Sneak Peak

             Yes, Jessie, It's True

Chapter One

The movements of the bed jarred him from his foggy sleep. He turned over to get back into a comfortable position and hugged up to his pillow. Just before his body and mind eased back into sleep stage, he heard the click of the bedroom door shutting. Telling him that the love of his life had just left him alone in their bed. He rolled over to the center of the bed and stretched his aching muscles to come alive. Noticing that the morning sun was shining through the bedroom window brighter than usual, this morning. He glanced over at his alarm clock to get the accurate time and suddenly jumped up in bed. “Shit!” he moaned to himself. Twelve twenty-three in the afternoon, his father was going to kill him. He was five hours late for work.

Working for your father at his construction company had its advantages, but also there were some disadvantages. Like, being a role model for the other employees. Calling in, being a no-show, and showing up late, were at the top of the list on Larry Davis’s working conduct. Doing either one of those three could get you a ’kiss your ass goodbye’ lecture from Larry, just before he handed you your walking papers.

“Oh, well.” he thought to himself, rolling over to the edge of the bed and sitting up. Knowing the most significant advantage, he had going for himself was, being the company’s owner’s son. He couldn’t get fired. Firing your own child would make Larry a corrupt businessman and question his ability to manage a multimillion-dollar company. Not to mention, he had his mother always covering his back.

Linda Davis was your typical all-American woman. She took pride in her family and socialized with the rich and powerful. Linda worked alongside her husband at Davis Construction and took the time to personalized herself with all their clients. But everybody that was anybody knew that she catered to her firstborn, Michael Bryan Davis. She loved her youngest child, Kimberly, who is ten years younger, but Michael had a special place in her heart, that she just could not explain.

Slowly easing up from the bed, Michael found his way, through his still foggy state, to the bedroom bath. Where he quickly took his shower and retrieved back to the bedroom. Stepping on shoe boxes and clothes, as he made his way to his closet. Frowning at the fact, that the items were on the floor. He glanced around the room, noticing other out of place items, and then it came to him. Slowly, at first and then a little faster.

The fight, the night before, came to his mind, as he stepped into a pair of clean jeans and grabbed a shirt from his closet. The argument, something about a movie, he thought, trying to remember exactly what started the fight. Gun? His thoughts went on, as he tugged his shirt into his jeans and buttoned it up. There was a gun involved in the argument, his mind went on, but who was he fighting. He picked up a pair of socks from the floor and sat down on the bed, to put them on, then reached over by the room door and grabbed his boots. Still thinking and slowly, gathering the pieces to understand what he could not remember entirely. “Jessie.” He mumbled his wife’s name slowly, not knowing why her name would be on the tip of his tongue, as for the who in the fight. Then it came to him, he and Jessie had gotten into a big fight over…His mind went blank for a second. And like another person being in the room, his conscious answered him. He had cheated on Jessie, with Stephanie. “Shit!” He hissed under his breath.

The sixteen-year-old troublemaker, who was living with them, with her mother and siblings. For almost two months now, Sandra Anson and her three children have been renting rooms from Michael and Jessie in their big two-story house. And the oldest child, Stephanie has made it known that she had a crush on Michael. Already tried to seduce him once, during a time of helping her do homework. Pulled several mind game tricks on them and now to think, he fell for one.

He started seeing a glimpse of Jessie catching him in Stephanie’s room. Recalling, how she freaked out and was severely hurt, by what he did. How she was willing to die, ordering him to shoot her. The gun, he thought, remembering he had forced it away from Jessie. He jumped up off the bed and looked around the room, kicking clothes and whatever out of his way, searching for the gun. He spotted it over by the dresser, half hidden underneath. He grabbed it, thinking the best thing to do with it was removed it from the house, just in case. Once the gun was gone, he would check to see if Jessie was alright. Still not sure on all the last night's details, he rushed to the door to take care of first things first, the gun.

“Jessie?” he said, startled by the image of her turning from his stereo system, at the end of the hallway joined to the living room. The startled jerk of his body had pulled the trigger of the gun in his hand.

BAANNNGGGG!!!

The firing of the gun made the room freeze. It was like someone had snapped their fingers and the world had stopped turning. Michael watched as the bullet ripped through Jessie’s shoulder, causing her to slowly spin around and as she fell to the ground, she walloped her head on the floor. The scene had frozen his body to the spot where he stood, with wide eyes.

In all his dreams, he had never seen this coming. Sure, in their five years of marriage, he has been angry a time or two at Jessie. He has even slapped her or, sad to say, hit her. Leaving abusive marks on her face a couple of occasions. Claiming those were acts of accidents when really, they were acts of uncontrollable temper, and she had forgiven him and believe him when he said it would never happen, again. So, what is this time called, uncontrollable anger or accident? The gun had accidentally gone off, he would have never dreamed of taking her life. She is the most important thing to him. She’s the most beautiful creature in the world, with her long blond hair and mysterious blue eyes. He loves her and has since the day they met. Time and time again, the facts have been proven to him, that he could not live without Jessie Lee, aka Casey Peterson, or their little twin girls, Ischelle and Ashley. The three of them was his life, his reasons for waking up every day.

The gun echoed through Ashley’s ears so loud, she jerked her hands up to cover them. The little four-year-old turned around in her chair, where she was waiting for her mommy to make her lunch and found her mother lying face down on the floor, with her daddy standing nearby, holding a gun in his hand. “Mommy?” she whispered looking over to meet her father’s eyes then slowly they both looked down at the weapon.

“No!” he screamed, throwing the gun across the room and running over to Jessie’s side.

Sandra and Stephanie came running from the back of the house when they heard the fire of the gun. Finding Michael knelt, turning Jessie over on her back. The stereo now playing a new song, ‘She’s Not Crying Anymore.' “What happened?” Stephanie asked when she saw the blood on Jessie’s shoulder.

The older of the twins, by two minutes, Ischelle and Billy, Sandra’s middle child, came running, as well, with Stacey, Sandra’s youngest, behind them. “Momma!” Ischelle cried when she saw Jessie just lying on the floor, bleeding. “Momma!” she yelled louder, falling to her knees beside Jessie. “Get up!”

“Get back!” Michael ordered the child, pushing her away when she didn’t move. “Call 911!” he yelled out to anyone, who might be listening. “Call someone for help, now!”

Sandra ran to the phone and dialed for an ambulance, while Michael bent over Jessie for some signs of breathing. There was no air coming from her, so he acted fast. He held her head back and squeezed her nose closed with his fingers. Lowering his mouth over her to perform CPR. He blew a big breath into her mouth, then sat back to see if she would breathe on her own. “Wake up, Jessie,” he whispered, through his own tears gathering in the back of his throat. “Please, baby. Wake up.” He bent to blow again, into her mouth, then moved down to pump on her chest. Counting to himself up to three, before going back to the mouth. Blew in and sat back, getting no action. “Breathe, Jessie!” he yelled. “Damn you, breathe!” It took another blow, and another set of pumps before any change came about. She was finally breathing, but her eyes didn’t open. “Oh, God,” he moaned to the progress, dropping his head to her chest. Loving the feeling of it going up and down, again.

“The ambulance is on its way,” Sandra whispered, moving back to stand beside Stephanie, who held back watching Michael with a weird look on her face.

Michael didn’t reply, and they watched, as he raised his head and wiped at the now escaping tears on his face. He took Jessie’s left hand in his left and brushed her hair back from the blood. “Baby, I’m sorry.” They all heard him mumble. “I didn’t mean it. It was an accident.” He went on talking like he was in the room with Jessie alone. “I promise, Jessie. I never meant to hurt you. I love you. Please, baby, wake up.”

“You need to stop the bleeding,” Stephanie whispered, startling Sandra. She saw, too, that Jessie’s shoulder was bleeding badly, where the bullet went in and was probably still there. The blood was turning her light blue robe and her shiny blond hair to a bright red color. Also, her forehead was bleeding from where she hit her head on the fall.

“Michael, no!” Sandra yelled out, stopping him when he moved to pick Jessie up. “Don’t move her. Let’s wait for the paramedics.”

Michael stopped his actions, and Sandra was glad, he was at least hearing them. He stayed sitting on the floor with Jessie and just waited, as he cradled her head to his chest and rained tears on her face, repeating the word ‘please’ and still holding tight to her left hand. Once, he dropped his mouth to hers for a kiss and traced his tongue across her lips. Trying to get her to kiss him back, but there was no response from her. “God, please.” He raised his face up to the ceiling, with his eyes closed. “I’m begging you. Don’t take her. I promise to love her like she deserves. Just don’t take her from me.” After a few seconds, he looked back down at the woman in his arms and rubbed his thumb across the blood on her forehead. Noticing the deep cut from the fall and was hoping that it didn’t spell out a head trauma or brain damage of some kind. “Damn it! Where are they?”

