Summary: When his young mother died in a car accident, fourteen-year-old Finn Birdinard is sent away to live with his famous and wealthy father, whom he never met. Little does he know that behind the fame and the public charm, lives a monster, and through his father's revenge, he will have to relive his mother's horrific past. Only in the friendship of his newly acquainted step-sister, Miriam, can he find solace in their endless dreams of escape from the living nightmares of Cromwell mansion.
For as long as I could remember, I was told I was named after my father, that I looked exactly like him, that I was just like him, yet I wasn't told anything about him. From that all I knew of him was that his name was Finnegan, he had light golden brown hair and dark green eyes that non-observers mistake from brown when they only glance at them, and he was a sweet, smart, and rambunctious boy. That is, if he was me, as I was constantly told by my mother. But then again if I was actually like my father, I wouldn't be alive today tell my story. To tell of my years in the mad wonderland that was within the gates of Cromwell Hall.
I had always considered California my sanctuary. It was where my mother raised me. She was a young single mother, alone with nobody but me. Even though she was Jewish, she managed for us to be taken in by a Catholic boarding school for girls where the nuns gave her a job as a maid and tutor. It was pretty nice to the adorable little boy in the mists of school girls. In the ten years there, I had a happy start to a childhood. They were good to my mother and she was happy there for it gave her a sense of being at school learning, something she couldn't afford, even before she had me. School was a dream that never came true for her, a dream she wanted for me.
As soon as I turned ten, they couldn't have her there anymore because of me. And my mother agreed, wanting me to have some male influence and knowing I couldn't really get there. It was also the time she had started dating and looking for a father figure for me to have.
"What was my father like?" I asked my mother as she was driving.
"Your father was a great man, that's why I named you after him, I told you this."
"How did he die?" I dared to ask knowing it would bring her pain from the past.
"I don't want to discuss this Finn."
She was on the verge of tears and I knew I should stop, but I couldn't, I needed to know, "Why not? I should know about my father."
"Please just leave it alone for now, I'll tell you when the time is right," She pleaded as a tear rolled down her cheek.
The time was right. I was old enough to know. I stopped and looked out the car window at the trees passing by. I was fourteen then a few days away from fifteen when my life forever changed for the worst, forcing me into living my mother's horrific past. I had no idea of what was to come as we drove on home returning from my baseball game.
My mother hated talking of the past before me so I rarely asked her because I didn't want to put her in pain again. But that didn't mean I didn't ever wonder, I always did. I wondered what life would be like if he was alive and with us. Would he be one of those dads who would cheers for me during my sports games? Or would he be that dad who worked non-stop? Would he be proud of me? Am I the son he wanted? I never dared to share these questions with my mother.
The other reason why I never mention my father is because I was afraid it might hurt her feelings and make her think that she wasn't a good enough mother. She was, she was more than that. There was never a time in my childhood where I hated my mother. I couldn't hate her, no matter what she did. I didn't even hate her when she made me work after school in the General store for a month after I stole a radio with Josh. I didn't need a father with her as a mother and I wanted her to know that. And I didn't want her to never once think that I needed more enough to try to find a "father figure" by dating a bunch of losers like she did last time I asked about him. I also didn't want to go through that again and have another Chuck making my life at home hell.
We were poor, but not starving poor, we had enough to get by and live in our tiny apartment. My mother worked two jobs: she was a secretary at an insurance agency during my school hours and a waitress at a local diner during the hours I'm sleeping. It was tiring for her but at least we had our precious five hours together in between her shifts. She wouldn't let me work and help her out, she wanted me to go to school and study after, nothing else except for sports if my grades were good.
Sports were also hard though, for they required money, money that we didn't have. Thankfully my friend Josh lent me money no matter how many times I'd reject. My friend Josh's family had a lot of money from his father being a surgeon. He didn't have to worry about whether or not he was able to afford that field trip to the city, or whether or not Mr. Dorman is going to continue sponsoring you education if you get a 'C' causing you to leave your private elite school that made your mother proud. So what if his father put him second to his career, at least he had a father with the income my mother could never make no matter how many jobs she took, Josh has it easy. I wouldn't trade it over my mom, but I had wanted that life nonetheless. I didn't want to have to worry about money constantly.
Josh and I were getting ready in the locker room for baseball practice, when he reminded me yet again about my grade in math, "Have you told your mother yet?"
I haven't, I couldn't get myself to lets her hopes down, "No," I answered looking for some way to change the subject.
