Morning came and went without any of us being aware of it. I didn't even bother to roll out of bed until around two in the afternoon, and that was only because my stomach was growling too much to for me to ignore anymore. Once I was up and around, I ordered in three large pizzas so everyone could eat and nobody would be responsible for the cooking. While I was waiting for the pizza to arrive, I woke up Connor and Nattie so they could be awake for the food and then I tried to get Dad up. That quickly proved to be easier said than done though.
"Dad come on," I pleaded as I continued to shake him. I had already been trying for several minutes and all I had gotten for my efforts were a couple of irritated grunts. "Please wake up." I sighed when he just grunted again. "Dad you gotta get up. You need to eat something."
"I don't wanna," he grumbled.
"Yeah well there are times I don't want to be this ridiculously good looking," I replied, yanking the covers right off of him. "But we all have our crosses to bear." I rolled my eyes when he still refused to get up. "Dad come on! I'm not taking no for an answer." I grabbed his arm and began pulling on it impatiently. "You either get up or I'm getting Connor in here to help drag you out of bed."
Dad groaned but finally (albeit very reluctantly) got out of bed. "I'm not hungry," he grumbled as he followed me downstairs.
"Well you're going to eat anyway," I informed him. "So just get over it." I was being tough yeah but I had to be. I wasn't just going to let him wallow in all of this shit. Yeah I knew that I couldn't stop the wallowing completely but I could at least do something about some of it. "I ordered pizza for us. Three big old Meat Lovers ones. And some of those chocolate dunker thingies."
Dad's lips twitched a bit. "I've trained you well."
"That you did," I agreed. "Having me order it fifty thousand times really really helps." I saw that he was trying to smile but it wasn't really getting across his face. "After lunch maybe we could go do something," I suggested. "You know, like go see a movie or go to the zoo or go…just somewhere." I didn't know where the fuck to suggest. I was just desperate to pull out any kind of card that would maybe help pull him out of the funk he was slipping into. This was how this shit usually went. Dad and Mark would fight, they wouldn't see each other from anywhere to a couple days to a week or two and Dad would be depressed the entire time. Then they would inevitably get back together and the whole fucking process would start all over again. And I fucking hated it. I fucking hated it with every ounce of my being and I hated the fact that there seemed to be nothing that I could do to stop it.
"We could," he said, clearly just going along with the suggestions because he wanted to appease me. "It would be…nice."
I sighed and shook his head at his insincerity. "Dad?" I grabbed his wrist to stop him from walking away from me.
He frowned and glanced down at my hand before looking back up. "What?"
"How do you do it?"
He continued to frown. "How do I do what?"
"Put up with it," I clarified. "All the cheating, all the lying-how do you put up with it?"
"I don't want to talk about it," he quickly said. He tried to just walk away and leave it at that but I absolutely refused to let go of him. "Cooper-"
"No," I said stubbornly. I wasn't going to be ignored without a fight. Not this time. "I want -no, I NEED to know. I need to fucking know what the hell makes you keep letting him put you through this. Because I don't get it. I really don't get it. I've been trying to wrap my mind around it for years now and never once have I ever understood it." I tightened my grip when it felt like he was trying to get away from me. "Tell me," I demanded. "Damn it Dad, tell me so I can help you."
"Cooper come on," he pleaded, his eyes now shifting every which way so they wouldn't have to focus on me. "I don't want to talk about this right now."
"Well when's a good time to talk about it?" I pushed, knowing I really should shut up but just completely not able to. "When Dad? After you decide to forgive him? Because God knows you wont' fucking listen to me then. You'll tell me that this time he's changing for real and that it'll all be different. This whole bullshit cycle will be over." I shook my head and gave him a desperate look. "Daddy please, you can't put yourself through this anymore. This is so fucking stupid!"
"You don't think I don't know that?" he asked, a flash of anger coming across his eyes. "You don't think I haven't realized that?"