“Is Mommy dead?” Ashley asked, finally taking her little hands, slowly down from her ears.

“No!” her father shouted back, not even looking over at the little girl.

“You killed my momma!” Ischelle jumped up from where Michael had pushed her back, screaming. She charged at him, hitting him on the shoulder and on the back, as hard as her little fist could power up. “I hate you!” Ischelle cried and dropped down to her knees over Jessie. “Momma, wake up,” she cried, begging and reached out to shake Jessie, with both hands. “Momma, don’t leave me,” she started to plead, grabbing the front of Jessie’s robe, burying her tear staining face into it. “I promise to be good, Mommy, please.”

“Ischelle, stop it!” Michael grabbed the little girl from her mother.

“No!” the child cried, trying to pull loose from him.

“Listen to me,” he ordered, giving her a little startling shake.

“Daddy, don’t let Mommy leave me.” She fell into his arms and cried some more, but only for a second. She jerked back and glared hateful eyes at him, as if, he had burnt her with his touch. “Michael, I hate you.” She sounded older than her four years. “You killed my momma,” she stated and hit out at him, again.

“Ischelle? Sweetheart, calm down.” Sandra moved in and pulled the child off her father. Who just sat there, bent over Jessie and covering his face with his hands, crying and taking the attack from his little girl. “Steph, take the twins to your room.” She pushed the upset Ischelle toward her daughter and reached for Ashley.

“No!” Michael demand, grabbing Ischelle from Stephanie’s reach. “Leave them.” He pulled both girls down to sit beside him, as he continued holding Jessie’s still body and waiting for help.

The ambulance arrived shortly after, with the police. Sandra told the policeman what she knew, which wasn’t much. While Michael stood back, watching the paramedics stop Jessie’s bleeding shoulder and put a bandage on her forehead. They used smelling salt to get her to wake up, but as soon as her eyes opened fully, she fell back into a stage of the unconscious. Michael stared at the long golden strip of hair that fell from the rest and just hang lifeless, as they rushed her out of the house on a stretcher. After, the sirens fade away; Michael grabbed Ashley up from the floor and Ischelle’s hand and started out the front door with them until they heard the policeman yelling at them to stop. “Freeze, Mister!” Michael turned back and found a gun pointed at them. The Anson’s stood back behind the policeman in amazed. “Now, get away from the door and have a seat on the couch. Leave the kids there,” the officer ordered.

“Fuck you!” Michael snapped out, thinking the man was nuts. Why, was he acting as if a crime had been committed? He shook his head to clear it and turned back for the door to leave. Coming to a sudden stop when the policeman fired the gun over his head. “You crazy bastard!” He fell back against the door and pulled the twins with him, hoping to be out of firing range. Ashley held on tight to her daddy, crying with her face buried deep in his shoulder. Holding her hands over her ears, again. Hating the sound that had hurt her mother and felt it was going to hurt her daddy, now. Ischelle held onto Michael’s leg and pushing farther behind him, but still able to see the policeman’s next move. “Look, man.” Michael gave the officer a dirty look. “You’re going to have to kill me, to get me to stay here, because I am going out this door, with my kids. Get into my car and drive, like a bat out of hell, to the hospital to see if my wife is going to live or not.” He talked as if he was talking to a small child, saying each word slowly, so they could be heard. “Now, you. I don’t give a shit what you do. Stay here or go, it makes no fucking difference to me. But, keep your childish tricks to yourself.” He pulled Ischelle’s hold loose on his leg and took her hand tight in his. Slowly, he turned to the door and walked out onto the porch, taking a deep breath before that first step. At the bottom of the porch, he turned and looked back up into the house. “By the way, the name is Davis,” he called out. “Michael Bryan Davis.” Along with his name, he called out a set of numbers that was his driver's license number. He rushed the twins into the car and tore out of the driveway.

At the hospital, Michael paced the lobby floor for what seems to him like hours but had only been minutes. The twins sat together in one chair, watching their father walk back and forth in front of them. Every so often, he would push his fingers through his hair and moan about the time it’s taking.

“Daddy?” Ashley spoke up after her father started making her dizzy. “Where is Mommy?”

“Not now, Ashley,” he said, taking a seat, finally, next to the twins. “Everything will be OK.”

“But, where’s Mommy?” she begged, wanting, as well as needing, to know.

“Ashley, please. Don’t ask questions now. Let Daddy think.” He rested his head in his hands and leaned all his weight over on his knees, thinking. He had already called his parents and Jessie’s father and told them what had happened. His parents replied they were on their way. Jessie’s dad was, too, but on the furious side and sound as if he was ready to kill. Jessie’s mother was unaware of anything; Michael was too scared to call her. It would only give her another reason to put him behind bars, he thought, remembering the rape charges at the beginning of their marriage. He couldn’t handle Kate Peterson Winslow right now, and besides, Jessie wouldn’t like the idea of her mother trying to get him on something, he just knew.

The twins continued to remain silent. Just sitting there beside their father, looking like they had just been through a war. Ischelle was fully dressed, in jeans and a shirt. All the way down to her tinny shoes. Her hair wasn’t combed, and her eyes were red and puffy, from crying. She sat quietly, there beside her sister, bouncing her little legs on the edge of the seat. She played with the hem of her shirt and every so often, stealing a glimpse up at her father. Ashley, on the other hand, sat half biting and half sucking her finger, sniffling and having lots of questions going through her head. She, too, was dressed, but she had no shoes, just socks. Her hair wasn’t combed either, but she had clips in from the day before holding it back. And now they wait with their father, to hear news on Jessie.

“Michael?” someone said his name. He looked up, hoping it would be the doctor, with news about Jessie. But, instead, it was the policeman from the house.

“Shit,” he whispered. The Anson’s were with him, and when he locked eyes with Sandra, he knew she was mad. “Fuck,” he mumbled, pushing both of his hands through his hair and on down over the back of his neck. Sandra’s eyes told him, she knew about him and Stephanie. Probably more than what he knew.

“How could you do such a thing?” Sandra yelled. “She is only a sixteen-year-old child!”

Michael didn’t reply, he just moved his eyes over to Stephanie. She had been crying. “They made me tell, Michael,” she whined, wanting his understanding and be on her side. “They wanted to know why you would do this to Jessie.” He shook his head at her words. Thinking, great, now they think I tried to do away with my wife so I could have my child lover. He turned away from them, again. Leaning over on his knees, wishing everybody would just go away and leave him alone.

“Why?” Sandra jerked his hands from his face. “Talk to me. I thought you and Jessie were happy...”

“We are!” he yelled back at her, cutting her off and starting to feel a major headache coming on.

“Then why did you have sex with my daughter?” she snapped back.

“I don’t know that I have.” He stood up and moved over to the lobby window, needing to get away from everybody. He stood at the window, looking out, trying to clear his head. He needed to start thinking straight, again. Try to remember exactly what happened last night. He remembered putting the twins to bed and then, for some reason, getting into a fight with Jessie, about being in Stephanie’s room and some movie. But we made love, he thought, Jessie and I fell asleep in each other’s arms. He shoved his hands in his front pockets and leaned his head down against the cold glass window, closing his eyes. Damn, he frowned at himself, why can’t I remember everything?

Stephanie walked over to him, just missing her mother’s stopping hand by inches. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, not knowing what else to say.

“Why?” he asked, not moving, tears getting clogged in his throat. “Why are you doing this to me?” He raised up and looked down at her, still leaving his hands in his pockets. “You promised no more tricks. So, why are you doing this, now? What did I ever do to you, for you to do this to me? What did Jessie ever do to you? I didn’t fuck you, but your mother and that asshole think we’re lovers. Don’t they?”

“I don’t know what she thinks,” she admitted. “And for the record, I don’t care. All I wanted was you. Since the first day, I saw you. I wanted to feel loved by you. I wanted your love, and whenever I saw Jessie with you, I got jealous. My heart was determined to split you two up.” Tears began to roll down her face. “I’m in love with you. Is that so wrong?”

“What happened in your room last night?” he asked, ignoring her question.

“Don’t you remember?” she was confused.

