Disclaimer: Song written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi.
Lie To Me
Rumour has it that your daddy's coming down – he's gonna pay the rent
Tell me baby, is this as good as life is gonna get
It feels like there's a stranger standing in these shoes
But, I know I can't lose me, 'cause then I'd be losing you
I watch her, and my heart is breaking. She is sitting on our bed, her rigid back to me, her arms folded primly on her lap, staring straight ahead. Probably wishing I was dead. All I want to do is run to her, throw my arms around her and beg her forgiveness. Actually, I've already done that. Didn't do much good.
I can't keep my eyes away from her. I know that nothing will ever be the same again. Even if she finds it in her heart to forgive me, life will never be like what it was before this morning. Before my confession. The past three hours has changed me more than anything else that has happened. I feel…different. I'm a different man – she said that to me, and I believe her.
To ease the pain in my heart, I think about this morning, to the glorious feeling of once again waking up beside the warm body of my wife –
Hunter slowly opened his eyes. Surprisingly, he felt more refreshed that he has been in the past two months. Since he had come to visit. He tried to shift, to lay on his back, but there was something warm pressing against his back. And a long, slender arm resting over his side.
Heart soaring at the feeling of Stephanie's body beside him again, he slowly and carefully shifted, wanting to hold her once again in his arms. To watch her sleep and listen to her breathe. It was one of his favourite things to do. Unfortunately, a little too late, he remembered that she was a light sleeper.
She stirred beside him, groaning slightly as she opened her eyes. Almost instantly, it met his own. 'Hunter,' she whispered.
He smiled softly at her. 'I missed you.'
Stephanie answered his smile with one of her own. She tightened her hold around his stomach, laying her head on his chest. 'Hold me.'
'Always,' Hunter vowed, wrapping his arms around her.
For the longest time neither of us moved. Her hold was the reassurance I had been craving the past two months. Finally, to their obvious joy, Alexis and Cade walked in searching for us. We had breakfast, and I couldn't stop touching her, kissing her, looking at her. Then, sending the twins over to Beth and Jesse's, a couple of houses down the street, we sat down to talk.
And that was when my world collapsed.
I know I promised baby,
I would be the one to make our dreams come true
I ain't too proud of all the struggles and the hard times we've been through
When this cold world comes between us, please tell me you'll be brave
'Cause I can realise the danger when forgiveness fades away
I know exactly how we got to where we are right now. And I know that it was all my fault. It was me who fell in love with another man, it was me who had the affair. Ironically enough, it's also me who has the power to preserve this marriage. Or destroy it. All I have to say is, 'I forgive you', but I can't seem to form the words.
When he left me all those years ago I had decided to stay. I was devastated. More than anything in the world I wanted to follow the man of my dreams, but I didn't. Why exactly, I'm not sure. Maybe I saw something in my counterfeit marriage that was worth saving? Maybe I was too shattered that he didn't even say goodbye? Or maybe I just didn't know where exactly he had disappeared to, and where to start looking.
Although understandably angry, the man I had married was made of sterner stuff that I fully realised. I offered him the divorce I knew would certainly be forthcoming, but he refused. Surprisingly, it was him who helped me get over him. I can't help but remember the first time I ever told my husband that I loved him –
'It'll just be you and me from now on,' Stephanie promised, staring right into her husband's eyes.
'You, me, and our babies,' Hunter amended gently. He kissed her briefly before his eyes travelled down to the two bundles of joy in her arms. 'We're a family, Steph. I never thought we'd make it.'
For the first time ever, Stephanie felt a sudden pang of guilt in her heart so strong that it made her chest ache. She had never realised how her affair with Chris had truly hurt him. She watched his face as he leaned down and gently stroked Cade's head, and Alexis's cheeks.
'I love you,' she whispered, suddenly knowing it to be true.
Hunter froze momentarily, and then turned towards her. The look on his face broke her heart, and she regretted not realising it much sooner. 'What?' he asked in stunned disbelief.
Stephanie reached out and placed a hand behind his neck, pulling his face much closer to hers. When they were merely inches apart, she told him again. 'I love you.'
The forming of his smile was cut short by her lips on his.
From then on everything had been perfect. And then he came back. It had been a bittersweet feeling seeing him again. It was like dark clouds that I didn't even know existed had suddenly parted. Oh, but the consequences!
I imagine that nothing can compare to the pain of losing an unborn child. But you know what hurts a hundredfold? Finding out six years later.
