Chapter 15 – Fleeing the Storm
Storm woke up the next morning slightly hung over and lightly drooling on Taylor's chest as the sunlight crept in around his curtains and slid over her face with creeping fingers. She squinted in the sliver of liquid yellow, the sunlight glaring off her sable lashes and making solar flairs in front of her irises as she tried to remember how she had ended up at Taylor's house, in Taylor's bed, slobbering on Taylor's chest.
It came back to her as she got up and headed to the bathroom, seeing her discarded silver pants along the way. When she came back Taylor was still sleeping. As she looked at him laying there in his bed with his arms wrapped around a pillow he'd pulled into them when she'd gotten up, she started to realize what men felt like when they felt the pressure of commitment closing in on them. She was starting to think she belonged there, with Taylor. She was starting to think of herself as belonging to Taylor, which was scary in itself. She had, for a long time, thought of Taylor as hers. How on earth were they ever going to make this thing work?
How on earth could she live if they didn't find a way?
Last night had solved nothing. She wanted to be with Taylor, Taylor wanted to be with her, both their parents could think of things they would rather have occur. Like a plague, a horde of locusts, a total flood of New York, finding out they were both gay and would thus never have any natural children. She now had two families that lived at other ends of the country. How was she supposed to have a relationship with Taylor around all those obstacles? At least part of the time their relationship would have to be long distance. She would be in Miami, he in New York. He had to do his job if he wanted to have money for his place, food, activities. She could stop working and never lift a finger for the rest of her life and she'd still have her father and mother, not to mention her brother, fighting each other to take care of her.
She needed some space, some room to think. It was almost Christmas time anyway. Thanksgiving was only a few days away. It was time to go back to her mother and sister. It was time to start making new memories. Memories that didn't have to hurt as much as her life and memories with her father currently did.
And that meant it was time to tell Matty about his mom. And that was going to suck. Storm started going quietly through Taylor's drawers, looking for something she could wear. She couldn't bring herself to get dressed again in her tight silver clothes. She still had to get out of there. She also couldn't imagine taking the bus to her car wearing her clubbing outfit. Since she had no intention of waking Taylor for a ride to her car that only left the bus.
She pulled a pair of his shorts and one of his undershirts before padding quietly to the door. When she was confronted by her high heeled, clear shoes she sighed. She was supposed to trek to the bus stop in boxer shorts and hooker heels? What choice did she really have? She knew she wasn't walking around New York barefoot and Taylor's shoes would be like skis on her. At least, given the diverse populace of the city, she wouldn't even likely be the oddest dressed person on the commute. She had a last minute change of heart and got dressed in her own clothes, but then pulled a sweatshirt out of Taylor's dresser and pulled it on over her top. It fell more than half way to her knees and she figured it would hide enough to render her clothing decent for daytime wear.
She opened the front door of the apartment and stepped out into the hall.
Taylor woke up an hour later. He rolled onto his back in bed and stretched hugely, much as he did every day. Something nagged in the back of his mind on this morning however. Something told him he shouldn't have had quite so much room to stretch out into. As he recalled where Storm had spent the night he realized why. Storm should have been there with him. But she clearly wasn't. So where the hell was she?
He rolled out of bed and wandered toward the living room, scratching his belly as he went. There was no sign of her and her clothes and shoes were gone. Taylor cussed loudly in his empty apartment. What had she done, walked to the car? He wouldn't put it past her, that was for sure. He returned to his room and got dressed before jogging down the stairs of his building and getting in his van. He started driving along the route he figured Storm would have taken when she left his place. He made it all the way to Overdrive and never saw a single sign of her. Her car was gone, so he figured at least she had made it safely back to her ride.
He'd call her later, after the urge to wring her neck had abated. Then he'd find her and burn that outfit she had had on last night before he took her out to dinner someplace. He was scared how easily he could envision her spending another night in his place, waking up together in the mornings. What the hell was he getting himself into?
Storm pulled up to the front door of her house and hopped out of the car. She didn't care to take the time to park the Cadillac in the garage. She ran up the front steps and up the stairs to her room quickly. She didn't want to be seen coming home dressed as she was. Much as she doubted her father would dare say anything to her after everything that had happened she also wanted to do her best to avoid the possibility. After she showered and changed she left her room looking for Matty.
She planned to be in Miami getting a tan for Christmas and making her brother wait any longer to find that out and to find out the reasons why wasn't fair. She pushed into his room after a perfunctory knock on the door. He was sitting at his computer, again on the internet. He turned in his office chair to look at her as she walked into his room.
"Storm, where were you last night?"
"Overdrive and then at an after party with some friends." Why she didn't come right out and tell him she spent the night with Taylor she didn't know. It wasn't like he didn't know she had stayed there before. Hell, it wasn't even like she hadn't rubbed his nose in the fact they stayed the night together before. But she just didn't want him to run to Taylor and ask him questions about how she had come to be at his house. She didn't want Matty to know what she had been up to when Taylor found her and she didn't want Matty to know how messed up she had been.
"You could call me and let me know. I worry about you when I have no idea where you are."
"I can take care of myself Matty. You should know that by now," Storm answered as she flopped backwards onto his bed before rolling up onto her elbow. The debate was a tired one, something she felt as though she'd explained a million times yet he had clearly never heard. "Besides, I'm not going to tell you where I'm going and when I'll be back for the rest of my life," Storm said before pausing for a deep breath. "Matty, we need to talk."
Matty went into protective older brother mode. The way he bristled was obvious. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing is wrong, per say. Not for me in any event," she mumbled. "You know about the fight I had with Dad."
"Yeah, what about it? That was days ago."
"Well, because of that fight I decided I'd get even with him."
