Author Topic: Divine Deception -- S4E24: Series Finale  (Read 21512 times)

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E06: Horsemanship
« Reply #270 on: December 29, 2017, 11:52:06 AM »
Divine Deception
"Horsemanship"


It's Leisure Day and I have travelled to Appaloosa Plains. It's not a far drive, but it's far enough. It's almost the most perfect weather in this almost perfect place.
Where the plains are long, the people are happy to the point of being sick and every click I go, I spot another sign reminding me to be cautious because there are animals at play. This is what it's like to live here. This is what it's like in Appaloosa Plains.

I get to the show grounds by early afternoon. The parking lot isn't as jam-packed as they used to be back when I used to compete. Back in those days you couldn't get a parking spot and had to park on the side of the street a mile away. That was when the equestrian world was active and had money coming in full force from the wealthy and the average Joe alike. How things have changed.

By the time I reach the ringside, the smell of hay and horses surrounds me. Men and women with shiny black boots and white breeches sit on top of million-dollar horses and teenagers run back and forth across the show rings, grabbing fallen poles and putting them back on their stands before hightailing it out for the next rider to begin. I feel as my lips curl into a smile--not a malicious one--because it's as if Vita's here beside me, clapping like she did all those years ago.

I sigh inwardly, reminded of a better time when I spot Matt in the warm-up ring. I haven't spoken to him since his birthday a few weeks ago and that's exactly how I wanted to keep it. If we connected as much as I believe we did, I hope that my distance has made his heart grow fonder. One thing's for sure: Matt wasn't lying like his jerk of a friend Jay about his riding abilities. No, Matt is rather impressive. Heels down, hands out in front of him and it's as if he looks like he and the horse are one. Proof that he's been doing this for a very long time. His horse is a beauty too. Shiny and smooth, it's as if this fearless palomino has been dipped in liquid gold.

"And next in the ring is number 401, Matthew Hamming."

"Go get them, honey!" somebody calls from above me followed by a squeal of excitement. As I look up I spot Matt's mother, Edie Hamming. She's clapping, waving like I remember Vita would. It's no secret Edie loves Matt very much. Jackie told me this when we first spoke. But to see it now, up close, I can see that Edie Hamming's love for her son is a strong force to go up against.

What I didn't expect to see, however, is the man linked to her arm. He doesn't look all that thrilled to be there. He's slumped like an old man next to the trilling woman next to him and is staring blankly at the cell phone in his hand. He has to be Matt's father. Jackie didn't tell me much about him.

I guess now is as best of time as ever. I find the stairs and make my way up to them.

"His kids aren't doing too poorly out there," Mr. Hamming says to Edie as I make it to the top of the stairs. They sit at one of the VIP tables on the patio, a huge umbrella saving their skin from the sun. Mr. Hamming may have been speaking to Edie, but his eyes are still glued to the phone in his hands.

"Matthew and those kids still have two rounds to go and a jump off if everything goes well, darling," says Edie, her eyes following Matthew around the ring while he waits for the bell to ring. "I'd keep from making wagers with that Howard fellow. You know how the pressure gets to both you and Matthew."

"It's just a little fun. We all understand that."

"The only thing you and Howard seem to understand is how to ruin a perfectly good afternoon. Don't put a wager on your son's performance, Arthur."

I stop right next to them, gazing out to the sand ring right as the bell is rung and Matt is given forty-five seconds to get over the first jump. "I may take the bet then." Both Edie and her husband look up at me. Hello again, Mrs. Hamming."

"Ah, Miss Millens, what a surprise. Darling, this is the one Matthew's been talking about."

"Miss Millens," Mr. Hamming repeats, pulling his attention from his phone.

"Samantha," I correct him.

"Arthur Hamming." He shakes my hand. "What a pleasure it is to meet you."

"Likewise," I say. "Your son is a magnificent rider."

"Should be," Arthur tells me as he takes a seat and offers me one. "Got some of the best training the world has to offer, that one." Arthur tells me about how from a young age they saw talent in their son and shipped him off the best pros to get the best training. That he's ridden multimillion dollar horses and competed in the biggest championships and he goes on and on. It's not hard to figure out who this Howard man is. Some competitive dad who lives life through his children.

As Arthur goes on I can see Edie becoming more and more impatient, until finally her face changes completely.

Down below Matt's horse has refused one of the jumps, leaped back into a rear and Matt struggles to keep his seat. Edie gasps, her hands covering her mouth as the colour drains from her face. Arthur swears and they're all still as stone as the gold palomino down below goes back and forth on its hind legs. Matt's grip on his horse's sides weaken and he plummets to the ground. Edie jumps to her feet, a horrible noise coming from deep within her throat, and books it across the patio. Arthur is right behind her and I watch as the horse below bolts off across the ring, out the ingate and out of sight. Men and women run down to the ring to make sure Matt's all right while another group chases down the horse. I decide to head for the horse.

It takes time and coaxing, but I return twenty minutes later with horse in tow. I found the group running after the poor animal yelling and calling for it as if that would make it turn around and meet them. Horses are flight animals so chasing is counterproductive. I end up finding a bag of carrots next to a stall and using a carrot as bribery. The horse came to me like that.

When I walk through the gates to the ring, I see Edie and Matt still in the same spot I last saw them. At least now Matt's standing. The medic has approved him and says that nothing seems to be wrong with him. Seems to be wrong with him? That's an A-class medic if I've ever known of one, but Matt's still on his feet and everybody, his mother included, are talking as if he's continuing the competition. What do I know? I just caught the horse.

"Samantha?" Matthew says, cutting his mother off from whatever she's babbling on about. All I've heard her says since I came back into the ring is how great he's doing.

"I think you lost something," I say, handing him the reins to his horse. The palomino nuzzles his cheek almost as if apologizing. "Are you getting back on?"

"Rule number one in riding," he says, a slight edge coming from his cynicism. I don't question it. I just tell him how great he's going to do. I wink and make my way back to the sidelines.

By the time the show comes to a close, the sun is setting and the parking lot is emptying. I've stayed back with Matt so his parents can head out to a dinner party they are expected at. Edie struggles to depart from her son and once she's gone I hear Matt exhale deeply.

"There's something about an overbearing mother," he mutters as he gives his horse a quick brushing.

"She means well," and I really mean it. I spent pretty much the whole day with this woman and while she can be intimidating and forceful with her opinions, she means well for her son.

With his horse taken care of and eating grain, waiting for the horse trailer to show up to take them back home, Matt offers to buy me a drink. There are few stragglers on the lot still, other riders waiting for their transportation to arrive, and they are all crowding the bar.

"I'm really glad you showed up today," Matt tells me as he leads me to a table. He pulls out the chair for me and then takes his own.

I take a seat. "Well, I found some time during my busy schedule doing something so I thought I would come on over."

"Yeah, sorry about that." I looked at him quizzically. "Sorry for not being a bit more on top of things."

I don't know how to respond. I didn't brush him off the last time he asked me out because I was offended. I just wanted a bit of a chase. And I got it.

"What would you think about going riding on one of our trails, next weekend?" He doesn't let me respond before adding, "You told me you used to ride and dressage to boot. I mean, it's like riding a bike. You don't truly forget, right?"

I smirk as I look at his face. To think this man, this young man is actually somebody who is both a model, a top model in the industry, and an actor. And here he is, begging me to go riding with him.

"Okay, next weekend, riding. You got your something and some time. I like that."

"I like a girl who goes after what she wants," he jokes back. "I've got to admit, it's nice to speak with somebody who doesn't really know me."

I nod. "I know what you mean."

We talk for a little longer. I finish off my drink and get up from my seat. I give him my number and head back to my car.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E07: Crack in the Armour
« Reply #271 on: December 31, 2017, 10:20:05 AM »
Divine Deception
"Crack in the Armour"


It's been said that a husband is prone to keep the same amount of secrets from his wife as he does himself. We all have secrets that we believe are best kept hidden from everybody other than ourselves. We pretend to be friends, the relationships we keep in the dark and hope never find the light of day. But because of this the best-laid plans often find a crack in the armour. Whether we prepare for years, no matter how detailed the preparation is, there is always somebody there looking to exploit it. Doom it whether deliberate or not. Every plan has a flaw, much like a secret we want to keep hidden, and sometimes the line between the two is so thin we struggle with keeping our footing. But focusing on where our feet land doesn't always ensure success. When we build on an unstable foundation, high above the ground, sometimes there's nowhere left to go but down.

"So, you don't think any of this is going, you know, a little fast?" Connie says as she makes her way next to me. She's gasping for breath, sweat trickling down the sides of her face. It may have just turned autumn and early morning, but sweater weather hasn't come into play yet. Then again, rock climbing has always been able to get both our blood running.

"A little fast?" I repeat. I keep a firm hold with my right palm and allow myself two seconds to wipe the sweat from my left onto my shorts.

"Yeah, I mean, you've only known this guy for a couple of weeks."

"You're making it out as if Matt is going to be the love of my life." The corner of my lips curl and then I add, "You know my heart belongs to Nathan. Matt's just a mission. And, besides, I've only gone on a handful of dates with the man, all of them dinner and a movie, might I add."

"I guess," Connie says, though from the tone of her voice, I get the impression that she's not convinced.

"C'mon, Connie, you know I don't do anything without thinking it all the way through."

"It's just that sometimes I don't know what you're thinking, what you're doing."

"Well, right now I'm ascending."

I use all of the strength in my calves and leap upwards to the crevice above me on an angle. My fingers find purchase and save me from many bruises. My legs are next.

"I mean, really, it's all business and you know that. This has nothing to do with love. Sure, Matt may be uninhibited, spontaneous, but he's definitely not the greatest thing I have ever seen." I quickly add jokingly, "And even if he was, it's not like his mother would let me into that family circle without a fight."

But the joked didn't seem to have landed.

"I just don't know if we're doing the right thing." Connie lets go of the wall and drops to the ground, her knees bending immediately to absorb the ground's impact.

I had sensed Connie's lack of confidence since the party a month ago, though I had originally believed it to be because of her fear of water. But now I wonder if it's something else.

I hit the buzzer above me and make my way to the ground again. Connie's already got to her small handbag and grabbed a bottle of water and her personal hand towel, dabbing at her wet forehead. I grab my own water bottle and screw off the cap, taking a few lengthy gulps of water afterward.

"We are doing the right thing," I finally say once I realize that Connie's decided to keep quiet. "Everybody's been a little rattled since Sean's death, and I get it because it has changed the way we look at things. We're no longer playing house, this is the real deal."

Connie takes a deep breath. "I'm just getting a little scared. This, this whole mission, it could go so many ways."

I smile cheerlessly. "It can, but it can go many ways regardless if we fight against it or not. Remember what Master Lee taught is. We are hired by the truly wronged to balance out life's scale. We aren't only doing this because of me or my mother. We are doing this for the people who can't fight for themselves. We're doing it for people like Master Lee."

By early afternoon, I am again heading to Appaloosa Plains. I seem to have been able to steer Connie from her busy mind. I get why she's so upset and I didn't lie when I said that everything's changed since Sean's death. Everybody has been on edge since then, but only pushing forward will things fall back into place.That's what Master Lee would have told us, and I know how much Connie respected and admired that man when he was still alive.

I follow my GPS to Matt's parents' house because that's where the horses are. We've had to reschedule our trail ride for weeks now because of busy schedules and poor weather. I have a pretty flexible schedule, but between ads that need to be shot, commercials that need to be recaptured and the beginnings of Matt's acting career, he seems to always be busy these days. It's not a bad thing really, but I can see why he struggles with finding a significant other—whether it has to do with time and conflicting schedules or always being on the lookout for gold diggers.

I park in the driveway and make my way to the front door of the house. I knock three times and almost immediately the door is opened by Arthur. He glances at me, though he barely takes me in. Not a hello, how are you, get lost, nothing! He's got a Bluetooth device in his ear and more focused on whoever is on the other end of the line.

"Another override?" he snaps, his ears turning a light shade of pink. "Does IT have any clue what they are doing down there or are they more interested in the gallons of coffee brought to their feet every morning? The system has been hacked far too many times over the last month and what are they doing about it?"

I take what he's saying in, but before I can get anything else, Arthur catches my gaze and then motions to the barn and walks back into the house, closing the door behind him.

System overrides? And this has been going on for the last month? This must have to do with Whitman and if not, that would mean there is another group looking to hurt Paragon's system.

Enemy of my enemy, I think with a smirk as I trudge across the lawn to the stable. I will have to let Jackie and the others know that our little pickings are slowly starting to rub Paragon's community the wrong way.

As I near the stable, I spot Matt's show horse. There's only one paddock next to the barn and it's full of hay and a trough is filled with clean water.

I walk into the barn, expecting to find Matt, when I find it empty. The place is spotless. Bridles and saddles are hung neatly on the walls, rubber mats make an orderly pathway from the far wall out the door and two stalls, clean and well-bedded, stand next to one another. Before I can call out Matt's name, I am greeted by a high-pitched whiney. Two moments later, a dark grey horse, almost black, sticks its head out the opening of its stall. It calls out again and then smacks its lips together for attention.

"Hello there," I say and walk over to the horse's stall. A brass nameplate is on the front of the stall, the horse's name in a black fancy font. "Your name's Winnie," I say and I am nuzzled by the horse's muzzle before I can do anything else.

"Ah, he likes you," Matt says as he steps through the front doors. Behind him, his horse follows attached to a nylon lead rope. I spot the name on the other stall. Matt's palomino is named Chevy.

"He's pretty sweet himself," I say, Winnie's whole head in my arms.

"Well, it's a good thing because he's who you'll be riding." He looks me up and down. "Hey, riding gear. I was expecting sweatpants and rubber boots."

"I tried my best. I found some breeches and a pair of paddock boots. Only thing I couldn't get was a pair of half chaps that fit."

"I can see that. Man, you're not going to be able to feel that treacherous pinch on the back of your knee because they're an inch too short."

I laugh. So many weeks when I used to ride were complaining about the blisters on the back of my knees from brand new half chaps that took their time breaking in.

By the time we've had a small chitchat, got our horses all cleaned up and put the tack on, we walk them out of the barn to a handmade wooden mounting block and get on.

"How long has it been since you've last been on a horse?" Matt asks me while I try to get comfortable in the saddle. Thankfully, Matt's fished me out a dressage saddle. While I can't say I'm completely uncomfortable, I know if I had to be placed in a jumper one, I'd be more so.

"I don't know, something like ten years. More maybe." I give a light-hearted shrug and force some weight into the balls of my feet."

Matt makes his way to my side with Chevy. "I guess I'll have to take it easy on you. I'll stay back. Just walk."

I shoot him a look of confidence. "What was it you said when we first set this trail ride up? It's like riding a bike. We never truly forget." I gesture for him to lead the way.

Thirty minutes into it and it all begins to come back. The softness of my reins, the movement in Winnie's back and the aids for walk, trot, canter and gallop. I won't lie, I lose my balance from time to time. While I am the fittest I have ever been in my entire life, knowing where my body is at every moment is still something I work on and being on a horse takes it to a whole other level. Still, being here, riding again, it feels good. It feels right. Especially after being out of the saddle for so many years.

We stop at a creek sometime later. I can't for the life of me figure out how long we've been riding.  It feels like ten minutes, but I have no idea. Ten minutes, ten hours. Though, what I do know is that my legs have stretched to what seems like a mile and I know tonight I may have to take a few inflammatories.

Winnie wants a drink so I give my reins some slack.

"You weren't kidding when you said you hadn't forgotten everything," Matt said with a chuckle. Giving Chevy a good pat on the side of the neck, he dismounts and pulls the tack off so that Chevy can graze on his own.

"He won't run away?" I say innocently.

"Not if he wants to be fed tonight. And Winnie's a bit of a chicken. Scared of his own shadow on his own."

I hop off Winnie and take his tack off too. Matt's right. Winnie always stays a few feet from us and Chevy's so focused on grass that he hasn't moved since Matt let him go.

Up ahead I spot a basket sitting on top of a blue and white plaid blanket. Matt leads me over to it and waves for me to sit down with him. A man steps out from behind a tree. He's dressed in a sharp looking tuxedo, his black hair slicked back and even wears white cotton gloves. In those gloves he holds two wine glasses and a bottle of champagne.

