Two months later
Crystal led Mary Ann into the living room where the bungalow's skylights filled the room with beautiful warm sunlight. The visit had been arranged well in advanced, and Mary Ann sounded nothing short of ecstatic when she telephoned to tell Mary Ann when she could visit, and reminded her about the strict agreement they talked about, as well as letting her know she had her lawyer draw up some documents that she wanted Mary Ann to sign. Of course she was more than willing to say yes to everything, and she told Crystal she would book her train ticket as soon as she could. Less than an hour later, Crystal called again, and Mary Ann told her what day she would be visiting, as well as what time. They decided on a two hour visit, and Crystal let her know she would have a friend at her house as well. Any sign of trouble the contact would go into affect, and Mary Ann would get charges pressed against her. By the time she hung up, she felt exhausted. Having all of the information written down, she left it on her desk, before picking up her baby monitor. She strolled over down the hall, before entering her bedroom where Carson had been laid down for his afternoon nap.
Carson had been truly a total joy of a baby.
He never quite took the breastfeeding which made Crystal sad, but he always took his bottle, and during that time would just gaze up at her with those big brown eyes of his. He was gaining weight quickly, and was nothing short of an active, happy go lucky baby, that constantly left her in wonder. For the first two weeks her grandmother stayed with her, allowing her to catch up on sleep. The second her grandmother laid eyes on him, she instantly fell in love, claiming this was the most beautiful baby she had ever seen. During those three weeks, her grandmother taught her little tricks from when she had children. She calmed her nerves when they gave him his first bath in the kitchen, and he began screaming at the top of his lungs. She showed him ways of soothing, and how to keep a level head. They often had dinner on the back deck, and finally shortly before she flew back, she reached across as the baby laid sleeping in his carseat, and told her how proud she was about her being brave enough in not giving this baby up. That night after she changed Carson, and poured him into a gray one-piece decorated with tiny blue whales, she smiled and lightly tickled his belly. The baby wiggled and kicked his tiny legs, as Crystal stared down and smiled.
"Just you and me kiddo..."
The baby gurgled, staring up with his big brown eyes. He all ready resembled Andrew so much it seemed scary. To anyone outside of her small circle of people she was close with, strangers, anyone from town who would stop Crystal on the sidewalk while pushing Carson in his stroller, and gush over how adorable he was, whenever his father got brought up, which usually happened at the Mommy and Me class which was above the drug store downtown, she would simply lie and say they were separated and he lived down state. Everyone loved Carson, and just had to hold him. He had that affect on everyone. He wasn't a fussy baby, and despite the wakeful nights, of late feedings, and holding him pacing around, he never really fussed. He was an easy baby, and with each day he was constantly amazing her. She couldn't understand how something so pure, and so beautiful could have come from something so ugly and terrible. Two weeks following her birth, still very sore from the C-section and surgery, with her grandmother staying with her and helping, she received a plain white envelope. Inside was a cream colored card, and written on it in beautiful handwriting said...
Crystal, I heard through my sources you welcomed a beautiful son. Hope you are well. I know you will raise a wonderful young man. - D
Crystal knew this was from Donatella Versace, and she smiled. After everything this poor woman had been through, she still was able to find kindness in her heart even though a child now existed from the man who had murdered her brother in cold blood. She never showed her grandmother, or friends this note, but it truly helped raise her spirits.