Matty groaned. "What did you do?" What wouldn't his sister do in the heat of the moment? She was ruthless and sometimes it got in the way of her common sense, making her do stupid things. Anything she did in the name of getting even with their father was stupid.
"Why do you assume I did anything? Maybe I just thought about it," Storm said defensively. "Why do you always assume the worst about me?"
"Yeah, ok. You thought you should get revenge but then you decided you didn't really want to," Matty rolled his eyes. "When have you ever had any attitude other than shoot first and ask questions later?"
"Ok, ok," Storm gave in with a chuckle. It wasn't like he was wrong. "I went into his office and rooted through his papers, in his filing cabinet."
"I never woulda thought you had a death wish Storm. What the fuck were you thinking?" Matty became angry in a flash. After all that had already gone down between father and daughter, what was she thinking doing something so stupid? The one thing more likely to make her father crazy angry than telling him to go fuck himself and she does it right after doing the other!
"That I'd find something to hold over his head, what'd ya think?" Storm answered in exasperation. As always, she never saw the danger she was putting herself in. Or if she saw it, simply didn't let it faze her.
"Well, did you?"
"Not exactly," Storm said and paused to gather her thoughts. "I found something but it's not really something I can hold over his head. Matty," she stopped again. This was way harder than she'd anticipated. How did one tell one's sensitive older sibling that something he'd spent most of his life believing never really happened? And because that something had never happened all the strife he'd been put through had been unnecessary and almost like some cruel joke?
"What is it Storm?"
"I found out that our mother isn't really dead," she blurted out in a rush.
Matty's face filled with sympathy. It was clear he thought she was mentally unwell and making this fact up. "Storm," he said soothingly. "Mom died having you baby girl. I know it would be nice to have a normal, sane, loving parent but our mother is dead. Crazy pop is all we got."
"I thought so too, then I found a file about her in his office with her current address. She's still alive."
"I know that pop has some strange ideas of how to fool people that might go looking for information in the house Storm. You should know that too. You can't take anything he has here in the house seriously."
"You can take this seriously. It's real Matty."
"No it's not Storm," Matty said firmly. "Our mother is dead. She's been dead since I was four years old. That's just life Storm."
Storm rolled her eyes, frustrated at her inability to make Matty understand. "Her phone number in Miami is 305-446-7865. Why don't you call her?" Storm said as she held Matty's eyes. "After you talk to her, see if you can still tell me she doesn't exist then."
"Stormianna!" Matty's tone went from sympathetic to angry when she insisted on continuing along the same vein. "This isn't my idea of a joke. What did I ever do to you?"
"Why don't you ask what dad did to both of us instead, huh?" Storm sat up at the edge of the bed and fidgeted, picking at lint on her pants in agitation. "It's not like I asked for this. Not like I asked to be told my whole life that my mom died because I was born and then find out it was all a lie. Go ask dad if you think I'm making it up. He knows I know and I doubt he'll deny it. He just wasn't going to tell you on his own," Storm bit out. She was upset her own brother thought she was lying about something so serious. She got up off the bed and started to pace around the room.
"Why would he lie about something like this? Why would our mother go to Miami and never tell us she was really ok?"
"He lied because he didn't get his own way with her and mom stayed in Miami because she couldn't face coming back to living under his thumb."
"Why'd he send her away in the first place? Storm, none of what you're telling me makes any sense."
"He sent her away in the first place because an enemy of his and Teddy's threatened her. He thought the best thing to do at the time was send her away where no one knew him. He figured the best way to do it was to fake her death and the easiest time to do that was when she went into labour with me."
"I know our life is sorta out in left field most days here Storm, but this is kinda wild to believe, even for us."
"Taylor knows where I went when I left, why don't you call him and ask him?"
"Taylor went with you and met our mother?"
"No," Storm admitted before blowing some wisps of hair off her forehead forcefully. "He didn't come with me. It was him I ran to the night I found the file about mom. It was him that told me if I thought I should go than I should just go. It was him who believed me when I told him what I found, him who was there for me that night when I thought I was gonna lose my mind."
"I can't believe this," Matty growled.
Storm lit onto one convincing argument she had yet to bring out. "Where's my car then? You know I wouldn't leave the Skyline just anywhere! You know it's got to be someplace safe. I left it with mom in Miami."
"So if I call that number you just gave me right now I'll get my own mother on the line?" Matty asked. His tone still belayed the fact he didn't believe a word.
"Yeah, sure. You could call her right now if you wanted. Up to you. Personally I'm flying down there to spend thanksgiving and Christmas with her and Tabitha. I'm leaving tomorrow," Storm headed for the door with that announcement. "Believe me or not, at the very least you will be seeing a lot less of me in the future. I have a mother and sister that I have twenty years worth of catching up to do with."
"Sister?" Matty asked in shock.
"Yeah, sister. She's twelve. She's our half sister," Storm improvised quickly. "Dad is not to know about her, got it? Anyway, I think I might see if I can fly Tabitha up here for the Macy's parade and take her shopping afterward."
"This is just too fucked up Storm. This is my life, not some fuckin' soap opera. I can't fucken believe this shit." Matty said, getting up from his chair and pacing around the room, right past where Storm was standing in his door.
"It's about as fucked up as you thinking I'd really tell you something like this to hurt your feelings. What about my feelings? What about the fact that I grew up thinking I was the reason why mom was dead? What about what I went through with Teddy and the bitch? But none of that matters, I guess. I gotta go," Storm said as she turned around to leave the room.
"Storm wait," Matty said with a sigh. He had really fucked this one up in his shock.
"I don't have time to wait," she answered testily. "I have packing to do and planning to do if I want to convince mom to let me take Tabitha up here in a week for the thanksgiving parade."
