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Chapter 15- Nightmare Manifested
I was frozen in place, stunned. There was absolute silence for several seconds behind the screen. My mother was saying nothing. Alexa was saying nothing. A chilling sense of horror was coming over me. How had this happened?
“Alli?” I heard my mother query from behind the black screen of my laptop. Her voice wasn’t harsh or accusing, it was rather… neutral. “Alli, we need to talk about this.”
“I…” was all my aunt managed to say, her voice almost faint.
“You’re surprised, I can tell,” my mother continued. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but we do need to have this conversation, Alexa. And maybe it’ll be hard, but it’s necessary nonetheless.”
“We’ll take our time, if you like,” mom said. “I only arrived at this conclusion recently, I admit. It’s been a lot of observation over the weeks since you’ve arrived, and not always easy- glances you gave him here and there, the way you interacted with him, in spite of your preference for girls…”
“And I’m concerned for you, and for Alex,” she said. “Because he’s warmed up to you, yes, but I’m worried about what he’d think and how he’d react if you ever learned about your feelings for him.”
“It really seems out of left field, to be honest, because you’ve been dating girls exclusively, but after a while, Michael and I were certain of it. I’m sure it was tough for you, fighting with your feelings, but that’s why I want to talk, before things get really complicated and people get upset or hurt.”
There was a long pause and then Alexa spoke. I had never heard her sound this way, and couldn’t readily conceive of that tone in her voice. Her words terrified me.
“Yes… and I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You’re right, Alex can’t know…”
Alexa, what are you doing?! What the Hell are you doing?!
“I know he can come across as a little awkward,” mom said softly. “And I know he’s accepted you and loves having you in this family. If this created a rift between you, I’d be heartbroken. So, I want to talk and figure out what to do about it, to ease this in a direction that won’t end in disaster.”
“Yes…” Alexa said distantly.
My feet were moving. My mind was whirling, but my feet carried me up the stairs from my room in the basement. I couldn’t hear them anymore, but I didn’t need to. I couldn’t believe I was doing this, but it was almost involuntary. I was insane!
My mother and father thought Alexa had fallen in love with me and that I was blissfully ignorant of this fact! If I’d stopped to consider, I would have been completely shocked. How on earth had they not noticed my feelings for my aunt but noticed hers for me?
My mother wasn’t enraged, she wasn’t being forceful, she was doing her best to help her younger sister in what she perceived as a difficult situation. I was in the dining room now and kept walking forward woodenly, toward the stairs.
Why was I still walking? My mother was, possibly, offering a solution to the dilemma my aunt and I had found ourselves in. She was offering to help Alexa fight her feelings for me. Didn’t that mean all I had to do was somehow wrestle my feelings- my love- for my aunt down and we could move on with our lives as was meant to be? Where we could all still be a family without burgeoning and terrifying secrets?
I walked up the stairs.
“It’s tough, I know, Alexa. But I want you to be able to talk to me.”
My aunt was trying to force herself to accept full responsibility for how we’d fallen in love. She was going to take the bullet and spare me, to make sure my parents didn’t suspect me.
My heart was thundering as I walked down the hallway, toward the open door leading to the room they were sitting in. The ball of ice in my stomach was spreading through my body. My chest felt tight and there was a cold sweat on my brow and my palms. My feet were like lead.
Why was I still walking?
My shaking hand touched the door frame as I rounded the corner and walked stiffly into the bedroom. I was no doubt almost pale as a ghost, which is how Alexa looked when I saw her. Her heard snapped to look over at me, her eyes widening with horror at my presence.
“Alex, would you excuse us, please?” mom asked, looking up at me. “Alli and I are having a rather private chat.”
“I… I know…” I managed to say, my heart in my throat as I looked at my mother, who was sitting in a chair not far from the bed Alexa was sitting on the edge of. “I know what you’re talking about mom… and I… I’m not letting her take this on alone.”
“Alex, no…” my aunt pleaded.
I ignored the plea, steeling myself. “She’s not the only one in love, mom. We’ve been in love with one another for weeks now… we’re… we’re lovers, and have been almost since her arrival.”
My mother stared at me. Her expression was neutral, but I could see it in her eyes, a whirling sense of utter confusion. Slowly she turned her head to look bahis firmaları at Alexa and then back at me. Alexa stared ahead blankly, as if withdrawing from reality.
