Two months later
Swinging myself gently on the porch swing, I pull the heavy blanket tighter around my shoulders and stare blindly up at the clear night sky. Lost in thought, nursing my second cup of tea, I realize, with a deep yawn and tired eyes, that this is the second time this week, I've found myself sitting here in the middle of the night, due to the fact that I can't clear my head enough to sleep.
Physically, I'm shattered. Working, kids and a brain that won't switch off, will do that to you, but no matter how tired I feel, how tired I am, sleep just won't come. I just can't seem to stop my mind from churning and dredging and it's getting me no where.
Ever since Josh graduated, I've felt uneasy, and worried constantly about losing Josh to college and his independent life. He's going to be so far away from home, unsupervised and... Oh, who am I trying to kid... My biggest worry isn't Josh being out there on his own, he's strong, independent and smart, he will manage being away from home, he will flourish and revel in it.
My biggest worry is Christian.
Josh is going to be attending Harvard, following in his father's footsteps no less. What if Christian finds that out? What if Christian finds him? What if Christian does find him and approaches him? What if Josh finds out that Christian is his real father, and realizes that I've been lying to him for all these years? How could he possibly forgive me? How will the pair of them ever forgive me, for keeping their where abouts secret from each other and ultimately, keeping them apart for all of this time?
I sigh heavily at the thought of Christian and how our separate lives have panned out, and I feel the familiar tightening grip my chest and twist it sadistically, because I'll admit, even after all this time, it still hurts, it hurts a lot. But I know deep down, that I only have myself to blame for how things have turned out, and I can't change anything and don't know if I'd want to.
I've thought of Christian often over the passing years, how could I not, he once owned my heart, but he's been in my head more so lately with Josh's imminent departure. Even though I try to avoid lingering in the past and thinking about him too much if I can help it, because it's just too frustrating, gets me absolutely nowhere and if I'm being perfectly honest with myself, still far too painful, but it's something I can't seem to stop doing lately, especially in the dead of night when I'm alone and restless.
I'm still torn up inside over how Christian and I ended our relationship. There were no reasons, no excuses, no screaming or shouting, no finality to any of it, but that was my doing, and as frustrating as that can be sometimes, I know I made the right decision by running away.
Proof hangs over me every single day, that I made the right choice in leaving him. It's like a big black, shadowing cloud, that I just can't seem to shake, but it's cruel existence reminds me constantly, that I was right to just up and go. It's proof and a painful reminder, of just how easily Josh and I were totally eradicated from Christian's life, and replaced in the span of a few months.
Even when I acknowledge to myself, that I do have some regrets about how I faced and handled Christian's betrayal, they're worthless. Christian wasted no time at all, moving Jess in with him, divorcing me, marrying her, then having a child with her. He must have really loved her to commit so quickly to her like that, and to this day, it still hurts so much knowing that I meant so little to him. It hurts even more, knowing that even after all this time, he's never looked for me or Josh, well, not until Jess walked out on him anyway, but by then it was too late for me. My anger was set.
Early on, I didn't want to know all of the details, I was too hurt, too angry, too blindsided by the sight of him with someone else to even think straight. The sordid details, would have hurt far too much to hear, just seeing him with another woman was enough to send me reeling, but now, years later, the frustration of not knowing the reason why, has taken its toll. It's festered and gnawed away at my insides, leaving a dull hollow ache that just seems to haunt me.
I've spent years and years, racking my brains, going over and over every minute of our short time together, just trying to find out where I went wrong and what I did to lose his love and interest, but I find nothing, which makes it all the more frustrating and painful. But no matter how much it still hurts me, I will never contact him, far too much time has passed between us, far, far too much time, and we both have new lives now. Lives we can't alter.
Truthfully, I know I couldn't face him, not even after all this time. I know I can't look at him and not feel what I've always felt for him, even though I've buried it deep and kept it hidden from myself and every body else around me for all of these years, it's always been there... It always will be.
It was easy to force myself to move on, knowing that he had too. With not seeing, or hearing from him at all, my resolve and determination stayed strong, and by the time I met Jake, Christian had already been with Jess for nearly two years, so there was no point in living in the past and hoping, so I can't regret anything, even though I can't get over how time has passed by so quickly, and easily without him... I never thought it would.
All the years just flew by in a succession of parents evening, birthday party's and Christmas plays. When you live for your children and your world revolves around them, they just grow up so fast and it passes by in a flash, if you blink you miss it.
My stomach automatically rolls and my shoulders sag, because I know that Christian missed it all, he missed everything regarding Josh, and no matter what he did to hurt and lose me, I do regret him missing out on the time with his son, but did he even want him? He never seeked him out.
