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Not My Territory - Chapter 14

What will Adira and Emmerson's story have to unfold now? Keeping secrets, the beginning of an argument. Comment Replies included.
My fingers tremble over the ‘ENTER’ key as too many thoughts rushed through the constructs of my mind. Suddenly my body hums the familiar tune of anxiety - my throat begins to grow flaky, my vision and perception allows the room to shrink before me. A chilly feeling grows at the back of my neck and I think deeply about what needed to be done.

"Maybe this wasn't the best idea in the world."

It was advise from me to me, and though it was built on weak foundations - fear-the thought of the relief it would bring causes breath to flow back to my body.

Not now. Another voice rings in my mind-one I’d never heard.

I took it’s less-foolish suggestion and as the letters cleared from the screen, the air re-entered my lungs, the room grew to its normal size and my body hummed a different tune. Despite this momentary remedy beads of sweat begin to form at the side of my face and my bun seemed all too tight. I remove all the constraints - 7 bobby pins- and instantly a cold feeling spreads across my skull. I soothe my scalp as the curls and coils cascade around my face, the shiny black settling on my shoulders.

I see my reflection in the window and gazed at what I could describe as a faint hint of beauty. The distinctness in my jaw, filled light brown lips and small nose all came together on my face perfectly for that moment. Even the flow of black curls, coils and twists- that was my hair seemed to glow amidst the empty office. It was amazing to see- did I always look like this?

A tremble, that sweeps down my spine, reminds my body of its recent panic attack, it’s anxiety and the train of my sheer angst travels on. I try to take deep breaths like I practiced with Chance over and over, but the stupid walls were glass, and people were making it an effort to travel this way. I needed a faster handle on this than normal breathing exercises permit.

Turning away from the eyes in the hall I focus on the distracting view. I was obsessed with every inch of it. The shiny glisten of the upper glass windows and the slimy texture that the bricks at its foundation seemed to wear- a slime that disappeared as soon as the sun. I could imagine the countless conversations, interactions, transactions of all sorts that the slime has served as witness to but am reminded of its ascension to perfection, near the top. Oh what a beautiful journey that must be.

I realize the calm that flushes my body is no longer temporary distraction but permanent relief and after a few minutes more I manage to turn back to face the computer screen. At the corner of my eye I spot, yet another, pair of women who, once they picked up on the fact that they were now caught, scurried quickly down the hallway, fear in their gestures as one pushed the other. News traveled fast. It’s a lesson I’d learned all my life, from grade school through high school. Sure, these were werewolves, but that part of them that is human, that part contributed to this aspect of gossip as much as it does a human. I could hear their voices now:

"Human?" Someone would say in disgust.

"I know such a shame." Another may shrug.

"Such a pathetic little thing," they would laugh around the water fountain.

A sudden knock at the door stops my developing thoughts just in time. I collect myself, taking a few short but much-needed breaths before, "Come in," sings from my lips.

Kevin, the guy from earlier, walks in and I hope he would serve as the distraction that my shaking wrist and pulsing chest needed.

"Hello Ms…"

"Chesterfield," I smile, "But please Adira is fine." I take in his tailored suit, he was about 5’10 and wore a practiced smile. He reminded me of someone. I push it to the side as he continues speaking.

"Very well," he nods respectfully, "Can I offer you some coffee? I was heading to the break room and wondered if you'd like anything."

"Thanks Kevin I’d appreciate that." I examine his ruffled brown hair and the intensity of his green eyes. Nonetheless I stand to my feet, desperate at this point, "Also would you be able to point me in the direction of the nearest ladies room?"

"Of course," his smile is more genuine as he holds the door open.

I am led down the hallway until the opening at the very end close to where the elevators were, we made a swift left and passed a couple smaller cubicles as we journeyed down another path. All the while, everyone's gaze remained shamelessly on me, no one spoke and for a second it was as if no one was breathing but me. I gulped any rising anxiety and kept walking smiling kindly at Kevin as we continued.

"Just right here." He gestures to another short hallway with a brightly lit ending, "I can leave the coffee on the desk if you'd like."

"Oh," I forgot about the coffee, "yes that's perfect, thank you so much."

"Don't mention it." He smiles and leaves.

I take a breath before continuing down the tiled path until the light from the mirrors facing the luscious stalls appeared. How is it possible that their bathroom was better than my entire house? Well, my old house at least.

I shake away the comparison now realizing I really had to relieve myself as I slid into the nearest stall. After the toilet flushes I was preparing to leave when voice of other people entering sounded. This didn't bother me and I should have left as usual had I not heard the beginning of their conversation.

"I can't believe we missed her," one of the voices sighed disappointedly, "If you didn't take so long with that salad we'd have caught her."

"Don't blame me," the other voice laughs, "What's the big deal anyway? So what if Mr. Hunk found a mate? It was bound to happen."

Mr. Hunk? I fold my lips to stop the laughter, continuing to fix my clothes.

"But I heard she's so beautiful," the friend whines on.

