Gen 2 Ch 16: Almost Perfect

Warning: PG-13 for some NSFW in the first part of the chapter. Also, don’t read if you aren’t comfortable with topics of infertility. Also, kind of long (5k+ words).


Following David’s proposal, we’ve decided not to put things off for too long and to have a small ceremony with only our family and friends present. Luckily, the lodge where Gerald and Katy got married was able to squeeze us in within the next two months, and we were able to marry in record time.

My parents were incredulous – in the course of one year, both of their babies were getting hitched! They and Gerald wished us both the best of luck in becoming a family. The girls at work just chuckled when David and I announced our engagement – apparently they were both expecting it for a while now.

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So, one evening very soon, the two of us said our vows, exchanged rings, and became a family. I was officially Mrs. Meadows-Collier, and David was my lawful wedded husband.

As the wedding party went on, with all of our friends and family mingling, we both found ourselves needing some space from the group and found an opportunity to sneak away to a more private area of the venue.

“So, Mrs. Meadows-Collier, how does it feel to be a married woman?” David asked with an easy smile.

“Depends. How does it feel to be a married man, Mr. Collier?” I joked back.

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“Right. It feels right. Did I ever tell you how amazing you look in that dress?” he asked, pulling me close.

“You can really work a tux too, love,” I responded, leaning into him.

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“I love you, Irene,” he whispered before kissing me fervently. Pulling away, he asked, “Hey, do you think anyone will notice if we sneak away right this instant?”

Looking back at our guests, I shook my head. “I doubt it. There’s cake and an open bar – the best distractions known to humanity. Let’s go?”

The drive back to David’s, or rather our, house was as quick as could be. Before I could open the door, David stopped me.

“Wait, let’s do this the right way,” he explained, before picking me up and carrying me over the threshold.

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“But we already live together!” I laughed. It was true, the week before our wedding, I have officially moved in with him, which was mostly a practicality, since I was already here most of the time.

“Doesn’t matter. I’m still carrying my wife over the threshold on her first arrival here in that status,” he chuckled. “So, what are you thinking off?”

“The same thing you are thinking off, I’m sure. I mean, I like the tux but…” I teased.

“Oh yes. Your dress needs to go as well,” he agreed.

Neither of us needed any more prompting.

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It was strange, really. I kept hearing about all these couples who felt less attraction to one another after being together for a year, but in our case it was quite the opposite. I never got tired of seeing David in bed next to me and judging by his behavior, he felt the same way about me.

After we got all the yearning out of our system, he and I fell back exhausted but happy.

“So. We’re really married, huh,” he whispered.

“Yeah… You know it’s funny, but before I met you, I never imagined myself getting married,” I admitted.

“Really? Why not?” he asked softly, nuzzling my arm with his lips.

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“I don’t know. It just seemed like such a serious strange thing to do.”

“What about now?” he laughed softly, caressing me.

“Do you really need to ask?” I responded, trying to ignore his eyelashes tickling me.

“I guess not,” he chuckled. “I’ve always wanted to marry, to have a family. It’s probably strange considering my own family background, but the more aloof things were at home, the more I’ve wanted a family of my own. A real family, where the husband and wife feel strong affection for one another and go out of their way to make each other and their kids feel loved. That kind of thing.”

“I want that too. Mom and Dad were like that, always. Still are. I think they made me set really high standards for family love. Speaking of family, do you want kids?” I asked. Ever since David proposed, I’ve been thinking non-stop about what it would be like to have a child together. Or two. Or three.

“I do. Do you?” he raised his head.

“Yes! At least two!” I laughed.

“I’d like that,” he smiled. “When do you think we should start trying?”

“We are already married. Why not now?” I offered. Once again, David didn’t need to be asked twice.

As we fell asleep close to one another, he pulled me close and whispered “I still can’t believe we’re finally a family. Sweet dreams, love.”

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I was as happy as anyone could be.

David’s POV

Waking up next to Irene each morning was the best part of being married. Every time, I would be reminded that this wasn’t some wishful dream, but reality. For the first time in my life, it felt as if life was absolutely perfect. We were still absolutely swamped with work at the company, but that was nothing when you had the love of your life by your side.

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I never expected that the upset drunken girl I met at the bar almost three years ago would become the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my days with or that she’d be the guiding light that chased away most of my anxiety. But that she was.

I just hoped I could be the kind of person she needed, for all the time.

Getting up and circling the living room, a recurring thought popped up in my head – this place was small. Too small for a new family that was thinking of growing.

Of course it was small. This was the place I got cheaply when I first moved here with the sole idea of not having to live under my father’s room once more. I didn’t really care about space or fancy amenities back then, since the place was for me alone. As it was, it was lucky that it had a well-functioning bathroom and a full kitchen, but space was somewhat of an issue.

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This was a bachelor pad, not a family home. We’ll just have to move, then.

And I knew just the place.

A couple of weeks later, once Irene and I have gotten off work, instead of heading home, I drove past it and instead towards the new house. I haven’t told Irene about the purchase yet, but I’ve notice that she smiled, whenever we passed by this place. As soon as I found out it was for sale, I’ve put in a bid and the house was mine. Or more accurately, ours.

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“Where are we going?” Irene asked, seeing our current abode fade in the distance.

“Someplace I hope you’ll like,” I nodded towards the house we’ve just approached.

Helping her out of the car, I hugged her while she took in the building. “It’s ours,” I informed her.

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“But it’s huge! There’s no way we can afford it right now, not while we’re still paying out fines for the company,” Irene protested.

“It cost less than you think. Apparently the person who ordered it built and chose the layout didn’t like the end result. So, the seller put in on the market, but apparently, too many people are unhappy with the lake-side location and he ended up lowering the price.”

“What?! That’s crazy. This place is gorgeous,” Irene frowned.

“That’s what I thought. Their loss, our gain, right? Anyways, let’s head inside! It’s starting to drizzle.”

Once inside, I showed her the house the same way the seller showed it to me.

“So, the kitchen is all finished, the walls upstairs still need some paint. The plumbing is all functional, of course, and much more modern than our current one. There are two bedrooms other than the master, and two balconies. Wait till you see the one in the back!”

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I led her to the master bedroom that had its own entrance to the large backside balcony with an amazing view of the lake.

“So, what do you think?”

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“I love it. It’s a little big for just the two of us, but the lake is right here and it’s conveniently close to my parents, and yeah, you’ve probably noticed me looking at this house so many times. You have, haven’t you?” she realized.

“It definitely was something that influenced my home buying decision,” I admitted.

“It’s perfect,” she smiled. “And I guess you can go swimming in the lake whenever you want now, isn’t that so?”

“You just know it!”


5 Years Have Passed.

David’ PoV

We were having a house party, a thing that neither Irene nor I were fond of. However, when you have many friends, sometimes you have to make an effort to spend time with them outside of work.

In other words, our house was full of people. And people talk so much. Sometimes it’s overwhelming keeping track of all the conversations happening. At least how it is for me.

Irene was engrossed in a conversation with her sister-in-law. She has just offered everyone some cold beers from the fridge, but as it turned out, Katy couldn’t drink for health reasons.

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“I’m not showing yet, but Ger and I are expecting,” she announced. “So, no drinks for me for the next while.”

“OMG, me too!” Lana chimed in. “I finally convinced Emmet that we can totally raise a child and I’m about three months in.”

“No way! We can be bump buddies,” Katy laughed. “What about you, Irene? When are you going to join the club?”

“Soon, hopefully,” Irene’s mouth curved in a smile that didn’t quite reach the eyes.

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I saw Tia stiffen next to my wife. She was always much more intuitive to people’s emotions.

My mother-in-law also gave me a knowing look. She has also noticed Irene’s reaction, it seemed.

Talk about awkward.

Soon, it was over, as Gerald came back into the room and started asking Irene if we wanted to give an interview for his newspaper. After all our effort, we were now considered proof that a company in any condition could be pulled out of a rut.

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At this point, Roman involved me in an interesting conversation about online media and I had to divert my attention away from Irene, although I could still see her mingling with Tia and Lana throughout the evening.

Eventually, the party ended and we were able to go to bed.

“Well, that was exhausting,” Irene sighed. “Why did we invite so many people, again?”

“Absolutely agreed. The next time people are hinting that we should have a party, we should make sure it’s hosted at their place!”

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“Good thinking,” she laughed genuinely for the first time that evening.

“Hey, was everything ok back there, with Katy and Lana?” I ventured.

“Yeah, of course! Wow, Gerald is going to be a dad. My younger brother is becoming a father,” she smiled. “And I did wonder when Lana was going to get knocked up. After Tia and Roman had their Brannon, she wanted to start trying right away, but Emmet was freaked out about becoming a father…”

“Irene, that wasn’t what I meant,” I sighed. Why did she insist on pretending everything was fine?

“I know. But it didn’t bother me, really. I mean, we don’t have a kid yet, but it takes time, sometimes,” she shrugged.

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“Alright, then. Just know you can talk to me about anything, ok?” I reassured her the same way she has always done with me.

“I know, I know. And that’s why I love you,” she smiled. “Well, goodnight, then?”

“Goodnight. Sweet dreams.”