"I don't know," I replied. "It don't ever seem like you have. You never stand up and say enough is enough."
"Because it's not that simple."
"Why isn't it that simple?" It was all very cut and dry to me. The fact that it was not to him drove me absolutely insane. "Because you love him? Dad, there are tons of people who put their foot down with their spouses after they cheat just once. Why can't you fucking do it with him? He uses your love for him as a way to sucker you back in every time this happens."
Dad sighed and tried to pry me off of him. "Cooper…" He groaned when I still refused to let him go. "Come on, I need to sort shit out in my own head right now, okay? I don't really want to discuss all of this." He finally was able to pry my hand off of him and he took a step back so I wouldn't grab him again. "I know you're concerned-"
"Concerned?" I shook my head. "No Dad, I'm far past being concerned. I'm fucking sick of watching you throw your self respect away and willingly make yourself the fool over and over again. It's not healthy Dad! It's not healthy and you fucking deserve better than that." I grabbed his face and made him look at me when he tried to look away. "Is that so fucking wrong? Am I fucking wrong for wanting you to have something better? Because if I'm wrong, fucking tell me. Just fucking tell me already."
He didn't say anything, which was what I had figured would be his response. What could he really say? That he liked being made to feel that he didn't matter? That he liked his chains being jerked by a guy that didn't deserve him? I wouldn't ever say this to his face but deep down, I did fear that this would all never stop because he craved the emotional hell it led to for him. As many times as it had happened and as many ugly fights as it led to, love itself either really had nothing to do with it or at the very least wasn't the only factor in this equation. How could it be?
"I just…I want you to do what's best for you," I said, trying to back off the subject while also getting the last word in. "Fuck Daddy, you gotta fucking think of your own happiness here. Are you happy having to go through this all over again? Are you happy with knowing that if you forgive this indiscretion you'll be going through the same bullshit once again down the road?" No answer. He was looking down at the floor, lost in thought. "Come on," I said, really dropping it this time. "Let's go see if the food is here yet. You need to eat something."
Two days went by and I made no move to see James or even call him. It was something that definitely surprised Phil and I knew he was constantly asking Glenn about it since I wouldn't give him any answers. He had tried and tried and tried again but had given up when he realized I wasn't about to say shit to him. I had reasons for doing what I was doing but they didn't concern him in the very least.
On day three I downed two aspirin and rested my head back against a couple of couch pillows, hoping that maybe if I took a long enough nap I could sleep off my hangover. I had been drinking pretty much non-stop for a good day and a half and I was still drunk the second half a yesterday, which had annoyed Glenn to no end. I was an alcoholic, I shouldn't have even touched the stuff. But I had and I wasn't sorry for it. It wasn't like I was looking to go back to the constant hard drinking that I used to be famous more. No, I wasn't going with that. That wasn't going to help with anything. It was just something for me to do to pass the time. That was all.
I managed to doze off for about an hour and then was unceremoniously woken up by Glenn smacking me on the chest. "Ow!" I glared at him once my eyes were open. "What the hell was that for?"
"You're an idiot," he replied. He had been saying that to me a lot lately. It was getting very very annoying but there seemed to be nothing I could do to make him knock it off.
"Oh fuck you," I grumbled. It wasn't my best response ever but it was all I had right now. "Why the hell did you wake me up?"
"Because you don't get to be a lazy drunk anymore," he informed me. "Do you have any idea how difficult you've been the past couple of days? You are so SO lucky I haven't already shoved my foot up your ass-"
"Oh yes, threaten the hungover man after you wake him up," I said sarcastically. "That's a smart thing to do."
I got a nice angry glare in response to that. "You don't scare me Mark."
"Well you don't scare me either so join the club." I sat up so I could adjust my pillows and then laid back down. "And unless you have something important to say, just leave me alone."
"Aw, is Marky sleepy?" Glenn's voice was just dripping with sarcasm and I really wanted to punch him in the face for being this annoying. "Maybe I should tell you a bed time story to help you go to sleep."