“No.” He leaned back against the window and crossed his legs at the ankles, staring down at his boots. Thinking it was time to give them a good hard shine. “All I remember is, I couldn’t sleep, and I started drinking, hoping….” He looked up at her and frowned, as he remembered something. “I helped you do some math problems.” He looked back down at his boots, trying to think some more. “That’s it. The next thing, I remember is Jessie yelling at me, something about a movie. I have no idea where it comes in at, and I was supposed to….” He thought for a minute, and then frowned when it came to him. “I was expected to kill her. And then Ashley. Why was I meant to kill them? What in the hell could Ashley have done? She’s a baby, for God’s sakes.” he said, more to himself than to Stephanie, with a frown still on his face. “None of this makes sense.”

“You were drunk last night?” she asked, not taking in all the words he had said.

“I must have been,” he answered, still thinking. “I don’t know.”

She watched him, as he thought about the night, noticing the lovers bite on his neck. “Jessie had fun still, didn’t she?” Her tone was harsh. “I guess we’re not all unlucky.” She reached out to touch his neck, but dropped her hand, when he jerked away.

“Please, don't touch me.” He turned away from her, hating her touch, and leaned up against the window, with his arms up this time. He watched the full hospital parking lot, trying to forget everything that has happened this morning and go back to when he and Jessie put the twins to bed.

“You really don’t remember, do you?” she finally asked, giving him a weird look.

“Just pieces here and there,” he answered, watching a guy, down below, using a clothes hanger to unlock a car. He wondered for a minute if the vehicle belongs to the man or was, he breaking into it. “But I didn’t fuck you.” He came back to the lobby. “I know I didn’t.”

“You didn’t.” She rushed in.

“I just know I didn’t.” He went on, not hearing her at first. “My love for Jessie tells me so.” Suddenly, he jerked around to look at her. “What did you say?”

“I said, you didn’t,” she whispered, looking down at the ground now, afraid to meet his eyes. “You wouldn’t, but I wanted you to.” She slowly raised her eyes to his. “You are so cute,” she whined, not wanting to cry in front of him. “Cuter than any high school guy I went out with.”

He turned back to the window, not wanting to hear her lovesick words. He noticed the guy had gotten into the car and let his eyes searched the parking lot, looking for the vehicle. All while her words kept reaching out to him.

“None of this is fair, Michael. I shouldn’t be condemned for wanting to love you.”

“Grandma!” Ischelle’s scream cut into Stephanie’s words and made Michael turn around.

“Where’s your daddy?” He heard his mother ask and watch Ischelle point over to him, before hugging up into Linda’s arms.

“Is Mommy dead?” Ashley jumped down from her chair and ran to her grandma, with fresh tears coming to her eyes.

“No, sweetheart,” Linda promised, bending down so she could take both twins into her arms. She hugged them tight to her chest and gave each one a kiss on the side of the head. “Your mommy will be okay. She’s just fine, you’ll see.”

Michael shoved his hands back into his pockets and walked over to Linda. “Hi,” he whispered, fighting the new tears that wanted to break the surface. Linda let go of the twins and stood slowly up, not breaking eye contact with her son. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a tight hug. Like, she used to do, when he was younger. Before, he got too old to be held like her little baby boy. Michael pulled his hands-free from his pockets and wrapped his arms around his mother, hugging her tight for security comfort. “Oh, Momma,” he cried, squeezing his eyes shut from the tears. “I’m so scared. What if I killed her?”

“Michael, you have to stop this.” She pulled him back from her. “Jessie is a strong girl. She’ll be fine.”

“What if she dies?” He went on like she said nothing. Tears blurred his vision, even after rubbing some away. “I’ll kill myself if she dies. I can’t live without her.” The twins watched their father, not able to remember him ever being so sad. They couldn’t recall ever seeing him cry. The whole scene hurt so much, they cried soundlessly to themselves.

“Don’t cry, sweetheart.” Linda wiped at his tears. “Jessie will be all right. Just believe that. Michael, you two have too many good things going for yourselves. God won’t take her from you, like this. She’ll be okay.”

“But she might want to die,” he protested, taking a seat in the nearest chair. “I’ve hurt her so much. She hates me.”

“No, she doesn’t.” Linda tried to give him an assuring smile.

“Yeah, she does. She’s told me before.” He rubbed at more tears, then hide his face in his hands as the tears ran faster than before. “I can’t take this,” he mumbled, rocking his weight over on his knees before he jumped up from the chair. “Oh, shit. I’ve got to get out of here.” He pulled at his hair, after running his hands over the top of his head. “I’m going fucking crazy. I can’t remember anything. I don’t know about any fucking movie. I don’t know why I was in that room. I don’t know why I was supposed to kill her and Ash….” He stopped, after his daughter came in his sight, not finishing her name.

“Mike, sit back down,” Linda ordered, pushing him back into the chair, showing no signs of hearing him starting to say her granddaughter’s name. She knelt in front of him and raised his eyes up to her. “You have to stop this, now. Jessie is young and has lots of willpower. So, match it. Don’t run out on her now, when she needs, you the most.” She rubbed at some tears on his face. “Honey, you are a brilliant young man, maybe, hardheaded at times….” She forced a small laugh, hoping he would smile, which he didn’t. “But Jessie loves you, and you love her, or you wouldn’t be here. You two are made for each other. You’re not like night and day, like most couples in this world. I love the sight of you together. I’ll go as far as admitting, I’m jealous of the love you two have.” She smiled. “And you two have made these babies here…” She pointed over at the twins. Making him glance over at them, breaking his heart, then back at her. “Very happy. I’ve never seen kids as happy as your little Ashley and Ischelle.” She took a deep breath, before continuing. “Jessie is fighting, honey, but she can’t do it alone. She needs your help. You’re only making things harder for all of us when you feel sorry for yourself. Put faith in your love first. For yourself, as well as Jessie. I know, as well as everybody else that knows you, Casey Peterson means the world and all, to you. Don’t give up on her, Michael.” She stood up from him and crossed her arms, watching him, to see if he was listening to her. Not just everybody else, who stood around waiting to talk to him. She reached out and raised his face up to meet her eyes. She rubbed one last tear from his swollen eyes and leaned down to plant a kiss on his forehead. “Blondie, don’t hurt the twins anymore.” She raised back up, saying, “They need you right now, and they want their mother.”

He looked back over at the twins and motion for them to come to him. They ran to him and fell into his arms, hanging tightly onto him. “Mommy will be alright.” He hugged them both and gave them both a kiss. “I promise you guys; everything will be alright.”

Watching Michael close things with the two little girls, the policeman took his turn. “I’m Sheriff Dave Williams, Mr. Davis.” He stepped forward and held his hand out to Michael. “I need to ask you some questions, please.”

“And if I don’t answer them, you’ll fire at me, again, right?” Michael eyed the man, ignoring his outreached hand.

“What?” Linda questioned Michael’s remark, frowning at the officer.

“No. I’m sorry about that.” Office Williams and Michael, both ignored Linda’s question.

“I’ll answer as best as I can,” Michael promised, motioning for the twins to take the chair beside him.

“Good. I’ll appreciate it.” Williams pulled out a notepad and a pen from his back pocket. “First, can I get your full name?”

“Michael Bryan Davis,” Michael answered, sitting back to get comfortable, but still not so sure about the man. He raised his right leg up to lay across his left knee and crossed his arms over his chest, as he stared up at the officer.

“And your wife’s name?” Williams asked as he wrote down the answers.

“Jessie Lee Davis,” Michael answered, rolling his eyes.

“Did you have words with her this morning?” he asked and wrote, without looking up.

“No,” Michael answered, now with a tone, saying the questions were unnecessary.

“When was the last time you spoke to your wife?” Williams went on asking.

“About three o’clock. In the middle of the night.” Michael frowned, taking a deep breath. Dropping his arms from his chest and laid them out on the chair arms, tapping his fingers on the chair.

“What about? May I ask?” The officer finally raised his eyes to look at Michael.

“I think Stephanie has done told you that answer.” Michael, as well as his parents, gave Williams a strange look.

“So, you argued about your affair with Miss Anson?” he asked straight out, watching Michael shaking his head and letting out a big long sigh. “I assume the talk was an argument, right?”

“Yeah, sure. Whatever,” Michael mumbled, rolling his eyes. “If that’s what you want to call it.”

“Huh,” Stephanie moaned, at his remark and passed him a dirty look, crossing her arms over her chest.

“So, then you did talk to her?” Williams tried to correct Michael, thinking he was lying.

