Authors: Tiana Laveen
“Wake up, Mia!” he demanded, his back still towards her. She moved about sluggishly under the sheets, barely rousing from a long slumber. “Baby, I need you to wake up. This is important!” He turned towards her and shook her knee vigorously, making her come alive.
“What? What?!” She sat up and rubbed her eyes, clearly disoriented. She looked around, her dark strands going in every direction.
“When did you receive this?” His jaws tightened as if he were some shark with a mouthful of freshly shredded fish guts.
She looked at him quizzically.
“I… don’t know what that is.” He flashed the envelope towards her, and her face relaxed as realization set in.
“Oh, that. Today… I got it today, Aaron,” she stated around a yawn. She stretched her arms high, trying to break free from the confines of her sleepy state.
“Do you know what it means?”
“It’s a letter to you. I opened it not realizing it was for you beforehand. Your name wasn’t on the front but once I saw it on the inside, I set it aside. I hadn’t read it fully; it said you needed to fill out some paperwork.”
“Mia, it’s a threat!” He jumped up from the bed and waved the damn thing frantically at her, unable to control himself any longer. “I walked into your kitchen to get something to drink, looked down and saw it.”
“All it said was that you needed to fill out some paperwork.” Wrinkles formed between her brows. “We’ve registered for wedding gifts, so I just figured our names are linked that way. It seemed fairly cut and dry.”
“Nothing is cut and dry about this! I have told no one your name with the exception of Dr. Owens obviously and my sister, and I know her ass isn’t talkin’. My friend Darryl doesn’t even know your name. I knew they were comin’ for me. I fuckin’
it!” He tossed the damn thing angrily on the ground and stomped towards the bedroom door.
“Aaron! Wait!” The woman’s footsteps trailed behind him. She stood there in her fucking birthday suit, her body his goddamn altar. He wanted to bow and pray, but there was no time. “Now look,” she stated calmly as she ran one hand coolly through her hair. “If it is what you think it is, then I need you to calm down and tell me what’s going on, and then… we can figure something out.”
“There’s nothing to figure out, Mia. We have to move, end of story.” He tossed up his hands. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, anyway… wanting to start over, start fresh. I can move my business anywhere and you can teach wherever you wish, too. We need to move to my house up in West Virginia that I told you about, get the hell out of here.”
He looked around her home, feeling sad and sorry and hurt and fucking enraged all at once. Much to his surprise, she simply stood there, listening…
In actuality, she was hard to read at that moment. He knew she’d worked hard for that house, had touched so many children… and here he was, disrupting her life once again, making things hard and horrible for her.
“I told you I’d leave; we already discussed this. My word to you is my bond. I’d move, follow you, and I know you’d do the same for me. Now calm the hell down,” she said sternly, crossing her arms over her breasts. “I don’t want you to feel chased away though, Aaron… I’m
afraid.” Her eyes narrowed. “I’m not afraid because I’ve got faith, and I’ve got
.” She held her head high as she approached him to place a gentle hand on his bare shoulder.
“I know that, and I need it, God knows I do, but I refuse to have you looking over your shoulder every damn minute, Mia. We’re gettin’ married. We’re going to start a family! I have to try and stay in one piece for my daughter, too. I’m not running away; I’m running
something! To protect the ones I love. If it were just me, I’d stand my ground, but I got other people involved in this… and they are not the type of people you want to hope and wish to take a chance with.” He took a step back and shook his head. “They tried to blackmail me, Mia. Since I’ve been out, they’ve attempted to extort money – payment to leave me alone and to not blow my damn brains out. If I thought that would stop ’em, I would have done it, but with guys like this, any show of weakness and you’re dead!
He ground his teeth together until a dull ache formed in his mouth. “I knew it was only a matter of time before they found out about you, and now that they know, this is my final warning from them to either pay up or perish. They sent it to your house on purpose, knowing I would recognize this, because I drafted it! We give it to new recruits… And my new recruit is you, so I will protect you at all costs.”
He raced back into the bedroom and began to dress.
“I need you to call a reputable movin’ company. Tell them money is no problem. They need to get their asses over here in the next 24 hours and have your house packed up, and then do mine. I need to take care of some things with my affairs.” He paused to look at the woman standing there by the door, her eyes full of concern that she wouldn’t dare utter. He marched towards her, his belt buckle jingling, and gathered her in his arms.
“I’m going to fix this, alright?” He kissed her lips. “West Virginia is beautiful, Mia. We’ll be back down and visit when things cool down a bit, okay? It’s not goodbye; it’s just until next time. And goddamn it, I’m sorry about this!” His voice shaking, he squeezed her with all his might. Once again, he needed her forgiveness…
“My past actions are like a damn snowball,” he said gently into her ear, his eyes closed. “Just when we think the storm is over, another flake falls, and then another until there is a full advisory.”
“We are in this together, Aaron… I’m right here by your side.” She gripped his jaw and brought their lips together. He wished they had time to make love one more time, but every second counted.
“And that’s where I need you. My mistakes just keep rollin’ and rollin’, gettin’ bigger and bigger. I apologize for the pain I’ve caused you.”
“You don’t need to keep apologizing to me.”
“I do, and I will, Mia. I’m taking you away from everything… your family, the children you’ve worked with and made their lives better. I’m selfish, but I need you with me. Nobody is taking you from me…
!” He gripped a fistful of her hair in his palm, held her to him possessively as his heart beat erratically, thumping in his chest, creating a dull pain.