If you don't love me – lie to me
'Cause baby you're the one thing I believe
Let it all fall down around us, if that's what's meant to be
Right now if you don't love me baby – lie to me
Although I tried hard not to think about it, and for five years I had succeeded, my life was too good to be true. A beautiful wife, two gorgeous children, a wonderful home – I deserve none of it. Karma, and all that. I don't believe in any of that stuff, but at the same time I know that this charmed, perfect existence was never meant to be mine.
She was his. I had always known that. All that I have and all that I have ever lived for, none of them were for me. The beautiful wife was meant to be his, the two gorgeous children were meant to be his, the wonderful home was meant to be his. So why had I fought so hard to make her mine even though I know she would always be his? It's kind of like that old saying – it's better to have loved then lost, than to have never loved at all. I would go through it all again if it meant that I could relive the past five years.
But now this 'karma stuff' has returned once again to bite me hard on the ass. The only thing, the only person, I've ever truly treasured is slipping away from my grasp. I had thought that her leaving me for him was the worst thing that could happen, but I was wrong.
Nothing could ever equal the realisation of her leaving me because of me.
Pour another cup of coffee, babe I got something to say to you
I ain't got the winning ticket, not the one that's gonna pull us through
No one said it'd be easy, let your old man take you home, but know that if you walk out on me
That darling, I'd be gone
As much as I love Cade and Alexis, I enjoy the silence that comes with them not being around. It was 'our' time, and it was something I always looked forward to. But this morning was a little different. Walking home after having dropped the twins off at Beth and Jesse's, I had been filled with dread. Sure, my husband and I have had our share of marital problems, but nothing ever quite like this.
The screams, rants, curses and the throwing of everything in sight after his 'confession' a few hours earlier is nothing compared to the silence that surrounds me now as I sit on the bed. It's deafening. As cliched as it sounds, it's all I can hear. Unclasping my hands, I place the palm flat against my stomach, thinking, 'My baby'.
I would do anything to have seen her get married. Or watched him succeed. To have heard her first word. To have held him for the first time. But the choice hadn't been mine –
'Coffee?' Hunter offered, not knowing what else to say as Stephanie sat down across from him at the dining table.
She shook her head. 'No, thanks.'
'I've heard that you should never mix coffee and cough syrup,' he joked lamely, pushing aside his own mug. 'Not good for you.'
Stephanie frowned slightly. 'Why would you want to mix coffee and cough syrup in the first place?'
He shrugged. 'Just something I heard.'
Finally, Stephanie cleared her throat. 'We really need to talk about this.'
Hunter nodded gravely. 'I know.'
'Hunter, I'm sorr-'
'No, Steph,' he interrupted gently. His heart was pounding against his ribs. He had never before been so nervous in his life. Six years was a very long time. 'This isn't about you.'
Stephanie looked at him in confusion. 'But-'
'I never told you, but there's no need to be sorry,' he interrupted once more, shaking his head. 'I forgave you a very long time ago.'
It was her turn to shake her head. 'But the past two months…? You didn't talk to me, you never looked at me.' She paused, her voice pained. 'You didn't even want to sleep with me.'
Hunter looked down at his clenched fists on the table. 'I was too ashamed to look at you, to share your bed. What I did was wrong, but I was afraid. I didn't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you.'
'Hunter, it can't be as bad as what I…what I did. Nothing can be worse than that,' Stephanie told him, her voice still sounding confused. 'I told you, I'm with you now. I have been for the past five years. I love you.'
Hearing those words sent thrusts of pain and joy through his heart. 'Steph, hearing you say that is the most unbelievable feeling in the world, but you don't-' He stopped abruptly, unsure of how to proceed.
He took a deep breath. 'Jericho came to me because he found out about something, something that I had kept from him.' A beat. 'And from you.'
'I…I don't understand,' Stephanie stammered, a note of anxiety entering her voice.
'Six years ago, Jericho became a father,' Hunter whispered. The agony of being the one to bear the bad news to her was intolerable.
Stephanie said nothing. He looked up at her, concerned. She looked stunned, her face devoid of all colour. She was staring at him. 'I didn't know…he didn't tell…didn't tell me he was married,' she said tonelessly.
Hunter wondered if she had missed the point, or if she was just refusing to believe what he was telling her. He reached out towards her but she sat back, out of reach. It felt like she'd just slapped him across the face. He should have known. Stephanie was a very smart woman. She didn't miss the point.
'No, he wasn't married,' he told her. 'He loved you, and he would never have done that to you.' He paused. 'Six years ago, you became a mother.'
Stephanie's expressionless face cracked, and she wore a mask of pain. 'Oh, god…' she breathed out.
Hunter knew he had to finish telling her everything. 'The doctor told me while you were still, still recovering. You had lost the baby.'
