“Stop.” The gruff command freezes my attempt to flee. He closes his eyes. When he opens them, they mist in the dim light. “We can’t move on until we talk, and I can tell you right now that I’d very, very much like to move on with you, instead of without you. So please, take a breath, and answer me,” he pleads. “What do you remember from that day?”
My lip trembles as memories flash through my head. “I haven’t exactly relived it over the years, but I torture myself with the guilt every day.”
He flinches. “But do you remember from the moment you saw my dad until the… end?” He hesitates, as if the word gets stuck in his throat.
My earlier anger returns like the flick of a lighter. “Yes! I remember. I remember crying on your bed. I remember your dad coming in when I thought nobody was home. I remember him bringing me a drink.” Law’s eyes flash, but I keep going, unable to stop. “Him telling me I was beautiful, and that I didn’t deserve to be crying. He called you an idiot and then told me he could show me how to feel good. Yes,” I spit the word that sits like acid on my tongue. “I remember.”
He opens his jacket and digs around inside what must be an interior pocket, as his face changes into a weird mixture of relief tinged with sadness. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand any of this. He stays silent, but I’m not.
“I’ve lived that moment of betrayal a thousand times since then, wondering why I did nothing to stop it. The only conclusion I’ve come up with is that I wanted to hurt you back.”
“No, Cami, you didn’t.”
My brow creases as confusion steals over me. “I’m sorry?”
Paper crinkles, and he produces a letter from his pocket. “I found this at my dad’s house. You need to read it.”
A shiver races through me at the thought of even touching that paper. “I can’t.”
He shakes it in front of my face and gentles his voice. “You have to.”
I don’t want to touch that paper. I don’t want to look at it, but the imploring look in his eyes has my hand reaching for it, anyway.
The letter rustles and trembles in front of my face. I hardly get beyond the first sentence before my eyes burn with unshed tears. The man who penned the letter isn’t about to get any more of my pain, so with a steely breath, I shove them away.
Thoughts race throughout my head as I read the lies a dying man wrote desperately to his son. I can’t make sense of it. Why would he say these things? Why would he, a decade and a half after forcing me to walk away from the person I dreamed of most, act like the mistake was his all along? Did he think taking blame would make him a better person and pave his pathway from hell into heaven?
Would it make it right in Law’s eyes and redeem me even after the monstrous things I’d done?
This isn’t true, this fictional picture he paints of our past. My hands shake so hard the words run together as I try to read the last few lines. Acid burns in my throat, but I choke it down in a race to get to the end.
Two types of memories of that night flit through my head—the one I remember and the one his father created. They flip back and forth so quickly that confusion sets in and anger wells up inside me like an over inflated balloon. I remember it all, don’t I?
Just like the last time, the memory always cuts off right after he kissed me. Snap shots exist in my mind. Specific sensations, mostly. What I can’t do is relive the memory from beginning to end. Not because I choose not to, but because the pieces aren’t all there.
When I read the last line, I want to set fire to the letter and erase the words from my head.
“Why?” I choke, losing the precarious grip on my emotions. When I bring my gaze back to Law’s I’m surprised to see the confusion there. I don’t know what he expected me to feel, rel
ief perhaps, but I feel nothing but numb.
“What is it you’re asking?”
“Why,” I begin quietly, but as I speak, that hold severs, and my unease sweeps forth like a raging river. “Why would you make me read this? Why would you do this to me, after everything I’ve done to keep myself away from you? Do you think this is helpful?” I smack the papers so hard they sound like the crack of a whip reverberating around the room. “Do you think, after what he put me through, I want to hear anything that he had left to say? What is the matter with you?” I screech, the papers slipping from my fingers in my desperation to crawl off the bed.
Law hooks me with an arm around my abdomen and yanks me back into his chest.
I struggle. The pain is too deep, and I fight to get away. Tears race down my cheeks, blinding me. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t listen to what he has to say.
“Calm down, baby. Don’t you see? This wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault at all.”
Oh, but it was. How doesn’t he see that?
The effort leaks out of me, and I turn limp in his arms. This is over. That’s more clear to me now than ever.
He misinterprets and buries his face in my hair, sighing. His hold tightens, but it’s not enough to stop the trembling.
“Let go of me.”