"I don't want you to go off thinking the worst of me."
"Than you shouldn't have said such stupid things," Storm answered heatedly as she started to walk down the hall. She sniffled. She never fought with Matty. Never. They were each other's best friends and they just didn't fight. He had always been the only person in her life who at any given moment in time she knew only had her best interests at heart. She would have thought, up until now, that he felt the same way. To have him accuse her of doing such a cruel thing didn't hurt. To a lot of people she wouldn't have thought twice. But to have him accuse her of doing such a thing to him really stung.
Matty swore under his breath. After the loss of two of his best friends the last thing he wanted to do was alienate his sister. He knew she was in an emotional place because of everything. It was like she took the death of Chris worse than he had. She was also still adrift about what she would do about her father. He couldn't let her go off again without patching things up with her. He just couldn't. "I was shocked is all Storm. I can't think of all the things I went through because I had no mother and then find out I really did have one all along without getting upset. I'm sorry I took it out on you," Matty said. He sighed violently, looking and his feet and fisting his hands in his hair. "But shit Storm, there's no easy way to find something like this out!"
"Look who you're telling!" Storm answered in a roar as she spun on her brother again, her finger in his face menacingly. "Unlike you, I never had a mother. Pop was all I ever had. He was all I ever knew I wanted and then look at what he did to me. In the middle of all that, of knowing what we both went through as kids because of what pop is I found out that we could have gone to live with our mother. The mother I supposedly killed being born twenty years ago. Then I had to keep her from you because of all I knew you'd been through on account of her being dead. So I had to deal with finding out about her on my own, had to be the one who had to go and see if she'd reject us or not on my own. All to save you the heartache if she told me to fuck off. How would you ever think I'd use that as a joke against you?"
"I told you I was in shock. I told you I was sorry. What more do you want me to say?"
"I dunno. But I do know I have a plane to charter." Storm turned again to walk away. She couldn't wait to get in a room by herself so she could lick her wounds in private.
"Storm, please," Matty's voice cracked in emotion. "Don't walk off on me like this!"
Why was it the men in her life were always begging her not to walk off after they'd said something stupid? It wasn't as though she was abandoning them. And if she was it wasn't like she was doing it without cause. It wasn't as though she was just being mean.
Well maybe just a little, she conceded to herself. There might have been a piece of her wanting to rub it in to her brother how hurt she was by walking off on him without hearing him out.
"I'm not walking off on you. I'm walking off to do what I need to do. The shit I need to get done ain't gonna do itself."
"You're walking off so fast so we don't have to finish our conversation."
"Oh, is that was that was? Sorry, I guess I didn't pick up on that part. I didn't know we were having a conversation. It felt more like an argument to me. One where I was telling you something true and serious and you were busy calling me a liar."
Matty shook his head. "What did you want me to do? Accept without question that a fact I've lived with for over twenty years isn't a fact at all. Accept that my father lied to me about something so important practically my whole life."
"I want you to think enough of me that your first assumption isn't that I'm playing a cruel joke on you. That's too much to ask, or so it seems and because it is I don't have any more time for this 'conversation' as you put it. I have things to do."
Matty gave up as he watched his sister turn around and walk away. He wasn't going to get through to her when she was so mad. She never was all that good at looking past her anger and looking at other side of the coin. When she felt backed into a corner or slighted it was all about her and her feelings. He knew it, but that didn't mean he had to like it. He knew he'd hurt her feelings but had she really expected him to simply be happy for the revelation and not get upset, not get shocked?
He might be the calm one, the sensible one. But even he wasn't that calm or sensible. He had been four years old when his mother had died. Or at least when he had been told she had died, if you believed Storm's story. All he remembered about her was a pair of laughing green eyes and a head of sable curly hair, all framing a ready smile and a lilting singing voice.
So, say Storm wasn't deluded, or playing a trick harsh even for her. What then? Was he jus supposed to forgive the mother who had left him behind? Left him to become Matty Dimes, picked on by the whole family and broken by her brother. A man she had to have known was a sadistic bastard. She had grown up with him, had seen just how he was first hand. But she still went off to another state and agreed to play dead, even from her own offspring.
Was he supposed to forgive her as easy as Storm seemingly had? Storm didn't live through the same hell he had, all over going to live with Teddy when his father went in. God damn it, the woman had abandoned her son and newborn daughter to be raised by Benny 'Chains'. A man she knew she couldn't stand to live around one day longer, but she had left her two innocent children to be raised by him, knowing there would be no where for them to go, and knowing what kind of upbringing they would receive.
How was it possible that Storm, of all people, didn't have a huge grudge to settle with the woman? Because of what her idolized father had done to her? How much of the way she had forgiven Cara Deserve could be tied back to her disillusionment with her father? A lot of it, Matty theorized. His sister had felt hopeless, like she had no where to turn to. She had found out her mother was still alive, and in a different state to boot, and had run there to take a chance at finding refuge. Because she was so upset and disenchanted with her father, a chance to have a different life in a different state had put her into a receptive frame of mind and made it easier than it should have been for her to forgive her mother for her sins.
He wasn't so sure he could forgive and forget so easily. But he did wonder if he didn't owe it to himself to meet the woman, hear her side of the story.
Storm packed haphazardly when she reached her room. Half way through she picked up the phone and dialled in a number.
"Dostal," you're bothering me, the Russian voice on the other end of the line said, the curt greeting showcased the speaker's annoyance at being disturbed.
"Is that any way to talk to your favourite Italian female?" Storm asked playfully, fighting to remember that her friends were not to know how bad things had been at home lately, beyond the fact that Chris and Johnny had died.
"Storm! Did not think to check call ID."
"Don't worry about it. What are you doin' for the next few hours Yerrie?"
