Hiding Beneath (AU,M/L,ADULT) [WIP]

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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 30, 20th March 09

Post by Rowedog » Sun Apr 12, 2009 8:47 pm

Sorry. Uni sucks. Been busy. And to top off my crapness, this part is shorter than usual. But oh well, what can you do?

Eve
Tequathisy
Destiny
LilLoucfer
Scorpio6
Chanks_girl-
Hey Leila! Guess what? Hi.
Sunrise102
Novy
BB-
Makes up for the lack of Michael.
*Grumbles* You want Michael, I’ll give you Michael... in the face!... Zing...? Ok, so it sounded better in my head. And you are getting your wish, there’s Michael galore in this part. Oh, and there’s heaps of Michael right near the end because he plays a more critical part.
Natalie36
mary
Laira-
Or alternatively you could just check the board more *shrugs* :wink:
DaleStateShorty
Part Thirty One

‘Remember those walls I built?
Well, baby they are tumbling down
And they didn't even put up a fight
They didn't even make a sound
I found a way to let you in
But, I never really had a doubt
Standing in the light of your halo
I got my angel now.

It's like I've been awakened
Every rule I had you breaking
it's the risk that I'm taking
I ain't never gonna shut you out!

Everywhere I'm looking now
I'm surrounded by your embrace
Baby, I can see your halo
You know you're my saving grace
you're everything I need and more
it's written all over your face
Baby, I can feel your halo
Pray it won't fade away’
Halo by Beyonce


***

Liz’s POV
Max groans and slumps onto my bed on his back. Usually he goes straight home after therapy so that he doesn’t have to face inquisition, but this time he’s come to visit me. We haven’t spoken about his problems since that day in the Crashdown back room and I can’t help but think that this is his way of inviting me to ask about it. Maybe he wants to talk about it.

“How was therapy?” I ask, trying for casual curiosity. I fail badly.

He massages his eye sockets with his palms as he answers. “Terrible.”

I slump in disappointment. He always thinks that therapy is terrible. Nothing’s changed. “Oh. What’s so bad about it?”

“I don’t like talking about my past. It’s always really draining whenever I do. Plus, they’re not nice things to remember and talk about. But I guess I have to do it.”

That admission has me sitting bolt upright, staring at him. “You talked to your therapist?”

“For the past couple of weeks,” he grunts in reply.

I throw myself at him. “Thank you!”

His arms loop around me and pull me in tighter, so I rest my head on his chest as I try to squeeze the air out of him. “You were right, it does make it easier to cope with, though talking about it goes against everything I’ve ever strived for.”

I can’t help it, I start to cry. Max is finally getting the help he needs and he recognises that it’s working. This is so much more than I could have hoped for.

“Hey, whoa,” Max rubs my back as I shudder on him. “I’m sorry. I know this must suck for you, having to wait till I’m better before we can really be together.”

I punch him lightly in the chest in response. “Max, I don’t give a fuck about that! I wouldn’t mind if we never had sex again if it meant that you were finally better. I just want you to be ok, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

“Really?” He seems incredulous so I punch him again. “Easy there, Rocky, I was just making sure.”

“Adrian!” I mumble, causing us both to laugh. We’re so stupid. And I couldn’t be happier.
***

Isabel’s POV
“I think we’re done,” says Alex happily, standing up and stretching as he throws down his pen. We’ve been working on our homework solidly for the past hour, all the while I’ve been blissfully serene, knowing that I’d dreamt of this scenario in the past and it’s now coming true. “You wanna go for a walk before your parents get home?”

I nod eagerly and stand up, taking his hand and letting him lead me to the front door. I swipe the keys off the hook as we pass it in the hallway and then we’re off. Alex swings his arms around my shoulders in a familiar move and I snuggle into him. Alex trails his fingers through a bush in a garden close to the sidewalk and I let the sunshine seep into my skin. Bright blue sky, warmth and Alex wandering the streets with me aimlessly, just enjoying each other’s company. I don’t think life could get any better.

Alex starts to hum ‘Macho Man’ under his breath and I tweak his side in protest. “Alex, you’re already a stud, you can’t be a macho man as well. That’s just greedy.”

Alex groans and puts on a comically exhausted expression. “I swear, the next guy at school who comes up to me and asks me how to pleasure a woman, I’m going to suggest licking her ass crack,” grunts Alex. “I don’t wear a sign around my neck saying ‘Love Guru’ and I definitely don’t have any idea how to pleasure a woman.”

“You don’t?” I ask in surprise. “But what about Leanna?”

“Gave it up to everyone but me,” he laughs. “What about you? Have you ever...?”

I laugh at the very idea. I’d have a complete meltdown. My past ensures that I’m completely fucked up about sex, even though David and I are working through it. Strangely enough it seems to be working, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to jump in the sack with Alex, though.

“Nope. I believe that you should be in love before you do it.”

“I respect that. Could you maybe pass that on to the school? Greg Maines asked me how to go down on a girl today. I might have thrown up into my locker a little bit.”

I laugh, feeling giddy. I never thought that this would ever happen to me, that Alex and I would be able to walk around town together like we’re the only two people in the world. Tucked under Alex’s arm as we walk through the suburbs, I feel so complete that it scares that crap out of me, but I love it at the same time.

Alex pulls me in closer and presses a kiss to my temple, while his hand slips something behind my right ear. I reach up and feel the petals of a flower and my eyes tear up. “Alex...”

“I just plucked it from a bush,” he objects, seeing my amazed stare. “It’s nothing.”

“No, it’s really something,” I whisper then throw my arms around his middle. He hugs me back and I feel him press a kiss to the top of my head, his hand coming up to stroke my hair. He’s wonderful, too wonderful.

But even in this perfect moment, I can’t truly enjoy it. He doesn’t know about my past and it seems like deceit to keep it from him. He deserves to know, especially when we get to the more intimate areas of our relationship. I know I’m going to have major hang ups and there’s a big possibility that I’ll freak out. He deserves to be forewarned. I have to tell him.
***

Michael’s POV
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Tia, happy birthday to you!”

Tia blushes and shies away behind my leg as everyone cheers for her. We’re having a birthday party for her at the centre and she’s completely blown away by it, never having had a birthday party before. I had to ask Maria to help because I’m not a girl and I’ve never had much in the way of a conventional birthday party either. Maria actually cried when I told her this, and told me that it was heartbreaking to her that nobody had ever celebrated our existence before. I guess going from one crappy home to an almost as crappy foster home never really gave me much of an opportunity for that. Not that I’m complaining, it could have been much worse. Instead of just physical and verbal assault, it could have been sexual as well. I thank god that Hank’s tastes ran to trashy skanks rather than little boys. I could have been locked in a closet or starved. There was a whole bunch of stuff that Hank could have done to me that he didn’t, so I count myself as lucky that I got out of there relatively unscathed.

Maria ducks down next to Tia and in a motherly gesture that makes my heart expand in my chest, strokes her hair away from her ear and whispers, “Blow out the candles and make a wish, sweetie.”

Tia blows out the candles and ducks her head as everyone claps again. Having never really been to birthday parties growing up, as I was the odd one out with dirty clothes and poor hygiene, this is a real first for me. Luckily both Amy and Maria are on top of it, having left the day care room free and organised the invitations and decorations. Amy even catered for the occasion, making platters and the like. She even made some disturbing concoction called fairy bread, which is basically buttered bread with sprinkles on it. The kids apparently recognise it though, because they head straight for it. The only thing I’ve been allowed to do is make the cake and get Tia the present she’s been secretly pining for. I’ve been saving up for weeks to get her this horrendously huge, prissy looking barbie house that I know she’s going to grow out of and despise in a couple of years. The practical side of me thinks it’s a complete waste of money, but the older brother in me doesn’t care. I’ve seen the wistful look in her eyes whenever that stupid pink advertisement comes on and I want to take that look away. I want to give her everything she desires, I want her to want for nothing.

Tia takes three rather cutely pathetic attempts to blow out the candles before they’re all out.

“What’d you wish for, baby?” asks Maria, swinging Tia up into her arms as Amy cuts the cake.

“I wished that I tould stay with you and Mitael fowever,” she replies very seriously.
***

Maria’s POV
Michael and I exchange startled glances quickly before he takes control of the situation.

“That’s a lovely wish, Tia. We love you too,” Michael informs her, watching her blush from the acknowledgement of our feelings. Only he and I seem to notice that he didn’t actually address her wish. I know she’ll always have Michael, but who knows what’s going to happen between now and her eighteenth birthday? I mean, maybe Michael and Tia could follow me to college. Michael will be done with college by then, and there isn’t much here to hold him. Or maybe I could stay here and go to community college, though it’s not a prospect I relish. College is supposed to be about emancipation and getting as far away from your parents as possible.

Frig me, this is a conundrum that I never expected to face. I’m just glad that I have a year and a bit to come to grips with it.
***

Michael’s POV
I watch the struggle written on Maria’s face as she tries to figure out what’s going to happen in the future. I know she doesn’t want to leave Tia. Tia is extremely easy to love. And she tells me that she doesn’t want to leave me either and truth be told, I don’t know if I could handle her leaving me. Maria is everything to me. The way she smiles, the way she laughs, the way she sees right through all my bullshit, the way she kisses me, the way she looks me in the eyes when she tells me that she loves me. She has completely obliterated my defences and crashed her way – in typical Maria fashion – right into my heart. I’ve never loved another human being before Maria and Tia, but I won’t be the one to hold Maria back. She should be free to follow her dreams, wherever they may take her and I’m not a selfish enough prick to ask her to stay.

I can deal with a broken heart when the time comes, but I still have no idea how I’m going to deal with Tia’s. If Maria leaves, I know Tia will be heartbroken and that’s the only thing that truly worries me. Tia’s already been hit with so much disappointment, I don’t know if I can stand watching her take another blow. Not that I think Maria would fade out of her life, but phone calls are no substitute.

“Hey Tia, sweetie, you ready to open your presents now?” enquires Maria, shaking me off that train of thought. Now is not the time to be thinking about the future, not on such a happy day.

Tia can’t contain her joy, but the reluctance in the emotion eats at me. She’s too afraid to hope for presents on her birthday, having obviously tasted such bitter disappointment before. I take this as my cue to head off to the side of the room to grab the rather badly wrapped present from out of the coat closet. Don’t judge me. Have you ever wrapped a clunky doll’s house before? It’s way harder than it looks.

I try to conspicuously place the monstrosity of a present behind Tia so that she won’t notice and I’m glad for once that her attention can only focus on one thing. If I had been surprising Maria with a gift this big, she’d have spotted me even before I’d finished exiting the closet.

I sneak back around in front of the group that’s gathered and nervously await giving her her present. I know she always watches the advertisements for it on TV, but what if I mistook her look for something different? What if she’s suddenly decided that she doesn’t like it anymore?

Unaware of my anxious state, Tia continues to happily tear through the paper of her first present and her eyes widen in almost comical delight as she gets a bunch of colouring books and crayons from Liz. Liz bends down to give her a cuddle and Tia returns it enthusiastically. I can’t help but be proud of that sight. Tia has truly gotten better in her interactions with people. She’s warming up to them so much faster now.

“Mitael! I dot stuff to dwaw wiv!” she informs me, waving her books and crayons in the air. I gift her with a big smile, warmed by her enthusiasm.

“I can see that Tia. Isn’t that great?” I turn to Liz who has wandered back over to us as the next person hands Tia her gift. “Thanks Liz, that gift certainly made a big impression. She loves to draw.”

Liz smiles at me and replies, “I know. She told me she wanted to be an artist just like her brother, so I thought I’d help her along with that.”

I can’t help the wide smile that grows across my face. I know she’s only little and she’ll probably turn out to be something completely different, but the idea that she looks up to me and wants to emulate me is so humbling.

Tia makes her way through the large stack of presents, receiving each one with excitement that seems to grow with each new acquisition. As she puts down the last present I wander over to her hold out my hand to her, pulling her gently to her feet.

“Cover your eyes,” I tell her softly. “I have a surprise for you.”

She giggles with nervous anticipation as I spin her around. “No peeking.”

I slow her to a halt after about three circles and then pull her hands from her face, revealing her present. I hear an intake of breath and garner that it’s of surprise, which is fair enough. That doll’s house is bigger than her and rather impressive, even in its shoddily wrapped state.

“Are you going to open it?” I prod, noting that she hasn’t moved.

“It’s for me?” she questions with what sounds like awe in her voice.

“Yeah, so you gonna open it or am I going to have to take it back?”

“No!” she protests quickly, moving towards the present and gingerly pulling at the sticky tape.

I bite back a smirk when I hear Maria’s exasperated huff and a couple of seconds later, “Just rip it baby!”

Maria gets shushed by Amy, but her efforts have the desired effect. Tia tears through the paper and gasps at what she sees. “You dot me da barbie house?”

“Happy birthday Tia.”

Tia stands motionless for a second before she begins squealing and jumping up and down, she turns to look at me, then looks back at her house before jumping into my arms.

“Tank you, tank you, tank you!” she yells in my ear before leaping out of my arms and running back to her doll’s house. She instantly begins playing with all the stupid things they’ve packed into it and calls over Cindy to help her play.

I look at her joyful face as she and Cindy play and think of all the money I spent on that stupid, disturbing house.

It was so worth it.
***

Isabel’s POV
“Alex and I talked about sex the other day.”

David’s face reveals nothing. “Did you discuss having sex, or just sex in general?”

“We discussed what we’ve done previously. He was surprised that I’ve never done anything. One day, he’s going to ask though. He’s going to want to have sex. What the hell am I going to do then?”

David looks at me very seriously and I’m relieved that he’s taking this seriously. It is a big deal, especially to me and I’d hate to have him just dismiss my fears. “Isabel, I also take couple’s counselling sessions and I can tell you that the basis for every functioning relationship is communication and honesty.”

“You think I should tell him,” I reply, staring at my hands. “About my past, I mean.”

“It’s not about what I want you to do, Isabel. It’s about what you need to do. If you want to have a true, meaningful relationship with Alex, and eventually a sexual relationship, then this is something he will need to know. You do have the option of not telling him, but from experience I can tell you that it never ends well.”

I nod glumly, wishing he’d advised me to do anything but that. “I will tell him. I will. Just not right now.”

“Have you decided what you’re going to tell him, Isabel? Perhaps it would be better to tell him in small doses, only telling him things that you feel comfortable sharing with him at that point. You don’t have to tell him anything that you don’t feel comfortable revealing right now, but I would advise putting off the more sexual aspects of your relationship until he knows.”

“Why? What do you think might happen if I don’t tell him?” I ask, feeling my curiosity well up.

David lets out a sigh. “He’ll be unprepared for any reaction you might have, Isabel. You’ve told me yourself, you think you’re going to freak out when you and Alex get into the sexual part of your relationship. How do you think he’ll react if you have a bad reaction to intimacy?”

I pause and then sigh in resignation. “He’ll be hurt. He’ll think that it was something he did.” I run my fingers through my hair and hang my head in my hands. “I can’t do that to him.”

I know I can’t. I can’t let anything hurt Alex, though I have no idea how he’s going to react.
***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 31, 13th April 09

Post by Rowedog » Fri May 01, 2009 5:32 pm

Sorry I suck so bad guys! I’ve been kinda overloaded with uni... my bad!

Ginger
Novy
DaleStateShorty-
I take it you’re from Oz? I’m more of an AFL gal than a league gal myself.
Leila- You suck so hard. I can’t believe all the crap you just said to me. Friendship null and void. :lol:
BB- BB, from now on, it’s just you and me. Leila’s been evicted.
Sunrise102
Katydid
Steph
Eve
Destiny
Scorpio6
Neve

Part Thirty Two

'So come along, it wont be long
'Til we return happy
Shut your eyes, there are no lies
In this world we call sleep
Let's desert this day of hurt
Tomorrow we'll be free'
Soon We’ll Be Free by Sia


***

Isabel’s POV
“So, what’s the big emergency?” he asks, sitting down on the couch and watching me with wary eyes as I pace back and forth in front of him.

I take a deep breath and try desperately not to let my tears show. I will not cry until I’m finished and he’s out of here. Because I know he will be. It’s too much for anyone to deal with. I don’t know how Liz does it.

“I have something I need to tell you.” I wring my hands as I walk back and forth on the carpet of the living room.

“O-kay...”

I’m speaking so fast that the words are barely making sense, but I can’t stop, I can’t slow down. “I... my therapist thinks it would be a good idea to tell you, but I’m afraid that you’ll leave me once you find out my secret.”

Alex struggles to process what I’ve just said. “Why would I leave you? Have you cheated on me?”

“No!” I object, watching relief seep back into Alex’s features. He then waits patiently for me to continue.

“I’m adopted,” I blurt out, watching his face for any signs of realisation.

Alex’s eyes widen in shock, but then narrow in confusion. “Okay, that’s a pretty big secret. Still not seeing why I’d leave you.”

“I was adopted when I was nearly six,” I continue, still studying his face carefully.

“Wow, so do you still have some memories of your birth parents?”

I nod, trying to keep it together. “Yeah, I have memories of my biological mother.”

Alex’s face takes on a hint of pain. “And she gave you up at that age? Izzy, that’s so harsh...”

I melt a little at the concern and empathy in Alex’s words, but I know they’ll soon disappear and be replaced with disgust.

“She was a prostitute,” I blurt out, still watching Alex’s face carefully. In a minute, he’ll be gone.

He looks confused for a moment, the he repeats back to me what I just said. “She was a prostitute?”

I nod hurriedly and bite at my nail. When I speak I find it hard to breathe, the dread and anticipation are pushing on my lungs and tightening around my rib cage. “She had sex with men for money and to pay for her crack addiction. When we were around six- Max had been six for a while, I was nearly six- one of her johns beat Max and I because he was high and put us in hospital. She willingly gave us up to the system because she didn’t want to pay for us anymore. Dad was doing pro bono work at the time and took on our case and then adopted us.”

Alex shakes his head slowly. The running will start any second now. “Oh Iz...”

Alex rises up off the couch and takes me into his arm. I stiffen in shock as he pulls my body closer into his. “You’re not leaving?”

He pulls back to look at me. “Do you want me to go?”

“No! I just... I’m the daughter of a crack whore and my father is some faceless john! That doesn’t disgust you?”

He shrugs casually and I gape at him. “No.”

“Why not?”

“You’re still you. You’re not your Mom Izzy, you’re not responsible for her actions. None of us can control where we come from, we’re only responsible for ourselves.”

Alex’s kind words break through my brittle control. I start to sob and he takes me into his arms whispering soothing nothings into my ear.

“Who else knows?” he asks.

“Liz,” is my succinct answer.

I can hear the disbelief in his voice. “Just Liz?”

“We tend not to tell people, it’s our dirty little secret. I thought for sure you’d never want to see me again,” I cry, gripping onto him tightly.

He laughs and rubs my back as I shake. “Thanks for the character reference. I’m glad I come off so fickle and shallow to you.”

“No, you’re not... it’s just... it’s hard for me to accept what’s happened in the past... I don’t know how you can so easily.”

He gently grasps my cheeks in his hands and wipes the remaining tears away with his thumbs. “Maybe because I’m an objective outsider. This is obviously something very personal and painful for you, Izzy. It can’t be easy dealing with it, so you assume that everyone is going to feel the same disgust over your childhood as you do. But it doesn’t change anything for me. I love you, not because I thought that the Evans’ were your natural parents, but because of who you are.”

“You love me?”

He smiles sadly at me, my disbelief obviously making this moment bittersweet for him. “Of course.”

I throw myself at him, his avowal after I told him such humiliating and horrifying secrets was far more than I ever dreamed possible. Alex loves me. He knows what I am and he still loves me.

I kiss him ferociously and Alex stumbles under the weight of my assault. However the moment is ruined when the front door slams shut. We spring apart guiltily and I silently curse myself for doing this here. This is not how I want my Mom and Alex to meet.

Mom comes to a standstill in the doorway of the den as she spots both Alex and I standing apart like two guilty little children caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

She gives me a speculative look. “Izzy, who’s your friend?”

I take a deep breath. “Mom, this is Alex. My boyfriend.”

Her eyebrows shoot up, but she thankfully doesn’t say anything. “It’s nice to meet you, Alex.”

“It’s nice to meet you too, Mrs Evans,” says Alex, reaching for her outstretched hand to shake. “I’m sorry to intrude on you this way.”

Mom looks pleasantly surprised by Alex’s thoughtfulness. “Don’t worry about it and please, call me Diane. You know, I’d love to get to know you better, how about you stay for dinner? I’m cooking extra anyway.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to be any trouble,” says Alex trying to refuse politely.

“Oh no, I insist.”

Alex takes a deep breath in and I know he heard the threat in her words as well as I did.

“Ok then, I’ll just call my mom and tell her that I won’t be home for dinner.”

Mom smiles happily. “Great. I hope you like roast lamb.”

Oh boy, this is going to be dreadful.
***

Liz’s POV
Max and I enter the Evans house to find both Alex and Isabel already seated at the table. Max and I look at each other in surprise; as far as we knew, Isabel had yet to tell her mom that she had a boyfriend, let alone inviting him over for dinner.

“Hey Iz, hey Shmal.” I bend down to give him a hug while he’s still seated and it gives him the opportunity to twist in his seat and whisper in my ear.

“She came home early and found us here. Help me.”

I laugh a little and ruffle his hair.

“Liz, do you know Isabel’s boyfriend?” asks Diane as she watches us interact.

I nod and place my hand supportively on his shoulder. Parents tend to be more protective of their daughters than they do their sons and Diane was pretty gung-ho about protecting Max. I can’t bear to think of what she’s put Alex through. “He’s and Maria are my best friends.”

“Oh.” Diane looks a little placated by this information. “Well, that’s good then.”

Before she can ask anything else, Phillip comes in and she sets about serving dinner seeing as everyone is now present. We’re all tense throughout the meal as we wait for Diane to start questioning Alex. So far she’s only made small chat with Phillip, but we can all feel it brewing.

“So Alex,” Ah, there we go. “How did you and Isabel meet?”

“Well, we go to the same school so we saw each other there quite a bit. But we really got to know each other through volunteering at the hospital.”

Diane seems to soften a bit when she hears this. “Do you enjoy volunteering there?”

“Yeah, it feels like we’re actually helping out. I know we can’t do anything to cure the kids in the ward, but it feels good to make their days a bit better.”

From where I’m sitting on the other side of Alex, I can see Isabel reach down and take his hand in hers and give it a gentle squeeze. Diane looks suitably impressed by this, but I don’t think she’ll give up.

“We also take art courses at the community centre,” Isabel informs them, trying to take the heat off of Alex.

“That’s nice. So how long have you and Liz been friends?” she asks looking between the two of us.

“Since third grade,” I reply for him, saving him from speaking. He looks like he’s about to poo his pants. I’ll help the little guy out.

“Wow, usually boys go through a period where it’s uncool and gross to be friends with girls. I’m amazed you managed to stay friends through that time.”

“Alex has never really buckled to peer pressure or done what others are doing. He sticks by his guns and does what he thinks is right,” I tell them proudly. I’ve always been proud to have Alex as my friend.

“That’s very commendable,” remarks Phillip as he takes some more boiled potatoes.

“So how long have you two been dating?”

Isabel swallows and I let her field this one. There’s no way I’m getting involved in that question.

“A couple of weeks now,” Alex says, taking a sip from his glass of water.

“Wow,” remarks Diane dryly with a pointed look at her daughter. “That long?”

Alex nods with a bit of a pained glance at me, obviously waiting for the repercussions. “Yep.”

