A/N: Here it is! The last chapter of this short little story. I hope you have been enjoying this so far and that this conclusion is to your liking. Tell me what you think of it, I love to hear your thoughts.
Chapter Three - Confrontation
She became suspicious when her daughter snapped at the 15 year old daughter of the cleaning lady. She faintly understood her daughter's ire; this was no place to flirt with Soul when your mother was supposed to be working, but Maka's reaction had been quite...volatile to say the least.
"Maka, darling," she said softly, putting a hand on her daughter's shoulder as she eyed her warily. "Calm down. No need to be so angry."
Maka's shoulders were shaking, her eyes blazing as she gritted her teeth forcefully. "The nerve of that bit─girl!"
She attempted to calm her daughter down, tried not to think too much about her outburst; she might just be having a bad day, it could be hormones, nothing more because sweet, innocent Maka would never ever do something to upset her mother and sweet, innocent Maka didn't act impulsively, she thought everything through, held herself back and reacted accordingly (nevermind that she had spent more time overseas in Russia, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Italy than in the States with her daughter to properly judge her character).
No, she really knew Maka. She trusted her daughter. Her daughter was wise and smart. Her daughter was her pride ─the only good thing that came out of her marriage with Spirit. She saw so much of herself in her and...and regardless, a seed of suspicion had been planted, and began to pay attention to Maka.
And she noticed everything, felt foolish for having overlooked all of this, all the subtle and not so subtle things in their interactions. It was all there ─the lingering glances, the shy smiles, the cocky grins, the suggestive raise of an eyebrow, the touches. Oh, how could she have ever not seen the touches like the hand that remained too long and too low on a back, the not-quite clap but more of a pat on the shoulder, the far too intimate cheek-pinching, the light-hearted punch on the arm that transformed into gentle caress down the forearm and the downright flirting!
She refused to tell herself that she should have seen this coming because having a teenage boy and girl living in close quarters was bound to lead to more than friendly relations. No, this was not a possibility when her Maka was concerned! She wouldn't have pegged her stepson as this irresponsible either. Sure, he did have a rebellious streak but...the thought that her daughter and her stepson would...
She didn't tell her husband of any of her suspicions and she didn't plan to, at least not until she was fully sure about what Maka and Soul were doing behind closed doors together.
She didn't want to jeopardize her marriage, but most of all she didn't want to jump to conclusions so fast. If Soul and Maka were indeed together, she wouldn't know how to deal with it. She didn't want Maka to go through the same thing as she did, falling for someone so deeply in her juvenile naivety, getting pregnant at such a young age, having to let go of her dreams and plans for the future because being a mother had to be priority from now on. No, Maka had a bright future ahead of her and she refused to accept that her daughter's life would follow the same pattern. Maka did not need the influence of a man, much less one who was her stepbrother!
She finally cracked with the mounting evidence. It was on a day in December, Christmas was close; her husband was out, shopping for presents, while Wes back from university was still in his room, tired from the late night flight yesterday.
She, Maka and Soul were watching reruns of a sitcom from the seventies, and all was well until Soul excused himself to his room. She felt relieved that Maka stayed with her, talked to her like she always did, shared things she did together with her friends and about how she was looking forward to university.
It made her heart clench that her daughter would be leaving in a few months. There was a part of her that deeply regretted ever leaving the States and her daughter back then, and now Maka would be the one to leave, so soon after she had gotten used to spending time with her again. She had subtly and perhaps selfishly tried to persuade Maka to attend the university in their city, and even though Maka did apply here as well as to other universities and had even gotten accepted much to her delight, her daughter had decided to attend another university.
She didn't share her husband's relief that their kids would be going to the same university and wondered if they had planned to do this from the start. She immediately shot down the idea that Soul and Maka should rent an apartment together after their first year of dorming.
She flinched when Maka excused herself to her room after an hour. She watched her daughter leave and clenched her fists as she gulped down her panic. She waited a few minutes before she made her way upstairs and came to stand in front of Soul's room first, hearing their hushed voices, and her heart fell.