“No! Let's cut to the real shit here, okay?” Michael snapped back, jumping up from the chair. Making the officer back up some from him. “I don’t know what happened in that room. I don’t care how many times you ask me; the answer will still be the same. Jessie and I went out last night. We came home and put the twins to bed. We went to bed. We did our same routine last night as we have done for the past five years. I said good night, she said good night. I told her I love her, she told me she loves me. We might have had sex, I don’t recall. It’s our nightly routine like I said. I don’t mark the bedpost when I make love to my wife.” He took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair before he continued. “I remember I couldn’t sleep, and I went out to the kitchen for a drink. I sat at the table finishing off a 12 ounce can of beer.” His eyes showed him remembering back to the night before, as he told his story, and everybody watched and listen to him. “I remember Stephanie coming into the kitchen, and I remark that it was a little late for her to be up. She said she had an assignment that had to be finished before she turned in for the night. I offered to help her. Nothing out of the ordinary, Jessie and I did it many times. I want to say I probably had a couple more beers during the time of doing the assignment and I remember getting sleepy. Then I remember Jessie screaming. Anything between me getting tired and Jessie screaming is blank. I don’t remember anything.” His eyes went hollow as he went deeper into his story. “I remember seeing blood and broken glass on the kitchen floor. And I remember following Jessie back to our bedroom and asking her what happen. Her foot was bleeding, I guess from the broken glass, I don’t know. She started yelling at me about some movie and something about college. Jessie never went to college. Had no plans on going that I know of. Shit, she didn’t graduate high school. Never got past the ninth grade. I married her when she was fifteen. Pregnant with the twins,” he mumbled then shook his head, clearing it and coming back to the night in question. “We didn’t go to a movie last night either, so I don’t know where the movie comes in at. But we did fight about Stephanie. We were always fighting about Stephanie. The damn kid was getting on our fucking nerves.” He talked as if the subject wasn’t in the room, not hearing the grunts from the girl, as she listened to him. “I told Jessie to ignore her, but Stephanie made it impossible. Always playing head games and doing stupid tricks to get my attention. I hate the kid.” He admitted and moved over to the chair and sit down, still in his dazed over state of mind. He leaned over on his knees and rested his arms on them, locking his hands together and stared down at the floor. “I did make love to Jessie last night. I wanted to get her pregnant, again. I want us to have another baby.” He took another deep breath and release a loud sigh. “When I woke up, she wasn’t even in bed.” He said, sitting back in the chair and staring off into space. “I figured since things were right between us, again, I would get rid of the gun. In case she goes crazy like she did. And then, I was going to do what she asked.”

“Michael, where does the gun come into play at?” Williams asked when Michael just sat there not saying any more about the night.

“What?” Michael asked, looking up at the officer, shaking his head clearing it. Showing he was back again with everybody else in the hospital waiting room.

“Where did the gun come from?” Williams asked, again.

“It’s mine and registered.” He raised up some on the chair and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. He took a card from the wallet and held it up to the officer. Showing it was the registration card for the gun. “Jessie got the gun out of my dresser drawer,” Michael said, rubbing his head, trying to remember, again. “I don’t know why. She was throwing shit everywhere and yelling about the movie.”

“That’s what you meant by going crazy?” Williams asked, handing Michael back the card and trying to put things together.

“Yeah,” Michael replied and place the card back in his wallet and put the wallet back in his back pocket. “Jessie wanted me to kill her. She said that it was the next thing I was to do. Then blow…” He stopped talking to looked over at the twins. “Yeah, that’s what she wanted. Me to kill her.”

“And that’s the reason you shot her.” Williams cut in, frowning and guessing. “Because she told you to?”

“No.” Michael thought some more, shaking his head. “She was saying something about a movie and what I was supposed to do next. That if I didn’t, she would do it herself. I don’t know why or anything. I just wanted to get the gun from her,” he said, staring into space, remembering little by little of the night. “I twisted her arm back till she dropped the gun and I kicked it from her reach. Then we fell to the floor and cried. We held each other. I love Jessie. I never want to be without her.”

“If shooting her wasn’t what she asked you to do.” Williams went on trying to understand everything, interrupting Michael’s thought of the night before. “Then what was? You said earlier, you wanted to dispose the gun and do what she asked. What was it she wanted you to do?”

“Tell the Anson’s to leave,” he answered and heard Sandra make a discussing sound. “Jessie didn’t want them living in the house anymore. She was tired of Stephanie’s childish games.”

“Your wife didn’t get along with Stephanie, did she?” Williams asked, out of curiosity.

“No. Jessie...” Michael started.

“That makes us even.” Stephanie threw in, giving Michael a dirty look, but stop saying anymore when the sheriff turned to look at her, with a warning look.

“Jessie tried, but Stephanie made it impossible.” Michael went on, not caring whose feelings got hurt now. “Jessie would tell me Stephanie had a crush on me and hated the fact she was with me. She wanted me to do something about it. What could I do? My hands were tied. I knew what Jessie was saying was true. All the facts were there. The way Stephanie would dress. The way she would look at me. The way she would talk. Everything. I just blew it off. Hoping someday soon, it would pass.”

“But it never did pass, did it?” Williams asked.

“We’re here, aren’t we?” Michael snapped. “A day in time, I never dreamed of being.”

“What were your intentions for the gun?” Williams went back to get more facts.

“Get it out of the house,” Michael answered, making a funny laugh sound like it was a stupid question.

“When was that going to take place?” Williams went back to writing.

“On my way to work,” Michael mumbled, dropping his head back and closing his eyes, still trying to think. “Which is where I was heading before all this happened. Two hours ago.”

“So, you said nothing to her once you woke up?”

“Correct,” Michael agreed, still thinking. “Wait!” He jerked up, frowning, stopping the sheriff before the next question was asked. “Yeah, I did.” He remembered something. “Her name, but it was more out of being startled, you know?”

“I’m not following you.” Williams was confused. “What do you mean?”

“When I was coming out of our room, going to the front door, I saw Jessie coming from the kitchen. I remember saying her name, not directly to her. But it was more like, not wanting her to see me with the gun.” Michael tried to explain.

“Isn’t saying her name, like talking to her or trying to get her attention?” The sheriff asked, raising eyebrows at him.

“Yeah, maybe. But...” Michael hesitated, going back to thinking.

“No more questions, Mr. Davis.” He cut in and turned to everybody else. “Who else talked to Mrs. Davis this morning. Maybe, she gave you some indication of why this happen today?”

“No! You listen to me!” Michael jumped up from his chair and grabbed the sheriff’s arm, turning him back around to face him. “It was an accident. I never wanted to hurt Jessie. I had sex with her, not Stephanie. I’m not interested in that damn kid.” He pointed over at Stephanie. “I love my wife.”

Sheriff Williams shot him a warning look, just as Stephanie started to cry from Michael’s words. Larry jumped to his son’s side and forced him to sit back down. “Mike, hush. Sit back down. We’ll take care of this.”

“Dad, I didn’t plan it.” Michael turned to Larry, protesting. “You know how I feel about Jess…”

“I know.” Larry cut in, assuring him. “Just stay calm.”

Everybody answered ‘no’ to Williams question, about speaking to Jessie, but Ashley. She just sat there watching the mean man, with scared eyes and her finger in her mouth. She wasn’t going to talk if she could help it. “What about you?” He turned on her. Seeing the answer in her eyes and her nervousness. “Did you and your mommy talk this morning? Did she tell you, what a cute little girl you are?” He was getting nowhere. Ashley wouldn’t budge. Her eyes never leaving him. He tried another way. “Can you tell me your name?”

“Leave her alone.” Michael came to his baby’s defense and grabbed her up from the chair and held her in his lap.

“Then make her talk,” the sheriff warned. “She could know something that can help you. Maybe, your wife told her something.”

“She’s just a baby,” Michael snapped, having a hard time keeping calm and not to get up and beat the guy to a pulp.

“Don’t defend yourself, Michael,” Williams said. “You do realize, you can be arrested here for tempted murder or maybe murder itself.”

“Bull shit! It was an accident,” Michael said, with a dirty look, not falling into the sheriff’s trap.

“Can you get her to talk?” He turned to Linda, for help, realizing Michael was going to be no help.

“She’s very shy,” Linda warned, hoping to help him, as well as her son and granddaughter. “Usually, Jessie is the only one...”

“Make her talk, Michael,” the sheriff ordered, turning back to Michael, using a stronger and more demanding voice.

“Mike, get Ashley talking,” Larry ordered, getting worried himself. “It’s for the best.”