I know that he's watching me at the moment. I can feel it. He won't speak, waiting for me to say something. But I can't speak. All I can think about is that I lost my baby. At the moment, I didn't care that it was also his. My baby.
I can't stay here.
If you don't love me – lie to me
'Cause baby you're the one thing I believe
Let it all fall down around us, if that's what's meant to be
Right now if you can't love me baby – lie to me
Baby, I can take it
I'm not sure how long I can take the silence. It's so angry, so volatile. I want her to say something, anything. Just as long as she talks to me again.
From where I stand just outside our bedroom, I watch as she stands abruptly and walks towards the walk-in wardrobe. My heart sinks. She is leaving. I walk into the room, and continue to watch her. I can't help it. I can't take my eyes off her. God, she's so beautiful.
She's pulled out a medium-sized suitcase and drags it to the bed, not once looking at me. My heart is pounding. No…she can't leave…
'Steph,' I begin, my voice raw from emotion. 'Please, don't do this. We can work it out, I know we can. Just please, don't leave me.'
But she acts as if I'm not even in the room. Her face is set, her eyes determined as she walks back and forth from the wardrobe to the bed, packing her clothes. Finally, after about five minutes of more intense silence, she closes the suitcase and walks out of the room.
Confused, I follow her. She walks to Alexis and Cade's rooms, and does the same to their clothes. I can't bear this. She's taking my entire life, leaving me with absolutely nothing.
'Stephanie,' I try once more, begging her to listen to me. 'You know I would never do anything to hurt you. I would rather-'
'But you did,' she interrupts, her voice cold. 'I never thought you, of all people, could be the one to hurt me so bad.'
I wince at her words, knowing how true they are. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for a mother to lose a child. For the millionth time, I curse myself. I should have told her! But if I had I know that the past five years would never have happened. I briefly wonder if that's all I have now – five years worth of memories.
'I can't apologise enough times for what I did, but I need to know if you still…if you still love me?' I ask, sounding pathetic.
She freezes momentarily, and then continues to zip the two identical suitcases. I wait for her answer, but it's not coming. I expected it, but it still hurts.
Finally, she turns around to face me, her face hard. 'Don't you dare.'
I take a step towards her, reaching out, but she steps out of grasp. 'Don't touch me,' she whispers in a deadly tone.
She hates me.
It's a bitch, but life's a roller coaster ride
The ups and downs will make you scream sometimes
It's hard believing that the thrill is gone
But we got to go around again, so let's hold on
Everything is just hurting so much… I can't take it anymore. Just a few blocks from our house, I quickly pull over to the side of the road and stop the engine. For a couple of minutes I just stare straight ahead, not taking notice of anything in particular.
Is this how it ends?
And then I just break down. Covering my face with my hands, I cry for the baby I never knew. For the life I never had. For him. And I cry for myself.
I feel a small, gentle hand on my shoulder, and I quickly push everything back in again, wiping away the tears.
'Mommy?' Cade asks, his voice tainted with worry.
I force a smile as I turn around to face him. 'You know you shouldn't be standing up in the car,' I scold him gently.
His beautiful little face is scrunched up with concern. I look at Alexis, and her face breaks my heart. She looks so much like her father. The expression on her face is similar to that of Cade's.
'Mommy, don't cry,' she tells me as Cade sits back down again and buckles himself up.
I try to smile as reassuringly as I could. 'I'm fine, sweetie. We'll be fine.'
I turn back towards the front. What am I going to do? I can't believe what I'm doing. I've never run away from anything before. Then again, I've never been so angry in all of my before.
'Where's Daddy?' Alexis asks timidly.
My heart stops at the question. After packing the suitcases, I had just left the house, not telling him where I was headed. Beth and Jesse were as sweet as ever, not asking any questions but visibly concerned. 'Um…he's, he's at home.'
'Oh. Where are we going?'
I had thought that my parents' house would have been the perfect destination, but I don't think I can handle their questions at the moment. The idea of going to him quickly crosses my mind, but I know that it's not an option. As much I can't stop loving him, it's over between us. It ended when he left me all those years ago.
Shane and Grace. They adore the twins, and they know when to ask, and when not to.
*Ninety minutes later…*
'Steph! What a nice surprise,' Shane greets me with a big smile and a big hug. He was outside just as I pulled into their driveway. 'Where's Hunter?'
I couldn't return his smile, but I hug him tightly, fresh tears forming again.
'I left him.'
Extra: Okay, while writing this I had no clear idea of how it was going to end. I figured Steph basically had two choices – leave or stay. I couldn't pick, so I decided to explore both options. Thus, two endings.
– The Not-Very-Happy Ending.
– The Not-Quite-Happy Ending.