As promised...have a great weekend.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Ayasha had called day and night obsessively and Storm knew he couldn’t avoid her much longer. It was over two weeks since he left Salina in that hotel room. Over two weeks of him sleeping only from sheer exhaustion, either from working out, riding until every cell in his body hurt or working until his eyes burnt. He had not spoken to any of his friends and when he did, his conversations were about a minute or less. But he stayed away from Ayasha because he was afraid. Afraid of the questions she would ask that he didn’t want to answer.
He looked out the window into his backyard. The sunlight reflected off the pool but it held no comparison to the beautiful ocean water, he and Salina had looked out at on the balcony of her hotel room. They never returned to his beach house. He was debating on whether to take her to either the beach house or Paris for her birthday or Christmas, but knowing her, she would have preferred the beach house.
He thought back to her birthday, the day she inherited everything. She seemed different, aloof but far more alert than she had been before. He was genuinely surprised at the ease in which she and Norma worked together. They seemed very much in harmony. He had spoken with Norma since that day and she explained that it was Dara who asked her a while ago to represent someone when the time came, and when it came it was Salina. The request has come from Henry which Dara carried out for him.
Norma promised she would keep him abreast of Salina’s moves in an effort to further protect her if she was in danger. However, she knew nothing of what got Salina scared during and after the meeting. She wasn’t versed in Salina’s various looks to know the look of panic or fear which appeared so fleetingly during the meeting but was in full force afterwards when she met with Madelyn. Madelyn still insisted everything was fine but he could not shake the feeling that something was off. It was as if she had seen a ghost. Chun and the person who sat next to him had a connection to her past. He needed to know what it was so he could protect her. Storm took a deep breath. He was caught in the bed of lies that surrounded her and he could only follow the orders left to him. Wishing he didn’t know was no longer an available option.
His phone rang. It was Mike but he forwarded the call to voicemail. They finally caught Rhonda, Katie and Paul. It was Paul who shot the homeowner and Katie and Rhonda both gave statements against him for a deal on their sentences. Rhonda sent messages asking him to represent her but he didn’t reply but when Katie tried to implicate Salina he contacted Norma who with his help had her brought up on more charges for other crimes that were being overlooked.
His phone rang again. This time it was Collin and once again, he sent the call to voicemail. Collin didn’t leave a message but sent a text message instead. ‘Dinner at my house tonight. No excuses. Show up! That’s now an order.’ He sighed. This was Ayasha’s doing. He couldn’t avoid her forever.
“You’ve been avoiding me!” Ayasha immediately accused when she answered the door.
“Well hello to you too Yashy. How’s the baby?” Storm asked bending to kiss her on the cheek.
“You’re not forgiven. You look terrible. Are you resting? No you’re not I can see it on you. Did you get bigger? You’re over doing your workouts aren’t you? Is this how you’re dealing with the situation?”
“Can I at least come in?”
“Fine, if you must.”
“You invited me,” he chuckled.
“Storm get in here. Ayasha, you said you weren’t going to speak to him,” Collin stated as he placed the chicken in the middle of the table.
“That was before I saw him,” Ayasha responded in a huff before waddling towards the dining room.
“You weren’t going to speak to me? Was that before or after you decided to make my favourite bake chicken?” Storm asked smirking at her.
“I wasn’t making it for you. I was craving it.”
“Yes, you were craving a menu you spent more than two days deciding what to make that will make him happy,” interjected Collin.
Ayasha looked at him sternly. “Blabber mouth. Don’t you have work tonight?”
“Every other night, it’s why do I have work,” Collin said to Storm. “Sit, I’m going to get the beers. We’ll both need them.”
Storm laughed while Ayasha scowled at them both.
“How much do you weigh now?” Storm asked teasingly.
Ayasha looked back at him scowling again. “I’m the same weight I was before I got pregnant.”
“I thought the changing hormones make your mood swing frequently. I didn’t know it made pregnant women delusional. Should we look into changing your doctor?”
“Do you want to leave? You just got here and you can’t take anything with you.”
Just then the door opened and Iris came in. “You’re alive,” she greeted Storm. “You’re waddling,” she greeted Ayasha, “and where’s the other one?” she asked just as Collin come through the door with the beers in his hands.
“Hey there,” Collin greeted.
“Beers already?” Iris asked.
“Your bff. We’ll need them. Do you want one?” asked Collin.
She saw the look on Storm’s and Ayasha’s face and decided that she did. “Yep!”
Dinner was a somewhat lively affair with everyone deliberately staying on light subjects. No one wanted to address the topic that was on everyone’s mind. Storm wondered how much longer Ayasha could hold out.
Ayasha was ordered to sit since she was so close to her due date while Storm deliberately helped Colin clear the table so he could keep avoiding her.
“You can’t keep avoiding her you know,” Collin said as he took the salad bowl from Storm.
“Yeah, I know. I just don’t know what to say to her since she really liked Sal…lina,” Storm replied scraping the food into the garbage.
“By the way, what is her real name?”
“Why did she have to get a different name, the full story if you don’t mind. And that name fits her so much better.”