“Dad?” Michael frowned up at him and hugged Ashley closer to him.

“Michael, you’re not going to do your wife any good, if you’re behind bars.” Williams tried another way.

It hit home. Michael studied him for a while, then took a deep breath, before turning to his daughter. “Ashley?” He started with a soft tone, letting everybody know he didn’t like what they were making him do. “Honey, did you talk to Mommy this morning?” He stared back at the child, brushing her matted hair back, waiting for her to answer him. She never did. Instead, she pulled her eyes from him and looked down at her hands, rolling up her own shirttail. “Answer me, Ashley.” He raised her head back up. “Did you talk with Jessie this morning?” The child shook her head this time, and he let out a long relief sigh. “Thank God,” he mumbled and smiled at her. “That’s good. Can you tell me, what you talked about?”

“No, Daddy,” she moaned, pouting her lip out and wrapping her arms around his neck, hoping he wouldn’t make her say more. She laid her head on his shoulder and sucked her thumb.

“Ah, come on, man,” he moaned back to the sheriff, hugging Ashley to him and rubbing her back. “Of course, she talked to her mother. She’s a momma’s girl. Don’t make me do this.”

“We need to know,” Williams warned.

“Baby?” Michael took a deep breath and tried, again. “Please, tell Daddy. What Mommy said? Did you talk about going to the park?” he tried, making suggestions. “Did you speak about your coloring or maybe, your toys? Did you talk about me?” She raised up and kissed his lips, noticing the tears in his eyes. Her actions told him; he was right. Their conversation had something to do with him. “Baby, please,” he begged.

“Where’s Mommy?” she asked, instead, moving down from his lap. She grabbed his hand and pulled on him to stand up. “Come on, Daddy. Let’s go get Mommy.”

“Ashley, no.” He grabbed her, by both arms and held her in front of him. “Listen to me. You have to tell me what you and Jessie talked about.”

“Is Daddy mad?” she asked, softly, observing him.

“No, baby. Daddy isn’t mad. He’s sad,” he assured her, with a smile. “But you can make Daddy feel better if you tell me what you and Mommy talked about.” She gave him a sad little smile, not meeting his eyes entirely. She stared at the front of his shirt, noticing the blood on it, from her Mommy. She ran her little finger across the spot, then put her finger in her mouth. “Ashley?” Michael ordered, knowing he would have to get harsh with her to get her talking. “I want to know what Jessie said, now.”

“No, Daddy,” she whined, shaking her head. “Mommy will get mad.” She raised her eyes up to his, hoping to get some understanding from him. “I promised; I wouldn’t tell.”

“Baby, this is different.” He went back to his softer voice, pulling her back up to his lap. He took her little face in his hands. “Mommy would want you to tell me. She won’t get mad.”

“She said...” She started, real quietly, and then stopped. She took his hands from her face and held them tight in hers, between them. She leaned forward and laid her cheek up against his chest, seeing her Mommy, again, this morning in the kitchen. “She told me, about you and Stephanie,” she whispered, softer than before. Mr. Williams had to move closer to hear her. Ashley sensed his closeness, without looking at him and grabbed her Daddy shirt. She turned her face the other way, hoping to block the mean man out. She felt her Daddy’s arms go around her and she went on. “She told me; what things mean.”

“What is she talking about?” William spoke up. “Things, as in objects?”

“What kind of things, Ashley?” Michael re-asked the question to her, but not before his shot the sheriff a dirty look. He wished the jerk would just go and leave him and his family alone.

Ashley jerked around, with her own dirty look for the sheriff. She climbed down from her father’s lap and moved over to stand by her sister’s chair. She didn’t want to be near the man.

Williams attempt to get closer to the little girl so he could hear her better until Michael stood up and grabbed his arm. “Don’t,” he demanded, catching the sight of the twins joining hands. Michael knew Ashley was ready to tell all, but she needed the strength from her other half. He never noticed it before, but Jessie was right, the twins were un-separable. They gave each other support that only a twin would know about. They stood together as one.

“Mommy said she hated Stephanie,” Ashley mumbled, looking down at the floor. Michael noticed the tears coming to her eyes when she looked up at everybody. Not tears of sadness, but tears of anger. She had an evil look in her eyes when she slowly looked from one person to the next. The last person was Ischelle, and Michael watched her eyes change. They stared at each other for the longest; it seemed, communicating with their minds. So, no one else would know, not even him. For a minute, he wondered if Jessie knew they did this, for he had never seen them do it before. Slowly, they both looked over at Stephanie. “I hate you, too,” Ashley said out loud, at normal voice level. “Mommy said, I could, and I do.”

“Me, too.” Ischelle jumped in, with a dirty look for Stephanie. “You start bad things that get me in trouble. And makes Daddy mad at Momma.” Michael stole a glance at Stephanie, to see her reactions. She was giving the twins a ‘go to hell’ look, but the look wasn’t powerful enough to stop them now. They had more power, then a single person could possibly hope for.

“If you had stayed away from Daddy, my mommy wouldn’t be here. She’s not crazy. She loves me, and I love her.” Ashley went on, and Ischelle threw in another ‘me, too’. Michael watched as the tears rolled down Ashley’s little face, as she grew madder. He wanted to go to her and hug her. Tell her everything was going to be alright and add his own ‘me, too’, to theirs. But something made him stay put. He was learning things about the twins, and it was making him wonder what other things he had closed his eyes from. Was there something on Jessie he didn’t know about? “If my mommy dies, it will be your fault.” Ashley’s words brought him back to reality.

“Hey!” Stephanie yelled, jumping in on her own defense. “I didn’t shoot Jessie. I did nothing to her.”

“You went to bed with her husband, didn’t you?” Michael jumped at the sound of Linda’s voice. She was a twin, he thought, can she understand their private little world? Can Linda understand that mind talk shit, he wondered? Can she feel what they feel? “Not only did you hurt Jessie, but her little girls, as well. It’s sad to see a kid, of four, with hatred so intense toward someone.” She can, Michael’s brain yelled, before he turned to look at Stephanie.

“Stephanie is the victim here, ma’am,” Sandra said to Linda. “You have no business talking to her like this.”

“I’m sorry, but you are wrong,” Linda snapped back at the woman. “If it weren't for your daughter, none of this would be happening.” The look Sandra passed Linda, basically said it was none of her business, only made her madder. “In fact, if you didn’t take advantage of these kids, Michael and Jessie wouldn’t be having the problems they are having.”

“I didn’t bring problems to them,” Sandra protested. “They’re marital problems is between them, not me or my kids.”

“And what about your husband?” Linda asked, making Michael jerk back around to face his mother.

“Mom!” he snapped, stopping her. Giving a look of pleading not to go any further.

“This isn’t fair!” Stephanie jumped in crying, turning everybody’s eyes on her. “Michael, you came to my room. I didn’t go to yours.”

Michael started to respond back, until Larry rushed up in front of him and told him not to say another word, without a lawyer. “If you have any more questions for my son, you can call me.” Larry handed Sheriff Williams his business card. “And I’ll see that our lawyer will contact you. But, as I see it right now, you have no case against Mike, and I would appreciate it if you will stop your threats toward him. And as far as I can remember, you have no business talking to a minor without a parent’s permission. And threatening him to make her talk is not permission. So, my threat to you is, leave my granddaughter alone, or you will be facing a lawsuit. And I have the money to back up my words.” Larry didn’t break eye contact with the sheriff, as he motioned for Linda to get the twins and had Michael to follow. “Good day, sir. We have a daughter-in-law to go check on.” Larry gathered his family and led them off toward the nurse’s station, leaving the sheriff and the Anson’s looking off after them.

Chapter Two

 

Michael had the radio going full blast, driving down the expressway, heading home. Trying to block out everything that has happened. He was crying to himself, wishing he could turn back the hands of time. All the way back, for about five months. Back, before the summer had started. Back, before they went to California. Back, before the Anson’s came to stay with them. Just back period, anytime, but today. Ischelle and Ashley sat beside him in the front seat, with Sandra over on the passenger’s side. Staring out the side window, with mixed feeling. Her three kids were in the back seat, not about to say a word. Afraid to even thinking about it. Mostly not Stephanie. The doctor told Michael; Jessie was very severely injured. Not generally because of the bullet, but because of her fall and hitting her head. She had lost a lot of blood and had trauma to the brain. She stayed semi-conscious, until the operation of removing the bullet, then she fell into a coma. He was the only one allowed to see her, and it was only for a little while. Five to ten minutes max. Which he spent the whole time crying over her bedside. Begging her to forgive him and come back to him and the twins. After his time was up, the doctor had to practically kick him out of the hospital. Telling him, Jessie would be staying in ICU for a good while, and it was best for him to go home and get some rest, himself. Hanging around her hospital bed was doing Jessie no good. Tiring himself out from worrying and walking the hospital halls, was doing either one of them any good. He was welcomed to come back tomorrow during visiting hours, they promised.