And then for some strange reason, Diane smiles and then turns and begins questioning Phillip on a new case he’s working on. I look across to Max for answers as to why she suddenly just lost interest just when she could have slammed Isabel for not telling her sooner. Max grins at me and leans down to my ear to whisper, “She was just fucking with Isabel, she was never really upset that Izzy hadn’t told her. She just wanted to play with her for a bit. Plus she did get to know Alex better, and I think she’s satisfied with what she found out.”

“That’s cruel!” I hiss back, laughing at her deviousness. “Man, your mom’s awesome.”

Alex and Isabel must have come to the same conclusion because Isabel looks a little pissed, but Alex just looks relieved that it’s over.

The conversation soon returns to normal, the whispers having dropped out and the four of us have started our own conversation while Max’s ‘rents chat.

“You know what? I don’t mind him,” declares Alex. “Just so long as he never looks at me or speaks to me again, I would be quite prepared to get over the fact that he’s alive.”

“I’ve never been a huge fan of Marco,” agrees Max. “He’s so immature and sex orientated.”

“I think he’s great because he says stupid stuff in class all the time and makes me laugh,” I tell them with a vindictive glee. Some people are only put on this Earth for my amusement, I swear.

“Oh yeah, I totally love being hit on by him,” Isabel tells us as seriously as she can. “It really makes my day whenever he calls me sweetcheeks.”

“I hope you two are very happy together,” says Alex dryly.

“You’re invited to the wedding,” Isabel informs him, a twinkle in her eye. “We’ll probably make a video tape of the honeymoon night, so if you want a copy I can-”

“Oh that’s it!” Alex begins to tickle Isabel, who shrieks with laughter. Which in turn catches the eyes of both Philip and Diane. I watch Diane’s face and see the softening in her expression when she watches Izzy laugh. I know from being around her that Isabel doesn’t laugh a lot. She’s a lot more serious than I had previously imagined, but she brightens up so much around Alex and I’m glad that Diane can see that.
***

Alex’s POV
“So you know about their past?” I ask once Liz pulls out of their driveway.

“She told you?”

I nod. “Yeah and she seemed to have this crazy idea that I’d leave her once I found out.”

“Yeah, don’t worry about that. Both Isabel and Max have really low self esteem and because of how horrible their mother was they don’t think that they’re worthy of love.”

I suck in a breath, my heart aching at the thought of my girlfriend hating herself. “That’s horrible. But it makes a lot of her insecurities and stuff understandable.”

Liz suddenly turns to me, her expression serious. “Alex, you can’t ever joke about breaking up with her. Not even so sarcastically that you think she wouldn’t be able to miss the fact that you were joking. She would think that you were being serious and preparing her for it or something. Those two siblings have the worst self esteem ever. They can’t understand why anyone would want to be with them, even though they’re really awesome people.”

A horrible thought floats through my brain and won’t go away. “Is that why she picked me? Because I’m so far beneath her level that she doesn’t have to worry about me leaving her?”

Liz raises one hand off the wheel and smacks me upside the head. “Is that really something you feel Isabel is capable of? Nice to know how you see your girlfriend, Alex. It’s the exact opposite actually. Both Max and Isabel think we’re too good for them. In fact, Isabel is the complete opposite of shallow, because she’s attracted to people based on who they are. Both the Evans kids like people who are the opposite of their mother. It’s actually a huge compliment to us that they see us as such wonderful people.”

“Really? Isabel thinks I’m wonderful?”

“Duh, Alex. What are you, blind? I’ve had to have so many conversations about you and whether I think that you actually do like her despite the fact that you’re dating her. She thinks that one day you’re going to wake up and wonder what the hell you’re doing with her. She’s terrified of that happening.”

“Well, I’ll just have to convince her that I’m sticking around, won’t I?”

Liz smiles at me brightly. “That you will, Alex. That you will.”
***

Liz’s POV
Oh Jesus H. Christ. Why me?

I’ve just entered the community centre looking for Maria and instead I see the one DeLuca I never want to see again.

“Well, well, little Lizzy Parker. Where’ve you been hiding?”

I glare at Sean and manage to keep my composure. “Clearly away from you.”

“Ooh, I like it when you’re angry. You’re so... fiery.”

I stomp behind the front desk and start looking for a note that Maria would have left me if she’d decided to go somewhere. “You should get out of here, Sean. My boyfriend will be here soon.”

Sean grimaces slightly. “You mean little Maxie waxie? Pfft, I could take him. I could take him down and you could reward me with a date. Let me show you how a real man gets down.”

I wince and resist the urge to vomit as Sean begins to simulate sexual acts in front of me, imitating my voice poorly and answering his own pathetic cries. He’s thrusting his hips back and forth and is clearly pretending to be doing it doggy style with me. “Oh yes, Sean, you’re so big! Oh yeah baby, you like that? You like that Liz? Oh yes, Sean! Do me, Sean! Do me with your big cock! Yeah baby I’ma fuck you so har-”

I blink as out of nowhere Max appears and shoves Sean so hard he flies backwards about a yard and lands heavily on his lard ass. I’d laugh at the comically terrified look on Sean’s face if it wasn’t entirely warranted. Max looks set to kill. I’ve never seen him this angry. I quickly duck from behind the desk and move in front of him to restrain him. I place a hand on his chest as he reaches Sean, his eyes blazing.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing to my girlfriend?” he roars. Luckily there’s very few people in the centre at this time of the day, but still... this is entirely inappropriate.

“Hey man, it was just a joke, I was just fooling around.” Sean looks at me for help and while I usually wouldn’t, I would hate for Max to do something he regrets again, like he did with Travis.

“Max, he’s just a moron. Seriously, just leave it alone,” I plead, but Max still looks set to kill.

“You think you can talk to her like that and get away with it?” he hisses. He’s that furious that he’s hissing. This is all going to end in tears. “I’m going to kill you.”

The seriousness in his voice is so menacing that I feel chills run up and down my spine. He takes a step towards Sean who is scrambling to his feet in order to run away. But not quick enough. Max pulls back his fist preparing to strike, so I jump right in front of him, praying that I’m enough of a distraction to shock him out of his blood lust.

It works. Max has dropped his fist and is now looking horrified at himself.

“Sean, go. Now.” He doesn’t hesitate. He flees as soon as my words shock him into action. I lead a shaking Max over to the front desk and sit him in the desk chair.

“Liz, what’s wrong with me?” he whispers, so ashamed of himself that it breaks my heart.

“You didn’t hit him, Max,” I remind him.

He shakes his head slowly. “I was going to. I would have, if you hadn’t stepped in the way.”

“Max, you’re in control enough to stop when you saw me, you didn’t just go on a murderous rampage. You tried to hit someone that was disrespecting me, you didn’t get angry because someone accidentally bumped into you or something. Your anger was justified.”
***

Max’s POV
I keep my head down, unable to look her in the eye.

“The amount wasn’t,” I reply. “I wanted to kill him. I wanted to beat him till he stopped breathing. That’s not normal Liz.”

Liz bites her lip. I know she’s only trying to soothe me and calm me down, but I can’t just let this go. That time with Travis wasn’t just a one off. I have this rage inside me, just ticking like a clock and who knows what might spark it off again?

Liz finally stops trying to play it down and sighs, deciding that overlooking it isn’t the best option. “Have you talked about your fight with Travis with David?”

I shake my head. We’ve been focussing in on my childhood and the memories. I haven’t had time to go into it.

“Maybe next time you should,” suggests Liz as lightly as she can. I nod, there has to be a way to get myself back under control. There has to be.
***

Max’s POV
“Max, you look agitated,” comments David as I sit down.

I nod my head. “I nearly lost control the other day.”

“Lost control of what?”

I run my hands through my hair, wishing I could understand why I’m like this. “My temper. My control. You remember my fight with Travis?”

“I vaguely heard about it from your mother,” he responds.

I pinch the bridge of my nose with my thumb and forefinger, trying to make sense of my own actions in my head. “I had another incident like that. This guy was saying all these...” his words echo in my head and I can feel the rage build up inside me. I squash it down. “Vile things to Liz. I snapped, I would have hit him if Liz hadn’t jumped in the way. I would have killed him if I could.”

“And this worries you, that you feel you’re capable of such things,” he concludes, writing in his notepad.

“Why do I have so much anger?” I ask, unable to look him in the eye.

“Why do you think you have so much anger, Max?” he replies, answering my question with another question.

I shrug. “If I knew that I wouldn’t be asking you.”

He takes no offence to my tone, instead he directs my thoughts elsewhere. “What makes you angry, Max? What gets you furious, just thinking of it?”

“The way Travis and Sean spoke to Liz,” I grunt, my fists clenching. “They spoke to her like she was a common whore, like she was...” I trail off with a sickening realisation. That can’t be it. That can’t be where all that rage came from. I blocked that part of my life off.

“Like she was what, Max?” asks my therapist eagerly, sensing that I’m on the verge of a break through.

“Like she was someone like my mother,” I whisper, aghast at myself. How could I have let my past interfere so much with my present?

“Does the thought of your mother make you angry, Max?” he probes.

“I don’t think about her,” I reply swiftly.

He gives me an evaluative look. “Except for when you get those memories.”

I exhale loudly, frustrated with this vein of conversation. Why must it always come back to my mother? “Yes. That’s the only time.”

My therapist sighs and leans forward. “Max, if I put a theory to you as to why you react the way you do and why you have these difficulties you face, would you listen to it and not dismiss it out of hand entirely?”

I nod slowly and he leans back, pleased with my answer. “Max, it’s my professional opinion that you have a lot of shame concerning your past and how you originated. And because of that, you feel a lot of anger. Anger towards your past situation and anger towards your biological mother. And instead of dealing with these feelings, you’ve blocked them off and repressed them because those feelings make you feel out of control. So when you did let loose some of your anger, all that emotion, all that hate and rage that you’ve been compressing for the past ten years exploded out of you.”

“How do you feel about your mother Max?” asks David when I don’t respond to his theory.

I shrug. I don’t like talking about her.

“Come on, Max. It’s only you and I here. You can let loose in front of me. Tell me what you feel about your mother, tell me how her actions make you feel.”

“I hate her.” And something inside me snaps. I can’t stop the sudden boiling rage in my chest as I finally say those unspoken feelings. “I hate her so much. I wish she’d die, the fucking cunt.” A part of me is horrified. I’ve never said that word out loud before, let alone used it to describe someone else. But another part of me relishes in the feel of my anger finally getting an outlet at its original source. I continue, my anger rising as I recall every single shitty she’d ever done to me and my sister. I don’t even try to stop anymore, I couldn’t if I wanted to. It all comes pouring out.

I can’t believe the hate and the vitriol spewing from between my lips, it’s as if someone else has taken control of my body. Like the fight with Travis, I feel completely out of control and it’s terrifying to me.

I slowly begin to calm down as my list of things that I remember slowly gets smaller and smaller. My breathing rate slows and I find myself feeling better. Not just because the anger is dwindling, but because the swirling mess of emotions that usually resides in me has somehow gotten lighter.

“How do you feel, Max?” David asks, looking at me intently through his spectacles.

“Better,” I reply honestly. “I feel better.”

I think I’ve just had a breakthrough.
***
Last edited by Rowedog on Fri May 01, 2009 6:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 32, 2nd May 09

Post by Rowedog » Sun May 24, 2009 3:39 am

I can’t wait to hear your guesses on the twist at the end. Sorry for taking so long with this update, I just went through three weeks of placement in Grade Two and the little doodlebugs gave me their cold.
This part is reminiscent of the old days when we had only one POV. This is all from Max’s POV (sorry Leila). Anyway, hope you like it. Thank you to all feedbackers and kisses to the lurkers.

BB- I love it when you and I get all wet trouty. By the way, I was very productive today, as you can tell. I went from two pages all the way up to nine.
Leila- I do, I love it so much. Bump me so hard. I want to feel you bumping against my heart. :wink:
Ashley- Hey, I thought you were dead! Welcome back... sorta...
Destiny- You’d think so, but no. Sean’s not that bright.
Novy- Thanks Novy, and I’m glad you’re liking More Than A Girl as well, despite the fact that I just ran with another fic idea instead of working with you. Forgive me? :D
Mary- Meh, my name’s not important. :lol:
Neve- By the way, the next parts after this are hardcore Michael parts. It’s like... chockablock Michael. Thought you might be pleased to hear that.
Eve- Yeah, he’s taking a big step in this one as well to help himself heal.
Natalie36- I’m glad it affected you that much. Score one to me!
DaleStateShorty- I’m in Melbourne and Uni’s ok. Placement was way too long, but meh, what can you do?
Steph- Ooh, I really need to hit you up with a pm. We need to chat.
Eternal_Dreamer- Sorry, I wasn’t really quick with my update... :oops:
Spacegirl23- Feel ashamed. Feel very ashamed. :lol: Nah, welcome.
Scorpio6- Well, I can’t fault you on manners. :wink:

Part Thirty Three

'You know we're fallin' to zero
Hurtin' much more than it did before
I'm always playing the hero
Cleaning your mess as you walk out the door

I'm counting things'll change now
Taking it back where it all began
Don't like this merry-go-round
Gotta believe, believe we can

We're coming home we're coming home
You know it's now or never

No afterglow this time I know
But I'm feelin' kinda better'
We're Coming Home by The Rogue Traders


***

Max’s POV
Liz yawns from her position on my chest. Her parents have gone out to dinner and we’ve decided to watch a movie together on the couch. She’s sprawled out on top of me, her head resting on my chest.

“Tired?” I ask, running a hand down her back lightly and then back up.

She nods a little and snuggles back into my chest. “Mmmhmmm. Work is killing me. I’ve told Dad that I need less shifts, so hopefully next week will be a bit lighter.”

“Well that’s good.”

We fall into silence for awhile whilst I work up the courage to say what I want to and figure out how to segue into the topic.

I eventually decide to just bite the bullet. “So, I think I had a kind of breakthrough in therapy yesterday.”

Liz lifts her head up to look at me, her eyes full of hope and pleasant surprise. “Really?”

I nod, my fingers tracing patterns onto her back as I talk. “Yeah, I figured out the source of my anger.”

“Yeah?”

“My mother. My biological one, that is.”

Liz nods. “Well, it makes sense. I mean, she’s the reason you had such a shitty childhood.” Liz shakes her head sadly and lets out an angry huff. “I wonder if she ever thought about the consequences of her parenting and the effect she’d have on you two.”

I snort. “I doubt she ever thinks of me and Isabel at all. She probably doesn’t give a rat’s ass.”

Liz bites her lip and I can tell she’s wrestling over whether or not to ask me a question.

“What?” I ask her. “You can ask me anything.”

She gives me a sheepish look, as if she’s apologising already for what she’s about to ask. “Do you ever wonder about her, Max? Like what she’s doing, if she ever got over her addiction, what she looks like now, that kind of stuff?”

I look away for a moment, Liz having spoken thoughts that I’d refused to acknowledge existed in my head. “I try not to.”

Liz presses on, despite my reluctance to talk about this subject. “Have you ever thought about going to find her and confronting her?”

“No.”

“Ok.” Liz must sense how difficult this topic is for me, because she lowers her head back down and starts watching TV again. I however can’t focus on anything but the topic we were just discussing. Of course I’d thought about my biological mother in the past, but I’d never thought about seeing her again. Before Liz came, I’d always thought of my biological mother as the past, something to put behind me and never think of again. But know... the idea has set up camp in my head and won’t go away. It’s rolling around in my head and I can’t shake it. What would happen if I did go and see her?
***
“David, what do you think would happen if I talked to my mother?” I pause for a moment, stroking my finger back and forth on the arm of the leather chair, my eyes directed at my feet. “My biological mother.”

David blinks a couple of times and his brow furrows as he thinks over the question. “Is that something you’ve been considering, Max?”

“Hypothetical situation,” I mutter back, once more engrossed in toying with the arm of the chair.

“Well, Max, there is no real way of knowing how you would react in such a situation, but often people find closure and answers by confronting their pasts. However, if you’re not prepared for her possible indifference or cruelty then seeing her could have the opposite effect.”

I exhale slowly, relieved that he hasn’t dismissed the idea out of hand. “The more I’ve been talking about her, the more I’ve been thinking about it. There’s just so many questions I have to ask, so many things I want to say to her.”

“Max, from what I’ve seen of your anger, I don’t think it will go away until you’ve addressed the source of your troubles. Most of your anger is directed towards her. Confronting her might be a crucial stepping stone you need on your path to recovery.”

I frown in disappointment. “So, confronting her won’t make me better right away?”

David smiles apologetically at me. “It could be a useful and critical part of the healing process, Max, but it’s not a magic cure-all.”

I let out a non-committal, “Hmm,” as I go over my options. I could remain here and risk not getting better, or I could go see her and risk... everything.
***
Isabel was probably not the best choice to talk to about this. She’s reacted far more strongly against it than I ever could have imagined.

She shakes her head adamantly from her seat on her bed. “Max, don’t go. This is a really bad idea. I have such a bad feeling about this.”

“Izzy, I...” I run my hands down my face as Isabel tears up. “I think I need to.”

Her breath comes in quick pants. “Don’t. Please don’t go. Something bad is going to happen to you there, I know it.”

“Iz... this is something I think I need to do. You don’t have to go.”

“I wasn’t going to,” she bites out. “That bitch has never done anything, for either of us. She doesn’t deserve to see you again.”

“I know, but I need to tell her how I feel. About what she’s done to me and my self worth.”

“Max...” she blinks the tears out of her eyes and I instantly know that there is more to this story than she’s letting on.

I take her hands between mine, and stare into her eyes. “What are you really afraid of, Izzy?”

She takes a shuddering breath in and bites her lip. “You ever see the movie, Glitter?”

My brow furrows in confusion and I have a highly inappropriate urge to laugh. “Ugh... no?”

“Don’t, it’s crap,” she tells me with a sniffle. “But there’s this Mom in it... and she’s drunk all the time, or on drugs... I don’t know, one of the two. Anyway, Mariah’s character gets put into the foster system and then like, years later she finds out that her mother got off drinking or drugs or whatever she was on and was living a clean life so that her daughter could be proud of her. And I always kinda had this image that... that’s what our mother was doing. And I was happy not ever knowing if it was true or not, because I could hold onto some hope. But if you go and see her...”

“Then you’ll know for sure and probably have your hopes dashed.”

She nods and stares at her feet. “It’s stupid, I know...”

“It’s not stupid,” I tell her. “I think it’s wonderful that you want to believe that there’s some good in her, despite all that she’s done.”

“Just... promise me you’ll be careful, Max?” she implores me. “Come back in one piece, ok?”

“Promise.”

“Oh and Max?” she asks as I head towards the door. I turn and wait for her to continue. “If she hasn’t changed at all... I don’t want details. You may be ready, but I’m not.”

I nod and send her a small smile. “I’ll only tell you if you ask.”

“Thanks.”
***
“Dad, I need to talk to you about something.”

Dad’s welcoming smile slides off his face as he takes in the grim set of my face and the tenseness of my stance. He gestures towards the spare seat in his home office and waits for me to sit down. “Ok, shoot.”

“I want... I think... I,” I pause, not knowing how to continue. “I want my biological mother’s address.”

Whatever Dad was expecting me to say, I don’t think he ever could have anticipated that, judging from the look on his face.

“You want her address,” he repeats back to me as if he can’t quite believe what he’s hearing.

“I want to confront her. I need to talk to her and let her know how much she’s fucked with my head.”

Dad is obviously extremely stunned from this revelation, as he doesn’t even pull me up on my profanity usage.

“Have you talked to David about this?”

“Yeah.”

Dad nods and then begins to rifle through his paperwork. He pulls out a dusty manila folder and leafs through it till he finds the page that he wants. He then rips a sheet off his notepad and writes, while my heart beats in my throat.

“Here you go, Max. Her address.”

I take the piece of paper from Dad with shaky fingers. “Just like that? I don’t have to fight you for it or discuss it with you?”

Dad shakes his head. “I’ve raised you to make your own decisions, Max. I may not agree with them, or wish that you’d take an easier option, but if you really that this is something that you want to do, then I can’t stand in your way. Just remember, you don’t have to do it, Max. Your mother and I will support you no matter what you choose to do, but remember, it’s a choice. It’s not a necessity. If you’re not ready, you don’t have to go through with it.”

“I know.” I place my hand on Dad’s shoulder as I rise up from my chair. “Thanks Dad. For everything.”

Dad and I share a look and I know he realises that I’m not just thanking him for the address, but for everything he’s ever done for me and Isabel. For taking us in, for giving us a loving home and for being the best parents I could have asked for.

“You’re very welcome, Max.”

I pause in the doorway, remembering something else. “Oh, and Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Can you tell Mom later, after I’ve gone to see her? I can’t tell her. I know it’s cowardly, but it’d feel like a betrayal and she’d beg me not to go and... I just... can’t do it.”

“Ok, Max. I’ll tell her for you.”

I sigh in relief and a smile stretches my lips again. “Thank you.”
***
I pause in Liz’s doorway and watch her as she diligently does her homework and feel that familiar rush of love swell up in my chest. I’ve really got it bad when watching someone do their homework fills me with butterflies. And for a moment, I let myself believe that I’m just a normal boy in love with a beautiful girl, but then reality sets in as I recall what I’ve come to tell her. I exhale slowly and clear my throat. “Hey Liz.”

“Hey there, you,” says Liz, delight colouring her tone as she swivels on her desk chair and takes me in. “What’s up?”

I shift nervously from foot to foot as I speak. “You know how we were talking about whether or not I thought about my mother?”

“Yeah,” she says with a nod.

“I... I’ve been thinking about going to see her,” I blurt out, watching her reaction very closely.

Liz’s eyebrows flick up in surprise, but she doesn’t say anything for a moment. When she does speak, it’s with slow deliberation, as if she’s not quite sure how to word what she’s asking.

“Would that be helpful?”

“I hope so,” I sigh, crossing her bedroom floor and slumping on her bed.

She gets up and makes her way over to the bed and sits next to me, taking my hand in hers. I lace my fingers through hers and curse my biological mother for fucking up my life and interfering with my relationship with Liz. “But there’s no guarantee, right?”

“David says it could either be a crucial stepping stone to my recovery or...” I trail off, not wanting to think about the alternative.

“Or it could set you back,” Liz finishes for me.

“Yep.”

We sit in silence for a moment, both of us lost in our own thoughts.

“Do you feel ready for something like that?” Liz asks after a while.

“I feel... that I have to.”

Liz lets out a soft sigh of resignation. “Ok then. Do you know where she lives?”

I nod and pull the piece of paper from my pocket. Dad’s scrawl is oddly comforting to me. “Yeah, I got it from Dad.”

“Where is she?”

“Las Cruces,” I reply. “She’s still in the same house, or at least the phone book says that she is.”

“So, what was your last name before the Evans’s adopted you?” asks Liz, pressing her face into my bicep and kissing it through the cotton of my shirt.

“Hodges,” I reply as I skim over the address. I roughly know how to get there, but it’s in a very bad neighbourhood. Not that that’s surprising.

“Max Hodges,” she says, testing it out. “I prefer Max Evans.”

“So do I,” I reply truthfully.

“When do you want to do it?” she asks softly.

I know that putting it off will only make it harder, so I reach into my pocket and pull out my keys. “No time like the present.”

Her face blanches and her eyes widen in surprise. “Now?”

“Tomorrow morning,” I clarify. “I probably won’t sleep tonight, but I’m not confronting her in the middle of the night.”

She nods, a little relieved. “Ok. I’m coming with you.”

“No,” I object, not wanting her anywhere near my mother. “There’s no way that-”

“Max,” she interrupts. “Either you take me there, or I hitch hike up to Las Cruces myself. I’m not letting you go through this alone. It’s huge and you’ll need someone afterwards.”

