For disclaimers and all that business, please see Part I.
Thanks again to the seemingly inexhaustible patience of Ruth, who read this time and time again…thanks Kamouraskan, and Jo, for your encouragement.
And especially thanks to all you guys that have been so patient in waiting on these updates- they're coming, I promise!!!!
And feel free to keep 'em coming…
Christina stared into the water as the sun slowly cascaded above the horizon. The bright, resplendent colors offered her no comfort. She was living a double life.
The wind played through her dark hair as she tried to reconcile herself. The past was a secret she guarded jealously from Abigail. Abigail loved her, as she was now - but what about the monster she had been? The woman whose hands were still stained from the blood that purchased her addiction? How could she possibly expect Abigail to understand, much less accept her past?
"Hey." A soft, melodic voice called to her, bringing her back from her despair. "Penny for your thoughts?"
"Morning." Christina smiled as she stared into Abigail's beautiful smile. She continued with false bravado. "I dunno. You expect change?"
"No, silly." Abigail playfully slapped her girlfriend's bicep. "You okay?"
"Yeah." She turned away, glancing at the rising sun. "Look. Beautiful, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is." Abigail stepped behind Christina and wrapped her arms around her waist. "If you don't want to talk, it's okay. But if you do, I'm here. Just to let you know."
Christina shook her head in acknowledgement. No sense making it worse with another lie.
Jack stared at Andrew as he clocked in. He knew Andrew liked to party, but he'd never seen anyone in Andrew's condition. His face looked pretty swollen, like he'd been someone's personal punching bag. And it looked like every movement hurt the poor guy.
A server called for more silverware to be brought out. He watched for a moment as Andrew struggled to lift the silverware tray. The dishwasher dropped it three times and held his ribs.
"I got it." Jack took the brown silverware tray from Andrew as the dishwasher continued to hold his ribs. "What's up, man?"
"Got into a little scuffle. Nothing to write home about." He tried to stand erect and almost collapsed.
"Yeah? Why don't you go sit down, I'll take this out for you."
Andrew grabbed the walls as he flung himself into the break room. He had no idea how he had returned to Pinkston. All he remembered was being on the pier, trying to get to his car. And the pain. The intense, incredible pain. Why couldn't they have killed him and ended it? His sides ached like never before.
"You been to the doctor?" Jack asked as he brought him some water.
"On what? My charm and good looks?"
"Serious business here. You're hurt bad."
Andrew tried to speak but coughed instead. He covered his mouth and felt a wet substance. Great. Now I'm covered in my own snot.
"Hey, you really need to go to the doctor."
Andrew glanced up at Jack and saw the worried look.
"Man, I just coughed."
"Yeah, blood. You coughed blood. You need to go to the doctor. I'll tell the manager and see if I can take you. You don't need to be here."
Blood? I'm coughing blood? Like maybe they killed my lungs...oh God, is that why it hurts so damned much to breathe?
Lita had not heard from Andrew. Almost as much as cowardice, she hated incompetence.
She considered visiting him at The Edge, but thought better of it. It was still too soon to show her hand.
This was a very fun game of chess she was playing with Abigail and Special K. And she intended to relish every moment.
She avoided Billy as she left the house. It was obvious that he no longer understood her and could not really be part of her life or plans.
The pink rays of the sun covered the sky as she walked towards the beach. Slowly, methodically, she trekked towards the jetties as her mind whirled with plans.
But none could take place until she talked with Andrew. The anticipation she usually relished tasted bitter in her mouth.
Damn. He's so unreliable. I really should have rid myself of that nuisance.
The cool, evening air touched her skin as she sat on the jagged rocks. She saw a fish, trapped in a shallow pool and smiled. Like her prey, that fish would soon perish.
Andrew felt like a semi-truck had hit him. Or maybe a room full of guys with nothing better to do than to pound some sense into him. As he tried to clear the fog from his brain, he attempted to sit up.
He failed miserably. Aside from the intense pain that radiated from his chest, he had no strength.
"Take it easy, pal."
He forced his droopy eyelids open. Where the hell am I? "Li...."
"You're gonna be alright." Jack smiled at Andrew and tried to calm him.
"You collapsed in the dish hole."
"Uhhh." Andrew's head bobbed back down on the pillow.