Sheriff Williams couldn’t take the Anson’s back home because he had to get a report from Jessie’s doctor. Plus, he was called out for another emergency. Leaving Michael, the volunteer cabbie. Linda and Larry tried to get Michael and the twins to come to their house for a couple of days, but he refused. Saying he rather go home. Jessie’s father wasn’t pleased about the whole ordeal, which was understandable, but mostly felt sorry for his son-in-law. He promised to break the news to Kate, thinking Michael had enough to handle with, right now. Michael was grateful; he didn’t think he could handle Kate now.

Stopping at a red light, Michael unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it off. The blood spots were beginning to smell, from his body sweat and he couldn’t handle it anymore. Michael laid the shirt down on the small seat space between him and Ashley and put his right arm out across the back of the seat, behind the twins’ heads. With his other hand, he rubbed at the growing pain in his head, thinking this was the worst hangover he has ever had in his whole life. Michael began to tap his righthand fingers on the back of the seat to the song on the radio, hoping to have something else to concentrate on besides Jessie. Out of habit, he looked down at Ashley and found her holding his shirt. He watched her rub at a blood spot and then raise it up to her mouth to suck on it like she was trying to find something to drink. “Baby, don’t do that.” He frowned at her and pulled the shirt from her mouth, just as the light turned.

“It won’t come off,” she whined, looking up at him, still holding the shirt.

“I’ll fix it when we get home,” he promised, heading back down the road. Now driving with just his left hand.

The child turned sideways in the seat, putting her socked feet in her daddy’s lap. She had seen and felt his hurt and had vowed to herself, she would take care of him. She has watched her mother care for him so much, she was sure she could do it. She reached out and rubbed her little hand down his bare chest, smiling when he grabbed it in his right hand and brought it up to his lips. She giggled when he kissed each little finger and wrinkled his nose at her. She jumped up afterward, to stand on the seat and wrapped her arms around his neck, giving him a big hug. He wrapped his arm back up around her, to hug her back. She rubbed her little hand down his face and kissed his cheek. “I love you,” she whispered, laying her head down on his shoulder.

“I love you, too, kiddo,” he whispered back, pulling her over in his lap. She sat facing him, leaning her head down against his chest and stuck her thumb in her mouth. She stayed like that for a good while, watching the world pass by out the driver’s side window and rubbing her free hand, flat, up and down his chest. Enjoying the feel of his arm around her and his fingers twirling the ends of her long blond hair.

“Michael, we need to talk about last night. I don’t...” Sandra spoke up, interrupting their private world.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” He cut her off, not stopping the twirling of Ashley’s hair or taking his eyes off the road.

“Why are you running from the fact that you had sex with a child?” Sandra snapped, harshly, making Ashley turn her head to face her, still staying against Michael’s chest.

“No!” he yelled, gripping the stirring wheel with both hands, now. “I did not. I don’t know about everything that went on last night, but I know I didn’t have sex with Stephanie.” He stopped at another red light and reached over to turn the radio down, before shooting Sandra a dirty look. “Believe me, I know.” He added, with a sharper tone, feeling his headache getting stronger.

“Daddy, no talking,” Ashley begged. Just getting ignored by the adults.

“I don’t know what to believe,” Sandra admitted. “So far, it seems like there are three different stories.”

“Shit,” he moaned, rubbing his forehead.

“Tell me your side of what happened,” she begged.

“I can’t,” he snarls, gritting his teeth.

“Why?” she demanded.

“Mother, just drop it!” Stephanie called out from the back seat. “He doesn’t want to talk about it.” Sandra turned in her seat to look back at her daughter, and Michael’s eyes automatically went to the rearview mirror, watching her and the road. Back and forth, his eyes moved. “I don’t know what the big deal is.” The girl went on, glaring at her mother. “I’m not even a virgin. I haven’t been since I was thirteen. So, just drop it.”

Michael stared a hard look at Stephanie in the mirror, trying to understand her action. At the hospital, she was yelling and begging him for his love and then, in a matter of minutes, she was saying she hated him and was going to make him pay for what he did to her. And now, Stephanie is defending him. She didn’t make sense. The kid needs help, he thought, listening to her and her mother arguing most of the way home. As Michael saw it, he was now Stephanie’s lover and was too ashamed to admit it. But that was the farthest from the truth. He doesn’t love Stephanie. He could care less about her. He was in love with Jessie. Have always loved her, from the moment he met her, but Sandra was out to prove him wrong.

He was so glad when he finally pulled up into the driveway. He turned the car off and dropped his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. Hoping to close his mind to the world. Hoping these people were gone from his sight when he reopened them. He thought, his dreams were coming true when he heard the car doors opening. Hearing the noise of kids fade out in the distance. After listening to the quietest gather around the inside of his car, he smiled and opened his eyes slowly, raising his head. Only learning his hopes had failed him, again. The worst had stayed. Sandra was still sitting in the car, not looking at him, but out the passenger’s window. He dropped his head back and squeezed his eyes tightly shut, letting free a deep breath of lung air.

“Will you tell me, what you’re thinking about?” He heard her speak.

“Nothing,” he answered honestly, not moving.

“I can’t believe that.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled. After a few seconds, he spoke, again, when Sandra didn’t. “How can you say this is all my fault?” He waited for her answer but received nothing. He opened his eyes and turned his head toward her, still not rising. He found her still looking out the side window. “You know, I wasn’t for the idea of you guys moving in.” His words make her turn to look at him. “It was all Jessie’s doing. I guess you can say, she felt sorry for you.” He finally raised his head up and looked over toward the house, running his fingers through his hair. On the porch, he spotted Stephanie, watching them. He had a feeling she wasn’t far away from them. “Do you know…,” he said, wanting to point some things out, after studying the girl on the porch for a while. “From day one, she has cooked up so much crazy shit I can’t remember them all.” He continued to watch the girl. “She told my girls lies about my love or Jessie’s love for them. She tried to convince me; Jessie only married me for my father’s money.” He turned to look at Sandra. She wore no surprising look on her face. Just stared back at him, with a straight face. “You might not believe this, but I think she’s been watching Jessie and me, while we’re...” he stopped when her eyes grew big.  Well, I’m sure you get the picture.”

“Why are you telling me this?” she asked, trying to stay calm.

“You need to know; your daughter isn’t as innocent as you think.” He looked back over at Stephanie.

“And you’re not as faithful, as you want people to believe,” she snapped back.

“I never claimed to be.” He looked back at her and gave her a quick sarcastic grin, confusing her.

“I think my daughter is as normal as any other child her age,” she protested.

“You would.” He sat up straighter and turned his whole body to face her, head on. “But you know what else?” He went on, not letting her reply. “I don’t give a rat’s ass, what you think about me or how you feel toward Jessie. If I went out and fucked a different woman every night, it would be none of your fucking business.” Sandra watched his eyes go dark, and she would swear they never blinked. It took all she had in her not to break in front of him. “I know what I feel for my wife is healthy and nobody is going to convince me otherwise. Stephanie needs help, and you are the only one who can give it to her.”

“You’re right,” she agreed. “She does need help. Now that she is a rape victim.” She gave him the hardest look she could make. “And an illegitimate child. All because of you.”

“What?” He frowned at her words. “What are you talking about? Illegitimate? What does that supposed to mean?” Did she know what he did to John McKill? He thought, staring confused eyes back at her.

“Think about it. For someone who claims to be so intelligent, you sure are dumb.” She made a strange sounding laugh. “And I can promise you, I’ll take you and your family for every penny you’re worth. Until I see that my daughter is back to the way she was before you touched her.”

“Fuck you, bitch.” He gave a laugh and opened the driver’s door. “Your threats don’t scare me. My mother-in-law is the same type of bitch you are, and she hasn’t been able to wipe me out, yet. And if this is all about money, you’ve got the wrong guy. You should be going after my father, not me.” He slammed the car door shut, leaving her with those thoughts and hurried up to the house.

“Michael?” Stephanie jumped up, hoping to stop him. He pushed passed her and headed straight toward her room.

