Chapter 427) Tested

 “We make a living by what we get;
we make a life by what we give.”

– Winston Churchill
Windenburg Isle
Theresa Hayes home

The door was opened, right as Stryker had started to look around, considering to just rush off, claiming points for having tried.

“Oh, there you are, baby boy! Come on inside.” his mother said cheerfully.

Scraping his shoes over her doormat briefly, something his mother-in-law Abigail had hammered into his skull so much that he couldn’t enter any homes that had doormats now without this.

Baby boy? You drunk, woman? You never called me that.” he frowned.

“Perfectly sober. You ARE my baby boy, aren’t you? My youngest child and my oldest, my one and only.” Theresa chirped.

“Never really felt like it, to be honest. More like an unwanted burden, especially after seeing Sophie with our kids. She’s taught me more about love, life and parenting in 3 short years than you have in 30+ years.” Stryker’s tone was acidic.

“Did you just come here to fight?” Theresa’s happiness took a nosedive.

“Nope. I came here because you told me to. So, what’s up? Whatcha need? I have some deadlines to meet, need to get composing.” he sounded unnerved.

“I ASKED you to come, politely, not told you. Aside from the fact that you have clearly outgrown my jurisdiction, you never listened to me to begin with so how could I ever tell you to do anything? Have a seat.” Theresa remained polite.

“That’s okay, I rather stand. So what’s up, mother?”

“We’re back to calling me mother? Was hoping ‘mom’ would stick.” her voice reflected the perceived downgrade.

“Fine, mom then. So mom, what gives?”

“It would be easier if you would sit down. There is no easy and quick way to explain this sufficiently and I would like to avoid aggravating you if possible.”

“Is it about my sperm-donor?”

“Yes, how did you guess?” Theresa seemed truly surprised.

“I can save you the breath then. I already know you two are fuckin’ again.”

“Stryker!”

“Hey – who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. You finally learned my name. BRAVO! Only took about 13 years … I am beyond thrilled!”

“How did you know about Marco and me?!”

“You think I am blind? You two were eye-raping each other at that painfully lame DiLaurentis family reunion dinner exercise. Everyone knows. Including his wife. Considering Sandrine’s temper, ole Marco may already be fish fodder.”

“Well, she definitely knows now. He is choosing me this time and has filed for divorce.”

“Oh mom, come on! Not YOU being gullible like that again! She knows he’s cheating on her with you and SHE is divorcing him, not the other way around!”

“Maybe she knows, but you are wrong. He showed me the court documents. HE is filing, not her.”

“Think, mother, THINK! Why would he show you his divorce shit? Did he forget you haven’t been his secretary for 30 some years now? It’s another rouse!”

“It is not, it is real. Since he and I will be trying to build a future together, he showed me to make sure I am okay with what he is giving her. Which is practically everything. He is signing over the mall to his oldest son, Peyton, giving his daughter a healthy hedge fund, she can access when she turns 18 in a few months and same for the little one. Sandrine gets most of his wealth as a one-time severance to sweeten the blow of him choosing me over her.”

“And to stick with the old theme, Stryker gets nothing, not even a sappy honorable mention. Some things never change. Would be funny if it weren’t so sad at the same time.”

“Not true. He did want to give you something too but didn’t think you’d want anything of his. He did ask me, we talked about it, and honestly, I didn’t think you did either, it would just aggravate you again. Seeing how you are doing really well for yourself now; it wasn’t worth the drama. But you will finally have your father in your life, and your kids their grandfather. He did put you and your children, current and future, into his Will though. I saw that as well, notarized and filed.”

“Okay, trying hard from flipping out here. Let me translate this steaming pile of BULLSHIT! Sandrine’s lawyer made him nekkid financially, so he is crawling back to you to have a warm bed, while hoping I am dumb enough to eat up the crap he’s been spoon-feeding you and open my wallet to daddy dearest whenever needed? Ain’t happening. None of that. My money is MINE. And Sophie’s, and Spencer’s and Keanu’s and our baby girl Phoenix’. Never will be YOURS or HIS. I’d burn it on a bonfire before giving him a cent. And you both can forget the fantasies of all of us sitting around a dinner table like a happy family from the commercials. On that note, have a nice day, MOTHER!”

“Stryker, wait!”

With an annoyed sigh he halted.

“Stryker, I know I made many mistakes. You are not the only one healing. You are also not the only one realizing what family is supposed to be like and how we never measured up. I cannot undo the mistakes of the past. But I can try for the future. I need your help for this, forgiveness. A chance, like you got.”