"What about Mr. Dorman? You want to tell him before your report card is mailed to him."
Mr. Dorman was the richest man in the town who lived in the old three-story Victorian house in the rich suburban area, my mother used to clean his house and that's how he became my sponsor, by the friendship the two formed. My mother had to quit though when she found out Mr. Dorman wanted to be more than her friend, as I believed. Part of me did want her to marry him, despite his age, so we could live in that big house and have money, but I didn't want my mother to be miserable being a wife to him.
"No, I might tell him today after practice."
"You want me to come with you?" he asked in both concern and pity.
"No it's all right, I can face the old bastard by myself."
"Well then on a lighter note, guess what I did last Saturday night?" He smiled wickedly.
I didn't want to know, I hated hearing about his escapades with girls, "What?" I asked anyways, hoping it will make me temporarily forget my dread.
"You know that Amy girl, that junior girl I was with the weekend before?" He whispered.
I didn't like where this was going, "Yeah."
"We did it."
Maybe he meant it as something else, I was praying he wouldn't have with that sweet girl who was too good for him. "Did what?"
"Did what? You're such a kid Finney boy, we had sex that's what," he boasted, now he, I sometimes hated. He could extremely selfish and insensitive.
"You just met her." I couldn't believe it, how could he, how could she? With him?
"Yeah but I wanted it and she wanted it too, and you wanna know what?"
NO! "What?" I knew where this was going and I wanted to cover my ears, but I didn't want to look like an immature little kid in front of him.
With no male influence comes the need to always prove myself a man, no matter how stupid, heartless, or dangerous. I cared so much what Josh thought about me, and trying anything to impress him, even if it meant getting a bad math grade, because Heaven forbid if Josh were to think of me as a wuss.
"I popped my first cheery, and man, did she bleed! I mean usually with the others they were experienced and--"
He rambled on and I tried blocking it out. Why Amy? Amy was a girl Josh and I met when we skipped math a couple weeks ago and visited the public school. Of course Josh didn't have any interest in her till I told him I liked her, and he was a year older, taller and buffer than me, enough to be of interest to a junior girl. She was very pretty too, with long dark copper hair, tan skin, almond eyes, and the most beautiful smile that lit up a room. I hated Josh.
Practice went by quickly with me anticipating going over to Mr. Dorman's house. I walked there by myself as slow as I could but eventually I was there at his door. I reluctantly rang the doorbell and waited nervously hands shoved in pockets to keep me from biting my nails.
The maid opened the door, "Is Mr. Dorman in?" I said.
"Why yes, you must be Finn, come in, he's in his study." She opened the door wider guiding me in and closing the door behind me as I stepped in. "Right this way." I followed her to his study.
There he sat, Mr. Dorman, skinny as a skeleton and pale as one with his dyed brown hair sleeked back, sitting and stroking his greasy mustache looking like a weasel. He scammed me down and had a smile on his face that gave me chills, "Finn, it's been awhile, how's your mother?"
"She's fine," I answer looking down at the detail of the Persian rug.
"Sit down" I sat and looked out the window, "Why are you here then?" he kept his eyes on me and smiling as if he was drunk.
I breathed, "That, well, you see I know we have a deal that you'll pay as long as I have a grade point average of over a 3.5—"
"You don't have a 3.5, don't you?" he interrupted.
"No, I have one 'C' but I promise you, I will get it up as soon as I can, I promise I will, I know I will—" I babbled on trying to convince him not to cut his payments off over one 'C'.
I stopped once I realized he wasn't paying attention yet was starring at me oddly, making me uncomfortable, finally he said something, "Your clothes, they're very worn, is that your school uniform?"
I didn't understand why all of the sudden he was asking me about my clothes, "Yes they are."
"Your sweater has a hole in it and your shirt has lost its color, what was it once, blue? You desperately need new clothes, so how about I'll buy you a whole new wardrobe and you can come over tomorrow after school to try them on, sound good?"
"Can't I just tell you my size and I can just pick it up?" I suggested instead wondering why he wanted me over and ignoring me having a 'C'.
"It's so much better to try clothes on before you keep them."
"Then I'll try them on at home and give back the ones that do not fit."
"Why do that when you can try them on here and save yourself the trouble?"
I backed up little way away from him getting freaked out by his determination to have me over to try on clothes. "What about my 'C'?" I reminded him.
"Are you coming over tomorrow?"
"No, I don't want new clothes and I don't want to try them on at your house!" I said growing agitated.