I groan in resignation. “You’re staying in the car,” I tell her, knowing that she’d go through with her threat too.

“Fine,” she sighs, “Just remember, that no matter what happens, no matter what she ays to you, that you’re worthy of love. Remember that you experience more love in a day, than she would in a lifetime.”

“I’ll remember,” I tell her as I take her into my arms. I don’t know what I did to deserve her love, but I thank Christ that I did it.

Now I can only hope to God that what happens tomorrow doesn’t completely destroy me.
***
We pull up to the house and I turn to look at Liz, who is sitting stiffly with her eyebrows furrowed. She’s so worried about me and what I’m about to put myself through, but I know it’s going to help. I need to do this.

“Stay here, ok? I don’t want you anywhere near this.”

“But, Max-” she begins to protest, only to be silenced by my finger against her lips.

“That woman in there is dangerous. I don’t want anything to happen to you. I couldn’t stand it. Stay in the car and lock the doors, ok?”

“But what if something happens to you?” she whispers, probably going out of her mind with worry right now.

“I have pepper spray and a nasty right hook,” I tell her with a smile that belies the fear rolling around in my stomach. What if I’m not ready for this? I guess it’s too late to worry about that now.

“Max, this place is... it looks really rough.”

“I thought you wanted me to confront her?” I remind her gently.

She bites the side of her lip as she looks around the neighbourhood that I spent six years growing up in. “That was before I saw this place.”

“I’ll be fine,” I reassure her, as doubt rolls around in my stomach. She doesn’t need to know how much this is scaring me.

I kiss her softly and then jump out of the car, feeling relief as I hear the locks click behind me. She actually listened to me.

I skirt around the motorbike parked outside and walk up to the front door, tripping over the uneven pavement as I walk. Her front yard is filthy, full of broken bottles, rusty pieces of junk metal and old broken furniture. My mom would have a conniption if her front yard ever looked like this. I smile at the comparison between my mom and my biological mother. I was so, so lucky to be taken in as I was. There could be no two better parents on the planet than Phillip and Diane Evans.

I hesitate in front of the peeling, cracked door and then decide that it’s now or never. I raise my fist and knock on the door.

My heart thuds in my mouth as I hear footsteps approach. The door swings open with a rush of stale and fetid air to reveal my worst memory, everything I’ve tried to repress for the past decade is now staring me in the face.

She hasn’t aged well. Her hair is lank, limp and greasy, the roots a lot darker than the rest of her bottle blonde hair. Her brown eyes –which were once mirror images of Isabel’s- are bloodshot and yellow, with a myriad of creases around them that never used to be there. Her mouth is thin, hard and puckered and years of smoking have stained her teeth a horrendous yellow. Her skin is papery and loose from years of drug abuse and is peppered with varicose veins and splotches of discolouration.

She is a train wreck. And as she stands there in her short dressing gown which she’s obviously not wearing anything underneath, her mouth twists up into an appraising smile. “Well, well... it’s not often I get a young stud like you. I bet you like it rough.”

Before I can stop her, her hand snakes out and cups the front of my crotch, giving me an evaluative squeeze. My eyes widen in disbelief and I throw her hand away from me in disgust hoping like hell that Liz didn’t see that.

She cackles at me, her voice roughened from years of smoking. “Don’t pretend like you didn’t come here for that. By the looks of things, you’re quite a big boy, this should be good.”

“I’m not here for that,” I grate, disgusted beyond all belief. This woman just propositioned her own son, not that she knew who I was, but I can’t help but wonder if she’d care. I suppose she’d screw anyone so long as they were willing to pay for it.

Her eyes narrow at me, the creases deepening as she does so. She looks about sixty as opposed to just under forty. “What are you here for then? I’m busy.”

The tiny hope that I’d held onto that she’d recognise me fades with her rough question. “You don’t recognise me?”

“Should I?” she wonders, looking at me closely. “You’re not my new parole officer are you?”

“No,” I snap, wondering if I should have come here. “I’m Max.”

She looks at me blankly for a moment and then her eyes widen in recognition. They then narrow with suspicion. “What do you want? I haven’t got any money.”

I let out a deep breath. “I was just wondering if I could talk to you.”

She pauses for a moment, obviously wondering what my true intentions are. Eventually she shrugs and gestures for me to follow her. I walk on the crusty carpet wondering just what each stain used to be and decide for my own peace of mind that I don’t want to know.

I come to a screeching halt as my eyes take in the other person standing impatiently in the room, looking like they’d rather be anywhere but here right now. I take in the familiar features, my eyes unable to correspond with my brain. There is no way in hell that that particular person should have any reason to be standing in the middle of my biological mother’s living room. Their eyes snap to mine and I see the disbelief etched on their face like it is on mine.

They open their mouth to speak. “Max?”
***
Last edited by Rowedog on Sun May 24, 2009 5:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 33, 24th May 09

Post by Rowedog » Tue Jun 02, 2009 10:46 pm

Woohoo, got you all fired up didn’t I? I wonder if anybody actually reads what I’m writing up here. Probably not. You probably just skip on down to the good bits. But if you do, make a reference to penguins in your fb. ‘P.S. Penguins’ will be more than sufficient but if you want to be more obscure then by all means, let your imagination run wild. Call it a cultural study.

You know the worst bit about updating, finding fucking song lyrics to go with the tone of the part. Alison, never use song lyrics in fics ever again.

Destiny
Notyourchick
Emz
Natalie36
Leila
Keepsmiling7-
I hope when all is said and done Max will come to Diane and talk to her about this, he was a coward not to face her first.
A coward? I would have gone with a seventeen year old boy who’s had to talk himself up to even consider going through with something that might help him chase away his demons. He was terrified of going and he knew how his mother would react to his going and he wanted to spare himself some drama. He’s not perfect, but then again, who of us is?
Eve
Nibbles2-
I can't believe that woman in still alive if she's been living that lifestyle for so long. It's almost impressive.
I lol’ed.
Novy-
And no worries Alison. Nothing to forgive. I love everything you do!
Aw Noves, you make me blush!
Ginger
Spacegirl23
Scorpio6-
I’m glad your friend got the closure he deserved, that’s awesome.
Eternal_Dreamer
Tequathisy-
Yeesh, spoil it for the rest of us, why don’t you? :lol:
Uw51- Yes, you make sense. I get you :wink:
SmileeUK- Welcome and thank you!
RoninBehr
Abs007-
Intense is my middle name. (Actually it’s Louise, but don’t tell anyone)
Sunrise102
DaleStateShorty
Clue-
I thought you were dead! Welcome back!
Part Thirty Four

'What if I wanted to break
Laugh it all off in your face
What would you do? (Oh, oh)
What if I fell to the floor
Couldn't take all this anymore
What would you do, do, do?

Come break me down
Bury me, bury me
I am finished with you'
The Kill by 30 Seconds To Mars


***

Max’s POV
“Michael?” I gasp, my mind furiously trying to come up with a reason why Maria’s boyfriend would be standing in my mother’s house. “What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same question,” he replies, his eyes narrowing.

“Isn’t this sweet?” cackles Meg as she picks up her crack pipe, preparing to light it. “It’s like a family reunion.”

My eyes slide from her to Michael and then back to her, trying to make sense of her words. “What are you talking about?”

“Both my sons in the same room,” she laughs shrilly again, taking a hit from her pipe. “Somebody call Hallmark.”

“Sons?” demands Michael as our eyes collide. My heart beats frantically in my chest as my head vehemently denies that she could be telling the truth.

Her good mood disappears as abruptly as it came on. “Did I stutter? Open your fucking ears!”

I gesture to Michael, my breath coming short and fast in my chest. “He’s my brother?”

“God you’re fucking stupid, just like the rest of my ungrateful children” she says derisively. “Keep up.”

My eyes lock on Michael who is staring back at me with his deep brown eyes. Isabel’s eyes.

And then the realisation hits me. I stagger under the crushing weight of it. Michael is my brother.

“How is that possible?” demands Michael, his teeth clenched together as he stares at me, obviously struggling with the newfound knowledge as much as I am.

“They were less than two years old when you got put into the system. You were only four. Figures you wouldn’t remember much,” says Meg offhandedly, taking another puff.

“They?” he whispers, his eyes widening as he realises what she means. “Isabel. Isabel’s my sister.”

“Halle-fucking-lujah,” she cackles, her manically bright mood sparking back up again. “I was beginning to think you were both retarded.”

My eyes widen as I recall Maria’s appendicitis and who came to visit her. A brown-haired, shy little girl. Michael’s sister. “Tia.”

“Yeah, that was the last of ‘em.” She spits onto the floor. “Fucking good riddance. Never made as much money when I was pregnant. Only had a couple of regular freaks who liked to pound pregnant women. I don’t even know why I bothered.”

“Because you couldn’t afford the abortions,” snaps Michael, his eyes blazing. “Why didn’t you tell me that I had a brother and sister?”

She sneers at him, her cracked yellow teeth making it more menacing than it should have been. “You never asked.”

“Why did you give me up and not them?”

She shrugs callously. “I liked the welfare money I got for having children, but it wasn’t enough. You needed more and more food and clothes and doctor’s check ups. Such a fucking drain on my money, so I got rid of you.”

Michael rakes his hands down his face, trying to come to grips with what he’s learnt. “Are there any more? Do I have any more siblings?”

“Not from me, you don’t. Can’t say the same for your fathers, but I never knew who they were anyway.”

And with that last flippant statement, my anger breaks past the carefully constructed dam I’ve built. I haven’t felt like this since the fight with Travis and my near miss with Sean. She’s so blasé, so flippant about her whoring, not even caring that my origins have eaten away at my self esteem and my mental well being. She’s so completely callous about the lives that she’s created and fobbed off as soon as possible.

“You fucking whore,” I snarl.

Her eyes narrow in rage and when she speaks, her tone is snide and angry. “Don’t you dare get all high and mighty with me, you ungrateful shit. Fucking men is the only thing that fed you when you were growing up, it’s the only reason you’re here today.”

“Oh please!” I cry, every muscle in my body clenching with rage. “Don’t even try and blame turning tricks on me. You were a hooker before me, during the time that you had me and after me. The only reason you kept me and Isabel around is so that you could claim benefits from the government. You’re nothing but a filthy, drug addicted, conniving, malicious slut. You didn’t deserve to have children, you didn’t deserve to have me. You’re nothing to me.”

And as I spit out those last hate filled words, I realise the truth in them. I’m not the way I am because of her, I’m the way I am in spite of her. She has absolutely no bearing on who I am and who I’ve become. She and her whoring ways aren’t something I live with, but something I’ve overcome. I’ve never felt so free. I’ve been waiting ten years to say that to her and the release is almost crippling.

She gapes at me furiously and then points the way to the hallway that leads to the front door. “Get out,” she hisses, grasping at her pipe like it’s her salvation.

I smile at her. “Gladly.”

My knees still weak, I make my way to the front door, relieved to hear Michael’s foot steps behind me. I double over, clutching my knees and take deep cleansing breaths as I exit, trying to rid my nostrils from the smell of crack, vomit and B.O. Trying to calm myself down.

A tentative hand clasps around my shoulder and I straighten to find myself looking into Michael’s red rimmed eyes. We stand there for a moment before we both simultaneously reach for each other. As we hug for the first time as brothers, I can’t help the tears that spill out of my eyes. I never thought that confronting my mother would be so fruitful, I had come prepared to completely cut off one part of my biological family, only to gain two more.
***

Liz’s POV
“ISABEL!” Max yells as he barges into his house. I follow quickly, tugging Michael behind me who is lagging along as he looks at their enormous Spanish villa house with great unease. I feel a sharp pang of sympathy and I wonder if he’s ever been in a house this nice before.

“Max!” cries his mother, coming out from the kitchen, worry printed upon her face. “What on Earth is the matter?” she looks across at Michael and I with curiosity

“Max?” asks Isabel coming in from the den with her father closely behind her. I hear Michael inhale sharply beside me and I ache at the expression on his face as he looks at her for the first time since he’s found out that they’re related.

Max skids to a halt at the sound of his sister’s voice and turns to her, his voice agitated and quick. “I did it. I went to visit her.”

Isabel sucks in a breath and her hand come up to cover her heart. “D-did... did she ask about me?”

Max reigns in his excitement at the sight of his sister’s hopeful expression and slowly shakes his head. “She’s exactly the same as she was before, Isabel.”

Her face crumples and she tries desperately to appear nonchalant. Max tucks a stray hair around his sister’s ear as his parents watch on in interest, not quite understanding what’s going on.

“But I found something even better while I was there,” he says softly, causing her to look up at him, her interest piqued. “We aren’t alone. We have an older brother and a younger sister.”

Diane lets out a pained cry and Phillip stiffens, his mouth falling open a little.

“What- who... I...” Isabel’s gaze swings around and lands on Michael for the first time since he’s been here and her eyes widen. Her eyes fill with tears and a couple trickle down her face unheeded as she stares at Michael.

“Yes,” says Max, answering her unspoken question. “He’s our older brother.”

Michael takes a tentative step forward, but halts as she continues to stare at him, not moving or speaking. He flushes uncomfortably, obviously not knowing if this is good news or bad news to her. The longing in his eyes tells me that he’s praying that it’s good news.

For a long moment, we all stare at Isabel silently waiting for her to react, Michael growing more and more despondent with every second she takes. He’s just about to leave, obviously taking her silence for disapproval, when she finally speaks.

“Oh my God,” she chokes out. And in three steps she crosses the distance between them and throws her arms around his neck. The look of relief on Michael’s face has me tearing up, that look combined with Isabel’s sobs as she clings to him, breaks my fragile hold on my emotions and tears roll down my cheeks.

Michael’s arms fold around Isabel’s body and hugs her tight, burying his face in her hair, returning the embrace.
***

Michael’s POV
I sit on the couch warily, Maria one side of me, Isabel the other. We’ve all decided to gather here to discuss how the situation came to be. Alex is on the other side of Isabel as she needed him for emotional support or some shit like that. I don’t really care, I just want to get to the bottom of this. Although I am extremely grateful for Maria’s presence, after such a mind fuck of a revelation, she’s the only calming thing I have to hold on to.

Max eventually begins what I know will be a long and exhausting line of questions. Max. My brother. I can’t fucking believe it. It’s too surreal. “Michael, weren’t you in foster care? Why did you back and see her?”

“It was about a year ago, I went there for answers because I don’t actually remember my childhood before Hank and I wanted to know if what he told me was true. Unfortunately it was worse.”

“Why is your last name, Guerin? Shouldn’t it be Hodges?” asks Alex.

“Changed it by deed poll as soon as I could. I think I got Guerin from a book or something.”

“How old were you when she gave you up?” enquires Diane.

“’Bout... four or so, I think.”

Diane holds up her hands, to stop my story for a moment, needing clarification. “I don’t understand, Max and Isabel would have been born by then, why’d she give you up and not Max and Isabel?”

“I was too expensive to keep. She enjoyed the welfare money, but there wasn’t enough for the four of us, so she voted me off crack island.” I keep it light to stop the hurt from shining through. I always knew that she’d gotten rid of me because she couldn’t keep me. I hadn’t known that I’d been the only one out of three that she’d gotten rid of. That’s going to sting for a long while. I’m going to try and keep perspective here though, it wasn’t that Max and Isabel were better than me, it was that she was a cold, mercenary bitch. She only kept them around for the money. That’s all.

“I don’t get why they didn’t take Max and Isabel off her straight away after Michael got put into foster care,” says Liz, shaking her head in disbelief.

“The system isn’t perfect, Liz,” explains Phillip. “There are too many kids needing homes and not enough foster parents. Michael was given up, not taken away because of gross negligence. There was no reason for the state to intervene as far as they could tell.”

“But she was abusing them!” protests Liz.

“Abuse can be hard to prove and for all her faults, Meg’s pretty shrewd. She wouldn’t get any welfare if her kids were taken away from her, so she must have taken minimal care of them to ensure that they weren’t seized. And even with Max and Isabel, she made sure that she willingly gave them up after her clients hurt them in case she had another child.”

“Is that why Tia wasn’t taken from her at birth?” asks Max.

Phillips falters at the question. “Yes and no. If a person has had a child taken from them and put into custody, their next child may not necessarily be taken from them. The system likes to believe that people can change and until they are given proof that the child has been hurt or neglected, they won’t intervene.”

“That sucks,” Liz spits out.

I nod. “Unfortunately they can’t prove the mental abuse she put Tia through. You know, even after living with me she’s still terrified of men because of what she saw at that house. It took her so long to feel safe around me.”

“What’d she see?” enquires Diane tearfully.

“Probably the same thing we saw,” replies Isabel quietly, putting her face in her hands. “Meg turning tricks.”

“She’s too young to understand what she saw, but she thinks that men are there to hurt women. Who knows what impact that’s going to have when she’s older.” I shudder to think of a teenage Tia and the problems she’ll probably develop.

“So that’s why she freaked out so much when Alex came over?” Maria asks aghast. “She thought he’d come to have sex with me? I feel so sick.”

She covers her mouth with her hand and I run my hand up and down her back softly until she’s composed again.

“Michael, if we’d known-” Diane’s anguished face is a balm to me though. I may not have had the best childhood, but at least there’s someone that cares that I didn’t. Someone who would have taken me in and given me a stable upbringing.

“It’s alright. I’m fine,” I reassure her as she sobs. That reassurance only causes her to cry harder.

“We-” Phillip cuts off, his voice breaking a little. He regains his composure and begins again, “We didn’t even think that she’d have another child out there. God, why didn’t I check? And why didn’t I continue to check?”

“Phillip, I’m not blaming you,” I reassure him, wondering how I’d have turned out if the Evanses had taken me in.

“I know we can’t erase the past eleven years, but we’d like to start helping now.”

I look at Phillip with wary eyes, wondering what he’s talking about.

“Michael, we’d like to take you and Tia in. We’d like to ease your burden and give Tia a stable family.”

I blink rapidly a couple of times, waiting for them to yell out, “Just kidding!”

But they don’t.

They sit there waiting patiently for me to respond. Everything inside me is screaming that this isn’t for real, that they couldn’t possibly want me around. I’m nineteen year old trailer park trash that no one barely gives a shit about. Things like this don’t happen to me.

“You mean you want to take Tia in,” I correct. I can understand wanting to take Tia in. There will never be a more amazing kid and I can see why they’d want her for their own.

Diane and Philip exchange glances before Phillip speaks again. “Michael, we want both of you to come live with us. We know you’ve been doing it tough, raising Tia and going to college. We’re so impressed by the way you stepped up and took responsibility, but you’re still a young boy. You need a life too. Let us help make life a little easier for you,” Phillip implores.

I stand up, dizzy and feeling slightly nauseous. “I need...” to get out of here. “To think about it.”

“We understand,” says Phillip and I wonder just when they got into that annoying habit of speaking for each other. Everything’s ‘we’ with them.

I rush outside out into their front yard and take large gulps of cool air. I hear footsteps behind me and I pray that they’re Maria’s, because I don’t know if I could deal with anyone else. I turn slightly and the relief must be noticeable on my face, because Maria laughs slightly. “Chill, it’s just me.”

We stand in silence for a moment, watching the cars drive by in this disturbingly Stepford neighbourhood before Maria speaks again. “You going to take their offer?”

“I don’t know,” I reply honestly. If something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. I have to protect myself from getting hurt when they decide that I’m too much hassle and kick me out again.

“What’s to think about?” enquires Maria. “You should take it.”

I turn and pin her with a stare. Hers is the only opinion I trust more than my own. “You think?”

“Hell yeah! I would if I were you. Nice house, nice neighbourhood, nice family, no more slaving away at three different jobs just to make a buck. This’d be a great place for Tia to grow up in. She’ll get to see what it’s like to have a Mom and a Dad who love her. Plus, and this is no reflection on you because you’ve done such a great job with the hand you’ve been dealt, but they’re able to provide for her financially in ways you can’t just yet.”

I always thought that one day, if I worked hard enough, that I’d have a house just like this one and prove to all the people that doubted me and cast me aside that I could do it. I never thought that I’d be allowed to live in one, no strings attached, just like that. Easy come, easy go. I’m not getting my hopes up. But still, I can’t in good conscience turn down this life for Tia. She’d have everything she deserves if she lived here, a loving family, a stable income she could rely on and the means to do whatever she wanted to in life. I need to accept this for her. Even if they throw me out eventually, at least I’ll have peace of mind that Tia will always be looked after and loved.

“Okay.” I sigh loudly and turn to head back towards the house. “I’ll do it.”
***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 34, 3rd June 09

Post by Rowedog » Sat Jul 11, 2009 12:48 am

Wow, my little social experiment yielded more results than I thought. I’m glad someone reads these little A/N’s. Makes me feel like less of a rambling twit. :D I’m glad you all liked the twist. I’ve been waiting so long to put it in there. I even had that part written for months. I like to write the big bits first then add them in later, it’s part of my process.

Ginger
Novy-
Don’t worry, Tia’s birth had complications and Meg’s now infertile, so no more screwing up children’s lives.
Neve
Abbs007
Steph
Sunrise102
Destiny
Leila
Scorpio6
BB-
It was great to finally get a Michael POV
Scuse you? I gave you one before. I distinctly remember it being the fateful clarb part. Some people... :roll:
Tia was at the centre. I don’t think that conversation that they were having was appropriate for a three year old to hear. They’re going to break it to her gently and not bombard her with information.
AllieXie – They have a spare guest room and Michael will take the study once Phillip moves his stuff out. The house is just big enough for them all to fit.
RoninBehr
Eternal_dreamer
Eve-
you’re right, I am giving hookers a bad name. This one is also a drug addict though, and I think by nature they can be very selfish people.
Katydid
DaleStateShorty
Clue -
By the way Clue, I’m assuming you’ve read the rest of Never In Doubt? If not, no worries, just thought I’d check.
Spacegirl23
Twilight
April-
I’m so glad you’re reading it! I love when Authors that I read decide to read my fics. I actually had to reread the beginning of this fic to remember what you were reading. I think it was B&B that I was referring to, but it’s been so long since I watched it that I kinda made up my own plots for it.
SmileeUK- You can ask for more, I don’t mind :D
Part Thirty Five

‘I've been searching for a reason
And I'm running out of time
I can feel that it's the season
It's time to make up my mind

And I can't really tell you what I'm gonna do
There are so many thoughts in my head
There are two roads to walk down and one road to choose
So I'm thinking over the things that you've said
Thinking over the things...

I'm thinking over
Thinking over
Thinking over
The things that you've said
And I'm thinking over
Thinking over
Thinking over the things...’
Thinking Over by Dana Glover


***

Michael’s POV
“Mitael!” cries Tia as I appear in the doorway of the community centre. She throws her arms around my right leg and clings tightly, like I’m the only person in the world to her. My throat closes over and my heart squeezes painfully in my chest at the idea of somebody else becoming her parental figure, of somebody else inspiring a similar greeting. I push past it and pick her up to cuddle her, all the while remembering a not so distant past where she’d flinch away from my touch. It hardly seems fair that after all the hard work and patience I’ve put in and the sacrifices that I’ve made that someone else will get to raise her. I shake the thought out of my head and remind myself not to be selfish. This is what Tia deserves. She deserves everything that I can’t give her and I wouldn’t be able to look her in the eye knowing that I had deprived her of what she deserved.

“Where did you doe?” She enquires, pouting at me a little. “You weren’t at the centre today, but Miss Anna told me that I was a dood dirl for not detting upset and she tol’ me dat you’d be pwoud of me. Are you pwoud of me, Mitael?”

I have to swallow the lump in my throat before I can answer. “More than you know, Tia. More than you’ll ever know.”