Her hand was clammy with sweat as she twisted the doorknob.
"Mama, I can explain!"
No matter how much she yelled and called for her mother's attention, her words fell on deaf ears. Maka should have been more careful, should have never let her guard down, never should have given her mother a reason to barge into Soul's room, catching them during a makeout session.
The blankness in her mama's eyes disturbed her. There had been no massive explosion of anger when she saw them together; as they jumped apart, for the briefest second, Maka had found herself on the receiving end of her mother's hateful glare, the ones she had used to direct at her cheating papa. It was only for a briefest second and then her eyes were schooled in careful blankness as she left the room, her steps robotic and heavy.
Soul and Maka ran after her, trying to talk, to make stop, to explain because this was not supposed to happen like this! She had really wanted to tell her mom the truth, never wanted her to find out like this and damn it, what did she want in her room?
"Mama, please listen." Maka approached her mother carefully as she wrenched Maka's closet open. "Mama, what are you doing?"
"Packing your things. I'll call your father so he can pick you up," she said, her voice eerily calm, and Maka was momentarily too bewildered to fully grasp her words.
"You're going to send Maka away?" Soul said lowly, his anger and panic barely contained. He scoffed, red eyes flashing with disdain and for a moment Maka thought he might actually burn holes into her mom's back. "Classic."
With that her mother turned around, fixed them both with a contemptuous glare. "You should not be saying anything at all, Soul. Don't try to paint me as the villain here. Did you really think you could get away with your irresponsible behaviour all the time? Not this time, young man; I'm putting my foot down. Maka, you will stay with your father until I've decided what to do from there. Am I understood?"
Maka's hands were shaking. She couldn't believe this. She was just going to be sent away without...any real confrontation?! Her heart leapt into her throat as she tried not to burst into tears here and now. She took a shuddery breath and looked her mother in the eyes resolutely.
"If you want me to go to live with Papa, I will. To be honest, I'd rather live with him. At least papa always wanted me close to him and he never ran away to Europe whenever something bad happened. For all his flaws he was was always there for me," she spat, her rage getting the better of her, her frail control slipping from her grasp.
She blindly reached for Soul's hand, pointedly ignoring her mother's scorching glare, and squeezed reassuringly, trying to convey that even if she were to go live with her dad, nothing would change between them. She sought out his gaze, her heart swelled at his small smile and the warmth in his eyes. She knew she could count on him.
"Don't be stupid, Maka. You have no idea what you're talking about," her mother said, clenching her eyes shut as she rubbed her temple. "I did not run away to Europe whenever something bad happened, as you put it. I'm not the one who did something wrong here, you're the one who fucked your stepbrother─"
"Oh, to hell with it! I was fucking him before you had to go and marry his dad!"
Her mother recoiled visibly, face paling and twisting into disbelief. Before Maka could get her hopes up that she had somehow reached her, that they could somehow resolve this mess properly, her mother made a grab for a handful of her dresses and threw them on her bed.
"You're leaving. Now."
Maka felt her heart shatter.
This woman refused to listen to anything they were trying to say; it didn't help matters that Maka seemed to have given up, and he felt his heart clench at the tears in her eyes. He grasped her hand firmly and pulled her along with him, following his stepmother, who had haphazardly thrown some of Maka's clothes into a suitcase and was ignoring everything they were saying. So stubborn. He growled under his breath, terrified and yet at the same time determined to get his way because there was no way he'd let her break him and Maka apart again.
"Hey, wait. You can't send Maka just away because you don't know how to fucking deal with this shit!" He fastened his gait, tried to tap her on the shoulder to grab her attention but she just shrugged him off wordlessly.
The suitcase clattered loudly as she carelessly pulled it down the stairs behind her, making him wince at the noise. "Oi, don't ignore me. I refuse to let Maka leave. I won't let you."