"Isn't she human?" There must've been an affirmative gesture, "So she’ll look like every other human out there. Nothing special about that."

The word human was barely a whisper. Emerson had mentioned that the staff consisted of a mixture of wolves and humans - but mainly wolves.

I nibble on my lip now contemplating whether I should wait until they left to slip out- knowing I should have gone initially. Humans and gossip.

"No I heard she looks almost… not human," she whispers.

My skin crawls at the thought, what does that even mean?! Frustrating dills my bones.

"You need to stop listening to all this gossip," her friend scolds.

"Ou gossip?" A different voice chirps as the click of her heels resonates in the room.

"Christ," someone mumbles, "This isn't the place for all this chatter-"

"Are we talking about Mr Hunk’s mate? Heard she's a sweetheart of sorts, soft spoken, gentle-"

"Weak," someone clicked their teeth, "She's probably like all these other humans who mate with our kind." The need to be quiet disappeared, I suppose.

"Well apparently she's been in there studying about our kind and inside sources say that she's kind of brilliant. Like mentally," My eyes roll.

I can't stay in here forever.

"So what was this about her not being h-"

I step out of the stall not being able to stand much more of this conversation. With brave shoulders pushed back and a gentle gaze I headed straight for the sink.

The golden lull of the lights around the mirrors allowed me to appreciate my rushed yet even make-up. It was enough of a distraction to allow me to momentarily forget what situation I just walked into- literally. But Charice was right that foundation brush was a wise investment. I realize that the previous conversations stopped with a gasp and slowly their stares drank me up.

I flash my hands dry, gazing sadly at the pimple pushing its way through the smooth surface of my cheek. Then I pull away from the sink and look at them with a genuine smile, "I am fully human," I was being sincere, their curiosity was valid, "And if you could add some more details on the type of mental genius I am I'd really like to hear how that one progresses." The woman’s smile meets mine.

"We’re so so-" the one who referred to me as weak begins apologizing.

"No need to be," I smile and wiped my hands with the paper towel, "You didn't do anything wrong." I toss the paper, "But I again would really love updates on that genius thing," my reminder soothes their nerves and they smile before nodding me off.

"Have a great day." The chirpiest of them smiles.

I nod respectfully, as werewolf culture permitted and left. The air slowly returns to my lungs but I knew better than to get too comfortable considering I had to walk back on my own. The length of the hall seemed to triple and my body grew smaller, with the shake of my head I calmed my nerves and straightened my shoulders.

I began my journey and as expected every gaze landed on me, my body, hair, outfit, soul? Despite this intense investigation I smile at those who dared to initiate eye contact and watched as a breath of relief left their system. Relief? Why? I didn't push the question further and soon I was back at Emerson's office door. I slip inside the now welcoming room and settled behind the computer desk.

My coffee was right next to the keyboard with a couple packets of sugar and cream accompanied by a stirrer. I made the coffee to my liking and lifted the keyboard to find the password-the tiny paper slid from underneath effortlessly.

'ARIDA278'

A small smile paints my face as I sip my coffee before I type my name spelled backwards. The lock screen disappears and the blank search box of the Internet engine smiles evilly at me. I nibble on the corner of my lip nervously and thought intensely as I considered what to research.

My mind runs back to yesterday, being arrested because someone else threw a tip to the cops. Who would do that? I remember waiting in that stupid cell, listening to them chatter about, discussing things I probably knew about but couldn't recognize behind the cloak of their language. It was discomforting.

I nodded to myself now sure of what I wanted:

LEARNING DIVINUM

I decided to start from the very basics. The alphabet. I opened my journal to a blank page from the middle and started writing the strange yet beautiful letters, one by one. Some were easy to copy but others took time and a couple tries to say the least. All the letters screamed at me with an alluring intensity that eased the pain developing in my wrist and the pulsing in the back of my head.

Finally ending on the 32nd letter I sighed a breath of exhaust looking down at what should've been a masterpiece but noticed that my normally elegant penmanship resembled that of a child in comparison to the perfect glow of letters on the screen.

Baby steps.

The warning was for my mind to not overthink. I looked down at the 5 pages I had filled with 6 letters on each and proceeded to write their pronunciation, which was graciously presented in English. My mouth formed the sounds softly as I focused on aiming to familiarize as I wrote. When I finally get through all the sounds I look down at my work.

I was a bit embarrassed at what was second nature- if not primary - for Emerson and his family. I couldn't let them see this until I was at least a bit more comfortable with all the letters and pronunciations. I know Victor has some children’s books in the library I could start there and work my way up. With my mind now set, I pull out a blank piece of paper deciding that I should begin understanding and recognizing the symbols. Just then knob for the office door turns and I see the side of Emerson's face as he speaks to someone with a gentle smile.

He had mentioned introducing me to someone right? While trying to remain as calm as possible I exit the tabs and flipped to the front of my journal, where my original notes were.

"-to meet this mate of yours," an older voice taunts.