"Champagne?" he says once he's close enough.

I'm not much of a fan of champagne, but with Matt looking at me and seeing how much work he's put into this, I struggle to say no.

"Of course!"

We eat and drink. Sandwiches and finger foods are pulled from basket along with plates and real cutlery. Nothing is plastic, everything is glass and shiny and so perfect. There is a moment when neither of us talks. We watch the horses graze, Winnie roll and squeal, take in the beauty of the landscape. Matt and I even just stop to look at each other.

"Marsha!" somebody screams at the top of their lungs. Both Chevy and Winnie poke their heads up in alert, their eyes pricked forward. Matt and I disconnect in search of the source. Down a few paces, a woman with platinum blond hair runs after a white cat, trying to catch it. Matt's on his feet before I can even say anything. The cat's just making it up a tree when Matt gets a hold of it.

But none of that really hits me. I'm still with the horses—Winnie's gotten a little on edge and I've made sure to make him my top priority right now. What hits me is the look on the woman's face.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" she says with excitement and then it's as if she stops right on the spot. "Wait, aren't you Matthew Hamming? You're Matthew Hamming!"

Matt doesn't confirm or deny this. The woman forgets about her cat, pulls out her phone and begins taking selfies with the man. And Matt doesn't try to stop it.

That's what hits me. It's the look in her eyes, the excitement about being around a celebrity and the ease of having that phone in her hand. Matt being an actor and model ... Having fans... Having cameras. Like my mother, I've been brought into the spotlight. And that always makes things more difficult.

I turn and pat Winnie. "All right, boy, it looks like I'm going to have to step up my game."



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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E08: Infamy
« Reply #272 on: January 01, 2018, 06:28:00 PM »
Divine Deception
"Infamy"


Infamy is a power that holds a spellbinding desirability. Some see fortune and glory at the expense of something more. Others see fears, a dark cloak slowly cascading over them on the darkest of nights, a death that can't come fast enough. But in the darkest of nights, stars seem to burn brighter than anybody ever thought possible. For many, the pathway to fame is like a phoenix rising from its ashes, destined to be born again and they will do anything to capture its flame.

Matt puts the car into park and I look at the restaurant in front of us. Business As Usual is the new and big thing in Bridgeport. As their pamphlet says, it's the crème del le crème of all dining experiences, and they aren't lying. Celebrities from all over have come to taste what this place has to offer and walking in off the street? Nope, that's not going to work here. Better call in and reserve a table even if it's for lunch. Tables outside don't need reservations, but when it's a day like today, miserable and cold, one doesn't want to waste their money freezing in the pouring rain.

The Paparazzi swarm outside the front doors of the place, trying to get the best shots to sell to a high-paying magazine or blog. It's people like these that make me a little nervous about being so out in the open. Thankfully it will only be for a limited amount of time. Hopefully.

Matt leads me to a back door and we head inside that way. Waving to two of the chefs, they say hi back and call Matt by his first name. Obviously, Matt must know them and coming through the back door is something of a regularity.

In a few moments, we are out in the dining area and I see Mr. and Mrs. Hamming. It's not like any time has passed since I saw both of them. Edie's eyes light up and she springs to her feet like a jack in the box the moment she sees her son, while Arthur is once again looking at his phone.

"Would you put that thing away, Arthur?" Edie scowls. "You know how much I hate phones at the dinner table." Arthur, begrudgingly, stuffs his phone into his pocket and pulls the Bluetooth from his ear.

"Mom, Dad," Matt says as he puts his arm around me and pulls me closer. "You remember Samantha."

"Of course, how are you, dear?" Arthur says.

"Quite well," I say.

"And this is my sister Chloe."

I follow Matt's hand to the young blonde. She looks to be fifteen or sixteen with thick, wavy hair and lots of lipstick much too mature for her age group. I remember when I was that age that I was working with pinks and blues, not dark colours that made me look twice my age.

She pulls back in her seat and browses over my exterior. "So, she's the next model?" she asks. Her voice is stuffy, nasally and I can't figure out if it's forced or not. I mustn't be on my best game because for a moment I actually think she's calling me a model. It then hits me that I'm just the next girl off the train.

"Chloe," Matt says in a warning tone. Chloe doesn't seem to acknowledge it.

"Let's see how long this one takes. I give it six months tops."

Bloody hell, I think as I just stand there. I know I was a sassy thing back in my younger years—I did some nasty things back in the day that I am not proud of—but was I this obnoxious?

Matt tells her off and she sinks into her chair, her arms crossed over her chest. I check my watch. It's only dinner that I need to get through then everything should be easy sailing. I take a seat between Matt and Edie.

"So, Samantha," Arthur says, leaning forward, "tell us about yourself. What is it you do?"

"Samantha's into architecture," Matt answers for me.

Arthur's eyes light up. "Really?"

I nod. "Not so much now. I mean, I still own the business and buildings still need to be built, but I just sit back now and watch it happen."

"But you're so young."

"It was my father's business. I just took it over."

"You father's no longer with us?" Arthur asks.

"Arthur, everybody's worked a long hour week and the last thing anybody wants to talk about is more work," Edie tells him.

"Oh, I don't mind, Mrs. Hamming," I say. "No, my parents died in a car crash many years ago. My mother was an interior designer and my father built everything from the ground up. When I took over the business, I just took some risks and everything fell into place."

"Fell into place?" Edie seems unimpressed by my choice of words.

"I'm a bit of a risk taker."

"You have to be in business," Arthur defends me. "You just have to watch your money around certain people is all. Some will just take you for every penny if they can."

"Well, luckily I know a good bet when I see one."

"See? I told you, Edie, to make it big, you've gotta' do a bit of gambling." As everybody is looking at their menus, Arthur grabs onto Matt's shoulder and gives him a shake. "It's why I taught this guy about Blackjack and Poker when he was young, young, young."

"Well, he's a fantastic player," I say, just trying to boost Arthur up a bit. While I can feel it's a bit much—Edie doesn't seem too thrilled about where the conversation's going—I know I need to get close to these people and from how we've got along lately, I think Matt's father is going to be easiest.

When the waiter returns, we all order. Arthur continues talking about gambling and how stocks are great investments, but one mustn't get too greedy.

"I did play around with stocks when I first started, but now my main focus is on charity. I am so honoured and humble with where I'm at right now that I like to give back to the community and to those who are struggling."

"It sounds perfect," Edie says through a smile that looks only too forced. "Humanitarian."

"No, she's a good businesswoman, Edie. This is what children need these days. Less on Facebook and Twitter, more smart business sense."

"That'll be the day," Edie says under her breath. "Not everything has to be about gambling and money, Arthur. Matthew and Chloe will venture into other things that we see as mundane and they will strive off it. Matthew is an amazing model and actor. There's no gambling and throwing money around."

"But it is a gamble."

"Keep speaking like that, Arthur, and I'm going to wonder if you've got a gambling problem."

A subtle ring disrupts Arthur and Edie and Chloe pulls her phone out from under the table.

"Chloe, you know how much I don't like seeing that thing at the dinner table," Edie tells her. "Put it away, please."

Our food arrives and everybody goes silent while we take it in. It's a nice change after listening to Edie and Arthur bicker. From the look on both Matt and Chloe's face, it happens rather often.

Edie clears her throat and places her napkin across her lap. "Now, how has work been going, dear?"

Matt turns his attention from his lobster over to his mother. "Good. I booked another acting gig for a guest appearance on some comedy. I can't remember what it’s called."

"Can't even remember what it's called," Arthur mumbles with a shake of his head.

"The point is, Arthur, that he is doing well." Edie prattles on about how great Matt is again, how he's booking things left, right and center. There's a point where I wonder if she's trying to convince Arthur or herself about how great their son is. I mean, I knew Edie loved her son, but this seems almost downright desperate. Even Chloe's lost interest. She's pulled her phone back from under the table and I can hear that she's watching some video clip.

"Did Daddy pay for this gig as well?" Chloe finally says, cutting her mother off.

Arthur almost chokes on a piece of pasta. "What? Whatever would give you that idea?"

"It's all over the internet," Chloe tells him.

"Hogwash"—Arthur waves his hand in dismissal—"Millennials will believe anything they read online these days."

"You don't believe me?" Chloe snaps. In what seems like a flick of the wrist, her phone ends up in the middle of the table, a black and white video from a surveillance camera begins to play.

"Oh, you can and you will, Howard," I hear Arthur's voice from the speaker of the phone. On screen, he is standing over a desk in a well put together office. Another man, who I assume is Howard, sits in the high-backed chair on the other side, leaning back. On the walls of the office are film posters, awards protected by shiny glass cases and certificates that boast his career. This must have been the Howard I heard Arthur speaking to Edie about back when I met them at the horse show. The one Arthur tried to make a wager with on Matt's performance.

"Mr. Hamming, I am sorry, but I refuse to give your son a spot on any of our shows. I've done this before—I've lost track how many times—and I can't give him another gig just because he's your son. His acting is terrible and every time he is on, we waste more time with his emotions off-screen than we are able to get from him on-screen."

I peek over at Matt. His eyebrows furrow and there's a look of hurt on his face. I can only imagine how it feels inside. Like a punch to the stomach.

"Maybe you want to rethink my offer," Arthur says, indignantly as he throws a stack of papers in between them on the desk. Upon closer inspection, I realize that they are photographs. "I'd hate for your wife to get a copy of these for her birthday. It's this Thursday, isn't it? Surely she'll have a stroke after seeing you screw some Barbie-looking secretary."

"This is blackmail."


Arthur shakes his head. "No, this is me asking you as a friend if you would mind getting my son a spot on Arrow or Big Bang or something else."

The video shrinks and a man dressed casually in a white dress shirt holds a microphone to his mouth. "And there you have it, folks. One of Bridgeport's very own being blackmailed by the father of up and coming Matthew Hamming. Where and how this goes moving forward, you can count on Gossip Weekly to keep you updated. Like and Share this video, and leave us a comment on what you believe is going on? Still a fan of Matthew Hamming or do you think he's just another throwaway celebrity who gets by with his looks alone?"

"You paid for my gigs?" Matt asks as the video repeats automatically. "YOU PAID FOR ALL OF MY GIGS?"

Matt's sudden anger makes me jump and I look down at my hands. I can't hear for the life of me what Arthur's reply is because next to me Edie is telling the men to keep their voices down and Chloe is jumping in to defend her brother. I end up getting to my feet and excusing myself to use the washroom.

I close the door behind me and saunter over to the vanity to check my makeup. Even for being down the hall, I can still hear Matt and his father arguing. A smile tickles the corners of my lips.

"Well, that worked well," I whisper to myself. I hum as I check my hair and face in the nearby mirror.

It had been Whitman's idea. He told me how Paragon had used a similar tactic back during the assignment my mother was put on to destroy the Altos. Actually, it was the night she gave birth to me. During a big dinner party when Vita was trying to gain donations to secretly run away with the man she was having an affair with, Paragon exploited it. Whitman and I both decided to give Paragon a taste of their own medicine and boy did it work.

I listen as Matt's voice has got closer. He and his father must have moved from the table. I finish up and walk back out.

I find Matt and his father at the front of the restaurant, car keys in one of Matt's hands.

"I was trying to help you, boy," Arthur tells him. The words he speaks may seem comforting, but his tone contradicts it. "You need a portfolio of sorts, you need experience."

Matt's laugh is hollow. "But—"

"No, understand this: modeling and acting aren't about being pretty anymore, Matthew. You need to express emotion, you need to be real!"

Matt flings up his hands in dismissal and heads out. I follow him.

The drive is a silent one on my end. I just listen. Listen to Matt go off about his parents, how angry he is with them and how he doesn't think they will ever change. I am confident he's not angry about what all has been said regarding what directors and agency's want. I think it has to do with what wasn't. Why his parents did what they did, how they came to the conclusion. Probably the worst part, though, was hearing his father confirm everything the video put out there. That he didn't deny it at all.

"Want to come back to my place for a drink?" Matt asks me and I agree.

"I always knew they were overbearing... I mean, I knew they were liars too, every parent is. It's usually Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, the Easter bunny..."

I look down at the wine glass in my hand, considering the red liquid inside of it. It wasn't long ago that I felt the same way regarding my family. I still get nightmares about how I shouted at Vita in front of a patio full of people and tore off in the very car she bought me for my birthday—she died that night. My mother, Sadie Lawrence, and how everything around her consisted of a lie of some sort. I didn't believe anything about her until we finally allowed our relationship to grow.

"Families are like that..." I say quietly.

Matt doesn't respond to what I said, though part of me wonders if he heard what I said at all.

"I don't know what to do anymore," he goes on. "I'm a fraud, I'll never work again. How am I supposed to come back from that?"

"Life has a way of turning our confidence into question. I think you should take a step back and see why you're in this situation." I pause and then add, "Being in the limelight is stressful. Maybe being out of it for a bit will be a good thing."

We look at each other and it's as if everything slows around me. I take in his pale eyes, that for looking so cold, hold so much warmth. The way his brows raise in concern and the freckle he has next to his nose. I take them all in and then—

We kiss. My eyes close automatically as if I'm some children's doll leaning back. Matt's lips are soft and warm. I can taste his last drink. I feel his hands make their way to the sides of my face and he kisses me again, more aggressively this time. My hands have gone to the back of his head all on their own, my fingers slipping through his dark locks. Matt's hands move down to the back of my dress and in that instant, I push him away softly.

"I should go."

Matt pulls back and seeing his expression literally sink, I know that I've offended him. I place my wine glass on the table and get to my feet as he gets off of me, giving me space.

"I'll see you tomorrow?" I say half asking, half telling. I can see that Matt's emotions, whether he would ever admit it or not, have come very close to the surface. Between all that's happened today and this... It's obvious that he's slowly falling into a lapse of inebriation. I softly pat him on the shoulder as I walk around the sofa. He doesn't say anything to me. He just stares into the dancing flames in the fireplace. I don't say anything else. I see my way out because like the limelight, that fire that's burning so hot inside of him right now, that anger he has for everybody, it will die out, and like his fame, he will be left with nothing, only known for what he used to be.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E08: Infamy
« Reply #273 on: January 21, 2018, 02:50:49 PM »
UPDATE: it's been a busy few weeks, but I have most of the next episode done. Because of a weapons mod, an additional opening scene will be available to be read http://sims3storiestv.wordpress.com

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E09: The Second Dose: part 1
« Reply #274 on: January 27, 2018, 08:56:41 PM »
Divine Deception
"The Second Dose: part 1"



((Because of a weapons mod, the opening monologue, as well as the first scene, can be found HERE ))


***

"Can you believe these people?" Matt asks two and a half hours later. He's just gotten out of bed and grabbed the newspaper to accompany his morning coffee. "It's been three weeks and the media's still going on about that bloody argument between me and my father. How many articles can they possibly make over something so..."

"Mundane?" I mutter more to myself than Matt, but he takes it anyway.

"My choice of word would have been private, but, sure, let's go with mundane."

I give him an apologetic look. "The media has a way of exposing the worst in people and creating plenty of stories with it. It's just how it goes. Best to ignore it"—I pull the newspaper from Matt's hands and place it on the counter—"and move on with life."

"That may be all and well for you, Sam," he says tentatively as he grabs the newspaper again and looks it over, "but your father didn't ruin your life."

I open the door of the oven and pull out our french toast. If only he knew, I think.

"You can't honestly think that you're capable of hating them for the rest of your life," I say and put down the plate in the middle of the table. I grab some cutlery for the two of us as well as two plates and set our places.

"Of course I wouldn't waste my time and energy hating them for the rest of my life. That's way too long. I'll just hate them for the rest of theirs."

A laugh springs from my lips. "But they were just trying to help. They love you very much."

Matt takes a seat and while he may be pretending to read the articles, I know, just from his lack of movement in his eyes, that he's contemplating what I've said.

"Why don't we invite them over tonight, for dinner, all three of them?" I suggest after a moment. "We'll cook, we'll entertain, we'll clear the air."

"They're probably not able to make it. You know how busy they've been."

