Marie huffed out her exhaustion as she entered through the door. “I’m home!” She called out to get her husband’s attention.
Cedric looked up from the newspaper he was reading and smiled. “Hi honey, let me help you with these.” He quickly folded up the newspaper, setting it back down at the centre table and went to get the shopping bags from his wife. “Get everything you wanted?” He asked.
Marie frowned before she nodded quite unsurely. “Yes almost. Although, I feel like I missed something.” She had been trying to recollect what it was but it was in vain. “It was important but I ...” She settled herself in a chair at the kitchen table as they entered the kitchen area and held her throbbing head in her quivering hands.
Putting away all the bags, Cedric reached for her sitting by her side. “Hey hey ... it’s okay. Don’t push it, alright?” He put his hand on her back, soothingly giving it a rub. “Most probably it will come back to you and then I can go get it for you. What did I tell you about making a shopping list before you leave?”
“I know I know ... but I keep forgetting I am getting old.” She shook her head in distress. Then realizing what she had said, she rolled her eyes and exhaled frustratingly. “There! Another thing to forget ... Brava! Although it’s better to not be reminded of that.”
Cedric smiled sadly at her. “Well honey, I will make sure of that. Come here.” He took her face in his hands and pulled her into a warm kiss. And it seemed to work magic as she smiled into it. Suddenly, Cedric pulled back realizing something was wrong. He looked around asking,HeH “Hey ... where’s Angel?”
Marie was taken aback by the odd question and looked puzzled. “Angel? Must be inside ... How should I know where she is?” She frowned.
“Marie!” Her husband’s eyes went wide with horror. “You took her with you.” He said it in an accusatory tone which freaked her out.
Her body felt cold and she began to shiver with the rising panic in her. “No I did not.” She gasped. “Did I? Cedric?” She almost screamed, and watched her husband rush out of the house.
Noah’s eyes tracked Luke’s actions silently. He had been doing that for a month now. Observing and doing nothing else. It was more than a month now that a hurricane named Maxi had created havoc in their loving relationship and he could do nothing to mend it now.
Luke had been least interested in speaking with him since then. Noah couldn’t even remember when the last time he had spoken to him tenderly was, let alone kissing him which he missed so much. It was like their love was dead for him. He would engage himself in reading – book after book he read like his whole life depended on it. He would spend most of the time in the library or the club but when at home, he would wander around like Noah didn’t exist to him. Except for the times when he had to speak, which seemed like taking a lot out of him to do that, Luke wouldn’t even glance at him.
And this definitely broke his heart. It was all a punishment, he believed. He was being punished for not standing up for Luke, for not being the protective boyfriend that he was supposed to be.
However, he just couldn’t be the violent kind of guy. His past experiences didn’t allow him to be. When he had dragged Maxi away from Luke that horrible night, he had seen that look on that boy’s face – the one which seemed familiar, which was of fear. And suddenly he saw himself in Maxi, squirming under his father’s violent behaviour. The atrocious thought of him being like his father was what made him stop. And then Maxi passed out, so he couldn’t do anything else other than taking him away. He just didn’t want him around Luke anymore. He was even determined to get Maxi behind bars, but the crying and begging his mother did to forgive her son shattered his resolve.
However, it all ended up being a total mess of things ruining his relationship with Luke. How he wished he could set things right.
Noah sighed as he got ready for work. He walked back into the living room finding Luke still curled up on the couch with his eyes glued to a book. “I am heading out. Do you need anything Luke?” There was no reply. He expected that but hoped otherwise. “I have cooked you some spaghetti. Eat it when you feel like it, okay?”
Noah put on his shoes and looked for his briefcase. “I will see you in the evening. Good bye.” He said dejected before he left. He thought he heard a soft ‘bye’ but thought it was his mind thinking wishfully.
Things were getting worse and he wanted to do something about it now. He couldn’t handle it all alone.
Candes held Gust by his arm to stop him. “Ignore them. They’re assholes.”
“Well, you know what; these assholes need to be set straight.” Gust barked looking directly at the bullies making sure they heard him.
“Believe me Rivera, I am all straight. It is you who needs that the most, you cocksucker.” Jackson snickered and his group broke into roars of laughter. “Speaking of which, where’s that gay bitch of yours? Don’t tell me he doesn’t approve of your girlfriend getting knocked up by you. I thought you had a threesome deal.”
This enraged Gust more and he charged towards the group. “Gust, STOP!” Candes stopped him yet again. “He doesn’t deserve it.” She then turned to Jackson with a spiteful look. “And I don’t know why we are any of your business, unless you are jealous and probably you want to join us?” She smirked at him and began to drag Gust away.
“You slutty bitch, fuck you!” Jackson called behind her, fuming. “You disgust me, you ungrateful bitch. Did you forget how my dick pleased your tight desperate pussy?”
“Screw you, you son of a bitch!” Candes yelled at him almost on the verge of crying. Now it was time for Gust to hold her back protectively. “You are nothing but a fucking liar.”