There is mass laughter and that's when I realize the large number of people- maybe around 6. The room seemed smaller with them all here- well dressed in suits that seemed to be tailor made, they walked with importance wealth oozing from their pores. Ages seemed to range from 40 up to 70's, but then again werewolves did age differently, so what do I know?

"My, my," one of the men smiles at me, snapping me out of my thoughts as I continue over to the, brushing on existent dust from my pants as I walked. I clasped my hands gently behind my back and smiled at his gaze softly, "And here is the lady of the hour," he analyzes me from head to toe, and I am not sure what I was expecting but his approving gaze soothed some unspoken fear.

"Human?" Someone else asks Emerson still looking at me. Emerson nods winking at me encouragingly, "But she's so beautiful."

"Thank you?" I question but smile nonetheless providing the customary head bow.

There is laughter and someone else speaks, "Hello my dear, My name is..." And the introductions began. I smile and shook hands laughing at some jokes mostly revolving around not believing my humanity. I laughed even though I didn't find them too funny.

"Mr. Hunt seems to have kept you hostage here in his boring office hasn't he?" Mr. Gerrard? taunts gently.

I open my mouth to speak when someone else pitches in, "She seems to be keeping herself busy," He points to my journal laying on the table, "Learning about our kind are you my dear?" He was the oldest of the bunch, very gentle.

"I am trying to, yes," I admit with a smile.

"How do you find it all?" He was genuinely intrigued.

"Honestly, as much fascinating as confusing. I just need to learn more I suppose," I shrug lightly.

"A scholar," he smiles at Emerson.

"Slowly realizing that," he shocks me by saying.

"I don’t think that's the word for it," I butt in quickly, "I just have an overly intense curiosity."

"You don't like being uninformed I suppose, " Another person adds.

"No, it bothers me," "But you see my dear," the eldest walks close and in almost a whisper says, "I'm sure you know that mating with humans is a fairly new discovery for our kind and those who do mate tend to cater to their mate’s needs and forget about their heritage- their root," His gaze seems to cup my soul, "So to see a young lady, so happy and interested in learning about our side of the spectrum is relieving to say the least."

I understood him and nodded, "Since we are mated it's only fair that I try a little," I didn't have much else to say.

"Oh Hunt you really got lucky with this one... my boy, " The older man walks over to the group, as if teaching them, "A dashing young woman, polite, honest what else could you ask for?"

"You're right about that sir," Emerson smiled and the men excused themselves. I expressed the honor it was meeting them and they promised it would not be the last time.

Emerson closes the door behind them and sighs heavily before collecting himself and walking over to me by the desk. He leans down and kisses my cheek as he loosened his tie, "I'm sorry for abandoning you all day," "You left for like 45 minutes, " I laugh cleaning up the mass of papers that accumulated on the desk. I didn't want him to see even outlines of the letters.

He stops me, "I don't need the desk you can use it for-"

"No," too assertive, I take a quick breath before continuing, "I don't need it. I think I've done enough studying for today."

He gives me an unsure look but moves forward, "Had coffee?" He glances the empty cup laying in the bin that really had nothing but a gum wrapper and receipt.

"Yeah Kevin got it for me," It sounded as if I were giving a report to my superior- I didn't like that.

He hums a response and settles behind his desk as I slip into the chair right before him. I'm not entirely sure what caused me to be so tense about my journal- now gripped tightly in my grasp- but I know I wasn't hiding it well. It probably had something to do with not being entirely honest with him but it was at the risk of my pride and for now that selfish battle seemed to win.

Emerson easily picked up on my shift in mood and I was dreading when he would bring it up. But he just sat in his chair and began looking over some documents that he pulled out of his briefcase. An hour has already passed and I still wasn't sure if he was upset or just really focused, both emotions painted the same look on his face.

"So did you get a tour of the floor?" He asks now without looking up.

I pretend not to notice, "No, I went to the bathroom and saw a bit of it though."

He nods at that before setting the papers down on the table and walking around to the front, "So what's up?"

I look at him, determination swimming in the blue green of his eyes, "What do you mean?" my question is valid.

"You're giving me Doe eyes, Adira."

"Doe eyes?"

"Yep," he smiles and reaches out a hand, I place mine in his gentle hold and he pulls me to stand and then into his arms, "Every time you're hiding something or feel guilty or sick your eyes grow 10 times their normal size and you look like a little deer," he squeezes my nose and I pull away.

"I think your Adira sensors might be off, because I'm fine."

"Really? So, nothing weird happened while I was gone?"

"Well I felt like a model on a runway with all the eyes staring but otherwise I was fine," I shrug in his arms, relaxing as I take him all in.

"And that's it?" His hands snake down pass my waist.

"Hey the walls are glass," I scold stepping out his embrace.

He mocks me and I stare blankly in his childish eyes, "I think I'm gonna leave early today," He looks at the clock behind us, "If I stay we'll be here all night."

"Workaholic," I put my journal in my bag.

"You sound like my mother," he says, packing away his documents.

I smile at what I took as a compliment and waited for him to finish up. We headed out and Emerson stopped at the front desk asking the secretary for some details on his day tomorrow before we jumped in the elevator.