Making sure not to let him see, I roll my eyes. Really? Edie hasn't seen her son, whom she dotes on every single minute of the day, in over three weeks. She'll drop everything she's doing, no matter what it is, to find a spot next to her son's side again. I can count on it. And even if Matt's father is still angry, a mother's love for her child is nothing to go up against.

"Just give it a try," I say. "Give your mother a call and see if they can make it."

I am not shocked when they call back to say that they'll be here with bells on, though I am a little surprised that they end up arriving two hours before expected. Edie's pretty much thrown open the passenger door and jumped out while the car—driven by Arthur—has barely slowed down. And then she's running, hightailing it to the front door where she rings the doorbell and knocks at the same time. She isn't thrilled when I open the door. She barely says a word to me—Hello to you too—and bolts past me to find Matt in the living room. After a half an hour of catching up on Matt's life—where have you been? What have you been up to? Did you miss me?—Edie actually has enough self-control to pry herself from her son's side and helps me with dinner.

I know Matt's being distant tonight. He makes small talk with Chloe, who is usually more focused on her phone, and humours his mother with all of her questions. But he and his father haven't said much of anything. Like two peas in a pod. Both have their arms crossed over their chest, slouched in their seats, miserable with the world. I think the both of them are going to call it quits before Arthur saunters over to the piano and begins playing a tune.

"You two remember when we used to play at those parties we'd hold at home?" Arthur says, playing as if not needing to pay attention to where his fingers go. He's a natural. "I'd be on the piano—"

"—and, Matthew," Edie jumps in excitedly, "you'd come running down through the guests like a boy on Christmas morning with that toy guitar in your hands. You always wanted to be a star!"

While cringing slightly inwardly, I can see Matt on the other side of the room actually warming up to the memory.

"That's right," Arthur agrees and then glances over at Chloe. "And then years later you wanted to be a part of it and ended up banging pots and pans that you got from the kitchen."

As they continue going along Memory Lane, I grab a glass of wine and down it in one glug. It's not the cheesiness that has me going. It's the fact of how simple these people's problems are and who they care about. I know I want them to get back together so that I am another step closer to my own goal, but seeing them now all happy and cheery—Oh look! Matt's grabbed his guitar and has begun playing—ignites a flame in the pit of my stomach that I find rather difficult to ignore. Here I am trying to fight a continuous battle to save my family from the despicable ways of Paragon and these people don't have to say sorry or do anything other than bringing up a thing that happened years upon years ago when Matt and Chloe were cute and pinchable.

To say that I am thrilled when dinner is ready is more of an understatement than anything. It gives me time to stuff my face, yet it also gives me time to think about why I wanted these people back in my life so badly. Once again I remind myself that bringing this family back together right now will bring me one step closer to gaining access into Paragon, but still... Having to endure a night of them, forcing a smile on my face, listening to Edie prattle on about how great her son is. Maybe it's my lack of sleep these days or the tone I can't get out of my head of when I last spoke to Nathan... Either way, my impatience is getting the better of me.

After dinner, I suggest that Edie and Arthur come and try out the new hot tub Matt's just had installed. Both of them seem intrigued and hurry to the washroom to get changed.

"How are you doing?" I ask Matt who's just finished filling the dishwasher. I help him by tossing in a pod and starting it up. "They seem thrilled. The old gang's back together."

His eyebrows raise and then lower again. "I guess you could say that," he says. "You were right, Sam. They were just trying to help." He embraces me and then kisses me on the cheek.

"Ugh! Get a room, would you?" Chloe says, disgustedly as she walks into the kitchen to grab a pop from the fridge.

Matt disregards this. "Chloe, will you be joining us—"

"Uh, ew! I don't think so." She closes the door and cracks open her can. "Besides, Gossip TV's on in, like, ten minutes."

"Gossip TV?" I ask.

"Uh, yeah! It's a celebrity news show with the latest gossip on anybody worth talking about."

"Should be called Trash TV?" Matt mutters.

"Tell that to how many millions of viewers. Like, c'mon, Matt, you only don't like the show because it was their website that leaked Daddy's video about you weeks ago—"

"You have no idea, Chloe, about how vile that show is. They are still talking about me—"

Chloe makes a dismissive gesture with her hand. "O-M-G, old people problems much?" and she walks out of the room.

I can feel Matt's arms tense around me and I embrace him back. "Don't bother with her," I whisper to him and look him deep in the eyes. "She won't listen. Let her go." He goes to say something and I press a finger to his lips. "It's a girl thing."
 
As Matt heads out to the hot tub with his parents, I make my way to the washroom. I close the door behind me, lock it and turn on the loud fan. Pulling out my cell, I make the call and bring the phone to my ear.

"Yeah?" the voice on the other end picks up.

"Hey, Whitman, it's me."

"Ah, Deli, good! Checking to make sure everything is set?" He doesn't let me answer. "Well, worry no more, everything's been sent and we should be good to go."

"The—"

"Yup!"

"And the—"

"All done."

"Perfect," I say. "Then I guess we just watch and see what happens. Give me a call if anything changes." I'm about to hang up when—

"Hey, Deli, can I ask you something?"

"Sure, what is it?" There's silence on the other end of the line, though I can still hear Whitman breathing. "Whitman, I'm kind of on a tight schedule here."

"I know, it's just that I'm not usually one to pry into things and get into the backdraft—"

"Just say it," I tell him.

"Fine, Connie's acting really strange lately and I don't know if I should be taking it into account or if it's normal or..."

"Define strange."

"She's worrying a lot. She's stressed out of her mind—Yesterday, I think I actually heard her crying in the bathroom."

I sigh and rub the back of my neck. I don't doubt for a moment that what Whitman's said is the truth, even the part where Connie's been crying. We spoke about her opinion of the mission about a month ago, though I thought maybe she's started pulling herself around to what we had decided to do as a team.

"I can't say I haven't noticed," I say finally. "It's the reason why I chose you to mail in those files and not her. Connie is struggling to come to terms with what we're doing. I know and I have talked to her about all of it. But it's up to her to accept it."

"What should I do?" I can hear Whitman's empathy for Connie's wellbeing in his voice.

"Set up a meeting tomorrow night. Make sure everybody's there—Nathan, Connie, Jackie. We'll discuss what our plans are going forward and hopefully, everybody can come to peace with it."

I finish with Whitman, get changed and head out to the hot tub. While I make my way through the family room, I notice Gossip TV has started, Chloe all ready on the sofa. I leave the door open to the deck, hang my towel on one of the hangers and slip into the hot water with the others. Edie is still, still going on about Matt to the point where I don't think their conversation has gone anywhere since they showed up. I think of the moment I met her back at Matt's birthday party and how I was intimidated by her, how I'd hate to get on her bad side. But seeing her here, so desperate for her son's approval... Maybe I overestimated this woman's abilities.

"Mom...!" Chloe calls from the other room.

I glance over my shoulder to see the television. The words "BREAKING NEWS!" takes up most of the screen followed by a female anchor and Chloe's photo next to her.

"It seems the Hamming household struggles again to clean their slate and find purchase on a story-free lifestyle," the woman's voice coming from the flatscreen sounds as if through a tin can. "Weeks ago it was leaked that model and up and coming actor Matthew Hamming was paying for the gigs that he got."

I peek over at Matt whose face reddens with fury.

"But now it's time for somebody else to shine. It's been leaked that his little sister, Chloe Hamming, is actually adopted."

Edie and Arthur's faces both drain of colour at the same time and get to their feet. Neither of them can get out of the hot tub fast enough, and when their feet make contact with the deck, they slip and almost fall on their faces.

"Chloe Hamming's personal records were uploaded and shared worldwide this afternoon and after some investigating, Gossip TV can confirm that they're the real deal."

The family room turns into an uproar. Chloe's on her feet, screaming at the top of her lungs at her parents, questioning them between sobs yet not allowing either one of them to answer. Edie trying to calm her down, put a hand on her shoulder, get her to sit down, get her to listen, but Chloe just goes off again.

"First the cloak and dagger stuff with Matt and now this?" Chloe's like a freight train, ready to barrel over anything in her path, both physically and figuratively. "Who the hell are you people?"

"Chloe, that's no way to speak to us—"

"Oh shut up!" Chloe runs right on over Arthur, pushing past both him and Edie. "You're not even my real father! NEITHER OF YOU MEAN ANYTHING TO ME!" And from the hot tub, I watch Chloe run out of the room, followed by the front door slamming behind her.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E09: The Second Dose: part 1
« Reply #275 on: February 02, 2018, 07:51:50 PM »
I just wanted to thank everybody who has subscribed to Sims3storiestv. I use a specific email account for the blog and haven't looked at it for a while and saw how many people have started following me by email alone.  :)

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E10: The Second Dose: Part 2
« Reply #276 on: February 03, 2018, 09:19:19 PM »
Divine Deception
"The Second Dose: Part 2"


I keep silent as we drive. Matt and I have been searching for his sister all night and to no avail. Matt's keeping a cool exterior, his mother not so much. She's been texting and calling like mad since we broke up to find Chloe close to midnight when she failed to come home. I catch a glimpse of Matt in the corner of my eye. He's calm, collected. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought we were just on some Sunday morning drive. But we aren't and even if he hides behind his mask, I can see that there's a hint of worry in his eyes. I don't comment on it. Partly because I haven't a clue what I should say. Everything that needed to be said I told him during the late hours of the night before the sun decided to rise and what I may have missed is but matter, particles of empty space.

By ten o'clock, we decide, more out of desperation than anything, that maybe Chloe is hanging out with friends at the local fairgrounds. I park the car and Matt's already walking down into the festival before I've put the car in park. I unbuckle my seatbelt, get out and chase after him, my eye peeled for any familiar blondes that look like Chloe.

"She's got to be somewhere," I hear Matt mumble under his breath once I make it to his side.

"Stop blaming yourself," I say softly, bring up a hand and taking his.

"No, it's not my fault, it's theirs," Matt tells me. "Once again Ma and Pa screw over this family with their lies."

I go silent after that and we decide to split up and search the grounds alone.

I feel for Matt, though I can't completely agree with him. His parents may have been keeping a big secret from Chloe, but I was the one who unleashed it.

After the success of getting Matt out of the media spotlight, I tried to turn the shining beam onto Chloe instead. Greedy, sure, but unsuccessful? Not in the slightest. Revealing to the world that Chloe was adopted was my way of putting some distance between the media and Matt.

I stop at the pie eating contest right as the buzzer goes off and four women slam their faces into blueberry and raspberry pies. The last special day I spent with my mother forms in my mind's eye and my body succumbs to a feeling of loneliness.

I had other reasons for exposing Chloe, of course. To pull away mother and daughter, to throw a wrench into that relationship, one that I was refused all those years ago. And I won't deny that it felt good, but that wasn't my prime goal, and Chloe running off was hardly something I expected to happen.

"She's home!" Matt calls from behind me. I wipe the tear that's begun to run down my cheek and turn to him. "Mom just called and Chloe's finally come home."

"That's great news."

Matt gives me a look. "Are you okay?"

"Just... tired. My emotions are getting the better of me." I glance back at the pie eating once more. "My mother and I came to things like this when I was younger. She was more into hotdog eating contests," I tell him with a chuckle. "Just... hit me hard is all."

Matt grabs my hand and gives it a squeeze. "She sounds like an awesome woman."

"The best. I just hope she's looking down on me and understands why I doing what I am."

"I'm sure she's extremely proud of you, Samantha."

I smile cheerlessly as we make it back to the car. Sometimes I wonder if she is happy with my decisions or if she's disappointed that I'm following in her own footsteps even after witnessing everything she had lost.

As we walk into Matt's parents' house back in Appaloosa Plains, I can hear Arthur yelling. From what Matt's guessed, he's probably been lecturing Chloe since the moment she stepped foot back into the house.

When I look past him into the family room, I spot Chloe sitting on the sofa, legs crossed, arms over her chest, anger blossoming on her face. She is not happy and I don't blame her. I think back to the night Vita told me about Sadie.

"ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?" Arthur bellows out of nowhere that even I start.

"Arthur, calm down!" Edie tells him. She's gotten to her feet and now stands in front of him, holding his hands in an attempt to bring the house back to some form of orderly fashion. "The neighbours are going to hear you!"

"BUGGER THE NEIGHBOURS!"

"Arthur!" Edie snaps.

"No, don't tell me to calm down. We've been up all night worrying and she's acting like some ungrateful brat—"

"What? Do you regret choosing me?" Chloe hops to her feet, tears streaking down her cheeks. She doesn't let Arthur—he looks like he's been struck hard in the head with shock by her tone—answer before plowing on. "Well, I guess that makes two of us!"

"That's not what he meant!" Edie tries to stop Chloe, but she's already up the stairs and in her room. The door slams shut behind her with a loud bang. "Oh you've done it now, Arthur."

Ding Dong.

Arthur gives Edie a wave of his hand, a dismissal, and heads out of the room to get the door. Edie stands there, looking as if she's about to burst into tears.

"She'll come to her senses, Mrs. Hamming," I say. It's all I can do not to allow the tension in the air to consume the whole room. Edie wavers in front of me and I add, "She's just in a lot of shock, I think we all are, but I'm sure she'll come around and see how much you really—"

"Look who decided to drop by," Arthur chimes in, cutting me off as he makes his way back into the foyer. A woman follows him in, and not just a woman, a stunning woman.

She has an hourglass figure, long flowing locks the colour of night and a face only supermodels dream of having. I can feel my lips curling as she strides into the room like she owns the joint, her flawless skin sparkling in the light, no signs of age or even a blemish. I have no clue who this woman is, but there is something about her I don't like, even with looks aside. How Arthur prides himself on her appearance, to relieve himself of the daggers Edie was staring at him with earlier or maybe it's the fact that just because this new girl shows up, we are expected to drop whatever we were doing before.

"Alannah!" Edie squeals next to me, pushing me out of the way like I'm some old rag. She dashes for the newcomer and throws her arms around her, embracing her while she sputters in tears and laughter. Tears and laughter? All I've gotten from this woman since I started dating Matt has been a simple hello and a frosty smile, and that's on the best of days.

"Oh Matty-kins!" Alannah says once Edie peels away from her. Alannah's arms are up, ready to take on her next victim and while Matt may not have moved forward to take up the offer, somehow her arms have wrapped around his torso like a vice and begins softly, almost seductively, exploring. I watch in horror—I am completely in awe by what is going on in front of my very eyes. This can't be happening. Who the hell is she?

As she pulls away from Matt and looks at the others—turning her back on me might I add—I spot half a tattoo that looks oddly familiar, though I struggle to remember where exactly I've seen it before.

"My goodness, we weren't expecting you," Edie says, wiping away a tear. "I'll make a pot of coffee. Still two cream, one sweetener, dear?"

While I can see in the mirror that I'm being successful in keeping my emotions in check, it's like a rock has plummeted to the bottom of my gut. Edie loves this girl, anybody could see it and I know for a fact that this is not some long-lost daughter the family keeps hidden from the world.

"Well, this is awkward," Matt says, offering to take my jacket. "Alannah, I'd like you to meet my girlfriend, Samantha. Honey, this is my..."

Matt struggles to find the softest word for what they are that I end up becoming impatient and say it for him.

"Another girlfriend of yours?" I say it like a joke that I find too true to be funny.

"Oh, I wish!" Alannah giggles, giving Matt's cheek a quick caress and taking a seat at the table. "We just wanted different things at different times in our life."

"So an ex," I say more to myself. That's not to say that Alannah hears me. We spend time talkng about their relationship. How they met, how long they stayed together and how they broke up. All of which seems a little too fictional for my liking, or maybe I don't want to believe that they met in a Paris photoshoot under the Eiffel Tower. Or that they almost got married. Or that they broke up, promising to stay as friends and actually do it.

"My gosh, you remember that time at the Boardwalk on the rollercoaster?" she says excitedly. I can see from the way Matt's face reddens that he'd rather I not hear it, but she goes on nonetheless. "So it's one of the coldest days and the park's pretty much empty—"

"We paid to have it to ourselves!" Edie calls from the kitchen.

