The Truth Is Out
"My parents are both dead, Caleb. And it is all my fault."
I looked up at Caleb's face, prepared for the horrified, disgusted look that I knew was coming, but that wasn't what I saw. Instead I was thrown off guard at the calm, sorrowful, and somewhat amused expression on his face.
"Why aren't you hating me?" I demanded, furiously. He should hate me as much as I hate myself!
He looked me square in the eyes, smiling softly and kindly at me. "Because I know you, Rosie. I'm so sorry about your parents, but you exaggerate so much. I won't pass judgment until I know the whole story."
"How would you know if I was telling the truth or not? You could be standing in front of a cold blooded killer right now and you won't accept her confession!"
He laughed, only inflaming my anger. Why couldn't he just believe me? "You could never be a cold blooded killer. You're harmless."
"No, I'm not. Just me being alive ruined my parents."
"Yeah, right," he said, doubtfully.
"I'm telling you the truth!"
He sat down on the ground. "Fine, whatever you say. I can't give any input since I don't know the story."
"Fine, I'll tell you," I said, grudgingly. He patted the floor next to him, gesturing for me to sit with him. I sat down annoyed and my shoulders slumped. I felt so drained. That's the one reason I hate crying; you always feel so tired after it.
I guess he noticed this, too. "You know what? This can wait."
I took a deep breath and looked at him. "No. It can't. If I don't do it now, I don't know if I'll be able to."
He stared at me and my expression that probably showed how hard I was trying to keep myself together and nodded before giving up. "Take your time."
I nodded. I don't know what it was about Caleb that made me so vulnerable, so responsive to my emotions. Seriously, I was an emotional wreck for a good twenty minutes and I still felt like crying more. It's like my body was trying to make up for the lack of crying in the past seventeen years. The only other time I had to tell this to someone was for Lana and I didn't even shed a tear.
I closed my eyes for a while, since my contacts were stinging from the crying, and opened them again, holding back whatever tears were resurfacing. "First off, please promise me you won't tell anyone, okay? The only other people who know are Seth, Lana and Alexis. I'm trusting you, Caleb," I said, even though I knew he wouldn't. Besides, he deserved to know.
I stuck out my pinky and he latched his onto mine, giving me an amused smile at my childish gesture. "Who would I possibly tell?"
I smiled small, taking that as an agreement. "I guess I'll start from the beginning." He nodded and I sucked in a deep breath. "You remember that time when I told you Seth's been spoiling me since I met him?" He looked like he was thinking, but then nodded. "Well, I lied when I told you that I've always known him. I was actually raised in a foster home." I waited to hear some large, dramatic gasp from Caleb, but his only response was a slight nod to show that he was listening. So, I continued. "The only thing I knew about my actual family was that my mother had died when I was born and my father was 'incapable' of taking care of me.
"I didn't even know I had a brother until someone from child services came and took me to their office when I was eleven. Seth was waiting for me there and they told me that he was my brother and he was going to be taking care of me."
"What did you do?"
I scrunched my nose, trying to remember. "I just went with him. I mean, I could kind of see it. He looked like me. We have the same eye color and hair color. And he seemed… nice." This made him chuckle and I smiled embarrassedly. "Well, what else do you expect a kid to say? It wasn't the first time I had been switched to a different home, so I wasn't exactly scared. A little nervous I guess to have a permanent home, though."
"Makes sense," Caleb said, nodding his head. "So, Seth was what? Nineteen?" I nodded. "And they gave him permission to take care of a child?"
I shrugged. "I guess he just did his research. I don't really know the specifics. He was pretty financially stable and my Aunt Suzie was there to help him out, so they let him have me. They would come by every week to make sure I was happy and taken care of for about two years and then they gave him the full rights to take care of me."
"Why didn't your aunt just adopt you from the start?"
"She had just been diagnosed with breast cancer at the time. So, she couldn't take care of us. And all of our grandparents died when Seth was really young."
"Wow," he said, his eyebrows rising in shock. "Is your aunt okay now?"
"Oh yeah, she is. It was a long fight though. She had surgery a few years before Seth asked if she could help him with me, so by that time she was well enough to agree. As soon as he was financially stable and ready, she moved in with him."
"How could he possibly be that stable at nineteen?" he asked incredulously.
I actually smiled at that. "I know it's easy to underestimate him with his overprotectiveness and general immaturity," I said in a joking tone, making him smile, "but, really, he's kind of a genius. He's been working since he was allowed and he got a full ride at some accelerated medical school or something that gave him a stipend." Caleb raised his eyebrows in surprise and I gave a low chuckle. "I know; it's shocking. Plus my mom left him some money in her will, so he got that when he turned eighteen too."