"Books for father. Why you ask?"
"I need a plane ride again. You up for a little fight down south?"
"Is back to Miami you wish to go?"
"Yeah, how'd you guess?"
"I can answer only in Russian and you forget how to speak," he teased.
She switched to his native tongue to spite him. "Za bazar otvetish'," You will be held accountable for what you've said, she threatened. It was in jest of course.
He roared in laughter. "When I never am seeing you anymore, how am I to know you find a way to keep up with language?"
"Because knowing how to speak with my comrades is important to me, da."
"Is good. Should pick you up at home?"
Storm really didn't want him around her house. But on the other hand it would save her from finding a way to the airstrip or to his club. "Yeah, why don't you, if you don't mind?"
"Don't mind. Will see you in half hour."
"I'll be ready." They hung up at the same time. Storm put some extra speed into her packing. She wanted to be done and waiting at the gate for her friend. She did not want him coming up to the house and risk having him clash with her father. It wasn't worth the headache by any stretch.
Twenty five minutes after she had hung up with Yerik, she was leaning against one of the brick pillars flanking her driveway gate, watching him pull up in a black Mercedes sedan. She tossed her bag into the back seat before sliding into the front. She leaned over to kiss Yerik on the cheek. "Thank you for coming for me."
"I was ready for something other than math to do," he responded with a shrug. "Love to fly and get far too few excuses to take plane up. Is pleasure to enjoy flight with such good company, and for once not need to listen to father complain."
"I've never heard Vanya complain about much."
"He complains about much, when things do not happen fast enough to suit his schedule."
"I'm the same way."
"This I know," he chuckled.
"Shut up!" Storm laughed back.
The powerful black car made short work of the trip from her home to the airstrip. They loaded her things into the plain and waited to be cleared for takeoff. Once they had their clearance they were airborne. They didn't say much over the course of the flight, just enjoyed companionable silence together. As aware as they both were of the fact, neither wanted to draw attention to the fact that Storm was running away from New York, and that neither knew how long it would be before she returned to her home state.
They landed without a hitch and taxied to a stop near the squat, grey terminal. Storm started to get out, but wasn't quick enough to hit the ground before Yerik was there to hand her to the tarmac. "Thanks," she said after her feet were again on the ground. Yerik only smiled. He knew how much it bothered her to have a man dance attendance on her. She was too independent to be happy about it. She looked less than impressed as he lifted her suitcase out of the rear of the plane for her and set it on the ground beside her.
"How are you to get where going with no car?"
"I'll call a taxi. My car is at my mom's so I'll be fine when I get there."
"I will get you ride. Wait here." He started off toward the terminal.
"Yerik! I can-" she cut herself off on a sigh and threw her hands in the air. He wasn't listening. She could have arranged her own ride! Trying to tell him that would get her no where. She knew she might as well just sit back and let him arrange things for her now that he had taken it in his head to do so.
He came striding back a few moments later. "I have hired driver and car to take you where you need to go."
"Thanks, I think." Storm looked up at Yerik, where he stood in front of her.
He shrugged off her thanks. "How long will be before you are home again?"
"I dunno Yerrie. Could be two weeks, could be two months. Could be longer. I just don't know. Things aren't so great at home right now," she admitted. She felt the need to tell someone.
"What is wrong at home Storm?"
"I fought with Matty, which is something that never happens. Things haven't been right between dad and me for a long time. I put it aside for the last few weeks because of things with my cousin and friend, but I'm still not ok with the old man, not even close. So I'm here to stay with my mother and I don't know how long I'm gonna have to stay with her to make the shit at home stop mattering."
"Is anything I can do?"
"Nope, not a thing. I'd appreciate it if you didn't say nothin' to Vanya that'll make him flip out either. I'm workin' the shit out, but I wanna do it my own way. Ok?"
"Of course Storm. Will see you when see you."
"Ok Yerrie, thanks for the lift. Both up there," she pointed to the sky, "and down here."
"Da." He picked up her bag and started toward a large black Cadillac limo which was parked beside the small terminal building.
It hadn't been there when they landed so Storm could only surmise that Yerik had called someone and arranged for it to arrive. Like she needed a limo! She followed him across the tarmac to the waiting car with a shake of her head. Won't even let me carry my own bag. She got into the car and told the driver where she was headed and they pulled out of the parking lot.
She was almost nervous to be back in Miami. She hadn't really gotten to know her new family all that well before she had taken off on them again. Now here she was back again. Would things have changed? What if her mother came to her senses in the mean time and realized that she didn't need a person like her daughter in her life, messing up the order?
Yet again it was going to fall to her to deliver bad news. Now she was going to have to break the news to her mother that her brother was dead. Not that the world wasn't better off without the presence of Teddy Deserve, but the man had still been Cara's brother. Storm shook her head tiredly with a sigh. Would the drama never end? Her life story read like a dime store trash novel. She actually figured she could sell the shit if she wrote it down. Of course, people would never accept it as a non-fiction. But as an action adventure, she guessed people would buy it.
The ride through Miami to her mother's house in Coral Gables went swiftly and comfortably. As comfortable as the limo was, Storm hated to be driven around and longed for the feeling of the wheel in her own hands and pedals under her own feet. She was looking forward to having custody of her Skyline back almost as much as seeing her mother and sister again. Driving stick was a totally different driving experience than automatics and she had been missing it. Had been missing the control that a manual offered over and above that of gas, brake and steering. She was looking forward to hitting races again. Tej was pretty cool, and his idea of racing was a lot more challenging than that of sprints in New York.
When the car stopped at the curb in front of her mother's house she got out and grabbed her own bag all before the driver could make it around the back of the car. He looked put out at not getting to do his job. "Sorry buddy, I'm really not used to getting waited on." She handed him a fifty for his trouble and started up the walkway. When she got to the step she paused. Did she just walk in? Or did she knock?
