This is the moment you've all been waiting for... It's finally here! I'd advise you to refresh your memory of the events of Chapters 22 and 23 as they are relevant here. There are 4 flashbacks in this chapter - one of them is within another flashback... So watch out. You better all put your thinking hats on before you start reading! Thanks for all the support you've given me up to now!
My eyes were closed but I could sense some bright lights.
I opened my eyes and sat up abruptly. Looking around my bedroom; I saw that the ceiling light hadn't been turned off.
I swiveled my head to see my wife lying by my side... She was sleeping so calmly... She hadn't changed position all night.
I slowly reached over to my bedside table and switched the dim lamp on. Then I got out of bed as quietly as possible and switched the ceiling light off by the switch at the door. I made my way back to the bed and crawled into it.
I changed my position so I was lying behind her. I stroked her arm, softly. She was so cold.
Why was she so cold?!
I nudged her softly with my hand. "Vi..." She didn't respond. "Viola...?" Again I nudged her but no response. I placed my hand on her shoulder and shook her gently. "Viola?"
She stirred... She didn't open her eyes but I could tell she wasn't asleep anymore...
"Hey..." I whispered. "Wake up."
She swallowed loudly... Her eyebrows creased and she moaned softly. Suddenly, her lips parted and she seemed to be gasping for air.
My heart raced... What was wrong with her?!
She moaned again.
"Hey... Come on... Wake up now... I'm really scared baby, open your eyes..." I whispered, wrapping my arm around her body to give her some support.
She coughed mildly. It was as if she had something in her throat. I moved the back of my hand to her forehead.
She was burning up... But the rest of her body was ice-cold.
"Oh God... What have I done to you baby..." I leaned my head down and placed a kiss on her shoulder... On her cheek... On her neck.
I pulled back. I had to do something for her... I had to help her... I had to help my wife... My wife... She was... My wife... And I had hurt her... Hurt her... For... For what? Why did I do this to her? All of this spite... All of this crying... All the things I said to her... Why did I do it? I pretended I was strong but secretly I was dying... Dying as she cried all night... Dying as she screamed and shouted at me.
I slammed my hand to my forehead... What did I do it for...?
I acted quietly and quickly, lifting her gently and placing her correctly so she was lying on her back. I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a glass bowl. I placed it in the kitchen sink and opened the cold and hot taps to help gain the right balance. I had no idea what I was really doing, but I had to help her... I had to help her now.
I grabbed some white miniature towels and after checking the temperature of the water I turned the taps off. I carried the bowl and towels back through my villa all the way back to my girl who was now in a deep sleep again.
I placed the bowl down and soaked one of the towels in the water. I leaned over my girl and moved her fringe out of the way, before placing the towel on her forehead. She winced a little... She did that every time I touched her now.
"Shhh..." I tried to sooth her but she didn't hear me... I pushed her too hard last night... She wasn't made to be treated that way.
I soaked more towels and placed them over her arms, legs and hands. I drenched my own hands in the water and massaged her feet with them gently. I repeated the action but this time massaged her face slowly... Caressing her cheeks and jaw... Caressing her neck and chest... Finally... I drenched my hands once again and placed her hands within mine. I cupped them, I massaged them and I protected them from the coldness that had hit her body.
I brought her hands to my lips, and blew gently into them... Feeling the warm air traverse through the creases in her palms. I kissed her hands repeatedly.
I gently removed the towel from her forehead some time later, to find that her temperature had calmed a bit.
I removed all the towels shortly afterwards and placed the bowl on the bedside table.
I stared at her... She was still gone... Still completely out of it... My heart was still racing...
I shook my head... Placing my head in my hands.
"What have I done to you..." Something was wrong with my eyes... Some water was threatening to come out... For a change... I let it... "Why do I do this to you... All you ever do is love me..."
I looked back at my babygirl. I leaned over her once more... She was breathing slightly better now... I stared down at her bare body... I shook my head again.
I quickly walked to the drawers and took out another one of my shirts... I found a creamy shaded one. Then I opened another draw - a draw which I had been collecting all of her things in... My mind drifted... Back to... Her birthday.
I peeped inside the room, opening the guest room door just a fraction. Her mother was nowhere to be seen, and Viola was safely at work...
I smiled to myself, entering the room. I just had to get a few pieces... Just enough for the weekend... I would whisk her away and make her forget the troubles at home... It would be her birthday treat... We'd spend Saturday relaxing on the beach, swimming in the sea. Then go out for a great dinner at a restaurant in the evening. Then on Sunday I had planned a surprise boat trip... The afternoon would then be ours to do whatever we pleased. She might need a little persuading... After the way I had been acting... But I would wait for as long as it took for her to forgive me for slapping her and meddling with her mother. I would wait for her to forgive me and want to love me again... I would wait.
