George and I spoke very little on the plane and even less in the car ride to the house. I should have warned Mom, I know it, but to say what? When the car pulled up outside, I couldn’t make myself get out. Marisol was intent on hurting me and everyone around me in this quest. My mother had been through enough and now she was about to suffer more.
I stepped out of the car and headed up the stone walkway to Mom’s new house. I’d not been here since she moved. After the divorce was finalized, she’d stayed in my childhood home for a few months, but then decided it was time for a change. Dad had managed to taint the good memories she had of that place since she now felt like their entire life had been a lie.
The new one was very quaint. The vibrant rose bushes that lined the front of the small house gave it a lot of character. Stack-stone pillars flanked either side of the covered front porch area. The house was smaller than the one I grew up in, but it was the perfect size for just her. It sat on a quiet, tree lined street in one of those planned communities. Mom’s house was cute, and inviting. A stark contrast to the place George now lived. We’d stopped by there so he could drop off his luggage first. I think he was really stalling, trying to buy time before having to face Mom. They’d not spoken to each other since the sale of the house. Like me, Mom didn’t want to hear his apologies. I wondered how Marisol would leave the message since Mom didn’t mention getting any visitors recently.
There were two cars parked in her drive way. Mom’s small compact, and a bright red Mercedes. After ringing the bell, we both waited. Through the glass-pane front door, I couldn’t see Mom but then she appeared coming out of a room. She was securing the sash of her robe and smoothing down her hair.
“Amari? What a surprise.” She sounded nervous and glanced back over her shoulder towards the door. “Why…why didn’t you call?” Her eyes then settled on George. Whatever she was about to say was halted by the sound of a deep masculine voice calling out her name.
“Kathy, baby, who is it?” Seconds later he appeared in the doorway, shirtless and still in the act of fixing the belt buckle of his tan slacks.
My eyes went to him then back to my mother who was wearing a robe at one in the afternoon and her hair was disheveled. My mother was having afternoon sex. My mother was having afternoon sex with a hot younger guy and we’d interrupted. Mom stepped to the side to let us in. She shot daggers at George and the man walked up and put his arm around her waist.
“Adrian this is Amari. And that is the ex.”
“A pleasure to meet you finally,” he said extending his hand out to me. “Kitty has told me so much about you and the grandkids, I feel like I know you already.” Adrian smiled at me flashing a beautiful set of perfectly white teeth.
Mom looked up at him adoringly. She’d mentioned she was seeing someone, but I never imagined this would be who. I was happy for her, Dad hadn’t taken the best years of her life after all.
“It’s nice to meet you too. Sorry for the…interruption,” I replied trying to keep the smile off my face.
Adrian’s smile got bigger as color flooded Mom’s face. “I have to get back to the office anyway.”
He cut his eyes over at George who hadn’t said a word. The men sized each other up. Adrian gave Mom a quick kiss on the cheek before heading back to the room he’d come from.
“Have a seat, and let me get decent,” Mom said before disappearing.
George looked pissed as he kept his eyes focused on the now closed bedroom door. I glanced around Mom’s new place. The main living area was one large room consisting of the living room and kitchen area but had enough separation that they felt like two distinct spaces. The color choices she’d made all complimented each other. Her home was stylish decorated, different from the practical, homey décor our old place had. The place boasted the bold new her.
She’d lost weight, and looked to be in great shape because of it. The shorter hair style gave her a youthful appearance. I wasn’t sure the age difference between Adrian and Mom, but they seemed happy with each other. She deserved that.
A few minutes later the door opened, Mom stepped out first but Adrian pulled her back into his arms kissing her. I had a feeling that was for George’s benefit. He then whispered something in Mom’s ear and she giggled. Giggled like a school girl. He said his goodbyes to me and was gone.
“Amari dear would you like something to drink?” she asked walking into the kitchen. She pulled out a pitcher of lemonade and carried it over to the table.