“Yes, I agree. The short version; she was giving a new identity of sorts since she helped bring down a drug dealer and protect her until she received her inheritance.”
“Wow, so the girl that everyone thought was poor is actually very wealthy.”
“Yes, more than a few hundred million dollars.”
Suddenly the door opened and both Ayasha and Iris come rushing in.
“Did I hear you correctly, Sally is worth a few hundred million dollars?” asked Iris.
“How much hundred million dollars?” asked Ayasha immediately. Storm looked on and folded his arms across his chest while Collin shook his head and took a sip of his beer. “Well how much, more than one or two or three?” she asked impatiently.
“Tell them something or the nagging won’t stop,” taunted Collin who was curious himself but willing to wait for the information.
Ayasha scowled, “It’s not nagging, it’s information gathering.”
“Don’t you have dishes to do?” interjected Iris. She smiled sweetly at Storm. “You look tired, maybe you should sit for a while. Do you want me to get you something to drink? Another beer perhaps?”
“I’m still working on this one thanks and I’m helping Collin with the dishes remember? Also, her name is Salina.” Storm shook his head before returning to his task.
“Why did you end it with her?” Ayasha asked softly.
Storm stopped and took a deep breath. “I was wondering when you would get around to asking that question.” He turned to face her. “I had to Ayasha…”
“But why? You obviously care about her…”
“Yes, I do but I…it had to end.”
“Is she that much of a risk…”
“No, she’s not at least not anything I can’t afford to protect us all from.”
“Then why Storm…”
“Ayasha, just leave it please,” Storm pleaded.
However, Ayasha wouldn’t let up. “You were happy with her, happier that I’d ever seen you with anyone. You even took her to the beach…”
“AYASHA!” Storm snapped. “Yes, I care about her.” He sighed. “I want her trust. I need her trust and if she can’t trust me, she can’t love me. And I need it Ayasha. I need it because I’m in love with her. I’m in love with her.” Storm paused before continuing, “I love her.” He closed his eyes as he remembered what he had discovered and wondered how he could ask for her trust when he would have to lie to her.
Storm walked into his office in a daze. The weekend had been a blur, one that he wanted to both remember and forget. He was going to do neither. He could still see her; her smile, her eyes glazed over in ecstasy, feel her walls clamping all around him, holding him so perfectly tight. All her barriers were down. She had opened herself to him completely. She smiled and reached up to pull him down to her. Her kisses were the sweetest drug, like the purest honey. But he walked out of that hotel room knowing that he needed her trust. He stopped at the door and listened to her begin to cry and while he yelled at himself a thousand times, he couldn’t go back. He was in-love with her and now he realized how much he wanted her love in return. She had to come to him.
After more than twenty minutes, he decided to go through the letters on this desk. One caught his eye. It was from his father’s solicitors. Why would they send him a letter instead of calling? Storm dropped the letter on the desk and went to the window. He looked outside but then turned back to the letter sitting on top of the pile. Something was compelling him to open the letter so he did. Inside was a key to safety deposit box and a note from his father.
‘Son, I trust and love you’.
Storm left the office immediately and went to the bank. In the safety deposit box was the medical file of Salina A. Carter, her real file. His hands began to tremble as he opened it but nothing could prepare him for what he saw. Pictures of Salina, bloody and beaten, her chest and head wrapped in bandages. He closed his eyes; blood was everywhere. He now knew what Madelyn and Dara saw, why they had protected her so. How she survived the beating was practically a miracle. He read the description of her injuries; concussion, head trauma, broken and cracked ribs, broken arm, raped. That word, he read over and over again. He turned the page and the description of a surgery to repair internal damages caused by a brutal rape; possibility of future childbirth uncertain, probability nil. The description of her psychological exam read: no memory; unconscious during assault due head trauma; memory possibly unrecoverable. Then he found a letter from his father.
‘Storm, this is the last thing I will ask of you, Salina Carter doesn’t know she was raped. She was too badly beaten and it was unsure if she would live. Henry had her placed in a coma while things were done to guarantee her safety. Henry and I are asking you to keep this secret from her. She has suffered so much already.’
Storm closed his eyes. She was being so careful not get pregnant while in school when all the while she couldn’t get pregnant because of the damages they tried to repair. He thought about the family he wanted with her and how it was now an impossibility. But he would do as his father and godfather asked because he loved her. He would do it even though he wanted her trust and love.
Storm turned back to look at Ayasha. He looked over to Collin, “Thanks for…I have to go.” He walked by Ayasha and stopped. He cupped her cheek before giving her a weak smile and then bending to kiss her goodbye. “Take care of yourself and the baby.” He walked away and stopped to give Iris a kiss also. “Take care of her and call me.”
“I will,” said Iris as she smiled weakly at him and squeezed his arm in reassurance. “I’m here if you want a sarcastic point of view.”
Storm smiled and nodded and left.
“The order is for special seafood pasta with garlic herb sauce and extra garlic bread sticks with extra garlic and chicken soup?”
“Yes, payment cash,” replied the waiter.
“And they’ll pick it up outside but they don’t want to leave their name and they want it brought out to them.”
