Chapter 29: Callous Truth
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Anna and her father were sitting on the couch in their living room. Across from them sat the young man named Cameron. The very same man that Anna had seen standing outside her home moments prior. He was a highschool freshman and the same age as her “What brings you here today Cameron?” Anna’s father, Peter Hirsh asked. The boy sent a hand into the pocket of his trousers and retrieved a slip of paper. “We’ve moved. This is our new address.” He nervously reached across the coffee table and handed the man the slip of paper. “You could have called,” Peter said as he glanced at what was written on the slip of paper before pocketing it.” Cameron’s face twisted slightly, “We did. My mother said you didn’t answer, anyway, I’ve done what I came to do. I’ll be leaving then”

He got up and walked to the door, leaving just as quickly as he had arrived. “You didn’t even offer him a ride.” Anna said as she stared at the closed door. “Peter winced slightly. “He’s a young man now. He was able to get here on his own just fine, he can get back home as well. “I knew you didn’t care about me, but I thought maybe you would show even an ounce of love for your own son.” Her father appeared startled. “How do you, I mean, what did he tell you?”

“He looks a lot like you.” She responded. Her father composed himself as he said. “Whatever that boy told you is a lie.” Anna stood up and shouted, “I’m not stupid! Why did you cheat on mother, and why didn’t you ever tell me I had a brother.” Her father lowered his head as he replied, “He’s not your brother, and I’m not your father.” Anna could feel herself tearing up, "I - I don’t understand.” she nearly choked on the words

Peter had a pained expression on his face as he explained, “Your mothers father and mine, your grandparents, were two very talented and brilliant people. My father Eddie came from an influential family and was a skilled investor and shrewd businessman. Your mother’s father, Jacob, on the other hand was a budding computer scientist and brilliant mathematician. They met in college and together, they formed a very successful and lucrative partnership. Over time, their business grew as did their friendship. Eventually, the two of them found partners and decided to have families.

Eddie and Jacob both had children around the same time, A boy and girl respectively. Their children, me and your mother naturally grew up together. We were incredibly close to each other and were raised like siblings, spending day in and day out playing together. As we grew older though, we started to become more distant as our interests diverged. By that point however, it was too late. Our parents had decided we would be married after graduation. They wanted to wed us as a symbol of their partnership. Despite never truly loving each other, we relented due to the pressure from both sides. At first, we were able to manage, but after several years living together, we became unsatisfied. We both had affairs around the same time, and you and Cameron were the result. Because your mother was carrying you, you were recognized as our child, while Cameron was raised by his mother. We didn’t tell you because we didn’t want to hurt you.”

“Didn’t want to hurt me, bulshit, all you’ve ever done is hurt me.” Anna cried. “I’ve never hit you or yelled at you.” her father retorted. "Yes." Anna said. "You're right. You've never hit me, never yelled at me, or praised me, or cared about me, talked to me, helped me, loved me. All you've done is ignore me." Her father stood up as well. "Don't say that. You could have had anything you wanted if you just asked." Tears began to roll down Anna's face. "How. How was I supposed to ask you for something when you never gave me anything on your own? How was I supposed to show you things when I could tell you didn't care. How am I supposed to ask my dad how his day was when he doesn't give a shit about mine? How the fuck did you expect me to ask for your love when you never gave it to me on your own."

"Don't think things were easy for me either." Peter said. "I've spent the past 15 years living with a woman I don't love." Anna wiped her eyes as she retorted, “And who’s fault is that” Peter shook his head. “You don’t understand. There's a lot more at stake than you realize. Eddie and Jacob built a company from the ground up, they practically united our families together and me and your mother are the physical embodiment of that union. Do you know how many people would be hurt if the truth came out? Do you realize what could happen to their company, how many people could lose their jobs, their lives?

“That’s all bullshit!” Anna screamed. “You’re lying, to me and yourself. You're hiding the truth because you're scared. You’re just scared of what people would say if they found out you and mother are dirty fucking cheaters. You don’t care about the family, or the company. You're just using it as an excuse because you don’t want people to know the truth.” She began heading upstairs as her father followed her. He tried to yell back at her but she slammed the door to her room shut and locked it. She dug an old duffle bag out of her closet and began filling it with clothes. She ripped the photos of Lady off the walls and shoved them into the bag as well.

Once the bag was full, she grabbed it along with her backpack and the terrarium on her desk. She could still hear her fathers muffled yelling and the pounding on the door. Looking around the room, her gaze settled on the window. She quickly opened it and shoved her things through the window and onto the roof of her house. Taking one last look around the room, she rubbed the tears from her eyes before climbing through the window herself.

Anna didn’t know where to go, she only knew she had to get away from that house. After several minutes of walking, she realized that she was heading in the same direction as Lady's apartment. The sun had begun to set while Anna continued walking. As she was walking, she suddenly recognized the figure of Cameron. Following closely behind him, she watched as he grew closer to the apartment. He approached a room on the first floor and pulled a key from his pocket. Apparently, he lived in the same apartment building as Lady. “Anna?” a sudden voice called out from behind her. Anna and Cameron both turned around to find Lady standing on the sidewalk clutching a grocery bag.

John was sitting in a bar, downing a glass of amber alcohol. He had recently broken up with his fiance, Emma, and to make matters worse, had been fired from his job. As he emptied the glass, he cleared his throat and prepared to order another. Before he could however, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked over his shoulder to see two men standing behind him. One of them was a young blonde with a silver cross hanging around his neck while the other was a dark haired man with a scar on the bridge of his nose. “Hey, the next round is on me!” the scarred man told the bartender. “What do you want?” John asked. “A little birdie told me you’re good with numbers, and you're in need of a little work.” John shot a dirty glance at the bartender who was busy pouring him another drink. His stoic confidant apparently being more loose lipped than he had anticipated. “So what, you want to hire me? This doesn’t exactly seem like the right place to hunt for new hires” John said, gesturing to the dimly lit bar around them.

The dark haired man smiled as he pulled out an envelope. “Oh but on the contrary. We’ve managed to find some of our best employers in places like this. Besides, don’t you think it’s a bit unwise to reject the only hand extended towards you?” John watched as the man pulled a wad of hundred dollar bills out of the envelope. Everything about this smelled dirty but he didn’t care. “What’s the job?” John asked. The dark haired man smiled. “We just need you to look through some numbers and move them around for us. Pretty simple eh!?”

The chime of the door sounded as two downtrodden business men entered the bar. The blonde man opened his mouth. “We can talk more in the car. Are you coming, or will you wallow in your self pity?” He asked. John could tell this was a bad idea. Every alarm bell in his head was ringing and every red flag had been raised. Despite that, he felt the desire to follow them, to do something other than drink his way into debt. “Alright,” he said as he followed the two outside. “Names Rick, and the quiet one’s Zane.” The dark haired man said as he gestured to his blonde compatriot. John and the two men stepped outside where a large black Cadillac was waiting. The three entered it and drove off into the night.

I apologize for the massive delay and the lack of communication. As pained as I am to admit it, I'm burned out. After nearly thirty chapters and 50,000 words, I need a bit of a break. I'm not satisfied with where this story is at currently so I will probably upload another extra-long chapter in a week or two before taking a break for a few months. In the meantime, I will likely work on other stories and projects. I don't intend to abandon this story but I'm positive that unless I take some time away to plan ahead and build up a backlog, the quality and rate of uploads will continue to decline. Thank you for reading.