Today Mary Ann had arrived by taxi, and Max agreed to stay in the kitchen and catch up on some work. He plugged his laptop in and said he wouldn't disturb them unless he felt something was wrong. Crystal thanked him, and when the doorbell rang, she took a deep breath knowing it was better to get this over with. When she answered, Mary Ann looked eager, and excited. She shifted from one foot to another, and smiled. Crystal allowed her the same kindness and let her in, asking if she wanted anything to drink? Coffee? Juice? Water? Mary Ann shook her head, as Crystal led her into the living room where she had laid Carson out on his blue play-mat where a white and green plastic bow was secured over him, with tiny things that dangled, or reflected that he could stare up at. She had dressed him in a navy blue one piece, with a gray knit cap her grandmother had made four him. He was gurgling, and kicking his feet staring up at the objects hanging down above him. Instantly Mary Ann gasped loudly, covering her mouth with her hands. Crystal saw tears were in her eyes, as she sadly smiled, knowing this was a lot for her. She had kept tabs on Mary Ann, and knew she still believed Andrew was innocent. Max cleared his throat in the next room, just letting his presence be known, as Crystal walked her over to the sofa, and the baby who was laid out in front of them. Mary Ann placed her purse down, staring at the baby in total awe, before Crystal reached down and scooped him up. Holding him against her shoulder she smiled.
"I put him down for a nap earlier, so he won't be cranky."
She then knew it was time to relax, and allow this woman to hold her grandchild. She wasn't Andrew, nor a monster. She reminded herself mentally that Max was in the next room, and if anything made her uncomfortable it would be over in seconds. Carefully, she handed Carson over to her. Mary Ann, a mother of four, took the baby with ease, and cradled him in her arms. Instantly tears of joy rolled down her face, as she stared down at him. The baby stared up, calm, and still as he usually was. Mary Ann smiled, looking down at him in total awe. Reaching down, she took one of his hands and kissed his tiny hand.
"Oh my goodness, he's so beautiful!"
Crystal smiled before Mary Ann lifted him, and held him against her chest. She gently rubbed his back, taking deep inhales of his soft skin, almost exactly as Crystal had imagined Andrew doing the night following the delivery. Watching her do this, sent shivers down her spine. She watched, trying not show how uncomfortable she was. Sitting there, she shifted how she was sitting as Mary Ann started to softly sing what sounded like an Italian lullaby.
"How was the delivery?"
Mary Ann asked still gently cradling Carson who was now fast asleep. Crystal had gotten them coffee, and had showed the "okay" sign to Max as he continued to work at the counter. Now less than twenty minutes later, they sat side by side, talking, mostly about the baby. Mary Ann seemed a little taken aback by Crystal remarked she wasn't planning on getting the baby baptized since she wasn't raised to be super religious, and when Carson was older she would allow that to be his choice. She saw Mary's face twitch, and a flicker show in her eyes, but quickly pushed it away as she continued rubbing the baby's back. She asked if she was breastfeeding? Crystal explained he wouldn't latch, and was sticking to a bottle. Mary Ann gave her some tips on pumping, before asking about if he was sleeping through, and started giving her tips. if the baby was cranky.
"I had to have an emergency C-section, I started bleeding badly and they had to give me a full hysterectomy."
Mary Ann sighed, and she saw actual sympathy in her eyes.
"I had to have the same thing done when I had...Andrew. I delivered him naturally, but I was bleeding so badly. I'm so sorry though...a young girl like yourself. I had three other children before hand."
"Just means I got my baby, he's special."
Mary Ann nodded staring down at the baby and smiled with love in her eyes.
"I can't believe how much he looks like..."
She then stopped, looking embarrassed, before Crystal shrugged.
"No, your right...he looks a lot like Andrew."
Mary Ann smiled, before looking across at Crystal, tears in her eyes.
"I'm so sorry for what he did to you...that...that man wasn't my Andrew. He was a good boy...I swear it. He would have been a good father...maybe would have helped him turn his life away..."
Crystal sighed looking at her sleeping son in Mary's arms.
"I wish I could believe that...but none of that matters now."
Mary sighed, and nodded, leaning down kissing the top of his head. All the while, Crystal watched feeling nothing but pity in her heart.
Crystal allowed Mary to stay two extra hours, and help feed him, and put him to bed. Mary hummed that same song to him, before meeting Crystal in the living room. She had called her taxi, and Max was still in the kitchen. Mary had brought several items of baby clothing with her, and begged Crystal to please keep them. Crystal, not wanting to upset her, agreed and thanked her. Mary Ann hugged her goodbye when her taxi pulled up, before Crystal handed her a photo she had taken of Carson earlier that month. Instantly Mary's eyes filled with tears as she smiled, and hugged Crystal tight.