“Right! Everyone knows what a good girl you are ... in bed.” He smirked. “Does your queer boyfriend know how you got down on your knees and begged to get fucked by me?”
“That’s it!” Gust didn’t care now and even Candes was too weakened by the accusations to stop him anymore. And before she knew it, Gust had lunged at Jackson and made him fall flat on the floor. However, Jackson’s boys were alarmed and they began to get back at him, all set to start a fight.
“What’s going on here?” A teacher came just in time to stop them. “This is a school for Christ’s sake, not a fight club or something. You are supposed to behave yourselves.”
Jackson stood up holding his belly and coughing. “He started the fight, sir.” He said pointing accusingly at Gust.
“No Mr. Wellington. He was bullying Candes.”
“We didn’t do anything.”
“I know how innocent you and your group is, Mr. Byrne.” The teacher snorted. “You get a week’s detention and if I find you picking on Candes or any other student again, mark my words, I will have to take some serious action.” Mr. Wellington turned to Gust, “And acting upon your anger like this is not a sensible thing Mr. Rivera. I am leaving you with warning this time – next time I won’t be so kind.”
Gust nodded. “I’m sorry, Mr. Wellington.”
“Leave now.” He said to the group before he walked away. Jackson shot him a killing glare and left along with his boys as well. Gust rolled his eyes and reached for Candes.
Candes faced towards her opened locker, patting a tissue over her moist eyes and sniffed. “Hey, don’t cry Candy. That Byrne is nothing but a moron. You shouldn’t let him get to you like that.”
“I know and I guess you think I should have gotten used to this after a month but I haven’t. It still hurts me.” Candes shed some more tears and wiped them on her tissue.
“Of course it does, baby.” He said smiling sadly. “But this is not good for the baby. Remember what the doctor said? You need to keep yourself away from any stress.”
Candes let out a sarcastic laugh, “How should I keep stress away from something which is the cause for all of it?”
“Come on, Candy. You know that is not true. And you did say you like the feeling of having that baby inside you yesterday, didn’t you?”
“I did.” She sniffed and blew her nose as gracefully as she can but it only looked funny to Gust. He had to try and keep his laughter from breaking out. “You know I hate your brother right now.” She got into the sulky mode. “This is the time I need him the most and he is not here.”
Gust didn’t know what to say to that. He did feel it was odd that Matt left Candes in such situation because Gust was quite sure Matt’s feelings for her were much deeper.
“I don’t understand him. I thought there was something special between both of us. He made me feel like a princess when I was with him and now, I don’t know what changed. My life has turned to be a mess now and he is off relaxing on some beach for a whole month?”
“Not a beach, Candes. He is staying at our uncle’s in Florida. Mom said it was the doctor’s idea to send him off for him to feel better.” Gust countered for his brother.
Candes looked at him funny. “For a month? Are you kidding me?” She shook her head. “And besides, would it hurt him to even call and talk to me?”
“I haven’t talked to him either. But he does ask mom about us.” Gust shrugged like it was no big deal. Candes opened her mouth to argue but Joe’s sudden arrival cut her off. “Joe! Hey, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s wrong?”
“Gust, there’s an emergency.” Joe was shivering under Gust’s touch.
“What ... Is everything okay, Joe?” Candes asked worried.
Joe looked at her with a fear-struck face, “I wish I could say that.” Then he turned to Gust to tell him, “I just got off the phone with my grandma. She got a call from dad couple hours ago. Angel ... she has gone missing.”
“What?” The news shocked the hell out of him.
“Angel? Your little sister?” Candes asked and Joe nodded frantically. “Oh my God! How?”
Joe helplessly exhaled. “I-I don’t know. But I have to go home, help mom and dad to find her.”
“You should and I will go with you. Maybe I could help too.” Gust offered and kissed his boyfriend to comfort him. “Don’t worry. She is going to be okay wherever she is. We will find her.”
Joe nodded although not sure how. But he believed in Gust when he said that.
Gust dropped Candes on the way. He didn’t want her to get involved in some tense environment like this. But she made sure he promised to call her and keep her updated.
When he and Joe arrived, Cedric was talking to a cop by the door. When he saw Gust, his jaws tightened but didn’t say anything. Joe stepped forward to ask, “Dad, what happened?”
“Listen, Joe, your mother needs you right now. She is totally devastated. She could do with some support from her son, so please ...”
“Of course dad, you don’t even have to ask. But what I want to know is what the hell happened to my sister?” He frowned.
“I will tell you. Let me just finish talking to the officer. You get in. Your grandma is already here.” Cedric told him.
Without a reply, he rushed inside immediately. Gust looked at Cedric who curtly nodded and smiled before he followed Joe inside. As soon as he stepped in, the sound of Marie’s hurtful sobs disturbed him. Joe’s grandmother was there by her side on the couch crying softly as well. And so were a couple of relatives that Gust did not know. He spotted Claire and a lady who was supposedly her mother standing behind the couch, trying to soothe Joe’s mother.
“Mom!” Joe called for her attention and moved quickly towards her. “Where is Angel?”