"Relax, buddy. That was some kind of fight you were in, huh?" Jack smiled again, though inside, he was angry. He knew Andrew had a drinking problem - hell, everyone knew Andrew's blood was at least 100 proof liquor. But what kind of person beat up on a defenseless, drunken man? And from the looks of it, it was more than one man.
"No cops." He gasped, the words tearing through his chest and throat. "Please."
"No cops." He gasped again, gagging on the words. "Can't...."
"Okay, okay." Jack reluctantly conceded. "But who did this to you, man?"
"Can't...." Andrew's voice trailed off as he sank back into oblivion.
"Easy, man. Never mind." Jack sat down in the chair beside Andrew's bed and drifted off to sleep. "Just rest."
Christina walked slowly to Abigail's apartment. She should be happy, to be so well loved. But she wasn't.
The untold truth haunted her; it stared her in the face every time she looked into Abigail's verdant eyes. It stripped away her comfort, filled her with fear.
She kicked a pebble out of her path as she struggled to contain her frustration.
It felt so good, to hold Abigail, to be loved by her. For once in her life, she didn't feel alone. She didn't want to lose that. She couldn't afford to lose that.
But she could no longer live with the lie.
Too many times, in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, she'd heard people share how their secrets had kept them sick, destroyed their lives.
Her secret was a double-edged sword. Either she told Abigail the truth, and probably lose her, or try to keep this secret as it ripped away at the very fabric of her being.
As far as she could see, it was a lose-lose situation.
She took in a sharp breath and attempted to smile as she knocked on the door. Impossible; the smile would not form. That's it. I've got to tell her tonight.
Cassandra Thanis gripped the wheel tightly as she drove. She hated driving in the dark, but this couldn't be helped.
At work, she could think of nothing else but driving to see her daughter.
Her daughter, who was haunted by a murdering psychotic bitch. She gripped the steering wheel even tighter as the anger flared.
As the trees flew by, images of the past flooded her mind.
All because of what that Lita Tomlinson did. And now, for some unknown, god-awful reason, the state of Florida decided she had paid her debt to society and was fit to live among civilized people.
Sweet Gail, in the hospital from shock after watching poor Michael get killed in front of her. Her daughter attended the funeral, at least physically.
So much changed after Michael died.
Her heart nearly broke as she tried to reach her daughter during those times. Gail crept inside of herself, unwilling or unable to be part of life. The sparkle from her green eyes evaporated like the morning dew.
It was bad enough, just dealing with Michael's death. He was like a brother to Abigail; her best friend since kindergarten. And Cassandra Thanis watched her daughter rocked beyond the point of despair.
But that it transpired in front of her poor daughter. Gail was more of a granite statue than a person while awake and screamed during her sleep.
They thought it would be a good idea, putting her in that karate class. Give their daughter somewhere to focus all of her pent-up frustration and rage.
Which, of course, led to Kathy Morris. Kathy, the blackbelt who abused her position in the school and seduced her daughter. Then sent pictures when her daughter was strong enough to end her situation with Kathy.
Cassandra inhaled deeply as she tried to relax her grip on the steering wheel. Her hands were slightly numb from overuse.
The karate training led to the whole gay thing. She and her husband didn't handle that well at all. It was so shocking - Gail certainly didn't look like those masculine women they'd seen on the television. Nor did she act masculine. And it seemed so strange, at first.
Mrs. Thanis shook her head as she reflected. Her husband, in his cold rage, froze out their daughter. And she buried herself like an ostrich and tried desperately to avoid any sort of confrontation with either of them. She knew a confrontation would mean a choice and she was not mentally prepared to handle choosing her child over her husband. The thought of no grandchildren really rocked them.
And that their daughter...but that was all past. The time they'd spent absent from their daughter's life, while some other couple had to play parents to Gail taught them what was important. She and her husband had learned to accept Gail's homosexuality, even though it went against everything they were brought up to believe.
Gail was what mattered. Not her lifestyle. Not the fact they might never experience the joy of grandchildren. Gail was what important.
It would be different this time. She knew Abigail needed her. And she would be there.
Trish couldn't help but worry about Abigail. She was so involved with Christina, almost to the point of exclusion. And Abigail didn't know Christina - not like she did.
She remembered all too well.