He was about to say something when his phone rang. He scanned his master key and pressed the lobby button, "What's up?" I stay quiet scanning the empty elevator in boredom before my attention redirected to him, "When?" His voice was dark enough to send chills down my spine, almost unrecognizable. He begins to speak in Divinum, the seemingly impossible language floating effortlessly from his tongue as he spit angrily into the phone, "Okay, we’re on our way there I’ll keep you updated."

He sighs and shoves his phone in his pocket, I expect him to begin speaking but for a moment nothing happens, and when the elevator doors open he rushes out with large angry strides. A vallet pulls into the driveway and we both hop in, still in silence. He was pissed enough to convince me not to ask what was happening, but my curiosity got the better of me and the car was becoming stifling.

"What’s going on?" I dared to speak. He doesn’t answer me and for a moment I’m convinced I didn’t speak, maybe I wasn’t loud enough? So I clear my throat and try again, "Emerson what happened?"

A couple of seconds pass and I open my mouth to try again when he finally graces me with a response, "Your father," My blood seems to chill in my body, slowing its previously rushed journey, just at the mere remembrance of this monster.

"What about him?" I managed to push.

"He showed up at the house, asking if anyone had seen his daughter," My throat dries up and I look out the window to distract myself, even just a little, "They all said no hoping he would leave it at that, but then he came back saying that he knew she was here and he wasn’t leaving until he sees you and some other stuff. Gavin tried to get him to leave the house but he pulled out a knife and had to be restrained."

I turn to face him, "Is everyone okay? Did anyone get hurt?"

"No, they are all fine, but now he refuses to leave and they’re not sure what to do," He speeds down the highway, now in a rush to get home.

"Call the police," I say as if he was crazy, "What the hell get them to call the police! He’s trespassing, wielded a knife at them and all these other stuff!"

"That’s your father Adira."

"And he’s a lunatic," I say in the same condescending tone that was building in his voice. He grips the wheels tighter and I was confused as to why he was so mad, "Just call the police."

"It’s more complicated than that," he says slowly, "We’re mated so whether any of us like it or not he’s family and calling the police is a line that we can’t cross."

I bite the inside of my cheek, "Fine so what should we do then, if he sees me then that’s the end of it, he’ll never leave." I knew this for a fact.

"Well," he sighs and makes the exit for home, "He is your father and based on what I’ve been told he seems to be sober and thinking straight," Well look at that! The day has come, "And you are his daughter so-"

"I’m his punching bag, his bank account, his get out of jail free card, and a mixture of DNA nothing more," I cross my arms over my chest, staring out at the trees move by.

"Okay well what do you think we should do?" His question held a strain of sincerity and that made my chest light.

"Call the police, get him out of the house and away from that property."

He sighs next to me, "Any other ideas?"

I respond with silence and the remainder of our ride is doused in this quiet anger. It brewed between us both, his anger stemming from a place unfamiliar to my touch, mine developing from a mixture of not knowing why months later my father finally decided to look for me. Did he just realized I was gone? And what were the chances that he’d end up at Emerson’s house?! Just my luck I suppose. A heavy sigh leaves my nostrils, fogging a small portion of the window next to me. We continue driving through the paved roads that lead home when a familiar path makes its way my sight and an idea floats through my mind.

"Can you take me to my house?" Emerson wasn’t as thrilled as I was about what I had said. In fact, he looks over at me as if three horns just popped out of my second head, "Please?" His confusion and sheer panic worried me especially when the van came to complete halt, in the middle of the lonely road.

"What did you just say?" I wasn’t sure if his question was genuine or mocking so I remained quiet knowing well that I had been heard, "You want me to bring you where?"

"To my old house…" I waited for an explanation to his seemingly dramatic reaction to my request, "Just so I can pick up a few things I missed, and since he’s away from that house, I can grab them in peace."

"Wait what?" A humorless laugh escaped his lips, "Am I missing something? You do remember that the last time we spoke about any of this- anything relating to your past, your father, or that house you cried for 3 and a half hours straight after recovering from a panic attack, right?"

My insecurity grew as think back on how fragile and weak I must’ve looked, "This is different," I look over at him and felt the anger roll from his, like tidal waves, "He’s not there, and I’m not as afraid as I was a couple months ago not to mention that you’d be there with me. It would be quick just in and-"

"No," His foot presses hard on the gas, and my body jerks backwards, "I have to put my foot down on this one Adira, you’re not going anywhere near that house and I’m sure as hell not bringing you!" I’m speechless for the remainder of the ride, whether it was out of anger, confusion or sadness, is more than I’ll know. But silence was enough to soothe Emerson’s exasperation even just a bit.

I continued to stare out the window, knowing we were only 5 minutes from home, now. Five minutes from me seeing my father and doing what? I wasn’t sure. Guess I’d have to interact with him, and that wasn’t going to end pretty. Thinking back there hasn’t been a single moment in the past 6 years that my father was sober for more than 10 minutes, so that was something I was looking forward to seeing.