The morning after the party, like I often did, I got up earlier than Irene. The weather was warm, meaning the lake would be perfect for a swim.

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Swimming was something I did almost professionally in college and high school. It has always been something that calmed me down and improved my mood. Something about the water just had a healing effect on the soul.

Coming back from my swim, I could see Irene on the balcony, already awake and waving at me. She seemed to be in a better mood than the night before, which made me happy in turn.

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“Had a nice swim?” she yelled from the balcony.

“Sure did. I’m hungry; will you have breakfast with me? I know you don’t have to go in until later.”

“Sure, I’ll be down in a bit,” she smiled, and headed back inside.

Irene’s POV

Waking up to an empty bed on summer mornings was never a surprise for me. I knew David loved to swim when the weather was warm, utilizing the free time before work to get the most out of the day. Knowing about his background in swim, I was happy he came back to this activity he has loved so much in the past. Not only did swimming help him control his anxiety, but it enabled him to once again quit smoking, a feat I knew he was proud of. As was I – it always worried me to see him with a cigarette before.

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Besides, while I wasn’t a great swimmer myself, I could certainly enjoy the view.

“I’ll be down in a bit,” I told David when he called me to eat with him.

There was something I wanted to do first.

In the bathroom, I followed the directions on the box. I waited for 5 minutes, like I was supposed to.

Alright, Irene, here goes nothing. I didn’t want to look down at the little stick in my hand, though. The result was always the same, anyways.

Finally I forced myself to look.

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Negative.

Again.

After five years of marriage, five years of trying to conceive, still negative.

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I threw the offensive object away, doing my best not to cry. I actually had some hope this time around, for whatever reason. We were making sure to have a lot of sex on the days I knew I was ovulating, I was watching my diet like a hawk, we were both in good health, we both wanted a baby… what else could we do? What could I do?

Finally gathering myself together, I headed downstairs to breakfast. The pro of having such a huge house was that both of us could have our space when we needed it. This was something I appreciated when I felt as terrible as I did right now. But at the same time, I couldn’t be alone right now.

“Hey, what took you so long?” David asked, sliding a fresh peanut-butter sandwich towards me. “I thought we were going to have breakfast together. Your coffee got cold.”

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“Sorry, I lost track of time,” I lied. “But I’ve been trying to cut down on coffee anyways.”

“Alright, then. I guess I should get ready for work. I have about half an hour to shower and get dressed,” he calculated.

“Ok,” I nodded still focused on my sandwich.

He raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything on his way to the bathroom.

“What the hell?” I realized what he was hinting at in a minute. “I need to get my head in the game.”

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“I see you’ve changed your mind?” he joked as I joined him in the shower.

“I’m so out of it today. So out of it,” I shook my head. “Thanks for jogging my memory, hon.”


Months passed. My sister-in-law and Lana were both showing in their pregnancies. I tried to ignore the ugly nagging feelings of jealousy this stirred in me. They were my friends, I was really, truly happy for them, I was. But at the same time, it hurt knowing that, for some reason, what happened so easily to them just refused to happen to me. All I wanted was a child, real healthy child to complete my family.

It didn’t help that the girls, despite their wonderful personalities, simply didn’t notice how I felt. Of course, I’d be the last person to tell them, but when they asked me for things like these…

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“Emmet and I would love for you to be the baby’s godmother, Irene. Please say yes!” Lana asked with anticipation.

“Me, really? Are you sure?” I was taken aback.

“Of course, you! Why not, we’re friends,” Lana shrugged as if it was such an everyday thing.

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“Sorry, I just wasn’t expecting this! Of course, I’ll do it,” I agreed, still feeling strange about the whole thing.

“Thank you so much, Irene! You are such a great friend,” Lana exclaimed pulling me into a hug.

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I hugged her back, with my heart warming up to the idea. Hey, I was going to be a sweet little boy’s godmother. That was pretty awesome. And Lana was always so sweet to me; of course, I’ll do this for her.

“You’re welcome, dear. But I guarantee you I’ll end up spoiling the little one.”

“Oh, I’m sure you will. That’s what godparents are for, right?” she laughed.

On my way from her house to the company, I was still smiling at her reaction. Until I ran into the last people I wanted to meet on any day of the week.

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Micah and Mona. They were passing right outside of Collier Enterprises, on their way to wherever they were going.

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They didn’t notice me, of course. They were busy fussing with their baby.

But I certainly noticed them, with my jealousy resurfacing again and bubbling up the surface in huge waves, only to turn into deep, deep bitterness over the fact that practically everyone was having kids but me.

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I barely made it into the building, running for the empty conference room where I knew I could finally break down and let it all out. Except, the conference room wasn’t empty.

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“Hello, Mrs. Meadows-Collier, I almost thought you won’t make it in today!” Liam Upton waved at me from across the table.

Still feeling awkward from being caught in such a terrible mood, I remembered: of course, today we were supposed to go over our quarterly income reviews with the lawyer. And of course, in my distracted state, I forgot all about it.

“My apologies for being late,” I found my voice. “I have to admit I forgot all about this review and I was here to pick up the unfinished paperwork from this week. Good thing I was here, then. Let’s look at these papers.”

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“Yes, of course. Is everything alright, though? You look rather upset, if I may say so,” the lawyer ventured.

“Thank you for the concern, Mr. Upton, but I’m alright, really,” I lied.

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“Ok, then. Well, as you can tell by looking at these logs, your company is doing very well. And I can attest that all the income you are making is coming in as legally as possible. Congratulations. I, unfortunately, didn’t get to talk to Mr. Collier about it yet, but I think, sooner rather than later, we’ll need less and less of these reviews. I must admit, I’m impressed by your and your husband’s approach to business. If all the other corporations were as meticulous about their reputation, I would have been out of a job!” he laughed. “But really, this is the kind of thing a business should aspire to.”

“Thank you, Mr. Upton. It means a lot to me to hear that from someone like you. You’ve helped our company as much as anyone could, despite our former reputation and you’ve given us so much advice on getting Collier Enterprises out of the rut that you are definitely deserving of praise for our success as well,” I admitted to the older lawyer.

He smiled warmly. “I’m always happy to help when people are willing to accept the help. Be it for business reasons or personal ones. And I’ve dealt with people for a little too long not to notice that you were on the verge of tears when you walked in here and that you are still trying not to cry. Whatever it is, you’re bottling it and it’s going to keep bothering you until you deal with it. I may not be a psychologist, but life has taught me that much.”

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I sighed deeply. He was right. The conversation about Collier Enterprises has distracted me from my previous thoughts, but only a little bit.

“You’re right. Something is bothering me. It’s just that David and I have been married for five years now and no matter what I do, I can’t get pregnant,” I admitted. “It didn’t bother me at first, I know it can take time, but it feels like whatever effort I make, whether it be watching my health, using those stupid calendars for planning my fertility, taking vitamins, it all doesn’t help. And it seems like all around me, I keep seeing happily pregnant people, people with little children… I’m not a jealous person by nature, but I’m so jealous. Why is it that the one thing I want from life right now, I can’t have?” I finished, taking deep gulping breaths.

“Oh, Irene,” he sighed. “I know how you must be feeling right now.”

“You do?” I looked up.

 

“Believe it or not, Kyla and I were in the same situation when we got married,” he explained. “We’ve been trying to conceive for almost seven years, with no luck. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with us. All the checkups were coming up fine, no chemical imbalances or physical problems. Speaking of medical issues, have you gone to a fertility specialist yet?” he asked.

“Not yet,” I admitted. “I’ve gone to my regular doctor though.”

“You should see a fertility professional about this, though. They might know things that a regular OBGYN doesn’t,” he advised.

“I suppose. So, what did you do? How did you conceive?” I asked.

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“We adopted,” he explained. “Kyla and I both wanted children and we decided that since nature didn’t want to cooperate, we’ll just have to accept that we couldn’t have them the usual way. So we adopted.”

“But your daughters look so much like you and your wife!” I exclaimed. David and I have met his family and we even noted to one another how strong the family resemblance was.

“They do, don’t they? Nora is biologically ours, yes. Kyla did, eventually get pregnant, without even trying, about six years after we adopted Betty. The biggest surprise of our lives. I guess, what I’m saying is, don’t give up. And even if things don’t work out the way you want them to, you and your husband still have options.”

“You’re right,” I realized. In more ways than one. It really did help me to talk to someone about it, since for some reason I couldn’t talk about it with David. “Thanks again. For forcing me to confront this right now.”

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“You’re welcome. Now, enjoy your weekend and don’t let things bring you down.”

As I drove home, I felt lighter than I had in days, but eventually, the feeling passed, only to be replaced with more worry.

Liam and his wife were told there was nothing wrong with either of them, but they were still unable to conceive for 13 years. What if the same thing would happen to us? Or what if there was something wrong with one of us? With me in particular? What if our own biological children were never an option for our family?

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We could adopt, yes. But would that be enough for me? Could I love a child that wasn’t biologically mine and raise him or her to the best of my ability? Would David?

What if, eventually, he’ll decide that he wanted someone who could give him a child of his own and leave me? I didn’t think I could deal with this.

This was how David came home from his meeting with an investor to find me on the floor, bawling my eyes out.

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“Irene?” he ventured, sounding afraid to make it worse. “What happened? Are you hurt?”