I wave to Anna, indicating that I’m taking Tia home and she nods in response as four toddlers try to clamber all over her.

“Are we doeing home now, Mitael?” Tia asks, confusion crossing her pretty little face.

I nod as I stride out of the centre towards my car. “We need to have a little talk Tia.”
***
“Mitael, what’s wong?” Tia asks, her tiny brows knitted. She’s obviously picked up on my emotional turmoil even though I’ve tried so hard to keep it in. Why are kids so good at doing that? They get to the truth without even trying.

I place her on my lap and sigh, wondering where on earth to begin and how I’m going to explain to Tia that she has a brother and sister that she’s already met.

“Tia, you remember how you used to live with Meg? And when I found you there you had no idea you had a brother? That was the day I took you home, remember?”

At the mention of her biological mother’s name, Tia’s bottom lip starts to wobble.

“I don’t want to doe back!” she cries, throwing her arms around my neck. “You can’t make me!”

I laugh a little, despite the wailing four year old in my arms and the painful threat of losing Tia to the Evans family. I gently, but firmly remove her arms from my neck so that I can look at her. “Tia, you’re never going back to live with that woman. I made you a promise, remember? I keep my promises.”

She sniffles and wipes her nose on her sleeve. “Otay.”

“What I wanted to talk to you about is that Meg might not have told you about other children that she had. Other brothers and sisters that she gave birth to before you. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“I might have more family?” Tia asks, looking awed at the prospect.

I take her little hands, engulfing them with my large ones. “Tia, I found out today that we have a brother and sister. They were put up for adoption when they were six and five. They got taken in by a really nice family here in town and have been living with them for the last ten years.”

Tia’s brow crinkles with confusion again. “ But... why don’t dey live with you?”

“Tia, when Meg decided to give them up, I was 8 years old. I was living with Hank, my foster father then, so I didn’t even know that they existed and I couldn’t take care of them at that age.”

Tia takes a moment to grasp it. Like most kids who live with adults, I bet she’s never considered that I was once a child. “What are deir names?” Tia asks.

“Now see, here’s the thing, you’ve already met them. Do you remember Isabel and Max Evans? Isabel you would have met at the centre and Max you would have met at the hospital that time that Maria was sick.”

Tia’s eyes nearly bug out of her head. “Dey’re my bwother and sister?”

I nod, scarcely able to believe it myself. “That’s right. They’d love to hang out with you some time soon and get to know you better.”

Tia stares at her lap, looking nervous. “But what if dey don’t like me?”

“Tia, we’re family, they have to like you. And besides, they’ve already met you and they already like you. You have nothing to be worried about.”

“Are you sure?” Tia asks, looking very uncertain still.

“Yes Teets. I’m completely sure.”

I shift in my seat and pull her closer into my chest. “We don’t have to go today. You can see them some other time. We can all go down to the park together and... get to know one another.”

“Will Mawia be dere?” Tia asks.

“If you want her there, I’m sure she’d love to come,” I answer, wanting Tia to feel as comfortable as possible whilst meeting her new family.

“Otay. We’ll doe. Can we doe now?”

I blink at Tia’s complete 180. Considering how nervous she was about meeting them, she’s sure become an eager beaver. I suppose that’s the joy of being four years old. Most things feel like an adventure.

“I’ll ask,” I tell her as I flip open my phone and find the Evans’s number in my contact list. Diane made sure that I didn’t leave without it. She seems so eager to have us there, even though I’m sure once she’s lived with me for a while her eagerness will fade. But I’m not worried for Tia’s sake. No one could live with Tia and not want her. Apart from Meg the crack whore.

I’m amazed to find that I’m scarcely less eager to see Isabel and Max again. I will be taking this opportunity to get to know my siblings better. Who knows how long I’ll have till Phillip and Diane realise that they don’t want me. I don’t imagine that they’ll kick me out – they’re too polite for that – but they’ll probably start phasing me out in an effort to get me to realise that I’m not wanted there. I’ll take the hint when the time comes, but I’ll use the meantime to really get to know my siblings.

“Michael,” is the breathless response I get from Mrs Evans when she answers the phone.

“Hi Diane.”

“Oh good, I was hoping it would be you,” she says brightly, almost convincing me of her sincerity.

I cough uncomfortably and then decide just to launch right into it. “Tia was wondering if we could all meet up today. If that’s ok with you and doesn’t mesh with your schedules I thought we could meet at the park. It’s a neutral territory.”

“Oh, that’d be wonderful. I assume you didn’t tell her about the two of you moving in with us?”

I flick a glance over at Tia who is gravely deciding between her pink dress and sweater combo or her pink overalls and jacket combination. I should really stop my girlfriend from buying her clothes. “Not yet.”

“I think that’s a wise decision. Best not to overload her with information too quickly. Let her adjust to her new siblings and then you can decide when would be the best time to tell her.”

“Ok great,” I reply, not quite used to having someone of her wealth and level education treat me like an equal with valid opinions. “So we’ll see you at the park in half an hour?”

“Sounds wonderful Michael. I’ll round up my kids and we’ll see you there.”

“Bye.”

I hang up the phone and turn to Tia and decide to take the clothing matters into my own hands. “We’re going to the park, Tia. It’s going to be cold and you’re going to be playing in the sand and on the play equipment. You should probably go with the overalls.”

“But de dress is pwettier,” she pouts.

“You’ll have other occasions to wear the dress. Now quick, we don’t want to keep them waiting, do we?”

Tia whips her track pants off and I help her put her overalls on and then button up her jacket for her. She runs off into her bedroom and I let my mind wander back to the first time I ever saw her and how much she’s grown since then.
***
‘I walk into the house, the stench hitting me in the face and sending a thousand dim memories reeling through my brain. I bite my lip and promise myself that I never have to come here ever again. This part of my life will be over from now on. This is my closure.

I stop dead in my tracks when I see a little girl standing in the middle of the living room floor, looking at me with terrified, wide eyes. My heart starts thumping wildly in my chest, it couldn’t be...

“Is she...” I trail off as I stare at her. She has to be, there’s no other explanation.

“She’s your sister,” she grunts as she lowers herself onto the couch. “Now what do you want?”

I look down at her and see her life stretched out before my eyes. She could stay here with my mother, end up getting raped by one of Meg’s johns, go on crack and end up exactly like my mother, or she could go into foster care, end up with someone like Hank and get as fucked up as me, avoiding getting attached to anyone and suspicious of everyone. I now know what I have to do. I have to save her. I have to give her the life that I never had.

“I want her,” I reply before my brain has really thought it through. My mother’s eyes flick towards the tiny girl sitting on the carpet. “I want to take her off your hands.”

“Oh,” she says softly, condescendingly. “So that’s what you’re about, little kids.” I grind my teeth together in rage at her disgusting insinuation. She shrugs. “What do I care? Only my mouth to feed. She’s not worth the extra welfare money.”

She leans forward now, a mercenary gleam in her eye. “It’ll cost you though. $10000.”

I feel my heart seize in my chest. I need to rescue her and I can’t do that if I can’t afford it. “I don’t have a lot of money.”

“Weekly payments,” she suggest, obviously liking the idea of a steady income for her crack funds. “$100 a week or I call the cops and tell them that you stole my child.”

There goes my savings. I’ll have to get another job. “When I give you the last payment, you sign guardianship over to me?”

“Absolutely. I’ll be glad to get rid of her.”

“Are you planning on having any more?” I ask suddenly, not wanting to pay off two kids.

“Nope. When I gave birth to her there was a complication and I can’t have any more.” Thank Christ for that. “Should thank her for it, it was cheaper than a hysterectomy.”

“Doesn’t get in the way of your job?” I ask snidely.

She takes a hit of crack. “Nope. My uterus is fucked, not my vagina.”

I flinch at the casual swearing in front of my sister. “What’s her name?”

“Tia, Tia Rebecca Hodges.”

Soon to be Tia Rebecca Guerin. “How do you want the payments?”

“Cash in hand, every Saturday. Bring it here.” I shudder at the thought of coming here every week, but as I look at the tiny girl on the floor I know it’ll be worth it.

“I’ll have your first payment for you tomorrow,” I tell her, hating that she’s got power over me again, but knowing that it’s for a good cause. The best cause.

I stoop down in front of Tia and she automatically flinches away from me. I don’t blame her. Most men that come in here are repulsive.

“Hi Tia, I’m Michael, your brother.”

She looks at me with confusion and a wariness that no three year old child should have. “Bwother?”

“We have the same mother,” I tell her gently, pointing back to the dirty slut on the couch. “We’re family.”

She looks to her mother for confirmation and bites her lip when the claim isn’t rebutted.

“Now, I know that this is sudden, but Mom,” I bite my tongue at the word. “And I have been talking and we’ve decided that it’s best that you come live with me.”

“But I don’t wanna leave,” cries Tia, her bottom lip trembling. “I wanna stay at home!”

I remember that feeling. She’s never known anything else, never known that this isn’t the way life is supposed to be.

“Just shut up and go with him,” snaps Meg, and it takes all my restraint not to turn around and give her the talking down she deserves.

Instead I hold up one hand and ask for her patience. “I’ll handle this.” I turn back to Tia and offer what I hope is a reassuring smile. “Tia, I know that it’s difficult and scary to leave home, but I promise you’ll like where we’re going. I remember leaving when I was about your age. It wasn’t so bad.”

“Weally?” she sniffles.

“Really,” I wink at her. I hold my hand out for her and wait for her to take it. I know I can’t just swing her up into my arms, we’d have a scene and she’d take so much longer to trust me. I have to wait for her. “Where we’re going, you’ll never be hungry, there’ll never be strange men in your house and you’ll never get hit ever again. I promise you that, Tia. I will
always take care of you.”

Tia looks so suspicious of me, but I wait patiently on the floor next to her, my hand outstretched. Cautiously and haltingly, she puts her hand into mine. I wrap my fingers around her tiny palm gently and help her to her feet.

“Do you have anything you need to get?” I ask her softly, trying not to startle her.

She shakes her head and I’m not surprised. Meg wouldn’t buy anything for her daughter unless she absolutely had to.

“Bye Mommy,” she says softly, her voice thick with tears.

“Whatever,” replies Meg without any real concern. I want to hit her. I want to smash her nose into her skull. I want to make her hurt as much as Tia is right now. To be so callous, so flippant, so uncaring about me is one thing, but to do the same thing to this gorgeous little girl is a whole different ball park.

Tia ducks her head, trying to hide her tears and I gently lead her out the door and lift her up into the car seat. She flinches when I lift her up and I wonder how long that’s going to last for. How long will she continue to fear me and be wary of me? I know it’s dangerous to put her in a normal seat belt without a booster seat, but I didn’t expect to come home guardian to my three year old sister. As a result, I go about ten miles under the speed limit. The car is uncomfortably silent, but I can’t put on my usual Metallica for her sake and I refuse to listen to bubblegum pop crap.

Finally we pull up outside my apartment block and I instantly wish that I’d cleaned up before I’d left, I also wish I had somewhere nicer to take her. How am I ever going to provide for her the way that she needs? I know she can’t stay with my mother, but I don’t know if I can do this. What do I know about raising a child? I was barely raised myself.

I lead her up the steps and swing open the door, letting her inside. “So, uh... this is my apartment. That’s the kitchen. There’s the living room.” There’s an uncomfortable pause and I wish I knew how to make her at ease. I wish I knew how to handle this.

“You can sleep in my bed tonight,” I tell her. “Tomorrow I’ll run out and get you a bed of your own. I’ll sleep on the couch.” Oh god, how am I going to afford a bed? I may have to sleep on the couch for a little while longer.

She nods and stares resolutely at the ground. I swallow nervously and then catch sight of the fridge. Ah, my saviour. “So, what would you like to drink or eat? It’s about lunchtime, you must be hungry.”

She looks up at me in bewildered shock. You’d think the kid had never eaten before. “I tan have somefing to eat?”

“Of course you can. Do you feel like pancakes?” Thankfully I know how to make pancakes from scratch. They’re pretty much a staple in my diet.

“I’b neber had pantakes befow,” she answers with her tiny child lisp and my I feel my heart begin to expand in my chest. That poor thing. I never thought that I’d come to love this child so quickly, but as I look at her, so small, so fragile against the backdrop of my messy, cramped apartment, I can’t help but love her. This tiny little girl needs somebody to love her. Maybe I could be that person for her. I barely know what love is myself, but I’ll be damned if I don’t do everything in my power to let her know that somebody loves her, that somebody wants her. She deserves a better upbringing than I had and I’m going to make damn sure she gets it.

***


I roll over on the couch and internally struggle with the dilemma I’m now faced with. Not only do I now have a three year old child to support, little income and a bad neighbourhood to bring her up in, I also have an upset three year old in the room next to me that I have no idea how to comfort.

I can hear her crying through the walls and I don’t know what to do. Should I just let her cry or should I go in there? I try to think back to when Meg gave me up and how I felt. I throw myself back into the past and remember crying at the orphanage into my pillow, wishing that someone would come take me home.

I know that that’s impossible for Tia, but the least I can do is make this place feel a little bit more like home for her. And that means that I have stop debating and just go in there and try my best.

I softly open the door to find her huddled right up the top of the bed, so small that she looks almost surreal.

“Tia,” I whisper.

She turns in the bed to face me and quickly wipes away the incriminating tears from her cheeks. “I’m sowwy. I’ll be tuiet now.”

I sigh and close the door behind me and sit on the edge of the bed. “That’s not it. I just wanted to know why you’re so sad.”

Tia looks puzzled by this statement. I guess with a mother that never gave a damn before, it would be puzzling to have somebody care about you.

“I just... miss Mommy.”

“I know Tia,” I debate with myself over whether or not she’ll be receptive to me touching her, and decide to give it hell anyway. I stroke my hand over her head and am pleasantly surprised when she doesn’t shy away. “But you have me now. We’re going to be a family.”

“We are?” she sniffles.

I smile as reassuringly as I can. “Yeah. And I’m going to do my very best to make sure that you have nothing to cry about from now on.”

Tia smiles up at me and I can see the first stirrings of trust in her eyes. And for the first time since I brought her home, I think we’re going to be ok.’

***
“Weady!” she calls out, standing there with her almost entirely pink outfit, wearing her Velcro tab shoes that she’s so proud of. She thinks she’s so grown up because she can put on her own pair of shoes.

“Excellent job, Miss,” I tell her as I press the first speed dial on my phone. “Now let’s be very quiet while I call Maria and ask her to come with us.”

“’Tay!” she practically yells, causing me to shake my head in disbelief. She’s definitely something.

I have a quick conversation with Maria and she assures me that she’ll be there so long as we swing past her place to pick her up.

The entire way there, Tia spends her time singing, “We’re doeing to de park with Mawia!” and after repeating that line about ten times, she changes it to, “We’re doeing to play with my new brother and sister!” and so on and so forth. It would be cute if it wasn’t so damn annoying.

I thump my head on the steering wheel while we wait for Maria outside her house, all the while wishing Tia would contract sudden laryngitis that would only affect her for the rest of car trip.

As Maria pops into the car, Tia stops singing the first line and starts up with a new line of “Mawia’s dwiving with us in de car!”

Maria shoots me an amused look and asks, “Has she been doing that the entire time?”

I nod grimly. “Yep. When she gets excited she gets a little silly.”

Maria laughs. “I remember. The couple of hours before her birthday party were certainly something to behold.”

We both snicker as Tia continues with her song, not noticing that we’re talking about her.

“How are you holding up?” Maria asks me, her piercing gaze not missing a trick.

I shrug. “I don’t know. I suppose I’ll deal... I just feel that with the new living situation that I’m going to be...” I pause and search for the correct word.

“Supplanted?” suggests Maria. “Replaced?”

“Yeah,” I reply grimly. “Is it horrible and completely selfish of me to dread Tia getting a better life, a life that she undoubtedly deserves?”

Maria shakes her head. “No, you love her. It’s just going to be hard for you to share her. But look on the bright side, you’re going to be living there too.”

I don’t say anything about my suspicions that the Evans’s will eventually toss me out of their home. She would disagree, but I have a much better grasp on human nature than she does. I’ve seen the worst of it and I can’t quite accept that the Evans family are as wonderful as they claim to be.

“And on an even brighter note, they’re the ones who are going to have to parent and discipline her when she reaches her teens. Can you imagine you trying to parent a teenage girl? I shudder to think of it.”

I laugh, never having thought of that. “I suppose you’re right.”

“You get the best deal out of this, Michael. New siblings, new home and you never have to worry about Tia’s upbringing ever again. The Evans family are loaded and are more than capable of raising children.”

“What are you talking about?” asks Tia, leaning forward to better hear our conversation.

“We’re talking about the fact that we’re here. We’ve arrived.” I pull into the park and watch her eyes light up again.

“We’re here!” she squeals tearing at her seatbelt, trying to get out.

“Settle down,” I laugh, reaching around to unclick her from her booster seat. I let myself out then open the door for her, grabbing her and keeping her from falling face first into the dirt as she tumbles out of the car in her haste.

I grab her hand in mine and walk over towards the picnic area where I can see the Evans family already waiting anxiously. I tighten my grip on her hand and prepare myself for this meeting. Here’s hoping that it all goes well.
***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 35, 11th July 09

Post by Rowedog » Sun Aug 09, 2009 1:24 am

Yeah... sorry about the wait. Thank you for the fb and the bumps. And the song sort of fits the chapter if you ignore all the romantic overtones. *shrugs*

Spacegirl23
SmileeUK
BB
Destiny
Keepsmiling7
Leila
Eve
Natalie36
Neve
Scorpio6
Sunrise102
Eternal_dreamer
Clueless
Novy-
I happen to think my accent is awesome too. Want to hear it?
Steph
Part Thirty Six

‘Nothing about you is typical
Nothing about you is predictable
You got me all twisted and confused,
It's all new

Up til now I thought I knew love
Nothing to lose and it's damaged 'cause
Patterns will fall as quick as I do
But now...

Bridges are burning, baby I'm learning
A new way of thinking now
Love I can see, nothing will be
Just like it was,
Is that because?

Baby, you're so unusual
Didn't anyone tell you, you're supposed to
Break my heart?
I expect you to, so why haven't you?’
Unusual You by Britney Spears


***

Maria’s POV
I give both Liz and Alex a wave as we come to a halt in front of the Evans family. Looks like they’ve been called on for support too.

“Michael,” Diane breathes, looking at him with a brilliant smile. “You made it.”

Michael shrugs and I can tell how uncomfortable he is. “I said I’d come.”

I wince at how gruff and closed off he sounds right now, but I know that it’s how he’s dealing with all of this. Michael hasn’t had many people love him or let many people close to him, so the idea that the Evans’s are going to swan in and take Tia from him must be terrifying for him. And unfortunately, he’s probably never even considered that the Evans family could love him as well.

“Well, we’re glad you did,” smiles Phillip, clearly brushing off Michael’s rudeness. He bobs down to Tia’s level and smiles widely at her. “And this must be Tia. Hi Tia, I’m Phillip.”

Tia moves in closer to us and positions herself behind Michael’s leg, clearly having another attack of the shysies. She sticks her thumb in her mouth and manages to speak around it. “Hewwo.”

“This is Diane, my wife,” Phillip continues, gesturing back to Diane who looks so enamoured with the idea of two more children for her to call her own. Not that Michael’s a child, but I don’t think Diane can see anything but the wounded little boy hiding inside Michael. “And these two are your brother and sister, Max and Isabel.”

Tia gives them a shy wave with her free hand, her other hand still busy occupying her mouth. She goes to move towards them, but then thinks better of it and drops her eyes back to the ground. What had seemed like such an exciting prospect before is much more daunting in reality, I suppose.

Isabel moves forward, and bobs down in front of Tia, holding out her arms. “I’m so happy we’re sisters, Tia. Do you think maybe I could get a hug?”

Isabel looks so hopeful as Tia’s demeanour instantly changes. Seeing as the only other family member Tia knew was willing to sell her, it’s no wonder Tia’s not so certain of a warm welcome.

I let out a sigh of relief as Tia lets go of Michael and freely walks into Isabel’s open arms and wraps her arms around Isabel’s neck. I bite my lip as Isabel buries her face into the crook of Tia’s neck and inhales, all the while trying to fight back tears. I’m such a wuss when it comes to stuff like this.

After a moment, Isabel stands up, swinging Tia up with her, allowing Max to greet her. Michael and I both exchange nervous glances as he approaches, knowing that Tia’s had a very patchy history concerning men and doesn’t take to them very well.

Luckily Max doesn’t go straight in for a hug, but rather lets Isabel hold her while he talks to her. “Hi Tia, I’m Max. We’ve met before.”

“You’re my bwother,” she says, clearly musing over something in her head.

“That’s right,” he tells her, unable to keep the glowing smile off of his face at the very mention of the fact.

“Mitael’s my bwother too. Are you like Mitael?”

Max looks a little confused by the question, but answers as best as he can. “I suppose in many ways we’re probably very similar... so yeah, I guess.”

At this answer, Tia gives him a blinding grin. “If you’re like Mitael den I wike you.”

And with that having been said, she practically launches herself out of Isabel’s arms onto Max, who luckily has amazing reflexes – thanks to a long career in sport – and catches her. Max blinks owlishly at this turn of events, but Tia merely wraps her arms around his neck and gives him a hug. Looks like Tia’s recovered from her sudden bout of shyness with alacrity.

Isabel sweeps Tia’s hair behind her ear while Max holds Tia looking both awkward and pleased at the same time. I glance up at Michael to see if he’s as moved by this scene as I am, but feel my heart clench with pain instead. In that moment, there’s nothing but stark longing in his eyes as he looks at the three of them. My heart breaks as I realise that Michael feels like an outsider in his own family. I can literally see the cogs whirring in his mind and the old insecurities rising up telling him that he can never be a part of that, that no one would ever want him in their family.

Before any tears break through my tenuous control, Mrs Evans gives a suggestion that I could throw myself at her and hug her to death for. “Why don’t the three of you take Tia off to play in the playground and get to know one another better?”

Phillip hands Max a plastic bucket and shovel that they’ve brought for the occasion and it’s pretty comical to watch Max try and juggle both Tia and the plastic toys. Isabel turns and grabs Michael’s hand and I sigh in relief when he doesn’t shake her off. Michael doesn’t need to be self sabotaging himself at this point. By wanting to protect himself from feeling any pain, Michael could put up his walls and make it seem like he doesn’t want to get to know them. However I think at this point, Michael’s too desperate to get to know them that he couldn’t block off their attempts if he tried.

The four of them head off, leaving Alex, Liz, Diane, Phillip and myself to watch their retreat together.

“Oh, it’s going so well,” sighs Diane with deep happiness. “Phillip, we should get some food for tonight and invite Tia and Michael over for dinner.”

Phillip grins at this idea, clearly as enthused by the prospect of two more members in their family as Diane is. “Excellent idea. We should go now and pick something special up while they get to know one another. We have time to get to know Tia and Michael later, right now it should be just about the four of them.”

Phillip fishes the keys out of his pocket and gestures to the four siblings who are busy trying to keep up with Tia. “We’ll be back in a while if they ask for us, but I don’t suspect they will.”

A chorus of laughter rings out and I recognise Michael’s deep pealing laugh in amongst them. It’s balm to my aching heart after seeing him looking so vulnerable and sad to hear some of the joy that he should be feeling after this monumental discovery.

After the Evans leave I cross the short distance over to Liz and Alex and we all begin to make our way over to the nearest park bench.

“So, what do we do while the Evans and the Guerins have their little confab? I know I’m here for moral support but I think I’d be getting in the way if I hung around Michael like a bad smell.”

“I think we’re just here to add a sense of normalcy to the occasion, make it all a little less intimidating,” Liz replies as we head reach the bench.