Guilt, frustratingly, washes over me, twisting my gut further, but I ignore the feeling that I've managed to live with for the past few years, and I take a swig from my now cold, cup of tea. I close my eyes, breathe deeply and roll out my stiff neck trying to clear my thoughts, but it doesn't help, it never does.
I can't dwell in the past, there's nothing I can do about anything now, I can't turn back time, can't bring back the missed years, but it still hurts me to know that Christian missed out on them all. I've realized over time that he didn't deserve that, but I never truly thought it would ever get this far... I always thought he would find us no matter what precautions I took, this is Christian Grey, stalker extraordinar after all, so he mustn't of tried very hard.
I painstakingly keep a detailed record of my children's lives, I have three large chests in the attic. They're full of everything, from birthday cards, to letters to Santa, photo's, dvds, school reports and yearbooks, everything they have ever won or taken a part in. I think subconsciously, it's to give to Christian one day, and I will because I'm not totally heartless, and it does hurt me to think of what I've deprived him off, and Josh for that matter.
As I picture Josh in my head and see Christian clearly, I wish I could turn back the clock, if only for their sakes. I would still have ran I think, it was too hard not to, but I think I would have spoken to him at some point, but was there a point? Christian had a new life within weeks of my leaving him, he had another wife, another child, he never wanted me or tried to...
A small involuntary smile, suddenly sweeps the corners of my mouth as I hear Jake before I see him. The porch door creaks open slowly, alerting me to his presence, and I look up at him as he rolls his eyes at the noise from the door, because I mentioned days ago that it needs oiling. He smiles softly as he heads over to me in three large strides.
"What's the matter baby?" he asks, sitting next to me and draping a warm arm around me. I lay my head on his shoulder and snuggle close into his side.
"Nothing" I mumble, before closing my eyes and taking a deep comforting breath, trying to clear my cluttered head.
"Do you think I don't notice when your up half the night?" he whispers, his hand comfortingly rubbing up and down my arm.
"I'm sorry for waking you, I just can't sleep" I utter sheepishly, feeling guilty for disturbing him, and not being able to explain what's really troubling me.
We're silent for a time, until I feel Jake's lips kiss my temple and his soft voice reaches my ears.
"What's worrying you?" he asks again, and I sigh softly.
"Nothing" I breathe, shaking my head determinedly.
Even though I'm desperate to talk this through, and get this all out of my head and off my chest, I can't talk to Jake about this, how could I?
"You can talk to me about anything you know" he whispers pointedly, as he looks down at me. I smile softly against him, but don't look up at him, not wanting to give anything away as he can read me like a book.
I snuggle into his arms as he kisses the top of my head, and I feel so comfortable and safe in his embrace. I always have.
"Jake I..." I begin compulsively, but stop short, realizing that I can't tell him anything, not now.
After nearly twelve years together, he would be so disappointed to know that I've lied to him for all this time. He would no doubt hate me, or resent me at the very least for keeping this from him, as we've always been able to talk about anything.
"I'm fine Jake" I whisper, "I'm just worried about Josh leaving home, that's all" I add automatically.
"Which is understandable" he mutters softly, "But..." he whispers after a pause and his final word just hang over us.
I know he's giving me an opening to discuss this, but I can't, even if he knows there's more to it than just motherly concern, I can't say anything but I know he doesn't believe my excuses, he knows me better than that.
We're quiet for a time, just holding each other, rocking gently on the porch swing.
"If it helps... I know who you really are... Ana" Jake says softly, and my thoughts come to a stand still.
"What!" I gasp, as I freeze against him.
I'm too scared to move or even look up at him. I know that if he starts to question me regarding Christian, I won't be able to keep the emotions I still feel for him, from showing on my face, I know I can't blatantly lie to Jake when asked directly, he reads me so easily. So I hold my tongue and keep silent.
"I've known for a few years who you really are" he confesses softly, his voice tender and open. I risk a glance up at him, dreading what I'll see, but his face holds a compassionate smile and his arm tightens around me.
I'm flooded with emotion, guilt and shame, but relief is instant when his lips kiss my brow firmly.
"Oh, Jake, why didn't you say anything?" I breathe into his chest.
"I thought you'd tell me whenever you were ready" he says, with his usual casual shoulder shrug.
"I'm sorry" I utter, tears filling my eyes.
"Don't be" he whispers, while looking down at me, shaking his head slowly, his fingers brushing my cheek.
"How did you find out?" I ask, laying back into him and enjoying the comfort of his arms.
