TITLE: WICKED GAMES
Jake was beyond furious. If rage had a color, his would be the most vibrant red tinged with just a hint of yellow for drama queen effect.
Rage, unfortunately, did not have a color. Rage – silent for so long, if he didn’t speak the words, they wouldn’t come true – only had an outlet now: his mother. She stood across from him in her newly updated – granite counters, stainless appliances, hardwood floors – kitchen. She had wiped away the kitchen of his childhood, just as she had wiped away the truth regarding his private adoption 32 years ago.
“Don’t you think this is something I should have been told about at some point in my life?” He reached up and ran his fingers through his curly dark hair.
Cordelia met his angry gaze. “Perhaps.”
He arched one brow slightly – an affectation learned from his mother and his Aunt Ophelia. “Perhaps? That’s your response?”
“What other response do you want, Jacob? For me to break down in tears and beg your forgiveness?” She laughed softly and looked past him, out the bay window behind him. “Ophelia and I did what we did, no turning back, but so many damn second thoughts.” She laughed again and shook her head, her shoulder length, silver tinged black hair, swaying from side to side. “Once the lie was told, there was no turning back. There was only the fear of discovery, year after year, decade after decade, until this moment.”
Jake turned and looked out the window, his empty wine glass held in his left hand. He could not look at his mother. Where was the woman who taught him the difference between right and wrong, honesty above all else? Who was this woman who seemed so calm and composed, so indifferent to the horrible lie she and her sister told once upon a time in the way of fairy tales and unhappy endings? He inhaled deeply, held the breath for the count of twenty, and slowly exhaled. Cardinals flocked throughout his mother’s backyard, pecking away at the multitude of bird feeders.
Jake turned back around to face his mother. The lie she told was inexcusable. “At what point, Mother, does a person decide to tell such a lie and toss away her soul?”
“Souls are so easy to toss aside.” She did not smile, though she did meet his gaze. She shrugged her shoulders slightly. “How long have you know?”
“Far too long.” He could use more wine right about now. For three years he had known the alleged truth of what Cordelia and Ophelia had done, and maintained a calm indifference. Life was much easier when he ignored the truth. He was a coward. He wanted the perfect life. He wanted to believe in happily ever after and that his mother and aunt were not callous people. He wanted to believe – at least once in his life – that good things happen to good people.
As with so much else in his life, his beliefs turned out to be worthless. His luck turned out to be bad. His mother – adoptive, loving, the joy of his life – turned out to be part of a horrendous lie that devastated and reshaped a family. His adoption was not private, arranged by a lawyer as he had been told over and over again. There was nothing legal about his adoption.
“How did you find out?” There was a slight tremble to her voice, the only outward sign of emotion. She held her glass of cabernet in her right hand; her left arm was wrapped across her stomach.
He did not answer her question. Three years earlier a woman died. She did not carry all her secrets to the grave. She – through the marvels of modern technology – left her secrets behind for him through various DVDs he had been receiving off and on for three years.
“Are you going to answer me?” She tapped her foot. “How long have you known?”
He swallowed hard and looked away from her – almost – emotionless gaze. How could she be so calm? At what point had his mother lost all sense of humanity? “Three years.” He watched her eyes narrow, just slightly, barely a movement at all, but one he knew so well from childhood.
“So you’ve kept this to yourself for three years.” She took a gulp of her wine. Her hand trembled slightly. “Three years and you confront me now? Why? Why bother at all?”
“I wanted happily ever after. I wanted the truth to be a lie.”
Cordelia laughed bitterly. “Happily ever after only happens in fairy tales, and not always the way you expect. Cinderella’s step-sisters wanted happily ever after, but all they got was birds pecking out their eyes.”
“Well, that’s a harsh visual.”
“Life is not perfect. Bad things happen to good people. People do things in moments of anger that they can never undo.”
“Please tell me you’re not defending what you two did.”
“I wanted a child.” She did not look away from him. “Ophelia wanted revenge. Things just worked out.”
He thought he might throw up.
“All I wanted was a child.” Cordelia spoke very softly. “Life can be so unfair at times. Ophelia was the golden child – beautiful, intelligent, popular, and fertile. I got so tired of her calling to tell me she was pregnant . . . again. Gods, how that woman could pop out babies! All I wanted was to hear my,” she stopped, swallowed hard, “doctor tell me I was pregnant. Instead,” she shook her head, her eyes narrowed in anger, “he told me I was barren. Infertile! I would never have a child of my own. It’s all I wanted. I wanted a child! I would have sold my soul for a child.”
“You did sell your soul, Mother. Both of you did.”
You are the son of Antonio and Ophelia DeMarrco - those were the words Esmeralda DeMarrco spoke from beyond the grave, courtesy of a DVD.