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She said it again. I could feel my pulse quickening. This wasn’t the reaction we were hoping for. Mike squeezed my hand.
He tried to speak, “Mom, we know this is a shock, but…”
Mom shook her head. She was nearly sobbing. “Mike, stop. Savy… I can’t… I should have said something sooner. I should have seen the two of you and told you.”
Told us what? This didn’t make any sense.
“Mom, what are you talking about?” Mike asked.
She simply said, “Give me a minute,” while rubbing her face. She walked into the kitchen and Mike looked at me. I was terrified of what was happening. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
Mike’s firm hold of my hand was the only comfort I could feel right now. He lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it. I bowed my head against Mike’s shoulder, he laid his head on mine, and we waited.
Mom came back from the kitchen with a cup of tea. She returned to the chair across from us and set her tea on the coffee table.
Again, she said, “I should have told you.”
She wiped her eyes again and took a sip of tea.
“Mike, your father, Tom… you know we didn’t have a happy marriage. Obviously… since we divorced. At first it was a good marriage and when you came along, he was proud of you as his boy. When you were still a little boy, Tom started to change. He just… withdrew, from both of us. He didn’t seem to want to spend time with us. He stayed at the office and when he wasn’t at work, he just stayed away from us in the house.”
“And then one day, I came home from work and his car was already in the driveway. When I came inside, he was sitting on the floor, crying. I had never seen him cry before. I hadn’t seen him show emotion in years, really. When he saw me, he stood up and asked me to sit in here so he could tell me something important. I still remember his words and how they hit me.”
“‘I’ve been having an affair,’ he said.”
“I asked him how long and he said five years. I was crushed. He wasn’t just having an affair, he was having a whole separate life. And then he said that there was more he had to tell me. I waited for him to say he was leaving me. I shouldn’t have cared, but sometimes even when your marriage is hurting you, you don’t want it to end. He told me that she was dying. That she had breast cancer and it was terminal. I was in shock. I didn’t have any idea how to respond to him.”
No… this can’t… I can’t…
“He kneeled down on the floor in front of me. He wasn’t done. What more could there possibly be? ‘I have a daughter.’ Savannah, he’s your father.”
I felt my body trembling. I could barely speak. “What?”
“I’m so sorry, honey. I should have told you.”
I looked down at my hand in Mike’s and instinctively pulled it to me. I wanted to crumble into a ball. My father… Mike’s father… we are… no… no…
“You had no other family here. He begged me. You would’ve been put into the system or sent to your family in the Philippines. He pleaded with me to stay with him and take you in. I didn’t speak to him for days. I was shattered.”
This can’t be.
“But it wasn’t your fault. You had nowhere to go. I thought it might even save our marriage. I still loved him. God help me, even after all of it, I still loved him. And so I said yes.”
“I think if you were anyone else, I couldn’t have done it, honey. I would have seen his betrayal every day. But you were, you are, such a sweet child. How could anyone not love you?”
I couldn’t see through the tears in my eyes. I could feel them running down my cheeks and collecting on my chin before dropping.
“I did my best to treat you like my own daughter. I tried to make us a family. It wasn’t enough. He still left. Whatever he wanted out of life, it wasn’t me and it wasn’t a family.”
Mom looked at me. “I’m so sorry, honey. I do love you. You are my daughter. I don’t want you to be hurt.”
No… no… I can’t…
My hand was in mom’s. She was pulling me to her and then, stairs. My room. Mom closed the door.
“Savannah, honey. I love you so much. I’m so sorry.”
I collapsed on the floor. I couldn’t breathe. Mom lifted me and set me on my bed. I curled up into a ball. I sobbed until I was dry heaving.
“Breathe, honey. Breathe.”
Everything I knew about myself was nothing. I existed because my mother was ‘the other woman’. My father was… he had an affair. A second family. I was that. My birth mother was… dead? And he still fucking left!
I couldn’t comprehend any of this. I raged inside. I collapsed inside.
Mom held me and whispered to me, “Sweetie. I love you so much. You were always my daughter. You are my daughter. You will always be my daughter.”
I don’t know if I fell asleep or my mind simply shut down.
When I came to, I was under the covers on my bed. I was clutching a pillow and mom was gone. My room was dark and the door was closed.