"You're such a nice looking boy, very handsome, did your mother ever tell you that?" He pointed ignoring my refusal.
"I don't know."
"I was trying to make this subtle, but since you are too stubborn to accept new clothes as a reward, I'll be blunt with you."
All this time he continued to stare at me in an odd way that was really disturbing, "What are you talking about?" I knew. I just didn't know then what to do.
"You love your mother, don't you?"
"What does that have to do with anything?" I spat.
"This school you go to, it means a lot to her, and you go because you'll do anything to make her happy and proud of you?"
"Yes, all right, this school means so much and please just don't sponsoring me because of one mark, and—"
"You'll do anything to stay in the school?" he rephrased.
My heart was beating, deeply afraid, "Yes, I guess, I really need to stay."
"I'll continue my payments despite the grades on one condition, one favor, I mean."
"What is that?" I prayed it was just a favor like mowing the lawn or raking leaves, something like that.
"Do everything and anything I tell you for an hour."
"Anything, like what?" I asked innocently my heart beating faster in fear.
He answered me by putting one hand on my thigh causing me to immediately jump out of my chair.
"No!" I shouted getting up.
"Just one hour, it won't hurt I promise you, you may even enjoy it and beg for more—"
I covered my ears blocking out the sickening image, "No!" I shouted again as he reached for me, "Get away!" I pulled away and rushed for the door.
As I opened the door his voice stopped me. "You walk out that door and I'll cut off all payments! I may even cause your mom to lose both of her jobs! I'll force her to try her hardest to pay me back for your schooling! I'm the most powerful man here, I can do anything, and you don't want to cross me. It's just one hour, one hour and you can continue to go to school with no stress, I'll pay for your sports too, I'd even make it so that your mom could have a better paying job, one job, that'll give her more time to spend with you. All for just one hour, a painless hour that'll be easy to forget."
He knew how to trap me. And I couldn't, even for the sake of my mother. I couldn't go through with it. I'd never forget it; it would have forever haunted me and traumatize me for life. Sometimes you have to be selfish. I walked out that door slamming it on all my mother's hopes from going to that school.
I know knew why my mom refused to marry him, refused the idea of us living in his house. Why she had told me to come to her first with grade problems.
I walked home solemnly wondering how I was going to tell my mother that not only was I making a 'C', but also that I caused Mr. Dorman to stop sponsoring me. Not only was I sickened by Mr. Dorman's advances, I was horrified at what he was going to do to get back at me refusing him.
I reached our apartment I froze to see a police car parked in front of out door, I approached the police officer leaning on the car, "You must be Finn," he said to me.
"I need to talk to you, may I come in with you."
"About what?" I said thinking that Mr. Dorman must have called them about me or something.
"May we discuss this inside?"
I didn't like the way he said that. I suddenly saw my mother's scarf clutched in his hand. I felt numb, "Where's my mother? Tell me!"
"I hate to tell you this but this afternoon there was an accident on--" I was growing dizzy as he continued. Then he said the words I never wanted to hear, "Your mother passed away in the ambulance."
I was in shock, not wanting to believe one word, "Where is she? I don't believe you! She's not dead! She can't be! She's not!"
"Calm down, son."
"You're lying! She's not dead! Where is she!" I said in between choked sobs and pants. I was hyperventilating and collapsed suddenly.
I was sitting in some quiet office in the police station. I was numb not taking in reality that I'll never see my mother again. I sat frozen, starring off in space and in denial.
I got out of my trance when heard banging and I looked up and saw Josh at the office window. He opened the door and walked in, "Surprise seeing you here, what did you do? You didn't sock Mr. Dorman did you? Me, I did the same old, almost got out with five dollars worth of firecrackers."
I didn't listen to the rest of what he said. I didn't care. One of the cops went him and yelled at him for disturbing him.
"Disturbing him? Why is he in here?" Josh didn't know and the cop whispered in his ear that my mother died in a car crash, "Shit, your mom? I'm sorry as hell. I guess I won't be seeing you in school tomorrow." The cop led him out and he continued to stare at me in pity, his grin gone, thankful he wasn't me. He waved as I silently watched him be moved to the back of the station to call his parents.