"Maybe you should go fuck off," I growled. I was NOT in the mood to deal with this and I really was going to punch him if he did not stop getting on my nerves.
Unfortunately, he didn't seem to get the hint. He just kept right on going, asking for it like the fucking little shit that he was. "Once upon a time there was a psycho killer named James." Oh Lord. I really was going to have to kill him. "And he had a boyfriend named Mark that always swore his love but then did everything in his power to make it seem like his declarations of love were all lies-"
My fist shot out and I popped him right in the mouth for that. "Would you fucking shut up?" I growled. "Seriously, just fucking stop! What is the point of telling me that shit?"
He rolled his eyes and rubbed his mouth gingerly. "You don't know the point? You really don't know the point?" He shook his head. "The point…the point is simple Mark. You say you love James but yet you always cheat and then you lie about it until you get caught. And THEN you lie about the cheating stopping and do I need to keep explaining?"
I clenched my jaw tightly. "You're calling me a liar."
"Finally! God, I thought I was going to have to-"
"How can you fucking call me a liar?"
"How-how could I not is a better question? Look, I don't care why you've done all the shit that you've done. I really don't. I don't like Lawson so his pain really does give me pleasure. But if you actually love him, there is a point where you have to realize that you have to stop and just fucking be with him and only him already. You keep going down this road and he's either going to leave you or he'll kill you."
I snorted loudly at that. That was the most ludicrous thing I had ever heard. James wouldn't ever kill me. Maybe he would kill someone else but not me. Never me.
Glenn shook his head. "You don't believe me."
"Hell no," I stated. "He wouldn't ever do that."
He smirked. "So you say. You forget that he's a psychopath and there's only so much even he can take."
"Oh shut up Glenn. You don't know what the fuck you're talking about."
"Right. Whatever you say." The sarcasm was back again and he shook his head in disgust before getting up and walking away. I stayed right where I was, mostly blowing off everything Glenn had just said. Mostly though, was the key term. I couldn't shove everything out of my head and I found myself dwelling on the little seeds of worry Glenn had managed to plant into my mind. James WAS psychotic and it was never good to test a psycho the way I continually did. But actually kill me…no, James wouldn't ever do that. We would fight like we always did and he might make a couple empty threats but it wouldn't ever end in that kind of bloody way. I was giving him time to cool off so once we did see each other again we could get back on track like we always did. Yeah there was a lot of shit that needed said and there would be at least one more fight before it was all said and done but we would somehow get back on track. There was just no other way that this could possibly end. I loved him, he loved me and that would be enough.
It would always fucking be enough.
I sat in my comfortable spinning chair inside of my office, staring at my computer even though it wasn't even on. I had locked myself in here so I could brood without being interrupted. Nattie, Cooper and Connor had been doing their absolute best to keep me occupied and I had done my best to go along with it. I hadn't wanted to think about this entire situation and just wanted to forget it all. It was too hard. No matter what I did, Mark refused to leave my mind. And it was driving me mad. It really really was. I couldn't decide what the fuck to do. One moment I told myself I would do one thing and then the next I wanted to do something else. I was pulling myself in two very different directions and it felt like I was splitting myself in two. It was a horrible feeling but no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn't seem to stop myself.
I shook my head and began leafing through the giant collection of pictures I kept in one of the drawers in my desk. I was mainly looking at the ones of Mark and myself and they just helped fueled the confused fire that was raging inside of me. Part of me wanted to forgive him; that part of me was his enabler. I enabled him to keep doing this shit over and over again because…well I wasn't one hundred percent sure why. I sure as hell didn't like it when he did it. I had never liked it and I REALLY did not like it this time. I had always gotten mad about this bullshit before but I had always managed to cool down after a couple of days of not seeing him. This time though, I was not only staying mad, but I was getting madder with every moment that passed. How the fuck could he keep doing this to me? That was the fucking question that kept repeating itself in my brain over and over again. And I wasn't sure if I even wanted the answer to that. I felt like if I got that answer my brain might just really explode and I did not want that. I liked my brain to not be in little itty bitty bits all over the place.