I looked down and saw the ring on my hand. The ring Mike had given me. I loved him so much izmir escort bayan that my world couldn’t exist without him. I wanted to marry him. Mike was… my brother.
Pain in my stomach. I clutched my pillow tighter. I never took my eyes off my ring.
I can’t… I can’t…
I closed my eyes and could see Mike. Pain again. I opened my eyes.
I moved my hands together and felt my ring between my fingers. I pulled and it came off. My finger was bare.
I closed my eyes. I couldn’t see Mike. More pain.
I can’t do this.
I struggled to sit up. My head was throbbing. I slumped off my bed. My legs were weak. I made it to my desk and found a piece of paper. My hands fumbled for a pen. I scribbled on the paper. I was breathing heavily and would have been sobbing if I had any more tears in me. I cracked open my door and slipped through into the dark hallway. The house was quiet.
To Mike’s room. I had to get to Mike’s room.
I braced myself on the wall and felt my way down the hall. I reached an open door. I went inside his room. He wasn’t here. I stumbled to his bed until my hands were resting on it. They were clenched into tight fists, my ring in one and the paper in the other. I pressed my face against his bed and I cried.
I opened my fists and my hands were empty.
I made it back to my room and closed my door behind me. I was barely on my bed before I lost consciousness.
I woke up and my room was bright with sunlight. I tried to sit up and grimaced at the knot in my stomach. What had happened?
Slowly, it came back to me and then images were flashing in my mind. My hand in Mike’s. Mom’s face. Tears. My father. Mike. My ring.
My ring! I grasped at my finger. It was gone. I curled into a ball. It was in Mike’s room. I took my ring to Mike’s room.
I was in pain, but I slid out of bed. I grabbed my doorknob. It was locked. I fumbled with it and made it into the hallway. Faster. I had to move faster. Mike’s door was closed. I opened it and… his room was empty.
No… no… no! Where was Mike?! I panicked.
I fell to the floor and screamed.
When I came to, mom was cradling my head in her lap and stroking my hair. It took time before I could hear what she was saying.
“Oh, Savannah. My poor sweet Savannah.”
“Where… where is… Mike?”
“Oh honey. He left. He wasn’t here this morning. He’s at his apartment. He’s safe.”
He was gone. My Mike was gone.
I threw up.
When I woke up again, it was dark. I was in bed again. I turned over and my eyes began to focus. Mom was sitting with her back against the wall, her eyes closed.
I struggled to call for her, “Mom…”
Her eyes opened and she was immediately at my side.
“Shh… shh, honey. Stay here. Wait.”
She left my room and I closed my eyes. When she came back in, she carried a tray. She set it down on my desk next to my bed. She sat next to me and picked up the glass that was on the tray.
“Drink this, baby.”
She held it to my lips and I took a sip. It was fizzy water. Alka-Seltzer? I took a few sips and choked.
“Easy… easy honey.”
She picked up a bowl from the tray.
“Eat for me. Just a few bites, please. You need to.”
She stirred with the spoon and brought it to me. I managed to get down a few mouthfuls of the chicken broth. She set the bowl back on the tray and sat with her back against the wall. She pulled me to her and held me tightly in her arms.
“I’m so sorry baby. It’ll be okay. I promise it’ll be okay. I’m here for you. I’m always here for you.”
Again, I slept.
The next few days were a haze. The only time I left my room was to go to the bathroom, often to vomit or dry heave. Mom brought me soup and medicine to settle my stomach. She called my dorm phone until Amy picked up and told her that I’d be staying at home for awhile. She told me Amy would take care of everything at school and not to worry about it.
The only way I could sleep was from sheer exhaustion. Mom had to hold me to keep nightmares at bay. I must have been talking in my sleep, because I would wake up and she’d be whispering to me, “You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not your fault.”
She was terrified the first day I ventured downstairs. I don’t know how many days it had been since that night. She had gone downstairs to make lunch. I somehow got to my feet and pulled my hair out of my eyes. I held the bannister on the stairs with two hands to help support my weak body. When I stumbled into the kitchen, she turned around with wide eyes.
She rushed to me and held me up, then lead me into the living room before putting me on the sofa.
It was little things. The first trip downstairs. The first time I ate solid food again. The first time I stepped outside. One step at a time. When I couldn’t take a single step, mom would hold me. She would tell me that she was there for me. All I could say was, “I love him…” and she would answer, “I know, honey. I know.”