It truly hit me then, I had no one. I was alone. There would be no one to care for me. I was all I had. I couldn't cry at this, I couldn't cry anymore, but it didn't mean I felt no pain or sorrow. I did, oh did I, inside where no one could see. I though of suicide, but then I thought of my mother and what she would think. My mother was stubborn and would never give up; she would never do or support something as selfish as suicide. She wanted me to go to school and get the best college education, but how could I had done that when I had no money? What should I have done? I didn't want to live on with no one and all alone, but I had too. There were probably planning on putting me in an orphanage. I didn't want to be dumped in some orphanage. I had seen them before, they were awful; I used to walk by one back when we lived in the city. They were crowded, even more poor than my life in the small apartment, and kids were even more alone in fending for themselves, and were pitied more. They were forced into labor, having no personal possessions and any they had, had to be shared—I didn't want that. It was just after the depression and my options were close to none.
One of the police officers approached me, the same one who told me the news of my mother, "It's getting late, how about you stay with me and my family for the night instead of staying here. Sound good?"
I nodded, not saying anything. I didn't want to speak. I wouldn't speak. I decided to be mute. I left the station with him and got in his car. I was silent on the way to his home. Even when he talked and asked me questions, I still said nothing.
His house was the picture of the American Dream I saw on billboards and magazines. A trimmed green yard, white picket fence, a tree with a swing, two story white house like the others around it--This was suburbia. And the inside was just as beautiful and dreamlike as the outside, even in the near dark I could see it.
"Everyone's asleep, you can sleep in Billy's room. He has an extra bunk he doesn't sleep in. It's only used when he has friends' sleepover. He led me to his son's room and opened the door, "The bed's already made, just put his toys on the floor, I'll make him put them away in the morning. The bathroom is down the hall to the left. If you need anything, our bedroom is downstairs by the garage." He walked out and closed the door, not all the way, but just a crack.
I was alone in some boy's room, the boy sound asleep on the top bunk. I went to the bathroom and took off my shoes and put the toys on the floor and crawled under the covers. I stayed awake starring up at the drawings on the board holding the top mattress. I learned that Billy was a talented drawer who loved horses and the old west, all from the graffiti. I suddenly heard muffled arguing down the hall.
"It'll only be for awhile, the boy has no one here. This won't be permanent; he'll only be here for as soon as we get him to tell us where his other family is, or find a suitable foster home. It's only for a few days. Don't worry. "
It's nice to know I'm wanted here, I sarcastically pointed out in my mind. I eventually fell asleep arguing whether or not to speak tomorrow to show courteously or not to continue to avoid talking about it.
"Finn" I heard a whisper.
I saw my mother, "Mom," I said, "You're alive? I knew you were. You'd never leave me." She didn't say anything, "Mom say something. Please?" she turned and had ran off, "Mom!" I got up and ran after her, I looked everywhere, she was gone, "Mom! Don't leave me! Come back, please. I need you." I fell to the ground crying, "Don't leave me. Come back, please, come back for me. I don't want to be alone." But I was. I was alone in the bitter darkness that was my life.
Suddenly I felt someone gently brush their hand on the side of my face, calming me with soft whispers. "Shh, it's okay, don't cry. You're not alone, I'm here."
I woke up and surprisingly saw Amy at my bedside inches from my face now rubbing my upper back. It was only a dream, I realized.
She noticed me awake and took her hand off and backed away blushing in embarrassment, "I heard you across the hall. You were having a nightmare and were talking in your sleep. So I came in to try to get you through it, like my mom used to do when I was little." She smiled kindly.
I didn't know her father was a cop. In a normal situation, I'd be in bliss having my crush there and so near. But after last night, I didn't seem to care anymore.
"I can't believe what happened to you. You must have been through so much. I'm so sorry it happened to you," she whispered.
God, she looked so beautiful there with the moonlight making her hair shine like copper, the lights and shadows forming a sort of halo at the top of her head. We looked at each other in the eyes for a moment in the awkward silence between us.
"You must be exhausted, I'll go back to my room so you can go back to sleep. I'll see you in the morning." She blushed shyly as she left the room and returned to hers shutting the door behind her.
The sunlight through the window blinded my awakening eyes. I guess they opened the curtains on purpose so I wouldn't sleep in. I sat up and saw some clothes folded on the edge of the bed. It had to be a new and clean change of clothes for me, I assumed seeing just an outfit and not an assortment. I was the last one up it appeared as Billy wasn't on the bunk above and Amy wasn't in her room across. I got up and walked to the bathroom and changed my clothes and tried my best to straighten up. The clothes were a bit too big on me, but not so much that they fell off and they were more casual than my usual everyday school uniform of khaki pants, blue button down shirt with color, tie, pull-over sweater, and loafers.
