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A Rented Family
Chapter 3 / What now?
It's taking everything within me to not lose my shit right now. I want nothing more than to possibly kill my best friend and partner for what he has gotten us into. The fact that he lied to an important high end client is one thing, but to say I am a happily married man with a child no less, is a totally different story. To make matters worse, Amar, our high end Client has invited us to a company retreat with our families. You would think to yourself, hey no problem just go, no big deal. Only thing is, I don't have a fucking family! I'm not married and I don't have a damn kid. I don't do relationships! Hell, I don't do kids! Oh, and let's not forget that Zeke is also now offering to involve my assistant, Tris and her son, (who by the way is autistic) into this fucking mess. What was he thinking? It also doesn't help his case right now when he says "Well, no life is perfect. It may actually help our chances of landing Amar as a client by having a special needs child in the mix." I swear I can feel my patience wavering...I wonder if a judge would actually convict me or just thank me for my service to society at this point.
"Seriously? Did you just say that?" I say, instead of implanting violence on him this very second. I really don't feel like cleaning up a bloody crime scene right now. He actually gives me a stupid shrug as his response, as if this is no big freaking deal. I stand up heading for the door, needing to get as much space between us as possible right now. But then I stop in my tracks needing to ask him an important question before I go. "When is this... retreat by the way? Where is it?" I ask him, I don't bother trying to hide my anger any longer. One way or another he'll get his, whether it's here or in the ring, it will happen.
"Spring break. Two weeks in Orlando, Florida," he says, simply. Asshole! Two weeks in Florida, God, I'm so fucked. Without another word, I turn around and walk out of his office, not knowing what the hell I'm going to do. How the hell am I gonna fix this? God, Zeke really fucked up on this one. I run my hand through my hair, as I begin to process just what the hell I'm going to do. On the one hand getting Tris on board with us would be most helpful and easier than anyone else. This could be a win, win for the both of us if she agrees. We could pay her more than what's fair for her helping us out of a bind, and plus, she knows how important this deal is to the company. I trust her more than anyone and I know that she won't steer this company wrong. On the other hand, it's a lot to take in, not knowing if her son could even handle the stress of traveling and being around so many strangers. Maybe it would be easier to just hire actors, but that would just open up a whole new can of worms that I am not ready for. Tris on the other hand, knows so much about me already and I know an awful lot about her and her son. Sure, there are a lot of holes left to be filled in, but it's better than hiring someone off of the streets. It would be a no brainier if she was to agree to do it. The choice would have to be left up to her, though.
I walk slowly back to my office dreading the conversation that will have to be held with Tris. I know it will have to happen today, in fact the sooner the better. As luck would have it, she is sitting on her desk with a file in front of her as she jots down notes in her notepad. She must be working on my next client. I take a moment to appreciate everything that she does for me. She really does go out of her way to make my life in the office so much easier and lighter, as she is always prepared and always has my back. Of course, in a perfect world I would want Tris to go on this trip with me, I wouldn't trust no one else with this job. It would actually feel wrong to me if anyone else went in her place. In her place, her place would in fact be as my wife. A role that I never wanted to have filled, but now have no choice in the matter, even if it is just for show. I don't know how to handle this.
"Tris, I need to speak with you, when you have a minute," I say, as I pass her desk. I don't bother to close the door behind me, signaling to her to come in whenever she is ready. I take a seat at my desk preparing myself for the worst case scenario. I hope this situation doesn't force me to lose her. Deep down, I know she means more to me than just as my assistant.
"Four, is everything ok?" She asks, closing the door behind her, she then takes the seat in front of my desk. I notice she is tense, she is probably worried about why I called her into my office. I wish I could somehow comfort her in some way, tell her that everything will be alright, but I can't, not when I don't know what her answer would be.
"No, everything is not," I say, pinching the bridge of my nose. How do I ask this of her? "Tris, we have a big problem." I begin, but I am quickly cut off by a knock on the door. Zeke peeks in. Luckily for him, he no longer has that goofy look on his face, I would love nothing more than to smack it right off of his stupid face. "What is it, Zeke?" I say in a cold and harsh tone.
"I thought I would come in and help in any way that I can. It's my mess, after all. I should be here to help answer any questions or concerns that come up," Zeke says. I can see the guilt written on his face, he obviously isn't pleased with himself. I nod and allow him to join us. He closes the door behind him and takes the empty seat next to Tris, quickly and surprisingly quiet.