Caleb nodded his head slowly and rubbed the back of his neck. "Not gonna lie, your brother just got a hell of a lot more intimidating."
I laughed a little and shrugged. "Yeah… He kind of has that effect on people." I watched as he let the information about my brother sink in by leaning his head back and looking at the ceiling. I poked him in the arm. "You gonna be okay?"
He looked down at me and blinked slowly. "Yeah. Continue."
"Um, where was I?"
I asked more to myself than Caleb, but he answered anyway. "Seth came to get you."
"Right. So he came and on the way home he told me about our family." I closed my eyes and took a deep, calming breath. "He told me that my mom died during childbirth with me. It was a hernia, I think. Something about her blood not clotting and her bleeding out."
I opened my eyes to see Caleb staring down at me with sad eyes. "I know this is probably the last thing you want to hear, but I'm really sorry."
I sighed deeply. "It's alright. I've had a long time to get over my mother's death. I've always known she died, but Seth was the one that told me the details."
As if reading my mind, Caleb said, "You know, you can't blame yourself for that. It's not your fault that you were born." Absentmindedly, I nodded my head, only half listening to him. When I didn't respond, Caleb changed the topic. "What about your dad?"
"My dad…" I breathed, trailing off and feeling my heart squeeze painfully. "My dad passed away this past April. On the twenty first. Car crash."
His eyebrows raised and he blinked rapidly in confusion. "That was only four months ago."
"Thank you, Captain Obvious," I muttered, sarcastically, only to watch his face fall. "Sorry."
"No, no, I'm sorry. I was just caught off guard."
"Yeah," I mumbled. "Four months. And yet it feels like it's been years."
Caleb reached over and placed a hand on my knee, rubbing it comfortingly. Surprisingly, it did help. "You don't have to explain the rest if you don't want to."
I tilted my head in his direction and shook my head. "No, I have to." He nodded and pulled his hand away, making me immediately miss his touch. "So, um, as Seth was driving back to his place when he got me from child services, he started explaining to me our family history, I guess to prepare me for what I was going to see when I got home. But it's kind of hard to prepare an eleven year old for something like that.
"He told me at that time that we were going home to live with my Aunt Suzie and my dad. I remember just being so confused. Seth was saying that after my mom died, my dad was so distraught that he didn't know what to do with himself. He became really depressed and he started drinking. That's why Seth and I were taken away from him and put in foster care.
"When Seth was around sixteen, he decided that one day he was going to bring our family together, so he first had my dad move in with him and then, me.
"When we got home that day, my dad was furious at Seth. I don't think he ever wanted to see me again after I was born." I shuddered involuntarily, remembering what it was like to stand in that apartment. "It was so scary at first. He was yelling at me and cursing and then he stormed out. I was so confused and I started crying. It was just so awful. I always imagined what it would be like to meet my father, but I never imagined it to be like that. He hated me. Seth and Suzie told me that he would be okay and that he was just surprised to see me, but I knew better.
"He came home drunk that day. I stayed in my room, hiding from him for the rest of the week. It was obvious that he hated me from the beginning, but it took me a few years to understand why. Seth and Aunt Suzie never said it, but he blamed me for my mother's death. And, on top of that, apparently, I look just like she did."
"Can I?" Caleb interrupted, wanting to see the picture. I nodded and he stood up and retrieved the picture from my drawer. He looked between the picture of my parents and me. "Wow. You do."
"Exactly," I muttered. I reached my hand out and he handed it to me before joining me on the floor again. I kissed the picture and placed it on my thigh, smiling fondly. "Aunt Suzie told me so much about her. She was a nurse. And she loved to cook, which may be where I got that from. It's why she named me Rosemary."
Caleb smiled small at my nostalgia, but then his face fell after a few moments, his eyes on the picture. He shook his head in disbelief. "How could a father hate his own child?"
"You have to understand: my father loved my mother. She was his whole life and without her, he had nothing. The fact that I was the one who took her away from him and that I looked so much like her when I started living with him was just too much for him to handle. It was like I was haunting him or something.
"Over the years, I found out more and more about the extent that my dad disliked me. A couple of years after we were taken away from him, he was given limited visitation rights to see both of us. But he never came to see me. Only Seth. He even got Seth to hate me up until the point that he was able to make decisions for himself. Not that it's very hard to sway an eight-year-old's opinion in the first place. He would have taken responsibility for Seth again, but he never became fully sober after my mom died."