"—and of course the rollercoaster craps out when it's just the two of us on it"—she pinches Matt's cheek and it rubs me the wrong way—"and we're way up there and the crew are taking their sweet time getting it fixed. We're freezing our butts off and it's snowing and we're shivering. I think we're about to die—"

"It wasn't that cold," Matt clarifies.

"You didn't think that then. So I think we're about to die," Alannah repeats herself, "and so I suggest that we use each other's body heat to keep warm. I end up getting pretty much all my clothes off before this one gets his jakcet open. Would have thought it was his first time." She takes a deep breath and stares into the distance as if reimagining the memory. "Once his shirt is off I end up in his arms, chest against chest and his jacket tight around both of us."

"And then the crew came!"

Alannah shoots Matt a look. "Not before we were done. Honestly, I think they just waited until we were ready to be saved, if you know what I mean."

I shudder at the thought but keep a smile plastered on my face. "Like a fairy tale."

The next two hours are much the same. Special story after story. I want to pull Matt away and ask him if he still has feelings for this woman because it is very obvious by the way she acts that she very much likes him. What with all the special stories and I don't think Alannah has looked at anything other than Matt's face since we sat down. I won't lie. I think I've rolled my eyes so far back into my head that I've actually watched brain cells die. And the laughing. She's been pretty much laughing since she arrived.

Alannah gets up from her seat. "Well I should be going," she says. She gives Edie a hug and is walked to the front door. I grab my coat. I should be leaving as well, though I get a feeling Edie isn't going to give a da*n about that. Alannah says her goodbyes, pecks Matt on the cheek and leaves.

"She is some girl," he says.

"Oh yeah," and I leave as well.

My drive home is uneventful. The temperature has started dropping and flurries begin to fall from the sky. About halfway home I remember that last night I asked Whitman to contact everybody and ask them over to our place to discuss the mission at hand. My eyes sting and I have this deepening desire to call the whole meeting off. I haven't slept, I am frustrated and I have this feeling that Alannah's drop in wasn't the last I will see of her. I choose to swallow my negativity instead. Everybody changed their schedules for this meeting. Best if I don't screw it up.

I get home half an hour later. When I open the door, Nathan is right there to welcome me.

"Deli, you're home—"

I wrap my arms around him and kiss him hard. His soft lips don't move for a moment and then finally he kisses me back. It feels so good to be in his arms, to hear his voice. To be called Deli and not Samantha. He embraces me, holds me so tight that I don't ever want to let go. He has no idea how much I have missed him.

We finally part and he leads me to the living room. I take a seat on the table and he sits right in front of me on the sofa. I don't turn my gaze away from him. I don't want to stop looking at him.

"Are you okay?" he asks me.

"It's been a day," I say and he asks me what happened and I tell him.

I tell him everything from Matt's ex showing up and their whole affair and how yesterday morning I wanted to get the Hammings back together for the sake of the misison, but it seems somehow my aura got more Hammings than I expected.

"And then once I was able to tear that bond between mother and daughter apart, we were sent into this whirlwind. It just came so fast after that."

"You forced it?"

I look over my shoulder. Connie has stopped midstride on her way to the kitchen and glares at me. I try to ask her what she means, but she's beaten me to the punch.

"You destroyed a child's relationship with her parents, her family? Why?"

I give her a look of uncertainty. "Because we needed to get Matt out of the spotlight. By dragging him out and forcing her in, Matt's become yesterday's news."

"And you couldn't have found a different way? Deli, you tore a hole in a family's tapestry, you hurt a young girl!"

I can see from where I sit that Connie's emotions are stirring closer to the surface. I know she's been dealing with a lot lately. She's been uncertain about a lot that's happened especially after Sean's death, and yet her ability to question me rubs me the wrong way. I get up from my seat as she continues.

"Deli, I thought we were trying to gain access to into Paragon, not this... this... cruelty."

"We are, but this way I have nailed two birds with one stone. I'm closer than ever to the Hammings—chasing their daughter to the ends of the earth to make sure she's okay means something—and they have less reason to question my love for their son."

"And the other bird?"

I sigh. "She deserved to know."

I watch as Connie's eyes round in both confusion and sadness.

"What?"

"Chloe deserved to know the truth. There should never have been a secret to break free in the first place. Something like that would hurt a girl if it came out at a time her parents believed was right. The sooner the better."

"You don't think she's hurt now?"

"Oh she's devastated," I say matter-of-factly, "on the edge of her breaking point. But she's not nearly as hurt as she would be when Edie and Arthur finally gathered the courage to break it to her. If anything, I did them all a favour."

"I can't believe I'm hearing this from you," Connie mutters as she looks me up and down. I spot rage, real rage in her eyes and I think I spot maybe even pity. "SHE'S NOT YOU AND EDIE'S NOT VITA!"

"I never said she was," I bite back, my own anger coming to my defense. "This is what Master Lee taught us—"

"This isn't what Master Lee taught us—"

"This is exactly what Master Lee taught us, you were just too blind to see it!" My anger is getting the better of me and I can feel it bubbling like acid at the back of my throat. But I don't hold back. "This is as simple as destruction gets. Make the wrongdoers pay and set life's scale even again!"

Jackie arrives with William, probably to figure out what all the ruckus is about, yet neither of us, Connie or myself, pay her any attention or try to tone it down.

Connie pulls back, visibly offended. Tears streak her cheeks in thick streams and the will that I used to have to coddle Connie and tell her everything is going to be okay is long gone.

"If this is how you want to run this then I don't want to be a part of this thing of yours anymore, Deli."

My jaw tightens. "Then leave," I say. "I'm not holding any of you against your will. If you want to go, there's the door. Don't let me hold you back."

Connie, even while crying, laughs coldly, dismissively, and walks out.



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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E11: Blindsided
« Reply #277 on: February 25, 2018, 10:43:54 AM »
Divine Deception
"Blindsided"


As in life, destruction can become messy if organization isn't a top priority. Yet both would be a much simpler feat if our brains could communicate with our hearts and allow a friendly cooperation that didn't leave us out in left field. Because when we are left out in the open, struggling to find purchase on the path our heart wants to go, we end up getting hit out of nowhere only able to ask ourselves where it all came from.

Matt holds me tight in his arms as we watch the sunrise. We sit in silence just listening to the sound of the water, the singing of the birds, even our own breaths. The cold spell that we were under for the last few weeks has broken and Autumn has returned, sweater weather among us again.

I rest my head on Matt's chest, listening to his heartbeat and feeling his warm breath tickle my neck and ear. As the sun is just peeking over the horizon, I get a glimpse of Connie in my mind's eye. She was such a nature lover and sunrises were things she made sure she caught at least once a week. I still haven't heard from her since that night a few weeks ago. I've called her, left voice messages and even sent her a few texts, but I've gotten nothing in response, and something tells me that I won't be hearing from her in a long time.

Matt moves around behind me and moves his hand so that it is right in front of my face. Palm up, I spot the diamond ring glittering in the golden light.

"What is this?" is what I want to say, but nothing comes out from my mouth other than a squeaky sound I have no other description for. Matt's gotten up from the bench and kneels down in front of me, taking my hand in his. My mind knows what he is doing, I've seen this happen in countless romance films, television shows, books, but to experience it right here and now, it makes absolutely no sense.

"Samantha, honey—"

"What are you doing?" I am finally able to say, cutting cleanly across him.

He puts up a hand to silence me. "I know our time together has been a short one and in that time we have done a lot. And in that short amount of time, I have come to the realization of how much I love you."

"Matt—"

He raises his hand again. "You're not here for my money. My family, as crazy as they are, hasn't forced you to run down the road in an attempt to save your sanity. Spending all of that night to help find my sister, who I know isn't the kindest of girls out there... With everything that's gone on, you're still here and that means the world to me. That also made it very clear how much we love each other."

"But—"

"You are perfect and I'd be honoured, so privileged if you accepted this proposal to be my wife."

A smile tickles the corners of my lips, though I am able to stifle the chuckle that follows. He has to be joking. We haven't known each other for very long, how can he know that we are meant to be? A part of me wants to think that he wants to marry me as some dig at his parents, especially his mother just to say that he's a grown man, that he can make his own decisions without Edie interfering.

But as I look at his face, look into those grey eyes of his, I know deep down he means every word he's saying. He truly loves me and wants me to be his wife not as some sick joke or a way to break free from his mother's grasp. But because he wants to spend the rest of his life with me.

Tight, unbreakable knots of unpleasant emotions like fear, anxiety and confusion twist the way from my rib cage all the way down to the pit of my stomach. Dead cold dread plummets down to my toes and it's as if a block of ice has been slammed into my shoulders. Marry him? My ears are pulsing with blood so loud that I don't hear him, though I can read his lips when he asks me for my hand.

Suddenly my feet and legs are moving of their own accord. "I can't do this," I say and I am on my feet. I listen to Matt who questions me as I walk back to my car. He's asking me what's wrong, what's going on. I can hear in his voice alone how upset he is, yet I don't answer any of his questions. The knots in my stomach attach to something else, a hatred for myself.

I glance over my shoulder once I stop hearing Matt's shuffling footsteps behind me. He's leaning up against a wooden structure, his face buried, but even so, I can see how much I've upset him.

"I'm sorry," I whisper to him even if I know he won't hear a word. He's dropped to the sandy ground, looking at the glowing sun like we were supposed to be doing and I make it to my car. I unlock it and get inside like a robot, my legs and arms moving so sharply and infused with tension that I don't even realize that I have cuts in the palms of my hands from my nails digging in. I start the car up, get back on the main road and then I am driving, driving where? I don't have a clue because my mind is swimming with questions and emotions and I can't for the life of me focus on one thing. I may have just ruined everything we have all put together. Connie was the beginning of this crap ball and the simplest of things I have ever had to do—Just say yes!—may have just turned into the finishing blow.

***

"And then right there he asks me out of the blue!" I say to Nathan as I stare out at Bridgeport.

Somehow I managed to get home. I didn't arrive because this was where I wanted to end up. Somehow, my robotic limbs went into their own control and decided this was the safest place for me. Thankfully, nobody was home when I arrived. Well, other than Nathan. But nobody else. No Jackie, no Whitman, not even William. I don't want anybody to see me like this, not now. I'm shaking uncontrollably and I have this strong feeling that I need to keep moving because if I don't something is actually going to hit me.

"I don't know what I am doing anymore," I babble. "I mean, I thought I did, but who could have seen marriage coming so early on? I wanted to get close to the family, sure, hell, maybe marriage if it was down the road, I don't know. How was I supposed to see that coming?"

"Deli—"

I can hear Nathan and know he wants to say something to me, but I need, just need to get this out if my system. "And the worst part is, all I can see, all I have seen since I said no to Matt, is my father asking my mother to marry him and Sadie having no problem with it. She said yes like it was nothing and it didn't matter what she felt inside, on the outside, she probably looked like this perfect destroyer able to worm her way into the Alto family. I can see it, I can see it! Yet here I am, the same thing happens to me and why does it feel like a tornado has met with a volcano?"

"Deli," Nathan says again and this time I don't prattle on over him. I've worked myself into a sweat and I am sure my face may slowly be turning blue.

I turn around and see Nathan sitting on one of the patio chairs. He must have gotten tired of listening to me rage because the last time I saw him he was standing and at the edge of the pool. How long have I been going off for?

"Why are you getting so upset? Isn't this what you wanted?" he asks me and there's a part of me that wants to take his head off for him. Hasn't he been listening to me? But I choose not to. I'm sure I sound like a blubbering mental patient and while I may know what I am thinking and saying, probably Nathan can't understand most of what has come out of my mouth.

I take a deep breath. "I wanted to get close to the family, yes, but marriage... It's not something that really crossed my mind. And there Matt was and asks me out of nowhere. How is a girl supposed to react to that?"

Nathan smirks as he gets down on his one knee and takes my hand.

"Oh, bloody hell, not you too." I am meant to say it under my breath, but it comes out in full force. Nathan doesn't get upset, though. He just laughs it off as he pulls a little black box from his trouser pocket.

"Delilah Lawrence, I know how much we've been struggling lately and how this personal mission has been a challenge, but I want you to know how much I love you. We have been through a lot of heavy work, we've seen each other in our best and our worst and we have a beautiful son together. And there is nothing I want more than to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?"

A different handful of emotions spring through my body. Happiness, ease and love to name a few. The tightly wound knots in my stomach have been soothed away and as Nathan lightly squeezes my hand, I can't do anything but say, "Yes, yes, Nathan, I will marry you."

Nathan slips the ring on my finger and pulls me into a loving embrace, one that is miles ahead of anything Matt has ever done for me. Nathan kisses me and I can feel tears streaking down my face. I'm sure I look like a mess, that this isn't what we should be looking back on in the years and years to come.

"And what should I do about Matt?" I ask, wiping my face with the sleeve of my sweater. Nathan tilts my chin up so that we are looking each other in the eyes.

"Marry the S.O.B. and finish this. That way we can be together, all of us, as a family."

"You don't think I'm crazy?"

Nathan grins. "I knew there was always something off about you since the moment we met. And I've never loved you more."

I make it across town to Matt's house and give the front door a knock. I tried calling him and sending him texts, getting him hasn't been an easy feat, however. All calls go straight to voicemail and texts never get a reply. It seems Connie isn't the only one I have offended as of late. Maybe I can mend this broken fence before it's too late, though.

The door opens and the moment the light hits his face, I know he's still angry with me. How can't he be? He put everything he had on the line for me and I ran off. His following words struggle to change my thoughts.

"What do you want?"

"I deserve that," I say. Matt doesn't say anything to disagree or make me feel better and I don't expect him to. "I am sorry for running off this morning. I was caught off guard and scared and..." I stop making the excuse and go straight to putting brand new planks back on the fence posts. "Yes, Matthew Hamming, yes, I will marry you."

I expect that he is going to slam the door in my face or tell me off again, make a joke, laugh in my face, I don't know. My judgment has been a little off lately. So when Matt takes me in his arms and kisses me, I am a little taken aback. He's kissing me hard, his arms around me like a vice and I can taste the alcohol on his lips. I don't hold back. I kiss him back, pushing him into the house and kicking the door closed behind me. I push him away for a moment, just enough time to pull off my coat and reveal a special piece of lingerie that I bought just for this moment. I observe Matt, his face brightening like a little boy on Christmas morning. The moment my coat hits the floor, he's next to me, his arms around my body and he's kissing me. He's kissing my lips, my neck, my collarbone. My hair is pulled out from my ponytail and red locks shuffle down to my shoulders.

Somehow, I don't even know how we managed to do it, we end up in Matt's bedroom, my legs wrapped around him. I have pulled his shirt off, unbuttoning it in one quick yank. It drops to the floor and Matt spins me and we fall until my back hits the soft surface of his mattress. I gasp, the most air I've gotten since I stepped foot inside and Matt is crawling on top of me. Even for how warm his chest is as it glides over mine, it still has the ability to send a shiver up my spine. My hands run through his silky brown hair as he focuses on my neck. We both slip off the edge of the bed but neither of us separate. We're on the floor and he's again on top of me and I just stare at the ceiling, reminded that the fence I thought was once broken has been fixed and that finally my heart and brain are trying to work together. I close my eyes and think about Nathan.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E11: Blindsided
« Reply #278 on: April 22, 2018, 08:13:38 PM »
Hey guys,

I am coming back soon. Since the mid-season break, I have been piecing everything together and just need to add the finishing touches.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E12: Engage
« Reply #279 on: June 10, 2018, 11:54:52 AM »
Divine Deception
"Engage"


When I was young, the word engage meant one thing and one thing only: to marry. As little girls, from the moment the word engage comes into our lives we fixate on every detail that has any relevance to our perfect day—I'd spent hours, days, weeks, years. The biggest flowers my petite hands could carry, Vita's makeup slathered on my innocent face and mounds and mounds of jewelry I'd snuck from Vita's music box—cheap, brittle plastic to fine gold. Anything that could prepare me for the day that changes my life for the very best. Yet as I get older, engage now has a different meaning. It means to move forward, and as the days pass me, I find that while the trek can be more than difficult sometimes, the best thing is to keep pressing forward in hopes of finding complete happiness.

Matt stumbles across the wood floor and I wake with a jerk. He's at the end of the bed, having just done up his pants and is now putting on a pair of socks. His back is to me.