Alea iacta est.
“Alex, please say what you said again?” mom requested in a quiet voice. “I’m… not sure I heard you correctly.”
Good Lord, I didn’t know it was possible for a person’s heart to pound so forcefully. I felt like I was going to pass out. I took a deep breath and steeled myself.
“No, you heard correctly, mom. I’m in love with your younger sister, my aunt. I pretty much have been since the moment I laid eyes on her at the airport. And I’m pretty damn sure she’s every bit as much in love with me.”
Mom just stared at me. How ever composed her exterior might have been, I could see and feel the total bewilderment in her- this had come completely out of left field and she hardly knew what to think. This possibility had not crossed her mind. She really believed that I’d lived on in blissful ignorance of Alexa’s feelings for me.
Had I done that good a job at seeming aloof?
Mom looked back at Alexa, but my aunt seemed to have withdrawn in on herself. She stared ahead blankly, her normally bright blue eyes dull and… defeated. What the Hell could I possibly do for her? I’d already let the cat out of the bag and everything seemed to be hanging by a thread.
I had absolutely no concept of what could possibly happen next.
Mom blinked slowly and stood. She went over to the bedroom window and opened it.
“Dear?” she called. “Would you come up here, please?”
Fuck. Mom didn’t know what to do. She was calling for dad. The cold chill I’d felt earlier in my spine had nothing on the one crawling up it now. It bordered on terror. I was absolutely still.
For a man of nearly two-hundred and eighty pounds of solid muscle, dad moved up the stairs quickly and lightly. Somehow I was thankful for that, because if his footfalls had been booming, I might have fainted. Alexa said nothing, staring off at the wall. Mom moved back to her seat and waited quietly.
Dad turned the corner and came into the room, but stopped short upon seeing me. He glanced from me, to mom to Alexa, then back to mom. It hadn’t been more than three seconds before I felt a change in his demeanour, the whole spectrum of the situation laid out for him.
“Oh, Hell…” he said quietly.
I didn’t dare meet his gaze, I just let him walk by me and stand next to mom, who was still in the chair she’d sat in when she came to talk to Alexa. Dad sighed and nodded to himself.
“Okay,” he said. “From the beginning. Who wants to start?”
Alexa was still seemingly catatonic. I was beginning to worry about her, I’d never seen her like this before. So instead of forcing her to say anything, I began talking. I really hoped I wouldn’t start babbling. Getting the first few words out was so hard.
“I… I overheard mom and Alexa talking about her apparently being in love with me.”
My lips wrestled as I tried to form words, my throat suddenly very dry. “Alexa and I were Skype-talking before mom knocked. Alexa minimized the screen, but I think she forgot to turn off the feed, so even though I could see nothing, I heard everything.”
“Okay,” he said evenly. “Alex, why are you and your aunt in love?”
I shrugged somewhat helplessly. “Not like either of us planned it, y’know? We were just really attracted to one another.”
“And none of this struck you as a complication?” mom asked, her tone indicating that complete honesty was the only accepted answer here- no nuanced replies, the straight truth.
“Yes,” I said finally. “It occurred to us constantly.”
“Mom, I… I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to,” I said, trying to keep the pleading out of my voice. What was I even pleading for? Her to understand the quandary? Acceptance of our relationship? “And I… I couldn’t bring myself to want to. I don’t think she could either.”
“So the moment we met her in the terminal, you were love-struck,” mom said, her voice factual, devoid of any emotion, be it sympathy or scorn. Just flat, scientific fact. “And apparently she felt the same way?”
I nodded slowly. It was really weird, talking on Alexa’s behalf, but she seemed to still be retreated into her own mind. I didn’t know what to do, except explain as best I could on behalf of us both. My heart was still pounding.
“But… so much has happened,” mom said, exasperation on the edges of her voice. “The accident, the weddings, Allie dating girls… how did you manage to…”
I shrugged. I was as stunned as she was.
Mom almost sagged back in the chair. Dad remained unmoving, towering over us all. Mom had a finger resting on her lips, lost in thought. Her eyes flicked up to me and then over to Alexa. It was obvious she still didn’t know what to make of all this. Not only my affair with her younger sister, but how blind they’d been to it.
“It never occurred to me,” she murmured to no one in particular. “I suspected Alli, then was kaçak iddaa pretty certain. But not you, Alex. Not in the slightest.”