Ah. Perfect. I spotted a pile of freshly washed underwear. Just as I grabbed it, the door opened.
I spun around to see Graceanna fuming at me.
"There you are! How dare you tell me to leave?!" She was huffing and puffing.
I shook my head. "I told you already. I don't want you living here anymore."
"No one ever breaks up with me! You were my boyfriend! My rich boyfriend!"
"I was never your boyfriend." I raised an eyebrow at her... God knows what kind of drunken state I had been living in to endure this ghastly woman.
"Don't you love me?" She sniffed.
"I never loved you... You were my drinking buddy." I didn't know how else to say it. "The truth is... there is a woman I love; you don't even compare to her!"
"And who might that be?!" She squirmed.
"My wife... My wife... The woman I've been neglecting and treating like a... Like a..." Words failed me... I was appalled at just speaking about the way I had been treating her. I shuddered to think of how Viola actually thought of me. "I'm going to ask her to take me back... And to try to forgive me for being the biggest arsehole on the planet. Can you at least understand that?"
"I didn't know you were m-married..." Graceanna seemed worried now.
"She's a lawyer you know..." I milked it. "She's a very important woman... In fact she owns me. So if she finds out that it was you who-"
"You've never even allowed me to sleep with you! Or kiss you!" She whined. "I don't want to get into trouble with a police woman!"
"She's a lawy... Never mind. I suggest you pack your bags and leave now..." I spoke to her as if she was a child... And it worked.
She nodded frantically and then closed the door behind her as she walked out.
I resumed my hunt for my baby's clothes... I would tell my babygirl the truth about Graceanna tonight when I picked her up from work.
My eyes focused... The drawer was still open in front of me... I swallowed, shaking off the memory... Reaching for a pair of her shorts... I tried to look for some comfortable ones for her... She would need something warm and comfortable... Something... Something to keep her safe... Away from my... Memories.
I had stormed out of the house after the gold digger screamed and condemned me... I went to the nearest bar... But then I realized... I didn't care about my father and his business anymore... All I cared about was Viola... So I got my arse out of the bar and had driven to her office, but it appeared she had already left. I then began driving back home... The flashback blurred...
Was it... Was it coming back?
There she is! It occurred to me that I was waiting behind her usual bus.
Her usual bus that she was now stepping off. I watched her for a second... She seemed in a daze... She was squinting at all the lights...
I flashed my lights at her to get her attention; it stunned her a bit more but she eventually spotted me...
"Damn it!" I read the words on her lips as she muttered them... She was still so angry at me... Now was my chance to prove her wrong about me... Now was my chance to make sure she knew how much I loved her and how much I was willing to do to earn her trust back.
I accelerated, overtaking the bus, and parked my car crookedly on the pavement. She stood there, rooted to the spot as I got out of the car and ran to her.
"Hey, wait!" I called for her, she was watching me.
I couldn't walk very well... This wasn't going to help my case... That was the last time I'd go to the bar...
"Wait!" I repeated.
I attempted a smile as I reached her and tried to stroke her arm. She moved her arm out of my way and began running away from me.
"Hey! Wait, where are you going?" She hated me that much? Was she that scared of me? What was she afraid I was going to do?
The bus driver honked his horn at me.
"Whose car is this? You idiot, get back on the road!"
I began running back to my car... Running.
I closed the drawer a bit too loud... My girl moaned again and coughed some more... I turned around quickly and leaned over her on the bed once more... I needed to dress her... Maybe that would help her warm up and lose the fever.
I began lifting her gently and placing her into the shorts. I stared at her beautiful body as I did so... Her beautiful body that was now covered in bruises and cuts... Her beautiful body that had to carry my burdens all weekend... Her beautiful body that now reacted to my touch with ice-cold fear... Ice-cold behavior... My eyes once again saw the ice-cold people... Just after I had seen her get off of the bus... Just after I had come home somewhat drunk.
I walked through the foyer of our mansion to the bottom of the stairs... She should have walked home by now... Our mansion wasn't far away from where she had gotten off of the bus...
"Korbin!" My father roared; he was holding his gold digger protectively as they stood at the bottom of the stairs. The gold digger was crying and covering her face from me. "Before you left earlier, you did something to my wife didn't you? You did something to make her upset like this!"
I stared at my father astonished... What had I done? She had called me names and screeched at me while I was packing Viola's shampoos and soaps in the boot of my car... Before I had gone to the bar.
"Korbin! Answer me! She won't tell me! What did you do to her?!" My father shrieked.
"I didn't do anything-"
"LIAR!" The gold digger screamed, pointing at me with a shaking finger. "You liar!"
I stared at her in disbelief. "What did I do to you then?!"
"What did he do, darling?" My father asked his wife, trying to comfort her. "Tell me."
"I didn't do anything dad!" I repeated.
"Shut up! I don't want to hear your lies!" My father spat.
I took a step back...