With one swipe of my hand I put the pictures back into the drawer they went in and slammed it shut. I couldn't fucking do this anymore. I had to get out for awhile. I didn't exactly know where I wanted to go but I knew that a bunch of people were going to end up dying in the process. It was the only thing that would maybe bring me back some kind of peace of mind. I got up out of my chair and went to the door, getting it open to find Mark standing on the other side of it. "Wha-"
"Ssshh!" He pushed me back into the room and quickly slipped in so he could shut the door behind him. "Cooper don't know I'm here and I would like to keep it that way."
I shook my head and took another step back. He reeked of stale alcohol and it was not a scent I missed on him. "Been on a bender again?" I didn't even try to hide the anger in my voice. I was so beyond not giving a fuck it was not even funny.
He sighed and locked the door so if Cooper did end up overhearing us, he would have at least a little bit more trouble getting in here. "I don't want to fight about that," he informed me. "There's other shit we need to talk about."
"Yeah, no kidding," I muttered. I reached into my pockets and pulled out a cigarette and my lighter. I put the cigarette in my mouth and attempted to flick on the lighter, but my fingers weren't working that well and I kept fucking it up.
Mark got impatient with watching me struggle and he snatched the lighter out of my hand. "Here, I'll do it." He got the lighter lit with one try and held it up to my cigarette. "There you go."
I grunted a thank you and snatched my lighter back as I took a long drag of my cancer stick. Cooper called me a hypocrite for smoking yet then yelling at him for when he did it but there were times it was just too hard for me to give a shit. "Why?" I asked as I exhaled the smoke, the nicotine really failing to soothe me this time.
"Yeah. Why?" I took another drag and exhaled it slowly, already pacing around the room. Normally I liked it just fine but now it suddenly felt way too small and cramped. "Why her? Why did you do it? Why…do I have to keep going?"
He shook his head. "No. You really don't." He ran his hand through his thinning hair and sighed. "Look, I don't like her, alright? I just…it was just something I did. It happened but it meant nothing."
"Maybe not to you," I said, sucking on the cigarette so much that I was going to have light a whole new one real soon already. "But I think you're neglecting the fact that it means something to me. It's always fucking meant something to me." I could see him biting his lip and I knew he was biting back a comment that would just lead to an even bigger fight. "And I want to know why. I want to fucking know why and I don't want to hear your bullshit excuses. I want a real fucking reason this time."
Mark stared at me the longest time, not saying a single word. I put out the tiny bit that I had left of my cigarette and got out a new one. I had a feeling I was going to smoke a whole pack's worth by the time this was all said and done. "Come on, can't you fucking give me a reason? Or do you think by not saying anything that you'll somehow get out of having to answer?"
His jaw tightened. "You wanna know why? You really want to know why?"
"I asked didn't I?" I hated it when people answered my questions with questions, especially when I was angry. "I wouldn't have asked-"
That stopped me in mid-sentence. "What?"
"Annabelle," he repeated. "It all fucking comes back to her." He shook his head when I tried to say something to that. "Do you have any idea how much it drove me nuts?"
"I think you made it clear more than a few times," I pointed out.
"Yeah but that hasn't meant you've ever gotten it," he pointed out just as fast. "I don't think you've ever gotten it. I always had to share you with her. Ever since we were kids…yeah, when I was a kid, I was more of a selfish brat with you but then…then you two didn't keep things the way they should be between brothers and sisters. No, you two fucking got all romantic and I was just supposed to fucking accept it. I was your boyfriend and I just fucking had to put up with you not only seeing another girl, but it was your SISTER! Your SISTER!"
"I know what? Why it started? Yeah you know what? I get why it all started, but you didn't think there was ANYONE else that could have taken her virginity so Joseph couldn't? Or you didn't stop to think that maybe it shouldn't have gone beyond that first time?"