We all sit down together in unison and watch the ensuing adorableness as Tia runs between her elder siblings, somehow easing the way into them having their own relationships with each other.

“So we only cut in when we see things get tense or awkward?” Alex asks, his eyes trained on Isabel. She looks so alive right now, so carefree. They all do.

“Agreed,” I answer for both myself and Liz.

“Ha!” cries Liz as Tia accidentally flings a plastic shovel full of sand directly into Max’s face. “What a champ!”

We all laugh as Max splutters and hacks up sand, all the while unable to wipe the grin off of his face.

“By the way, we are so getting a friendship divorce,” I tell them both as we watch Tia smack her plastic shovel against Michael’s leg.

“Why?” asks Liz, totally bewildered by my statement.

“Max and Isabel are adopted. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me that.”

Alex leans over and tweaks my nose chastisingly. “Not our secret to tell, spankerelli.”

“Dudes!” I yell suddenly, nearly catapulting myself off the bench seat in my excitement. “Do you know what I just realised?”

“You just sat in bird poo?” guesses Alex, looking at my butt. I twist around and am slightly dismayed to find that he’s right. There’s a big old white splotch on my jeans that wasn’t there ten minutes ago.

“Ew, gross. But no! That’s not my news.” I lean forward, my eyes bright again with excitement. “We’re all dating siblings. So if we get married to them...”

“Oh my God!” squeals Liz. “We’re all going to be in-laws!”

We both hug each other over the top of Alex who doesn’t seem to be getting in on the potential in-law excitement.

“Uh, guys? Aren’t you jumping the gun a little bit?” he asks cautiously. “We’re not married to them yet.”

Liz leans back and slaps him on the leg, giving him a good staring down as she does. “Shut up, Alex. There’s potential for us all to be related by marriage. Don’t you think that’s pretty cool?”

Alex shrugs and a smile slowly stretches across his mouth as he considers the possibility further. “Ok, so it’s pretty cool,” he concedes.

“I knew he’d come around,” I sigh triumphantly.

Slinging an arm around both our shoulders, Alex pulls us into him. “But I don’t need to be in-laws with you two to feel like you’re my family.”

“Aww Alex,” whispers Liz, all emotional from Alex’s admission. “We love you too.”

We sit there, content for a moment until we all crack up simultaneously at Tia hitting Michael in the face with her shovel, apparently too excited to be playing with her siblings to watch where she’s swinging the thing.

“That thing is a weapon of mass destruction,” Alex quips.

I laugh as Michael points out the swing set, an obvious but successful plot to get her to abandon the shovel for a while. I smile as Michael laughs and punches Max lightly on the arm in response to something he’s said. I’m hoping that this outing will show him his rightful place in their family and remind him that no one could ever take his place in Tia’s heart. But as much as I hope, I have a horrible fear that I’m wrong. Michael’s insecurities run deep and I don’t know how long it will take for him to grow accustomed to having people care about him.
***

Isabel’s POV
Having exhausted Tia - who is now sleeping on a bewildered Max’s lap - Michael, Max and I have traded places with Liz, Alex and Maria who are now subsequently acting like tools on the playground. I think they’ve reverted back to childhood.

The three of us are silent for the moment, but luckily we have the excuse of sleeping Tia, so that it isn’t awkward. We’ve had a few awkward moments so far, but I suppose it’s to be expected. I glance across at Michael and all the questions I want to ask burn in my throat. I want to know everything. I want to know what his childhood was like, every place that he’s lived, his school teachers, his first crush... everything. But I’m too scared to ask.

“So, you’re dating Alex?” Michael asks gruffly, staring at Alex’s back as he and Maria swing on the monkey bars.

I nod, laughing as Maria drops to the ground, runs up behind him and pulls his pants down to his knees before running off whilst giggling maniacally. “Yeah, we’re dating.”

We both watch as Alex quickly lets go of the bars, wrenches his pants up and then tears after Maria who can’t run properly because she’s laughing that hard. He catches up to her and after tackling her to the ground, grabs a handful of sand and proceeds to pour it over her face, his and her laughter echoing across the playground towards us.

After a moment of watching that spectacle, Michael asks hurriedly, “And he’s treating you right?”

I try to stop the smile from stretching across my face at Michael’s brotherly protective instincts. He hasn’t even known that I’m his sister for a full day and he’s already meddling in my love life and being over protective. I can’t even lie and pretend that I don’t love it. “He’s been absolutely wonderful, Michael. I couldn’t ask for anyone better.”

“Good,” he grunts, still a little bit uncomfortable with this new situation we find ourselves in.

“How did you get into painting?” I finally ask, unable to hold back the question anymore. It’s been the one that’s been niggling at me the most.

Michael shrugs. “I dunno, I guess art was the one thing I was good at at school and it was a way of dealing with Hank whenever he sucked. I could go into my room and draw him with a pair of boobs and make myself feel better.”

Max and I both stifle our laughter at that admission, trying not to wake Tia up.

“Did Hank suck a lot?” Max queries tentatively, clearly not wanting to ask Michael a question he doesn’t want to answer.

Michael nods abruptly and I can sense that that’s all we’re going to get out of him about that today.

After a moment, Michael changes the topic. “So, you’re friends with Maria, right?”

I nod and smile at him, liking that we have such a common bond already. “Yeah, we’re friends. I would count her and Liz as my best friends.”

He turns to Max and asks him the same question. “And you?”

Max snorts, his eyes still following Liz around the playground. “If you’re going to be dating Liz, I think it’s a prerequisite that you’re friends with Maria.”

Michael smiles at the admission as he watches the two girls try to run up the slide with minimal success. “How weird is it that we’re all dating best friends?”

Max shakes his head incredulously, his gaze torn between watching Tia sleep and following Liz around the play ground. “It’s such a small world.”

I laugh at the strangeness of it all. “I can’t believe that all this time I’ve been having painting lessons from my brother and I didn’t even know.”

“You’re doing well, by the way. You’ve improved a lot and you have a good eye for colours.”

I bite my lip in embarrassed pleasure at the compliment. I get the impression Michael doesn’t give out many compliments, so as a consequence they mean more to me. “Well, I have a good teacher.”

Michael looks away uncomfortably and I think I can almost hear his mental sigh of relief when my parents choose that moment to return.

However that relief is short lived when they ask him to join us for dinner. A look of horror crosses over his face before swiftly being replaced by indecision. I know he wants to spend more time with us, it’s written clearly on his face, but I can tell that he’s not so sure about spending time in our house with Mom and Dad. I know how uncomfortable he was the last time he was in it, but hopefully this dinner will prove to him that there’s nothing terrifying about our place. I really hope it does, otherwise moving in might be a less than enjoyable experience for him.

After a moment’s hesitation he replies in the affirmative, sending my mother into giddy raptures. “I uh... guess. Sure.”

Mom’s face practically splits in half from the force of her smile “Excellent! I hope you like roast lamb.”

“Roast lamb’s good,” he replies, looking completely out of his depth and comfort zone. I can’t help but feel extremely grateful to him for sticking it out despite the fact that my mother’s enthusiasm clearly freaks him out.

“What on earth are they doing?” asks Phillip looking at our three significant others who seem to be engaging in tomfoolery on the playground.

“Looks like they’re having a sword fight,” answers Max seriously, as Maria swings her stout stick at Alex’s body.

“This is going to end in tears,” sighs Michael dramatically with a shake of his head. “Mark my words.”

Michael’s prediction comes true shortly afterwards, with a wayward swing from Liz accidentally connecting with Alex’s groin.

All of us let out sympathetic groans as Alex doubles over, falling to his knees as he cups his crotch.

“Ouch,” winces Max, both he and Michael sharing a similar look that speaks of remembered incidents from their pasts. Alex eventually staggers to his feet and waves off Liz’z profuse apologies, limping back to us as Liz trails sheepishly behind besides a grimly amused Maria.

“What have I told you kids about playing with sticks, hmmm?” Maria asks the both of them as if she hadn’t been joining in energetically before the incident occurred. “It’s all fun and games until somebody gets nutted.”

“Shut up, Maria,” wheezes Alex.

Liz still looks horrified at herself. “Alex, I’m so sorry.”

“Liz, you’re forgiven,” Alex tells her, the statement lacking the same punch it would have if he weren’t doubled over and wincing with pain. “Now shut up about it.”

“Are you alright, Alex?” I ask, getting only a nod in response. My poor baby.

Tia stirs in Max’s arms and lets out a loud yawn before crawling into Michael’s lap. “Mitael, tan we play on the swings adain?”

Michael seemingly ponders the question. “Well, we could, or we could go home and get ready for dinner at Max and Isabel’s house.”

Her ever present grin seems to stretch even wider at this declaration. “We’re doeing to dinner wiv Max and Belly?”

I love, love, love how she’s shortened my name. Every time she calls me it, I just want to pick her up and smother her in kisses.

Michael pulls a stray leaf from her hair. “That’s right, but you need a bath first.”

Tia pouts, looking disgruntled by the news. “I don’ wanna bath.”

“Well, if you don’t have a bath we can’t go out to dinner,” Michael tells her nonchalantly. “The Evan’s household doesn’t allow stinky people inside their home.”

Tia admits defeat at this. “Fine, I hab da bath.”

“Good girl,” Michael tells her with a proud smile and I internally melt. I’m so proud to have him as a brother. I don’t know how many teenage boys would step in to take care of their little sister like that and be so gentle and loving with them. He’s so amazing.

I can’t wait till he and Tia move in with us. We’ll finally be a whole family.
***

Michael’s POV
Dinner is not as horribly embarrassing as I’d anticipated. I think I’ve managed to not make a complete idiot out of myself and both Phillip and Diane seem to enjoy my company so far. But we’re only in early days yet.

Tia apparently is in her element. She’s the centre of attention for her three older siblings and she’s basking in it. She’s not quite so sure about Diane and Phillip yet, but luckily they’re not pushing the issue.

“I tan tount to ten!” Tia exclaims delightedly, letting everyone at the dinner table know how bright she is. It’s the latest thing she’s learnt and she keeps reciting it, obviously enamoured with the idea that she can count just like a big kid.

“Show us,” demands Max, falling for the obvious ploy for attention.

“One, two, free, four, five, six, seben, eight...” Tia stops for a moment, concentrating hard as she tries to remember the next number in the sequence. After a moment, she brightens and practically shouts it out as she recalls it. “Nine! Ten!”

“Great job, Teets,” I tell her as the table applauds her effort.

“How did you learn that you clever cookie?” asks Isabel, cutting her green beans into more manageable pieces.

Tia shrugs with a worldly air. “I just knowed it in my brain.”

“Can you count backwards from ten?” enquires Max, wiping the smug look off of Tia’s face. She has absolutely no idea how to count backwards from ten and she knows it.

But seeing as she has the same stubborn streak as me, she’s unwilling to admit defeat. “Ten... nine... seven... eight... nine... five... six... free... one.”

She looks at us all expectantly and there’s an adorable touch of hopefulness in her expression which makes me want to laugh.

“Not quite Teets, but close. Very good attempt.”

Tia pouts and looks saddened by her incorrect try, so I prompt her to show us all how smart she is in something she already knows. “Tia, I’ve forgotten the alphabet again, think you could help me out?”

“Michael!” chides Tia. “You always fordet da alphabet!”

I shrug, catching Max’s amused glance across the table. “Well, aren’t I lucky to have you around then?”

Tia grins and nods before launching into a stirring rendition of the alphabet rhyme. We all applaud her and she grins at us all, looking very pleased with herself. I watch her sparkle under the attention and wonder just how that tiny, timid creature transformed into this amazing little girl right under my very eyes without me noticing. Seeing her here, so carefree and energetic, so like a four year old should be, fills me with pride and most of all, relief. That she can recover from her ordeal and open up to other people and new experiences gives me hope that one day I can too. Granted I had a longer period of crappiness to endure, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

“So, Michael,” begins Phillip, immediately putting me back on the defensive. Whenever Hank would draw attention to me in front of other people it was always to belittle me and degrade me, so I’m consequently suspicious of his motives. “How’s college going for you?”

I shrug uncomfortably, wondering where he’s going with this. I swear, if he makes one jab at community college not being a real college or that it’s for people too dumb for a normal college, I’ll be forced to do something drastic. “It’s alright I guess.”

“How many jobs do you work while going to college? Max tells me that it’s around three.”

“Yeah, I work three,” I reply, wondering what the hell this inquisition is all about.

“Three?” Phillip looks amazed by this revelation. “And you take care of Tia somehow all around this? Michael, that is the most admirable thing I’ve ever heard.”

I flush uncomfortably under the awed stares of the Evans while Tia sits eating happily, completely lost by the entire conversation. I have no idea how to respond to this. Insults and belittlements, yes, but compliments are completely out of my comfort zone.

“I did what I had to do,” I eventually grunt. No one was ever going to give me a free ride. I’ve had to work for anything I’ve wanted.

“Michael, I’ve worked with a lot of people who have come from similar situations that have just given up and gone on welfare. It takes real strength of character to do what you’re doing.”

I flush under the heat of their stares and turn my gaze to the top of the table. Luckily Max seems to sense this and turns the conversation onto a safer topic.

“So, is Tia going to kindergarten next year?” It’s a while off, but as I catch Max’s gaze I know that he went with the first question he thought of, just to give me an out.

I nod and ruffle Tia’s hair. “Yes and she’s really excited about it, aren’t you?”

“I’m doeing to tindy wiv Cindy and Ellie!” she exclaims joyously, beginning a conversation centred around her best friends and her ideas of what “kindy” will be like.

As the conversation moves on, I thank God that their attention moved away from me. I wonder how I’m going to cope in this household, if at all. The Evanses are nothing like I’ve ever experienced and I have absolutely no idea how the hell I’m ever going to fit in here... or if I even can.
***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) AN 10th of September 09

Post by Rowedog » Tue Sep 22, 2009 8:47 am

Thank you all for the fb and bumps guys! And thank you to everyone who bid on me or anyone else in the auction. I had a lot of fun! (And I totally won my drabble war, don't let anyone tell you otherwise :wink: )

Spacegirl23
BB
Destinyc
Eve
Natalie36
Scorpio6
Eternal_Dreamer
Sunrise102
Tequathisy
SmileeUK
Katydid
RoninBehr
NotYourChick
Novy
Leila
April
Steph

Part Thirty Seven

'Meet me halfway, right at the borderline
That's where I'm gonna wait, for you
I'll be lookin' out, night n'day
Took my heart to the limit, and this is where I'll stay
I can't go any further than this
I want you so bad it's my only wish'
Meet Me Halfway by The Black Eyed Peas


***

Michael’s POV
“Tia, what would you think about moving in with the Evans? Into their house and living with them?”

Tia looks at me with the most adorably confused look on her face. “Would you tome too?”

“They’ve invited me too,” I reply, not bothering to tell her that the arrangement is most likely not permanent.

She shrugs, smiling widely. “Otay.”

I frown, taken aback by her quick adaption to the plan. This was not meant to happen. She was meant to take some time to get used to the plan and in a couple of weeks she would be mentally ready to move in. This is what I get for banking all my hopes on an excitable four year old girl.

“So we’d live with Max and Belly?” she asks, looking truly excited by the prospect.

“Yeah,” I reply simply, watching her face light up. She’s so excited, I can’t dread the thought when I know it’ll bring Tia so much joy to be in that household. I can’t be that selfish, but yet I am.

“Tan we move in tonight?” she demands, spinning around in circles, her joy clearly transparent for anyone to see.

“How about I have a talk to Diane and Phillip and we’ll go from there, hey Teets?”

She quickly loses her balance and falls over on her rump, too dizzy from all the spinning. Usually this sort of fall would incur some sort of tearful fit, but she’s too wired right now to feel anything less than happy.

“Otay! Tall dem! Tall dem!”

I groan silently and give in to her demands with a sinking heart and a stomach full of dread. Why couldn’t I have had one more night with Tia all my own? Soon Phillip and Diane will be the ones she runs to when she’s fallen over and scraped her knee, when she’s upset about something, or when she wants to be read a bedtime story. I don’t want to give any of that away, no matter how much better the situation will be for her.

I suck it up and hit dial, and listen to the phone ring.

“Hello?”

“Diane, it’s Michael,” I say awkwardly. I never know what to say when Diane answers the phone.

“Oh Michael, it’s so great to hear from you. How are you doing?”

“Fine.”

“And how’s Tia?” she asks, only sounding a little disconcerted by my gruff and abrupt answer to her polite enquiry after my health.

“She’s fine too. The reason I called is because... I umm, asked Tia if it would be ok if we moved in with you guys.”

“You did? What did she say?” Diane’s excitement seems to be reaching Tia’s levels judging by the sound of her voice.

“She’s really excited and asked if we could move in tonight,” I reply honestly.

“Oh, that’s wonderful. I can’t wait to have you both here!” she says, sounding so sincere that for a moment, I allow myself to believe that she wants me in her family. But the moment passes. Things like that do not happen to me. “Our family will finally be complete. Did you want to move in tonight or did you want to wait till tomorrow?”

I blink at her eagerness. “Tomorrow would probably be best. I have a bunch of stuff to move out and...”

“Oh sure, we’ll all come down and help. Phillip and Max can move the heavy furniture and Isabel and I can get to work packing up the little bits and pieces.”

“Great...” It’ll be another picture perfect Evans family moment with Michael the outsider looking in. Just what I needed. I so did not need the Evanses coming around to infiltrate the last day I have with Tia on my own. They’re getting her soon enough, they couldn’t wait another day?

“See you tomorrow, Michael. Oh, I can’t wait!”

“Bye.”

I hang up and press my cell phone against my forehead, wishing with all my might that things could stay the way they are. But they can’t. I’m going to be supplanted and there’s nothing I can do about it.
***
“That’s the last of my stuff,” I grunt, taping the box shut and then hauling it onto my shoulder.

“Great,” says Phillip, hauling up the only other box in the apartment onto his shoulder. “Tell you what, you’re never allowed to move out of our house. At least not for another twenty years or so. I think I should have recovered sufficiently from this move by that time.”

“Yeah,” I mutter, a slow, unstoppable warmth rising in my chest at the impossible thought of Phillip and Diane wanting me around for another twenty years. It’s an irresistible image, though totally inconceivable. “I don’t know how I managed to amass so much crap. Or how it all fit in here.”

“It’ll be difficult to find a place for all of it in our house,” muses Phillip as we walk carefully down the stairs. His offhand statement reminds me of how much of an imposition I am and immediately dashes all my previous daydreaming of me somehow fitting into their happy family.

“We’ll make room though,” says Phillip cheerfully and I wonder how sincere he’s being. I can never tell with him.

We reach the truck that’s parked outside and dump the boxes inside, before pulling down the roller door and shutting it tight. How Phillip managed to get a rental truck on such short notice is beyond me, but I suppose he’s used to getting what he wants.

I go to hop in my car, preparing myself for a couple of months of awkwardness, when a thought hits me. I jump out of my car and walk over to the Evans’ car.

“Max,” I call out just as he’s about to get in.

He stops and turns my way, his hand still on the open door. “Yeah?”

“Could I get you to drive my car to the house for me?” I ask, tossing him my keys.

He catches them deftly, but looks at me curiously. “How are you getting there?”

I gesture to the motorbike parked beside the building. “My bike.”

Max’s eyes light up at the sight. I foresee a future of motorcycle lessons and loaning it out every weekend. “Awesome. How long have you had it?”

I run my hands over the seat with an almost paternal pride. “Almost as long as I’ve had my car. I found it in a junkyard and managed to smuggle it out without anyone noticing. It took about two years of saving to buy replacement parts and a lot of blood sweat and tears to get it functioning again.”

“You have such patience,” Max tells me with a shake of his head. “I would have given up.” He must sense that his compliments only serve as a way to put me on the defensive, so he merely smiles and says, “See you at home.”

Home. I highly doubt that that house will ever be home for me.
***
“So,” I begin uncomfortably, looking around at my surroundings and wondering how anyone could possibly afford to live like this. “How much is rent?”

Diane looks offended by the mere suggestion. “Michael, you’re not paying rent to stay in this house.”

I look around at the expensive house with unease. “Look, I don’t like charity, so just give me a number.”

Diane looks completely exasperated with me. “Michael, it’s not charity, it’s family. You’re our children’s flesh and blood, you’re their family, which makes you our family. We do not charge family members rent in this household.”

“Maybe I should keep my apartment,” I suggest, knowing that eventually they’ll get tired of me and kick me out. “I know Tia should live here, but I could come and visit.”

She lets out a small huff and then grasps both my hands in hers. I resist the urge to shake her off. “Please, Michael, let us help you. I’m never going to forgive myself for what happened to you, when I could have-”

She breaks off into tears and I stand there uncomfortably. She lets go of my hands and covers her face while she deals with the outbreak. God, this is so uncomfortable, should I do something? I never know what to do when females cry. Tia’s a bit easier because a hug usually fixes everything, but I am completely unable to cope with tears in an adult female. I pat her awkwardly on the shoulder and hope to God that she’ll stop soon. Please, stop soon.

She eventually recovers and relieves me of my agony. I hate it when people cry. I can’t deal with my own emotions, let alone anyone else’s. “Are you going to cry any time I suggest moving out?”

She nods and I inwardly groan. I think I’d rather accept their charity than have to deal with that.

“Please Michael, just stay. If not for me then for my kids’ sake and for Tia’s. Tia needs some stability and I believe you’re one of the only things she feels she can count on. And Max and Isabel are so desperate to get to know you.”

I sigh and admit defeat. I know that eventually they’ll get fed up with me and ask me to move out, but I need to stay for Tia’s sake, at least until she’s settled in. “Guess I should do some unpacking before dinner.”

Diane smiles so brightly and so completely blissfully that for a moment, I let myself believe that maybe this could work out, that maybe they aren’t lying about wanting me around. But I clamp down on that emotion. My own biological mother didn’t want me around, so why the hell would Diane?
***
“Good morning, Michael,” greets Diane as I walk cautiously into the kitchen. I spent the whole night tossing and turning on my mattress that I relocated from my apartment to their study, so I’m completely wiped out. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get used to sleeping in this house. “How’d you sleep?”

I shrug. “Ok.” It’s then that I notice the large pile of steaming pancakes in the middle of the table and my stomach growls loudly in hunger and longing. Man, those look so good...

“Sit down, sit down,” huffs Diane directing me into a chair next to Max. “How many do you want?”

“I, uh...” I’m completely bewildered as she piles pancakes onto my plate. She gives me a huge pile and then grasps the large jug in the centre of the table by the handle.

“Syrup?” she offers. I’m too stunned to do anything but nod bemusedly. She tips the jug and the sticky syrup flows over my pancakes. “Say when...”

“That’s enough,” I tell her after a moment. I then reassess what I’ve just said, knowing that I sound extremely brusque. I always do in situations I feel uncomfortable in, so I tack on a quick, “Thank you.”

She beams brightly at me and then crosses the kitchen floor to the fridge. “Do you like orange juice, Michael?”

“Yeah, I guess...”

She quickly pours a glass and places it in front of me. I stare in bemusement. Is this what it would be like to have a real mother, or is she just overcompensating to make me feel welcome? She bustles off into the next room and I sit there, stunned for a moment.

From beside me, Max gives me a knowing look. “Mom’s a morning person. You’ll learn to... “ He pauses searching for the right word. “Tolerate it.”

My eyes widen in surprise. “She’s always like that?”

“Constantly,” Max informs me.

Well, I’ll be damned.

“Phillip? Can you bring Tia in for breakfast?” I hear Diane call out from within the laundry room.