I barely had the energy to shake my head “no”.

“Hey, talk to me, what is it? You know, I’m always willing to listen. But you keep it all bottled up inside,” he joined me on the ground.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I just can’t take this anymore. I really want a child of my own. Of our own. Why isn’t it happening?”

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“That’s why you’ve been feeling so down for the past several months, isn’t it?” he asked quietly.

“Yes. I feel like I’m failing. We’re here, all alone in this big house, and it just feels empty. I know you want a big family. I want a big family too, have wanted one since before we married. But it’s just not happening.”

He scratched his head, deep in thought.

“You’re right, I do want a big family. But I want it with you. And if that’s not an option, it’s fine with me, honestly. Because, most of all, I want you to be happy, and you aren’t happy if you’re beating yourself up over something that isn’t your fault at all. And I want you to be able to talk to me about the things that bother you.”

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“I’m sorry,” I whispered again. “I’ll try. But communicating these things is kind of a work in progress for me.”

“I know, but for once you need to let me be there for you,” he pulled me up off the floor and into a tender hug.

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“I want to go see a fertility specialist, David,” I admitted.

“Yeah, we can do that,” he agreed rubbing my spine comfortingly. “I think I’ve heard of a good one from Kyla Upton at one point.”

“I want to know if something is wrong with me,” I admitted. “The uncertainty is bugging me too much.”

“Nothing is wrong with you,” David hugged me tighter. “Hey, you know what, it’s Friday night and we shouldn’t spend it cooped up in here. Let’s dress up and go somewhere.”

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“What do you have in mind?” I asked, brushing away the tears.

“Hmm, I think your cherry dress will be very welcome, that’s all I’m going to say,” he winked before going up to change.


“Is that the place I think it is?” I asked incredulously as we approached the building.

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“Sure is!” David smiled smugly. “I thought it was high time we gave this bar another visit.”

Rusty Old Bottle didn’t seem to have changed at all since that night I got black-out drunk and passed out in David’s bed. The same dim lights, the same aura of alcohol, the people who were here to get as drunk as possible.

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Only the bartender was different, but provided it’s been over seven years since then, she must have been working elsewhere by now.

“I thought we should come here and remember our first meeting, Irene. And really, we need to get our mind off of the things bothering us. For one evening, let’s just relax and enjoy ourselves,” he explained.

“I like that idea,” I nodded, sitting down at the bar, like the last time. “So, what will you do if some crazy drunken woman starts throwing herself at you this time around?”

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“I’ll take my wife home and kiss her until she’s feeling better,” he smiled.

“You sure know how to make a girl happy,” I relaxed in my chair. Scanning the room, I noticed something that has changed from the previous time. “Hey, they got a jukebox. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t here the last time, right?”

“I don’t think so, no. Hey, come dance with me,” he invited, pulling me out of my chair. “I want to dance.”

“Oh, how the roles have reversed!” I laughed, joining him on the dance floor.

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The slow soulful ballad was perfect for a sensual romantic dance, of course. While I didn’t have much experience on the dance floor, David had no problem with the moves, since he took the lead smoothly and without a hitch.

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“You know, we should really thank this bar for bringing us together,” he joked.

“Yes, who knew that a small seedy bar could be so romantic? Better than the French countryside,” I joked back.

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“Say what you will. I came in here back then to try and relax after a meeting with my father. Instead, I ended up meeting my future wife. I think that’s pretty romantic,” he pulled me close for a kiss.

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At that moment, the jukebox music changed to something much more fiery and rhythmic.

“How well-timed!” he got a strange look in his eyes, “So, have you ever danced the tango?”

In response to my negative response he laughed and announced, “Well, this will be your first time, then! Follow my lead.”

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To my immense surprise, it turned out that David was a pretty good tango dancer. Every step he made was smooth, every twirl and turn completely in step with the rhythm of the melody. I was trying my hardest to follow and despite not knowing even the basics of the dance, with his lead, I managed to follow all the moves and not miss the rhythm even once.

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After a while, I stared to enjoy the dance. There is something captivating and entrancing about getting to dance the tango with someone you love. Every time our bodies touched sent a new wave of emotions through me and while I was aware of the other patrons’ eyes on us, I kept wanting this moment to continue forever.

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With every step, David and I were one. He guided my moves and I followed, even adding my own twist on them when possible.

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Eventually, the music came to an end and David finished our performance by pulling me close and kissing me.

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The bar crowd erupted into a round of applause, the loudest belonging to the bartender herself.

“Wow, I never knew you could dance like this!” I looked at my husband with admiration.

“I do. And you make a great dance student. I look forward to continuing our lessons at home,” he smiled warmly.

As we got back to our seats, the bartender was ecstatic. “That. Was. Amazing!!! Are you two professional ballroom dancers?”

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“No, we’re just having fun on a date,” David admitted.

“First date?” she asked.

“Married for five years, actually,” I informed her.

“Wow, you two just gave me major relationship goals, then! Drinks are on the house for the both of you,” she promised and rushed off to make them.

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“Where did you learn to dance like this?” I asked incredulously.

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“At boarding school,” he smiled. “My roommate and best friend there was the son of professional ballroom dancers. He always joked that they’ll disown him if he didn’t know how to dance these things. He taught the moves of these dances to anyone who was willing to learn them. Of course I took advantage of that opportunity!”

“What else is there that I don’t know about you? You aren’t a secret master of the arts too, are you?” I was impressed.

“Never tried any of it, so I can’t say. Who knows?” David laughed.

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“Your drinks are here!” the bartender announced.

“I don’t know if I should,” I admitted, remembering my last interaction with strong beverages.

“I’m sure one will be fine,” David shrugged. “Besides, I’m here and I’ll take you home.”

Three hours later, I was once again plastered from what was probably the strongest drink in all of Hidden Springs, and David was helping me out of the cab, half-carrying me home.

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“Wow,” he noted, “you really do have the weakest alcohol tolerance I’ve ever encountered.”

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“Yeah, well, I think I deserved a drink. And you said yourself I was a good student, and good students deserve a reward,” I mumbled. “Hey, who are they?”

David followed my gaze to our front porch. On it were a woman and a young girl of about eight years of age.

“I don’t know them, but let’s see what they want. Besides it’s starting to rain pretty hard.”

As soon as we approached the woman looked up from the ground with relief in her eyes. She approached us before we even got to them.

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“Thank goodness, you’re home. I’m Norma, I’m with social services. I’m sorry to just show up like this but… I’m extremely sorry to inform you, but Sharon Preston was involved in a terrible accident and… well, she hasn’t made it unfortunately. And Millicent’s birth certificate lists you as her father, Mr. Collier.”

My intoxication evaporated at her words. Father? David? To this girl?

Though all of this, she hasn’t looked up from her lap even once, but she had the same hair color and while her skin was lighter, there was definitely a resemblance.

Upon hearing these words, David’s face went almost white.

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“I have a daughter?” he managed to get out.

“Yes,” Norma answered. “Once again, I’m really sorry to be dropping in like this, but we’ve tried to reach you for hours, ever since we’ve arrived here, but it seems like our number for you was wrong.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“She doesn’t have any other relatives,” Norma quietly informed us. “Sharon’s parents have already passed away and she was an only child. It’s either with you or into the system for her.”

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“Of course she’s going to stay with us,” I intercepted. “There is no way she’s going anywhere else if her father is here.”

“Thank you for understanding,” Norma seemed to relax. “I’ll be going then. Here’s my number if you need anything.”

And with that she was gone, leaving us with a young scared girl who seemed as shocked to be here as we were to see her here.

“Let’s get inside before we all catch a cold, come on,” I urged both the child and the adult.

The girl meekly got up from the porch and followed us inside. I didn’t know if she was in such shock over the loss of her mother, over being here, over meeting her father, or over all of the above. But she needed support at this time and I was going to give it to her to the best of my ability.


Well, that’s the end of this chapter.

The song they danced to is the Libertang0!

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Gen 2 Ch 15: Home Sweet Home

Our return home couldn’t have come sooner. The motel was nice enough, but sleeping in your own bed? Priceless.

Ever since that night at Blue Moon Lodge, things between David and I have changed. We were friends before, but even if neither one of us has said it outright, we were definitely an item now.

This time around, I didn’t beat around the bush and told my parents about us. Mom’s response?

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“Oh, you just became a couple? I kind of assumed you already were when I found him sleeping on our couch that one night. Congratulations, though. I like this one much more.”

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Dad and Gerald just chuckled. Apparently, Dad also thought David and I had something going on, while Gerald was just wondering how long it would take the two of us to get together.

It was good to be home.

Of course, not everything was that simple.

The situation at the company, for example: things were even more chaotic than before we left. As soon as it became clear that Selma ditched from the country, the majority of upper management have turned in their letters of resignation, most likely out of fear of becoming embroiled in the legal scandal with the company. The rest of the workers had no idea what to do in these circumstances. They were worriedly awaiting news of what would become with their jobs. After all, they were regular people who needed a steady income…

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While David and I were playing detective things just got more out of hand at home, and the further it went on, the more effort it was going to require to fix the situation.