It wasn't so much that she just intensely disliked Christina. The girl was just bad news. Christina had a bad temper and little patience. And she had about as much sensitivity as a wet dishcloth.
She snorted in disgust as she rolled silverware in a cloth napkin.
Nick told her to back off, to let Abigail make her own mistakes. But she could see the handwriting on the wall. Abigail was going to get hurt. Again.
Then there was last time. When that bitch Kathy did her number on poor Ab, Ab was devastated. Not to mention the fact that that stupid little dyke outted Ab to her parents. Ab crumbled like a cookie. She damned near lost her family because of that.
She loved Abigail as if she were her own daughter; it hurt her to see the girl have such poor choice in girlfriends.
And that crazy Kathy - her young friend almost had to take out a restraining order against that Morris girl.
Sure, that Morris seemed all right when she first started coming around. But sweet Jesus, even Ab hadda admit there were little clues that she wasn't quite right.
She finished rolling the pan of silverware in napkins and went outside to the designated smoking area.
Now she's hooked up with Christina Stavros. That Christina - I remember her from the old days here. She always looked like a volcano, ready to erupt. You could feel the tension, just walking by her. And she's all messed up with my Ab. I don't like it.
That girl is bad news.
Trish lit a cigarette as she ruminated over Abigail's love life.
Maybe little Ab really does have a thing for psychos.
Jack stayed by Andrew's bedside.
He kept reliving Michael's death, replaying it in his mind.
Maybe this time, he could make a difference. This time, maybe he could save a life, rather than watch someone die.
A cold anger burned within him as he saw Lita Callison's smiling face as she finished stabbing Michael in front of his eyes.
He was a lot of things, but a street fighter was not one of them. Too bad. She was.
Sometimes, when he thought about that night, he could still feel the blood pouring from his nose and side. She stabbed him, then broke his nose as he collapsed in pain.
And what did he remember most clearly? She laughed as she did it.
And the people who did this to the drunken dishwasher were just like her.
Oh no. Not this time. Not ever again. He would die before he would let another crazed maniac just reach up and grab people out of his world.
It wasn't that he was and Andrew were close friends; it was a chance to redeem himself for his failure to Michael.
And he needed that. Because he failed Mikey, Mikey was dead.
He couldn't let it happen to Andrew.
Andrew forced out a low groan as he stirred awake.
"Hey." Jack smiled as Andrew tried to focus his eyes.
"Why are you here?" Guilt flooded Andrew's conscience.
"Just making sure you're okay." Jack stood up and stretched his legs. "That bother you?"
Andrew stared blankly past the other man and tried to ignore the shame that threatened to engulf him.
"Besides, we didn't really know who to call. There is that."
"Yeah." Andrew coughed weakly.
Jack walked to the window and stretched. He watched the gentle rain grace the ground.
"Jack." Andrew's voice was shaky, but not as shaky as his self-esteem. "Why do you care?"
Visions of Michael's lifeless body flashed through Jack's mind as he turned around to face the injured man.
"I'm just a damned drunken fool."
"You see, Andrew," he began as he approached the bedside. "A few years ago, I had a very good friend killed. Right in front of me." He gripped the bedrail as he continued. "All Mike did was be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I swore, then and there, I'd never stand by and let that happen again."
Andrew stared blankly as the other man continued, the shame filling his soul.
"His killer was convicted, but I'm serving more time." He paused as he struggled to the swelling emotions. "I've been guilty ever since she killed him because I couldn't stop her.
"I was afraid. Too afraid to really try."
"Michael? Your friend's name was Michael." His mind began whirling. Oh, shit, that's what all this has been about. That murder put her away!
"So, anyway, that's why I'm here. You're in trouble and you need help. I won't turn my back on you. I can't."
Christina sat on the balcony while Abigail finished up in the kitchen. She said a silent prayer for strength.
She knew she had to tell her tonight. No more putting it off.
Abigail either accepted her or she didn't.
It was that simple.
"Hey, honey." Abigail kissed her girlfriend on the cheek and wrapped her arms around her. "You feel so good."
Christina absently placed her hand on the arm wrapped around her.
"Abigail," she responded softly. "I need to talk to you."
"Okay." The strawberry blonde disengaged and took the chair across from her girlfriend.