"Would someone please tell me what is going on?" Tris asks, glancing between both Zeke and I. I can see the concern growing on her pretty face. It isn't everyday that I call her into my office like this, let alone have Zeke here with me for something that is obviously very important.
"Tris, the reason why I called you in here is because we need your help. You see Zeke here," I say, pointing at Zeke, while getting more pissed by the minute. "He has managed to get us into a bind. You see he has misled Amar into believing that I am a happily married man… and with a kid, no less," I explain to her, not hiding the anger in my voice. I paused, waiting for her to take it all in, but to my surprise she burst out laughing. Yup, she's laughing at my expense, no less. Although the site of her laughing so hard that I can see tears escape her eyes, actually helps my anger begin to dissipate some. Actually I can't help myself, I join in with her. I have never heard Tris laugh like this, it's so carefree, pure and it's completely contagious. Even Zeke starts to join in with us.
"I'm... I'm so sorry, Four, but were you and Zeke drinking?" Tris asks, still laughing, while glancing between both Zeke and I. Funny, I actually thought the same thing when he told me. I guess great minds do think alike. It would make much more sense on the reason why I got dragged into this big mess. Maybe I should have him take a breathalyzer test.
"It would explain a lot, wouldn't it?" I say agreeing with her.
"So what are you going to do now?" She asks finally, as she comes back down to earth.
"Well that's kinda why we have asked you in here." Suddenly the room goes really quiet, as it begins to sink in on why we must have called her in here. Tris is a very bright woman, this shouldn't take her long to connect the dots. We wait for what seems like a few minutes for her reaction…"What?" She says, loudly. Yup, here we go. "Please tell me you're joking?" I can see the shock and concern written all over her face. Even though I want to deny any of the feelings that I may have for her, I can't deny my wanting to comfort her in any way possible. I suddenly jump to my feet and make my way around the desk, choosing to causally lean against it instead. I want to be close to her, to let her see that everything can and will be alright. I'll do everything I can to make sure of it, but I also need her to understand the gravity of the situation.
"Tris, you know I wouldn't be asking you this if there wasn't a lot at stake here. I hate having to put you in this situation, believe me, I do, but you are the only one I trust with this. You and I know each other so well already, it just makes the most sense. Please, Tris," I plead with her. Maybe I should just forget this and start making those calls for some actresses to help me.
"Four, if it was just me... but it's not... I have a son. Not to mention, he isn't like other children. Ethan can have breakdowns at any moment without any notice at all and in the worst moments at that. Are you sure this is the way you want to go?" She asks me. "Have you really thought this through?" She says, glancing between both Zeke and I. I take a deep breath, knowing that I have to make this right somehow. That together, we can make this work.
"Tris, believe me, I trust you and want you right there by my side. We will accommodate Ethan in any way possible to help him, I promise. And please Tris, don't ever think that we would never want or accept Ethan. He is always welcome, no matter what. He is your son after all, and we care about the both of you." For the first time in three years, I let her see the truth behind my words, my feelings that I have forbidden myself to feel, let alone let anyone else see them. Tris and her son will always be wanted and as far as I am concerned, taken care of. I will see to that. I take a quick glance at Zeke in hopes that he isn't reading between the lines, of course it would be this exact moment that he would pay attention. I swear I will never hear the end of this. "Also Tris, if this deal goes through, you will receive a nice bonus check of $20,000 dollars. "
"Is that a bribe?" She asks me, looking in disbelief. Shit, was that the wrong thing to say?
"Consider it your bonus for helping us snatch a new client." I say smiling.
"I don't know, Four. Do you even do kids?" Tris comes right out and asks me. She wipes her forehead with just her fingertips. I wish somehow I could ease her worries, but truth be told, I don't have any experience at all with kids, I've always avoided them up until now.
"I... I... never had much experience with them, but I am willing to try," I say. I hope she doesn't see the hesitation behind the truth. The hesitation that has nothing to do with her or Ethan, and more to do with my inner demons that tell me that I might hurt her or her son one day. Something I would never want to do, but fear I might end up doing so. I watch as her lips press into a straight line and then she shakes her head. She isn't saying no, not yet, but she is more like processing this.