She threw him a withering glance over her shoulder. "You have no say in this, and from now on you're going to stay away from my daughter!"
"What's all the commotion about?"
Soul wasn't sure to feel relieved or absolutely terrified upon hearing his father's voice. He shouldn't get his hopes up and expect any support from him in this case but he could at least hope for some level headed conversation to fix this mess. He gritted his teeth as his stepmother walked up to his dad, explaining to him in the calmest voice and crudest language what had occurred.
And Soul knew even a level headed conversation might be too much to hope for. He had never seen his father so pissed, the weight of Maka's hand against his palm a silent comfort.
Wes liked to start his mornings with a cup of coffee, but today he was feeling especially well rested and thought maybe he'd indulge in a cappuccino or a latte macchiato. He had a feeling that this was going to be a good day, and he was planning on spending this Christmas in peace, delighted that his father had invited his mother over for Christmas dinner in order to make an effort to get along. Wes also had already purchased presents for everyone, so he could just kick back and enjoy his free time.
And everything came crashing down when he stepped into the living room, his father shouting at Soul, his stepmother looking ready to strangle anyone who stepped too close to her, Maka with tears in her eyes, and his little brother looking torn between wanting to bawl and ripping someone's head off.
"HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? What made you think that sleeping with your stepsister is a sensible thing to do, Soul?" his father yelled, his face red and for a moment Wes was sure steam might be coming out of his ears.
They had found out, huh?
He'd just try to get away from this and silently slip into the kitchen. It was way too early for him to deal with this shit. Also, he needed his coffee; he couldn't start the day, especially not with drama like this, without his coffee.
"Yes, dad?" he smiled groggily, intent on playing dumb as he slowly inched back because nopenopenopenope, he was so not going to deal with this.
"Could you please come here," his dad said, running a hand through his hair in agitation.
"Uh, sure. After I made some coffee─"
"Wesley, could you please come here. There is something we need to discuss."
Okay, if his dad used his full name shit was about to go down. Wes didn't even try to keep his voice quiet as he made his way into the living room to miserably flop down onto the couch. "Urgh, fuck."
Maka wasn't really listening when her stepfather also dragged poor Wes into this. He hadn't even done anything. She sighed and looked at her mom pitifully, nearly shrinking away at the disdain in her eyes.
"Did you know about the things Soul and Maka were doing, Wesley?" her stepfather asked, a little calmer than before, though depending on Wes' answer, that might not be the case for long.
A tense silence stretched on, Maka felt like she was about to faint and could only clutch Soul's hand tighter. After what seemed like hours, Wes sighed. "Yes, I did." He looked at them sharply, maroon eyes dark and impenetrable.
Mr. Evans was seething. "Then...why didn't you tell us anything?" he asked between gritted teeth, his fists clenched tightly, his knuckles almost white.
Wes seemed to ponder about this a little, cocked his head to the side. "Uh, because it is none of my business?"
"How can it not be any of your business when your brother and sister have sex?!"
Maka winced at his loud voice, was amazed by how calm Wes managed to stay.
"Because they can do whatever they want. They are not related, no matter how much you try to stress the opposite, they are nearly adults and they had been together longer than you two," he said and motioned towards her mama and stepfather with lazy hand.
"It's true," Maka chimed in, gulping down her dread as she gathered all her courage. "Soul and I were together before you decided to get married."
He looked at her incredulously and then turned to his wife. "You didn't tell me that."
"It doesn't matter, does it? They have kept this a secret and─"
"But we wanted to tell you! We just...we weren't sure when," Maka mumbled, looking down at her shoes.
"Even if we had told you, what would you have done? Not married? Would you have been okay with us together?" Soul cut in, voice level.
Mr. Evans looked uneasily from his wife to Soul and to Maka before he turned to his wife again. "We...would have figured something out. If you had told us before this could have been avoided. We would have talked it out and─"
"Made us break up so it wouldn't be awkward for you to get hitched?" Soul asked snidely.