"Do you remember when I had to go out of town to meet with the bank about expanding the business?" I nod against him, surprised by this fact as this was years ago. "Well, while I was waiting, I saw your picture in an old magazine that they had in the reception area, I recognized you instantly, and once my meeting was over, I went to the nearest internet café and searched on Google" his voice is matter of fact and holds no resentment or animosity.
"I'm sorry, that I've never told you" I whisper, feeling more than foolish for not sharing this with him.
"Don't be, I love you baby, and I knew you had secrets and baggage when I met you, and I've always known there was more to your history than you ever let on, I've seen it in your eyes over the years" he says softly and I see it in his eyes now. Sadness, worry and doubt.
"I don't still love him," I say quickly, trying to reassure him, but Jake laughs quickly.
"It's okay if you do" he states simply, but I can feel his unsure heart pounding against my cheek.
"I hate him" I add reflexively, but Jake's chuckles increase.
"No you don't" he states firmly, shaking his head at me. "You're hurt and angry with him, no doubt filled with lots of unanswered questions regarding why, because I know I was after Maggie left me, but at least I got a chance to have my say with her, you didn't by all accounts, you never sorted anything out, according to the articles I've read about you, you just up and disappeared, so I get that you must still have feelings for him, good and bad"
"No, I don't" I state firmly. "Please believe me, there has been no contact between us or anything since I left him all those years ago" I confess adamantly and truthfully.
"Not from you may be" Jake mutters with a chuckle, hugging me tighter into him.
"What?" I virtually shriek, pulling out of his arms and facing him fully. Jake smiles down at me and looks at me sympathetically.
"I've seen him Ang, I even spoke to him once" he admits warily, and my jaw drops.
"What? When?" I gasp, totally bewildered that Christian has found us and I knew nothing about it.
"I've seen him a few times over the years, soccer games mostly, but he did attend Josh's graduation ceremony" I stare wide eyed at Jake as my mind runs riot.
No, no, what the hell... I can't believe Christian has found us, everything I thought I knew was a lie, he's been here, seen us and never took the time to speak to me or Josh. Why did he never contact me? Has he just been watching for years, sitting on the sidelines waiting for a chance to...
"Oh god, we need to move" I groan.
Jake laughs softly, "Why on earth do we need to move?" he asks, in his gentle, calming voice that he uses with the kids.
"He will come for Josh, take him from me" I state impulsively, sounding childishly.
"No Ang, he won't" Jake utters with a chuckle, "Your ex-husband has known where you both where for quite a number of years, he could have approached you in all that time, but he never, he's leaving you alone because you're happy, if he wanted to cause trouble and take Josh from you, he would have done it by now, he understands you both happy, so he's kept away" I shake my head. How can Jake be so confident and believe what he's actually saying?
"You don't know Christian, Jake" I tell him with a frustrated huff. "You don't know what he is capable of" I add, Jake smiles down at me and nods his head firmly.
"I do know him, and he..."
"How do you know him?" I ask over him. My eyes wide and questioning.
"I spoke to him a couple of years ago baby" he confesses, and I feel my eyes bulge.
As the ripple of pain run through me at the thought of Christian never wanting to make contact with me after years, years of knowing where we were, it causes me to gasp loudly and the pain in my chest proves once again, that I still mean nothing to him.
I cringe away from the very idea of Jake and Christian conversing together, but Jake just simply smiles as he continues.
"I saw him talking with coach Scully after one of the boys games a few years ago, and as I approached them both our eyes locked, and he froze... I knew instantly who he really was... Josh is his double" he states sadly, and I'm reminded of the million times Jake has told me how much Josh is like me, but now, he's seen the shared likeness in my son and his true father.
"Oh, no" I almost wail, my voice low as my brain still spins from all this new information.
"It's okay baby, you're both safe here with me, I promise" Jake assures me, as he pulls me close to him and I instantly relax against him. "Christian Grey, introduced himself to me" Jake whispers after a few minutes, and I can't help but notice the wariness and traces of awe in his voice, and I feel for Jake.
Compared to Christian, Jake is a country boy, and he no doubt felt intimidated by Christian's confident presence and strong aura. Jake is a good, kind hearted man, but side by side with Christian, he must have felt his ease and magnetism out shine him ten fold.
"He told me who he was and informed me that if you ever needed anything, I was to call him immediately... As you and your son will always be his responsibility" Jake whispers and I hear the sadness in his voice, and feel for my husband. I hug him tighter as he continues. "He told me that if the family on a whole, ever need anything, I was not to hesitate in contacting him personally" my eyes flash to Jakes quickly. "Don't worry baby, I never have" he tells me urgently and I relax into him once again.
"Why have you never told me?" I ask, feeling really hypocritical.