As the situation stood, the company was still in a whole lot of legal hot water. While the server leak did come from a questionable source, investigation into said information has proven most of it true, which, under different circumstances, would have meant a hefty sentence for Lionel and a smaller one for Selma. As things stood, the main criminal was dead, and the accomplice was in a country out of our legal system’s reach.

David was lucky to have been officially uninvolved with any of his parent’s illegal activities, which was the one bright thing about this whole mess. He was in the clear with the law, especially after he himself nearly became a victim of the same criminals who killed his father and tried to pin it on his mother. The law enforcement somewhat sympathized with his situation.  But that meant that he, as the remaining heir of Collier Enterprises was now responsible for dealing with all the fallout from the recent events, in regards to the company.

Yes, that’s right. By some strange miracle, law enforcement didn’t force us to close down the entire company.

Of course, there was one huge explanation for this: Collier Enterprises was one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the country and it was one of the biggest employers in the area. Forcing us to close down would have created more chaos than the law enforcement and the local government were willing to deal with.

However, that didn’t mean Collier Enterprises was getting completely off the hook.

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About a week after we got back from Twinbrook, we were visited by a government attorney named Liam Upton, who, in convergence with local law enforcement, was going to keep track of all financial deals made between the company and whoever it did business with. He had a respectable level of experience with corporate legal matters and it wasn’t his first time dealing with a company that landed on the wrong side of the law. Of course, most of his experience didn’t involve legal troubles quite as extensive as ours, but that just meant that we were going to be under much stricter overlook than any of the other companies.

All things considered, it was completely understandable and very reasonable. However, as things stood, we were now guilty until proven innocent for the foreseeable time period.

But at least, we could continue working, and so could the people whose livelihoods depended on having a job at Collier Enterprises.

Which left us with another problem — the company’s management team, which was basically nonexistent at the moment. The logical solution was to promote the remaining employees to the now empty positions and to start recruiting for new employees for their former jobs. However, as things stood, the local job-searching population seemed to be avoiding us like the plague and we only managed to hire a handful of new people. And the employees who were offered management positions suddenly found excuses for why they couldn’t take the jobs! Some bizarre, some understandable.

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Tia, for example, happily announced that she and Roman were expecting baby number two and that sooner rather than later, she would have to go on a maternity leave. We were happy for her, of course, congratulating her on the soon-to-be new addition to her family.

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Lana was one of the very few who actually agreed to take the job, but she warned us that she soon might end up having to move from Hidden Springs permanently, since her husband was awaiting a possible promotion to Sunset Valley.

Of course, there was another problem with these promotions: due to the large fines the company had to pay out, we could only give a very small raise to the new managers, not nearly as much as they should have been getting. We hoped this will change soon. But that remained to be seen.

And me? I was now very much a part of it all – I agreed to take the head manager’s position without any need to convince me, refusing the raise that came with it. Ever since the Marilyn fiasco, I couldn’t help but feel that my quest for justice would have had almost the same results for the company as hers, minus the deaths. So, of course, I was going to do my very best to fix things.

Besides, there was no way I was leaving David to the sole responsibility for everything. We were a team now.

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Even if being a team meant falling asleep exhausted together, not even making it to a bed.

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After about a year, things were beginning to look up, somewhat. The company, while still dealing with a lot of financial duress, has figured out a new pattern for work, new medicines were still being developed, and slowly, people began to regain trust in us. Mostly, it was because David and I made a huge effort to change how things were done in the company. Collier Enterprises was no longer an intimidating pharmaceutical giant. We were a business founded on shady dealings, but we were doing our best to replace that foundation with one based on trust, honesty, and community presence.

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Some things changed, others haven’t.

Lana, to Tia’s and my delight, didn’t move away. She and Emmet have decided to stay here, after all.

Tia had her baby, and little Clyde dotted on his new sibling. Roman, after being contacted by both the Twinbrook and the Hidden Springs police departments, was now working with the local unit, strengthening the cybersecurity of their servers and also giving seminars on computer safety and privacy. He was happy to once again be able to provide for his family, from which he has been away for so long.

We’ve kept contact with Deputy Rosswell from Twinbrook. After he saved our lives, we have decided to stay in touch with the man. He has informed us that Marilyn and Sam were both tried in court for their crimes. Even with their admissions of wrongdoing, both Sam and Marilyn were going to jail for a long time. However, Marilyn was to serve a part of her sentence in an institution much more appropriate to her mental wellbeing, which turned out to be completely nonexistent, as ascertained by the court psychologists.

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On a happier note, Gerald has proposed to Katy and they were busy planning their wedding. Most of the time, she was over at our place now, spending time with my brother. They have never looked happier.

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And I was happy too. When David and I did manage to have some free time to ourselves, he never failed to put a smile on my face. He would constantly bring me sweet treats at work, give me compliments and kisses when we were together, and he could brighten up my day just by smiling a certain way.

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I think, for the first time in a long while, everything in my life was looking just perfect. I was busier than ever, true, but I had someone that I knew was there for me no matter what, and who cared about me deeply. That constant worry I felt when I dated Micah, was never present with David. I think it just meant that Micah was never the right person for me, while David was. And I probably had to Micah to thank for that – if not for our terrible break-up and my behavior afterwards, I probably wouldn’t have met David the way I did and most likely never would have looked past his family name to see the wonderful person he was. Life works out in strange ways.


In record time, it was time for my brother’s wedding. After complaining about how boring most wedding invitations that they’ve seen were, Gerald and Kate have taken a very humorous approach to wedding announcements. At least they had a lot of fun during the photoshoot, and most of our friends seemed to like the invites!

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Also, in a decision that calmed my worried heart, Gerald and Kate have both decided that it would be a better idea for Kate to just move in with us after the wedding than for her and Gerald to move to a new place. The idea of my brother moving out worried me because I knew that, despite my biggest attempts to do so, with how busy I was at work, there was no way I could give as much care as needed to Mom and Dad once they got older. And I would have hated for them to be uncared for. Whereas, I knew Gerald’s much saner work schedule would allow him to spend time with the family.

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On their wedding day, both Gerald and Kate have looked the happiest I’ve ever seen them. Despite their wedding photoshoot, neither had cold feet – if anything, they both wanted to get married as much as anyone possibly could.

Mom and Dad were also happy, even though both broke down in tears during the vows. After all, their youngest baby was all grown up and getting married! (I think they were also feeling happy about the fact that Gerald was remaining home after the wedding.)

It wasn’t long after the wedding that David and I have gotten our first break at work. A new medication for arthritis, while not too expensive, has managed to get the company much closer to leaving our current financial rut. This meant that we could finally give out some much needed bonuses to our hard-working employees, and also relax a bit.

Also, that meant more time for the two of us to spend together, outside of work. Since neither David or I liked large gatherings and loud places, that usually meant staying in and spending our time watching our favorite shows together, eating all sorts of unhealthy snacks, and just enjoying ourselves.

I know, I know, we were acting like boring old people, you might say, but it was during moments like these that both of us felt the happiest and most content. I knew I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

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We were re-watching old episodes of Colombo (what could I say, we have both developed a taste for detective fiction after our trip), having extra-cheesy pizza and cheese sticks, and laughing our butts off at all the ways “the bad guys” tend to get caught in shows. It was a lazy Saturday and David and I were at his house, with no plans to go anywhere. After polishing off the last pizza slice and finishing the episode, I leaned back into David contentedly. Suddenly, he asked me:

“Are you happy with me?”

Surprised, I turned to look at him. “I am. Why do you ask?”

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He shrugged. “It’s just, you’ve been there for me in every way possible for the last two years and I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through all this without you. But it made me wonder if I was doing nearly enough for you to qualify as a decent boyfriend.”

“Are you kidding me? You’re an amazing boyfriend! Who else would bring me chocolates at work? Or give me a backrub when I’m feeling down?” I laughed.

“I just love to see you smile,” he whispered, hugging me.

“And I love to be with you. Just, in general,” I admitted quietly.

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In response, he kissed me, making my stomach do flips, the way it always did when we touched.

“Hey, there is still some light outside. We should go somewhere,” he announced.

“What do you have in mind?” I was curious.

“We officially spend too much time cooped up indoors. We should enjoy beautiful nature for a bit. Bring your jacket, just in case,” he smiled, heading for his car.

To my surprise, instead of going to the park or the beach, like I thought he might, since David turned out to be an avid swimmer, he swerved into the hills and headed up the mountain road.

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“Where are we going?” I wondered.

“You know, for someone who is a native of Hidden Springs, you know too little about all its nooks and crannies,” he smiled. “Have you ever been to Redwood Peak?”

“No,” I tried to remember the place. It was popular with some members of the astrology club back in high school, I remembered, as they used to camp out there to watch the stars. But I was more focused on other things back then. It was true, I’ve never been there.

“Well, you’ll see it now!” he drove higher up the mountain, coming to park by the entrance area of the park.

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I could see why the place was perfect for stargazing – it was probably the highest point in town, and there was a lot of empty space to set up a telescope. If anything, there already was one present.

David led me towards it, explaining, “The view from this place is truly amazing. Take a look for yourself.”

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I did just that. The entire Hidden Springs was laid out before us, with everyone looking so very tiny from our viewpoint up here. The height was terrifying, but there was something exhilarating about it. It was beautiful.