"Where are you going?" I ask him.

"Out."

A cool breeze comes through the open window and I pull the blanket closer to my body. "We have the engagement photo shoot this afternoon. You didn't forget, did you?"

"No, I'll be there." His voice is tight, tense. His frustration comes in full tilt as he hauls on his socks that struggle to slide up his damp feet. A hole tears in his heel. "Just my luck!"

Watching him yank it off and toss it on the floor, my eyes venture to the tattoo on his back. I've been pondering it for some days now, though for the life of me I haven't been able to put a finger on where I've seen it before. Now it hits me.

"Where are you going anyway?"

"Out I said."

I was hoping he'd have let on where exactly. Matt's been especially secretive lately and I don't like it. And now knowing where I saw that tattoo before... Alannah has the same one on her back. I bite the inside of my lip before Matt turns and pecks me on the cheek.

"I won't be late, I promise," he tells me and leaves the room. Moments later, I hear the front door open and close again.

***


I make it to the photo shoot with much time to spare. Men and women are at my beck and call. One hands me my dress—it's not my wedding dress, but it is going to be today!—and tells me to get ready in a nearby tent where a stylist is going to do my hair and makeup. I get changed as fast as I can. It seems that since I've arrived people are telling me I'm not moving fast enough. The director—Maggie something—is rather snarky for a woman who is getting a crap ton of money and I am reminded time and time again about how she's one of the best in the industry. Stars line up for months in advance to book her and that I should be so grateful that Matt managed to get her on such short notice.

"Speaking of which, where is he?" she snaps, looking back and forth from her watch to her phone.

My stylist has just finished with my makeup and tells me that I am ready for action. "Why don't I give him a call?" I say and leave the tent.

"Make sure he knows that we are on a strict schedule, Samantha. I don't have time for this nonsense. He should know better! And make sure none of the paparazzi are creepin' around. This photoshoot is my exclusive!"

I give her a wave—I want to give her something else, honestly—and make it out to the quiet of the forest. I call his number and he doesn't answer. Actually, upon my second attempt, he declines it. One ring and then cut off? I don't have an easy feel in my stomach. I felt it when he left this morning and I've been feeling it since the moment I met his old girlfriend. Was he at Alannah's right now? I run my hand along the back of my neck as the thought nags at me.

I notice movement up ahead behind a line of trees. I have to actually force myself from rolling my eyes and sighing heavily. Paparazzi are annoying even if they are just doing what their jobs entail, but here, out here in the middle of nowhere, how far are they going to follow us? I can already hear Snarkypants inside bickering in my ear if one of these rats gets past me.

"This lot is off limits," I say as the man steps into view. I trace him with my eyes as something doesn't seem right. He's decked out in a tuxedo, freshly pressed and he's lacking a camera of any kind. I don't let that pull me up short. I of all people know cameras are the size of walnuts now. He could just be hiding one in his pocket or maybe it's small enough to carry on a ring. I close the space between us.

As I do, the more I can see. He's rather tall, a few inches taller than me. Actually, he's the same height as Matt. I feel my eyebrows narrow on their own, shading the hint of confusion in my eyes.

"Matt?" I finally say. I'm feet from him now and I can see his grey eyes and the way they crinkle when he smiles at me. "You got your hair cut."

He takes my hands in his. "Well, I didn't want to ruin the surprise."

This must have been where he went so early this morning. He'd gone to get cleaned up, not headed over to Alannah's. A nagging voice at the back of my brain reminds me that he could have done both—how long does a haircut really take?—but I refuse to listen to it. I'm just happy he's here.

"I didn't think you were coming," I mumble partly under my breath.

Before Matt can answer, the sound of rushing footsteps through the long grass catches both of our attention.

"Are you two about ready?" Glancing over my shoulder, I spot Snarkypants. "Our time is limited and while you may have all the time in the world, Mr. Hamming, I follow a schedule of precise structure if you catch my drift."

Matt pulls me to his side, his arm around my shoulders in a protective gesture. "Of course, Margarette. I'm terribly sorry. You know how traffic out of the city can be this time of day."

Snarkypants doesn't fall for Matt's boyish charm. "Let's get this started then. The two of you, over there." She points at the open of a line of trees.

"Keep your hands held, I like that," she continues as we all get closer to the marker. Men and women with cameras, lights and other things I don't have names for, follow suit right behind her. When she stops, they all come to a halt and when she moves, they are all hightailing it behind her.

"Here?" Matt asks. There's a little green sticker on the grass that the crew must have placed earlier. "This marker, Margarette?"

"Yes, yes," she tells him, her patience beginning to wear thin. "If you had been here on time, you would know this. I want the two of you to talk from that marker to the other one a few feet ahead of you."

I notice another green sticker five feet away.

"Okay, good, now, Samantha, dear, look over your shoulder at the camera and smile—happy, happy, happy—like you've just hit the jackpot. Beautiful. Oh, for goodness sake, Matt. You're a model! Loosen up a bit. Stop being so rigid and let it come naturally!"

We walk the line from marker to marker for what feels like a hundred times and finally we are told that we can move on to the next stage.

The location is filled with an assortment of props brought my Snarkypants and her crew. From swings to loveseats and heart-shaped pillows and rose petals. Snarkypants leads us to a swinging loveseat first.

"C'mon, c'mon, we don't have all day," she pesters me as I struggle to walk across the soft grass in my heels. It must have rained last night because each step I take, I sink a bit lower into the ground. "It's supposed to rain again this evening and we don't want to be caught in that, do we?"

I try to go quicker and I trip over my dress. I am falling, hands splayed out to protect anything I can once I hit the ground. I can already hear Snarkypants ranting and raving about what a useless mule I am and how my falling is going to disrupt her whole schedule. Matt throws open his arms and I fall into them.

"That was pure gold, Samantha!" Snarkypants shrieks from behind me in excitement. "Ah! Mistakes can be such amazing things and we got every shot of it!"

We've made it to the loveseat and take our seats.

"That's what we want, you two," she goes on. "Stop pretending to be in love. Be in love. Smiles are just smiles. I want to see the emotion behind them or else what good are they?"

Matt goes to saw something, but Snarkypants stops him by lifting her hand.

"Rhetorical, Mr. Hamming. Now, get close to each other and look at each other in the eyes."

"I want you to think about that moment when you looked at each other and thought that they were the person you loved. That you knew this was the person you wanted to marry. I want you to think about that. C'mon, do it!"

I turn to look into Matt's grey eyes. For a moment I see him at the beach, the sunset behind him and the chilly air around us. When he had asked me to marry him and I couldn't help but think it was all a joke. I am looking at those same eyes again now. This time, however, I am not running away. I am not dashing back to my car and racing off back home.

As if by magic, Nathan's face morphs onto Matt's head and I am staring at him instead. I can hear his voice again.

"Marry the S.O.B. and finish this. That way we can be together, all of us, as a family."

"There it is," Snarkypants says as the cameras are clicking away like mad. "That's the emotion we are looking for, the real love that is going to make these pictures something to remember."

As we are led to the final marker, I ask Matt, "So, is your hair why you are late?"

Matt shrugs. "It's part of it."

That nagging gut feeling comes back and I regret bringing Matt's lateness back up again.

"I also went over to my parents to tell them the good news."

Snarkypants points repeatedly at the green sticker at the back of a towering tree. "These photos are more physical. We want love--hell, we want lust. We want passion between the two fo you. Not to the point that you're ripping each other's clothes off but something that hints to it. I want you two to hold each other and kiss and fall for one another again and again and again."

"Did it go well?" I ask Matt, ignoring Snarkypants. I put both my hands around his neck and as if on cue, he puts his hands on my hips.

"It could have gone better," Matt says with a  chuckle. It's not a cheerful chuckle, though and for some reason, I can't figure out, I am actually surprised. I shouldn't be. This marriage was as much a shock to me. I can only imagine what his family is thinking back home.

"Could have gone better?" I urge him.

"Closer, you two!" Snarkypants goes off again. "I want to feel this!"

Both Matt and I disregard her. I can sense that she's getting annoyed again, but the cameras are clicking manically so that's a good sign.

"It's nothing."

I shake my head in disagreement. "It's not nothing, Matt. We are partners now and we shouldn't have secrets between us."

"Well, let's just say that my mother didn't take the news well," he says and I can feel his grip behind tighter on my hips as if urging me, holding me from getting fed up and leaving. I have no inclination of leaving, or that I believed Edie would take the news no other way.

In my mind's eye, I can see her, bickering and lecturing Matt about what a terrible idea it is to marry somebody he's just met. That I am all wrong for him and maybe that Alannah is perfect. Hell, they even have matching tattoos! But it's her expression that seems to burn in the back of my brain. Edie's expression turning stony as Matt tells her the news. How her crows feet are the only cracks in her otherwise hard exterior. That I am the demon girl trying to steal her precious boy from her loving arms. Jackie told me this family was going to be hard to break into, but I never expected this.

"You're upset," Matt says, more as an assumption than a question.

Yes and no, but I shake my head regardless. "All I care about is you, and if your mother can't see that then that's how it is." Between us, we share a grim look of understanding.

It begins to pour rain. Thunder claps behind thick rolling clouds and a flash of lightning gets Snarkypants and her crew antsy.

"That's it for today!" she says before ordering her crew to clean up their things and load it back into their truck.

Matt still holds me in his concerningly frank gaze. "Then that's how it is because all I care about is you too." He lifts me into his arms and kisses me. This isn't a kiss like for the photoshoot, though. This kiss had love and emotion in it. Like we are unbreakable. Too bad that Snarkypants couldn't be here now, shooting away. She'd get everything she ever wanted.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E13: Pure, White and Limited Lace
« Reply #280 on: June 28, 2018, 01:35:45 PM »
Divine Deception
"Pure, White and Limited Lace"


I make a turn onto the road that leads me to Edie's house with caution. I've only travelled to Appaloosa Plains a handful of times, namely to meet up with Matt and his family, though now I've come to terms with how much the weather differs from home. Winter has been tiptoeing into autumn's throne, yet while Bridgeport has been trickled with small snowflakes that melt the moment they touch the ground, here it seems they weren't so lucky. Drifts hedge along the sidewalks and my tires fight me if I hit the gas a little too hard.

It has a way of making me smirk, though. The closer I get to Edie and Arthur's house, the colder it gets. I imagine that Edie's summoning this cold weather by her own bitterness. From what I heard a week ago, she wasn't at all impressed with Matt's decision to propose to me. I can't say I'm shocked by this. If anything, I should have expected worse. Edie sitting outside the house, angry, making it snow like she's some lost sour ice queen from the Himalayan mountains...

I park in the driveway and make my way to the front door. Maybe we can all keep it civil today at least. It's dress fitting day and this is supposed to be the day the women bond.

Bond, I ponder as I knock on the door. If any of us can hit a bonding moment, I will take it as a win. We haven't even left the property and there is already some tension. Exclude me from the situation for a moment and there is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Chloe is supposed to come with us to the fitting to get herself measured up and let's just say that getting her to agree to come took a lot of convincing. Chloe and I have never been one to see eye to eye, though it's not my presence that bothers her. From what Matt told me, Chloe hasn't been very friendly to her mother since she learned that she was adopted.

I knock on the door again and wait.

I can't say I blame the poor girl, a lot has been thrown at her in such little time, but sometimes the best a teen can get is some humble pie.

I get impatient and tired of waiting and head inside on my own. The moment I close the door behind me, I hear a fit of laughter. In that moment, my fists ball up and my knuckles turn white. I know that laugh. I don't even need to see her face to know that she's there and when I take a step into the dining room, my assumptions all come together.

Alannah.

Alannah and Edie are having coffees, chatting away like they still haven't seen me. Edie makes complete eye contact with me and disregards me, prattling on about mundane things. Things like the women at her book club and what they were wearing or something like that.

My jaw sets on its own painfully, but I don't succumb to it. I just stare at Alannah, trying to understand why she's there. Oh I know why she's there. Oh do I ever! Nobody's said a thing and I can already hear the words coming out of Edie's mouth. That she has more important things to do today, that maybe we should reschedule the fitting. Alannah's isn't supposed to be here, yet here she is, like a tourist, ready to muck the day all up.

"Purple with blue?" Alannah goes on, chuckling through her words like Edie's said a gut-busting joke. She's almost as corny as bad theatre.

"Oh, Samantha, you're here," Edie says, her lips still to her coffee cup. She brings it down. "Good morning."

"Good morning," I try to say cheerfully, but I struggle as smouldering the edge of my tone.

"Alannah, you remember Samantha," Edie says, motioning towards me.

"Ah yes, Matthew's girlfriend."

"Actually..." I raise my hand and wiggle the diamond ring in the light. Even as the reflections dance across Alannah's face, I watch her expression darken. I get giddy. I can't help it.

Edie pipes up immediately. "Yes, see, Alannah, you've been out of town for a while so you wouldn't know that Matthew proposed a couple of weeks ago." She turns her attention back to me. "Samantha, I thought we were meeting at the boutique at ten."

I cock an eyebrow. "No, we agreed that I would pick you up and it's ten now."

I hear footsteps upstairs and then Chloe is coming down.

"Oh, I am so sorry," Edie begins, getting up from her seat. "I'm sure you can understand how it may have gotten lost in translation." She glances back at Alannah. "You should come too. I'm sure Samatha here wouldn't mind and we'd love to have your company. Wouldn't we, dear?"

I smile and nod, but I don't say anything. I say good morning to Chloe and head outside, straight for my car and wait.

And so it begins.

The drive to the wedding shop is a silent one. I am left alone with my own thoughts—frustration, second guesses and analyzing—since Alannah offered to drive Edie and Chloe in her Range Rover. Since there wouldn't be enough in my car for all of them, I just got in and drove off. I just hope they have the intuition to make it to our destination. I can't help but feel that they'll drive off somewhere else completely and say how they got lost and wanted to make use of a wasted day.

To say the least, I am surprised when they pull up behind me and park. I get out of my car and meet them as they huddle under the overhang at the main entrance.

"Ugh, where the hell are we anyway?" Edie mumbles to Alannah just loud enough for me to overhear. "Is this neighbourhood even safe? I thought we'd be going to New Bride Boutique not this sham of a place. There's a beautiful store in the village owned by one of the very best designers."

Alannah's eyes light up. "Markee? On the corner of Third?" She doesn't wait for Edie's answer. "Oh my gosh, his spring line last year was to die for!"

Edie's nodding continuously as we make our way inside and head for the elevator. "Makes this place look like quite the crapshack if you ask me."

By the time I make it out of the elevator, I can taste blood. I've torn the inside of my cheek from biting too hard.

The thought is removed from my mind as the fitting room opens up in front of us. Dresses and tuxedos are lined up along the one wall, some on display pedestals while others gather in front of a wall to ceiling mirror. Sconces stick out from the slick walls and light the room in what looks like candlelight while flowers in the largest of vases pervade the air in the sweetest of scents.

"Good morning, ladies," an old woman says, stepping out from the small room in the back. She looks to be in her late sixties with a do from the same era. She lends out a timid hand to Alannah, the first in line. "You must be Samantha, the gushing bride."

"You have got to be kidding me," I mutter under my breath. It seems ever since I got engaged to Matt that I stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone. It's one thing to be caught in Edie's malice or Alannah's desperation, but this? I clear my throat and Alannah takes it as he cue to step away. "Actually, I'm Samantha."

The old woman's eye round and her body stiffens so much that I can actually see it. "Oh, I'm sorry," she says half-heartedly, and just by the way she says it, I know she is more embarrassed than anything. She takes my hand to shake. "I'm Glinda." She then turns me to the line of dresses and begins telling me about the different materials and the types. She seems to want to move on from the awkwardness even more than I do.

"I know when we first spoke that you were more interested in something less poofy. Gone are the days that women want to look like Disney princesses. Today they want to look sophisticated."

I raise my eyebrows. "Well, I just don't want to have to rely on five women when needing to use the washroom."

"Then this might be just up your alley." Glinda points at a dress on the stand. "This is one of our newest additions, came from New Bride Boutique in the village."