"He asked me not to tell you, made me promise that I wouldn't, he also assured me that I was your husband now, and that he would leave you and I in peace and not interfere in our life together" Jake hugs me tighter and the silence enfolds us, as my heart breaks just that little bit more.
I try to catalog my thoughts and feelings regarding everything I've heard, and I'm spinning inside. I'm feeling unsettled, confused, apprehensive, and if I'm honest, more than a little disappointed. When did Christian find us? Why didn't he contact me when he did? Well, not me, but Josh at least? Why would he come all this way to watch his soccer games if we meant nothing to him? Why? Why? Why?
I sigh heavily, despondently, pitifully, knowing this is more proof that Christian didn't want me, didn't want to fight for me at all, didn't even want to approach me, or even just speak to me.
I lay into Jake further, wrapping my arms around him like my life depends on it. I'm comforted in the warmth of the man that has loved and wanted me for all of this time, and as I feel his hand softly stroke my hair, I know I've had the best of husbands.
"What are we going to do?" I mutter, after a short silence.
"Do you want to... See him?" Jake whispers softly, surprising me.
"No" I exclaim instantly, pulling him closer.
"You still love him Ang" Jake breathes, cupping my chin and smiling down at me knowingly. "And I know... That he still loves you" he utters with wary, sad eyes.
I sag forward, my chin supported in his strong hand. "Oh Jake, please don't, I'm not strong enough to do this, even after all this time, I can't face him" I confess truthfully, and as Jake pulls me close to him my tears start to fall.
"Then we do nothing... Nothing is going to change Ang, don't worry" he whispers wrapping his arms around me and pulling me close, and I hope he's trying to convince me and not himself.
I revel in the heat and comfort I find in my husband as my mind still ponders, and I begin to ramble my troubling thoughts absent-mindedly out loud.
"What if he sees Josh once he leaves for college? He could seek him out now that he's not at home, he's an adult now Christian can approach him, he's in Boston, Harvard is miles away, I won't know if he... What will josh do if he finds out the truth Jake? What will he think of me once he knows I've been lying to him? I don't know if he thinks he's your son? I know he sees you as his father, but we haven't spoken of his real father for so long and I never wanted to bring it up with him, I just hoped he'd forget and see you as..."
"Ang, he knows that I'm not his biological father, but he's your boy, if he does find out, he may be angry and upset for a while, but he over thinks everything just like you, he will understand eventually" Jake reassures, knowing me and our son well.
"But he has another family that he knows nothing about, that will matter to him" I finally confess one of my biggest worries out loud to him.
"He's had a good childhood baby, a family that couldn't of loved him more, maybe he will resent you for a while, but he knows you, and knows you wouldn't have lied to him without a good reason, he has you compassion and quick responses, but he's also very rational and he loves you" Jake assures me adamantly.
"I had to run from him Jake, I was so hurt and angry with what he did to me, I still am if I'm honest, but I couldn't face... He replaced us so quickly Jake" I mutter without thinking, but Jake takes no offense and just smiles comfortingly at me as he hugs to close.
"Then he was a fool to let you go... But I know that you're still hurt over this baby, I see it in your eyes whenever you think no one is watching you, and it made sense once I knew who you really were, I understood"
"What are we gonna do Jake?" I repeat.
"Nothing, Josh will be fine, there's nothing we can do about him starting college in a few weeks, lets just see what happens and worry then, I don't your ex-husband will just knock on his bedroom door, do you?" he asks, trying to ease, and I shake my head, even though I don't honestly know what Christian will do now, I don't know the man that he is now.
"What about you?... I lied to you for years" I utter, as I realize I've hurt him too.
"No you didn't, you protected yourself, did what you had to do, I didn't need to know everything about your past and where you came from... I know how I felt after Maggie left me, it was tearing me apart until I found you, you were my balm, as I have always been for you, we've both been through this, so I do understand how you felt and why you did what you did, I don't hold that against you, I never could" he tells me, and even though I don't deserve his understanding, I'm thankful for it.
"Oh Jake, I love you" I tell him truthfully, because I don't know how my life would've turned out without him in it, and I'm glad I found him and will never regret that.
"I know baby, I love you too... I want to help if I can, so if you want to talk about all of this... Talk about him... Then we can" he assures me, but I hear the under currant of uncertainty quiver in his voice.
"No, it's the past and must stay there" I state, and I feel Jake relax.
"Okay, if you're sure" he whispers softly and I nod firmly. "Come on then" he states, before standing and offering me his hand, "Let's go back to bed, see if we can wear you out enough to get you to sleep" he adds with a wink and I take my husband's hand eagerly and follow him back into the house.
Safe in the knowledge that this is where I truly belong.