“What do you think?” he asked, hugging me from behind. “Was it worth leaving the house for?”

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“It is. Thank you for bringing me here,” I whispered, still awed by the view.

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“I thought you’d like it,” he smiled contentedly. “I used to come here with Emily, whenever possible. I used to think this place was more romantic than the Eiffel Tower on Valentine’s Day.”

“I think you were right about that,” I laughed softly. The air here was pine fresh, and the chirping of crickets had a peaceful quality to it, making me feel happy and elated.

“So, I’ve always thought that if I ever wanted to propose to someone I cared about, this would be the perfect place to do it,” David continued.

I turned around slowly, trying to figure out if this was really happening.

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“Irene, I met you at the moment when my life was at its lowest, or so I thought back then. But when I met you, despite everything, you’ve managed to be a guiding light for me. At those moments when I felt close to giving up on everything, on admitting failure in life, you were there, pushing me along and reminding me that I wasn’t alone. I can’t and don’t want to imagine my life without you in it, because it would be absolutely empty. So tell me, will you be my wife, Irene?”

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My breath caught in my throat and I could feel the tears well up in my eyes, tears of happiness. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to marry David, but I didn’t know if this would be something that would ever happen to us. Now that he was proposing, I couldn’t handle the surge of emotions in my chest.

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“Yes! Of course, I will marry you, David. Because I don’t want to imagine my life without you either. I love you. I think I’ve been in love with since that time I’ve seen you outside the restaurant in town. I don’t know if soulmates exist, but if they do, you are mine.”

“But we’ve met at the bar?” David was happy but confused.

“Yeah, but I first saw you in town square, outside the restaurant, it was afternoon on a Saturday,” I admitted. “I remember wanting to go and meet you back then, but feeling guilty because I was still in a relationship. You looked really sad.”

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“That was the day I first arrived here from Bridgeport. I’ve just arrived back from the airport at that time and I was dreading coming home,” he admitted. “And you saw me on that very day! Wow, this truly is fate.”

“I guess it is. So, this was your plan? Bringing me here for a proposal?”

“Partially,” he smiled, pulling me in for a kiss. “Have you ever gone camping?”

“No,” I admitted.

“There’s always a first time for everything! There are marshmallows and tent in the car. We’re going to have so much fun!”

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I spent the rest of that night blissfully enjoying nature and s’mores, and falling asleep in a tent under the stars, next to the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. If human life could reach perfection, it was probably something like this.

Gen 2 Ch 14: Just a Small Pit Stop

Warning: I’m going to rate this one PG-13 due to violence, language, and some nsfw content.


 

We double checked whether anyone was near our car before getting in. David drove once again, since I was in no state to handle a vehicle right now.

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He really was handling all this like a trooper. Which was probably for the best – these people were dangerous, and having a panic attack at the moment would be dangerous.

I leaned back in the car seat, trying to get a grip on my own whirlwind of emotions. So, we knew who the killer was and why. For revenge. For the same reason I even started working at Collier Enterprises.

It seemed like Marilyn and I had something in common…

I started shaking again, which David noticed. I shrugged to reassure him I was fine. Really, I had no right to be breaking down at this point. I wasn’t the one at the receiving end of all the recent problems.

“Perhaps, we should make a pit stop,” David announced. “I think this trip has given both of us enough of a shake-up to warrant some relaxing herbal teas. We need to calm down before going to the station.”

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Even though I knew there was no reason to delay the police visit, I didn’t have the heart to protest. Soon, David turned into the parking lot of a popular coffee shop, called The Java Haus. As he shut off the car, I realized that his hands were also trembling. So we did both need to calm down before getting on the road again…

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Once inside, we barely managed to order our beverages, trying to look normal in front of the baristas. As we settled down by the coffee shop’s fireplace, David took a deep breath and noted:

“We have to tell them everything. Even about our break in to Dad’s office. Because the impostor already knows about it and it might be something the police need to know.”

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I nodded in agreement. “We also need to fill them in on the whole backstory, probably. With my parents and Aileen and her involvement with your father – that’s the motive right there. What else?”

“We’ll need to explain about Roman since he is how we knew about Aileen and since he’s someone who can attest to the fact that my mother’s computer was tampered with. I’m sure that, with everything happening, they’ll just thank him for the help with the investigation. Right?”

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“I hope so. At the least, they should ask him for help tightening their own station’s security, since these impostors knew as much as they did about the investigation,” I remembered how much information the criminals were able to steal.

“Yes. They definitely knew enough to impersonate a real person in an important position. I just wish we had something solid on them, you know!” David slammed his hand on the table. “At this point, the police will only have our word for what’s going on. Would it even be enough?”

“Maybe. It’s more than nothing, right?” I understood David’s worry, though. We did lack solid proof to back what we knew. However, we knew Marilyn Johnson and that she was dating a man named Sam… I was sure Roman could assist us and the police where it came to getting more information on them.

“I’ll be right back, alright?” David stood up, heading off in the direction of the bathroom.

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Nearly as soon as he left the room, my phone rang.

“Ms. Meadows, are you alright? This is Deputy Rosswell! Where are you right now?”

The older policeman sounded seriously worried.

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“Yes, I’m fine, why? I’m at the coffee shop. We both are – David is here. Did something happen?”

“Thank goodness! You two are staying at Blue Moon Lodge, right? There has been a break in to your rooms! Very recently, too. And when we weren’t able to reach your David, we began to think the worst.”

“Wait, a break in? How did you know about it?” my mind was immediately on edge.

“We got a call from your hotel. Apparently, a strange man was found in Mr. Collier’s room by one of the maids and when she asked him who he was, he introduced himself as Deputy Westen. She took his word, but told the check in clerk about it, and the clerk is actually a niece of the real Mr. Westen. So, they called us in – I’m really sorry, but both of your rooms have been turned upside down. We’re at the hotel right now. I don’t know what this man was looking for, but he sure made a mess of things. How does he know you’re in town anyways?” Rosswell winded down.

“Um, David told him. We thought he was a real policeman from your department, remember?” I explained.

“Of course, of course. Look, where exactly are you? I want to send some of my men to you and bring you into the station. You should file a report – the man who broke in to you rooms matched the description you and David gave when you were here. Whenever we find him, I want as much on him as possible. And frankly, I’m sorry Ms. Meadows, but I believe you and Mr. Collier might be in danger at this time. I would rather have you somewhere my people can protect you.”

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“We know who the killer is, Deputy,” I announced. “We’ve almost ran into her and the man you are looking for. I can’t give you solid proof at this point, but her name is Marilyn Johnson and his name is likely Sam. I’m sorry I don’t know any more…”

“Are you kidding me?! You had a run-in with them?! Were you investigating on your own? Young lady, do you know how much danger you were putting yourselves into?! That’s it. Where are you? Stay there until my officers and I get there!” The policeman sounded panicked.

“Of course, Deputy! We’ll be waiting for you at the Java Haus of the 5th freeway.”

I ended the call, knowing I needed to tell David what happened as fast as possible. Heading towards the bathroom, I stopped myself just before knocking – wouldn’t that be somewhat inconsiderate of me?

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“You can go in, no one’s inside” the barista told me. “The man who was in there went outside for a smoke. Can you believe he tried to light up inside?”

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He was outside?! Ok, calm down, Irene. There was nothing wrong with going outside. Only that there were real criminals in town, looking for us…

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Luckily, at that very moment, David came back in through the backdoor of the café.

“Hey, sorry if I worried you! I just really needed a cigarette, and there’s no smoking allowed inside… what’s wrong?” he noticed asked, noticing my blanched face.

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“They broke into our rooms, David. The Deputy just called me. He’s saying he’s coming here with a patrol to get us to the station safely. I told him we ran into them and he totally flipped. He’s saying we’re probably in danger.” The words just kept spilling out of my mouth.

David’s mouth dropped open. He motioned towards the front of the shop. Turning around, I saw two people coming up the stairs of the coffee shop: Fake Westen and Marilyn.

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What was it with our luck today?

Quickly thinking, David grabbed me and pulled me back into the bathroom which, was near enough, and shut the door.

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“It’s ok, it’s unisex, no one will complain. Can you call the Deputy and tell him they’re here? I think I left my phone in the car.”

I nodded. Of course I could do that.

The Deputy picked up on the first ring “Irene? What’s the situation?”

“They’re here, Deputy Rosswell. The Marylin and Sam I told you about are in this very coffee shop right now. We’re hiding out in the bathroom, so they haven’t seen us yet.”

“Hang in there! We’re already on the way. Try to avoid them if possible, and if you must confront them, make sure there are many witnesses, ok?”

“Of course. We’ll do just that.”

Once the call ended, we pressed our ears to the door and listened. As it turned out, Marilyn and Sam have settled very close to the bathroom door, so their conversation was audible.

Remembering my last missed chance, I took out my phone this time and set it to record.

“So, that maid saw you? You don’t think she’s going to be trouble, do you?” Marilyn asked.

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“No, I told her I was searching the premises on a police order,” Sam brushed off, nonchalantly.

“I wouldn’t be so calm about that. I think it’s time for you to stop using that pseudonym since you’re in Twinbrook now. Someone might catch on,” Marilyn replied disapprovingly.