"Thank you darling."
With that, Mary Ann climbed the steps down, and went into her taxi. Crystal waited, before turning and going back inside. Max now was sitting on the sofa, nursing a glass of wine.
"Sorry that took so long."
"No problem, made me feel better I was here."
"It meant a lot, guess I wanted to make sure she saw him once...all she's getting is photos after this."
"Think she'll give you trouble?"
Crystal sighed and sat down beside him.
"No...I think she knows how much is on the line, besides I could go public with what happened, and destroy whatever little image she still has for her son. No, she'll keep her mouth shut."
"I guess she had a memorial service for Cunanan shortly after his death. None of her other children showed up. They said she was acting unstable. She made a tiny memorial garden outside her apartment paying tribute to him."
"She's a sad lonely woman, but I needed to get this over with. If the tables were turned, I know Andrew wouldn't have been capable of ever showing kindness. Between having this wonderful opportunity being able to help others, as well as giving this lonely woman the slightest bit of hope or happiness...that's where it all begins, picking up the pieces, and raising my son to be a better man."
Max smirked, before patting her shoulder, before Max reached for the remote and clicked on the evening news. Crystal ended up making dinner, and by the time Max left, he told her to set her alarm. Thanking him again, Crystal went into her bedroom, before looking down into the crib. Laying there, Carson stared up with his big brown eyes, gazing at the mobile, lightly kicking his booted feet. Smiling, she reached down and scooped him up, rubbing his back and gently bouncing him against her. Kissing his head, she moved to her bed, and gently laid down, with Carson laying beside her. Curling up, Crystal smiled staring down at him, hiked up on one elbow, looking at her baby, feeling deeply comforted.
Crystal lifted her eyes and looked across her room and saw Andrew standing there, looking yet again exactly as he did the night he first met her. He stared heartbroken, eyes pleading behind his glasses. He took a step further, before Crystal glared at him.
"Leave us alone..."
"Crystal, I want to touch you, I want to lay with you and my baby...we're a family..."
Crystal stared up, curled up beside Carson and hated seeing him stand there. Night after night she had dreams of him. Either he would appear to her like he was now, or vivid, very graphic dreams of them in some other life, happily married, always having sex. By the end of dream, she would always wake up panting, sweating, feeling dirty, and ashamed. When Jessica came down, they had a long talk. She decided to tell her all about Mary Ann, and finally about her dreams and visions of Andrew. Jessica as always listened, not judging. She said allowing Mary Ann to visit, as well as receiving photographs was risky, but had the closure she deserved. She told Crystal she was proud of her, and once she began about the dreams and visions, she found herself crying.
"I'm not crazy...I hate him. Even though he's dead I hate him, but I can't get him out of my head. He feels so real, and it's getting worse and I'm terrified that somebody is going to find out and I'll have Carson taken away from me..."
She broke down crying, before Jessica brought her in for a tight hug, and waited until she calmed down. Finally, she pulled her back, and sternly looked her in the eyes.
"Listen to me. You are a wonderful mother. Nobody is going to take your son away. This is what we're going to do first...you are starting a new medication. It might take a lot to finally start working, but it should help block out the dreams, and humiliations."
"Nothing major. Also we're going to call three days a week, around eight for the next few months. You need therapy by someone you trust. You need to process this. Not only did you survive a terrible attack, but you gave birth to the result of that. You love your son, you got through the worst...but we're going to fix this. Cunanan is dead, and we're going to make sure he stays that way."
Overwhelmed, Crystal wiped her eyes before nodding and thanking her.
The phone calls were exactly what Crystal needed. She trusted Jessica and it honestly felt like just touching base with a good friend. Sometimes they wouldn't even talk about Andrew. Instead just work, the baby, or anything else. Somehow having that comfort always helped. The medication scared her originally, but honestly it had worked wonders. The dreams had stopped, but the visions came back every once in awhile. Jessica said this was totally normal, and as long as she held her ground, she would be able to keep control.