Rumor has it he was intelligent before he met my mother. That, they fell in love in college and graduated together, he got a big job at as an engineer but then my mother got pregnant and that’s when things went downhill. My mother raised me until I was about 2, when she passed I was given to my father and for the first couple months I remember things being quiet, not much communication or noise around the house. Some time near my 3rd birthday he started drugs, alcohol, heroin, crack, everything. That’s when I realized that I’d have to start doing things myself.

By the time I was 13 I was convinced the old fart was immortal considering I’d been praying for his death ever since his first abusive lashing with a wooden piece from our fence, 9 years prior. I learned how to treat my wounds and cover them up and even enrolled myself in school, knowing that if I were going to get rid of this man, an education was my best bet.

I went to the police multiple times but realized that if he was locked up I’d be put into foster care, and I knew that there were worse people out there, with a wide scope on how to treat, ‘pretty young girls’ as the cop himself had described with a wink. The van came to a complete stop and I heard Emerson’s sigh from behind the wheel and I stared up at the door before us.

I release the buckle for my seat belt, before reaching down to my purse, Emerson takes hold of my arm, "What do you want to do?" His voice is tired.

"I already told you what I wanted to do," I say not in the mood for an argument, "I’ll just tell him to leave and we’ll see how that works." I don’t wait for a response as I leave the van and walk up the steps, Emerson close behind. I use my key to unlock the door, anxiety rising from my palm, causing my wrist to quake tenderly. I push past this and turned the key, stepping inside.

The living room was brightly lit, and people were scattered around it. Gavin and Cody stood close to my father- who was tied to a chair, his head hanging low, unconscious- on the opposite side of Victor who was closest, his hand on the back of the chair. Chance and Anthony stood before Charice and Chelsea protectively and all their eyes landed on me as the door opened. I stalked closer to my father his dirty blonde hair speckled with dirt and snow, from being exposed to the elements, his beard was trimmed and he wore a plaid button down with jeans and his famous leather jacket.

His face seems younger, brows furrowed even though he wasn’t aware that I was even there, "Why is he unconscious?" I ask out of curiosity.

"He was having a fit of sorts," Gavin says coolly.

I nod, "Can you wake him up?" I look at Victor and his eyes travel from Emerson to me and back.

"Are you sure?" His fatherly instincts kicked in as he walked closer to me, "Maybe we can avoid you speaking to-"

"It’s okay," I smile as best as I can at him, "Just wake him up."

Reluctantly he walks over to my father before taping his cheeks alternatively, shuffling him awake in seconds. My heart pounded heavily in my chest as his head moved from left to right, before finally looking up at me. The blue of his drained eyes wasn’t the only thing that took me by surprise, but his defined cheekbones highlighted by the sunkenness of his face, took my breath away. He was starving, dying even, probably not eating enough. Nevertheless I was at a loss for words, and waited until he said something- anything.

When his gaze finally landed on me, the anger I’m accustomed to, flooded his stare, "Where the hell have you been?!" His roar was more terrifying that the howl of a werewolf. At the sound of his escalated voice Gavin, Cody and Victor stepped closer to me protectively, "I’ve been looking for your fat ass for months!" He growled under his breath, "The house is empty there isn’t any food, they cut off the heat, because the bill wasn’t being paid, and the electricity is gone!"

He shook the wooden chair he was in and though I should’ve been afraid, I wasn’t. I was….. furious! Of course he only came back for money, what was I to expect? I took a deep breath before speaking, "What do you want me to do about all that?"

"Get your ass home and fix them," He charged at me, lifting the chair ever so slightly from the ground. His mouth had bruises on the inside and veins bulged from his forehead as his anger fueled itself, "What are you even doing here anyway?!" He laughs, "Found a little family that can stand you?" I bit my tongue as his laughter filled the room, "Don’t fool yourself kid, now tell your little watch men to untie me so we can go."

I look straight at him, my gaze never leaving his before I speak, "No," I took a breath, pressing my shaking wrist deeper in the pocket of my jacket, "You’re going back but... I’m staying here."

"Over my dead body," He threatens attempting to stand to his feet a blind hatred steaming from his ears.

"So be it," My retort shocks him to silence, "I’m 19 and as a legal adult I have the right to live where I choose."

"So what you’re just going to let me die out in that house?!" His voice seemed to shake the house itself.

"That’s your problem," I shrug, "Get a job and pay for your own stuff."

"I haven’t eaten in days!" He yells again.

"Based on personal experience," I say softly staring in his eyes, "It gets easier after day 4."

He huffs shying away for a minute without a retort. Finally a smile fills his horrible face, "Look at you," he takes me all in, "Slim and trim, hair glowing, new clothes, new shoes. Tell me," he licked his lips and looked at me from head to toe, "How much did you have to hoe yourself out for those shoes?" He laughs at his own joke as Emerson and Anthony push forward, " Which one of them did you have to do some dirty things with for that coat?" He laughs harder, "Don't fool yourself Adira," my name sounded wrong in his mouth, "Soon selling your body won't be enough to keep you satisfied," I hear Emerson advancing toward us. Gavin and Cody rush over holding him back, "Ou that must be the lucky guy huh? My apologies, so you just screw him and he buys you stuff? And here I thought this family cared and shared." He laughs so hard that tears trickled down his sick face. I noticed Victor’s knuckles growing white as his blue eyes became metallic, turning gold as he held back his wolf.