“It’s a big city, not some small town with only one police station. You tell them you’re the deputy, show the right paperwork — they think it’s true. People aren’t as smart as you think, Lyn.”

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“Your carelessness will get us in trouble, one of these days,” Marilyn half-hissed. “I didn’t spend months getting close to that scumbag only for you to blow the whole thing.”

I heard a sharp intake of breath from David. No doubt, it couldn’t have been pleasant to hear about how this woman finished off his father.

“It was your choice to get as close as you did. I told you I’ll figure out a better way to get the key. You really didn’t have to sleep with him for it,” Sam continued.

His voice sounded bitter — no doubt Sam wasn’t happy about Marilyn “cheating” on him with Lionel Colier.

“Quiet! Someone will hear!” Marilyn hissed again.

Sam laughed “Who? The barista who just went on break? Or the one who just slunk off to the backroom, with Netflix on her phone? There’s no one in this café but us.”

“You’re still too careless. And you know I had to gain that loser’s trust in order to be close enough to give him you-know-what,” Marilyn mentioned.

“There were other ways to accomplish that,” Sam argued.

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“Maybe. But I wanted to do it myself, is all,” Marilyn admitted, smugly. “So, did you at least find what you were looking for in that room?”

The silence that followed bordered on awkward. It seemed as if Sam wasn’t as comfortable with his girlfriend’s bloodthirsty side as he let on. Finally he muttered “Of course, of course. It only makes sense. And no, they don’t even have a computer with them. If anyone’s been snooping online for us, it’s most likely not one of them.”

“So, what are you planning to do with the guy?” Marilyn asked. “I’m sure, after the mess you’ve made in his room, he’ll be on the first plane out of here.”

David and I exchanged a look. They were talking about him.

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“I don’t know, Lyn. He seems pretty harmless. And it’s not like he’s important or anything. I say, let him get on that plane and get the hell out of here. One less problem for us,” Sam offered.

“Are you kidding me? ‘Let him get the hell out of here’?!!! After all the effort we’ve put into bringing him here? I don’t think so,” Marilyn sounded offended.

“Well, what do you have in mind? I do have that video of him breaking into his father’s office, but I fail to see how that will do much. He was hardly breaking any laws by being in his own father’s office.”

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“His records show anxiety, panic attacks, and a full on mental breakdown, Sam. It wouldn’t be too hard to set up an overdose from one of the usual medications for these conditions,” Marilyn proposed. “That would get him out of the way, for sure.”

“You don’t think it would be suspicious if both Collier kids die of an overdose?” Sam asked.

“An overdose isn’t the same as alcohol poisoning. Besides, no one suspected any foul play the last time,” Marilyn rebuffed.

“Oh my god,” David whispered. “It was them. They’re responsible for Emily.”

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And before I could stop him, he rushed out of the bathroom, screaming, “You bastards!!! You killed my sister!!!”

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Sam and Marilyn looked like they just saw a ghost. Unfortunately, this only lasted for a few moments, before Sam sprang to his feet, and barreled into David, who responded in kind by pushing Sam back, forcing him to the floor, and starting to pummel him with his fists.

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Marilyn screamed, and pulled a gun out of her jacket, pointing it at David. Before she could pull the trigger, I rushed up and managed to push her up against the wall, pointing her gun away from the fighting men.

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Unsurprisingly, she was quite strong. Of course, all that pent up anger and poison must have been making her fight harder than an average individual.

“Little bitch, don’t think I don’t know who you are. What, you think you’re going to get a piece of their money by cuddling up to him?” Marilyn growled. “I hate the whole bunch of you.”

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“Well, the feeling is mutual, Marilyn. But guess what? You’re a fucking murderer. And you are going to jail for what you did. Both of you,” I spat back, making sure her arms were restrained. I found myself glad that I’ve started weight training with Lana all those months ago. Otherwise, I would have stood no chance against Marilyn right now.

I glanced over at David – he also seemed to hold his own. I’ve suspected that he used to seriously work out in college and fortunately, he clearly still had enough muscle strength to overpower the slimmer Sam.

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Sam however, was not going down without a fight. He seemed to understand that we overheard their conversation and he was giving it all to getting out of David’s hold. By the looks of it, David was going to be hurting all over for a while after this fight, provided we came out of it alive.

My momentary lapse in attention enabled Marilyn to wrench herself out of my grasp, and raise her gun. My attempt to overpower her again was met with a kick to the stomach, so hard that it forced me to double down.

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“Irene!” David screamed, jumping off Sam and rushing toward us.

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Sam made to rise to his feet, and Marilyn was indecisive on which one of us she wanted to shoot first.

This is the only thing that saved us, because the next second, an entire patrol of police officers came barreling through the doors of the coffee shop.

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“Drop that gun! Hands up where we can see them!” Rosswell bellowed.

Marilyn dropped the gun. She knew her game was over, just as Sam did. He got up to his feet with both hands raised. “Don’t shoot. We’ll cooperate. I’ll cooperate.”

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Marilyn hissed under her breath again “Weak. I always knew you were weak.”

Deputy Rosswell cleared his throat. “Marylin Johnson, Samuel Carson, you are both under arrest for murder and fabrication. You have the right to remain silent. You also have a right to a lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you.” He paused for a second before adding, “Although we both know it would take a freaking miracle for you idiots for any defender to keep you out of jail. Now, get in the car.”

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As the two criminals were taken away, the deputy made his way towards us.

“Hello, Mr. Collier, Ms. Meadows. I’m sorry we couldn’t get here sooner. But those two are going to be under the strictest watch now. You can give me your statements later. Right now, you both need a doctor.”

David and I just nodded. He was covered in bruises from his fight and my stomach hurt like I’ve been ran over by a car. Marilyn had more strength than one would have expected from her and I’ve experienced it on myself in the worst way.

As we were taken to the hospital, I asked the deputy, who chose to ride with us, “So, is Selma Collier clear now? They are the ones responsible for Lionel’s death. And for so many other things, it seems. I recorded their conversation at the shop – there is no way they can walk out of that one.”

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“Once they are booked, Selma is free to go. She’ll probably need to give her statements too and press her own charges. She was a victim of their activity as well.” He paused. “However, if she is proved to be involved with Lionel Collier’s criminal activities, she may need to stand trial, still.”

“I see,” David muttered. “We’ll get through it. After today, we’ll get through anything.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “We will.”


 

At the hospital, we were both treated for our bruises and sent home with a mostly clean bill of health – a few relaxing hot baths would sure help, but neither of us was significantly injured, just very sore.

We both gave our statements that same evening. My phone recording and Sam’s and Marilyn’s behavior at the coffee shop were enough to make the police book them on numerous charges and eventually, at their lawyer’s honest advice, they talked, admitting to all the crimes they’ve committed. Also, even if they hadn’t, some footage surfaced from Lionel Collier’s hotel, which clearly showed Marilyn there with him. She had no one to blame but herself, of course.

Two days later, Selma Collier was released from jail, with a warning not to leave town. David was rejoiced, happy for a chance to finally patch things up with his mother, since she was, now, his only remaining family member.

Four days later, Selma Collier violated her order not to leave the city by arranging a private flight to Dubai.

In a letter she wrote to David, which he dejectedly showed me that evening, she explained that she knew police will find incriminating things in the leaked files. She was involved in Lionel’s activities to a certain extent, after all. And she knew Dubai had no extradition treaties with our country. Besides, as she put it, after everything that happened, even if she didn’t have legal reasons to run, she would have anyways. She needed a fresh start. She hoped David understood.

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“I guess I just wanted a fresh start for both of us, you know. Mom and I never really saw eye to eye, but I hoped we’ll be able to come together in grief, or something. I guess it was too unrealistic to hope for it, though,” David admitted.

“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now. But you know, you can always talk to me if you feel alone. I’m here for you,” I reassured him. We were sitting on the floor in his motel room, trying to watch some old detective noir, but it wasn’t that great. So we just talked.

“I know. You’ve been here for me this whole time. Even when I didn’t deserve it,” David smiled.

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“Didn’t deserve it? Why? You haven’t done anything wrong you know. If anything, if not for your decision to come here and investigate, these people will still be on the loose. I think we’ve done society a favor, don’t you?

“Yeah, we make a good team!” he laughed.

I laughed back “We do, don’t we?”

Suddenly, we were both too aware of how close the other one was sitting. His gray eyes were on mine and I don’t know for sure which one of us made the first move, but the next moment our lips met in the hottest kiss I’ve ever experienced, and his arm was on the small of my back and I was moving to remove his shirt…

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“Wait,” he pulled away, panting “I just want to make sure you aren’t doing this to make me feel better. It wouldn’t be right and I’d never forgive myself if I let you.”

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“I don’t do things out of pity, David. Sleeping with you won’t be something I’ll regret. Will you?”

“Oh, hell no!” he smiled. “Where were we, then?”

“Let me remind you.”

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Let’s just say, neither one of us slept until much, much later that night.

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As I’ve already posted over at Tumblr, this is my default IreneXDavid song.

Thanks for sticking with my legacy. All of my followers mean a lot for me.

Gen 2 Ch 13: Twinbrook Retirement Community

“Good morning. Coffee?” David offered as we prepared for our visit to Twinbrook Retirement Community.