“Joe honey, I don’t ...” She leapt up at him as soon as she heard his voice and reached to embrace him. But her eyes then fell on Gust who came right behind Joe and her face showed anger. “What is this boy doing here?” Marie said the word ‘boy’ with so much hatred that Gust couldn’t help but cringe. He began to have second thoughts of accompanying his boyfriend here. But as quick at that thought came, he pushed it back. He reminded himself he was here for a reason.
Moreover, he had Joe by his side and as hoped, Joe did stand up for him, “He came here with me mom. Gust is my boyfriend.”
“Why don’t you understand, son? He has the Jewish blood running in him. These people can’t be trusted.” Marie refrained from even sparing Gust another glance as she spoke.
At that point, Joe’s grandmother stepped up to his rescue as well, “Oh rubbish, Marie. No person should be judged by their race.” She said clearly, “By discriminating, you are making yourself the bad person.”
“But mother ...”
“Mom, this is not the time. For god’s sake, Angel is gone missing and we don’t know where she is. We have to find her. Gust is here to help, nothing else.” Joe explained.
“We don’t need a Jewish boy’s help.” Marie hissed.
“Stop it, Marie. Think about your daughter; finding her is more important. Joe is right; our first priority must be to find her.” Joe’s grandmother seconded his thoughts.
Marie didn’t say anything and let herself fall back on the couch.
“Grandma, do you know what happened to my little Angel?” Joe begged to know.
“I can explain that better.” Cedric entered at that moment and filled his son in on what had happened. He said the last he saw Angel was when she left with Marie to the grocery store and then when Marie got back, she didn’t remember ever having taken Angel with her.
“This is all my fault.” Marie began to cry hysterically. Joe’s grandmother and Claire’s mother began to calm her down. “My baby is missing because of me. How will I live without her?”
“You don’t have to, Mrs. Brannan.” Everyone was caught off guard by the voice and turned to the officer who had invited herself into the conversation. She had a triumphant smile on her face as she looked at each one of their hopeful faces. “Your daughter has been found and she is safe.”
Everyone was overjoyed at the news. Marie and Cedric went straight to the police station with the officer. Joe and Gust went along with them too. Gust was pleased to see the happy grin on his boyfriend’s face. It warmed his heart. He had kissed him so many times on the way to the police station. He was overwhelmed by all his the emotions.
Now at the station, the officer explained where they actually found their girl. “She was found in the parking lot of the grocery store. Mrs. Brannan probably left her in the shopping cart seat and the cart remained outside abandoned. This kind woman found her and asked around the store if anyone left a child in the cart. But she could not find anyone. And since there was no identification on Angel, she brought the child here.”
“Oh goodness, bless that woman!” Marie cried with relief washing over her. She was already feeling guilty of what she had done to her daughter. “I can’t thank her enough for saving my child. Where is she now? And where is my baby? I need to see her please.”
The officer nodded. “The lady is still here and I think your daughter has grown quite attached to her in such a short time.”
Cedric and Marie shared a smile. “She identifies her saviour.” He said holding his wife tight in comfort. “We would like to meet this kind lady and thank her ourselves.”
The officer led them inside the station. The mentioned woman sat with her back to them with Angel playing cheerfully in her lap. Watching her, Marie let out a sob. That got the lady’s attention and she turned to face them.
Seeing the woman, each of their facial expressions changed and Gust who stood shocked, gasped out, “Mom?”
Luke couldn’t concentrate on reading his book. Every time he would start, he would see Noah’s forlorn face in front of his eyes. Finally getting agitated, he put away the book and engaged himself in his thoughts.
Thinking back on how the past month was a shitty bump in their relationship, all his anger came back. It always happened that way. He would think about it, be reminded of Maxi’s betrayal, be reminded of Noah’s lack of protectiveness over him, and he would get enraged. But after Noah had sat him down the previous night and told him about his abusive father, Luke kind of understood Noah’s actions now. How could he not?
Though, he still was angry – angry for not letting go of his ego. When Noah told him all about his father and apparently when he needed a shoulder to cry on, Luke had cruelly acted like a careless bitch. He just got up and ran off to his bedroom. From the corner of his eye, he had seen the hurt look on Noah’ face and that was now killing him. He couldn’t even sleep that night. He tossed and turned, did some thinking and even came out in the living room to talk to Noah. But sensing he was awake, he chickened out and went back to their room.
That is why he couldn’t even face Noah that morning. He had acted like a total jerk and now he felt bad about it. So he decided he had to talk to Noah when he gets back and sort this out. Their relationship had been too tense for a long time now and he didn’t like it this way. He missed his Noah and he missed loving him. He wanted that all back.
When the doorbell rang, his heart stopped beating. ‘Now was the time’ he thought and got up to get the door. He drew out a nervous breath and held on to the doorknob for some time. He closed his eyes, rehearsed in his mind what he had planned to say to Noah and finally opened the door with the slightest smile on his face. But the person at the door was not who he had expected to be. In fact, he was the last person Luke had expected to see, and that is why the surprise could be seen written all over his face as he stared speechlessly at his dad standing in front of him.