He meant what he’d said. He’d never let her go, and if need be, he’d die to keep her safe from harm…
9.5 ACRES OF
lush jade and emerald flat top evenly cut grass lay before her like some ‘Welcome Home’ gift from Mother Nature. Not certain where to set her sights on next, she fumbled about, full of questions. But, the stunning view had her tongue-tied.
Notwithstanding, Mia was running on unfiltered, fast flowing adrenaline as she took a much-needed pause to eavesdrop on the various sounds that flittered all around her. This time the trickling water acoustics arrived from the whistling Pagan River, which framed the majority of the secluded estate. During their conjugal visit, Aaron stated he had some property – a nice little house away from the city. That had been the first lie he’d ever told her…
A nice little house my ass…
Mia looked about the place, her bones exhausted, her eyes crossed from forcing herself to work through the night, then catch a turbulent red-eye plane ride. Her brain practically misfired after three days of grueling tasks, last minute good-byes, packing, storage companies, moving, and trying to explain to her loved ones that she had not completely lost her mind.
Aaron had met Mama and Daddy. He’d kissed Mama’s hand and shook Daddy’s hand. She knew they didn’t understand, how could they? But, she’d promised to return as soon as possible. Her notice into Principle Bullock’s office caused an emotional tailspin of a scene she wouldn’t soon forget. This announcement didn’t go unchallenged, for as she tossed her things haphazardly into two oversized cardboard boxes she’d stolen from the cafeteria, parents approached her with tears in their eyes, begging for a reason, and pleading with her to stay.
Never mind the sobbing students who clung to her as if their lives depended upon her mere presence, and this was the final straw. She broke down like that straw that had fallen across a desert camel’s back, emotionally collapsed into the arms of tiny children that she saw as her very own. They all huddled around her and declared their love, and she did the same, now a blubbering mess. Even the ones who could not speak or use sign language said so much with their intense expressions, and it was all to her poignant detriment. And then, there was Zion…
He was due to graduate in a few weeks, and would be gone from her care anyhow, but this didn’t make things much easier. This wasn’t the goodbye she wanted, but she pulled him aside, tried to explain the situation. Much to her surprise, he simply smiled and gave her a big, warm hug… It was as if he knew exactly what she needed.
Her fellow teachers, their coffee mugs in hand, had surrounded her like a pack of wolves in need of a good and tasty meal. She was ganged up on, a beloved woman feeling the power of her presence and seeing without a shadow of a doubt that she’d be sorely missed.
She bowed her head, searching for the words, then simply explained that she had a family emergency, and that she must leave immediately. The answer wasn’t good enough for them, her boss, the children, or herself, but it served to dodge additional inquiries, promising to follow up once she’d gotten to her destination and settled in. She wasn’t the only one putting out fires, though. Aaron spent hours on the phone making tedious, time consuming, yet crucial arrangements and reconciling dire business obligations. He kept the business operations open in Alabama, not wishing to inconvenience his employees simply because his life had become rather complicated… No, wait. It wasn’t complicated. By all intents and purposes, it was a fucking disaster and no one other than the parties involved should suffer the brunt of it all – so he mapped out his new plans.
He decided he’d open another facility right there in Smithfield, West Virginia, too. Besides, he explained he’d been knocking around the idea of expansion, and this way, he could attract more clients in the Midwest and portions of the East Coast as well.
Despite his forced jovial mood, she knew Aaron was fronting and frothing out the mouth. She’d heard him pacing in the wee hours of the morning, the floors creaking under his demanding gait. Whispers on the phone… the tone rather threatening. The cracking of his large knuckles had become habitual. She’d look at his hands closely, one of which was adorned by a large sterling silver skull ring. There were also his impromptu perpetual workouts; in this case, consisting of tossing items no longer wanted into a tin garbage bin so hard, she was certain he’d cause the thing to ricochet right on down the road, never to be seen again.
This happened all in private, for he was hell bent on putting on an act, hiding his anxiety from her prying eyes. But, she saw it nevertheless, and a part of her knew he was allowing her to view him, although, for the time being, from afar. She’d caught him twice staring down at his daughter’s photo on his phone while the movers navigated all around him as if he were some statue that simply needed to be ignored. He paid them no attention, but seemed to be in a grim, mournful world of his own. A world he didn’t construct, but he sure as hell inhabited.
That poor little girl…
Now her father was over nine hundred miles away fighting a bloody war built upon veiled threats, and others, not so shielded nor secret. His paranoia had grown stronger with each minute. Aaron had promised Laura that once he got things secured, he’d send for her. He wanted his daughter for the summers, every other major holiday, spring break, and any weekends on which he could fly her up. Mia couldn’t wait to meet the bright and beautiful little child.
She’d heard so much about her, seen so many pictures and watched as the proud father he was displayed her report cards and artwork that he’d collected over the years. And because of that love for her, he was careful, oh so careful. He’d made it abundantly clear that she and Laura were his treasures, and should anyone compromise their wellbeing, he would not take the matter lightly.
Aaron being a professional in the vocation of security did not seem to sway or concern his adversaries, and though she found this rather alarming, she accepted that there were simply things about Aaron’s former life that she may never fully understand.
He bided his time regarding these matters, kept it bottled deep within the alcoves of his mysterious soul, but he’d given her the key; her internal promise was to not abuse her stay. But, the journey to redemption was taxing. Too much had happened
soon, and her brain and body fought one another, while her heart threatened to give out and give up if a promise of resolution wasn’t granted. What the hell did she expect? A fairytale. No… She’d fallen in love with a mad man who’d turned spiritually jovial and renewed… But the world doesn’t care about what we are doing right now; it prefers to focus on what we
, and rub our noses in it until we die from choking off our own mistakes, vomit on the bygones and sinfully suffocate.