I hear both Phillip and Tia protest, but then hear dutiful footsteps headed our way. My breath catches when I spot Tia holding his hand. She’s taken to this entire family so quickly.

Phillip seats her at the table in the spare seat next to me, before placing a pancake in front of her and pouring syrup on it. He then serves himself and I notice with relief that his attendance to her needs first was completely unconscious on his part. He didn’t stop to think about Tia, he already was. She’ll be in good hands here.

“You know, I’d missed early morning cartoons,” says Phillip with a grin. “You two grew up too quickly.”

“You could have watched them without us,” Isabel reminds him, grabbing herself another pancake.

“What’s the fun in that?” asks Phillip. “You need someone to enjoy them with.”

“Well, it’s a good thing that Tia came here, isn’t it?” remarks Max as he scoops up the last of his pancake.

“Mitael,” says Tia, speaking for the first time. “Can we stay here fowever? Dey hab a big TB and Phiwwip wikes cartoons.”

I stroke her hair and I know I could never take her away from here. She’s become too entrenched and so she should be. This is what she deserves. “This is your home now, Tia. You can stay here as long as you want.”

I purposefully leave myself out of the equation. Perhaps Tia would be better off without me in her life.
***
“Bye Michael, have a nice day at college!” calls Diane as we both get in our respective vehicles. I breathe a sigh of relief as I drive away. Something about their nuclear family disturbs me, I don’t know if it’s just because they’re so normal or if it’s because they actually want me to be a part of it. I thought I’d been rejected from that lifestyle, that it just wasn’t for me, but now it appears that I’m being offered it up on a silver platter and everything just seems too good to be true.

“Mitael,” says Tia, as we drive off. “If Max and Belly have the same Mommy as me, why do dey call Diane Mommy?”

I inhale and try to think of a way to make this as simple as I possibly can. “Well, Tia, when Max and Isabel were adopted by the Evans they became their parents instead of Meg. Meg was originally their Mommy, but Diane wanted them so much that Meg gave them to her and she became their Mommy instead.”

Tia looks mightily perplexed by this. “But if dey’re my brother and sister, den dat means we have de same parents. Is Diane my new Mommy?”

I pause before I answer her, calculating my response. This is going to be permanent for her and she needs to feel that she’s a part of that family. “Yeah, Tia. If you want her to be your Mommy, then she is.”

“I have a Mommy,” Tia breathes, the awe in her voice breaking my heart. I didn’t know how much she wanted this. Maria’s been great in terms of helping her with a real female role model, but Tia needs something more. She needs real parents. “Is Phiwwip my daddy?”

“I guess he is now,” I reply, watching her face light up.

“I neber had a daddy before.”

“I know, Teets, I know.”

“Are Diane and Phiwwip your parents too?”

I laugh a little at her eagerness for us all to become part of the Evans clan. “I’m a little old to be parented, Tia.”

“Dat’s not twue!” She protests. “Evewybody needs a Mommy and Daddy. We can share.”

I ruffle her hair, touched by her generosity and kind heart. “You’re a sweet kid, Tia. Don’t ever change.”

“I pwomise,” she says lightly, bestowing a huge grin upon me. I wish there was a way I could hold her to her promise, to make her stay exactly as she is and to never grow up. She’s so wonderfully innocent and naive right now, it’s awe inspiring.

“Good girl. And you’re not ever allowed to have crushes on boys,” I tell her seriously, the thought of Tia dating sending me into a tail spin. I dread those days with a passion.

She scrunches up her nose in distaste and I grin at the sight.

“Boys are icky,” she informs me. “Dere’s dis one boy in my class and one day he was sitting on the map and he pooped. He dust pooped right on da mat and we hab to sit on dat mat! Miss Anna said she washed it, but I fink she missed a spot because dere’s a stain.”

Tia punctuates this story with a disgusted shake of her head and I can’t help but laugh. Clearly Tia has no compassion for people with poor bowel control.

“It’s not funny!” she cries. “He wets his pants all da time too. I neber wet my pants,” she states with a proud shake of her head. “I always tell Miss Anna and she takes me to da bafroom.”

I smile at her, my heart growing in my chest. “I’m proud of you, Tia.”

She squirms in delight at my admission and I wonder what was wrong with Meg that she couldn’t love such an adorable creature. I don’t know how, but she managed to have three amazing kids, and while I hate her for what she’s done, I can’t help but be grateful to her for giving me a family.

Without Tia, I don’t know where I’d be.
***

Max’s POV
“Hey mister,” whispers a voice from behind me as I rummage around in my locker for my homework. “Nice ass.”

I pull my head out of the metal locker and shoot a grin at my girlfriend, thankful for the almost empty hallway. Liz is always more eager to make comments like her previous one when we’re alone. “Thanks. I do pilates.”

“Really?” she asks, clearly taken aback by my statement.

I snicker a little. “No.”

She kicks my leg and then leans against the locker next to mine. “You’re so weird.”

“You’re the one dating the weirdo,” I remind her.

Out of the corner of my eye I can see her shrug. “Correction; the weirdo with the nice ass.”

“How’d you like to get up close and personal with it? I think the eraser room’s free...” I tell her with a suggestive wink, feeling almost giddy with happiness. For once in my life, everything’s going right. I have two new siblings who’ve just moved in with us, I confronted my mother and I’m not feeling guilty for my past. The only way life could get any sweeter is if my girlfriend and I started getting physical again.

She looks at me with a trace of confusion in her eyes. “What are you suggesting?”

I give her a suggestive wink, hoping that she gets the message. “Whatever you want...”

She frowns a little and I’m sensing that this might not be headed the direction that I want it to. I’ll persevere though. I feel like nothing could go wrong at this point in time, so it’s a perfect opportunity for Liz and I to get back to where we were previously. “Whatever I want is sort of a broad term and I thought we were kinda keeping it above the belt and below the knees for now.”

I grin at her in what I hope is a charming and suave way. “You’d have to lengthen that no go zone, I’m a long dong silver. Maybe make it to my ankles.”

She laughs, looking at me with bewilderment. “Who are you and what have you done with my sweet, innocent boyfriend?”

I hold my hands up in a shrug then grasp her by the waist and pull her into me. “I dunno, I’m just feeling good. Everything’s going right for a change and I just figured that...”

“That it would extend into your sex life,” she finishes for me, looking more saddened than excited. “Have you talked to David about this?”

“No,” I sigh, giving up hope of maybe getting some action for the first time in months. “I suppose you want me to ask him if it’s ok?”

“I’d certainly feel better about it.”

“That guy is such a cockblocker,” I mutter petulantly, annoyed that I need his permission to make love to my girlfriend. I glare at her a little, an errant thought running through my head that I feel the need to voice so that she can get rid of it for me. “You know, I’m beginning to think that you don’t want to make love to me.”

“That ridiculous,” she scoffs, rolling her eyes at me.

“Is it?” I ask quietly, not meeting her gaze.

“Of course it is,” she cries, sounding a little exasperated. “I want us to have a physical relationship, but I want you to be comfortable and happy too. I care about our sex life, but I care about your mental wellbeing more. Besides, what would happen if we went in there and you had another memory pop up? You’d get upset and depressed, you’d think therapy wasn’t working so you’d stop going and we’d be back where we started except that you wouldn’t be getting the help you need.”

I rest my chin on top of her head as I wrap my arms around her. “I hate that you know me so well.” I smile a little and press a kiss to the top of her head. “But I kinda love it too.”

“It’s because I love you,” she whispers, pressing a kiss to my chest through my shirt.

“Good, because I’m madly in love with you.”

“Talk to David, Max. Then we’ll go from there.”
***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 37, 23rd September 09

Post by Rowedog » Mon Nov 16, 2009 10:03 am

Thank you for being patient. I really wish I was one of those people who can do time management well. But alas…

On a positive note, we just cracked 250 pages! Which is a lot for me, but not so much for other authors, so I feel a little bummed about that. But anyway, longest fic to date, I think.

Thank you feedbackers, both old and new and hugs to lurkers.

Leila
BB
Keepsmiling7-
I feel sorry for Michael, guess he'll always feel like an outsider
Not necessarily…
Novy-
I can see what Michael means. I would be weirded out too. They are so nuclear. It's hard to believe they are real.
My family would probably freak you out then…
Natalie36
Ginger
Spacegirl23
Emz80m
Eve
Jessah-
Welcome back!
Neve
Destiny
Whimsicality-
I have a polar AND a self confessed sci fi whore reading my fic? Wow, that’s quite a compliment. Thank you for your kind words and for giving my fics a chance even though they’re not your usual cup of tea. It means a lot.
Eternal_dreamer
SmileeUK
April-
If I read 10 parts each day, I'll be caught up in no time!
How’s that working out for you? :lol:
Caro- Wondering what you’re doing, that’s what I’m doing. Where you been, dongle goblin?
Cardinal- Thank you, your words mean a lot and I’m very glad you’ve made your way over into Rosfandom. I hope you enjoy this part.
Part Thirty Eight

‘What I'm searching for
to tell it straight, I'm trying to build a wall
Walking by myself
down avenues that reek of time to kill
If you see me keep going
be a pass by waver
Build me up, bring me down
just leave me out you name dropper
Stop trying to catch my eye
I see you good you forced faker
Just make it easy
You're my enemy you fast talker

I can say I hope it will be worth what I give up
If I could stand up mean for the things that I believe

What am I here for
I left my home to disappear is all
I'm here for myself
Not to know you
I don't need no one else
Fit in so good the hope is that you cannot see me later
You don't know me
I am an introvert an excavator’
Les Artistes by Santogold


***

Max’s POV
“So Max,” begins David, rifling through his notes as he takes a seat. “What did you end up deciding to do in regards to your birth mother?”

I blink at the question and then remember that David would have no idea what’s gone down since I last saw him. While it feels like it’s been weeks since I discovered my brother and sister and had them move in with us, in reality it’s only been a couple of days.

“I went.”

“And how did that go?” David enquires, looking at me from over the top of his glasses.

I lick my dry lips and wonder how to begin. “Um... it was good. Very... revealing. Listen, I’ll just tell you the story from start to finish and then we’ll talk about whatever bit you think we should talk about.”

David nods and I take a deep breath before starting. “Ok, so I get there and the place is a total dump and Meg thinks I’m there as a client or whatever, so she practically sexually assaults me at the front door. So I tell her who I am and she thinks I’m there for money or some shit, I dunno. And so I walk into the living room and standing there is my girlfriend’s best friend’s boyfriend, Michael Guerin. I don’t know if I’ve told you about him before, but he works at the community centre with Liz and takes care of his four year old sister. Or he used to I guess. I suppose he still does in a way, but it’s more of a backseat role now.” I wave off that train of thought and continue on. “Anyway, so he’s standing there and we’re both looking at each other and we’re both thinking, “What the hell are you doing here?” Anyway, turns out that he’s my brother and the four year old sister he’s been taking care of is my sister too. Meg had us all and then gave us all up at different points in time and we were so young that we couldn’t remember anything. Anyway, Michael and Tia – that’s my younger sister’s name – they’ve both moved in with us. Michael’s got the study while Tia’s in the spare bedroom.” I pause for a bit then smile at David. “So yeah... how are you?”

David stares at me for a moment, probably trying to figure out if I’m kidding or not. In the end he has to ask for clarification. Apparently my free flowing ramble wasn’t clear enough. “You have two other siblings that you’ve recently discovered and they’re now living with you?”

I nod. “Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.”

David’s forehead creases and he gives me this bewildered look. “To be honest, Max, I don’t know quite where to begin. You confronted your mother, gained new relatives and now you’re living with them. This is... enormous.”

I nod and then bring up the reason why I was so eager to come today. “Oh yeah, and I’d like to have sex with my girlfriend again. I’ve confronted my mother and I’m feeling better than I ever have, but Liz seems to think that I need your permission or whatever.”

David frowns and I instantly feel my stomach drop. He clearly doesn’t think it’s a wise move. “Max, there’s been an enormous emotional upheaval in your life, you’ve confronted your mother, discovered two siblings and are now trying to slot them into your family. Sexual intimacy, though tempting I’m sure, would probably exacerbate the problem again. And while you’re feeling so elated at this point, you could be setting yourself up for an enormous setback. We haven’t even had time to discuss the emotional ramifications of your meeting with your mother, let alone deal with your newfound family and how your family dynamic has changed.”

I slump a little in my chair, disappointment coursing through me. “So you don’t think I should do it.”

David smiles at me a little. “Max, my word isn’t law. Clearly you could go out there and make love to your girlfriend right after you leave this session if you really wanted to, but like Liz, I think it would be best if you waited until the dust settles and then see how you feel. It’s advice, not a directive.”

I nod slowly, letting him know that I’ve taken on his words, even though I’m bummed with the outcome. Nothing in the world is as wonderful as being intimate with Liz and I really thought that with all the positive changes in my life that I’d be able to overcome my issues, but I guess I’ll have to wait a while longer.

“So,” begins David, after giving me a moment’s reflection. “Let’s begin with your encounter with your mother. Take me through it and tell me what you felt.”

I straighten up in my chair and get down to business. The quicker I get better, the quicker I can move on with my life and with Liz.
***

Isabel’s POV
“So,” says Alex, taking a seat under the bleachers with me. “How’s things with Michael and Tia?”

I bite my lip and then decide to just be honest with Alex and pray that he’ll understand me. “Honestly... it’s a little weird.”

Alex nods. “I suppose it would be. You’re just getting to know one another and trying to figure out how you mesh as a family, that’s gotta be difficult.”

I smile at Alex, relieved beyond all measure that he understands my problems. “It is. And I hate myself for feeling awkward around Michael, but I never know what to say to him. With Tia it’s so much easier, you just talk about dolls or whatever and you’re set. But Michael... he’s a grown man and I feel like he’s only kind of half there. Like he doesn’t want to be around us most of the time.”

Alex loops one arm around my shoulder as my eyes well with tears. He pulls me into his side and kisses me just above my ear. “It’s just going to take some time, Izzy. You need to stop thinking that everything should be perfect and just accept it for what it is. Michael’s never been in a happy home, so it’s no wonder that he feels uncomfortable and a bit of an outsider. You know, before Tia, he probably didn’t love anyone. And what’s worse is that it’s highly likely that no one loved him either. So when he comes off as gruff you’ve got to put that perspective on it. He’s not doing it to hurt you, he’s just not used to all of this.”

I lean my head on Alex’s shoulder and close my eyes. “When did you get so Dr Phil?”

“Dr Phil ain’t got nothing on me,” he jokes.

I reach up and pat him gently on the head. “Well, you’ve certainly got him beat in the hair stakes.”

“I should hope so!” he laughs, pressing another kiss to the side of my head as I settle into him. He always knows what to say. I’m so lucky to have him.
***

Liz’s POV
I rub at my red eyes and wish that there was more hours in the day. I have two papers and an assignment due in two days from now and I’ve barely started any of them. All of this upheaval with Max has meant that I’ve been neglecting my schoolwork and I’m now feeling the effects.

I reread over the first line of my essay and fervently wish that it was Monday of next week already and that everything was already done. “It could be said that Elinor and Marianne are two physical representations of the ideas of Sense and Sensibility and the constant comparisons between the two sisters are designed to... to...” I throw down my pen with a frustrated groan and yell, “Fuck!”

“Designed to... point out... the ideal attribute? No that sucks. Point out... which attribute Austen valued more.” I sigh and rub my palms into my eyes. I used to be so good at this, I have no idea what’s happening with me. “That’ll do. I can’t fucking think of anything better.”

I mutter to myself as I go along writing my essay in a complete staggered and halting fashion. Either my brain has gone on temporary strike or I’m getting dumber, neither one being a very attractive prospect. Or it could just be that I find this essay boring. I’ve never been a huge fan of literature, science was always more my thing.

“Liz,” says my mother, popping her head through the door.

“What?” I snap in exasperation. “I’m busy.”

She holds up her hands in defence and I feel like an absolute dick. I hate feeling this stressed. I don’t deal well with it.

“I just wanted to know if you wanted some dinner,” she says softly, making me feel even worse.

“Can I have it in here? I need to keep working.”

“Why don’t you have it in the dining room and take a break?” she suggests. “You look like you could use one.”

“I can’t,” I tell her, feeling tears well up in my eyes from the amount of pressure I’m under. “I’ve got so much to do and if I don’t do it I won’t be able to get into a good college and then the rest of my life will be ruined, so can you please bring me my dinner in here?”

Mom sighs, crossing the room to give me a hug, looping her arms around my neck and pressing her cheek against mine. “It’s not as big of a deal as you think. Just relax and try to keep things in perspective. Your life won’t be ruined if you hand in something late.”

I try to believe her words, but fail miserably. “Ok.”

She heads off and quickly returns, bringing me in my dinner before heading off, leaving me to finish my work.

I’ve just about written another paragraph when my phone rings, making me jump in surprise.

“Hey Liz,” says Max when I answer my cell tersely.

“What?” I bark at him, angry that he’s wasting my valuable time. “What did you want?”

“Nothing,” he says, his voice conveying his surprise. “I just wanted to talk.”

“Well I can’t talk right now,” I cry. “I have three things due in two days from now and I’ve barely started any of them and I’m stressing the fuck out. So unless it’s something life threateningly important I really can’t do this right now.”

“Are you ok?” Max asks, sounding bewildered by the hostility in my voice. Unfortunately it only serves to anger me more.

“No, Max, I’m not ok. I’m stressed, upset and I hate myself for having wasted all this time when I could have spent it doing my work. So if you don’t mind, I need to get back to it. I’ll talk to you later, ok?” My voice softens slightly as I remind myself that Max isn’t to blame here. I’m taking it out on him and that’s not fair.

“Ok, I’ll talk to you later. Bye Liz.”

“Bye Max.”

I feel like a total dick over the way I just spoke to Max, but I push it out of my head and get back to work. I have no time to waste.
***

Max’s POV
I place my cell phone down and place both hands back on the wheel, my stomach clenching with fear and anxiety. Was this it? Was this phone call the figurative other shoe dropping on my head?

There’s no mistaking Liz’s tone when she spoke to me. I was an unwelcome annoyance, a drain on her time and patience.

I’ve been waiting for this to happen. I’ve been waiting for Liz to wake up and realise that she’s dating a dismal failure. A pathetic loser whose own mother – despite her admittedly low standards – couldn’t stand to have around.

I punch the steering dashboard, furious at myself that I couldn’t hold onto her. But what did you expect? A voice in my head asks. You’re the son of a crackwhore. You were the product of a filthy union between a dirty, hooker slut and a desperate, sexually repugnant, morally bankrupt sleaze. Why would Liz want to be with that?

Of course she wouldn’t. My grip on the steering wheel tightens until I think it’s going to shatter into splinters. I park the car and practically storm into the house.

“Hey Max!” calls Tia as I step through the front door. She’s playing dolls with Isabel on the floor while Michael and Dad watch the news.

“Hi,” I grunt, heading in a beeline for the stairs.

Hearing my terse reply to Tia’s greeting, my Mother steps out of the kitchen, looking worried. “Max?”

“What?” I snap, pausing on the stairs.

“Is something the matter?” she asks

“No. I’m fine, ok? I’ll be in my room.”

I run upstairs and collapse face down on my bed, so angry at myself and at my life. Why am I always the one to receive the short end of the stick? Why can’t I ever just be happy? I only wanted Liz. That’s all I ever asked for, and now...

I groan into my pillow at the sound of a knock at my door. “Go away.”

“No,” Isabel fires back, looking very pissed off. “I really don’t care that you’re having a bad day when you being pissed off upsets Tia. She doesn’t need that right now, Max. I don’t care what happened, you don’t take it out on her.”

I wince as guilt slashes through me, only further serving to deepen my spiral of self loathing. “Look, I am sorry. I am. I just can’t deal with this right now, ok? So can you fuck off?”

“Why are you being such a dick?” snaps Isabel.

I sit up with a sigh of frustration. “I think Liz and I are breaking up.”

Isabel’s expression quickly changes from that of anger to shock and disbelief. “What? How could that happen?”

I shrug. “I called Liz and she basically yelled at me for wasting her “valuable time”.”

Isabel frowns in confusion. “Why? What was she doing?”

“She had three assignments due in two days time and she was trying to get them done.”

“Oh Max,” she grunts, looking absolutely furious. “Grow the fuck up. Seriously, you have the emotional maturity of a three year old. So she has a priority that isn’t you. So what? It’s Liz’s dream to get into a good college. You know that. Do you really want her to throw that out the window just so that you guys can have a nice chat about how your day was?”

I shake my head, my lips forming a thin line. “You don’t get it. She spoke to me like I was this massive imposition, like I was wasting her time. Could you imagine Alex speaking to you like that?”

That pulls her up short as she considers it. She then sighs heavily and takes a seat next to me on my bed. “Max, it probably wasn’t even about you. She’s just stressed and because you’re so close she feels that she can take it out on you. You know what Liz is like, she’s always got her work done days before it’s due, so all this rushing around at the last minute has got to be even worse for her than it is for us because she’s not used to it.”

“You think?” I ask hopefully, really needing the reassurance.

She nods with a small smile. “Yeah, I do. Look, Liz has been with you every step of the way for everything that’s happened recently. How about you extend her the same courtesy and give her what she needs right now. A little space so that she can get things done. And in two days time once she has done everything, she’ll be fine again.”

I send her a grateful smile for reassuring me and for putting things back in perspective. I was so certain that this was the dying croak of our relationship, but Isabel’s really made me look at it from another angle.

It’s made me wonder though, do I often see things through Max tainted glasses? Is my perception of things completely warped?
***
I bite my lip nervously as I spot Liz at her locker down the hall, looking adorably tired. I don’t exactly know where we stand right now, or if she’s going to go berserk at me again. I decide to just bite the bullet and approach her.

I give her a nervous wave as I lean against the locker next to hers. “Hey.”

“Hi,” she says softly with a yawn. She looks so tired. There are bags under her eyes and it doesn’t look like she’s slept much at all.

“How’s all your work going?” I ask hesitantly, wondering if I’ll get the same backlash as before.

“Better,” she tells me with a small smile. “I got one done and half of the other two done. It should only take me a couple of hours to finish them off. I just need some more books from the library to complete them. Which is the only reason why I’m here today, otherwise I’d be sleeping.”

“That’s great,” I tell her truthfully. I’m so glad that she’ll soon be able to stop worrying so much about her workload. Hopefully it’ll mean that she’ll relax and we’ll go back to how we were.

“Yeah.” She looks at the ground in a fit of indecision before blurting out, “Look, I’m really sorry about snapping at you last night. I was just really stressed and I don’t deal well with stress.”

“That’s ok,” I tell her. “You’ve been spending so much time dealing with my crap you’ve barely had any time for yourself.”

She shakes her head, disagreeing with me. “Max, I wanted to be there. I don’t regret being there for you when you needed me. I had those assignments for ages, I just put them off. So it is my fault that things got so stressful.”

I glance at my shoes and shrug. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to put me first all the time. School’s important to you, so it should be your priority.”

“I’ll just have to get better at time management, I think. And stress management as well. Who knew that I turned into such an evil bitch when I’m stressed?”

“Hey,” I interrupt. “Don’t call yourself that.”

“I wasn’t exactly pleasant, Max.”

“Well no,” I admit, drawing a laugh from her. “But I’ve dealt with worse.”

The smile slips from her lips as I accidentally remind her of my childhood with Meg. Great, the one topic I hate has now been brought into conversation. Worse than that, Liz looks devastated.

“Oh god... I’m so sorry, Max. I never, ever thought my actions could ever be comparable to Meg’s and I... I’m just so disgusted with myself.”

Oh God, is that what she’s thinking? I really need to set her straight before her overreaction takes full flight. “Liz, do you really think that snapping at me a little is anything close to what Meg did to both me and Isabel?”