"Wait, wait, wait," Caleb said hurriedly. "So Seth knew he was an alcoholic when you moved in?" I nodded. "And he still let him live with a child? How did child services even allow that?"
My lips quirked up a little. "Well, they didn't, really. Seth would kind of hide him whenever they came. And he swore me to secrecy, saying that they wouldn't let me live there if they knew about my dad."
"But how could he let your dad stay there once he found out how he treated you?"
"It's really complicated. He was torn. As much as he wanted me and wanted to get to know me, he didn't want to abandon my dad. It's a lot for a nineteen year old. Seth was eight when my mom died, so he still had eight years of happy memories with them. My dad loved Seth more than he hated me and that in itself is saying a lot. I'm telling you, he just always wanted to reunite our family. I think he was just hoping that one day my dad would come around and accept me. Can't blame a guy for being optimistic," I said with a half-smile, lifting up a shoulder.
"I guess so," he agreed, resignedly. "I can't judge. I have no idea what I would do in that situation."
"Me neither," I conceded. "Seth had to deal with so much. And what I've told you isn't even the half of it." Caleb raised his eyebrows and I sighed. "The day my dad died- God, I remember it so clearly. It was so awful. We went outside and Seth's car was missing. We figured it was stolen, so we filed a report to the police, but, right after we hung up, there was a live news feed of Seth's car on fire. The car had crashed into a tree. When we went there, dad's body was being dragged out of the car. He was dead on impact." I whispered the last couple of sentences and Caleb grimaced.
"I am so sorry." He reached out and placed a hand on my shoulder, comfortingly. I looked up at him, blinking back tears, and it was amazing what a single touch could do to me; his hand emanated warmth that spread through my body and I felt instantaneously better.
I looked back to the ground, my eyes fixating on one spot in an attempt to control my emotions, and continued my story. "We assumed he was drunk while it happened, but the autopsy showed that he had no alcohol in his system. When we were moving out all of his stuff from his room about a month later, we found a note from him. It was a suicide note."
"Oh my God," Caleb breathed. It was barely audible.
My voice cracked sporadically as I pressed on, the volume decreasing and my view of the floor blurring. "The entire note spoke about how his death was my fault. He blamed me for everything: my mother dying, his drinking. He said I looked too much like her and that he couldn't take it anymore. Seth kept telling me that he was probably drunk when he wrote it, but I know he wasn't."
"How do you know?"
I looked up at him and my voice was hard. "I saw the note, Caleb. His handwriting was neat. No drunken person could have written that."
Caleb held my unwavering gaze for a while before looking away. I let him sit in silence, knowing that this was a lot to take in.
"I'm so sorry for dumping all that on you. You shouldn't have to deal with this. It's my problem."
He looked up at me and his eyes bore into mine. I could clearly make out the sadness, anger and compassion in them. He was so sincere and the look in his eyes was so powerful that I found it hard to keep contact. I could feel the emotion in them. "Rosemary..." he whispered quietly, shaking his head. "Rosie, I am so sorry that this was what you had to go through. I want you to know that I'm not just saying that. I really mean it. I am so sorry. Don't apologize about telling me. This is a lot to hold in and you shouldn't keep all of that emotion locked up."
I laughed without humor. "I got it all out today."
"Yeah, but after how long? God, how could anybody be so... cold? To be that cruel to your own daughter..." He trailed off, shaking his head in disgust and disbelief.
A small spark of anger formed in me towards Caleb, even though I knew it wasn't justified. "Don't blame my dad, okay? He was just mad and-"
"There is no damn excuse to make anybody's life a living hell! Especially your own kid!" I opened my mouth to protest, but he cut me off. "You can't change my mind, Rosie. I know what I'm saying. You cannot do that to anyone. Ever."
"But Caleb, I killed the one person that he ever loved and-"
He put his hands on my shoulders and gave me a hard look, shaking me slightly. "Would you stop saying that?" I stayed silent and did my best to hold his gaze, even though it was hard. "You are an amazing person and you haven't done anything wrong. What you're letting ruin your life is not your fault. Nobody blames you." I opened my mouth, but he stopped me. "And you are letting it ruin your life. Don't try to deny it. Lana was about to say that you never celebrated any of your birthdays, right?" I sighed and nodded my head. "And that's why you were so upset when Seth threw you this party," he said, more of a statement than a question.
"Do you know how to read freaking minds or something?" I mumbled.