 

****

Angry flowed through his body, as he jerked the next drawer opened. He unloaded the drawer into a suitcase and went on to the next one. “What are you doing?” Stephanie entered the room, five drawers later, after having words with her mother.

“You’re out of here,” he answered back, moving to the last drawer. “I don’t care where you go or what you do. I just want you out of my house.”

“You’re throwing me out?” She frowned, on the confused side.

“If that’s not polite enough for you, try this on for size.” He stopped packing and looked up at her. “I’m kicking your fucking ass out. And I don’t care if you have a place or not.” He turned back to his packing.

“You can’t do that,” she yelled, grabbing her bra from him.

“Sweetheart.” He laughed, looking over at her, again. “I can do whatever the hell I want. This is my house, remember.” He tapped her nose, harder than necessary and gave her a nasty grin. “So, watch me, lover.” He moved over to the room’s built-in bookcase and picked out her things from it. “You can keep the shit Jessie, or I gave you. We don’t want it.”

“Michael?” She rushed over to his side, grabbing his arm to stop him. “Please, don’t do this. My God, what did my mother say to you?”

“Don’t touch me, Stephanie,” he snapped, jerking his arm from her. “Ever. You hear me?”

“Can we at least talk about this?” she asked, staring up at him with begging eyes.

“Do I have the choice in talking my wife’s death over?” he asked, and then yelled. “No! All I have is hope. Hope to God, she lives and pulls through.” His eyes became watery, and he lowered his voice. “Hope that she will come back to me and continue loving me. Why can’t you people understand, I have two little girls out there...” He pointed toward the window that viewed the backyard. “Who are hiding all their hurt and pain. My kids are hurting, probably more than I am because their mother is on her deathbed. And it’s all because of me.” He slapped himself on the chest hard, with both hands. So, hard it left two red handprints on his tan chest. “If Jessie dies, I have nothing else to live for. Sure, I’ll have the twins, but I need more. When they grow up, they will move on, and that will leave me all alone. I need someone to love and will love me back. I’m a guy that needs compassion. Lives just to have sex with his woman.”

“I can help you.” She stepped closer, finally reaching out to touch his chest. “I can give all that to you. The love. The total satisfaction of love.” She ran her hands down his chest and even farther down over his jeans, before leaning in to kiss him.

“No!” He grabbed her hand and pushed her away from him. “You can’t take care of my needs. You’re just a little girl.” He forced a laugh. “It wouldn’t work.”

“You’re wrong, Michael.” She stepped back up to him. “But, I guess, we’ll never know, unless we try.”

“Stephanie, I don’t love you.” He moved back from her and frown down at her crazy words. “I have no feelings for you, whatsoever. You’re just a stupid, self-centered kid to me. I love Jessie. She’s the woman I want. I love her so much; I can’t see straight. If she dies, that’s it. My life will be over because she is the only one who can satisfy me.”

“You don’t know that,” she cried, trying to ignore the hurt his words caused to her heart.

“Yeah, I do, sweetheart.” He made a funny laugh.

“How?” she demanded. “Have you ever had another woman to find out?”

“As much as I hate to, I’ll have to say, yes, I have,” he confessed. “The week I was gone. When you guys first came here to live. I was with another woman, and I was miserable. I couldn’t even make love to that other woman, without Jessie’s image passing through my head. I need Jessie. And so, does the twins. I have to bring her back to them.”

“Does Jessie know?” She gave him a surprised look; still stuck on the fact he had an affair. Even if it only lasted a week.

“What?” He frowned, not understanding her question.

“About this other woman, you were with?”

“No,” he snapped. “Of course, not. And it’s for the best, Jessie never finds out.” He turned back to the shelf and picked up what looked to be pictures of her school friends.

“Michael?” she whined, thinking of another way to go to change his mind.

“Stephanie, this is for the best.” He stopped her. “God will thank me later.”

“But...” She grabbed his hand and turned him to face her, holding his hand to her chest. “I love you.”

 “Don’t,” he ordered, shaking his head, slowly and pulling his hand away. “You are wasting your time. I’m married. And truthfully, I want to stay that way.” He turned back to the shelf.

She moved up to him and the shelf, not finish fighting for him. “You have this all worked out, don’t you?” She thought of a new idea.

“You can say that, yes.” He took a step back, putting space between them.

“Then can I ask, one last favor from you?” She closed the space back up.

“What?” he asked, confused and a little nervous about what her favor could be.

“Kiss me. Like you were doing last night.” The look he gave her, told her she was asking the impossible. She tried to hide the hurt and moved from him, grabbing the things he had already packed. “Thanks for everything, Michael. You were really sweet to us.” Meaning ‘us’ as in herself.

He just stared at her, not really having anything else to say. He dropped to the edge of the bed when she walked out of the room. He lowered his head into his hands and cried. Cried for his kids. Wept for his wife and even for himself. Most of all, he cried for his life back.

“Are you sure?” Minutes later, he heard Sandra at the door. “You really want us to leave?”

“I think it would be the best thing I’ve done in five months,” he answered, without looking up. “I’ve torn my life up.” He raised his head up and looked over at her, for a second, before falling back on the bed. “I screwed up my marriage.” He studied the ceiling, thinking of all his mistakes. “I shot my wife. After, I knocked her around a few times. What’s next? My kids?” He rubbed his hands over his face, before covering his eyes with them. “I need to get my family back together. And to do that, I believe it should be just the four of us.” The room was silent for a few seconds. “I hope you understand.”

“I do understand,” she said, with a tacky tone. She crossed her arms over her chest, still standing in the doorway of the room, watching Michael. “But I’m not saying it’s fair.” Her voice went to a higher level. “In fact, it stinks. We have no place to go.”

“I’m aware of that, and I’m sorry,” he admitted and promised. “I’ll write you a check, refunding what you gave for rent this month. Hopefully, it’s an enough to help you. I’ll even give you enough to pay for one of those weekly rooms at the hotel if you want. But, right now, this is the only way, things can be.”

“How nice of you,” she snapped back, with a dirty look. “But what are you planning to do about last night?” She held a dirty look on her face.

“Nothing,” he mumbled, still hiding his eyes behind his hands.

“You’re just going to go on with your fancy, high-class life like you never raped my daughter?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” He sat up to copy her dirty look. “Because I never raped your daughter.”

“You rich people are all the same, you know it?” she snarled back at him. “You think money can buy you out of the trouble you cause. Well, it’s not going to work this time, little rich boy.”

“Think, what you want to think, Sandra. I don’t care,” Michael moaned, getting tired of arguing with them. “But I can assure you, my father nor I have enough money to get me out of the trouble I made with Jessie. And the problem with Stephanie, that’s her problem, not mine so I won’t need money for that. So, don’t go looking for a payoff or anything in your mailbox.”

“Bastard,” she hissed. “Your day will come. I promise you that.” She vowed, just before she turned and walked out of the room.

“Yeah. That’s me. The world's class bastard.” Michael mumbled, falling back on the bed, again and covering his face with both hands.

A couple hours later, The Anson’s were packed and heading out the door. Michael stood at the door, trying to be polite, holding it open for them. Leaning back against the front door, with the twins standing beside him, watching Sandra carry out her last load to her car. She didn’t even give him a sideways glare. In the beginning, he tried to be a gentleman and help her carry out the heavier things, but she took them away from him. Claiming his help wasn’t necessary. He didn’t need to be told twice. He called out ‘bye’ to Billy, who ran for the car, and only receiving a short reply of ‘goodbye,' before he jumped into the back seat.

“Michael?” It took Stacey, tugging on his pants leg to get his attention and his mind off his lonely feeling. “Will you tell Jessie, I love her?”

“I sure will.” He smiled at the little girl and knelt in front of her, brushing her hair back from her little face and moving a strip from her mouth. “You be a good girl for me, okay?”

“Okay.” She smiled back and threw her arms around his neck for a hug. “Bye, Michael.”

“Bye, baby.” He hugged her back and gave her a sweet kiss on the nose. She wrinkled up her nose, wiping it off, making him laugh.

“Go to the car, Stacey.” They heard Stephanie standing beside them. Stacey looked up at her sister, with a weird look, before running off as she was told. Michael stood up, slowly, not breaking eye contact with Stephanie. “Well, I guess this is it,” she mumbled, biting her top lip to keep from crying.

“I suppose so,” he whispered back, taking a deep breath to clear his throat.

“I wish you would change your mind,” she begged, giving it, another try.

“I can’t, and I think you know that,” he said and reached out his hand. Like, an automatic reaction, not thinking of what he was doing, he pushed Stephanie’s hair back behind her ears.