"Tris, I can tell you this much, hopefully it will help you with your decision. We will be staying in the Orlando Villas. It's more like an apartment situation, than a hotel. Each suite has a fully stocked kitchen, dining room and a big living room. You will have a two bedroom, two bath suite. Which means Four could take one room, and you and Ethan can take the other room. No one will suspect anything. Four will promise to keep things civilized between the two of you and keep it in his pants for the time that we are in Orlando?" It sounds like a statement he is saying for Tris, but as he says all of this, he also glances in my direction, forming it into a question for me as well. I can't help the eye roll that happens, as I listen to his statement. Of course I wouldn't try anything on Tris. Seriously?
"Zeke," I say glaring at him, giving him a final warning. He is already on thin ice as it is. I can still find a place to hide his body.
"Just saying man. Everyone needs to keep their heads in the game and leave their second heads out of this," Zeke says, as his eyes move downwards on my body, giving the suggestion as to where the second head is. Hell at this point, I will confess that I killed him…again, I really don't think a judge would hold it against me at this point. I quickly steal a glance at Tris, who hasn't said a word and I notice her blushing. Wow, that is red.
"If I... If I agree to do this, I need a guarantee from the both of you that no matter what I have a job to come back to at the end of all of this," Tris says, as she glances between the both of us. Of course she would have her job, what makes her think otherwise?
"Tris," Zeke begins, but I cut him off. No, this needs to come from me.
"Tris, listen to me, I know this won't be easy, but of course you will have your job at the end of all of this. I wouldn't have it any other way. I would hate the thought of losing you as my assistant," I say meeting Tris' gaze. I see Zeke smirking from the corner of my eye and in this exact moment I know that he knows that my feelings for Tris run way deeper than what they should be. Damn. "So what do you say Tris? Would you be my "wife" for the week?" I say trying to make light of things, but no one laughs. Shit.
"Umm...I guess...I...Can I think about it?" She finally says, flustered and then she smirks. Um, what does that mean?
"Of course you can," I say to Tris, as I nod my head. Of course she can take all the time that she needs to think about it.
"Where is this retreat again?" She asks, still flustered. "Orlando?"
"Orlando, Florida," I answer. "We have a private jet, so it will just be the three of us and Zeke and his fiance Shauna on the plane. I think it should make things a little easier for Ethan. Right?" Hoping my ideas are on the right track. I catch a look of fear or maybe concern on her face, but as quickly as it came, it is now gone.
"Umm yeah, the less people the better. The more people that Ethan is around, the more anxious he will become," She says, confirming that a private jet would be the best way for us to travel.
"If there is anything that you can think of that would help him, let me know, okay? I want this to be a great experience for him too," I say gently. Maybe a little too gentle, as I notice that Zeke seems a little too amused from his seat, as he continues to glance between Tris and I. I just pray that he keeps his damn mouth shut until Tris is no longer in my office. Tris nods at me, not saying anything else about the subject at hand.
"I better get back to work," she says, standing and quickly heading out of my office. I wish I could tell her more...Comfort her more than I already have. To reassure her that she and Ethan will always be family here, that she isn't alone. But I can't, not while knowing that I have nothing to offer her and her son other than heartache and physical pain. She closes the door behind her and I take my rightful seat back behind my desk. I start getting to work right away on my computer by pulling up files and reviewing things. No doubt needing a distraction. I then notice that Zeke hasn't moved a muscle yet. Although the smirk that he is sporting on his fucking face seems to be growing larger by the second.
"What?" I say raising my voice at him, not bothering to look away from my computer screen. Fucking shit, will you just leave me alone.
"Nothing. Nothing at all," he says, I can still hear and see the smile on his freaking face and I swear it's getting even larger than it was before.
"Well, how about you do "nothing" in your own office, I have work to do," I say, hoping he takes the hint that I need some time to myself to think.
"Okay," he says. I can hear the fabric of his clothing and the leather of the office chair wrestling as he gets up to leave. I find myself relieved that he didn't for once act like Zeke and says something, " Daddy," he finally gets off his chest as he leaves my office while closing the door behind him. JACKASS! I'm so fucked!