He chuckled with a tiny bit of humor, but sorrow was still laced in his expression. "No, I'm just good at eavesdropping and putting things together."
"You were eavesdropping?"
He started to take on an apologetic face at my expression. I wasn't mad; just surprised. "Only because I wanted to help you. Because I knew from the moment I saw you today that something was seriously wrong."
"You should be a psychologist or something," I mumbled under my breath.
"I don't think I would make a good therapist," he said, amusement leaking into his voice.
I snorted out a laugh. "Not a therapist. Say psychologist or shrink or something instead."
He became confused. "Why?"
I shrugged nonchalantly. "When you split up the word 'therapist' it says 'the rapist.'"
After the words left my mouth, Caleb just blinked in disbelief, shaking his head, amusement sparkling in his eyes. I ducked my head as he looked at me in an expression of awe and puzzlement. "We're having a serious conversation and you think of this, of all things."
"Sorry," I said quietly.
"Don't be," he said, chuckling quietly. "Today's your birthday; I want you to be happy."
I 'humphed' and crossed my arms across my chest. "I'm happy being not happy!"
"That is the biggest contradiction I have ever heard. But you are going to be happy. And not unhappy, got it?" he said to me. He looked away for a second, mouthing what he said to make sure it made sense, before defiantly nodding his head. I grumbled under my breath, and he shot me a look of despair. "Just for today. It's the first birthday I'm celebrating of yours and your happiness means everything to me."
I looked up at him and I felt my heart swell. Nobody but my brother has ever said anything like that to me. I thought that maybe for a second that maybe, just maybe he- he... No. We were just friends. Nothing more. I smiled at him once I regained hold of myself. "You sound just like Seth."
He smiled back. "I guess we have something in common then."
"Mmm," I agreed. I slowly curled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them so that I could rest my chin on top. I closed my eyes.
"Everything that you told me is just so... hard to believe. How can so much happen in just seventeen years?" he said after a short silence.
I opened my eyes and sighed, looking right above Caleb's shoulder, refusing to look at his sad expression, which I caused. How many more people am I going to bring pain to? "For such a long time, I wondered that too. I still don't know why all of this happened to me, but I know that it happened and I have to try and move on." Silently, Caleb put an arm around my shoulders, putting his chin on my head. He waited for me to continue. "I have been trying to do that since April, but there hasn't been much progress, really. My father never loved me or anything, and I accept that, but I still loved him. Seth hated him by the time he died. Or so he says. I know he was heartbroken."
It was quiet again. "How?"
I pulled away slightly to look at him. "How what?"
"How could you still love him after all that?"
I sighed, settling back into him. "He was my dad, Caleb. That was it. And I just felt so bad for ruining his life. After I read that letter, though, I felt like I was insulting him by loving him and by mourning for him. So I never did."
He ran his hand through his black locks. "God, Rosie. Every time I feel like I have you figured out, you get me confused again. I can't understand how you could possibly keep all of this to yourself or how you could love someone who despised you."
He was shaking his head and I sighed again. "Honestly, I just don't feel the point in telling other people. I don't want their pity. The only person who actually stuck by me in school after my dad died was Lana. Everyone else just got all weird around me; like they expected me to break down crying every two minutes. It was like I had the plague or something."
"Some friends," he mumbled and I nodded in agreement. He pulled away to look down at me. "I'm not going anywhere, though. See? Still here." My lips tugged at the corners. "Neither is anyone else downstairs. We're all here to stay. You can count on that."
I thought about his words and warmth built up inside me at the thought. "I know."
"Good. And don't forget it," he said, smiling down at me. My smile widened a tiny bit more and he rested his chin on the top of my head again. When he spoke again, his voice was extremely soft. "I'm so sorry you had to go through all of that. Especially by yourself."
I shrugged, cuddling into him, enjoying the closeness. We never really got this touchy feely, but right at this moment, any awkwardness that would normally be present was gone. "I guess in a way, I wasn't really by myself. I had Seth and Suzie. And Lana knew as much as I felt comfortable telling her. My aunt actually did a decent job of keeping my dad away from me when she realized how negatively he was reacting to seeing me. It was only a few times that I would get caught in his way and it was never really that bad. He would yell at me, mostly. One time he threw a shoe at me, I think. That was about as violent as it got. Eventually, I got used to it. And I learned to get over it."
"That's awful," he breathed, pulling away completely now.
I pursed my lips in a confused expression. "What is?" I actually thought that was a good thing.