The worry and distress on her face softens a little and I feel a little relieved that my words are having the desired effect. I continue on, determined to wipe that look off her face once and for all. “We’re in a relationship, Liz. It’s expected that we’ll have arguments and you’ll yell at me for doing stupid stuff, because I’m a guy and that’s what I do. I don’t ever want you to hold back just because of my past. That’s not fair on either of us. I want a normal, healthy relationship and that should involve disagreements.”

She pins me with a sceptical look. “You’re giving me permission to yell at you?”

I smile back at her, relieved that I’ve managed to steer this conversation back into safe waters. “I suppose I am. I mean, I’d prefer it if we didn’t have fights, but they’re probably inevitable.”

The bell rings and Liz yawns once again, linking her arm through mine as we make our way to class. She leans her head against my bicep as I steer her through the crowded hallway.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you, Max,” she tells me again.

“Don’t be, I’m just glad we’re not breaking up.”

She comes to a halt as my words register in her brain. “What? You thought we were breaking up?”

“Well, only for a little while,” I admit, sheepishly. “Isabel set me straight though. In the bluntest way possible of course.”

She looks totally bewildered by my admission. “Max, when I snapped, did I say anything about breaking up?”

I grimace a little at the tone of her voice. “Well no, but you did make it sound like I was a massive waste of your time.”

“Max, I...” she shakes her head in total confusion and I feel like a total moron.

“Look, I know I overreacted, but I am working on it. I’m trying to get better, Liz. I really am.”

She smiles softly at me. “Ok, so you work on that and I’ll try not to take it out on you when I get stressed.”

I grin at her. “Deal.”

We enter the classroom and she snorts once as she looks at me. “Breaking up... you idiot.”

“Thanks for your kind words, Liz. You really make me feel special,” I kid as we take our seats.

The tension I’ve been feeling ever since that phone conversation fades away and I relax back into my seat. But I can’t help feeling like I’ve dodged a bullet.
***

Maria’s POV
I wander into the Evans’ household holding Michael’s hand. It’s amazing how much Michael’s been dragging me here lately. I think he gets the feeling that he’s still an outsider in this household, so he brings me here as his back up so that he has someone in his corner. While it’s sad that he feels that he needs to do that, I can’t help but be pleased that he sees me as someone he can trust implicitly.

We make our way towards the hallway, but are stopped by Diane’s sudden appearance from the kitchen.

“Oh, Michael, I hope you don’t mind, but I saw something while I was on my lunch break and I immediately thought of you,” bustles Diane, a cheerful grin on her face.

“Uh...” I almost laugh at the bewilderment on Michael’s face. He’s never had anyone think of him before. He so used to being overlooked that generosity is completely foreign to him. I think he’ll have to get used to it while he’s living with the Evans’s though. “What is it?”

Diane crooks her finger and beckons us towards the hallway. We turn into Michael’s room and there’s a large king sized double bed sitting there on a dark oak frame that wasn’t there previously.

“I know that you probably wanted to pick out your own bed, but it was on sale and it’s a very good quality mattress, plus that single wasn’t large enough for your tall frame. Your toes poked over the edge. I also got the comforter, pillows and sheets on sale too, so I consider it a very productive and cost effective lunch hour.”

Michael stares at the bed in absolute amazement and disbelief as Diane rattles on. I turn my head and look away when I see the tears in his eyes, knowing that he wouldn’t want anyone to see. Personally, I’m ecstatic. That tiny mattress he had was awful and he needed something larger, but what with bills and expenses he never could save up to get a new one.

“You got me a bed?” he chokes out, staring at it like it’s a winning lottery ticket.

Diane nods and then takes a look at the walls. “I was thinking we could paint your room, just to brighten it up and personalise it a bit. Do you like blue? Because I was thinking we could go a blue a shade darker than the comforter and it would match the carpet. Maybe we could also fix up the drapes, because they’re not meant for a bedroom. They let in too much light. We need something a bit thicker and darker. What do you prefer; blinds or curtains? I know a guy who could fix them up for us really quickly if we just give him the measurements. I also got Phillip to finally move his crap out of the desk, so you’re free to put your stuff in it now. Which reminds me, we’re upgrading our computer soon, so you can have the old one as soon as our new one comes in, which should be in about a week. Did you need a new desk chair? That one’s pretty old and Phillip has this great leather chair in his office that I think would suit this room better. I can talk to the furniture place we got it from and see if we can order in-”

Michael sharply flings up his hands and stops Diane’s free flowing ramble. He looks hopelessly lost and utterly confused. I however am adoring what I’m seeing. Diane is so ardent in her desire to make Michael’s stay comfortable that she’s blowing Michael away. He’s never had so much stuff just offered to him and he’s certainly never just been given things. He’s had to work hard for them.

“What... Diane, I can’t afford all this stuff.”

Diane looks insulted by his comment. “Michael, I’m not asking you to pay for it. I’m just trying to make your bedroom as comfortable as possible.”

“My bedroom?”

“You’re not a guest staying in the guest room, Michael. This is your room, for as long as you want it. You will always have a place to call home while Phillip and I are around.”

I can see Michael trying to deal with what she’s just said. I think she’s rendered him speechless. He has absolutely no idea what to say in response, so I say it for him. “Thanks Diane, you’ve been so wonderful about this entire situation.”

“Nonsense,” she scoffs. “We’re family now and where I come from, families do these things for each other. You two kids enjoy yourself, I have to go pick up Tia from the centre.”

She bounces out of the room and Michael takes the opportunity to sink down onto his new bed with his head in his hands.

“You alright?” I ask, resting my chin on his shoulder as I idly rub his back in soothing circles.

He shakes his head. “I don’t know if I can handle this.”

I sigh and shift my head so that I can press a kiss to his shoulder. “I know you’re scared, Michael. You’re scared that if you actually start to want any of this that they’ll take it away from you. But you need to see that Phillip and Diane aren’t like your Mom or Hank. They’re not vindictive, they’re not petty and they’re not cruel. They would bend over backwards just to make sure that you feel welcomed in this house. They just want to know you, Michael. Why don’t you see if you can let them?”

“It’s hard,” he mutters.

I nod, letting him know that I understand. “I know. Maybe it’d help if you remembered how you let me in.”

He rolls his eyes at me. “I didn’t. You crashed your way through in typical Maria fashion.”

I let out a chuckle and affectionately nip his shoulder. “Bastard.”

He nods, slinging an arm around my neck and pulling me in closer to him. “Yeah, so I’m told.”

I sigh and return to our previous topic of conversation. “Michael, I know you don’t believe this, but you’re worthy of love. Tia and I both love you. Max and Isabel are well on their way and Diane and Phillip are practically falling over themselves trying to get to know you. They want you as a part of their family, Michael. I promise, if you open up and show a little bit of yourself to them, they won’t turn away.”

“You think?” he asks cautiously.

“Bitch, please, I don’t think... I know. You’ve been around me long enough to know that I’m always right.”

He laughs and some of the tension eases from him, which I’m very relieved to see. This transition of Michael’s is proving harder than I thought. Not that it was never going to be particularly smooth. I honestly don’t know how he’s going to deal with this. I hope in time he can adjust, but I get the feeling it’s going to be a long road for him.

One thing’s for sure though, I can’t wait to break in this bed.
***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 38, 17th November 09

Post by Rowedog » Mon Nov 23, 2009 5:53 am

Ha! And they said it couldn't be done! Alison actually updated within a week! Booyah! And then she spoke about herself in the third person, just because she could. True story.

BB- Poor Maria, she's got a ways to go before that bed is broken in. :lol:
Novy- I'm glad you like my characters Noves. I like them all too. You know, it's not even my longest sadly. I need another ten pages then it'll have beaten NID. I was a bit premature in my excitement.
Leila- I think that was another major turning point for Max, so don't give up on him just yet!
Keepsmiling7- Yeah, unfortunately Max is an eager, hormonal teenage boy, so he's not big on patience or letting the dust settle.
Neve- You're right, it wasn't acceptable behaviour on Liz's part, but she knows that and will try to avoid doing that in any similar situations that pop up. Which I think is a good sign.
Eve- Exactly. I think it's good for Max to see that Liz isn't perfect so that he doesn't always have her up on this pedestal. It's not healthy for either of them.
Earth2Mama- Welcome! I'm glad you're enjoying it! I agree, they probably should have waited until they professed their love for one another, but they're young and it's the first flush of love, so they're bound to be eager to rush things and leap before they look. Glad to have you here!
Part Thirty Nine

'All you want is
What you can’t have
And if you just look around man
You see you got magic
So just sit back relax
Enjoy it while you still have it
Don’t look back on life man and only see tragic

Because you could be better than that
Don't let it get the better of you
What could be better than now
Life’s not about what’s better than
You can be better than that
Don't let it get the better of you
What could be better than now
Life’s not about what’s better'
Better Than by The John Butler Trio


***

Maria’s POV
“Hello boyfriend,” I greet as I enter his room. He’s sitting uneasily at the computer, like he expects that Diane or Phillip will come in and tell him to get off at any given time. I bet this is the first time he’s even felt comfortable enough to actually use it even though he’s had it for about a week.

“Hey,” he grunts, waiting impatiently for his online banking to pop up. He looks like he can’t wait to get away from there. I grin at the exasperated snort he lets out when the internet finally starts showing his bank balance.

Michael gasps at the amount of money he has in his bank account. I guess he was so used to paying bills and rent and buying food that he never gave much thought to how much he’d have when he stopped paying them.

“Shit,” he whispers. “I actually have money in here.”

“I know,” I walk over and lean into his side and run my hand down his back. “Now that you don’t have to worry about money so much anymore, maybe you could quit one of your jobs...”

Michael looks alarmed at the suggestion, but excited by the prospect. “You think I could?”

“Yeah, then you could spend more time with me and Tia,” I suggest, knowing that he’s probably feeling a little shut out of her life at the moment. Diane and Phillip have taken over the parenting and he looks a little lost. He’s just got to learn that while she may not need him for discipline anymore, he’ll always have a place in her life and her heart.

“But what if...” he trails off, uncertain and I wonder what’s bothering him, besides his diminished role in Tia’s upbringing.

“What if, what?”

“What if they decide that they don’t want me there anymore? Maybe I should save up or something and then I could just...” He slows to a halt when he catches my exasperated look. “What?”

I let out a little huff. “Michael, how many times are we going to go over this? The Evans family offered you a place to stay. They offered for you to be part of their family. They’re not going to take it back. I know it’s hard for you, but could you try to trust them? They’re not asking for you to call them Mom and Dad, all they’re asking is that you be there. Just get to know them, Michael.”

He nods a little, looking totally unconvinced. I wish there was a way that I could make him see things from my perspective, that there are good, honest, trustworthy people out there. But unfortunately I think it’s going to take a very long, concerted effort from the Evans’ to get Michael to trust them. I just hope that they can stick it out. Michael deserves this. He deserves everything he’s been getting and I’d hate to see him lose that because he kept pushing the Evans’ away.

Not that I think they’d ever throw him out, but you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped and you can’t get to know someone who won’t open up. It makes me so mad that Michael had to live and suffer mistreatment from two people who didn’t deserve him at all. I wish the Evans’ had taken him in when he was a kid. I wish that he’d known this type of caring growing up as a boy.

Who knows if he’ll ever be able to really adjust to living with and being loved by the Evans family?

“Maybe I shouldn’t quit my job just yet,” he hedges after a moment’s silent contemplation. “I mean, I’m still paying off Tia, so it would be good to have some back up cash to fall back on.”

“You’re what?” I shriek. Michael’s defences immediately slam into place and I immediately regret my outburst. Now is not the time to alienate Michael by questioning his decisions. Even if his decisions are fucking dumb.

I calm myself as I look at his closed off stance. Great going, Maria. Nice work. “You’re still paying Meg for Tia?”

He nods swiftly, then turns his attention back to the computer, slowly disconnecting from the internet and moving with slow deliberation. A real turnaround from his previous agitated need to get off the computer. He’s avoiding talking to me because he knows I won’t drop this.

“Why? Surely now that the Evans’ have taken over there’s no need to pay her anymore.”

“They haven’t made it legal yet. If I stop paying her she could take Tia back in an instant. Surely even you can agree that Tia can’t go back there.” His tone is fairly dripping with condescension and I feel my hackles rising even though I know why he’s doing it.

“I know that, Michael. Don’t treat me like I’m stupid. What I meant was, why haven’t you talked to the Evans’ about this? Phillip would be invaluable with something like this.”

“It’s my problem, Maria, I’ll deal with it.”

His tone leaves absolutely no doubt as to whether or not the conversation is finished. He’s not going to talk about it and he’s not going to be reasonable.

So I guess it’s up to me to fix things.
***
I hesitate at the door of the office, sucking in a calming breath in a vain attempt to squash the overwhelming nerves and feelings of guilt. I know I need to do this, but a huge part of me feels like I’m betraying Michael.

I snap out of it and suck it up. I need to do this, for Michael’s sake. If he won’t help himself then I’ll do it for him. I raise my hand and knock on the door, hoping like hell that this won’t all blow up in my face.

“Come in.”

I enter the room and he looks up at me in surprise. “Maria. Hi.”

“Hi Phillip.”

“Come in,” he tells me, managing to limit the amount of surprise and confusion on his face to a minimum. “Please, take a seat.”

I sit down, my stomach clenching with anxiety. “I know you’re surprised to see me and you’re probably wondering what I’m doing here. But I need...” I swallow harshly and prepare to do what Michael could never do for himself. “Michael needs your help.”

“Is he in trouble?” Phillip asks swiftly, looking concerned and alarmed.

“Not really, it’s just... can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” he nods, still looking tense over the idea of Michael possibly being in trouble.

“Why haven’t you made Tia yours legally yet?”

Phillip blinks, looking shocked by the sudden change in conversation. “I guess we were waiting for the dust to settle. I know that Michael must feel that we’re usurpers taking away one of the few people that love him, so I think we were just putting it off until we thought he was ready for us to be her main caretakers.”

I sigh, being both annoyed and enamoured by the Evans’ concern for Michael’s feelings.

“Here’s the thing,” I begin, looking around furtively to make sure that Michael isn’t around to hear this even though he wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near Phillip’s workplace. “Michael’s been paying Meg $100 instalments a week to keep her. She wants $10,000 total for her and on top of expenses... he’s been doing it really rough. So... I need you to find a way to make Tia legally yours like you did with Max and Isabel and I kinda need you to do it now. That woman doesn’t deserve a goddamn thing, least of all Michael’s hard earned money.”

Phillips’ face creases with worry and concern and he rubs a hand through his hair. “That woman... is unbelievable. Did he sign any paperwork to legalise this deal?”

I shake my head, my stomach churning with anticipatory worry over Phillip’s facial expression. “No, it was a verbal agreement.”

Phillip’s grim expression only worsens. “Any witnesses?”

I shake my head, dread growing like a lead balloon in my stomach. “Just Tia, I think.”

Phillip now looks frustrated beyond belief. “You do realise that she wouldn’t stop at ten grand? Once the payments ended she’d threaten to take Tia away from him forever unless he coughed up more dough. She would have had a hold on him till Tia was a legal adult. That’s 15 years of paying off that whore for the rights to give Tia an upbringing that she deserves.”

My eyes widen with shock. I can’t believe I just blithely thought that Meg would give up her cash cow and keep her word. “You sure of that?”

“Trust me, I know how this woman operates.” Phillip sighs and runs a hand down his face. “I wish he would have come to me about this.”

I shake my head, unable to even picture Michael trying to have this conversation with Phillip. “It’s not you, Michael’s just... not quick to trust people. He still doesn’t think that the invitation into your house is an open one. Before Tia, I don’t think he trusted anyone.”

Phillip looks offended by the suggestion that Michael would be thrown out of his home. “I offered him a place to stay and a place in our family. I keep my word.”

“Sadly enough, Michael hasn’t known many people who do. Believe me, it’s not personal. Michael just doesn’t think that people are on his side.”

Phillip leans forward, his elbows on his knees and puts a question towards me, clearly trying to understand Michael’s motivations. “Putting aside the fact that I’m the father of two of his siblings for a moment, I’m also a lawyer. Why didn’t he think he could come to me with this problem?”

“I don’t know that he thought that help would be extended. He’s really not big on the whole trusting people deal.”

Phillip sends me a reassuring smile, placing his hand over mine, he gives it a quick squeeze. “Don’t worry, Maria. I’ll take care of it.”

I smile gratefully at Phillip, feeling reassured by his promise. “Thank you, Phillip. I don’t care if he hates me for spilling his secret, I just want her out of his life, for good.”

Phillip nods. “You did the right thing, Maria. In time he’ll see that.”
***

Isabel’s POV
“Hey Isabel,” smarms Leanna from beside me, fluffing out her drying hair as I comb my still wet hair from the shower I just had.

“Leanna,” I acknowledge, pulling out a hair tie from my locker as she stands there brazenly in her underwear, unashamed to let the entire girl’s locker room see her in nearly all of her glory. My insides clench with self awareness as I take in the long, lean lines of her body and her pert, proportionate breasts. Alex had had such a long crush on her, was her body type the type he was really attracted to? Would he prefer if I was lithe and willowy, rather than built? Did he care that I was more of a Beyonce than a Kelly Rowland?

“How’s things with Alex?” she asks, her tone condescending as if she already knew the answer.

I shoot her a glare. “That’s none of your business.”

She snorts a little, a taunting smile on her lips. “That bad already, huh?”

“I really don’t care what you think, Leanna.”

She raises an eyebrow at me. “Really? Then you won’t care that I think Alex was the best fuck I’ve ever had? Wow, you’re well adjusted.”

I bite my lip, trying to fight the feelings of nausea and disgust rolling through my stomach. I brace myself for even more horrific exclamations from Alex’s slutty ex.

“I mean, you know how powerful he is... so thorough, so-”

I interrupt her, unable to listen to her vile words anymore. “I know you didn’t sleep together Leanna, so you can just cut the crap already.”

She doesn’t even falter, she just sends me this pitying look as if I had just revealed to her that I still believe in Santa Clause. “Is that what he told you? Well, I guess you can believe whatever you want to believe if it makes you feel better.”

“Why should I believe anything you’ve got to say?” I ask her with more confidence than I actually have. “You’re the one who cheated and lied in that relationship.”

She’s still unfazed by me, even though I’ve basically called her a lying slut. God I wish Liz or Maria was here. I could really do with some back up. But no, we’re two of the last people to leave the change rooms.

“He was pretty devastated about that, wasn’t he? Because, you know, he had such a huge crush on me for such a long time. I can’t imagine that a couple of months of settling for you could even compare to years worth of infatuation.” She pauses, her vindictive smirk growing even bigger. “Tell me, does he still do that thing with his tongue? Or was that something he only reserved for me?”

I pause, looking around for some kind of distraction, any kind so that she’ll stop making me feel so sick. I can’t deal with this.

She lets out a startled bark of laughter, her mouth hanging open in shock. “You two have never actually had sex, have you?”

She giggles almost maniacally as I sputter and attempt to answer her question with as much dignity as I can muster after her complete decimation of my heart and self worth. “That’s none of your business.”

“I wouldn’t wait too long before you give it up, Isabel. You know how guys are,” she laughs shrilly, her voice as sweet as saccharine. “If they can’t get it from you, then they’ll get it from somewhere else.”

I stiffen at her taunting words, feeling myself struggle with them internally. Alex isn’t like that. He’d never cheat on me.

“And believe me, when he goes looking for someone to scratch his itch, I’ll be there.” She stalks off and I fight the overwhelming urge to cry.

I bite back the urge and try to calm myself. Alex would never do that. He’d never cheat on me. Especially not after Leanna cheating on him. He knows how much that hurts.

But then again, who knows how long it would take for Alex to get tired of waiting? Sure he’d be a gentleman about it, but I’m well aware that I’m not worth waiting for. He’s going to want a normal, functional girlfriend. He’s going to want someone to be physically intimate with. He deserves that.

But I can’t lose him. I don’t think I’d survive it.

I know now what I have to do.
***
Alex’s face visibly brightens as I enter his room. I’ve been mentally preparing for this all afternoon and I think I’m ready. Maybe.

I shrug off my doubts and head over to him. I don’t have time for doubts. I need to do this now.

“Hey you, what brings you-”

His words are cut off as practically throw myself at him, straddling his chair and claiming his mouth with mine. I kiss him hungrily, trying to prove to him, myself and Leanna that I can do this. I’m not messed up. I’m not. I can do this. I’m going to do this.

“Isabel,” he gasps when I finally move my mouth away from his to attack his neck. “What’s-”

“Shut up,” I order, rolling my hips into his so that he’ll stop asking questions. I can’t give him the chance to reject me, I need to do this. I have to prove Leanna wrong.

I stiffen when I feel his erection through his pants, then push past it. I can do this. This is not a big deal.

I stand up and pull him over to the bed with me, all the while my hands tug at any piece of clothing they can gather. I manage to pull his shirt off over his head right before we fall backwards onto the bed.

His hands aren’t idle either. He’s pushed my shirt up as far as the buttons will allow and his hands feel warm against my stomach.

His hands move swiftly over me, eager to touch every part of my body. I gasp as his hand cups my breast, a swift spike of arousal charging through me. I shy away from the memory of my mother being groped by some faceless John. That has nothing to do with the here and now. Alex and I aren’t anything like either of them. I just need to keep perspective.

I can’t survive Alex leaving me, but I can survive sex. I can do this.

I reach for his pants intending to undo his belt, and that’s when it happens.

Memory after memory assaults me. My mother in similar positions to the one I’m in now with man after disgusting man. I feel the shame and disgust wash over me until I feel like I’m going to drown in it. I feel like I’m suffocating.

I feel dirty.

I wrench my mouth from his and quickly shove him away from me.

“I can’t do this,” is the only thing I manage to get out before I burst into hysterical tears. I turn away from him, trying to get as far away from him as possible as I deal with the outbreak. I feel a new wave of shame break over me, intensifying the self loathing as I try to deal with both the disgust and the crippling mortification over him seeing me breakdown like this. But I can’t stop.

“Isabel...” His arms try to come around me, but I shove him away.

“Please Alex, just let me go,” I beg. I can’t let him see me like this. If he sees the full extent of how fucked up I am, he’ll never want anything to do with me ever again.

“I can’t,” he tells me softly, pulling me back into his arms.

I place my hands on his chest and vainly try to push him away, but his grip is firm. I struggle within the circle of his arms for a minute before giving up and collapsing into him, gripping onto him tightly as my tears soak his crumpled shirt.

He holds me gently until my shaking subsides and my tears begin to dry. I’m ashamed to admit that it takes me ten minutes to calm down enough to actually be able to speak.

“I’m sorry,” I finally whisper, shame and crippling mortification making it impossible for me to look him in the eye.

“I’m sorry too,” he tells me morosely. “I should have stopped it. I knew something was wrong, but I guess I got carried away...”

I hear the sheepish guilt in his voice and I internally berate myself. Why does Alex always have to turn everything around on him? “Alex, it’s not your fault.”

“It takes two to do what we did, Isabel. I was very much an eager participant. Don’t act like I’m some sort of saint in this situation. I knew you weren’t ready for what we just did, but I still went along with it.”

“You need to stop taking blame for things that aren’t your fault,” I huff, thinking back to his similar apology after he kissed me the first time.

“And you need to keep your perspective on things. Yes, you were upset and you tried to have sex before you were ready. That doesn’t make you the devil.” He pulls me in even tighter and presses his lips just above my ear as he whispers gently, “Now, do you want to tell me what you were so upset about?”