“Yes, please” I gladly accepted one of the two cups of the steaming drink. It was my idea to visit Ailene, but now that the visit was happening, I felt super jittery about it. A sugary energy boost was most welcome.

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“I’ve checked out their website – it says visitors are welcome at any time. And generally, older people tend to make up earlier. I think we won’t be intruding if we go there around 10 am. Besides, I think we’ll need to ask the staff where to find Aileen, right? Unless Roman told you which room is hers as well. Did he?”

“No, just the address of the building, but we’ll find her when we get there…” I began to reason when a thought occurred to me, making me frown.

David noticed. “What’s wrong?”

“I’ve just realized that I have no idea what Aileen looks like right now. I’ve seen a couple of old family photos of her from the time when she was married to my grandfather, but that was years ago and I don’t even really remember what she looked like young. I literally will need to be told which one she is, because I won’t recognize her,” I explained.

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“I see,” David nodded. “Well then, we really should hope their staff can point us in the right direction.”

“I thought we decided I’d be the only one to go in?” I asked. I thought it would be less suspicious to Aileen if only one person came to visit her. Besides, we still didn’t know if she was connected to the events happening to David’s family. “I don’t want her to feel like we’re trying to intimidate her. And a one unfamiliar woman seems less threatening than two people coming in to see her.”

“I suppose that makes sense. I’ll wait downstairs for you then. But keep your phone on yourself, just in case,” he agreed.

“Will do. By the way, did you hear back from the police station about anything?”

“Not yet. But we left the station pretty late last night, I don’t know if they’ve had enough time to check everything out. Their plate looks pretty full these days.”

“Agreed. Well, it’s past 9. We should go, right?” I put away my finished drink and readied myself for the trip. Today was going to be busy, indeed.

Finding the retirement home proved to be an easy task – it was located in a good part of town and the place looked more like someone’s mansion than a nursing home. It looked like a very pricey place to spend the twilight years. Whoever was paying for Aileen to live here certainly wasn’t sparing any expenses for her.

David must’ve thought the same, since he let out a low whistle. “That’s a pretty upscale place, I’d say. I wonder how an abandoned ex-wife has enough money to pay for a stay here.”

“I guess she could be our culprit after all,” I warned him quietly. A good hacking ability could certainly bring in a significant income. And Aileen did have a history of questionable activities in the past…

“Are you sure you don’t want me to go see her with you?” David asked once more.

“I’m sure. We don’t know for sure if she is involved yet. It’s better if she doesn’t see you yet,” I reasoned with him, which he reluctantly accepted.

Parking on the curb, we entered the building which, despite the undeniable grandeur, looked the way one would expect a retirement home to look. The wallpaper, the carpet, the sofas and armchairs… everything was very “elderly”. A few old men and women could be seen in the large living room, watching a soap opera without really paying attention. Another old man seemed to be staring into space.

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To be fair, despite the outward grandeur, the place seemed quite depressing. The residents present didn’t seem happy or unhappy. To be honest, they didn’t seem to really care about anything anymore, or to know what was going on.

Inwardly, I thanked whatever deity was looking over the world for my parents’ sharp state of mind and for their never-ending energy. I knew they won’t be around forever, but I was glad that they were doing so much better than these people in was seeing here.

“Is everything ok?” David asked, noting my concern.

“Yeah, it’s just this place,” I admitted.

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“It gets to a person, doesn’t it?” he agreed.

“How do we find Aileen?” I wondered.

At that moment, a younger woman entered the room. “Hi! Can I help you with anything?”

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“Yes, actually,” I turned to her, while David took a seat in one of the sofas, “Would it be possible for me to speak with one of your residents? I’m working customer support for Twinbrook Central Pharmacy and we’re checking up on our long-time customers, to see if they like our service, if their medications arrive on time, this kind of thing. I’m supposed to speak to her and have her sign a form where she verifies that I actually talked to her, instead of just saying I did.”

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The lie about the survey form came pretty easily to me – all that time working with papers at Collier Enterprises must’ve rubbed off on me. Now the worker just had to believe it.

She frowned “Well, today is not really a good day for that – as you can see, most of our residents are out on a field trip to the beach. We generally provide nature and shopping excursions several times a month. Most of the residents who are still in good health are out today. The ones you see here today are the ones who didn’t feel well-enough for a trip.”

My face fell. “I see. So, I guess Aileen Johnson is out today?”

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“Aileen?” the lady, whose nametag read “Holly” looked surprised. “Of course she’s here. She never goes on these trips. For the same reason as them,” she nodded at the present residents. “I don’t know whether she’ll be able to answer your survey. She might, she might not.”

“What do you mean?” I asked for clarification.

“Alzheimer’s disease. An acute case of it. Most days, she barely recognizes the staff. Her niece pays for her stay here, since she never had her own children, and the girl visits her often enough, but I don’t know if she even recognizes her half of the time. It’s quite sad really. But she is in room 23, if you want to see her. She might be sharp enough today, after all. ”

“Thank you,” I mumbled and headed up the stairs. The place really did seem dedicated to making its residents’ lives comfortable. There were books, music players, chess sets, easels, and other hobby-related paraphernalia all over the place. Aileen’s room was right in the center of the hallway.

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I knocked to no response. To my surprise, when I tried it, the door was unlocked. But since this was a good neighborhood, I supposed there would be no need for heightened security. And it was safer if the door was open, in case of an emergency.

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Despite my previous idea, I did recognize Aileen, but barely. She did not age well and she looked even more unfocused than the guy downstairs. She was resting in bed, and she looked very frail. It was actually hard to believe that this was the same person who caused my mother’s family so much trouble.

“Hello?” I called out tentatively. No response. I suspected she didn’t even hear me. “Hello? Aileen Johnson?”

She turned to look at me this time around, smiling to herself. Perhaps she could talk to me after all…

“Celeste? Is that you?” her frail voice asked.

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I stopped in my tracks: she called me by my mother’s name! She thought I was Mom!  It wasn’t completely unreasonable – we did look alike enough, but still…

“I know it was you who put dirt in my shoes yesterday. Did you think I wouldn’t know? You really need to start acting your age, girl,” she continued.

And her mind was seemingly still in the past… there was no way this woman could have committed a huge server hack. And I doubted she’d be able to help me out much with any information. Perhaps we were following the wrong trail, after all.

“Celeste, why aren’t you talking to me? Are you angry at me?” she asked. “I know you’re angry at me. Well, of course you are. You miss your mom. I can’t replace your mom. You don’t even let me try.”

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This sounded pretty accurate to what really happened in Mom’s family. I recalled her reminiscing about how she and Aileen had disagreements up until Mom moved away.

“Never accepted me as one of their own. At least I got enough money from that old fool, Brandon. Held me over for a while, until I found something better,” she continued.

Seeing someone who reminded her of Mom seemed to have set off a chain of memories in her head.

“Those dogs… they set off such a ruckus in there. Had to drug them to shut them up. They were certainly guarding their property. Ha! Not well enough…”

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This got my attention. Our dogs were drugged on the night that Dad’s garden was destroyed and his research stolen. Was she the one responsible? But then, why was there information about this in Lionel Collier’s server?

“…knew I should’ve kept what I had to myself, but no, I wanted more money. And he never paid up. Said, he could put me in jail for breaking and entering if I made more demands… should’ve kept the plants and the research to myself. Stupid Aileen… so very stupid…”

Aileen was the one who robbed us all those years ago, I realized. And while the details were as clear as they would get, it seemed like she got cheated out of big money by Lionel.

She had the motive to be going after the Colliers, after all. But did she have the ability?

After drifting off once more, Aileen was again starring into space, my presence in the room completely ignored. It didn’t seem like she would say anything else.

It also didn’t seem like she had enough wit about her to be able to hack into a heavily-protected computer, no matter how much motive she had to do so.

Perhaps I could stay until she started talking again?

My phone went off with a message from David. “Get out of there, her niece is coming up to her room!”

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I completely forgot the woman’s niece! Of course, she’d choose to come here today, when I was trying to pull out information from Aileen. Murphy’s Law!

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I didn’t have time to get out of the room before I heard the door open. As fast as I could, I ran into the bathroom, hoping that they wouldn’t need to use it while I was hiding out. As soon as the door was shut behind me, I heard another woman enter the room.

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“Good afternoon, auntie, how are you doing today? I brought some tangerines for you! And those chocolates you love so much!” I heard her say.

“Hi, sweetie! Thank you. They are so delicious!” Aileen responded, once again alert.

“Do you know who I am?” the female asked.

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“Marilyn, sweetie, of course I know who you are,” Aileen sounded happy. I figured her niece was one of the few people who still got a reaction from her.

“That’s wonderful! You’re doing very well today. The last time I visited, you thought I was grandma,” the woman seemed sad about this.

“You look so much like your grandma, dear. You have her eyes and her hair. She would’ve been so happy to see you born, sweetie,” Aileen continued fondly.

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“She did, aunt Aileen, she did. She lived till I was 12, remember?” Marilyn reminded her aunt patiently.

“She did? That’s wonderful. So, how was your day? Did you get married yet? You should get married while you’re still young and pretty. It is much more difficult when you are older,” Aileen advised.