"No! I would have not forced you apart, Soul. Who do you take me for?" Soul looked away, grumbling something under his breath.
Her mother remained unfazed and Maka knew better than to believe things were looking up now with her stepfather's wavering irritation.
"Maka," she began and Maka felt like a small, stupid child again, a child that needed guidance, a child too inexperienced to make her own decisions. "What if you break up? Would the awkwardness be worth this?"
"If I'm not mistaken you're the ones who have gotten a divorce despite your age and wisdom," Wes said nonchalantly, making her chest flutter with gratitude. Soul hid his snicker with a well-placed fake cough and her mother glowered at the older Evans brother as if she was ready to kill him before she turned her attention back to Maka.
"I'm sure you don't think you'll ever break up and that you'll live happily ever after because you love each other so much, but you are so young, too young to know about love and the world...I know I was too young back then," she finished quietly, not meeting Maka's gaze. "I was 18 when I married and believed your father to be the one. I don't want the same to happen to you, Maka."
"I am nothing like Spirit," Soul said, offended and angry.
"And I am nothing like you, Mama," Maka whispered and then continued louder and more determined. "Because I actually deal with my mistakes instead of running away like you."
She almost regretted her words. Almost. The stricken look on her mother's face made her heart clench painfully in her chest, she was close to forgetting about everything, wanted to hug her mama and apologize because even if she had made mistakes, Maka still loved her mother and was loathe to see her in pain like this. The air was filled with uneasiness, everyone at a loss for words. Wes was the first to move, shuffling awkwardly from the couch and muttering something about coffee under his breath.
It was then when the bell rang, Wes' head peeking into the living room from behind the wall. "Mr. Albarn is here."
Maka sucked in a breath, her lungs burning as she helplessly looked from her mother to Soul. She swallowed hard. "Okay, I'll be leaving then," she said demurely, patted Soul's cheek, hugged him and discreetly kissed him on the cheek before she withdrew with a smile. He looked unsure for a moment, but then nodded releasing her hand. She glanced briefly at her mother as she took her suitcase, and bid her stepfather goodbye which he returned uneasily.
She was so stupid, hoping that her mama might stop her, but Maka knew she'd need time. Maybe staying away a little would do her some good too. She smiled bitterly and came to a stop at the kitchen door, seeing Wes sitting at the small dining table, strangely no cup of coffee anywhere near him as he stared forlornly ahead.
She cleared her throat, catching his attention. "Um, thanks─" she blushed, embarrassed but continued nonetheless, "─for helping us out I mean. And I'm sorry that you got dragged into this mess."
He blinked, tilting his head to the side before he smiled a little. "S'alright. Siblings stick together."
Suddenly her throat felt too tight to breathe properly. She nodded weakly, muttered a quiet goodbye, making a quick dash outside, running into her father's comically outstretched arms. Spirit grunted in surprise, never expecting his daughter to return his overly affectionate gestures. He ignored her tear-stained eyes, guiding her to his car because he knew whatever had occurred, he needed to ask his darling daughter about this later at home.
She didn't know why she ever agreed to this. She was frowning when she stepped into the small cafe, shrugging off the uneasiness in her heart when she caught sight of her ex. Spirit had called her on the same day Maka had left and tried to talk some sense into her. She had hung up on him because she was the sensible one and he was the idiot who needed advice from others. At least that was how it had always been and was supposed to be.
Yet here she was, having agreed to meet up with him to talk about Maka. She didn't know what there was to talk about and she didn't need to listen to his bullshit.
"Spirit," she greeted him curtly, nodding to him as she took her seat across him. She wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible and whenever he asked her something, gave him one-worded replies.
He was all bright smiles and exaggerated gesticulations when he talked. It made something clench inside her painfully, but she refused to analyze this feeling further. He had always been a silly, overdramatic oaf.
She ordered a simple coffee and he offered her to pay, which she vehemently refused to accept. They sat in silence before he was the one to break it again.