My normal defence mechanism of making a wry statement did not kick in, thankfully. I couldn’t imagine there being a less perfect time. Dad wasn’t laughing. No amusement in his expression or hiding behind his eyes. This was serious. I’d do well to not get ahead of myself, concentrating on fighting down my sense of panic.
I didn’t know whether to talk or stay quiet and let mom talk. If I said nothing and she felt like I was forcing her hand, there’d be trouble. But if I began babbling, which I was on the verge of doing at the moment… my stomach churned. This was a nightmare come to life.
Maybe it had been inevitable. Of course it had been. There was no way we wouldn’t be found out if we kept this up. And yes, perhaps the revelation did not go down how anyone expected, but that didn’t change the fact that the jig was up. My parents knew. All that remained was Armageddon.
Mom rubbed her eyes for a moment, clearly grasping for sense in all this madness she saw surrounding her. Her deep brown eyes, with their bewitching tawny flecks, looked straight up at me, seeming to look right through me or deep into my soul. I was rooted to the spot. I didn’t dare look away and couldn’t have in any event. I trembled at the effort of meeting her gaze.
“My own son,” she said softly. “In love with my sister. And she’s in love with him. I… don’t even know where to begin asking questions.”
I crossed my arms across my chest and scratched at one of my biceps reflexively. I wanted to run. I wanted to explode. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me.
But more than anything, I wanted to look at Alexa. And I didn’t dare.
Why? Because they’d see the emotion in me? Emotion I had just readily, desperately admitted to? Why on earth was I still trying to conceal it? Habit? Fear?
I couldn’t help it. My eyes flicked over to look at Alexa for a fraction of a moment, as if to make sure she was really still there. If my mom or dad saw me look, they didn’t register it. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or not, if anything in this entire situation could be considered good. It felt like there were only varying levels of terrible.
“What I don’t understand,” mom said quietly, not looking at either of us. “Is why you allowed it to continue. You had to know that this could never become a thing.”
I nodded. “We know mom. And I think we really tried. Especially after the accident. It was in the hospital that we admitted we were in love, but knew we could never be together. We sort of resolved to try and date other people, then.”
Mom nodded. “You with Heather, her with Jeanie.”
“Yeah,” I said heavily. “But we both knew those’d never work, as long as we were in love with one another. After a while, dating other people just became a cover.”
Dad said nothing, he just kept watching, keeping his own council. I didn’t find that at all encouraging. Mom was the frontman on this gig. I waited for the next question.
“So you two are lovers.”
“And have been since before the accident.”
I nodded again, but I felt like I was going to be sick. Being desperately in love shouldn’t make a person feel nauseous. “By her second day here, we were kissing and naked together in the jacuzzi that night. But yeah, we’ve been lovers since before your car accident.”
“That was weeks ago,” mom breathed in a voice little more than a whisper. “How… often?”
I just shook my head. “More times than I could possibly count, mom, no lie. If you two weren’t around, chances are, we were… y’know.”
Mom looked up at the ceiling, clearly still not able to totally shake her disbelief. She said nothing for some time, before finally lowering her head and looking at me.
“What was your hope here, Alex?” she asked.
Of course, I had no worthwhile answer. How could I? In response, I shook my head slowly, admitting I truly had no idea.
“That’s about the only honest answer there is,” mom said heavily. “You knew this was a no-win scenario and still soldiered on. Normally that’s admirable, but… Alex, if this got out…”
She pinched her eyes again. “I refuse to believe that nobody knows. Alex, who knows?”
I swallowed. “Freja, of course. And Jeanie.”
“Oh, Jesus…” mom almost groaned, putting her hand over her face. She may have adored Jeanie, but clearly had no faith in her ability to remember to keep her mouth shut.
“Freja’s family, she told them some time back. Freja’s known since before she arrived. Jeanie’s known for quite a while too.”
“Anyone else?” mom asked pointedly.
I actually had to think about that, because fear was close to shutting down all my cognitive functions. I was normally proud of my ability to perform under stress and pressure, but this was taking and draining every last drop of strength and fibre of courage in my body.
“I… can’t think of anyone else, mom.” I said finally. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s it.”
“Could kaçak bahis be a lot worse,” she muttered. “If this got out on the campus- Alex, have you and Alexa made love when you were on campus?”
I nodded. There was no point in lying.
