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Taking the Fall(23)

By:Alexa Riley

Spinning around I point my finger at Saint, “I’m not going to have an—” and it’s then that all of his words catch up to me.

I look over at Jeanette and I see her catching up as well. When her eyes meet mine, they’re full of pain. She closes them and shakes her head, answering my question.

I switch my focus back to Saint and glare at him with all the hate I have inside me. “How do you know Carter?” I snap.

“Fuck me,” is all he says and his eyes go to Jeanette. She’s staring off into space and just shaking her head in disbelief. You can see the moment it all starts to snap into place.

He’s Carter’s man

“Why?” I ask, bringing his eyes back to me.

“I can’t answer that for you, Layla,” Saint says.

“Because you don’t know or because you won’t tell me?” I question.

“A little of both. But I do know he loves you.”

“You don’t know shit,” I spit. Why have Saint here watching me if he loved me? Why isn’t Carter here himself? I want to scream until my lungs burst.

“If there’s one thing I know about Carter it’s that.”

I can’t do this anymore. The hope that was still dangling there for Carter slips free. I won’t do this anymore. They have to let me go, let us go.

“Why won’t you guys just let me go? He said I was free. Just give me my freedom!” I yell at him.

“You’ll never be free of Carter. Never. Even more so with his baby inside you.”

Bullshit, I think to myself. If he truly cared he would’ve been here for me. I went to see him in prison and he took my first kiss and told me to leave. He came back again, taking my virginity this time. Maybe he was just fulfilling his needs with me. I’m just not getting how I fit into all of this. My mind can’t take it anymore. Nothing is making any sense to me. If he loved me, he would’ve told me what the hell is happening. He knows I can’t remember and that it’s driving me crazy. Does he really think keeping me in the dark will help me?

Why does he keep ripping this scab open? I’m not dumb. I know I’ll always wear the scar of Carter’s love on me, it’s part of why I got the tattoo. But they won’t even allow the wound to heal. They keep ripping it open and making me bleed. They’ll keep doing it if I let them, until it consumes me.

“You’re just like him,” I say. “Filled with lies. He doesn’t love me. Does a man leave the woman he loves? Does he rip her to shreds and then leave her to pull herself together alone? If that’s your guy’s kind of love, I don’t want any. Keep it.”

“Layla, there’s just so much you don’t know,” Saint says, but I’m not hearing it anymore.

“You’re not getting it. No one cared enough about me to tell me. And I’m done. When you leave here you tell Carter if I ever see him again we’re all going to find out how much of my father I have in me. And this baby, it’s mine. I won’t have it in his world. I’ll make sure it never knows your type of love,” I hiss, before turning to face Jeanette who is staring at Saint.

“You got what you needed from him?” she asks, still not taking her eyes from him.

“Yes,” I say, grabbing her hand

“Get out,” she says, way calmer than I thought she would.

“Mama, it’s not what you think.”

“Don’t call me that,” she says through gritted teeth, and I can see her control slipping. I squeeze her hand tighter so she knows I’m here.

“Jeanette, it’s why I came here but not why I’m staying.”

“You used me.”

“That is not true!” he shouts.

“I won’t be used by another man. I’ve played that game before and I won’t play it again. Get out. We’re through.”

I can hear the pain in her voice. This must be the past she still hasn’t told me about.

“We’re so far from through and you know it. You. Are. Mine.”

“I’m not your shit. I’m not your goddamn anything, Michael.”

Saint goes to reach for her but Jeanette shrinks back from him and he stops.

“Touch me and I’ll scream this house down. You better get out or I’m calling the cops.”

Saint takes a step back and I see his shoulders drop in defeat. “I’ll give you some time but this will never be over, Mama,” he says with resolve and turns to leave. It’s only then that I notice a silent Justin behind him walk out at the same time.

And then Jeanette does the one thing I’ve never seen her do. She cries.