When escort izmir I was well enough, I checked my email. There were dozens of messages, many from Amy and Maria. I couldn’t respond to them yet.
Mom waited for me to talk to her. She never pressured me. When we did talk, I told her that I’d left my ring in Mike’s room that night. She never told me whether she thought that was right or wrong. As shocking as that night was for her, she knew it wasn’t her decision to make it. It was our future. Now, I guess it was my future and his future, separate.
When I told mom that I had to go back to school, she insisted that I wasn’t ready. I was still in terribly bad shape. I was weak. I had lost weight. When I took showers, I could see my ribs clearly showing. I promised that I would call her every day and that I had Amy and Maria to help keep an eye on me. But I couldn’t stay home. The end of the semester was too close and I had worked hard to continue my academic success from high school. I could focus on classes and maybe that would help. I couldn’t stay where I last saw Mike.
Mom agreed to take me back to Maryland, but on the condition that I go to the school counseling center. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to talk about this to anyone, much less to a stranger, but I agreed. It was a Thursday when we packed some things into her car and left Salisbury. I slept for most of the drive.
I felt mom gently shaking my shoulder and I opened my eyes to see us pull onto the campus. She parked in front of my dorm and took my bags out of the trunk. I held onto her arm as we walked inside. This was the furthest I had walked. We went up the elevator and turned the corner towards my room. I unlocked the door and swung it open.
Amy was sitting on her bed with a book. She jumped and yelled, “Savannah!” and rushed over to throw her arms around me.
Mom stepped into the room, “Hello. I guess you’re Amy. I’m Savannah’s mom.” Amy smiled at her and said hi.
I went over and fell onto my bed while mom set my things by my closet. She stayed for quite awhile. Amy filled us in on telling my professors that I was ill and getting relevant notes for what I’d missed. We both thanked her profusely for the help. Mom embarrassed me a bit by asking Amy to help make sure I was eating enough every day, which Amy promised to do.
When she was ready to leave, mom sat by me and hugged me to her.
“I love you so much, baby. Call me every day. It’ll take time, but it will be okay.” She kissed me on the forehead and hugged me again.
When she stood up, she squeezed my hand and then walked to the door. She smiled slightly at me and stepped into the hallway out of my sight. Amy followed her, but I was too tired to try and listen to what they were talking quietly about.
Mom was gone. Amy came back inside and sat next to me.
“Are you hungry, hon?”
“I’m going to go to the dining hall and give you some time to get used to being back. I’ll pick up something for you.”
She put her arm around my shoulder and squeezed before standing up and heading out the door, pulling it shut behind her. I sighed and laid back.
At some point, Amy quietly came back into the room and set a plastic bag from the dining hall on my desk. I was laying on my side facing the wall. I felt her lightly touch my shoulder.
“Sweetie, you need to eat.”
I sighed and thanked her before sitting up. I scooted down to the end of my bed and dug around in the bag to find a noodle bowl. I was thankful that she’d put the sauce on the side, as I could only keep down the blandest of foods so far.
Amy went and sat at her desk and turned her chair around to face me.
“Savannah, your mom told me about you and Mike, that he proposed and then you broke up. You don’t have to tell me what happened at all, but I am here if you want to. Anything you need, just let me know.”
I felt a sharp pang at his name. My voice was still pretty weak. “Thanks, Amy.”
I didn’t sleep any better that night than I had at home. On Friday, I didn’t try to go to any of my classes. Amy brought lunch to me after I woke up around eleven. In the evening, she brought me dinner. Some time later, there was a knock on the door and Amy answered. It was Maria.
I nodded my head to Amy and she invited Maria in. When she saw me laying in bed, she rushed over and kneeled next to me, running her hand through my hair.
“Savannah, when you didn’t come back after Thanksgiving, Amy told me you were sick. What’s wrong? What is it?”
I sighed. “Mike and I… we’re not… together.”
Maria gasped. “But you two were perfect! How? What did he do?”
“It wasn’t his fault. I just… I can’t right now.”
“I’m sorry, honey. I’m so sorry.”
I couldn’t bring myself to explain what had really happened. I could barely acknowledge it to myself, but every time my mind focused on him, it all rushed through me again.