“Pretty often.” I admitted. “The day Jeanie and Freja met, we ended up in a foursome in the gym.”
I couldn’t readily identify the feeling that was starting to crawl over me. I was uncomfortable. Warm and cold at the same time. My foot was trembling. The whisper of nausea was now replaced with a cold wave of it.
I was going to be sick.
“‘scuse me!” I said quickly before turning and dashing down the hall to the bathroom. I managed to close the door behind me before collapsing over the bowl and retching, the roaring of the ocean in my ears while my stomach roiled with a sickening fire. They no doubt could hear what was happening to me. I was thankful they left me to it.
Probably only a minute or two had passed, although it felt like hours. I pushed myself up unsteadily, sucking in lungfulls of air. Standing in front of the sink, I was shocked by how pale I was. I got water and rinsed my mouth before exiting the bathroom and heading back to join my parents and Alexa, my hand trailing along the wall to help me keep my balance. As I walked in, my mom looked at me with concern.
“No,” I said wearily. “But I don’t feel like I’m gonna hurl right this moment.”
“I’m sorry this is difficult,” she said quietly, her voiced tinged with regret and even sadness. “And I don’t see it getting less difficult any time soon, but this needs to happen. It must be dealt with.”
She now looked at her sister. “Alli, I’m so sorry. You’re my sister and I love you more than life itself. I need you to talk with me, with us, because this family is paralyzed and we need to work this all out. Please, speak to me.”
There was nothing for several seconds. But then Alexa spoke, still staring at the far wall, her blue eyes distant, unseeing.
“Would you… please give me a little time to myself?” she asked in an impossibly small voice. “I need… I…”
Mom flicked a quick glance up at dad, who nodded subtly. Mom then looked at her sister and nodded. “Okay, Alli. Take your time. You just came into my life, I don’t want this crisis to mar things so completely that we can’t work it out. Take the time you need, until you’re ready to talk. We’ll be around.”
Mom stood up and walked over to her younger sister, leaning down and giving her a gentle kiss on top of the head. She then looked at me and made a shooing motion with her hand, indicating that I would be the first one out the door and I wouldn’t be looking back. Mom followed me out and dad came last, closing Alexa’s door. I cast a sidelong glance before it closed completely. I could see Alexa had turned her head and was looking at me.
There were crystalline tears in her beautiful blue eyes.
I walked down the stairs, feeling rather numb. Mom was behind me and dad brought up the rear. I may have wanted to hide in my den in the basement, or to have the earth open wide and swallow me, but instead I instinctively headed to the living room and sat in the chair, while mom and dad sat together on the chesterfield. Nobody said anything for a few minutes.
Finally, mom sighed. “I thought this whole thing was going to be awkward when only Alli was involved.”
Dad nodded in agreement. “What blows me away is that we didn’t suspect you one bit, Alex. One would think that you’d be the one we’d easily pick up on, since we’ve raised you. But… you played it so straight, just treating your aunt civilly or a little awkwardly when you were around us, that I freely admit your romantic involvement never crossed my mind.”
I smiled weakly and shrugged. I didn’t really have that much to say.
“No argument there,” mom added. “I thought Alli’s feelings, if they happened to become known to you, would screw everything up. I was intent on helping her work through her feelings about you, so that we could all just live on in peace and harmony. Now, I…”
She was silent for a few moments before she sighed quietly. “I don’t know.”
There was another few minutes of silence. Mom and dad seemed content to not talk right then. God knows, I didn’t know what to say. Dad finally allowed me to escape.
“Alex, I don’t know if your mom and I are ready to have a talk with you right this second, we just want to regain our equilibrium. We’re stunned, Alex, even shocked. But not mad at you. I think your mom and I just need to talk for a bit, so why don’t you head downstairs?”
“Okay.” I replied, getting up.
“But promise me,” he added, looking at me. “Do not initiate a conversation with your aunt right now. If she contacts you, that’s different. But give Allie her space, no matter how difficult that may seem. Promise me?”
I nodded. “I promise.”
I left the living room and headed downstairs. It sounds strange, but I was acutely aware of the weight of my phone in my pocket. I laid on my bed and stared at the ceiling. My heartbeat had finally returned to normal, now I just felt numb, kind of heavy. My mind was whirling still. I looked over at my laptop, the screen still open, the way I’d left it.