I went downstairs and to the kitchen where the family was already eating breakfast. Their kitchen that morning, smelled just like the diner my mother worked at, the smell of eggs and bacon. I held back my tears from being reminded and slowly walked in.
"Looks who's up," The father pointed, "Sit here, I'm finished." He got up and put his dishes in the sink and kissed his wife goodbye, "I gotta be going, I'll be back for you at one and we'll talk about some matters then, just rest up for now and take it easy," He said to me before he walked out of the kitchen.
I sat down and right when I did his wife put a plate down next to me of eggs, bacon, and toast, and then a glass of orange juice. I didn't even ask, she just put it there. I began eating graciously, despite the fact that I don't eat breakfast. Billy was across from me, starring as if I was a new and interesting pet. This was first time actually seeing him. He looked to be my age almost and had light, almost white, blond hair, and light blue eyes. He was slightly over weight, which caused him to look like a pig, his small button nose and pink skin being of help as well. Yet he didn't act the way he looked and picked at his food slowly, barely eating it.
"So how long are you staying with us?" he asked me.
"Billy!" his mother hissed.
"Sorry, mom. Are you still going to school?"
"William Arnold, will you stop being so nosy and eat your food," She ordered sternly with her hands on her hips.
"I was just curious, he's staying in my room. I have some right to know something about him."
"Stop talking and finish your food."
"I'm finished eating." He got up with his plate full of food and dumped it in the trash. He may not be a pig, but I was disgusted at his wastefulness. What he just threw away was worth the same as an hour of my mother's wages.
During this, Amy was quiet as me, finishing up her homework. I wanted to say something to her, to let her know that I wasn't mad at her or thought of her as being weird for comforting me in my nightmare. I didn't though, and before I regretted so, she and Billy were out the door to catch their bus.
There I was left alone with their mother who didn't want me there. She didn't pay attention to me being there and went on with her every day routine of cleaning house. I went back into Billy's room and fell back asleep wanting it to bring me a moment of escape and not a cruel reminder.
Just as he said, Amy's father came back at one to bring me back into the station for questioning. I still refused to talk. Stupid, I know, but I wanted to avoid answering all those painful questions: How I feel? What do I feel? Where's my father? Do I have a father? Can he take care of me? Do I have other family? Will they take me in? Do I know someone who will? Will I be up for foster care?—It goes on. But there I was, in that very office I was in last night, being asked just that.
"I know this is hard for you, but we need to know." They even went as far for my answers as to supply me with a pen and notepad to jot them down. "Where's your father?"
"He's dead," I wrote.
"Do you have anyone else?"
I shook my head.
"Are you sure?"
I nodded. I didn't think I did. It was always just my mom and I. We didn't see any other family member besides the two of us.
Then he said what I dreaded, "If there's no place for you to go, than we have to turn you in to the state."
My mother's funeral was held on my fifteenth birthday. The weather was perfect, for a nice day, but not a funeral of the most beautiful person. It was suppose to rain, but there were a lot of other things that were suppose to happen that didn't to get worked up on this one.
Nearly the whole town of Ampleton was there. Even Mr. Dorman, who had the nerve to show up. We were all crowded around her coffin cover with flowers. Her co-workers made the arrangements and, as I later found out, Mr. Dorman paid the expenses. He was up to something by being so charitable. Of course, for me, that's what that sick creep wanted. He looked at me the whole time trying hard to conceal of smile of satisfaction in knowing that he could easily have me now that I had nobody and was vulnerable.
I couldn't pay attention to the eulogy, as I stood there in fear of what he was going to do. That was why he showed up and paid for the funeral, he wanted to adopt me, or buy me, either way he wanted to have me. And being the richest and powerful man of all Ampleton, and me having no family, he easily could.
I didn't look at the coffin; looking at it would make it a reality. I just wanted to forever believe that she was just away somewhere, happy and safe. I closed my eyes and dropped that red rose on her now lowered coffin and the service ended at that.
I looked up to see a man who wasn't there before. I couldn't describe it, but I felt chills down my spine. A different kind of chills, much different from the ones I got from Mr. Dorman. It was there I first saw the man who would bring me the greatest misery.
Evil loves destroying lives and does not feel any guilt; an ice cold, egotistic, and inhuman monster starving for power, evil has blood on his hands. Evil was my father, Henry Cromwell…
To be continued…
A/N: If you love VC Andrews, you'll love this, this story is my attempt at making a VC Andrews series centering around a boy.