"About Maka," he began uneasily, sighing loudly as his blue eyes were focused on the cup in front of him. "She told me everything."
"Yes, you mentioned this on the phone already. Now please tell me why you called me here and what you think you can change about my decision with this chat."
"You have always been a very stubborn woman, but this isn't just about you this time. Maka is miserable."
Anger welled up within her heart. "She should have thought of this before she decided to have sex with her stepbrother," she gritted out, fists clenching.
Spirit winced and groaned, and she knew she had won this round because her ex could never fathom the thought that his precious little daughter had relations with other boys, her stepbrother no less.
"Listen," he said, "It wasn't easy to accept─ it really wasn't because the first thing I wanted to do when Maka told me she was dating Soul was to come over and make sure he doesn't bother her again." He sighed again before he continued, "But...but if being with that boy makes her happy, then I'll not stand in their way to be together."
She snorted. "Please, what has she told you? Promised you that she is going to spend more time with you? You are so easy to manipulate, Spirit."
"Actually she has no idea that I was planning to meet up with you, and I wanted it that way."
"You can't be seriously condoning this...relationship, Spirit. Don't be ridiculous. She'll end up unhappy and alone. She is too young to─"
"Maka is a smart girl. And what makes her happy doesn't have to necessarily make me happy. It is her choice with whom she wants to be and as her father I'll support her whenever I can."
She gulped, her hands shaking. She hated how right he sounded, hated how she was made out to be the villain here. "But...she thinks everything's okay now, but she is so inexperienced and I want the best for her and she can't just...I mean, look what happened to us. We were too young, I got pregnant and we rushed into things, thinking that getting married was the right thing to do."
There was something in his eyes, she wasn't sure what; she had used to be so good at reading him, but Spirit wasn't the man he used to be. He had changed. The Spirit she knew would have never approved of his daughter dating someone like Soul.
"First off, Maka is a responsible young girl, and I'm sure she will be careful. I raised her accordingly, and even if the relationship doesn't last, that's a part of life. Secondly, I didn't marry you because you got pregnant. I married you because I loved you."
Her breath hitched and she closed her eyes for a moment, trying not to think of the moments she had spent with this stupid man, the man who hurt her so much, the man who betrayed her, broke her trust. She tried not to think of the happy times with him, of the time when he held their little Maka in his arms after fourteen painful hours of labour, of his smile, of his goofy charms, of the moments and times when she had been genuinely in love with him and forgave him repeatedly for cheating on her because she had truly believed he was the man who was going to be at her side for the rest of her life. His betrayal had hurt so much, and even though she had hoped they could put their differences to the side again and again, her naivety had come to its end and filing the divorce papers, even though it hadn't been easy, was the best decision she had made in her life. Now she could move on and free herself from an unhealthy relationship.
"Funny how flippantly you can say that when you weren't particularly good at acting according to your feelings for me," she mumbled, refusing to meet his eyes.
What was she doing? They had talked about Maka, she should leave and stop this nonsense. She wanted to be home, to be with the man who meant everything to her, who treated her with the respect she deserved, who never once made her doubt his loyalty and who shared her tastes in so many things.
"I know I wasn't a good husband and...I'm sorry for hurting you."
He had apologized so many times for his behaviour, yet had never changed, never stopped flirting and sleeping with other women. She hated how sincere he sounded, remembering the times when his apologies would consist of tears and snot and a lot of bawling and clinging and...
"I should go." She didn't make an attempt to leave, despite her words. She looked up, his eyes as blue as ever and full of regret. "Spirit, I..."
He smiled. "I understand. You're a very busy person and I'm sorry for calling you here, but I thought it was important to talk about Maka and Soul." He put on his jacket, waving the waiter over. "Your husband must be waiting for you."
"Oh, he isn't. He comes home late today."
"I see. He seems to be a good one, an honest and upright person."
She allowed herself a little smile. "Yes, he is."
"I'm glad you found someone who makes you happy." And just from looking at him she knew he meant it, and for the first time she came here, she smiled brightly, feeling awkward yet relieved at the same time.