Staring up at him, Crystal shook her head.
"We're not your family...you're dead Andrew...go away."
Andrew stepped closer, tears spilling from his eyes as he looked at her.
"I just wanna hold my son please..."
"You're a monster Andrew...go away."
Taking a second, she closed her eyes, and waited. When she opened them, Andrew was gone. Feeling a heavy weight of relief settle down on her, she nodded, before looking down at her baby. He gazed up at her, wiggling gently beside her. Smiling, she continued staring at him, knowing everything would be okay.
Seven months later...
Crystal was sitting in jeans and a T-shirt, laughing as she was attempting to feed Carson as he sat at his highchair, wearing a bib, and giggling, his baby food smeared all over his face and tray. These past seven months had been truly wonderful. It had been months since she had any dreams of visions of Andrew. Work was great, and Crystal loved her life in the valley. One of her favorite things was jogging while pushing Carson in his stroller. She kept busy with the baby, and had sent her promised monthly photos to Mary Ann who hadn't caused her any trouble. As always Carson was a beautiful baby, and brought her so much happiness. Today she was feeding him, and hoping to take him to the park in a little bit and meet up with Cora.
Then the doorbell rang.
Sighing, she made a silly face, making the baby giggle, before putting the jar and spoon down, before using a dishcloth to wipe the baby's face. Smiling, she scooped the baby up, and undid his bib. Laughing, she shook her head.
"Oh my messy boy, what am I going to do with you?"
Carson babbled, gurgling, and giggling, before Crystal walked the baby against her hip towards the front door. Answering it, she pulled the door back and instantly everything froze. She stood back speechless, staring at her ex-husband standing on the front steps.
She hadn't seen him since they separated. He wore dark jeans, a leather jacket, and was taking his sunglasses off. She knew he had constantly been trying to get in touch. Her grandmother said he was frustrated that he couldn't contact her after hearing what had happened. Now here he was, after all this time, the same man she had fallen in love with as a foolish teenager. The same man who was her first love, and the same man who was mature enough to know they needed to end before things got any worse.
Staring, she felt everything stand still, as Damon smiled.
Crystal gulped, before Damon sighed, looking at the baby before a sad smile spread across his face.
"He's gorgeous, he looks just like his mother."
Crystal stared, when suddenly silent tears rolled down her face, so ashamed.
She lowered her face, clinging onto her baby, before Damon sighed.
"I should have called..."
Crystal sniffled, taking a deep breath before looking at him.
"Wanna come in?"
Damon smirked, looking at the baby before reaching forward, and gently touching the baby's chubby cheek with his finger.
"Not before I'm properly introduced to this young man?"
Crystal laughed through her tears, still holding onto the baby before she sighed and looked down at Carson, staring up with his wide big brown eyes.
"This is Carson."
Damon smiled, before looking down at the baby with sincere compassion. He looked up at Crystal with his hazel handsome eyes, and smirked.
"Can I hold him?"
Crystal took a second before nodding.
She carefully handed the baby over, before Damon took him like a complete natural. As always, Carson took to strangers perfectly fine. He was a good baby, calm, and barley ever fussed. He was held in Damon's arms, before Damon smiled, looking down. Carson stared back.
Crystal stood back, wiping her eyes, before folding her arms. This was all a lot seeing Damon on her doorstep. It had been so long, and now after this past year, seeing him here made her truly feel surreal.
"Come on in..."
Damon smiled, holding the baby and followed her in. The wind chimes hanging outside the front windows gently made gentle music in the gentle wind that had picked up.
Damon had helped Crystal give Carson a bath in the kitchen sink, before feeding him his afternoon bottle, and changing him, and pouring him into one of his one pieces, and both put him down for his nap. Damon had taken his leather jacket off, and stared down smiling. Damon had younger sisters, and had always been good with little ones. The talk of children had never come up during the course of their short marriage. Crystal figured it was because they were so young. Now watching him, and how good he was with Carson, she knew someday he was going to make a truly amazing father. Both shut the bedroom door, while Crystal took the baby monitor, and both made coffee and went into the living room. Once they settled down, both stared at each other in silence for a few moments before Damon sighed.