I'm still in so much shock from the recent discussion that I just had with Four and Zeke, as the conversation continues to rerun itself in my head. The conversation where Ethan and I would have to play the part of being Four's family. I would be his wife and Ethan would be introduced as Four's son... his son, our son. I honestly don't know how I feel about any of this. Up until now, Ethan has always just been my son. Sure when Ethan was first born I had hoped that his father would come around, but he never did. It was probably for the best though, because that time never came and then days turned into months, and months quickly turned into years. It's only been this recent school year that Ethan has actually asked me a few times about his father, but I couldn't bring myself to tell him the real truth about Eric. It wasn't until he asked me if our family was broken that I knew I had to say something. After thinking long and hard about what to say, I finally sat him down and explained to him that every family is different. Some families have both parents, while others have one parent and sometimes they just have their grandparents, instead. It doesn't mean we are broken, as long as we stick together and love each other. Thankfully he seemed to accept that answer and dropped the subject about his father, for now. I never wanted to be that parent that lies to their own child, but how can you tell your child that his own father wanted nothing to do with him. That his father didn't want to be tied down to a family. That he wanted to run around like the coward that he is with God knows how many other women, instead of coming home to us. Not to mention everything that had happened between his father and I when he found out that I was indeed pregnant again. The selfish part of me is really glad not to have him in our lives, but the other part of me wishes that Ethan had some kind of father figure in his life.
Could I do this? Pretend that Four is my husband and subject my son with the hope of having a father in his life, then for him to only find out at the end of it all that it was a lie? Could Ethan cope with all of these big changes? What kind of mother am I for even considering this?
I'll admit though, the money alone is very tempting. $20,000, with that kind of money I would be able to buy us a good car and still have some left over for Ethan's college fund. Ethan's life long dream is to become a Paleontologist. Since he began to speak, it's all he has ever talked about. One of Ethan's first words as a baby was "REX" for crying out loud. It wasn't surprising to me at all when he said he wanted to dig up dinosaur bones and study them when he grows up. I would do anything to see that all of his dreams come true.
The more I think about it, the more I think I would be stupid to turn down their offer. This amount of money and me being a single parent, it seems like a no brainier. Right? But I can't help but worry about the consequences it may have on Ethan in the long run.
I guess I will just have to figure out a way to make sure things go as smoothly as possible, for everyone that is involved. I know Four doesn't have any experience with children, let alone special needs children. I mean it's even hard for me at times, and I am used to it. Being a single parent to a special needs child can take a lot out of you. Most times it feels like no matter how much I give, it will never be enough. But I would suspect that most parents feel that way from time to time, when it comes to their kids.
At the end of the work day, I am for one glad to have this part of my day over with, but that doesn't mean the day is over for me yet. I need to head back to Ethan's school and take him home, change, and feed him a snack before heading right back out again. Today is Monday after all, which means that Ethan has his Karate lessons. Ethan at first hated the idea of joining Karate, but after a few weeks, I saw a big improvement in him at home, as well as in the classroom. He is able to focus some of his extra energy and he has learned how to self discipline himself. I'll admit at first I didn't believe it would help Ethan when the therapist mentioned it, but I have to say that she was right, it helps teach the child how to focus and redirect their anger and energy elsewhere. It has been months now since Ethan has had a real full blown meltdown, something I am so completely thankful for both from both his Therapist and his Karate instructor.
Six months ago
Just like any other morning I sit down at my desk. I try to act like it is just another normal morning. I try to block out the images of the night before from my mind, I need to work and I know better than to dwell on things. I can't change what has happened or what is, in fact the only option there is for me is to keep pushing through, to try to pretend like it didn't happen. Although I can pretend like it didn't happen, I can't seem to cover up the bruises or the cuts that are on my skin. They are in just the wrong places on my body, that not enough of my clothing can cover them. I know someone will notice them and think of the worst. They would never understand. He is just a little boy, he doesn't know any better. He doesn't mean to do it.
"Good morning, Tris." Four says, as he glances my way as he passes my desk and heads into his office. I close my eyes and hope he doesn't look at me, but then I hear a gasp of horror and I know that he has seen the aftermath of last night. "Tris, what the hell happened to you?" Four says in complete shock, as he stands there frozen not three feet away from me. Out of all the days, of course he had to look at me today. Shit!
"Four, it's nothing really," I began to say, but he doesn't stand for my excuses.
"Did someone do this to you? Who the hell put their hands on you Tris?" Four says with concern written all over his face. He crunches down before me, looking up at my face, getting a better view.