“I guess you’re right,” she whispered back, taking the chance to step closer toward him. To her surprise, it was easier than she figured. When she laid her hands up against his bare chest, he took her face in his hands. Their lips met in the middle. At first, it was an uncomfortable feeling. Then it turned warm. He heard the moan escape from the back of her throat, as he rewards her with the feel of his tongue. He traced her lips with it at first and then moved in to touch her teeth. First the top, then the bottom, before he sucked the air from her lungs. Seconds after it started, he pulled away and smiled, noticing she was breathing hard. Slowly, her eyes opened, and she just stared up at him.

“That was wrong, you know?” he informed her, still holding her face in his hands, but now resting his head down on hers. Staring deep into her dark brown eyes.

“Maybe, to you,” she replied, still having difficult time breathing. “But that’s all I have.” She pulled from him and turned to walk away. Not taking any time to look back.

Michael shut the door, after they drove away, knowing he did the right thing by asking them to leave. He leaned back against the closed door and squeezed his eyes shut, fighting back the guilty tears. He knew he shouldn’t have kissed Stephanie, but Michael also knew, he only did it because she asked him to. The twins watched him, wondering what was next. First Mommy left and then the Anson’s, who was next.

“Well, it’s just the three of us now,” Michael announced, raising up from the door and looking down at the twins.

“But Mommy will come back, right?” Ashley had to know, getting worried.

“Yes, honey,” he assured her and squat down to be at eye-level, so he could explain. “But it’s going to be awhile, before Mommy gets well.”

“I’ll miss Mommy,” she cried, moving into his arms.

“Me, too, sugar,” he whispered into her hair, squeezing her tight to him and dropping a kiss on the top of her head, before reaching out to pull Ischelle into the hug.

“Daddy, I’m hungry,” Ischelle claimed, pulling out of his arms.

“You’re always hungry.” He laughed at her, pulling her back to him and squeezing her tight. “That’s one thing you took after Jessie.” He started tickling her and play biting her on the neck. She laughed and fought back. Trying to break his hold on her.

“Me, too, Daddy!” Ashley asked, jumping up and down, wanting to know if she took after Jessie, as well. But Michael took it, she wanted to play, too. So, he grabbed her, tickled her, and play biting her like he did Ischelle.

Later that evening, Ischelle walked into the kitchen catching her father cooking. She pushed a dining table chair over to the stove and climbed up on it, to look down into the cooking pot on the stove. “What’s this?” she asked her father, about his cooking.

“Gravy sauce,” he answered, turning from the table, where he was reading on how to make chicken fried steak batter. “Ischelle? Honey, you shouldn’t climb up there.” He stood up and went over to her. Standing there beside her, he spooned out a small amount and blew on it to cool. “Here. Taste.” He held it out for her. She did as told and jerked around in the chair to face the sink, spitting the sauce out. “Well?” Michael asked her, trying not to laugh.

“Can I have a drink of water?” she asked, instead, wiping her mouth off with the back of her hand.

“That bad, huh?” He smiled, not able to hold the laughter any longer. She shook her head and reached for the glass of water he fetched for her. “I thought so, too.” He took the glass back from her after she finished her water and washed it out. Turning it upside down in the sink. “So, I was thinking,” he went on. “We clean up this mess and then run up to Burger King for a hamburger.”

“Yeah!” Ischelle screamed, clapping her hands, making him smile because he knew Burger King was her favorite place to eat.

“Great.” He reached around her and grabbed the dishrag laying in the sink. “You take this and go wash off the table, and I’ll clean up this mess.” He washed the dishrag out with hot water, before handing it over to her.

As they were cleaning up the kitchen, Ashley walked into the kitchen carrying her coloring books and crayons. Now wearing Michael’s old bloody shirt. “Daddy?” she called out for his attention, climbing up to the table to color.

“Yes, baby?” Michael called back to her, washing out the sink. “What’s on your little mind?”

“What is intercourse?” she asked, not looking over at him, but pulling her blue crayon out to start coloring.

“What?” He jerked around, shocked by her question. “Where did you hear such word?”

“From Stephanie.” She looked over to meet his look. “Mommy told me, but I don’t understand what she was talking about.”

“What did Mommy say?” He couldn’t seem to be able to pull himself away from the sink counter.

“I don’t know.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Something about married people and boys and girl’s bodies locking together.” She told him, what Jessie had said, to the best way her little four-year-old brain could remember.

“Holy shit,” he mumbled under his breath, frowning. Not believing Jessie would do this. Damn, did I hurt her this bad, he thought to himself, where she would make my kids question me, into hating me?

 “Daddy, please,” she whined, coming to believe he wasn’t going to talk because he was quiet for so long. “Tell me. I heard Stephanie telling someone on the phone, that you and she were going to have intercourse. But Mommy wouldn’t let you.”

No, no, no, he thought, still staring at the little girl. She has it all wrong. Slowly, he walked over to the table, not taking his eyes off her and took the chair beside her. “Is this what you and Mommy talked about this morning?” he asked instead, remembering she never was direct with her answer to Sheriff William.

“Yes,” she whispered shyly, afraid she did something wrong. As well as, feeling guilty by breaking her promise to Jessie.

He forced a smile for her and rubbed his hand down his face, realizing he needed to shave. “Honey,” he said slowly, turning his chair to look straight at her. He leaned over on his knees and moved her straight to face his. Making her turn to sit straight in the chair. “I’m not sure on how to tell you, what you want to know.” He started, reaching for her little hands. “But intercourse is the same thing as making love or as you call it, making a baby. It's….”

“Daddy.” The other twin interrupted him, with her own curious mind. “What is rape?” She jumped up into a chair across the table from him. “Did you hurt Stephanie, like Jerry hurt Momma?”

Damn! His mind yelled; before he jerked his head up to look at his other twin. He felt like he was just slapped across the face. Recalling their family trip to California this past summer to visit his grandparents. The visit was going great, and he was doing his best at keeping Jessie in his sight as his mother had warned him. Then the summer was cut short, because his so-called uncle had raped Jessie, as a payback to him and his mother. The abused had made Jessie withdraw from him and everybody else, even the twins. They went to marriage counseling and rape victim’s meetings, and slowly Jessie started recovering and becoming her old self, again. During her withdraw state of mind, was when Michael got the idea to rent out a room in their big house. His plans were for an older lady to answer the newspaper ad so Jessie would have a female to talk to, but instead, Sandra responded, and they came to live with them. He dropped his eyes back down to his joined hands, with Ashley’s and took a few minutes to clear his head, before looking back up at them. Them, who he knew was waiting for an answer. “Look, guys.” He decided to say. “I think we should wait for this little talk. I mean...” He met both of their eyes. “Hell, Jessie started this conversation, so why don’t we let her finish it when she gets home.” The look he received, told him they weren’t happy with his decision, so he tried another way. “I don’t know all the answers, guys. I just know, I love Jessie, and show her love different from the way I show my love for you two.”

“Does that mean, you love Mommy more than us?” Ashley asked, looking hurt.

“Oh, no, baby.” He pulled her up from the chair and continued to hold her hands, as she stood in front of him, between his legs. “My love is just different, that’s all.”

“But, how? Why?” She begged for an answer she could understand.

Michael could see the tears forming in her baby blue eyes. “I don’t know, honey,” he pleaded with her. “It's hard to understand the meaning of love. No one really knows why they feel the way they do.” His words didn’t make her feel good, only made the tears come loose. “Ashley? Sweetheart, don’t cry,” he begged, brushing the tears from her little face. “I hate to see my little angel cry.”

“Do you love Mommy, still or Stephanie, now?” Ashley cried.

“I love your mother and always will,” he promised, bringing her little hands up to his lips to kiss. “I love her very much, so you remember that. Stephanie means nothing to me.”

“Then why were you sleeping with her last night?” Ischelle spoke up, “The way you sleep with Momma?”

“And kissing her,” Ashley threw in before he could answer. “The way you kiss Mommy?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted, feeling the tears in his eyes, now. “It was wrong. I’m sorry.”

“I love you, Daddy!” Ashley cried out, seeing his tears and pulled her hands from him. She wrapped her arms around his neck for a hug. “And I love my mommy. I don’t want a new one.”

“I love you, too, baby,” he cried and hugged her tight to him. “And I promise, you’re not going to get a new Mommy. Jessie is the mommy we have, and Jessie will be the mommy we keep.” He reached out for Ischelle, too, when she came around the table to stand beside them, wanting a hug, as well.

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