I didn't want things to escalate too quickly.

"Just go home," I shake my head, surprised I was even able to keep conversation going, "I don’t need you here and you’ve made it clear that I’m of no importance to you, so just stop wasting time." I feel my anxiety rising as our eye contact deepened, "You gave up on be as soon as I came in your life now I'm giving up on you. Go live your life, do what you said you always would if I wasn't in the picture. Just go, and don't come back."

He is taken aback at all I've said. The frustration in my voice becomes tangible as I gave up on him. Holding on to what he was, and my entire childhood has been a burden I’ve carried for 17 years too long. Living here gives me hope but these lapses of depression needed to be in the past too. So I let him go- I have to in order for this hold he had to truly disappear- my expectations needed to be null.

He takes it all in before scoffing, "You’re a heartless bitch just like your mother," His growl sounds animalistic, "Both of you just leaving me with the burdens you started. If she just got the goddamn abortion like I gave her the money for-" A flash of white dashes past my face as Chester jumped in his lap biting at his face, drawing blood.

I would’ve pulled him off if I hadn’t been frozen there. My chest hurt I feel the darkness building from the corners of my view. No! I blink slowly shaking my head before pulling a barking, snarling Chester from my father’s lap.

"Shit! He bit me!" I look over and saw the teeth marks in his cheek, where the blood was, "That stupid mutt!" Chester charges at him again but I hold him tight in my grasp turning his face to look at me.

"Hey," I say at him glaring over my shoulder, his growl shaking his body, "Look, I’m fine," I smile at him and though he picks up on the sad imitation I attempted he calms down and sits obediently.

"I can treat his wounds," Chance heads to the infirmary returning with some cotton swabs, ointments and bandages.

A couple of minutes pass in silence, "And after you’re done here," My father’s voice raises, "Untie me so I can get the hell out of here!"

Good riddance. Chance stiffens but continues his work before he stopped, "You should probably change those bandages before you go to bed tonight," He advises wisely, placing some bandages and ointment in his pockets.

"Thanks a lot," My father spits, not a word of sincerity leaving his lips. I look at Victor and he awaits my approval. I"m careful to stand a safe distance- close to Anthony and Charice before I nod.

He’s untied and rubs at his wrists gently, looking at Victor with a challenging glare, to my surprise Victor responds with one even worse. I see my father shudder, at the other-world-ness that swam in all their eyes. Something I’ve grown to find comfort in rather than fear. "And when all these creeps throw you out like the trash you are," He speaks at me, though his stare glued on Emerson, "Don’t come crawling back to me!" He barks at me finally with the most hateful gaze I’ve seen yet.

"Okay!" I yell as I head to the kitchen for some water. I was over this, over him, needed to move past the fact that my entire existence was crap, but my future would be better. He couldn’t leave quickly enough and I watched him begging my building anxiety to leave with him. I grab a bottle from the refrigerator but didn’t dare try opening it. Chester jogs over to me and I kneel to hug him, comfort would stop the tears.

"And just so you know," He says at the door, gloved hands stuffed in his pocket, a despicable smile painting his lips as he stares out into the white tundra, "Trevor just got back from college, came by to look for you," My face went white and the air caught itself in my throat, I squeezed Chester tight, my eyes pinching closed, "I always liked that one, you were more…..willing when he was around." He laughs before slamming the door on his way out, "Have a nice life," He sings laughing as he went down the stairs.

A breath of relief leaves my lungs and I dig my face deeper in Chester’s white fur. He picks up on what he always does and settles his head on the crook of my neck pushing back on me gently making me laugh as I’m laid down with him in my arms, licking at my face innocently. I laugh and pushed him away slightly, before pelting him with kisses. He sighs happily, jogging away slightly, still on edge. I notice the silence that wafts the room, the chilled feeling inside me spreads again through my chest up the back of my neck.

I look at his fur, shiny and white, never fading it was as if he never truly aged. I push this to the back burner and he waddles backwards settling easily in my lap. I sink my head in his coat and take another deep breath, pulling myself together. Things could never be normal with me could they buddy? I didn’t say the words out loud but he picked up on it easily- tilting his head back to give a supportive lick to my neck. I smile and gave him one final hug.

Charice walks over reaching down to help me up. I take it and after standing she quickly takes me in her embrace, this was the first time they ever saw his behavior, I wasn’t surprised, even with that abortion addition, but I knew this must have been a wake up call. I hug her back and pull away before noticing that no one really moved I gave them the time they needed to let the horror that is my father sink in, let him settle. He was a lot and trust me he gets worse.

"I got that," Charice opens the bottle for me, "Adira that was… horrible are you okay? I don’t even know how you didn’t break down in tears. I almost did."

