I see if she wants to wear my shirt? That used to make her feel better when we were younger. Is that okay?” he asked, hopeful.
“Riordan, I don’t care if you were to let her wear your underwear, if you are okay with it and it makes her feel better, by all means, do it! My poor little girl! Oh, and I am sure I do not need to say this, but I am her mom, so here goes: absolutely no touching, kissing, fondling. She is VERY vulnerable right now.”
That did it, I didn’t have to ask him twice, he went into full nurse mode, almost funny, as he was a bit overbearing but I knew he was the best medicine for her, so I met Brendan at the Cunningham Estates, I packed everything I thought Ana would need over the next few days, poked my head into my grandchildren’s rooms, naturally they were sleeping and I prayed they had not the faintest clue about what had transpired.
Riordan really came through for her. Over the next few days, he stayed by her side like a shadow, often day and night, she had developed terrible night frights and since he didn’t need sleep, he was able to calm her each time. He was patient and supportive. Even Caleb didn’t fight him spending all his time here now.
It only took a few days until Evangeline had enough. She came to find Riordan at our home and confronted him right there. Like we needed more drama in our lives right now. But for better or worse, we got another helping, whether we wanted it or not. Oh well, put it on the rest of the pile.
No real surprise anyway. Which girlfriend would like her boyfriend to sleep over at his ex’s house under any circumstance, let alone so much? I tried to send him away to go see her many times, but he refused and Ana nearly had a meltdown every time I tried. Sorry, Vannie, but my loyalties lay with my daughter here. If she says she needs him, sorry girl, my baby shall have your Riordan and that’s that. And now here she was, in our living room, while Blaine and I tried to be ‘invisible’ in the kitchen to give them privacy while being around to prevent anything too bad.
“Me or her! Choose! Now! She has her parents, her family, and I have nobody, just you, yet you never managed to stay over even half as much as you do here! That alone is a slap in my face!” Evangeline’s pain sounded through her words.
“First of all, I don’t do ultimatums! I am not choosing you over my oldest, best friend, nor her over you. Not happening! Secondly, this is different! I am not here living it up with Ana just for fun, I am here because she needs me! Some really bad things happened to her, so don’t be so heartless!” Riordan countered. He hunkered down, a blind man could see he wasn’t going to bend.
“Heartless?! HEARTLESS?! Are you kidding me right now?! Okay, you think I am heartless, fine. Here is heartless for you: We are through! DONE! How is that for heartless?! Get your shit and get that nasty coffin out of my basement and then move in here for all I care! You are so not worth it!” she laid into him.
She gave Blaine and me an angry glance and off she went, leaving behind a Riordan with the facial expression I knew too well from him. Guilt. He said nothing to her, there was nothing left to say.
“Ri, if you want to go after her …”
“No. She’s right. I’m not worth it. This was a long while coming already now and it’s for the better. I am tired of acting like I didn’t already know what she and I tried to have had run its course, even though I tried to lie to myself by thinking I could change that. There is no future for her and me, uncle humors me by allowing the relationship, but he already made perfectly clear to me she and I will never be more than what we are right now. Were. No reason to fight for this.”
“Ha, would you listen to this crap now, babygirl? What a load of bull! Trying to blame it on Caleb, when in reality he’s hoping once Ana’s recovered, he can close that deal with her again! How cute, little fang-boy’s in luuuv. Sure, why not son, we have no other problems, let’s go round and round on that carousel of bullshit again, shall we?! Haven’t had that in – what has it been? Five, six years now? Buckle in for another ride. Whee!” Blaine growled, with a sarcastic smile.
“Yes, maybe I am hopeful. Would that be so wrong, uncle Blaine? She and I may not have had the smoothest relationship as a couple, but we have both grown up and do you think I would ever do to her what he has done to her? Oh, you know me better than that! She has pushed me to my outer limits many times and I never laid a hand on her. I may not be the man you want for her, but evidently it can get worse than me. At least I was always honest about what and who I am and what I can never be.” Riordan’s voice was deep and very serious.
“Oh, shut up, you. Of course I know that, why do you think I keep allowing your skinny, pale ass around my house, huh? You have never been anything but trouble, yet, we welcome you back into the fold all they time, because underneath all that well embalmed flesh is a good heart. And don’t you uncle me! Especially not if you are even faintly thinking about wanting to date my daughter again, you little creep!” Blaine stomped off.
“I am not embalmed! And my ass isn’t skinny! And I am not THAT pale, am I? And why creep? I haven’t done anything creepy in a long time … I even teleport to the front door now and knock! Uncle Blaine … I mean …. Blaine?” Riordan was confused, his odd reaction almost comical, even in this dire situation, finalized by Blaine now throwing the door to our bedroom shut so hard that the pictures on the living room wall shook.
“Don’t mind him, Ri. You know how he is sometimes. Blaine is still very angry with Chase and feels bad for having been wrong about him, feels like he let Ana down. Blaine logic, you know. He loves his kids and if someone hurts them, he is barely able to function beyond wanting to beat people up, plus, now he has yet another mark on his criminal record. I made him promise a long time ago to never get in trouble with the law again so now he feels guilty for letting me down, even though between you and I, I am glad beat the shit out of Chase for what he did. Blaine’s very worried about Ana, we all are, just a very awkward situation all the way around, with so much uncertainty. He likes you, we’re grateful for you being there when she needs you so much, but he worries about her getting hurt again. That is all.” I tried to even the waters Blaine had agitated..
“I wish I could swear to you now that I would never hurt her again, but we both know nobody can guarantee such a thing, claiming otherwise would be nothing but a lie, but I would never hurt her intentionally and never ever physically. Aunt Vik, do you want me to leave? If yes, then I will.”
He made me smile. He had always been so mature, even as a teen boy. I did believe him that he cared deeply about Ana and never intentionally wronged her. After all, he was a little like a son to me as well, and I felt like I knew him better than he did himself sometimes.
“No, sweetie. You are exactly what Ana needs now. Just be careful with her. I know you like to tease her, bickering and fighting has always been your kind of thing, but keep that holstered for now. Right now she needs kid gloves and your understanding sweet side. Oh, and keep the other thing you two like to do holstered too. Am I making myself clear? My daughter is still married to Chase, for better or worse, and extremely vulnerable. None of that, not for a long while, got that?”
“Yes, auntie, of course! I may be a fool sometimes, but I would never even think about trying that after all she has been through.”
Glimmerbrook A few days later
In the dark hours of the night a black cloud appeared in Evangeline’s bedroom.
She must have felt the presence in her slumber as she moaned and opened her eyes, blinking against the faint illumination of the moonlight. Only a pair of suddenly preternaturally bright eyes visible in the darkness.
“Ri? Is that you?” she mumbled drowsily.
The dark figure approached Evangeline, the voice monotonous.
“See my eyes. See me. Hear me. Only me. Everything else fades, everything around you fades, as will the memories of Riordan Vatore. Every single one fades. Nothing shall remain. When I release you, you will no longer recall anybody by the name of Riordan Vatore, Caleb Vatore, …” Caleb monotonously rattled down the entire list of names, Vatores, Camerons and Cunninghams, followed by some chants in some ancient language. With a quick hand gesture the young woman fell back into her sleeping position, fast asleep.
Caleb walked to the door, opened it and waved over two dark forms waiting in the distance.
“Your turn now, gentlemen. The coffin is in the basement, through the door by the entrance. Be quiet and quick. Leave no trace.”