Frayed Page 99

I don\ blame them for not telling me what they had learned. The truth is it\s over, but in a way it makes me proud that although he\ll never know it my father did succeed.

Once my internal emotional battle settles, I pull away and smooth my hands down his face, but I see that his face looks haunted too. ’’What are you not telling me?’’

’’S\elle,’’ he says hoarsely, and I feel that this conversation has stirred up something. ’’I\ve never said this out loud to another person before. But I think my father killed himself and made it look like an accident and I think my mother knew. That\s why she never told us his body was found or about the settlement money.’’

Our eyes meet and my heart splits open at his confession. The emotion that echoes the loudest is written on his face. He had already told me that his father was hanged by a sail rope that was said to have malfunctioned, leaving his mother with a ten-million-dollar settlement payout. But now he has chosen to confide in me with what he believes is the truth behind the accident. ’’Why would you think that?’’

’’When I was going through some old papers, I found his business bank statements and foreclosure notices. I think his business was collapsing and the need to take care of his family drove him to it.’’

We sit with our arms wrapped around each other for a long while.

When he pulls away, I know he\s had time to compose himself, but I didn\ mind seeing that side of him in fact, I liked knowing we\ e both a little frayed.

He clears his throat. ’’Hey, I\ve never told anyone my theory. It\s just what I think, but I\m telling you now because I believe everyone makes their own choices and your father, my father, they made theirs. Don\ blame yourself. Your father wouldn\ want that. Is that why you didn\ quit when Wyatt\s harassing started? Some kind of need to succeed?’’

I nod.

’’Hey, you are not a failure at anything. Do you hear me?’’

I\m still nodding, but words escape me.

Suddenly the sliding door flies open. ’’You finally decided to come home,’’ Trent yells, and stops in his tracks when sees us. ’’Oh, f**k, sorry.’’

’’You okay?’’ Ben whispers in my ear.

’’Yes,’’ I whisper back. I wipe away my tears and stand. ’’Hi, you must be Trent.’’

’’And you must be Bell.’’ He grins and his eyes, just like Ben\s, rove over me from head to toe.

Ben stands up and walks over to him, knocking the side of his head.

He rubs it with hand. ’’What was that for?’’

’’You know what it was for, kid.’’

I giggle. Like uncle, like nephew. Isn\ that a saying?

’’Well, I\m leaving at five to go back to college, so I wanted to stop by and say good-bye.’’

Ben looks at him with a pride I find endearing. ’’You know I hate to say this, but I\m going to miss you.’’

Trent snickers. ’’I\m starving. You making lunch?’’

’’Yes, I\m starving too and you did promise food,’’ I remind him.

’’I make a mean stir-fry.’’

’’Vegetables?’’ I make a face.

’’I ate Chinese for two days with Uncle Caleb while you disappeared.’’

’’I didn\ disappear. And where\s Caleb anyway?’’

’’He left you a note. It\s in the kitchen.’’

’’What\s it say? That he loves me?’’

’’Yes, that he\s pining away for you,’’ Trent jokes. ’’No, I guess something came up at work, because he was called back early. He said he\d be in touch when he could.’’

Ben pats the pocket of his jeans and then shrugs. ’’He could have called me.’’

’’We both decided we didn\ want to bother you.’’

He taps his head again. I like seeing this side of Ben with his family.

’’Cut it out or I\m telling Bell how I had to tell you how to find her.’’

’’Oh, do tell,’’ I say.

Ben glares at Trent and takes my hand. ’’I owe this beautiful lady a tour. When I\m done I\ll run out and get us some flatbreads from the Loft.’’

Inside, Trent flops on the large sofa and grabs the remote. ’’Sounds awesome.’’

The entire place is stunning, but my eyes keep going back to the towering ficus tree. ’’It\s beautiful,’’ I comment as we climb the stairs that lead to the second-floor balcony.

Ben follows me, hooking his finger in my belt loop and staying very close. I like him there. I reach the top stair and turn around. ’’Everything here is perfect. I can see why you can call it home so quickly. This place reminds me why I hate my apartment.’’

He steps up so that we are nose to nose. ’’Why?’’

’’It\s so small and claustrophobic. My living room only has two windows, one door, very little direct sunlight.’’

’’I can understand that. Why don\ you move?’’

I crane my head toward the skylight above us. ’’I thought I just hated living alone. I never understood why . . . until now.’’

His hands coast down my sides. ’’Let me show you my room.’’

’’Please do but remember your nephew is downstairs.’’ I wave my finger back and forth. ’’So no monkey business.’’ But honestly I want him, all of him. Now. But I know we have to wait.

’’Like that\s what I had in mind,’’ he says as if appalled, and tugs my hand.

I squeeze his hard.

The door is open, so he steps aside. I walk in and scan the gallery of graffiti-style artwork that lines the walls. It\s just how I\d have pictured his room to be. ’’I love it. It\s so you.’’


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