"Thank you," she said, missing how he ended up paying for her coffee as well. "I'm glad I came here."
Soul was miserable. She wanted to scoff at that, wanted to bask in irritation and tell him to get his act together and stay away from her daughter. She wished she could say for sure his misery was fake, but her stepson was never one to wear his emotions on his sleeve and this time it wasn't any different. She sometimes caught him staring sadly ahead though, his eyes painfully expressive, and it made her heart ache.
Soul had taken to locking himself up in his room as much as possible, and Wes was the only one who managed to get his little brother out of his room once in a while.
They were in the kitchen, talking heatedly about something, yet she passed them quickly, not wanting to risk a confrontation with her stepson.
"I don't want any fucking coffee, Wes."
"That's a cappuccino, not coffee, you peasant!"
She and her husband had talked this over, discussed their options─ from keeping both of them away from each other, to letting them just be. And after a while even she had to agree that she could not willingly tear them apart. Their feelings for each other were apparently genuine and not some impulsive stupidity born from teenage hormones. She was shocked to find out how long they had been together, how long they had kept this a secret, and it made her question herself and if she had failed that much as a mother that her daughter refused to confide in her.
It just made her realize later how much things had changed and how much Maka wasn't the demure, shy and innocent little girl she once knew. Maka had changed, she had grown up, found someone who loved and respected her, and here she was being the vile matriarch wreaking havoc. She wished Maka had told her about her relationship with Soul. Perhaps things would have turned out differently, perhaps they would have figured something out, made appropriate arrangements.
She wanted her daughter to be happy, and if that meant Maka would be happy with Soul, then she was going to tolerate it. They'd work something out even if things were bound to be a little awkward first. She didn't care. This was about her daughter, and her happiness was of utmost importance. She had made a lot of mistakes herself and this time she was going to do the right thing and put Maka first.
Standing up, she reached for her phone. She had some apologizing to do.
Maka had stayed at her father's place for three days, and those were three days too many for Soul's liking. When Maka rang the bell and the door was opened for her, the first thing she did was not to fall into his arms but hug her mother tightly.
"I'm so sorry for keeping this a secret from you, Mama," Maka said, holding back a sob as her mom rubbed her back soothingly.
"It's okay, honey. You didn't know what to do, but everything's okay now. But next time, if it is something this important, tell me, okay?" They pulled back at the same time, sharing a teary smile before Maka turned to Soul.
"Hey," she said, breathless, her eyes a little puffy, her hair down and so beautiful he couldn't take it as she smiled. She uncertainly looked at her mother, who merely shrugged and patted Maka on the head. This was apparently all Maka needed, and with that she threw herself at him, nearly knocking him over in the process. She giggled giddily, her arms tight around his neck as he eventually managed to return her embrace. He looked at his stepmother over Maka's shoulder, her mouth curved into a small smile─ a resigned yet happy smile. Soul closed his eyes and basked in Maka's closeness, relieved that they didn't have to hide anything anymore, elated that their parents were okay with it, that he could just hold Maka like this without any worries. Maybe though, he'd spare his dad and stepmother the awkwardness and not kiss her in front of them, he wasn't sure yet. He grinned. He had plenty of time to decide and even if he eventually decided to keep the PDA in front of the parents to a minimum, he had plenty of time to make good for all the not-kisses once they were both in university some miles away from a somewhat awkward household.
Wes was happy; Soul and Maka would not drive him to the border of alcoholism or force him to watch My Little Pony anymore.
He liked happily ever afters a lot. Life was good and he had restocked his caffeinated beverages too, so he couldn't be anymore content right now. Today, he had decided to go with a caffe macchiato and some chocolate cookies to enjoy his afternoon in peace, watching TV. He was still a little undecided on what to watch though.
Now that he thought about it, the last episode of My Little Ponymight or might not have ended on a cliffhanger. Okay, maybe he'd watch the next episode too and be done with it.