While Glinda goes on, I get a sickly feeling in the pit of my stomach as I trace the dress with my eyes, noticing the overabundance of lace. "No," I say, stopping her from her spiel. "Too much lace."

"Lace is very much in, m'dear."

I shoot her a look. "I don't care what's in, I don't want it." I can see from the way Glinda's face hardens that I've offended her. "Lace was my mother's wish to wear on her wedding day and I won't take that away from her." I catch a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror and see that my exterior looks like it is made of stone. My insides feel like hell. If I take something of this quantity, I know all I will be thinking about is Sadie and imagining what she would look like in it. I can't be that greedy.

"I have the same dress made out of silk instead. Please try it on," Glinda says.

While she heads to the back room, I run a finger across the lacy ends of the dress and remember when my mother and I were so excited that day after Vic proposed to her. It feels like a lifetime away...

I am pulled from my thoughts as somebody behind me is muttering and whimpering. As I glance over my shoulder, I see Alannah pulling off dresses from the rack and putting them against herself, probably imagining herself decked out in one.

When Glinda returns, she helps me into an assortment of dresses and zips up the backs for each one. Some are poofy, some are slim. Some have multiple layers that I struggle to see where my feet are. Glinda mentions that I shouldn't cut off my nose to spite my face, that I should at least try each type of dress to make sure what I want is actually what I want.

"This is your special day, you want everything to be perfect."

So I try on each one and end up conflicted on one of the poofier ones and the one Glinda suggested earlier.

"I'll make measurements on each one and then you can decide." Glinda's gets her needles and gets down to the floor where she inserts them into the dress.

Chloe and Edie sit behind me, Chloe leafing through a bridal magazine absently. I can see from her face alone that just being sedentary in her mother's presence is more of a chore than anything. Edie's on her phone, clicking away to her heart's desire. From how she's sitting, it's almost as if she wants me to see that she's searching over the New Bride Boutique website.

"You know, Samantha, the more I think about it, I'm sure you will agree that this little shop is perfect for somebody like you, but for somebody like myself..." She takes a deep breath, contemplating. "I can't thank you enough for inviting us along for this grand adventure, but I feel I've seen these dresses thousands of times over."

I smile a fake smile. "Well, you know best, Edie."

"It's just that I can also look through their selection of jewellery while I'm there and there would be more staff on hand. We wouldn't be waiting."

"Sorry," Glinda says under her breath and catches my eye in the mirror. I can't tell if her apology comes from her inability to be at Edie's beck and call or that this is the family I am marrying into.

"Do you ever stop?"

I may be thinking it, but I am not the one who says it. My eyes wander across the looking glass until I see Chloe glaring at Edie.

"Clearly, you don't share the enthusiasm Matthew and Samantha do—"

"I do!"

"Will you stop lying?" Chloe cuts cleaning across her mother. "You get like this with everybody Matthew ever gets serious with and here you go again! You are the most selfish person I have ever met and maybe if you thought about somebody, anybody, other than yourself for once, we wouldn't be where we are now!"

Glinda's trying to keep her focus, but her hands shake next to me as she's still putting pins in the dress. She accidentally stabs me in the ankle when Chloe kicks back her chair and runs off. Edie gets to her feet fast, calling for her, but doesn't go after her. Alannah is at her side to comfort her. Nobody goes after Chloe.

It takes some time, but I finally find her hiding in a back room.

"There you are," I say, stumbling through the door in an attempt to get closer to Chloe. The dress may not be overly puffy, but the train twists around my ankles with every step. The corset, while tight around my rib cage—I have a hard time bending over—wants to slip down my torso.

"I can't take them anymore," Chloe mumbles as I finally make it to her side. She's sitting on the floor, curled up, knees close together and her arms around herself like a vice. I'm waiting for her to begin rocking back and forth. "You should be so lucky you don't have to deal with yours anymore."

I'm standing next to her now, though I struggle to get any closer. What she's said and the fact that she doesn't seem to be able to expose one slice of remorse... It's hard, but I know how much harder it is to be a teenager, to realize the power of the things that come out of their mouths. That what feels like a simple offhanded comment could actually tear somebody apart. I've always had a hard time speaking with Chloe from the moment we met and it's only now that I realize why:

She's me.

I crouch down to Chloe's level, as far as my dress will allow me anyway. "You're exactly like a friend of mine when we were younger." I speak softly and brush a few of Chloe's strands off her shoulder. "Her name was Deli and her mother too kept a lot of secrets from her."

Chloe rolls her eyes. "And let me guess, now they're the best of friends because of forgiveness."

I press my lips together. "No," I say simply. "Deli's mother told her and everything was blown out of proportion. Deli said some of the nastiest things she wished she could take back to this very day because little did she know that those words would be the last things her mother would hear from her. She's always carried that regret around with her because in a way she feels her mother died from a broken heart."

"I just don't think she will understand," she mutters, unable to hold my eye contact.

"Of course she will. She's your mother and I know how hard it is to see sometimes, but she loves you and your brother more than anything in the whole world."

"But how is she going to act when I tell her? You've seen how she scrutinizes everybody's flaws."

"Your mother does that because she cares. Besides, I'm sure she understands why you'd be angry—"

"Not that," Chloe corrects me. "How is she going to understand that I didn't mean for it to happen when I ran off? I was just scared, wanted somebody to love me."

My eyebrows knit together. "What do you mean, Chloe?"

Chloe's eyes finally connect with mine and hold barely-controlled panic, some much it almost seems contagious. "I'm pregnant."

I feel as if I've been teleported back in time. I'm back on that hospital bed, looking up at the doctor on Christmas Eve. He's just told me that I'm pregnant with William and in that moment I don't have a clue what I am going to do. My breath steels in my throat and it takes a moment for me to remember to breathe. When I do, I am back inside the bridal shop, looking at Chloe.

"It will come as a shock to her, but she will get past it and she will be there to support you," I tell her. "And if she isn't, Chloe, I will be. You won't have to go through this alone."

Tears pool in Chloe's eyes and then stream down her cheeks. Then she leans forward and hugs me. Soon she begins to sob in my arms. For a brief moment, I am back on my real mother's porch in the coldest of nights. I bang on the door and Sadie opens up. And then I was exactly where Chloe is now.

"Are we ready to continue?" Glinda asks half an hour later as Chloe and I return to the room.

I nod. "I think so."

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E14: Modern and Historic
« Reply #281 on: July 04, 2018, 03:13:15 PM »
Divine Deception
"Modern and Historic"


"The modern and the historic—two pieces of time. While one repeats itself, the other engages forward, pushing the boundaries of what life is today."

I look up ahead of me. Edie is standing in front of Matthew and me, her champagne glass raised and she speaks in such a harmonious way to the crowd around her that I actually for a moment think she cares. Proud, domineering in the most motherly sense of the word, though even from where I sit, which is in a throne-like chair next to Matthew on a stage of a landing in front of everybody, I can see how hard she is working at keeping her emotions in check.

"When I first sat down to prepare tonight's events, I couldn't part with the realization that we would be merging two lives into one. Our pasts, our presents and the love between a man and a woman."

Yes, I can't quite get past it either: Edie taking the time out of her busy schedule to organize an engagement party for her son and the woman she's made it very clear she's not that thrilled about having around. Men and women, friends of Matthew's have travelled from all over the world to come here and celebrate our love and our commitment to one another.

"Tonight not only gathers friends from here and far," Edie goes on. "Tonight also celebrates my son Matthew's engagement to the charming and captivating Samantha Millens." She gestures to me with her glass and the room erupts in one big applause. "It's every mother's dream that her son finds a girl that makes him happy and this mother isn't at all disappointed. Samantha has been a part of our lives for only a little while, and while I was concerned at first about the possibility of a lacking relationship with my son, she has proved herself worthy of being in this family."

I can't tell anymore. Is she faking sincerity or does she mean every word she breathes? I haven't spoken much with her since the little episode back on the day of our dress fittings, but maybe after I was able to close in on Chloe, it somehow brought Edie and me closer.

"So welcome to the family, Samantha!" Edie raises her glass even higher and the crowd follows in sync. "As anybody will tell you, proving oneself past this old bird takes something more than talent. It takes determination and love and you've surpassed my every expectation. I hope for the two of you the best."

There is clinking of flutes and wine glasses all around the room and Matt's hand goes over mine, encasing it and giving it a firm squeeze. I turn to meet his eyes and we kiss.

As I pull away, I spot Arthur emptying his glass in one quick swig. I haven't seen much of him lately, this being the only occasion since the engagement really, though the moment I saw him, he reeked of alcohol. I never knew of him to be a heavy drinker, but as of late he's been in one hell of a drinking spirit. Honestly, had it been Edie, I could have understood it: her losing her son to me. His father's problem, however? I can't quite say. Jackie hasn't mentioned anything to me either. She was the first to tell me to be wary of Edie, but that Arthur would be a smooth sail so to speak. Jackie also didn't say anything last night when she called me over. She did, however, let me know that to further our progress into Paragon that I would need to plant a bug into the Hamming household.

"And from now going forward, Samantha dear, I look forward to getting to know everything about you, day in and day out. Actually, if you wouldn't mind, I would love to start now. Indulge me in a little chat, would you?"

"Who could say no to that?" I say and take a sip from my own drink. Matt offers to take it from me and I kiss him.

I follow Edie away from the party. She leads me to an elevator that shoots us up a level in what feels like a snap of the fingers and then she heads down the hall to the only door.

"This was our family home when Matthew and Chloe were young," she says, opening the door and motioning for me to step inside. Once I do, she closes the door behind us.

Red walls surround me, bordered by flame wallpaper and Hot Wheel posters. Little toy cars huddle in a milk crate and bigger models are displayed above in an orderly fashion. It doesn't take me long to realize this must have been Matthew's bedroom when he was a child.

"I wanted to show you something," Edie says as she sits on the end of the bed. She pats the spot next to her. She opens a photo album.

As I get closer, I notice photographs of a little boy with a buzz cut playing in the rain, swimming in an inground pool, digging in the sand.

"Motherhood is not something that can be explained," she tells me in an almost dreamy voice. "From the moment they are inside of you, your destiny is etched in stone. You are their biggest support system. You are the caregiver." Edie flips the pages in the photo album and I watch the boy in the pictures slowly grow older. His teen years into adulthood. Then the pictures of his girlfriends begin to appear. "And it becomes your job to keep him from getting hurt. You become the protector and I am Matthew's."

My gut starts to tighten and that second-guessing I felt earlier has long since disintegrated.

"It should be no surprise that I'm wary of you, Miss Millens," Edie continues, still flipping through more and more photos of Matt and his girlfriends. "Don't take it personally, I just know, better than anyone, how my son thinks and how his choices are never in his best interests."

"I didn't coerce him into anything, Edie," I defend myself in a pleasant manner. I even laugh lightly so as not to seem offended. I'd hate for Edie to think that.

"Oh, I wasn't born yesterday, dear," she says. "I know your type. I know how you'll hurt him."

"We couldn't be happier."

Edie snorts and shakes her head. "Marrying my son is a mistake, Miss Millens. Even if you think you've won because of that impressive ring on your finger, you haven't. You've stumbled into an abyss in the hopes of spiriting my son away to you."

I take a deep breath and look around the room. "I can't imagine how hard this must all be for you, Edie. Feeling the need to organize everything in your grown son's life, all the way to his engagement party for the woman he wants to marry, knowing full well that you can't stand her."

Edie goes to say something, but I continue without hesitation.

"That I'm going to take him away from you. Hell, I may even have children with him and you know the closest you're going to get to seeing them is through a video I send to you on Christmas Eve once a year."

I sigh in a dramatic fashion and get to my feet. I head out of the room and to the elevator. It's right there when I call it and I enter.

"I know a woman in love and you're not it!" Edie yells from the doorway of Matt's room. "You're nothing but a rocky relationship spurred on by a want for more. I knew it the moment I met you and I still know it now."

I step out of the elevator again with a smirk on my face I can't help. "I understand why you are on edge lately, Edie. Scared of losing him and the possibilities of what could happen between you. But tonight of all nights. This must be so difficult being in this house where Matt grew up... Where he learned to walk and talk... Where he used to sleep. The memories that must come storming in every time you think about the past."

Tears are pooling in Edie's eyes and I can tell she has the immediate impulse to throttle me.

"You couldn't be more than right with your speech today. The modern and the historic I think is how you put it. You will continue to repeat yourself, Edie, and I will be moving forward with life. I will marry your son and you're going to have to deal with that."

Edie bursts into tears and rushes past me into the elevator. The doors close behind her and she's gone, out of my sight and I am left with silence. I wait a moment. I half expect Edie to gather herself up and return to my floor with another piece of evidence about how wrong I am. But as the minutes rack up, I come to the realization that the damage is done and she's not coming back for a second round.

I take those few moments to recompose myself and take a deep breath. I've been holding all that in for an extremely long time and I can't say how good it felt to finally let it out. Still, I can't help but wonder if I was too hard on the woman.

Finally, I nod to myself and head back to Matt's room. While I was being lectured, I thought I saw a relatively new laptop on Matt's desk. When I get close enough, I notice that it's still powered. I pull the flash drive from my pocket—the one Jackie gave me earlier—and plug it in right away. Jackie told me that the program on the stick would run automatically and that once it completed that they would be able to get some information Whitman needed.

Suddenly, I hear the elevator ding and the doors open. For a moment, I think it's Edie, ready with a new weapon of information to shoot me down with. Then I hear somebody else's voice.

"I just want to give you your wedding present early!" It's female and girly. Definitely not Edie. I book it into the washroom as fast as I can. "Keep your eyes closed though. I mean it—no peeking!"

I sneak a look through the crack of the washroom door. Alannah, I think with revulsion. I should have known. I observe her as she saunters over to the edge of the bed and takes a seat provocatively. She's wearing an alluring red silky dress that hardly leaves anything to the imagination with slits that go so high up her legs her lace underwear is showing.

"Okay, now you can open your eyes," she says, her hands supporting her behind her back and her chest pressed into the air. I don't know who she's talking to until they step into view.

Matt is right there in front of her!

A flame lights inside of me, a smoking ember that I struggle to extinguish. It's both painful and reoccurring, but it also doesn't make me want to recoil. It makes me mad. Just the sight of Alannah, especially Alannah with Matt, makes it burn hotter and it lashes out and hits my insides.

With anger, however, comes confusion. If I am angry because Alannah is stepping into territory which will affect the outcome of my mission then it would make sense, but it's not that. It's just the thought of seeing them together that makes it all the worse.

Alannah doesn't wait for Matt's response. She gets up and pulls him close, pulling his lips into hers. They kiss—hard! A kiss only lovers would understand. It takes all of my strength to keep myself from whipping open the washroom door and hurting not only Alannah but Matt as well.

I had a feeling this was what had been going on for weeks—Matt and Alannah. But seeing it right there in front of my face, especially for them not to know that I was there... Alannah had been trying to get between Matt and me for some time. And to think I was wondering if I was too hard on Edie earlier. Hell, this was all probably Edie's idea!

"No."

I am so focused on my own thoughts I barely hear it.

"No!" Matt repeats and he is pushing Alannah away. She must think what he's said isn't real because she goes to kiss him again and Matt has to physically sit her back down on the edge of the bed to stop her. "What is wrong with you?"

Alannah's eyes round in what I can only decipher as bewilderment. "What? What are you talking about?"

"You have got to stop doing this. We were over a long time ago and you need to move on." Just by Matt's tone, I can tell he's choosing his wording carefully.

"But—"

"I am marrying Samantha, Alannah—"

"She doesn't love you, you know!" Alannah protests. "She doesn't. I know what real love is and it's not that—"

Matt silences her with a dark look. "You need to find somebody who wants you for who you are." He gestures toward the bedroom door. "So go find that person because it's not me."

Alannah hesitantly gets to her feet and I can tell that she's trying to concoct something to keep Matt on her side, change his mind, I can see it all.

"You know your mother doesn't approve," she finally says, her last attempt at winning Matt over. I have to stifle the groan that makes it up my throat. Matt, on the other hand, changes at that moment. His usually soft features harden and he leans towards Alannah, her body infused with tension.