Marilyn laughed. “Not quite yet, auntie, not quite yet. But we will eventually. You know Sam, he always keeps his word. Just like I do, auntie.”

“Hmm?”

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“That man who wronged you, he finally got what he deserved,” Marilyn whispered so quietly that I had to press my ear to the wall to hear her.

“Who did?” Aileen asked her niece.

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“Lionel Collier. He is exactly where he should be- dead. And the whole world knows what a scumbag he was.” Marilyn paused before added “You’ve taught me well, you know. They all think that stupid bitch of his did it, too. There isn’t anything that can point the investigation to me.”

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I regretted not choosing to record this conversation, but I could barely make out Marilyn’s words out and I knew my phone’s recorder wouldn’t have caught them either. But I now knew who was responsible for Lionel’s death. Too bad I didn’t know what she looked like. But at this moment, my biggest concern was getting out of the room without the woman in the next room finding out about my presence.

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“But you don’t need to concern yourself about this any longer. Just rest now. Do you need anything? A bath perhaps? Or a makeover?” Marilyn asked.

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“Oh no! The nice nurse gave me a bath earlier. And she gave me some of her eyeshadow! See?” Aileen enthused.

“Yes, it is very pretty on you,” agreed Marilyn.

“And the bath is occupied anyways. Celeste is there!” Aileen finished, making my heart catch in my throat.

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“Oh, I see. Is she alone today or with Roger? Well never mind, if you see grandma or grandpa, tell them hi. I’ll visit you in a couple of days, ok?” Marilyn dismissed her aunt’s talk, making me think it wasn’t the first time that Aileen “saw” someone from her past here.

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“Take care, dear. And tell that Sam of yours that he should hurry and put a ring on it before you leave him for someone who does,” Aileen called after her niece, before the later left. Soon afterwards, I head unmistakable loud snores coming from the direction of Aileen’s bed. It was safe to leave my hiding space.

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Descending down the stairs on legs that seemed to be filled with lead after hiding out scared for the duration of Marilyn’s visit, I mused over this whole situation. I knew who the culprit was, but I had no proof of it. Nor did I know how the crime was accomplished, since Marilyn didn’t mention it.

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“Irene, there you are! Are you ok? She didn’t catch you in there, did she? Please tell me she didn’t,” David rushed to me, pulling me into a bear hug.

“Calm down, it is fine! She didn’t see me. Why are you so shaken? What happened?” I calmed him down while taking in his worried appearance.

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“You are not going to believe this,” he sighed, starting to explain what happened while I was gone.

David’s POV

Since we agreed it would be best for me not to see Aileen with her, as soon as she went upstairs, since I didn’t need a cigarette yet, I sat down in the common room with the residents and tried to pass the time surfing the web on my phone. I was trying to look up information about that detective guy that my mother was duped by, but I wasn’t finding anything. There was no information about a Detective Beau Henderson at all. Whoever set this whole thing up had their head in the game.

Just as I was about to give up and try watching some of the TV show playing, I got a call from the number I recognized as belonging to Twinbrook PD. Not wanting to bother the elderly residents with my conversation, I headed outside to their pool are to speak with the detective.

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“Hello, David Collier speaking,” I picked answered the phone.

“Hello, David. This is Deputy Rosswell from Twinbrook PD. Are you free to talk right now? I have some information for you,” the older man’s familiar voice informed me.

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“I can talk right now. Did you make any breakthroughs?” I felt a surge of excitement.

“Yes and no. We asked one of the local computer geniuses to scour the web for a detective Beau Henderson. It wasn’t an easy job, but it looks like your mother wasn’t lying about his existence. Or rather about her belief in his existence. She really shouldn’t have done business with the guy without ever meeting him, you know,” the deputy scolded.

“So, who was it?” I urged.

“Well, whoever she was in contact with, it wasn’t the guy in the photo from the website, which we barely managed to find from some cached information, since someone did a good job of trying to erase of signs of its existence from the world wide web. The picture on the website seems to be from some failed obscure TV show about a detective. Anyways, now that the existence of this website is verified, your mother has some leg to stand on, but it still doesn’t explain a lot,” he finished.

“I see. Is there anything I could do to help her?” I asked. I didn’t want my mother to end up in jail because of someone’s skill at framing.

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“Only if you could find the real killer, really. But there is another reason for my call. We’ve heard back from Hidden Springs PD. They received our notice about the fake Deputy Westen and they are absolutely horrified that this man was able to have them fooled. Captain Vanderburg especially was furious. Also, he tells us that Fake Westen flew out of town already, before they were able to take him into custody. So, be on the lookout, Mr. Collier – this man could be here, for all we know. Also, keep our number on speed dial for the duration of your stay here. I’m liking this case less and less and I would hate to have another murder happen while I’m the deputy here, am I being clear?”

“Yes, sir! Both Irene and I will do our best to stay alert while we’re here,” I assured the older policeman.

“Good. Now take care, young man.”

As soon as Rosswell hung up, I felt like having a cigarette. So much for trying to quit in college…

However, before I could light up, I heard the voice of a worker different than the one who talked to us earlier addressing who I could only suspect to be Aileen’s niece:

“Hello, Marilyn! Here to see Aunt Aileen again? You know, I wish more of our residents had relatives like you. I feel like Aileen gets more visits than any other resident here.”

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I made my way back indoors and peered around the corner at Marilyn. She wasn’t anyone I’ve seen before, as I would’ve recognized such bright red hair instantly. Her smile was infectious.

“Oh, thank you, …. You know Aunt Aileen has always been like a mother to me. I hate to think she won’t be with me for much longer, but I’m trying to make the most of my time with her. Even if her mind isn’t as great as it used to be. Is she awake yet?” Marilyn beamed at the nurse.

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“She should be. I hope you don’t mind that I gave her my eyeshadow – she seemed to love it so much and it’s not every day you see her smile.”

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“Of course not! I was thinking of buying some baubles for my aunt soon anyways. I’ll go see her,” Marilyn smiled at the worker once again before heading up the stairs.

This was a disaster – if this woman saw Irene questioning her aunt, there would be a lot of explaining to do. I texted Irene to get out as soon as I realized what to do, but I didn’t know if she received the message or got out in time.

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The most I could do now was wait, which was exactly what I did.

After what seemed to be an eternity, Marilyn came downstairs with, what I could only assume to be, a smile on her face. I was staying out of her line of sight, trying to figure out why, despite her pleasant appearance, this woman gave me the creeps. As soon as she exited the building, I made my way to the closest window with a view of the walkway outside, and doing my best to hide, tried to see where she went.

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I didn’t need to look hard for her – she wasn’t going anywhere just yet. Instead, she was busy making out with her boyfriend, who looked only mildly familiar, until they pulled away from one another and I could see him clearly – it was the fake Deputy Westen.

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A chill and a realization ran through me. This man impersonated a police deputy to get me to come to Twinbrook and here he was, making out with the niece of the woman we suspected to be involved in the crime. Irene and I were on the right trail. Irene! She was still upstairs and I had no idea if she was alright or not…

I ran back inside, fully planning to run up to Aileen’s room at this moment, but Irene was coming down herself, to my immense relief, and she didn’t look harmed. She did seem very deep in thought, though.

That I could deal with. But I would hate for anything to happen to her, especially because of me.

As soon as I told her who I saw Marilyn with, she nodded and muttered:

“Sam, his real name must be Sam. Marilyn mentioned she was seeing a guy named Sam to her Aunt. I spent the duration of her visit hiding out in Aileen’s bathroom. By the way, Aileen isn’t our culprit – she is really sick these days. And also, you might want to sit down for this one,” she urged me.

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“Why, did you find out anything in there? Did Aileen mention anything?” I was curious. I did sit down though.

“Not Aileen, but Marilyn sure did. It’s her, David. She’s the killer. She told Aileen about it. Apparently, Aileen was cheated out of money by your father – money for robbing my father! And now, Marilyn considers it her duty to exact some weird revenge against your family. She did it, David. She admitted it,” Irene managed to get out before her legs gave out and she caught the couch to steady herself. Once on the couch, she started shaking.

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“Irene, what’s wrong?” I tried to figure out why my best friend was in this condition now.

She gave a weak chuckle before explaining “It just hit me that I was literally in the same room as the killer. You should’ve heard her. She talked about it like killing someone is such a normal thing. I’m sorry, I’m babbling now, but I guess I never imagined a situation where I’d actually run into the person who did it. I’m sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for. I’d feel the same in your shoes. Well… that explains why that woman game me such creeps, then,” I reassured her.

“What does she look like?” Irene asked suddenly. “I was hiding out in the bathroom, I didn’t get a glimpse of her.”

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“Kind of tall, slender, very red hair. Pretty, if you ignore the major creep vibes she gives off,” I tried to describe the woman to the best of my ability, wishing that I had snapped a picture of her. “I know I can create an identikit for her, if I have to, for the police.”

“That’s good. We should do that. We should go there right now, to tell the police what we know,” Irene jumped to her feet.

“Ok,” I wasn’t sure how we would prove anything to the police without solid proof, but we had to let them know that Fake Westen was in town and that he had an accomplice. If we had to tell them more about our involvement and investigation into this, so be it.

“Let’s go.”