Grinding his teeth, Stryker weighed off her words. It was a very different tune from her usual ways. Until he met Sophie he would have given his right arm to hear something like this from his mother. Now all he could think of was wanting to protect his wife and their children from the pain, disappointments and rejection he himself had grown up with because of his mother.

He turned around, his eyes met his mother’s.

“Tell me right now, and only tell me the truth, you have one chance: do you REALLY want to be a real mother to me and grandmother to my kids? If anything you tell me now later turns out to have been just means to an end, to get me to cooperate, we are through for good. Meaning, you won’t see me or my children again. Ever. Don’t try me. I will find ways to keep you away.”

“Threatening your own mother? Whatever you think I have done to you that was so terrible, I am still your flesh and blood.”

“YEAH? Where was THAT revelation when I needed you? When I was a lost and lonely little boy, bullied at school, harassed and even molested by your lover? You chose HIM over me and then wondered why – and ultimately blamed me – when I went off the rails?! You had given up on my recovery – and on ME – long ago. Had it not been for Sophie NOT giving up on me, I would not be standing here right now. I WOULD be dead. Bye bye baby boy! I would have killed myself that one night. I was gonna go through with it that time. 100%. I just couldn’t take the pain anymore. Sophie and I were not on good terms AT ALL, yet she dropped everything and rushed to me. I called you too, when she wasn’t answering cos she was at work, and you clicked my calls away that night. I let it go, cos I had other battles to fight, but I DO remember. Sophie was there. Drake was there. YOU were NOT, couldn’t be bothered. You were at the hospital later with a guilt trip for me wrapped up in worried words. Now you’re trying to act like our past was just the typical quarrels parents and kids sometimes have and want me to just play along?! Don’t treat me like I have amnesia, and most definitely do not try laying guilt trips on me, cos I have a ton more to put on you! I was a horrible son because YOU were a horrible mother! If you can be called mother at all! The biggest punch in the face is seeing you with my kids, realizing you had being a mother in you all along, just couldn’t be bothered to be one for me.”

“Okay, Stryker, you need to hear me say it, I will. I was a terrible and unfit mother. I wasn’t ready or prepared for a baby back then, I was completely overwhelmed, I admit I didn’t come through the way I should have. But it wasn’t deliberate, I loved you then just as I love you now, or why do you think I endure your constant jabs? I want to be in your life, I always have wanted that, but your self-destruction was killing me too! Especially knowing that I was to blame that you were like that, and that it was too late to fix it. You think I am made of stone? Just imagine one of your own boys as you and yourself in my shoes and tell me you wouldn’t be dying inside each time he fell off the bandwagon again? Hundreds, if not thousands of times. And how would you like someone to CONSTANTLY remind you of all the bad things you said and did while you were an addict? You got your chance for a clean slate, a new beginning, yet deny me mine and rather keep rubbing salt into old battle wounds we both wear?”

“Deny you? You have been allowed in my life, around my kids. Your ass has been invited to every Cameron dinner, to every celebration, you were at our wedding, at the kids’ birthdays, at my birthday and Sophie’s … you can come over to see the grandkids any time you feel like it, just have to walk a few hundred yards. What more do you want? Looks like a chance to me, one with sugar on top. You can’t expect me to just forgive and forget everything from the past 30 years just like that. Too much has happened. And while we are throwing accusations around, here’s one for you: I think the real reason you stay around is because I am famous and rich now and you want to ride my coattails for both! There, I finally said it out loud. Prove me wrong.”

“I know you are just looking for ammunition to hurt me right now, deep down inside we both know that you are wrong about my motives. I never asked you for anything. Not once. And I never will. Only for your time now and then and to see my grandbabies. I do not find that unreasonable. I may have been neglectful and not there for you as much as you may have needed it, but don’t act like I beat you or something. I never laid a hand on you! Always told you I loved you and thought I showed you.”

“Well, I don’t remember much display of love from you. Only you yelling at me for misbehaving, yet not once questioning why that might have been, and later your disgusted glares when you realized I was fuckin’ addicted to every substance known to mankind. And as for the rest, you do see me and my family fairly frequently. Far as I recall I bought you this house so you can be close to your grandsons. Lemme repeat for the back rows: I BOUGHT this place for you. If THAT’s not a peace offering showing I allow you in my and my children’s lives, I don’t know what is.”