Christina took a deep breath and said another quick prayer for courage as she sat down in the chair behind her.
"Hey," verdant eyes stared at her warmly as she felt her girlfriend's hand grasp hers. "It's okay."
"You know I'm an alcoholic." She paused as her girlfriend nodded her head slowly. "Well, I need to tell you about me. About what I've done." Christina felt Abigail's grip on her hand tighten slightly. "And if you want me to leave or you don't want to see me anymore…." Her voice trailed off.
"It's okay, honey."
Yeah, we'll see about that.
"When I was eleven, my dad killed himself." She removed her hand from Abigail's and continued. "We went from being an upper middle class family to struggling to survive. That same year, my little brother," her voice dropped as she fought to say the words, "was killed in a drive-by shooting.
"I changed then. Gave up on everything, everyone. I was very angry."
Abigail nodded her head and encouraged her to continue.
"I got in a lot of trouble. Became a problem child. Fighting was a way of life for me." She looked away from the tender green eyes staring at her.
"It's okay, honey."
"No," she replied adamantly. "It isn't okay. I fought a lot. I fought for a living."
"What do you mean?"
"You know those cock fights, where people bet on which rooster is going to win, never mind the outcome?"
"Yes." Abigail felt the tornado in her mind as it whirled to frightening conclusions.
"Well, that's what street fighting is like. And I was involved in that. As you can tell, I won."
"Yeah." Christina stood up and distanced herself from Abigail. "I won. You can tell because I'm still standing."
"And your opponents?"
"They're not." Her voice dropped as she turned her head away. "They're dead."
"Dead?" The shock and disbelief reverberated in Abigail's voice.
"Yeah. They lost." She made herself face her girlfriend. "That's how I bought my drinks."
"I don't believe you." Abigail's body shook involuntarily. "God, if you wanted to break up with me, why don't you just say so?"
"What?" Chistina stared at the smaller woman in confusion. "What in the hell are you talking about?"
"Making up this trash. Why are you doing this?"
"Abigail." She moved closer to the other woman. "Listen to me. I love you. That's why I told you this. I hate it, but it's the truth. I fought people. And they died."
Tears rolled down Abigail's face as the truth slapped her. Memories of the past erupted in her mind like an active volcano. Lita, with a knife, stabbing at Michael; the laugh that resounded in her soul as she watched her best friend die. And she tried to stop it. She could still feel Lita's arm in her grasp, then somehow, Lita's blood-covered hand turned and forced her arm behind her back and broke it.
Then Jack showed up. But it was too late for Michael. Blood ran out of Michael's body like a river as Jack tried to restrain her. She struggled against his arms as the blonde woman laughed over her best friend's lifeless body.
"No." The maniacal laugh from so long ago filled her ears. And Michael. Dead. The funeral. No! "Not you."
"Yeah." Christina responded weakly. "Me." She shrugged her shoulders as the hurt stabbed her heart. "You want me to go?"
A knock on the door shocked Abigail back into the present and she jumped out of her chair. "I have to get that."
Christina stared over the balcony as Abigail hurried inside. She had serious thoughts of flinging herself over, but knew that wasn't the answer. She had to deal with the wreckage from her past, engulfing her present.
Lita was amazed to learn Andrew was in the hospital.
Not that it mattered much to her; the only reason she cared at all was that it interrupted her plans.
She had her priorities, after all. Poor little Abigail Thanis would have to pay for the wrong she committed, but to claim vengeance against Special K - what a sweet and unexpected benefit!
Andrew probably poisoned himself with alcohol. Once he's out, he can tell me all about his Tampa trip. And then we can set things in motion.
She smiled as she threw darts at her most recent sketch, which hung on the backside of her bedroom door. Each dart pierced the sketch between the eyes.
Special K's eyes. That woman who owed her a life. Who killed her brother.
She absently removed the darts from the drawing, tearing it in the process.
Time for revenge was almost upon her. She could taste the sweetness of it on her lips.
She waited a lifetime for this, never believing it before.
Lita laughed out loud as she pictured Abigail, squirming to free herself as she died slowly. And the look of horror that would fill those haunting, blue eyes.
She held the dart in her hands and imagined it was a knife. And that the drawing was Abigail Thanis.
And she sliced. And sliced. It felt good.
I will have my day.
Continued in Part XII
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