I didn't say anything to that. What could be said? I couldn't necessarily justify my past actions and I wasn't really looking to do so. I did what I did with Belle and I wasn't sorry for it. Maybe I should have been but I couldn't and wouldn't force myself to be.
"You would have picked her over me," Mark went on, taking advantage of my silence. "Don't try to say you wouldn't have because I won't believe you. You would have picked her over me so I didn't say shit-"
"Didn't say shit? Bullshit! You said plenty! The only thing you didn't do was give me an ultimatum."
"that shouldn't have had to been an option! You're MY boyfriend! And you-"
"I fucked you over," I finished for him. "I fucked you and Annabelle over with that whole wanting all the cake or whatever that saying is." I hadn't thought of it that way at the time but that was more because I hadn't wanted to think of it that way. I was more concerned with my own happiness back in the day-it wasn't like I had a fucking abundance of it.
"So I wanted to get back at you," Mark admitted. "I-"
"Leaving for a whole bunch of days out of the year wasn't enough?"
"Oh don't give me that wrestling bullshit again James. You KNOW that's the only career I ever aspired to but you've never done anything but shit on it!"
"Because it meant you were leaving me! Back in the old days, I was lucky to see you a few days out of the year, and it was even less after you married Jodi!"
"So I was supposed to give up my dream because you're clingy like a fucking woman?" Now Mark was just getting nasty. "Was I supposed to do that Lawson? Huh? Fucking tell me-"
"Get out of my face," I growled, pushing him back by his chest when he got too close. I threw down my cigarette and put it out with my foot. "And don't fucking take that attitude with me when I've got a bone to fucking pick with you too."
He threw his arms out and shook his head. "Throw it at me," he dared. "Go ahead, I'm all ears."
I didn't need to be told twice. "I hurt you so you married Jodi to get back at me. I get it. I really do. But when Annabelle died and you were doing your best to keep me from joining her in the grave, what did you promise me? What did you promise me over and over again?"
"Tell me what you said!"
"…That I would leave Jodi and settle down with you and the boys."
"Did you do that?"
"No buts. You don't get to justify that one." I was wishing I hadn't put out my cigarette because now I needed another one. "I know I hurt you with the Annabelle thing. I know that. And I deserved some payback but there's a big fucking difference between what I did and what you've done."
"And what's that?"
"I never lied the way you have. I was wrong for putting you and Annabelle what I did. I was selfish…and it all just eventually went to hell. I lost her and you resent me for her. But I never EVER looked into your eyes and blatantly lied to you. And that's what you've done. For nearly twenty years you've done it so many times; I don't even want to try to count because it's just going to piss me off more. You looked me in the eyes and made all kinds of promises that you had NO intention of keeping. You promised to divorce Jodi but you didn't. You put it off for over seven years and didn't do it until I kicked your ass out after Cooper ran off. And then, not even that much later than that, you married Sara and the false promises started again. And don't even get me started on Michelle or all the times you've denied sleeping with other random girls when I know you have. It's all lies. It's always been fucking lies."
A long silence followed all of that. I had nothing else to really say at the moment and he was struggling to find the words to say next.
"Dad?" Cooper called out from the other room. "Dad where are you?"
Mark glanced towards the door, knowing the shit would hit the fan if Cooper found him in here. "Look, this is stupid. Let's just put this behind us. I fucked up, you fucked up-let's just fucking start over. You and me, we'll start fresh."
"Dad?" Cooper yelled again. His voice was closer now. "Where are you?"
"Lawson?" Mark prompted impatiently. "What do you say?"
I bit down on my lower lip and began to think. There was a part of me that was trying to tell the rest of myself that this was for real this time. This was finally it. All the cheating and lying was stopping and we were finally going to live happily ever after and all that shit. But even as that part was trying to say that, I found myself unable to truly believe it. Maybe he did mean it this time, maybe he didn't; the problem was, I didn't know and I couldn't take being wrong again.