"I'm sorry for just showing up like this. I tried to contact your grandmother but..."
"I refused to talk to you, or take your calls...your messages...I'm sorry..."
She tried to control herself from crying, but found tears surfacing again. Sighing, Damon shook his head.
"No, at first I was worried...worried sick. First that crazy bitch mother talked to me, and told me what happened. I saw the news, and read in the papers, but you're name was barley mentioned. I figured either it was a hoax, or wasn't true. So I talked with your grandmother. I wanted to fly out, but she told me...you...were probably going to die..."
"This was when I was in my coma?"
"Yeah, your grandmother told me what the police had said. There was swelling in the brain and they figured this was it. She told me she wouldn't allow me to see you since you were so badly beaten. She didn't want that image to be the last thing I remembered of you. I tried so hard to see you, but you woke up, and then transferred to another hospital and you started calling the shots. I got so angry, wondering what I had done? I started to blame myself for giving up on us...putting my career first, letting you go back home to your mother, and then South Beach. I kept telling myself if I had worked harder on us...none of this would have happened."
Crystal shook her head.
"Damon, so much has happened and I'm too exhausted to reassure you that none of this was your fault. I was just unlucky. You were right. We didn't wanna stay together and get bad. You were truly the best thing that happened to me, and losing you was hard, but I valued our relationship and it gave me the strength to move on, and start taking care of myself. I just made the awful mistake of picking up a charming handsome stranger at the bar I worked at...and it nearly killed me."
"He attacked me and the next day shot Versace. Eight days later he killed himself."
"He killed four other men? I followed the news stories, like I said they weren't exactly clear with you. Some featured your name, some didn't. They claimed he robbed a waitress in South Beach...but he raped you didn't he? Carson is his...right?"
Crystal sighed and nodded.
"Yeah, then he nearly beat me to death. I nearly died, but Donatella Versace...came to see me and ended up being generous enough to pay for my surgeries. It was right around that time I found out I was pregnant. I got blood work done since I was so scared I was HIV...I wasn't thank Christ, but I found out I was pregnant from the rape and thought for a little bit about getting an abortion, then even maybe putting him up for adoption. Finally after meeting some truly wonderful people, who set me up here, working for a crisis hotline from home...I decided to stay out of the media as best as I could and raise the baby."
"He raped you..."
Damon sighed looking off into the distance, looking absolutely heartbroken." Crystal stared at him, before reaching over and touching his hand.
"Over a necklace, remember the one my grandmother gave me?"
"Yep, a necklace that he didn't even try to pawn. It was found in the houseboat after he killed himself. Such a waste..."
Damon stared forward, his eyes actually filling with tears, as he blinked them away and sighed.
Crystal squeezed his hand.
"Don't you feel sorry for me Damon..."
He turned and looked at her as she sternly stared at him, feeling her own tears start to form.
"A woman who's brother was murdered in cold blood was generous enough to fix my face...which very well could have gone disfigured for the rest of my life. Five families were ruined, their loved ones murdered...I survived. I survived, and...I got my face fixed, and this wonderful house and job, and friends...I have that beautiful little boy in there who's perfectly healthy. He's what's keeping me going...he looks so much like Andrew, I'm in awe...but I made a promise to myself to raise him, and keep him away that the spotlight, and settle with the fact that someday he very well might know the truth. I'm going to let him know that the man who is his biological father was a monster. A sick sad man who only knew how to take instead of give. I'm planning on spending the rest of my life raising a young man nothing like Cunanan. I may have been attacked, I may have been raped...but I'm alive, and that little boy is proof of it."
Damon squeezed her hand back, sniffled, and looked her in the eye.
Both stared at each other, before a single tear rolled down Crystal's face. With that, Damon reached over and wiped her face, before leaning forward, and pressed his forehead against hers. Together they sat there in silence for a very long time