She eventually decided on knocking. She didn't have a key for the place so she figured that meant she shouldn't just walk right in. It didn't take long before Tabitha was hauling the door open. "Aren't you supposed to make sure you know who it is before you open the door?" she teased her little sister.
"Yeah," Tabitha admitted. "But does mom really have to know I didn't?"
"Not if you remember for next time. You gotta be more careful than just tossing the door open to everyone who knocks."
"I'll remember. Are you going to come in or just stand there?"
"You're still in the way kiddo."
Tabitha moved and Storm stepped up into the house with a chuckle, assuming that if her sister hadn't been told to bar her entry she was still welcome.
"Who is it Tabitha?" Cara's voice called from the back of the house, where her office was located.
"It's Storm!" Tabitha hollered back. "She's back."
Cara came out of her office and started toward the entrance. "I was worried when I didn't hear from you for so long!"
"I'm sorry. I had a lot to deal with before I could come back."
Cara looked at her daughter and she could read the lines of strain around her mouth and eyes. Her face had a haunted look that hadn't been present before. Whatever had gone down had been much more disturbing to Storm than the scene with her father which had originally driven her to Miami. It was obvious that this newest tribulation had upset her far more than her fight with her father had. "It's too bad that you came back tonight. Tabitha is going to stay with her friend Stacey tonight so we won't be able to do anything together."
"Maybe Stacey could come here instead. Could she?"
"I don't think so Tabitha. Mrs. O'Connor has already made plans based around having the two of you there. You'll have to have Stacey over another time."
"But we didn't know Storm was coming back when I decided to go to Stacey's tonight," Tabitha whined.
"I'm not goin' anywhere Tab. Go hang with your friend tonight. We'll make plans for the rest of the weekend when you come home and there's gonna be lots of time to have your friend over here."
"You're going to stay for a while this time?"
"Yeah," Storm sighed. "I'm gonna stay for a while this time." Because it was easier than dealing with her life in the big apple and she was taking the easy way out this time.
"Sweet." Tabitha ran off to pack her bag for the night.
Storm sat down on an armchair and pulled her legs under her, her feet resting on her opposite thighs. She tipped her head back with a heartfelt sigh. It was good to sit down and take a load off in a house where no one was waiting to fight with her, or change her, or control her, or dictate to her.
"I don't want to pry, but will you explain to me what happened tonight, after Tabitha isn't around?"
Her mother's question reminded Storm that the fun wasn't done for her yet. She still had to tell her mom about Teddy. She nodded tiredly in answer to her mother's question. "Yeah, we have some stuff to talk about and it would be easier to do it without her here."
"Ok. I'll run her over to Stacey's as soon as she's done packing and then we'll have a talk. I'll pick up some supper on the way home if you're hungry."
"I could eat." The question reminded Storm how long it had been since she'd had a real meal. It hadn't been any time in recent memory.
"Ok, I won't be long."
"I'll be here."
Cara left the house and Storm picked up the remote for the TV and flicked it on. She scrolled through the channels idly, unable to find anything she wanted to watch. She eventually settled on a station showing reruns of American Hotrod. Sometimes Boyd reminded her of her dad. Not in any tangible way, just little things. Both of them tended to have a hard time seeing the necessity of the journey, always longing to reach the finish line without taking time to do the race well. Both of them also tended to use their 'I'm the boss that's why' attitude to get out of scrapes with those under them rather than look for solutions which would work for everyone.
She felt a moment of guilt for leaving the state without telling her dad where she was headed. Surely Matty would tell him she was fine and where she was so he didn't have to worry, but it would seem like she had left without telling him on purpose because she didn't want him to know. While she wasn't happy with him still, her anger had simmered down to a slow boil rather than the white hot bubbling mess it had been. She wouldn't have given him a reason to worry had she thought about anything other than how fighting with Matty had made her feel. Matty, she was sure, would just attribute it to her selfish nature which became more pronounced when she was upset, not less.
On that note she realized she hadn't even told Taylor she was taking off. She had simply run away from her feelings about fighting with her brother and taken off out of the blue. She pulled her cell phone off her waist and dialled Taylor's number, not without a large dose of trepidation. Taylor was not going to take it well that she had run out of his place without waking him this morning and then had taken off for Miami without so much as saying good-bye in person or letting him know she was leaving while she was still in the same state.
He answered on the third ring. "Hello."
"Hey Tay, it's me."
"Storm! Where the fuck are you?"
"Miami. I fought with Matty and all I could think about was getting away, getting back here. I'm sorry. I would have told you I was leaving if I hadn't been so upset about things."
"What did you fight with Matty about?"
"I told him about mom and he didn't believe me. Accused me of making it up as a cruel joke." She started to cry despite herself. "Am I really such a horrible person that I'd do something that mean to my own brother? To Matty? Am I that evil Tay?"
It almost killed him to know she was crying in a place so far away that there was nothing he could do to comfort her. He made a mental note to adjust Matty's attitude at the next convenient opportunity. "No 'Ella, you're not. It's just a big thing to spring on Matty. I know there wasn't any other way to handle it baby, but it still had to be a shock to him. I'll go talk to him, ok?"
"And say what? It was what it was Taylor. I don't think you talking to him about it now it going to do anything. Not when I'm already here. I just wanted to let you know that I didn't take off without telling you on purpose."
"I understand. I was worried about you walking to your car alone though 'Ella. What were you thinking, taking off outta here in that outfit in the middle of the day to walk anywhere?"
"I didn't walk, I took the bus. And I didn't wear just that outfit. This is where I should tell you that I have your Yankees sweat shirt too. It was practically a dress on me so it hid enough."