I knew what I had to do.
"Lawson? Earth to Lawson. What-"
He looked completely taken aback by that answer. "What?"
"I said no," I repeated. "I'm done. We're done. I can't do it anymore."
A very long silence followed that declaration. Mark was shaking his head, clearly not believing what I had just said. "You gotta be kidding me," he said slowly. "I'm fucking being honest this time-"
"I can't fucking know that Mark! After how many times you've made promises and just broke them as soon as you got the chance, I can't just fucking take your word for it."
"Then let me prove it. Let me-"
"Prove it? Mark…no. Even if you stayed faithful to me from now until we died…I'll never trust you. And I can't lie to myself anymore and pretend that I do. So we're done." I could hardly believe I was saying this. It almost felt like a dream. Was this finally it? Was I actually putting my foot down?
"You don't mean it. You need me-"
"That's been the problem. My "clinginess" as you put is what made me forgive you so many times and look like the biggest fool on the planet. And I can't do it anymore. I WON'T do it anymore." I couldn't stomach doing it again. The feeling of finality was spreading all across my entire being. This really was it. This wasn't a dream. This was actually happening.
He stared at me like I was absolutely insane. "So you're just throwing away-"
"No! Don't tell me I'm throwing away shit! If you had left it at Jodi and Sara…but no. I've had it. I can't fucking be with you if you're still going to run around behind my back, not even trying to forgive me for Belle. I forgiven everything you've done…but this is too much. I won't do this anymore. You need to go. Right now."
He didn't move an inch. "No. It's not ending like this."
"This is the best way it can end," I replied. "Because if I forgive you this time and you fucking do that shit again…"
"You wouldn't do shit."
"Fuck you. I've reached my limit and I know EXACTLY-"
He didn't want to hear it. He came at me, trying to grab me and shake some sense into me. We struggled for a very long few seconds before I shoved him back so violently that he hit the wall. He tried to come at me again but my knife was out of my pocket and flying at his head before I could even think and he ducked out of the way just in time, so the blade of the knife buried itself into the wall instead.
"Go!" I shouted, on the defense in case he came at me again. "Just GO and leave me ALONE!"
"DAD!" Cooper kicked open the door and came in, his eyes widening when he saw Mark there and the knife in the wall. "Mother FUCKER-"
Mark shook his head and muttered something under his breath before storming out, making sure to shove Cooper out of the way as he went. Cooper lunged at him but I grabbed him and held him back, knowing that it was just a temper tantrum antic that he wanted to be exploited so he could be prevented from leaving.
"Let me go!" Cooper shouted angrily. He was doing his absolute best to wiggle out of my grip. "Dad-"
"Don't," I said, relaxing when I heard the front door open and slam shut. "It's over."
"That mother fucker-"
"Cooper! It's over. He's gone."
"I-" The finality of my tone finally caught his attention. "Dad?" His voice spiked with hope. "What do you mean?"
"I mean I'm done…I told him I was done."
Cooper just stared at me in shock for the longest time. When he finally was able to reached, his arms went around me and he was squeezing me for dear life. As he was hugging me, I stared at the knife, which was still in the wall. I had carried it around for so long, proud of it because it had been given to me by "my Marky". But now I stared at it and I felt…nothing. Just empty. It was all over because I was empty and I had nothing left that allowed me to take this anymore. No forgiveness, no love…I had been all used up and I couldn't take it anymore. I was done. I was just fucking done.
"We should get rid of it," Cooper said, his eyes going to the knife as well. "Get rid of it and get you a new one."
I nodded along. "Yeah. New knife, fresh start…" My voice sounded flat and empty now and I hated it. All of this had just fucking drained me and I hated it. And I knew Mark wouldn't accept it just being over. He would be back…over and over and over again…I was "his" he wouldn't just let me go. But I wasn't going to let him take me. No. When I said I was done, I was done.
I wasn't going to be anyone's fool ever again.