“Thanks,” I said reaching for a glass. “Sorry for not calling…”
“You look good Kathy,” George said interrupting me.
She briefly looked at him before turning back to me. “I admit seeing you was a surprise, especially since we just talked yesterday. And…” she got up and went into a different room, coming back with an envelope. “This came for you this morning. I was going to call you later, odd you getting mail here.”
I took the item from her. I hadn’t told her about Ceula when we talked, I didn’t want to worry her, but I knew she was going to want answers.
“Are you just going to pretend I’m not here?” George asked angrily. “We were married for nearly thirty years, and I can’t get a hello?”
“You have a lot of nerve George Vinson thinking you deserve anything!” she snapped. “I don’t owe you a damn thing, you should be happy I allowed you into my home and not push for more. For my daughter…”
“Our daughter,” he corrected.
“MY daughter, to show up here, unannounced and with you in tow can’t mean anything good, but whatever it is will be told to me from her. You sit and stay quiet so I can pretend you aren’t here!”
George pressed his lips together in a tight line. He would never change. He totally blew apart our lives for his own selfish gains yet he wanted to somehow play the victim.
“Now, Amari, I know you didn’t fly here because you had an urge to see me. What’s going on?”
I glanced over at George. “Marisol…she, she’s taken Ceula.”
Mom gasped, covering her mouth with her hand. “Taken? What? When?”
“Shortly after I returned home. Since I can’t have more children, she took her. Marisol is set on revenge that goes past George at this point. She’s playing some sort of game. Leaving me riddles, clues and I have no choice but to play along if I want to find Cece.”
Mom whipped her head over to look at George. “Was it worth it?!” she yelled. “Your selfish ways have had an unbelievable ripple effect. First my children, now my grandchildren have to suffer! Get…out!”
“Kathy! I didn’t plan on this. Marisol, she’s gone off the deep end. I can’t be blamed for that!”
“Like hell you can’t.” I said. “You send her into my life. Everything that has happened since is a direct effect of that choice!”
George got up and walked out, slamming the door behind him. Both Mom and I took deep breaths.
“Why doesn’t he just take responsibility for what he did?”
“Because he’s always been a proud man, even if that pride is misplaced. He will refuse to admit he failed, not matter how much his failure is staring him in the face.”
Mom pulled me into a hug and we sat comforting each other quietly for a while.
I nodded. “Marisol has been dredging up every painful memory she could think of.”
“And one of those brought you to me?”
I shook my head. “This one was directed at George really. He, um showed up…quite out of the blue…” I thought on that for a moment.
I’d not spoken to him, so how did he know he was needed? It was too much of a coincidence. So did she send him? If so, why would she help me? But then again being faced with George was not a pleasant experience.
“Of course he factors in. So, that,” she said indicating towards the envelope on the table, “would be another clue?”
I leaned down to pick it up. “Most likely.” I tore open the piece of mail. A small piece of paper was inside. I read it, then crumbled it up, throwing it angrily across the room.
Mom got up to retrieve it. “Mirror, mirror on the wall. It’s her face you still see after-all. Her face?” I nodded. “She means?”
The look on Mom’s face let me know her feelings. It was the same devastating feeling I had when Marisol brought the twins into her sick game. Nothing was off limits for her. Her hatred, as misplaced as it was, knew no bounds.
“Mom, I’m sorry…”
“Nonsense, this is not your doing. The one to blame has run away like the coward he is.”
Since George left, Mom had to be the one to take me to the cemetery.
It had been an emotional day. The message at Amella’s grave wasn’t a riddle, it simply said see you soon. Mom wanted me to stay the night with her, but I wanted to be alone. To do something I’d not done in a very long time, drown my sorrows at the bottom of a bottle. I wanted my child back. I wanted Marisol dead. I wanted this nightmare to be over. But my hands were tied. Without another clue, I was forced to wait on Marisol to make contact. I called Marcus to let him know I’d be home in the morning and I was about to settled down for the night when there was a knock at my door.