“Oh. So, this is where it comes back to bite me. I hesitated to accept this house because I know even with selling my little home in Newcrest I could never afford property on the Windenburg Isle, not even this tiny shoebox here. I dislike ‘gifts’ as those are very rarely truly free. But if THAT is how you want to play it, and if you find me so ghastly and cannot seem to forgive me, fine, Stryker. I am moving out. You can have this house back! Now get out. I can’t do this when you are like this, reasonable discussions are impossible with you in this state, and you hurt me enough for one day.”

“Get out? I thought we just agreed that this is MY house anyway! YOU pack your shit and YOU get your delusional Marco-dick-addicted ass the fuck out of MY house, which I bought with MY money! I think I know now why you called me over, to tell me you were moving that cocksucker in here. Dream on, you are NOT moving THAT man into MY house! NEVER! You choose him again over me, go live on a park bench with his broke ass!”

“I really hope Sophie will never get to see THIS side of you.”

“SHE ALREADY KNOWS ALL MY SIDES – and loves me anyway! She doesn’t hear me talk like this to her, because she is not a backstabbing egoistic manipulative delusional bitch like you are! Quit fooling yourself and trying to fool me, it’s not working anymore. If you wanna swing your dick around to show me yours is bigger, you are gonna lose. Mine is always gonna be bigger, and I am the biggest dick of them all. YOU made me that way! This – THIS – is you reaping what you have sown!”

Stryker rushed out, slamming the door shut behind himself so hard that two photos fell of Theresa’s walls …

He had stomped off and went straight into his studio at home creating just noise, the louder the better, but completely unproductive, until Sophie entered.

Stryker stopped the infernal sounds, turned around and could tell by looking at her face something had happened. Something bad.

She then said quietly.

“Baby – Addy just called. Her sister Sandrine was still your father’s emergency contact, despite the divorce. Your father had a sudden catastrophic heart attack. They couldn’t save him. I am so sorry.”

At first the words were meaningless to him, they evoked no feelings in him, just like hearing of his grandmother’s death several weeks ago hadn’t. They were strangers to him. Still. He didn’t react until Sophie spoke again.

“You should go talk to your mom. I know how you feel about all that, but she loved him. She is in great pain but has no one now. Again. Only you.”

He looked away, shook his head, looked at the floor, then back at his wife who had just given birth to their baby daughter a week ago.

“I … I … I can’t.”

“Stryker – I mean it. You KNOW she loves you. And now she needs you. You remember how that feels, to be all alone in a time of desperation and need? Go to her.”

“I DO remember, I’ll never forget, but Soph, I can’t. We fought. Ironically about …. him. I don’t remember what I said, but I know it wasn’t my best work. I said terrible things to her. Really bad stuff. Pretty sure she hates me and is moving out and all that shit. I kinda kicked her out of the house. I can’t go back there. You go.”

“Stryker … don’t you remember … us?”

Their eyes met, the gaze held for a few moments, then Stryker nodded. He understood her, without words.

Sophie went to him and they just hugged. Tightly. As if he was drawing the strength he needed from her.

She turned her head slightly and whispered into his ear.

“You are strong. She is weak now, and needs you to be strong for her too. She won’t remember your fight, but she will always remember that you were there for her now. Be the bigger person. I think this is a test for you. Go and ace it. I love you so much. Go.”

He drew up his nose, nodded into her shoulder, squeezed her tightly, kissed her cheek, then pulled away, turned and ran out of the room, the house. He never stopped running until he reached Theresa Hayes’ door.

Theresa was sobbing when she opened the door, Stryker said nothing just pulled her into a tight hug.

They stood like that while his mother cried her heartache into his shoulder.

“Mom, I am sorry.”

“I am sorry too. For everything. I love you, baby boy. I do.”

“I … ahem … love you too. Oh … and mom?”

“Yeah?”

“Stay.” Stryker heard himself say the word that once, in the not so distant past, changed his entire world, his life, for the better.

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 427) Tested

  1. That last line literally gave me chills. It was so poignant. Such a great chapter that shows just how far Stryker has come and how much Sophie gets him. He would move heaven and earth for her. ❤️

    I do think Theresa was going to tell him Marco was moving in. And yes, I bet Sandrine struck first and was getting everything. I’m sure he latched onto Theresa again because of Stryker’s success. Maybe now he and his mother can put the past behind them and focus on the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my gosh, my eyes literally flooded with tears throughout this chapter…

    Liked by 1 person

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