"No one," I say too quickly. Great, just what I needed today. The last thing I want is for anyone to think I'm vulnerable or weak, but that's not the look Four is giving me right now, as he continues to examine my face and the other visible bruises. I see nothing but concern and anger for whoever has done this to me.
"You're lying. Why are you protecting this person?" Four says, while grinding his teeth.
"Four," I take a deep breath. "Ethan had a meltdown last night. He was upset and started to throw things around, I was in the way," I say, forcing the tears back. As a mother, you don't want to face the fact that you might be failing your kids. This kind of behavior, although it's out of his control it still stings. I feel so helpless, as we are on so many waiting lists for Ethan to get help, but there aren't enough Behavioral Therapists to help the growing population of Autistic children. Most of the waiting lists for them are at least a year long.
"Tris, come with me," Four says, gently guiding me out of my chair and into his office. We've only touched each other a few times by accident, a few grazes here and there, but each time it happens it never fails, I feel this intense sensation of energy that shoots right through my body from his touches. "Take a seat, Tris. Now please talk to me. What is going on? And please don't lie to me, I want to help you." Normally I don't confide my problems to anyone, after all life has taught me to only rely on myself. But something in the way Four speaks and looks at me, I feel like I can trust him and tell him what is really going on. I know he might not be able to help me, no one can, but I also don't want to deny his request.
I explain to him that it's normal for Ethan to have these meltdowns. Ethan was highly upset last night and was unable to calm himself down. I was going in his room to force a bear hug on him when he started to reach for things, anything to throw and rip apart. It happened and it was an accident. Four took notice of the pain that was hidden behind my eyes, he rubbed small circles on my back, trying to make the hurt go away and the failure that I was feeling at that moment. It was the first time since I had known him that he actually allowed for a few of his walls to come down that day.
"You know you can let yourself be in pain. It's just you and me here," he had told me. Just those few little words that he said, meant so much to me. It isn't easy to not have anyone to lean on. I wanted to tell him that this was nothing, that I have endured so much worse from the hands of Ethan's father...that this is a small price to pay. But I know I won't tell him, and of course I didn't. That part of my life is something that no one needs to know about. No one other than me.
Four had insisted on letting me go home to rest for the remainder of the day, with pay. I was beyond thankful for his kindness and understanding.
I walk over to Four's office door, stopping only to knock. I take a deep breath, hoping that I am making the right decision. As long as Four understands that I wont allow for Ethan to become traumatized from this. I need Ethan to be the first priority in all of this, no matter what. "Yeah, come in," I hear from behind the door, so I do. I slowly open the door and walk in and close the door behind me.
"Tris, is everything alright?" Four asks, while placing his pen down and giving me his full undivided attention. It's not everyday that I come into his office like this. "Have you made up your mind?" He says, obviously catching on to why I am coming to see him right now.
"Yes I have and the answer is yes. I'm in," I say and watch Four's eyes completely light up with excitement. What? For me? No, of course not. It must be because of this job that is ahead of us.
"Honestly I don't know what I would do if you didn't agree to this," he says, with a relieved smile.
"But...before we go on this trip together, I was wondering if you could spare some time? It would just be so much easier for Ethan if he recognizes you beforehand and is a little more comfortable with you. Verses him having to get used to so many new faces and sharing a living space with a strange man," I explain to him. "Would that be okay?" Hoping I'm not asking for too much from him.
"Of course, Tris. If that would help Ethan to feel more comfortable, then I have no problem with that. I was telling you the truth earlier, if there is anything that will make this easier for you or Ethan... I'm on board. What do you suggest?" He asks. I am relieved to hear his words, but at the same time I'm still shocked at how concerned he is for my son's well being in all of this. Maybe this is the right choice after all.
"Oh nothing too big... Maybe dinner at my place, or a meeting at the park or something," I suggest.
"Okay. How about dinner tomorrow night and then we can meet up at the park over the weekend?" Four suggests. "It will give Ethan enough time to get used to me being around him, before we leave for Florida," he says. I swear my heart begins to race at the thought of him being "around." Chill Tris, it's just a job, nothing more.
"Okay, that sounds great," I say with a grateful smile. Shit. "I'll see you tomorrow morning, Four." I say, while heading back out of his office and closing the door behind me.
"Night Tris." I hear Four say, before the door clicks closed behind me. Shit, what did I get myself into!
Revised with: FDFobsessed