Saturday was spent in my room, though I did get up and sit at my computer a few times, answering izmir escort some emails and checking some coursework online. Numbness was setting in. Amy and Maria both seemed to take turns spending time with me. Even when we weren’t saying anything, they would just sit in my room with me and read or work in a notebook.
On Saturday night, I told Maria that I was ready to try and walk to the dining hall. It was cold out, so I layered two pairs of fleece pajama pants and wore my winter coat over my sweatshirt. I pulled a red Maryland knit hat over my ears. We set out and the cold air was a shock on my face. I couldn’t see much of the campus at this time of the night, just the street lights along the various paths winding through buildings.
We walked to the dining hall, with my arm in Maria’s. Inside, I made a salad and Maria threw some grilled chicken on top before smiling at me. We decided to take it back to the dorm, then sat in the quiet third floor lounge by ourselves.
Later, as I fell asleep, I thought to myself “one more day… one more day.” And then, inevitably, the overwhelming pain of missing Mike.
I woke up with a jolt on Sunday. Someone was knocking on the door. Amy was already sitting at her computer and looked over her shoulder to me.
“I’ve got it.”
She opened the door and was just out of sight, but I heard a familiar voice.
“Is Savy here?”
My heart stopped. Amy made eye contact with me and said, “Give me a minute.” She closed the door.
“Savannah, honey, it’s Mike. Do you want to see him?”
I swallowed hard and tried to hold back tears.
Amy stepped away from the door and nodded. I dragged myself out of bed and shuffled to the door. I reached out and pulled it open.
His eyes went wide when he saw me. He looked awful. There were dark bags under his eyes. He looked thin. His cheekbones were more pronounced and his face looked gaunt. His hair was pulled back behind his ears. His clothes hung loosely off of him.
I moved back into my room and he followed me.
Amy looked me in the eye as she grabbed a bag. “Call me if you need anything.” She brushed past Mike and he and I were alone, for the first time since before all of this.
Mike stepped closer to me and I stared at him. He held out his arms. I could remember his embrace. It was the last place I felt like everything was right in the world. It was right before we got into the car to drive home. He’d proposed, his ring was on my finger, and he held me. It was going to be the start of the rest of our lives together.
I took a small step towards him. I wanted to be in his arms again. I felt his arms closing around me and I lost all strength. I fell against him and buried my face in his chest, sobbing. I felt his chin on top of my head and could feel his chest as he struggled to breathe through his own tears.
The flood of memories of all the times he’d held me rushed over me. It was too much. I pulled back from him and sat on my bed. I felt alone and empty, like a kind of agoraphobia. I pressed my back against the wall and held my pillow tight to my chest.
Mike sat on the bed, too.
I tried to look at him. He was blurry through my tears.
“I’ve missed you so much, Savy.”
I missed him. I loved him. I couldn’t live without him. I could barely speak.
“I missed you too, Mike.”
He slid his hand across the bed towards me. I wanted to hold it, to feel my fingers intertwined with his again, but something held me back. I couldn’t take it.
I watched his hand, empty, pull away. His voice was so soft. I could hear the pain.
“I still love you. I still love you more than anything that could possibly stand between us.”
I searched his face. My stomach was in so much pain at seeing him. When his eyes locked on mine, I couldn’t bear it and I dropped my head. I was losing control.
His voice was desperate, pleading, “Please, Savy…”
I wanted him. My entire world had crashed down around me. I’d had everything I wanted and it was ripped away. He wanted to give it back, but I couldn’t. Nothing that I knew about myself was what I thought. It wasn’t just the knowledge that he was my brother. It was everything. The family that I had known, that had been my rock, was different now. The family that I hadn’t thought about in years was thrust back into my life.
I was speaking. I don’t know where the words came from, other than somewhere inside of me that felt completely out of my control.
“I can’t. I love you. I love you and it makes me want to die, but I can’t.”
He was struggling to speak, too. “We can get through this.”
“Mike… you’re my brother.”
His voice was suddenly stronger, which startled me.
“I was always your brother. Whether we shared the same DNA or not, I was always your brother.”
It’s different… it’s different… The thought ran wild through my mind.
“But we became more than that. We grew up together and then we grew together. Savy, you’re the absolute love of my life. Nothing matters to me more than that.”
Why couldn’t I control my head, my heart, my voice?
“Everything has changed now…”
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