I folded my lips wanting to speak, to say something but in that instant I couldn't. She pulls me in again, squeezing tightly as my arms hold her close. I appreciated that words weren’t a requirement when she was around, she knew me from the inside out, "I’m okay, used to it at this point, happy it’s over with for now." I drink heartily before returning to the living room, "T-Thanks guys, sorry about all the trouble."

"Nonsense," Victor walks over to me, "Are you sure you’re alright?"

"Yeah, Adira you don’t have to put on a brave face," Chance adds, "It’s okay not to be okay."

"I know," I smile at them, "But I really am okay. Your anxiety tricks really do work doc," I joke at Chance.

"This Trevor guy," Cody speaks up, "Is he going to be trouble?"

"Yeah, possibly," I sigh knowing that even thinking about him would make my body react in the worst of ways, "He is an obsessive, controlling ex-boyfriend," borderline clinically psychotic, "He went away to college and we broke up but every time he comes back he feels the need to pick up where he’s ‘left off’." Bile rushes up my throat at the thought but I push it down.

Emerson merely scoffs, and for a minute I forget that I was upset at him. For a second I wanted to rush over and melt into him.

Cody continues, "And if your father likes him then he must be-"

"The devil reincarnated yes," I finish with a sigh, "I’m really sorry you all had to hear and see all that." They didn’t need to be affected by it.

"We’re family," Chelsea kisses my cheek lovingly and pulls me in for a squeeze, "You’re so strong to have dealt with that your whole life," She kisses me again and I smile holding her for just a moment longer.

"Stop Chelsea you’re going to make her cry," Victor scolds.

"They’re happy tears," I say wiping the tears from my eyes.

"Mine too," Chelsea adds.

"Wait I want to cry too," Charice whines rushes over, taking us both in her embrace, making us laugh.

I pull from the bundle of hugs just as Emerson walks over to me, He holds my face tenderly in his palms and I close my eyes with a sigh. He leans forward to kiss away the pain, remind me of the joy we had, to forget the hurt my father gives. I shouldn't have wanted it, but as he leaned down, lips lingering a breath away I couldn't not take them. He lifts my chin with his fingers and instantly my nervous system lights aflame. When he pulls away the worthlessness that was growing dissipated to nothing.

He licks his lips as he always does eyes awake, and alert, "You’re okay." This was a statement, that made my skin light aflame, "But we’re still in an argument right?"

I step awake slightly, "Depends," I shrug now aware that everyone was listening to our conversation, "Will you bring me back to my house?" His jaw stiffens and that is enough of an answer, "Then yes."

"Everything okay?" Victor asks gently.

"Adira wants me to bring her to her old house and I refuse to so here we are," His taunting makes my eyes roll.

Charice picks up on it with a smile, "Why did you want to go back?" She whispers to me.

"Nothing important I guess," knowing I was lying, she knew too and gave me a look pushing for more details, " It's this shoe box of stuff from when I was younger."

"Stuff?"

"Photo albums, toys, movie tickets things like that," I yawn, "But I'm too emotionally unstable to set foot on the land." I raise my hands eating them back and forth heading up the stairs to change into something more comfortable.

There is mumbling back and forth below me but I've done enough eavesdropping for the day. A familiar feeling of calm washes over my skin and I know it is Emerson- holding my hand. I hate that he does this to me, makes me so upset while exciting me, "I can go with Anthony for the box," He says genuinely, his voice was tender, "Where is it?"

I didn't want them to do it, I wanted to. I shook my arm from his grasp.How does he expect me to grow when I get all these limitations? I feel my frustration build but took the olive branch anyway, "Under my bed, it has red tape on the sides."

"Anything else?"

I bit my tongue as I shook my head leaving my valid argument for later, continuing upstairs. I kick off my shoes, clothes falling from my body and slid into sweatpants and a T-shirt, that fit just right. I walk out into the hallway, when the melodies of Victor’s skills tickle my eardrums. I float to the instrument room, walking through the all too familiar mahogany doors, into the expanse space.

Victor smiles up at me, not pausing the sweetness of his tune, his body swaying left and right. Picking up on his position in the sheet music I flip the page for him and he gives a grateful nod. He plays the remaining 4 pages before ending on a gentle diminuendo.

"That was beautiful," I sigh glancing at the unfamiliar work. I quickly picked up on the fact that it was titled in Divinum and the lyrics were also. My chest tightens, as a determination fills my bones, knowing that one day I’d be able to read those words, and sing what sounds like the most beautiful melody I’ve heard.

"It is," he sighs noticing my silence he reaches back for another work, "Let’s see if you can help me with this one. Requires a soloist." He winks encouragingly and before I can decline the offer he starts playing.

My skin jumps with excitement at the immediate familiarity of the tune. A classic. Before I can stop myself my voice jumps out.

"Tale as old as time,
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Unexpectedly."