Taylor groaned. "You have my Yankees tee shirt and sweat shirt? My two favourite tops for when I'm just hanging out at home? Storm," he whined.
It made her laugh softly. "Well, look at it this way. When you get them back you'll always be able to think of me wearing them, and nothing but. But you could have the tee shirt back. It's just on the floor of my room. Matty could get it for you and give it to you the next time you see him."
"I'll ask him."
"You'll keep an eye on Matty won't you? I don't know when I'll be back and I don't want to think of him all alone with no one around. You'll call him and make sure he's ok right?"
"Yeah, he's still my friend Storm. Just because he hurt you so bad he made you run off without telling me doesn't mean he isn't my friend anymore."
"Ok. I should let you go before mom gets home with dinner. I'll call you again soon and you can call me on this number any time you want to, ok?"
"Ok. I wish I knew when I was going to see you again Storm?"
"If I end up back in town you'll be the first one to know."
"Ok," Taylor paused, seeming unsure of what to say to end the call. "Take care of yourself 'Ella."
"You too Tay. I'll talk to you soon."
With their good-byes they each hung up. Storm was sitting in the same position when her mother got back home with a bag of take away in her hands. She came into the living room after kicking her shoes off. "I got supper," she said as she looked at Storm. Storm didn't immediately answer. "You ok?"
Storm came back to reality with a crash landing. "Not really, but we should eat before I go into it. I'm starving."
Telling Storm to stay put, Cara went to the kitchen, put the Chinese food she had brought back with her on plates, put the plates on trays with cutlery and glasses of soda, and presented one of them to her daughter. "I hope you like Chinese."
"I live in New York. Of course I like Chinese," Storm answered with a smile. It didn't last long, but she made the effort.
Cara had to fight to remind herself they weren't going into what was wrong until after they ate. She had a million questions she wanted answers for. If it wasn't for the fact her daughter was so obviously upset she would be asking them rapid fire. She was itching to find out what had caused Storm to leave, promising to call, and then to merely show up two weeks later, baggage in hand.
She was sure that Storm could likely sense her impatience because she ate swiftly, didn't linger over her food. When she finished she set her plate on the coffee table.
Storm couldn't help the chuckle that escaped her when she saw her mother staring at her intently. In her haste to eat the first meal she'd seen in days she hadn't even noticed. "I guess you really wanna know why I took off in the middle of the night and never called, huh?"
"If you want to tell me," Cara answered as she tried to feign indifference.
"It's not a good story," Storm cautioned, thinking of how she was going to have to tell her mother about Uncle Teddy and about Chris. She knew her mother wouldn't know Chris all that well because he would have been about four years old when she went away. But she had no doubt that as close as Benny and Sal were, Cara had also likely been close to the Scarpa's as well.
"When Matty called me, it was to tell me that he had tried to take on a job for Pop. An out of state job and he fuc-," Storm caught herself about to curse at her mother, even in a roundabout way and pulled up short. "Well, he dropped the ball big time. Got Johnny Marbles to help him with a big money run. We're always tellin' Matty 'stay out' and not without good reason but he decided there wasn't anything else for him in the world to do and broke in anyway." Storm continued to tell her mother the story of what had happened to Johnny, Chris, and how it had affected Taylor and Matty. She left out a few of the choicer parts, like how many times she had gotten loaded drunk in the course of that time, and how often she had spent the night with Taylor afterward either. "So then I had to wait until all that calmed down to tell Matty about you. And his response was to accuse me of making it up as a mean joke. That was on top of the thing with Taylor's mother, Chris's funeral. I flipped the hell out on him, called a friend who has a Cessna and was here about two hours later."
"So Chris Scarpa is dead?" Cara had to get clarification. She had waited until the end of the story, not wanting to interrupt. But she had to hear it spelled out in order to believe it.
"Yeah, he's dead."
"And Matty doesn't believe that I'm still alive?"
"Well, he likely does now, given that I told him off and stormed out of the house on him, and didn't even tell Taylor where I was going. He's gonna know I was royal pissed and not just kiddin around with him."
"You should go back to New York and settle some of these issues Storm."
"No I shouldn't. I can't." Storm shook her head agitatedly. "I just can't. I need time. I gotta get it all sorted out in my head first. I'm about ready to lose it and if I go back now I won't be able to hold it together. It was driving me crazy slowly over these last few weeks. I need a break away from Dad and all his shit, from Matty and his depression, even from Taylor and his thumb. I need a break to just be me for awhile."
"But you shouldn't leave things with your brother or Taylor like they are. Shouldn't leave things hanging on a fight."
"I didn't leave things that way with Taylor. I called him while you were out and let him know the score. He's gonna be ok. I mean, he's Taylor. He's pretty good at doin' on his own. Matty'll let me know when he's good and sorry for what he said, for what he accused. I'll go wit him from there."
"What about Benny? Didn't you tell me that you didn't tell him where you were going or when you'd be back too?"
"Yeah," Storm sighed. "I guess I should call the old man and tell him I'm ok, where ever I am."
"At least. Then unpack and we'll watch a movie to unwind, ok?"
Storm nodded yes and got up, taking her cell phone out again. She'd call her father and tell him she was gone for a vacation. He didn't need to know just where, even if he would likely as not guess on his own anyway. She told him merely that she had fought with Matty and decided she was wound too tight and needed a break. He seemed to accept her explanation and let her go after she had made a commitment to call him and let him know she was still ok in a few days.
That accomplished, she headed upstairs with her bag, unpacked, changed and headed back down the stairs. She curled up in the same overstuffed chair she had sat in for dinner and accepted the bowl of popcorn her mother offered her with a smile. When she went to bed after the movie she fell into an exhausted sleep immediately and slept well for the first time in days. She woke up at ten am, early for her, and headed downstairs after showering and getting dressed. What did one do on Saturday in Miami?