"He... He slapped me and punched me..." The gold digger removed her hand to show a cut cheek... A little bit of blood was leaking from it. My father glared at me as she spoke. "He said he would rape me..."
"KORBIN! HOW DARE YOU!" My father bellowed, running for me.
I dived out of his way; he stumbled but regained his balance.
"I never did any of that! I didn't do it! I swear!" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "I NEVER-"
"YOU'RE A BASTARD OF A SON! YOU HEAR ME? How can you deny it, look at her face! The evidence is right there!" Father walked closer to me, his eyes shaking in disgust as he stared me down. "I used to think you were just an attention seeker... I used to think you did these things to get attention from your wife... From me... But now I see. You're just an imbecile! You're just an embarrassment! You're not worth anything! Not to me! Not to anyone! You're not worth a penny of my business! And I will never hand it down to you! I will never ever give you any of your inheritance. Do you know why, Korbin?"
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I listened to my father condemn me.
"Do you know why?! Huh?!" He repeated.
I wiped my tears. "Why..."
"BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT MY SON ANYMORE!" He screamed, spitting on me. "You're not my son! You're not anything! You're nothing to me! You're dead to me!"
"I was never anything to you was I?!" I screamed back. "I was dead to you the minute mum died!"
"I don't want to hear your lies, you bastard!" He roared.
"Then get out of my house! Get out of my life! Get out of it!" I roared back with as much depth. "You just take your wife and leave me the fuck alone! Don't come back here! Leave me alone and you stay away from my family too! Stay away from my wife! Stay away from my mother-in-law and you stay away from my brother-in-law as well!"
Father's hand swiped across my face. I stumbled back with the force. It was followed with a punch. I felt liquid fall upon my face. Another punch.
"YOU GET OUT OF HERE!" He bellowed. "Get out now! You haven't got anything! You haven't got a wife! Or any in-laws! You haven't got anything! All you've got is your criminal self! Now get out of here or I'll call the police and report you as a rapist!"
I stepped back as his fist punched my chest. I couldn't breathe properly, but I could see their faces. Father's face... His wife's face... Smiling smugly at me... This is what she wanted.
He didn't know what she was... He didn't know why I hated her so much... He didn't know she had only married him to get back at me... No one knew... To take revenge on me and ruin me for... For... My mind drifted back to before they got married... Before she even became romantic with my father... When she worked for my father and had somehow been working in my section of the business...
"Korbin... What's wrong with me? Why won't you choose me...?" She said, sobbing as she hovered by the door of my office.
I was sitting at my desk. "There's nothing wrong with you."
"But..." She began.
"We've been through this already. This can't happen. Once your work placement is over, you'll be starting at a new work place, a new environment and with new people... Away from me..." I tried to engage the common sense part of her brain with my words, but it didn't have any effect.
"But Korbin... I..." She began again.
"Don't even say it again." I shook my head at her. "Our relationship is professional. It always has been, and it always will be."
"But... I like you Korbin... So much... I may even love you..." She whispered, tears rolling down her face.
"I've been through this before with you." I sighed, bored of this situation. "I love my wife very much, and I will never cheat on her. Even if my life depended on it. I would never hurt her, not voluntarily."
Her face twitched as she heard my wife's name.
"Viola is my life... I'm not me, without Viola. I'm sorry, but we've been through this before. I do not return your feelings. You're my dad's employee... I will tell him to move you elsewhere for the rest of the term." I spoke calmly. I had no wish to be rude to her. She meant no harm... Yet her face was angry...
Her face was very angry... Just like my father's was... My mind zoned back and the pain from my bleeding mouth came back to me.
"GET OUT!" My father grabbed me by my shirt and shook me violently. I pushed him away with my hands and he fell back, ripping some of my shirt off.
I backed away... I backed away some more... I sprinted out of the mansion... I left them all behind... I left them there...
I ran to my car... I turned the engine on and sped out of the driveway and out of the gates...
Then I saw her...
My savior... My baby... My wife... My love... She was mine... She had to be mine... She had to understand... I had to have her... Right now.
She tried moving around my car, but I accelerated and got in her way... Again she tried to get around my car, but I did the same thing.
Now was my chance... I couldn't lose her... I had to have her now... I had to.
She moaned softly as I finished buttoning the creamy shirt up. I caressed her cheek, tears slipping down my own.
"Shhhh... I'm here... You're safe now... I won't hurt you anymore... I promise..." She didn't hear me... She was in a sleeping beauty state... "I won't hurt you... You're free now... Free of me... Free of everyone... I won't hurt you anymore..." She grunted slightly.
I gently took my place beside her. I lifted her head and placed it on my shoulder, wrapping my arm around her neck... I pulled her body over, so she was now resting her weight on me... I ran my fingers through her hair.
"You're safe now..." I whispered; tears leaking from my eyes and falling into her hair.