"This is your whole problem. You're just like my mother, but even worse. You come here, to my engagement party where my wife-to-be is and try something like this?" His eyes narrow into slits. "And what the hell are you wearing?"

Alannah looks completely in shock. She's shaking violently and tears are pouring down her face. There's a moment while Matt rages on her that she tries to say something, but he won't let her in edgewise.

"I think it would be best if you just leave," he says, a sharp edge to his voice I have never heard before. Alannah's at the door already, her hand on the handle and she looks back. She wants to say something. Maybe she wants to tell him that she loves him. But before she can open her mouth, Matt says, "Get out! And for goodness sake, get rid of that tattoo!"

It takes everything I have not to open the door and tell Matt that I saw everything he did. Instead, I monitor him as he puts himself together again. He straightens his tie in a mirror on the other side of the room and tidies his hair. Then he's gone, down the hall, heading for the elevator that will take him back to the party.

I step out of the washroom a bit of a shake in my own being. Matt had never been cheating on Samantha Millens. Every chance I got I blamed him for doing something he never did. It had all been Alannah and Edie. A plan created by the two of them so that they could deal with what life sent their ways. At least, between both Matt and me, we may have just won the battle of the controlling women. Nothing should be in my way from now on.

I grab the flash drive from the laptop and slip it back into my pocket before I use the door.

And I don't see it coming. His hand around me before I can comprehend what is going on.

I am tossed backwards into the wall, the back of my head smacking into the drywall. A loud thump cracks the silence of the hall. The overpowering smell of liquor suffocates me with what little air I can take in. Arthur has his hand around my throat and he has a very tight hold on me. I try to yell, but I can't get anything out and the more I struggle, the harder his hold gets.

"Arthur," I try to say and he probably can see it, but he doesn't react. His eyes are dead looking like the alcohol has taken everything from him. His thought process, his mind, even the will to do the simplest of things.

He leans in closer to me. "I can see you for exactly what you really are," he grumbles in my ear. He's so close I can feel the wiry strands of his moustache against the side of my face.

"Arthur," I try to say again, but nothing more than a gurgle comes out of my mouth. My head has begun to pound and I swallow excessively in what I can only assume is my body's way of loosening his grip.

"I know of your kind," he slurs, spit specking my cheek. "I know exactly what you're looking for. I'm onto you and there's nothing you can do to convince me differently."

Arthur finally lets go of me and gives me a nudge as he straightens up. I gasp, cough and sputter, my own hands going to my neck. I am paralyzed, like some special force keeps me from going after Arthur as he walks away from me, stumbling and heading for the elevator. I can't comprehend anything. I don't understand anything. I can't piece anything together because none of it makes any sense. Arthur just attacked me and I have no idea where it came from.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E15: Snowglobe
« Reply #282 on: July 18, 2018, 02:20:56 PM »
Divine Deception
"Snowglobe"


I clasp a travel mug in my cold, pink fingers, waiting for the heat inside to warm them even if I know the coffee has long since leeched into the winter air. I'm braced against the cold and I look off into the distance. It seems almost contradicting. For how sunny it looks, I shouldn't be surrounded by snow, in a frigid hell with the darkest of energies brewing in this cold shell I call a body. Like the case of a snowglobe. While it may seem like a short thrill, once those flakes hit the bottom, I've always found that the chance of a snowglobe being shaken again is quite high.

"Your work last weekend was rather impressive," Jackie says as she closes the space between us. I can hear the crunching of snow beneath her feet and then I see her in the corner of my eye. She takes a seat.

I nod.

"It may have seemed like a waste of time, especially with everything you had to endure to get there, but it worked. Thanks to you, we were able to get that little tidbit of info Whitman's been struggling with back home."

"And what exactly is this little bit of info exactly?"

"A combination," Jackie answers proudly. "It's all connected, Delilah, and getting this combination... The Hammings keep their secrets very close to them"—she makes a face like I should know better than anyone—"and to get something so powerful is a huge feat. Your mother would be very proud."

I've thought about my mother a lot over the past week. How I actually feel I am becoming her every day that passes by. Last weekend at the engagement party, how I ripped Edie a new one all the while keeping my composure... I could see it in front of me: my mother destroying Vita day in and day out. Playing this part of some ambitious girl who fell in love and seemingly just wants to spend the rest of her life in this fairy tale mindset.

It took a few days to set in, but it all came together. Alannah trying to yank Matt away from me, seduce him, manipulate him, whatever you wanted to call it. That must have been how my mother did it. She grabbed on to one of my father's arms while Vita held onto the other and they tugged until he tore straight down the middle, leaving neither of them with his whole self.

I rub my neck. I can still feel Arthur's hands there, how he held me against the wall and told me, stinking of booze, that he knew exactly what I was, how he'd seen my type before. Was this how Vita saw my mother? Am I really following the same path she did and will my family, the people that I love be tortured in the process? Just the thought sends a chill down my spine not tethered to the wicked wind coming off the river's edge. I know in my heart of hearts that Arthur was just a drunken idiot, tumbling through that party until he could find some even footing. But I can't help but wonder differently.

"You know, we don't have to go through with this," Jackie comes back, pulling me from my thoughts.

I turn to look at her and I can see that she's hesitant. No, I'm hesitant. Her lips are pursed and there's a look in her eyes, like she's able to read my thoughts. Am I that obvious today? I've worked so hard to keep my emotions in check that I'm struggling now. At least it is in front of her and not somebody else, somebody who could use this instant against me.

"We can call everything off and just go on with life."

My eyebrows knit together on their own. "No, I—"

"This isn't something to take lightly, Delilah," she cuts cleanly across me. "Your mother had the clearest of heads, she was one of our best destroyers and even she struggled. I would hate myself and would never forgive myself if I allowed her daughter to go into this dangerous of a mission—not just tonight but this whole thing—if I knew she couldn't handle it. If one slip-up—"

"I've got it," I say over her this time. It's no surprise that Jackie's worried for me. Everybody is lately. Nathan, Whitman. Hell, as much as Connie lost it how many weeks ago, I know it was coming from a good place. So to see Jackie bringing it up again, I can't blame her.

"Your mother—"

"My mother was targeted because of Paragon and because of them, I am left with a hole I can never fill." I give her a stern look. "I'm not backing out, Jackie."

Jackie may not be one hundred percent on board, but she doesn't say anything to deter me. She just nods and begins with the mission details.

"The Royal Museum," she says, leaning back in the bench and looking over the river. "You know of it?" I nod and she continues. "Paragon owns it and there is a gem locked up inside. We need you to get it."

I cock an eyebrow. "I'm a tomb raider now?"

"These gems were used for security back in the older days. Keycards were too new and there was always the possibility of hacking systems. The gems were always a safe resort. Just click them into the locking mechanism and the door opens. Most gateways have been updated to the twenty-first century. All except for an abandoned one used through a waterway."

"Not the sewers," I mumble.

"It's not as bad as it seems, but let's not worry that far ahead. We just need the gem right now. It's the best alternative. Because of your unfortunate encounter with Arthur, it would be careless to do anything else."

"You'll need to find an alternative route inside. If you take those front doors—"

I raise my hand to show she need not say any more. To take the doors would be suicidal. Even if I know Whitman will be on top of security—he'll have cameras looped and all alarms disabled—for me to walk through the front doors was asking for attention. Pedestrians walking down the street to name one of them. No, the best way would be through a window, best if it was in the back of the building.

"Once you are inside," Jackie continues, "find your way to the front desk and extract a file into the system." She passes me a USB stick—almost identical to the one she lent me last week for the party.

"I thought we got into enough of Paragon's systems, though?" I say, taking the stick.

"This isn't for intel, Delilah," she assures me. "This is to make sure everything runs smoothly without any hiccoughs."

"Hiccoughs?"

"This is a program. It will override all mechanisms and unlock all doors that lead to the gem."

"Okay, and what am I looking for? I'm assuming it's going to be in a glass case for everybody to see."

"No, it's hidden in the Modern Art section. Keep an eye out for a wall piece called New York. Behind it will be a button. Press that and you'll have your reward."

Ten minutes into the complex, and I'm making my way across the carpet of the hallway. When I have to step across the hardwood, I make sure to be as quiet as anything. Even if there is nobody inside and the alarms have been disabled, I still get a shiver when I think about what a fortress of hell this place will turn into if I do the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Plugging in the program to unlock all doors was a simple and straightforward procedure. It also took no time at all. While I was at it, I hooked up a program that linked to my phone so that I could still use the cameras for my own needs.

Five minutes later, I end up in the Modern Art section. I'm not much of the artsy type, but seeing all of these works leaves me a little underwhelmed. I am used to seeing Pablo, Van Gogh, you name it. Seeing pieces that are all white with the words NEW YORK seems almost bare and uninspired. I guess that's why they say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. And who am I to say what art is?

I make my way over to the piece and carefully pull it away from the wall. Timid is too weak of a word for what I am feeling. Even if I know Whitman has gone over security with a fine tooth comb, I can't help but worry if something is going to go off. Nothing does, though and I find the small red button and push it.

A huge display on the other end of the room rumbles and then moves across the wall. Behind it, I see a wall safe. This is where that combination I got at the party comes into play. I crouch in front of the safe, think over the numbers in my mind to make sure I know the right sequence and then I input them. I can hear the locking mechanism clink and then the door springs open. It's pretty bare inside except for a blue gem that is the size of my palm.

I grab it.

The alarms go off the moment I pull the gem away. Dread floods through my veins before dropping like a boulder to the pit of my stomach. It's almost too heavy to move and I stand there in shock.

"That's the alarms going off," I mutter, trying to understand them. I know they are going off, but for the life of me I can't figure out what that means. It takes too long to realize that it's not good and I need to do something.

I pull my phone from my pocket and look up the camera I linked to earlier. Down in the main lobby, I notice a man in what looks like a uniform of some sort. I can't tell exactly. The picture is too grainy. My first thought is that he's police and I roll my head back in frustration. The last thing is for the authorities to be right here right now. But there's something off about him. He wears a pair of night vision goggles and what looks like a hard-shelled helmet on his head. Two more men join him, letting go of two salivating german shepherds. The dogs go bolting off down a corridor. The three men converse—what they are saying, I don't know—and then they grab something from their backs.

Before I can tell what they have grabbed, the dogs have run up a set of stairs and are now on my floor. I mutter a swear under my breath and stuff my phone into my pocket and dash into the hallway. The dogs are at the other end of the hall, galloping like wild beasts towards me. In that instant, I look for an escape. There are only two doors worth attempting and one of them is only accessible by running closer to the dogs. I'm not in that risky of a mood. I bolt in the opposite direction.

I shoulder the door as hard as I can, willing with everything I have that it isn't locked. The door bangs hard off the wall on the other side. I glance over my shoulder. Stupid! I just wasted time looking. I know those mutts are behind me, but I do it anyway, calculating how little space is between us. Closer now! And they are gaining—fast!

Up the stairs on the other side of the door I go, jumping three at a time. It's the only chance I've got. The dogs whip around the corner, through the doorway. Their nails scrape the hardwood, clawing viciously as they try to regain their footing, but they are so focused on me it's almost as if fate is urging them on. They skid into the wall with a thud—first then second—and then they are after me again, barking and snapping.

I make it to a T-shaped intersection and for a moment, a brief one, I jog on the spot, looking left and right, the best way to go. There is nothing on the left other than a window overlooking the city and two benches. I hightail it the other way. Doors fly by me—left and right—blurring in what seems like a smear of countless colours. My heart hammers in my chest. It's almost in rhythm with the dogs clambering behind me. Getting air into my lungs becomes a struggle. I glance over my shoulder. More growling. There's a bang behind me—ear-splitting. Like a bomb's gone off down the hall. Another one and I am jolted forward. I keep my balance somehow and I'm still running.

I need to take a door but I can't choose. The dogs are too close now. Any slight movement to pause could mean death. Another bang from down the hall and I actually yelp when something hits me below my shoulder. I am at the end of the hallway before I can understand anything. Dozens of gateways to flee through behind me and all I am looking at is another big window overlooking the city. I spin around, brace myself, readying everything I have. I spot two of the men from earlier down the hall, guns up at the ready. Before I can comprehend it, the dogs lunge at me and I am sent tumbling through the window and nothing but air.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E16: Free Fall
« Reply #283 on: July 25, 2018, 12:09:40 PM »
Divine Deception
"Free Fall"


By definition, gravity is the force that attracts a body towards the centre of the earth or towards another physical body having mass. It's a pull, a force stronger than any will or ambition known to man and has the ability to bring anybody who's lost in space back down to a levelheadedness. But to be brought down is sometimes not enough for reality to sink in. Sometimes, the downward movement of a spiral hits harder than anything imaginable. And when you hit the ground, all you're left with is the feeling of the wind knocked from your lungs.

The ground comes hard and fast, its impact like I've been hit by a million Mack trucks all at once. My ears are ringing, my body's become paralysed and for a brief moment I am lost, in an empty void while my body tries to refuel itself and come to terms with what's just happened. Every fibre of my being is activated in a race against time, rewiring my senses. Up above, the German Shepherds bark and snarl from the broken window proudly, their chests puffed out, waiting for either me to fight back or for their masters to praise them up and down.

Movement comes back to my body and I can wiggle my toes and move my fingers. After a few moments, I gather the strength to sit up. In that little time, my head begins to ache and I fear that I may not be able to make it more than three feet from my current position.

I listen to the blaring alarms coming from inside as I grip the stone steps at my side and use them to straighten myself. Dawn is breaking through the clouds and I know if I waste any more time here that even if the guards from inside don't find me, somebody else will. I've come to the realization that the men inside who had shot at me and let loose those dogs were not policemen. They were probably Paragon's own hired hands and I don't want to be around if they brave coming out into the open.

As I take a step forward and swing my arms, a glaring pain burns in my right upper arm. Another pain, this one much more throbbing than sharp, blossoms somewhere below my shoulder. I do my best to ignore them. I can catalogue my injuries once I am somewhere safe.

I force myself to move faster and as I do, I phone Jackie. She answers with a sternness I know too well. She wants to know about the mission, if I've gathered the gem. I tell her I have but that I need the location of a nearby safe house. Her voice immediately becomes filled with worry. She must also hear me grunting as I move because she demands I tell her what happened and I tell her.

I tell her everything. From how everything was going according to schedule. That I'd been able to gather the gem and how the alarms went off. She seems as confused as I am when I tell her this. We both agree that nothing should have gone off the rails.

As I make my way down the back of town, I follow a wrought iron fence down a hill and the movement brings more energy to my body and I actually feel a willingness to move faster. While to do, Jackie mutters more under her breath than anything how she shouldn't have allowed me to partake in this mission, that it's all her fault that this happened to me. A twinge of guilt flickers between the two of us. For she allowed this to happen to me and that I've allowed this to happen to her.

When I arrive, I light the fireplace first thing. It's a dreary shack of a home with boarded-up windows that whistle in the wicked winds and floorboards that creak with every step. There is one lamp in the whole room and I turn it on. It doesn't light much, but it's enough.

I pull off my sweater and go into the washroom to look at myself in the mirror. It's cracked for the most part with grime and age taking up a lot of the edges. Still, I get a good look at my stinging bicep. Sticking out from it, I notice a shard of glass. Under the sink, I spot a bottle of a disinfectant, as well as many other bottled liquids like cleaning chemicals and acids, as well as bandages. I grab them and place them on the sink. I bite my lip and get a hold of the piece. It feels like fire has doused my whole arm as I yank the piece of glass out, yet it's nothing compared to the pain as I splash the disinfectant on the wound. It takes everything I have not to cry out. Once the pain subsides, I take a painkiller and return to the fireplace to bandage myself up.

I sit for most of the day. Jackie told me to hold still while she contacted one of her men to drive me back home. I had tried to tell her that I could head back on my own, but she told me no. It's probably for the best anyway. I've gone through so much, who's to say I won't walk straight into a trap if I'm left on my own? Surely Paragon's on the lookout for me. Well, maybe not me precisely, but anybody suspicious. And it's not like news hasn't broken out about the excitement at the museum. I've checked over how many radio stations and each one is talking about the same thing.