I sigh. “It’s nothing. I shouldn’t even have gotten upset over it. I just... I hate her and she was saying all these things, these horrible, horrible things and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s like she knows every single one of my weaknesses and how to exploit them to the fullest.”

Alex’s brow creases in confusion. “Who are we talking about here?”

“Leanna,” I mumble.

I feel Alex stiffen and I wonder if he still has feelings for her. Is he reacting that way because the mention of her name makes his heart pound with longing, or is he upset over her distressing me?

“What’d she say?”

I continue to look away from him as I speak. It’s so much easier this way. “She told me that you guys had had sex and that if I wasn’t giving it to you then you’d be getting it somewhere else. From her specifically.”

“That fucking bitch.”

I’m taken aback by the fury in Alex’s voice as he bites that out. I risk a glance in his direction for the first time since I mauled him and he looks absolutely livid. I’ve never seen my placid, easy going Alex so furious before.

“How dare she?” he continues. “How fucking dare she? It was one thing to treat me like shit when we were dating, but it’s entirely another to make up bullshit to make my new girlfriend feel inadequate. That repulsive slut.”

Alex’s grip loosens as he realises that his fingers are cutting into me. He looks me in the eye with what appears to be remorse and dismay. “I am so sorry Isabel. I swear, I have no idea what ever attracted me to her in the first place. She’s disgusting.”

I smile a little, his sincere words a balm to my wounded soul. “It’s ok.”

He shakes his head. “No, it’s not. God, I wish I could go back in time and stop myself from dating her. Then maybe she’d leave you alone.”

“No,” I shake my head. “She’d still have it in for me. She hates me and I don’t know why.”

“I don’t get it either,” he murmurs, attempting to straighten up my shirt which is still hooked up over my breasts, exposing my bra. I flush and finish the rest of the job myself. We sit silently for a moment, before Alex looks at me seriously.

“What?” I query, feeling nerves hit me. The look he’s giving me fills me with dread.

“I think we need to talk.”

I give him a watery smile, attempting to keep the conversation light. His serious tone is terrifying me. “About?”

“Us.”

“Oh.” I knew that there would be consequences for what I just did. There’s no way that he could just overlook how much of a complete mess I am and blithely accept it.

He shakes his head sadly before he begins and I feel my eyes well with tears again. I can take this, not after such a mortifying event. If he were to break up with me now... I don’t know what I’d do.

He sighs before he begins, looking like he doesn’t know where to start. “Isabel... it feels like we’re coming from two different places. You’re so skittish about our entire relationship and so self deprecating. It’s like you’re waiting for me to break up with you every time we have a disagreement or something. I hate that you’re so insecure in this relationship and I hate the way you beat yourself up.”

“I...” I pause, feeling the tears begin to sting my eyes. “I don’t mean to.”

“I know you don’t, but it sucks for me that every time I do something you’re second guessing my motives or wondering if I still have feelings for Leanna.”

I freeze after that declaration, wondering how he could possibly know that.

“I’m sorry,” I manage to get out over the lump in my throat. I don’t know what else to say to him.

“Look, you said your therapist does couples therapy, right?”

I nod warily. “Yeah.”

“I think we should go.”

“Alex...” I blanche at the idea of more therapy. “I don’t know if...”

“Please Isabel?” he begs. “I know you hate going to therapy, but I need understand why you think the way you do and maybe help you work out a way to overcome it. You don’t trust me to stick around and it kills me. And for a while I thought it was me; that I was giving off these untrustworthy vibes or something. But it’s not me you don’t trust, it’s you. You don’t trust yourself to be able to hang onto me. And believe me, this realisation coming from me - the guy who knows his girlfriend is way out of his league - is a big thing.” I go to rebut that claim, but he holds his hands up to indicate that he’s not done. “You’re never going to accept my love if you can’t love yourself, Izzy. Don’t you want to feel secure in our relationship? Don’t you want to look at me and know that I’m here for you, no matter what?”

I nod, unable to voice the words because of the enormous lump in my throat. I would give anything to be normal and to have a normal relationship.

“I want you to, too. So can we try couple’s therapy? We’ll try it for a bit and if it doesn’t work then we’ll stop going, ok?”

I nod and lean into Alex’s embrace hoping that his arms will erase from my memory that horrifically embarrassing scene earlier on. It doesn’t work.

We stay there for a while on the bed as I cling to him, wishing the entire time that this could feel real to me. Wishing that I could feel secure for once in my goddamn life.

Maybe Alex is right, maybe I do need more therapy.
***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 39, 23rd November 09

Post by Rowedog » Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:05 am

Keepsmiling7
Ellie
BB
Eve
Leila
Maxandlizforever
Scorpio6
Natalie36
Novy
Neve
Destiny
Emz80m

Part Forty

‘We're goin’ down,
And you can see it too,
We're goin’ down,
And you know that we're doomed,
My dear we're slow dancing in a burnin’ room

I was the one you always dreamed of,
You were the one I tried to draw,
How dare you say it's nothin’ to me,
Baby, you're the only light I ever saw’
Slow Dancing In A Burning Room by John Mayer


***

Max’s POV
My heart beats erratically in my chest when I spot the back of Liz’s head near her locker and I wonder if it’ll always be like this. If she’ll always cause butterflies to erupt in my stomach while my heart stammers like a nervous schoolboy giving a speech in front of his class.

“Guess who?” I whisper into her ear as I cover her eyes with my hands.

“Gee...” she says sarcastically. “I wonder.”

I release her and let her turn around to face me. “Wonder no more, it is I! Boyfriend extroadinaire! At your service, madam.”

She laughs at me, rolling her eyes good-naturedly while I finish off my display of dramatics with a bow. “Bummer. I thought you were Orlando Bloom.”

I curl my lip up in disgust. “What would you want him for? He can’t act.”

She shrugs, completely unfussed my assessment. “No, but he’s nice to look at.”

“Well, I guess I can’t argue with that. But can he do this?” I pull the stupidest face I can possibly create - utilising my hands and fingers to their maximum potential - while Liz kills herself laughing.

“Why would he want to do that?” she eventually giggles, managing to calm down enough to ask the question.

“Only the most awesome of people can do it,” I inform her, leaning against a nearby locker as she grabs her books for her first class.

“Well, I’ll have to keep that in mind,” she says idly as she reaches up into the top shelf of her locker to pull out a thick textbook.

I twist a lock of her hair between my fingers, rubbing my thumb over the ends as I ask, “So, what will you be wearing to the game on Friday? I want to be able to spot you from the stands.”

She pulls her head out of the locker at the question and her smile falls a little. My heart immediately seizes in disappointment. She can’t come. I know it.

“I’m sorry Max. My parents are going out of town that night so I have to pretty much manage the Crashdown in their absence.”

“Oh,” I reply dully. I remind myself that she has other things in her life that will need to take precedence before me and push past the disappointment. “That’s ok. Maybe I’ll swing by after the game and we can have a milkshake on your break or something.”

She smiles up at me, seemingly thrilled with my reaction to her unavailability and it completely makes up for her missing my game. She’s proud of me and it’s the best feeling in the world.

“That’d be great, Max. So I’ll see you after the game?”

I nod enthusiastically and embrace the lightness in my heart. I’m not Liz’s number one priority and I’m ok with that. I’m actually making progress and it feels fantastic.
***

Alex’s POV
I storm down the hallway, ignoring the startled stares I’m receiving. I don’t care about them, I have one bitch I’ve got to knock down a peg or three.

There she is, preening by her locker while her slut friends probably make vapid conversation about how many guys they’ve fucked in the past three hours. They only serve to fuel my anger more. I didn’t like them when I was dating Leanna and now that we’re well and truly over I couldn’t despise them more.

I stalk up to them, noting the pleased grin on Leanna’s face as I approach. She must think that I’ve come to try and hook up with her or something similar and I bet her vindictive heart must be filled with glee at the idea of hooking up with Isabel’s boyfriend.

“Alex,” coos Leanna smugly, apparently oblivious to my fury. “What a nice-”

“Where the fuck do you get off?” I growl, slamming her locker door shut to help demonstrate just how fucking furious I am.

“Excuse me?” she asks, blinking in shock. I have never spoken to her this way, not even when I found out she was cheating on me or when we had our confrontation a while back, so this coming from me must be a massive surprise for her.

I walk up closer to her, my voice low and furious. “Don’t you ever imply that you and I had sex ever again. And while you’re at it, don’t ever talk to my girlfriend ever again, you don’t deserve to breathe the same air as her.”

“Alex,” she pleads, looking at her friends who have started tittering and whispering amongst themselves. “I don’t think this is the time or place to-”

“Oh believe me, it’s the fucking time and place. You need to be mortified and humiliated so that you can understand how it feels.”

“You two never had sex?” asks Paula, smothering her laughter behind her hand. A crowd has gathered and I note Leanna’s distressed glances at all the people watching our little display with something like vindictive glee. If she didn’t want a scene, then she should have left my girlfriend the hell alone.

“Fuck no,” I inform her, not taking my eyes off Leanna’s face. If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d ever look at Leanna with disgust and complete hatred burning in my eyes, I’d have called you a fool. It’s funny how drastically things change. “She’s repulsive.”

“Alex, don’t lie-”

I smirk at her humourlessly. “No, I think I’ll leave the lying to you. It’s what you’re good at, right? First you cheat on me, then you make up some bullshit story about us sleeping together and now you’re lying about it. Honestly, don’t you get tired of all the deceit?”

Her eyes flick around the crowd that’s gathered and her lips form a thin, angry line. “Please, you’d fuck me if I gave you half a chance. You were all over me when we were dating, you couldn’t get enough of me.”

I roll my eyes at her and scoff. “Please, you’re vile. Disgusting. I wouldn’t fuck you with a ten foot pole. I like my sexual partners to have something resembling a soul and you just don’t seem to have any human qualities. And yeah, maybe I would have fucked you when we were dating, but that’s only because I had no idea who you truly were. I wouldn’t have been fucking you, I’d have been fucking someone who didn’t exist.”

“Oh and you think you know that ice bitch so well?”

“You don’t know a goddamn thing about Isabel.” I hiss. “I’m only going to tell you this once. I don’t care why the fuck you hate her, but you will leave her the fuck alone.”

“Well you tell that bitch that I-”

I interrupt her once again. “I’ll do no such thing. You can stop being such a goddamn fucking coward and tell her yourself if you’ve got something to say. But should you ever upset her ever again, there will be no end to the misery I will bring down on you. You and I both know how strict your dad is. I wonder if he’d be pleased to learn just what his little princess has been up to. I doubt he’d be ok with you being a promiscuous whore, but you never know. We can find out if you don’t keep your fucking mouth shut. Stay away from me and most of all, you stay the hell away from Isabel or daddy dearest gets a rundown of all the boys you’ve fucked.”

Her face blanches of colour and I know that she’s taking me seriously. That’s all I need. I just needed to know that Isabel won’t have to deal with Leanna’s vindictive bitchiness anymore. She doesn’t need that on top of everything else she’s got to deal with. I take the opportunity to stalk off, leaving Leanna to deal with the masses. There’s this eerie silence as I walk away, but then I hear someone from behind me call out, “Owned.”

I snicker to myself as the entire crowd bursts into laughter. That went better than I anticipated.
***

Phillip’s POV
“Hello Meg, so nice to see you again.”

She scowls angrily at the sight of me. “What do you want?”

I shrug reaching into my bag for the forms. “Long story short; I want you to sign these. But we’ll get to that in a minute.” I push my way through the door and hold back my gag reflex at the stench that hits me. “I’m assuming you’re not busy right now seeing as your client base must have severely shrunk due to your old age. No one wants to do a wrinkly, old hooker.”

“I do just fine,” she grates out, clearly incensed by my words. I wander into her kitchen, amused by the sight of her crack pipe just lying brazenly in the middle of the kitchen table. I take a seat and stare at her until she begrudgingly follows suit.

“Really? Tell me, if you’re doing so well, why are you fleecing your eldest son for money?”

She stiffens momentarily in shock, then relaxes and smirks back at me. “You have no idea how much money I lost from being pregnant. He owes me for not getting rid of him with a coat hanger when I had the chance.”

I feel physically sick at the idea, the fetid stench that’s permeating the air not helping my nausea much either. “Be that as it may, it stops right now, Meg.”

“Oh yeah, what are you going to do about it, Mr Hotshot Lawyer?” She cackles madly, taking a swig from a bottle wrapped in brown paper that had been sitting next to her crack pipe. Crack and booze, the breakfast of champions. “One word from me to the police about my daughter being stolen away from me and you and your family are sunk.”

I roll my eyes at her threat. “Please, you think I couldn’t tear you and your court appointed lawyer to shreds? And while it would be mightily satisfying to put you up on the stand, tear down all your credibility and then have you charged with child abuse, I just want to get this out of the way so that you can never come near Tia or Michael ever again.”

She eyes me warily, sensing that I didn’t come here completely unprepared. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.” I smile at her. “You ever heard of blackmail, Meg? It’s similar to extortion, except with extortion the threat is often illegal. Blackmail is when you threaten to do or reveal something that’s perfectly legal.”

“I know that. I’m not a fucking retard.”

“Did you know that blackmail is also illegal, Meg?”

Her eyes become wary again as she looks at me. “It is?”

“Yes. And while I’d love to pin you for extortion, what you’re threatening to do isn’t exactly illegal. You are legally entitled to take Tia back. However, threatening to take her back if Michael doesn’t cough up money weekly is illegal.”

“I didn’t threaten him, we had a deal!”

“Believe me, once I get done with you on the stand, it won’t look that way.”

She stiffens, clearly having never even considered the idea that the police would actually become involved. She had just held that threat idly over Michael’s head with no intention of ever using it. And that only fuels my fury even more.

“You’re taking me to court?”

“Maybe,” I look around, enraged to see that Meg has done nothing of use with Michael’s money to fix up this squalid hell hole. I bet all his hard earned money has gone straight into her veins or the pocket of the liquor store down the street. It makes me so furious to know that she’s been sponging off of him because he has decency and a loving heart. What he’s done for Tia is nothing short of heroic and I’ll be damned if I don’t do my best for both of them. “You see, I could have you charged with prostitution, carrying and using illicit drugs, child abuse and endangerment, blackmail, moral turptitude and if there was a law against being a dirty slut, I’d hit you with that charge too. But as it is I think I have enough to put you away for about... oh say, fifteen years minimum. All it’d take is one phone call to the police and I’d have enough evidence in here to completely destroy any shred of credibility that you could have had in court. Not that you’d have much to begin with, your criminal record isn’t looking too flash at the moment.”

She merely glares at me with the most malicious and hate filled stare she can muster. I can’t pretend that it doesn’t fill me with a ridiculously heady sense of power. I’ve got her against the ropes and she’s powerless against me.

“So tell me Meg, how much is your freedom worth to you? More than one hundred dollars a week?” I slide the papers over to her and place a pen in front of her. “You sign that and all of this goes away.”

She snatches up the pen and quickly scribbles her signature, as I knew she would.

“Pleasure doing business with you,” I tell her as I stand and walk towards the door. A loud smash of glass on stained linoleum tells me that she’s not entirely pleased. Myself? I couldn’t be happier.
***

Michael POV
A knock on the door has me internally groaning. Why do they always feel like they have to come talk to me? I’m fine up here by myself. I’m not lonely. “Come in.”

Phillip’s head pops through the doors and he gives me a small smile. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Sure,” I grunt, spinning the desk chair around to face him. Hopefully he’ll be quick. I really have nothing much to talk about with Phillip, or Diane for that matter, which is why this place has become sort of my retreat. I know it’s not really mine, but they give me some semblance of privacy in here.

“I want you to take a look at this,” he says, holding out these legal documents for me to read.

“What’s...” the question trails off my lips as I read the title. Termination of parental rights. I quickly flick to the back. And he got Meg to sign it. Holy fuck. I don’t know how he did it, but Tia’s free. I’m free. I never have to go back to that hell hole ever again. Tia will never have to face the possibility of going back there again. “How did you...?”

Phillip takes a seat on my bed, linking his hands between his knees. “Long story short; I threatened her with a bunch of lawsuits if she didn’t sign.”

“Like what?” I ask, feeling almost giddy from the freedom.

Phillip stares directly at me, his expression very serious. “Blackmail for starters.”

My joy takes a swift nose dive downwards as I realise that he knows. But how could he know? Unless...

My heart clenches in my chest. No, Maria wouldn’t betray my confidence like that. She just wouldn’t. But still the niggling doubt remains, as I stare at Phillip silently, waiting for him to berate me for being so stupid and paying off that whore.

Eventually he sighs when he realises that I’m not going to respond. “You know Michael, I’d just assumed that you had legal custody of Tia. That’s why I hadn’t really made a move to make Tia ours yet, we thought we’d let you settle in first before we took over on that side of things. If I’d have known that she was blackmailing you and was still Tia’s legal guardian it would have been the first thing I’d have done. Why didn’t you tell us that Meg was still her legal guardian and that you were paying her off?”

I grit my teeth, trying not to rail against the disappointment in his voice. “Wasn’t your problem.”

Phillip stands up abruptly and runs his hands through his hair. “That’s the thing, it is my problem! You’re my children’s flesh and blood so you’re a part of our family now. Your problems are our problems. That woman didn’t deserve one red cent of your money, Michael. She’s a succubus, a user. She wouldn’t have stopped at ten thousand, she would have kept going until Tia was 18, jacking up the price whenever she felt like it.”

I sigh, having already considered this. “Look, I know it was dumb to pay her off, but I didn’t have another alternative. It was either that or let Tia stay with that horrible slut.”

He sends me this look that appears to be half frustration and half some other emotion I can’t quite identify. If I didn’t know better I’d say it was admiration. “God, Michael it wasn’t dumb. It’s probably the amazing thing you could possibly have done for that little girl. But we’re on your side now. You may not have been able to afford legal representation before, but didn’t you think that if you asked for help now that it might have been extended?”

Honestly, Phillip? No. “I was handling it.”

Phillip slumps a little, hearing the finality in my tone. I’m done talking about this and he can hear it in my voice. He plasters on as much of a smiles as he can muster. “Well, you don’t have to handle it anymore. We got temporary custody of Tia for now, just until the adoption process is finalised.” He turns to leave, but not before he says, “Michael, Meg’s out of your life for good now. And I know that everyone who was supposed to be on your side has let you down and I don’t know how to prove to you that I won’t, but I just want you to know that if you ever need anything, I’m here.”

He shuts the door behind him and I stare at the documents in my hands. I know that he had to get these signed by Meg to adopt Tia anyway, but a little voice in my head keeps telling me that it was the blackmail that spurred him into action. And I can’t get that little voice to shut up.
***

Maria POV
“Maria! Michael’s here!” calls my mother from the living room as Michael walks through the door of my bedroom.

I roll my eyes at her announcing something I was already aware of. “Thanks Mom!”

“I’m going to run down to the store for some chocolate, I’ll be back in ten minutes,” she tells me, a warning note in her voice telling me that there is strictly no funny business to be had while she’s gone. Like ten minutes would be enough, quickies aren’t my thing.

I get up off my bed, which is littered with biology notes. I’m actually glad for the distraction, I think I’ve squashed in as much information as I can for the night. This is what I get for procrastinating; a major headache from cramming the night before.

“Hey you,” I greet sunnily, only feel the smile fade from my lips as I take in his stormy gaze. Something’s wrong. “Is everything ok?”

“Everything’s fine.” He says it in such a way that I know that everything’s not fine. “Phillip and Diane have legal guardianship of Tia right now.”

“That’s great!” I enthuse. “Are you ok with it?”

He licks his lips and then pins me with a probing stare, completely ignoring my question. “You know how Phillip managed to get Meg to sign the papers?”

I shake my head, feeling nervous. His entire demeanour is scaring me. “No.”

“He threatened her to have her charged with blackmail.”

Oh. Shit. So this is the reason for his odd behaviour. He thinks that I betrayed his confidence. And in a way I did, but I don’t regret my actions, not when the outcome was so positive. As a part of their deal, he had to travel to Meg’s house every Saturday and give her the money in person. Once a week he had to go revisit the place he was neglected, forgotten and abused and it killed me to see him so weary, vulnerable and distressed every week. It never got any easier for him and I couldn’t just stand by and watch that. I couldn’t.

After a moment’s silence he asks, “How did Phillip know, Maria?”

“I told him,” I admit, knowing that there might be some severe repercussion for telling him that. But I don’t care what I have to face. I’m not ashamed of what I did, underhanded though it may have been. It needed to be done, for Michael’s sake. And for Tia’s as well. She deserves a stable home and something needed to be done to hurry the Evans’ along.

“You told Phillip when I made it perfectly clear that I didn’t want him to know?”

His voice is rough and low and he’s actually frightening me. This frigid tone in his voice is far scarier than any yelling could be. He’s closing himself off from me and it’s terrifying.

I plead with him softly, hoping like hell that he’ll understand why I had to do what I did. “I know you’re mad and I know you feel betrayed, but you’ve got to understand that I did it for you and Tia.”

“I don’t have to understand anything!” he erupts, his eyes blazing. “You went behind my back! I put my faith in you and you betrayed me!”

His anger and accusations stab into me, intensifying the guilt I feel inside. I lash out defensively, sarcasm becoming my shield against his disappointed anger. “Oh, I’m so sorry that I actually care enough about you to want to help you!"

“That’s bullshit and you know it! You just did it because you can’t help but interfere in other people’s business. You always stick your nose where it’s not wanted or appreciated, telling the rest of us how to live while you barely manage to function on a day to day basis.”

I recoil from that particularly personal attack, feeling tears begin to prick my eyes as I try to keep them at bay. “Nice Michael, tell me what you really think of me. Tell me, are you more pissed off that I went behind your back and did it, or is it that I was right?”

“We’re over,” he grunts out bluntly, leaving me gasping for air like I’ve been kicked in the chest. “I don’t trust you and I sure as hell don’t want to be around you right now.”

He turns away from me and I gape at his back open mouthed, not caring that tears are now tumbling unchecked down my cheeks. “You’re kidding! You’re actually breaking up with me because I cared enough to want you to be completely free from that whore?”

He whirls on me, his eyes furious. “You completely betrayed my trust, Maria! You went behind my back and did something that you knew I wouldn’t want you to do!”

“This is bullshit and you know it!” I hiss out between gritted teeth. “I did it for you, because you couldn’t or wouldn’t see that you needed help!”

“I was dealing just fine,” Michael spits out, a look of utter disappointment and disillusionment on his face. He’s had so many people betray his trust before, I’m just another one added to a long list.

“No you weren’t!” I cry, running my hands through my hair in exasperation. “You were still paying her off. Isn’t it so much better now that the Evans’ have custody of Tia?”

“That’s not the point!” he argues.

“Yes it is!” I scream in frustration. “I didn’t do it to hurt your or betray your trust Michael, I did it to help you. I did it to help Tia! Surely she’s more important than your goddamn fucking ego.”

His eyes narrow at me and I know I’ve just walked into dangerous territory, but I can’t bring it upon myself to care. “My ego? You think this is about my ego?”

“Of course it is,” I snipe snidely, the agony in my chest making me lash out. “You’re just pissed off that Phillip had to fix what you couldn’t.”

He grits his teeth, his chest practically heaving with fury. “I am so fucking glad we’re through.”

“Oh yeah? Well so am I!”

He turns and stalks out the door and I reach for the closest thing I can get, lobbing it at his back as he walks away from me. Unfortunately it’s just a pillow and it falls far short of its mark, landing harmlessly on the floor.

I hear the front door slam and the roar of his motorbike down the street and that’s when it hits me. He’s really gone. I crumple to my knees and let out large hacking sobs while I struggle to breathe. Oh God, I can’t breathe.
***
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