While she was still pondering that over her Lucky Charms, Tabitha and her blonde friend bounced into the house.
"Yay, you're awake!" Tabitha cried happily. "Do you remember Stacey from my school?"
"Yeah, Tab, it's only been two weeks since I was here."
"I know that," Tabitha rolled her eyes. "Stacey's going to spend the day here with me today."
"Cool. What are you gonna do?" Storm asked, idly curious.
"Dunno. We didn't figure that out yet. Maybe you could take us to the beach?" Tabitha asked hopefully.
"That would be so cool!" Stacey finally opened her mouth.
"That would depend on Mom and what Stacey's mom thought of it. She doesn't know me."
"It's fine with me dear, but I better call Mrs. O'Connor and make sure it's ok with her before we say yes or no, ok?"
"Yeah, sure," Storm called back. She finished her cereal and slurped up the left over milk before loading her bowl in the dishwasher. The girls sat down at the table to wait on the verdict of Cara's call to Stacey's mother. Storm sat back down with them when she was done tidying up after herself.
Stacey looked from her friend to Storm a few times. It was clear to Storm she had something to say. She watched the twelve year old try to make up her mind about what to say and if to say it with bemusement. "You look just like each other," she finally got out.
"Yeah, kinda weird isn't it?" Storm offered.
"Kinda. Why is your hair so blonde?"
"Because I dyed it like this. It ain't real."
"Oh. Why do you talk like that?"
"Because I grew up hangin' out in Brooklyn and that's how we talk in New York."
Stacey went to ask more, but Cara came out of her office before she could. "Stacey's mom says it's fine if you all remember to wear sun block. And don't spend any more than three hours on the beach. That ok?"
"Sure, that's chill," Storm answered. She looked at her sister and Stacey. "Why don't you girls go get ready? I'll be up to change myself in a few and then we'll go, a'ight?"
"Sure," Tabitha answered and both girls headed up to her room.
Cara turned to Storm after they were gone. "You sure you're up to marshalling the two of them? They can be a handful when they get together."
"It'll be ok. I think I can take a couple'a kids and if I can't all I have to do is threaten to call you, right?"
Cara laughed. "Yep, that should do it. I'll give you some money in case they want treats at the boardwalk." She moved toward her purse.
"Mom, I ain't poor. I can afford a couple ice creams and video games."
"I know, but you shouldn't have to pay their way."
"It's ok. Really. Unless there's more to it than you worryin' about me affordin' food and gas if I treat the girls to an afternoon out?"
Cara looked like she was caught at something she shouldn't be doing, but didn't answer that way. "Of course not."
"You sure?" Storm asked as one eyebrow rose toward her hairline. It was obvious she knew there was more to it than that.
Cara sighed. She was busted. Seemed her daughter had picked up her father's uncanny ability to read people and situations. It was hard to get one past her. "I'd rather not know you were spending Benny's money on the girls. I know it's silly, but I don't want to owe him anything. Not even in roundabout ways."
"I don't spend very much of his money anymore myself. I got a job mom, and it ain't for my pop. He won't have me so I got work for myself elsewhere. I got my own money to spend."
"What do you do? I mean, really. Not whatever you do for your father?"
"I work in a bar that a friend of mine owns. I mighta learned to tend bar for Benny in Giando's but I work for my buddy Vanya now." Storm surprised herself with how well she lied. She praised herself on not coming right out and lying. She made it sound like she was saying she tended bar for Vanya by saying it was what she had done for Benny. And with only the name Vanya to go by, Cara wouldn't be able to track down what kind of club the Russian man owned or what other kinds of enterprises he was into.
"Doesn't sound like something your father would be happy about you doing?" Cara prodded for more info gently.
"I'm sure he wouldn't be. That's why his ass don't know," Storm answered with a smirk. "He thinks I go hang out wit my friends a lot."
"Ok, well in that case I won't try to force any money on you again then, seeing as you can take care of yourself."
Storm sensed her mother might be just a bit upset that she had missed out on all the years when Storm would have needed her, and would have depended on her for everything. "I wouldn't go that far, but money wise I landed on my feet."
"Ok, you should go get ready. If you leave Tabitha and Stacey waiting too long I'll have to listen to them, and I don't want a headache right now."
Both women chuckled over that before Storm headed up to what she now thought of as her room and changed into her bathing suit before pulling on a pair of cut off denims and a tank top. She ended up wishing the only bathing suit she packed wasn't a Juicy Couture two piece which didn't leave a lot to the imagination. She was quite comfortable in a two piece, under normal conditions, but wasn't sure how appropriate it was for her to wear such a brief suit in front of her little sister and little friend. Other than admit she had to go shopping before they could hit the beach, she didn't see any way around wearing it. She shook her head. A white suit with 'JUICY' across the behind in hot pink was her only option. She shrugged sanguinely. She was pretty old to start worrying about proper now.
Within five minutes of leaving her room, she was loading the girls and their beach things into the Skyline. While Cara had offered the use of her Land Rover, the Skyline was the only car either the girls or Storm would hear of driving. Storm had missed it too much and Tabitha and Stacey were not going to miss their chance to be driven around in the tricked out ride.
Storm allowed herself to be talked into cranking up the stereo and driving too fast to the beach. Tabitha navigated, clearly knowing the way even though Storm herself did not. They spent the full three authorized hours laying in the sun and swimming before they packed up their stuff and spent a bit longer shopping along the waterfront boardwalk. They ended up with ice cream cones right away. After they ate them they headed around the shops, where Storm ended up buying each girl a pair of Oakley knock off sunglasses just like the red, deeply smoked pair in her own curls. Then they realized it was supper. After a quick call home to confirm it would be ok, Storm took the girls out for pizza at a beach side restaurant.