By late afternoon, there is a knock at my door. It isn't just a simple knock that I expect would come from some random roadside straggler. No, this is a special one. The special knock everybody a part of our team knows which was created specifically for situations like this.

I get up from my seat and open the door.

On the other side is a strong, bulky man with arms the size of tree trunks and a body that looks like it will struggle to get through the doorframe. I've seen him before, the night I infiltrated Paragon's middle tier meeting. The night I met Jackie.

"Miss Lawrence," he says, his voice rough and deep. He pulls out his identification and flashes it at me. "I'm Ronald Bewter. Ms. Collins sent me to pick you up." Putting everything away, he hands me a sack with clean clothes inside. I don't change. Instead, I grab the jacket that's on top and slip it on.

The drive back to my apartment is a silent one. Ron doesn't speak and neither do I. I just watch the city blur by me through the dirt on his tinted windows. I'm not unhappy about it. I don't want to talk. For one, I feel like crap. My body may not feel as wracked as it did earlier, but the painkillers have left me slightly drowsy.

And two, what is there really to talk about? Sure, the mission wasn't a fail. I mean, I did end up getting the gem and I still have it on me. But I wanted to come out of that building like I had gone in. I wanted it to be silent. But because I didn't, I don't really know where I stand. Did the guards inside the museum get a good look at me? Did they recognize me if they did? And what are they thinking now? It's all very left up in the air and I am struggling to figure out what I should be preparing for.

We arrive at my apartment building and Ron offers to lead me up to my flat. He opens the door for me and I walk inside.

Right as I do, I hear the canny sound of an audience clapping. As I make the turn, I notice that the television is on. And in front of it sits Nathan. He hears the door close behind Ron and I and he spins around, turning off the television.

"You're back!" he says, engulfed in worry. I don't respond. Drowsiness won't let me and Ron leads me to a spot on the sofa. I take a seat. Ron and Nathan speak behind me. Ron's telling Nathan everything that happened.

As he does, I realize that there's still an uncomfortable pain under my one shoulder. I didn't look into it back at the safe house earlier. Actually, I had completely forgotten about it. In comparison to the piece of glass in my arm, this was nothing. But now it's bugging me. I run my hand under my shirt and to my back. My back is bruised, most definitely, yet there is something else. Actually, there are two things nested in my kevlar. I fiddle with the first one until it loosens and falls into the palm of my hand. When I bring my hand out to check, I see a slug of a bullet. It doesn't faze me—probably the effects of the painkillers—and I drop it on the coffee table with a loud clank!

In the mirror on the wall, I see Nathan shoot a look over his shoulder. There's anger in his eyes, bewilderment even maybe. And then there's something else. Something I can't quite put my finger on. Pity possibly. Or fear. I look away from his reflection somberly and begin fiddling with what I can only assume is a second bullet in my kevlar.

Ron leaves and Nathan makes his way in front of me.

"Are you all right?" he asks me, crouching low so that we are at eye level. He wears a sympathetic smile on his lips, though I know how hard he is working to keep it there. I didn't imagine his fury just minutes ago. I know I didn't. If he figures out what I really think, he's going to lose it. Best to pretend that I have everything under control, for both our sakes.

"I'm fine, why do you ask?" I say in the easiest tone I can muster.

"I'm just asking."

"And I'm telling you that I'm fine." I pull the second bullet from my kevlar and let it drop onto the coffee table as I get to my feet. I make my way upstairs to the bedroom.

"I don't think you are," he says bluntly. "You know, I've been meaning to talk to you about this whole thing for a while." He's right behind me. "Deli, I think you're in way over your head. Maybe we should think about slowing down."

"Slowing down? Nathan, we took a huge step today," I say, heading for the dresser in search of some clean clothes. "There's some light at the end of the tunnel."

"But look at what you had to do to get there. You're acting as if you didn't just fall from a building and almost die."

"Die? Please, you're exaggerating."

"Exaggerating?" he repeats. I may have my back to him, but I can feel his eyes piercing the back of my skull. "You have been in a downward spiral for months now!"

"See? Exaggerating," I say with emphasis. I'm still not looking at him and while I've already got my clothing, I pretend to be rifling around in my underwear drawer as if I'm still looking for something.

"I'm not exaggerating when you come home pulling slugs out of your kevlar like it's a normal thing to do, like it doesn't hurt."

"It doesn't," I say offhandedly.

The sound of Nathan's fist coming into contact with the wall makes me whirl around on the bed to face him. This wakes me up from my drowsiness somewhat.

"What is your problem?" I snap at him. "What is it? Fear?"

"Maybe fear isn't such a bad thing? It forces us to take a step back and look at what's going on around us, maybe even become situationally aware."

I roll my eyes. "And you know about situational awareness now? You're going to lecture me on something you barely know anything about?"

Nathan's face darkens. "Somebody has to! Ever since that guy dropped to his death from this very rooftop you've been on some crazy bender in what I can only assume is your attempt at regaining some type of control!"

"It's a mission, these things happen, Nathan. Get over it."

"This isn't just about today. It's been day in and day out for the last how many months. The last year! When was the last time you even looked at your son?"

The mention of William lights a hatred inside of me that I can't put out. I feel as my face turns monstrous. I stay quiet and won't answer. I can't. I must be taking too long because Nathan shakes his head in frustration and walks into the washroom.

I follow him in.

I grab his arm to stop him, to force him to look at me. "Don't you dare bring William into this!" I tell him. "You have no right!"

He yanks his hand away from me. "I have no right? He's our son, Deli. Ours, not yours." He chuckles humourlessly to himself. "You're in your own little world, aren't you?"

"Oh shut up."

Nathan doesn’t miss a beat. "It's almost like you're jumping from life to life whenever it's convenient for you. You're William's mother and I am his father and he needs both of us. But it's like you'd rather enjoy your life with the Hammings more."

"Do I look like I'm enjoying myself?" I urge him to look at me. The bags that grow under my eyes. How I always look tired, worried. Can't he see this?

Nathan pulls back. "I'm just saying that sometimes it's like you'd rather be with this Matthew guy. Don't deny that you have feelings for him."

I look at Nathan in astonishment. "Feelings for him? That's absurd!"

"I know what I see."

"Is this what this is all about?" I ask, but I don't wait for Nathan's answer. "Matt is a job, he's a pawn and there are days I can't stand being around him. I don't love him, I love you!"

Nathan looks away and I can see how hurt he is.

"Look, yes, it's nice to get away from this once in a while. Pretend like nothing matters but me. No Paragon. No destruction—"

"We have a son."

"And sometimes it's nice to get away from that too. Not having to look over my shoulder every second for the safety of everybody I love. No, you're right, Nathan, there are days that I'd rather be Samantha Millens, and I won't lie and say that I haven't thought about it. But you keep me here. William keeps me here."

"I'm finding this harder and harder to believe every day."

My eyes narrow. "Then leave," I tell him. "I'll tell you exactly what I told Connie. If you want to stay, stay. If you want to leave, don't let me hold you back."

It's as if I have actually punched him in the gut. The pain that appears so faintly on his face. But Nathan has always had the ability to cover himself in a thick skin, ever since the day I met him.

He shakes his head, smirking. "I just wish you could see that you're following the same path your mother went down."

"Don't even dare bring her into this. You will never understand."

"Maybe not, but you're going to get hurt and I think you're too stubborn to see it coming." He walks out of the washroom and downstairs. "It seems you did choose him after all. Enjoy your wedding day."

I don't know what to say so I stay silent again. I listen to his every footfall. Step. Step. Step. I am breathing heavily, trying to catch any breath I have left. Why can't he just understand this? When I hear the sound of the front door slam shut, I scream at the top of my lungs. When that doesn't make me feel better, I turn and punch the mirror in front of me. Blood and shattered glass rain into the sink and I slide down to the floor, feeling lonelier than I have ever felt before. It's as if I've been falling from that second-floor window all this time and finally I have hit rock bottom.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E17: The Blackest Day
« Reply #284 on: August 03, 2018, 12:54:41 PM »
Divine Deception
"The Blackest Day"



Carry me home, got my blue nail polish on
It's my favorite color and my favorite tone of song
I don't really wanna break up, we got it going on
It's what you gathered from my talk, but you were wrong
It's not easy for me to talk about
A half-life in lost dreams
And not simple, it's trigonometry
It's hard to express
I can't explain

*



"You look beautiful," Chloe says to me, pulling me from my thoughts and my reflection. I turn to look at her and she almost looks unrecognizable herself. Hair straightened, pulled over her shoulder into some modern beauty queen of Instagram kind of style. "They're almost ready for you."

I can hear the rumble of guests entering and taking a seat on either side of the aisle. Men in tuxedos usher women to their seats while children hand out bubbles for everybody to blow once the groom has kissed his bride. My stomach tightens as I realize that that would be me.

Chloe giggles and takes me by my shoulders. "I can't believe it, in only a few minutes, we are going to be sisters!"

Chloe's excitement forces me to return her smile, though I struggle to know if this happiness would even exist if she got the slightest hint of what I had to do to make us sisters. If she knew all the hell I had put her and her family through to get to this point.

She tells me she will be right back, she just wants to make sure everything is running on schedule, and as she leaves I catch a peek of the crowd outside. Hetty Lionheart catches my attention first, dressed in what I can only describe as a green nightgown with pawprints all over it. She holds a basket in her arms and with a closer look, all of her feline friends are inside as if anxiously awaiting the show to begin.

But nothing can compare to what I see front and centre. Alannah steps into view. Just the sight of her makes me want to bust through the door and pummel her. It's not enough that she somehow managed to slip inside for the wedding, she's wearing the brightest, shiniest dress I have ever seen and sparkly all over. I have to actually turn my head so that I stop looking at her. I'm shaking.

Ever since my baby went away
It's been the blackest day, it's been the blackest day
All I hear is Billie Holiday
It's all that I play
It's all that I play

*


I notice Eadie at the front. She hasn't acknowledged Alannah. I can't tell if she hadn't seen her—she's been blubbering since the day began so who knows—or if she's trying to respect her son's wishes and keep her at arm's length. It must have come to light that today was happening. Maybe she finally has accepted it. I am sure the sobs aren't coming from the very fact that her son has found the woman of his dreams.

I close the door and look up at the ceiling, no, past the ceiling, to the sky, to the heavens.

"But that's not how it works, is it?" I ask my mother in hopes that she's listening. "I'm not the woman of his dreams and he's not the man I love. But that's not what we do or who we are, is it, Mother?"

Before I can get an answer, Chloe's at the door again and telling me that everybody's ready for me.

Because I'm going deeper and deeper (deeper)
Harder and harder (harder)
Getting darker and darker
Looking for love
In all the wrong places
Oh my god
In all the wrong places
Oh my god

*


I take a deep breath and collect my bouquet and start down the aisle. Men and women on both sides stand up as if in one motion and I can see each of their faces. Man, woman, young, old. Most of them I have no idea who they are, but they are there, watching me, they are here for Matt and me.

At the end, Matt stands waiting for me. Our eyes lock and he is who I am strutting for now. And the rest of the ceremony flies by me and goes off without a hitch. I expect Alannah is going to stand up and tell everybody how wrong I am for Matt, that maybe Eadie will back her up, but neither of them do anything.

The rest of the day follows as one would expect. We are rushed down the aisle, bubbles and confetti fluttering around us to the point where we have to block them with our hands to see where we are going. At dinner, there is a lot of clinking of glasses, lots of kissing because of course, everybody wants to see more of it. There's a point where it feels like they all want me to prove to them that I love him and that kissing is the only way. Maybe that's why most of the time it's Eadie doing the clinking.

It's not long after dinner that we are cued for the first dance. Matt and I speak while we dance, quiet enough so that only the two of us can hear. He says nice things. Things like how beautiful I am, how much he loves me and how happy he is going to make me while we spend the rest of our lives together. I get teary eyed at this. I shouldn't be hearing this from Matt. I should be hearing it from Nathan. And as I look into Matt's eyes, I struggle, I can't even lie and tell him that he means the same to me.

"Is something wrong?" he asks me.

I shake my head, taking a deep breath. "It's all so overwhelming, everything."

He twirls me and then he dips me.

Carry me home, got my new car and my gun
Wind in my hair, holding your hand, listen to a song
Carry me home, don't wanna talk about the things to come
Just put your hands up in the air, the radio on

'Cause there's nothing for us to talk about
Like the future and those things
'Cause there's nothing for me to think about
Now that he's gone, I can't feel nothing

*


The lights completely go out and it's as if it's completely made up of magic that Matt transforms into Nathan. His whole being, eyes, face, nose, structure, even the way he holds me in his arms as he pulls me up from the dip and cradles me, still moving in rhythm to the music. I should be able to comprehend it—this is impossible—but I don't try. I just let him hold me like the real man that I love would. I smell the woodsy scent of his cologne, the mint from his mouthwash as I nuzzle into his neck. It feels so different this way, this dance with him. It feels right. I want to tell him how I shouldn't have lost it on him the last time we spoke, that I love him so much. But before I can, I am dipped again.

And I am brought back to the present, to Earth, with the lights back on and swimming around the crowd around us. The music has stopped and the room erupts in whistles, cheers and lots and lots of clapping. The DJ tells everybody to come and join the bride and groom on the dance floor.  Taking this as my chance, I pull away from Matt and tell him I need a moment to clean myself up. He pecks me on the cheek and I head to the washroom.

I'm at the sink, drying my eyes with a damp piece of paper towel when I hear the door bang off the wall next to me and Alannah walks in.

"Oh, sorry, am I interrupting?" she says. While the words may be sincere, the emotion behind them can't make it to the front burners. She saunters over to the sink next to me and dabs at invisible lines on her face as if to make a point of being here. She catches my eye. "Poor little bride having trouble on her wedding day?"

"Why are you here?" I say, disregarding her.

"Well, it's not for your lack of trying to push me away now is it?"

"Just answer the question," I tell her. "Why are you still fighting for it?"

"I could simply ask you the same thing." She pauses, holds me in her considerably long frank stare and then adds, "You just don't get it. I know you don't love him and it pains me to know that he's going to get hurt because of it."

"You—!"

"You need to calm down. This is your day after all and I'd hate for life to get in the way. I mean, here you are, the biggest night of your life and you're hiding out in a powder room while your true love is in a different room. I just wish you could see it." Alannah turns and heads out the door.

You should've known better
Than to have, to let her
Get you under her spell of the weather
I got you where I want you
You did it, I never
I'm falling for forever
I'm playing head games with you
Got you where I want you
I got you, I got you
I got you where I want you now

*


I follow her out, ready to give her a piece of my mind, but I'm too late. With the door handle in my left hand, I watch as two security guards ask Alannah to leave the party. In the archway that leads back to the reception, I see Matt with his arms crossed over his chest watching the scene with an air of pride. Alannah starts off calm and flippant, unable to take the guards seriously. But as they step into her space and begin to physically move her, she loses it. Hands up in the air, Alannah goes off, screaming at the top of her lungs about how I don't love Matt and how this isn't fair. I hear one of the guards tell her she had a chance to intervene during the ceremony and then they are out of the building, out of sight.

I look away and turn my focus on the cake. I don't know what else to do. I'm shaking again, more violently than before I walked down the aisle. Some stupid girl, some mad-in-love bimbo could see straight through me and what does that mean?

"Every family's got one," Matt says in front of the crowd and there's a round of applause and laughter. "I would like to thank everybody who came out to celebrate this amazing day with us. Samantha and I are scheduled to leave for our honeymoon out of town. But, please, don't let us stop this party. The bar is still open and Mr. DJ here is paid for many other hours."

It's not one of those phases I'm going through
Or just a song, it's not one of them
I'm on my own
On my own
On my own again
I'm on my own again
I'm on my own again
I'm on my own again
I'm on my own again

*


Matt takes my hand and leads me outside, between the countless tables as the guests clap and cheer and whistle. The doors are opened by two guards and we head on through them. We are down the stairs before I can even tell what's going on and I see a car waiting for us.

"Are you ready to spend the rest of our lives together?"

I stare at him, into those puppy dog eyes I first witnessed back the morning he proposed to me and unlike then, I tell him yes now. We kiss and I get into the car.


***

((Lyrics by Lana Del Rey's The Blackest Day ))