We continue in our harmony and before I know it, I'm pouring my all into the lyrics I didn't know I knew. That's second verse and bridge come all too quickly, and though I heard others walk through the door I felt the peace of solitude, the stillness music brought me. With this I push past my stage fright and looked down at Victor who was equally entranced by the music, when he looked at me his eyes dazzled. I cheese at him just as the final words left my lips, "Beauty and the Beast."

The room falls silent as he plays the finishing chords. I sigh happily gazing down at the capabilities of his fingers, of my voice.

When he finishes the applause develops and I jump a little, not knowing we had this large of an audience. Everyone was here - including Anthony and Emerson, latter of who held my box in his hands. My relief over crowds what would've been embarrassed humility at being caught.

"You got some pipes there," Victor smiles down at me, now standing.

"You're not too shabby yourself," I taunt making him laugh as he pulled me in for a hug.

"We could take this on the road you know? Start a band of sorts-"

"Don't get too ahead of yourself honey," Chelsea holds my shoulders tenderly, as if away from the horrible idea Victor had. I laugh softly as I continue over to Emerson, who held the small shoe box in his hand.

I take it from his hold, "Thank you," Excitement flows through me as I take the one thing my father didn't have the opportunity to ruin.

"Talk later?" He suggests.

I nod avoiding eye contact, he doesn't push further and even if he tried he would have been interrupted by Charice who skips over with eyes glued on my box, "So any embarrassing information in there you'd be willing to share?"

"Sure!" I face her, "as long as you bring your diary and share all the juicy details."

"Ou deal!" She sings pulling me by the arm down to our spot in the living room.

She grabs her diary and we head to the area closest to the fireplace settling easily on the ground.

"Alright I need one chapter for one item from my box, with an explanation," I say seriously.

She giggles, nodding and we begin our unusual trade off. An hour later I’m clutching my stomach, laughing at the over dramaticism that is 13 year old Charice.

"Oh! I can’t breathe," I laugh as tears trickle down my cheeks.

"Alright explain this one," Charice pushes with a smile, holding up a photo that I knew all too well.

Just then, Emerson and Anthony jog down the stairs in a deep conversation, "That's the only photo I have of my mom. She was in college when my dad took it." I smile at the easy go lucky woman, whole smile seem to shine brighter than the flash on the camera, reflected in the windshield she laid on. Her hair was a beautiful puff of courage and pride, and her olive skin shone with the effervescent glow of royalty.

"She's breathtaking," Chelsea says looking over Charice’s shoulder, "You have the same smile." Her tender eyes look gracefully into mine.

"You think so?"

"Definitely," Victor adds now examining the photo in his hands, "The same wide smile, shiny teeth, heart warming glow."

His list makes my chest light with joy. To have anything in resemblance of her meant the world to me.

"How did she pass?" Justine asks. I didn't even realize she was here.

"Justin-"

"Unattended medical complications after birth," I answer regardless of Emerson's warnings, "When they figured out what was wrong it was too late."

"Do you know anyone from her family?" Cody asks.

I shake my head, "All I know is that she had to give me to my father afterwards." The lack of clarity concerning the situation has always bothered me, from childhood till now, something about the story didn't add up, but I guess that could just be something I desperately wanted.

My mother back.

I shake the thoughts away redirecting my attention to the half empty box and Charice’s half read diary.

"Okay," Charice gently placed the photo back in my box, "Third month of tenth grade ready?"

"Oh am I," I get excited.

"This girl thinks she's the hot topic around here but she doesn't realize it's me," I start laughing already, "Don't worry I'll set her straight soon enough."

"Geez you sound ready to kill her," I look up at her.

"I'm pretty sure it was her first day too," Charice joins me in laughter, "I'm telling ya high school was the good old days." She finishes the page which grew with grandeur and elaborate descriptions that seemed key to all of Charice’s entries.

"Alrighty! Baby picture time!" She chirps grabbing at the album I had , "Oh my goodness! Look at her toochie!" She reveals a photo of me taken when I was around 1, laughing butt naked in a bubble bath.

"Oh you were just the cutest little thing!" Chelsea runs over, settling next to us, "Look at that smile!" She pushes holding a photo from the same year, I was seated in a booster seat, smooched carrots all over my mouth yet my smile filled my round caramel face. My eyes were lighter back then looking almost green as they sparkled up at my mother. I only had two teeth in the top row of my mouth but gave the happiest stare as my hands reached out to the camera.

"You were a cute kid," Anthony muses with a smile throwing me then Emerson a mischievous look, "You know what that means for your baaaaabies……."

"Oh!" Chelsea clutched her chest, her eyes building with tears, "My future grand babies."

"What did you just do?" Emerson rested his head back pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Pay back," Anthony taunts. I wasn’t sure what for, but Emerson picked up on it quickly the two tackling each other in a second. It was all play so I refocused on my box, gazing at the picture of my mother, smiling as the scent of lilies and corn fields on Graham Avenue and 82nd Street fill my nostrils.

As my mother hurried along, pushing me in my stroller…. Taking a left onto... Graham…. Wait

*********************************************************************

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Published: 7/17/2017
Bouquets and Brickbats
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