"Abuse isn't something you should ever have to get used to. It doesn't matter what form it is, you shouldn't have to put up with that kind of treatment. From anyone," he said, sending me a very pointed look.
My stomach churned uneasily and I frowned. I sensed a double meaning in his words from the way he was looking at me and I realized this conversation was taking a turn into a territory I didn't want to go to. So, I decided agreeing with him was the best way to get out of this. "I know."
But he didn't seem ready to let it go. He turned his body to face me and dipped his head so his eyes were level with mine. "I'm serious. Not in the past. Not in your future. And especially not now."
"I know, Caleb," I repeated slowly with more force this time, hoping he would drop the subject.
He was growing impatient, catching on to my very obvious avoidance. He blew out exasperatedly and I subconsciously squirmed in place, feeling like I was being cornered. There was a slight possibility that he had no idea what was going on between Callum and I, but Caleb always had a tendency to be more observant than he let on.
And he confirmed that this was exactly the case here by lightly placing a hand on my knee without breaking eye contact. "Okay, I realize you're probably going to be mad at me for this, but I have to be straight with you. I am worried about you."
"But I already told you everything, you have no reason to worry," I said, innocently, dodging the subject I knew he was talking about.
"Don't mess with me. You know exactly what I'm talking about. I am worried about you and Callum. There is something wrong and you won't admit it."
I shot him a look that said 'this-is-none-of-your-business,' but he didn't relent. Instead, the intensity in his eyes grew and his grip on my knee tightened slightly, as if silently begging me to trust him. "Caleb, I really don't want to talk about this," I complained.
"Well, that's really too bad. What was he saying to you earlier? I saw the look on your face after you talked to him. Something's wrong." He moved his hand from my knee, instead grabbing my hand, urgency in his voice. I sighed and shook my head. "Just tell me the truth. Does he treat you well?" I nodded, but I could tell he didn't buy it. "He doesn't…Does he-Crap." He struggled with his words and I listened closely for him to spit it out. He took a deep breath before slowly and hesitantly asking, "He doesn't hit you, does he?"
My mouth fell open in shock and fury and I wrenched my hand out of his. "Who the hell do you think you are? Of course he doesn't hit me," I snapped. "Now I gave you your answers so you can let it go. Don't ask me about this again Caleb, or I promise you we won't be speaking again."
He ran a hand through his hair. "Alright, alright, I won't. You just looked really scared before and I guess I got the wrong idea." I could fully tell that he had no doubt he had the right idea. "I just thought that maybe if you 'got used to' your dad treating you badly, you were convincing yourself that Callum treating you badly was okay too." My eyebrows furrowed slightly and my eyes fell to the floor, my anger dissipating. Was that what I was doing? When I looked back at Caleb, he was watching my face with interest, making me resume my angry front. "But if you say he's treating you fine, then he must be. Right?" He continued to study my expression and I stuck out my chin defiantly, refusing to let him see how my mind was spinning under the surface.
Seeing that I wasn't going to budge, he sighed and took my hand again. I let him hold it and he squeezed it slightly, making me look down at our entwined hands. "Just promise me one thing. If you're ever in any kind of trouble, any at all, you have to talk me. Promise me that much." When I looked back up at him, his eyes mirrored the concern and urgency in his voice. He gave a small teasing smile and his tone lightened a little. "Come on. You have nothing to lose. If what you say is true, then what's the harm in promising?"
I sighed, seeing his point and decided to throw him a bone. "Fine," I said with a smile. "I promise."
I am so, so sorry! I know it's been longer than I usually take to update, but what can I say? My parents were out of town for a while on vacation in Las Vegas and I've been incredibly busy. This chapter was a hugeee challenge to update; I spent such a long time trying to get it perfect (which it isn't).
Rosie's birthday is officially going to be known as the day that never ends. I had so much trouble figuring out when to do cut offs and by the end of my editing, this chapter was like 10000 words, so I decided to cut it in half. Sorry!
Regardless, I hope you enjoyed the chapter and I'll try to update soon, but no promises, since it's finals week next week.
Wish me luck!
For all my readers, please, if there is anything you want to see or anyone you want more of, just let me know and I'll see what I can do. Your reviews really influence my writing a lot, whether or not you realize it, and I take your opinions very seriously! I have so much fun writing this story and I want you guys to feel like its as much your story as mine.
So, drop me a line ;)
P.S. The more reviews I get, the more motivation to update faster... Just a hint.
itsjustmex: thank you so much for reviewing! it's so great to see new people reviewing, as much as the old!