By the time they got home it was seven o'clock. There was a strange car in the driveway. It turned out to be Stacey's mother's vehicle. Storm parked the Skyline behind the Land Rover so that Mrs. O'Connor's vehicle would be free to leave and let the girls out of the car. They headed up to the house in a trio, still talking a mile a minute about the day they'd had and the girl's plans to make the junior high school cheer squad when they moved out of elementary school the following year.
Storm unlocked the door with the key her mother had thoughtfully provided her with that morning and pushed it open. As they piled into the foyer Storm called out, "Mom, we're home!" The girls kept talking amongst themselves rapid fire. Storm didn't know how they talked like that and didn't asphyxiate.
Cara came out of the living room, followed by a woman Storm could only guess was Mrs. O'Connor. She had Stacey's blonde hair and blue eyes. "How was the beach?"
"It was pretty awesome. I think I mighta even got a tan. Something a native New Yorker is not use to admitting in November!" Storm admitted with a chuckle.
Mrs. O'Connor finally seemed to find her words. "Well, I guess Cara wasn't exaggerating the family resemblance was she?"
"No ma'am," Storm replied. She held out her hand. "I'm Storm De-," she cut herself off. Was she allowed to admit her last name to her mother's friends? Her dad wasn't exactly unknown. Not since he had done time for RICO charges and played a large role in A and E's special on organized crime. Storm caught her mother's eyes in panic. Her mother gave her a small nod. "I'm Stormianna Demaret, but you can just call me Storm."
"Storm?" Stacey's mother turned to Cara in confusion after shaking Storm's hand. "I thought your older daughter's name was Arabella?"
"It is," Storm broke it. "Arabella Stormianna Demaret, but I go by Storm."
"You named your child Storm?" Mrs. O'Connor asked Cara with a giggle. It was a giggle that reminded Storm of Stacey a great deal. It was clear to see the blonde child took after her mother a great deal.
"I did, but I never for the life of me figured her father would allow her name to stand that way. I guess I was wrong." Cara turned to Storm. "Ellen is a very good friend. She knows a lot about my past."
Storm nodded. Her mother was telling her that Ellen O'Connor was a close friend who had been trusted with the knowledge of how she had come to be in Miami and the fact that she had two older children she had been forcefully separated from. It was good to know she wouldn't have to put up a front around Ellen O'Connor, as it was obvious Tabitha and Stacey were close to inseparable But it was difficult to know how much Ellen knew about Storm's own background.
"Good to meet you Mrs. O'Connor."
"Please, call me Ellen. It's good to meet you too. But on that note, we should go Stacey. It's getting late."
"Can't I stay here a bit longer?" Stacey asked, batting her eyelashes with a pleading look on her face.
"Not tonight sweetheart. Say good night to your friends and let's go."
"Night Tabitha. Night Storm, thanks for taking us to the beach."
"No sweat kid. We'll see you around."
The O'Connor's left and Cara left Storm to put Tabitha to bed. No sooner had Storm shut her sister's door than there was a knock on the front door. Cara answered it, pulling the door open just as Storm was coming back down the stairs. She could sense the confusion coming from her mother. If she was an animal her fur would be up. The emotion coming off her mother didn't sit well with her. "Who is it Mom?"
Cara moved out of the way of the open door, allowing Storm to see the face of the person filling the doorway. "Matty? What the heck are you doin' here?" Storm asked, even as she watched her brother open his arms to her and she threw herself into them. Knowing all was not well with her and Matty had been a huge weight on her shoulders. She felt him kiss the crown of her head even as his well toned arms crushed her against his chest.
"I'm so sorry for what I said to you Stormi girl. Please don't ever run off on me again."
"I think you know me too well to expect me to promise that!" Storm said with a laugh as she leaned back in her brother's arms, looking up into his drawn face before kissing his cheek and breaking out his hold, though she did allow him to keep an arm around her shoulders. "I guess it's time you met," Storm paused. Introducing your brother to his mother was awkward. "Well, mom."
Cara was fighting tears and not coming out on top of the battle. Matty looked at his mother enigmatically.
He wasn't sure how to feel about her. She was clearly distraught, and she and Storm clearly had a very good relationship, considering the short time they'd truly known each other. "Um, hey."
"You guys go sit down in the living room and I'll make some refreshments!" Storm offered in an overly cheerful tone and she gave her brother a push toward the aforementioned room of the house. He went, almost reluctantly and it wasn't too long before Storm knew why as she watched Taylor Reese come up the walk carting his own small bag and Matty's larger suitcase.
She wasn't sure if she was glad that Matty hadn't traveled alone, or upset about the fact that now Taylor was in Miami to try and run her life some more. But at the forefront of all her emotion was gladness to see him. But it was going to complicate matters a great deal. She leaned in the living room. "I guess I'll actually leave you two to get acquainted and show Taylor around the place."
She took the two bags from a startled Taylor and set them in the hall before shoving him out onto the porch and closing the door. As soon as the door was closed Taylor had her in an embrace fit to rival the strength of Matty's crushing hug and they were kissing like they'd been separated for months, not hours. Neither was sure who had jumped on who, and it really didn't matter. Storm lead Taylor toward the Skyline when he let her come up for air. "I'll show you around while we let them work their shit out, ok?"
"Yeah," Taylor answered with a growl.
Back in the house Matty looked at his mother and she looked back in trepidation. She knew somehow instinctively that her son was not going to welcome her presence in his life with open arms like her daughter had. "So, I guess you have some questions?"
"You could say that," Matty started.