“Yes, that’s the order. Is something wrong?” the waiter asked.
“No. Make the order and tell Chef it’s a special client. It has to be perfect.”
“Okay, will do. Do we know how this person is?”
“I do,” replied Brad. It was Salina and she was afraid to come inside.
When the order was ready, Brad took the order from the waiter and gave him a $20 tip.
“Hey when did you collect the money?” the waiter asked.
“Start cleaning up. I’m going to be a while,” he ordered as he left with the food.
She was sitting on the bonnet of the car with her back towards the restaurant, looking up at the stars or what little there was that night. She turned immediately when she heard the foot steps behind her and jumped off the car when she saw him coming.
“Don’t leave,” Brad cried when she moved quickly towards the driver’s side.
Salina stopped and looked at him before looking away. “I didn’t mean…”
“Why didn’t you come inside? Do you think you’re not welcomed?” Brad asked.
Salina looked down, then up, then away from him. She opened her wallet and pulled out a $100 bill and tried handing it to him without taking the food.
“You no longer want the food because I’m delivering it?” he asked. Walking over to her slowly, he placed the food on the car carefully. She turned to walk away and but he grabbed her arm. “Don’t walk away, you’re a friend,” he said softly. He saw the tears well in her eyes. “We can say hi.”
She nodded in the affirmative and whispered, “Hi.”
“Come on now we do better than that. How about we try looking at each other, that way it has meaning,” he coaxed.
Salina turned to him slowly, “Hi,” she whispered.
“Hi, how are you doing?”
“Fine,” she whispered again and tried to smile.
“No you’re not,” he rebutted softly. She didn’t look at him. “Why didn’t you come inside? I figured it out from your last order. Your love of garlic bread gave you away,” he teased. “Did you think I would deny your order?”
“I would understand,” she replied.
“He’s like a brother to me. He knows me better than anyone and stood by my side when my parents turned away from me because I didn’t want to be a corporate mascot. I have his support and he has mine but you’re now a friend also.”
Salina looked at him, “I would only come between you…I won’t hurt him like that.”
“He’s hurting now,” Brad informed softly. She turned away and began to cry. He turned her around and pulled her into his arms, “and so are you.” She crumbled and he held on to her.
“I don’t want to hurt him. I don’t want him hurt. I didn’t want to hurt him,” she repeated as she sobbed.
“You’re both hurting so badly,” he said as he soothe her.
“She’s in the hospital.” It was the only thing Colin said when Storm answered the phone.
Storm quickly grabbed his keys and left. He was about to become an uncle and he couldn’t wait. Salina also received a text message from Dara. ‘Your presence is requested at the hospital for the birth of Ayasha’s baby. The request came directly from Ayasha.’ She read the text message several times before deciding that it would be best if she just sent flowers. But the flowers were rejected and the message that accompanied them was, ‘I want you here, not flowers’. So she went and waited in the small waiting room away from everyone asking the nurses to give her updates. Unbeknownst to her, Collin knew she was there and gave permission to comply with her request. She saw Storm waiting with his Aunt, Uncle, Iris, Brad. Even Mike and Kevin showed up but left and said they would return later. She waited alone in the other room.
Collin came out, “It’s a girl. I have a daughter,” he told everyone before returning to the delivery room.
Salina was happy and watched as Storm and his family hugged each other, happy that both mother and daughter were safe and healthy. She decided to leave and on her way out, saw Mitch. They had not spoken since her return. He had called repeatedly, left message and sent text but her only reply to him was that she couldn’t be his friend at the moment. They looked at each other as they slowly walked by, either not knowing what to say.
One of the hospital directors called out to her, “Sally, it’s nice to see you. I heard you are returning this Saturday. Is that correct?”
Sally turned back to see if Mitch had heard. He had because he gave her a look of anger before walking away. Storm and everyone else turned when they heard her name and quietly watched the interaction. She met Storm’s eyes but quickly looked away.
“Yes, I am but I’m requesting a transfer to another hospital.”
“Yes, I saw the request. Do you have some time now to come to my office so we can talk about it?”
Mitch heard and pushed the door he was going through harder than he should but stopped when he heard his name. He turned abruptly and bumped into someone.
“I’m so sorry,” Mitch apologized as he grabbed the person to prevent them falling backwards.
“Iris, are you okay?” Storm asked.
“Yes, are you okay?” asked Mitch.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine,” Iris answered looking at Mitch before looking at Storm.
“Beautiful flower, beautiful lady,” Mitch stated.
“I need to talk with you,” said Storm. Mitch nodded. “Did you know she was here?” he asked referring to Salina.
“No, I just saw her,” he replied.
Storm hesitated. “How is she doing?”
“I don’t know. We haven’t…we no longer communicate,” Mitch answered dejectedly.
“What does that mean?” asked Storm curiously and with a bit of disbelief.
“I mean this is the first time I’ve seen her since…”
“Ayasha wanted her here. She’s been here all this time in the other waiting room by herself,” interjected Collin.
“Why didn’t she come over and wait with us?” asked Iris.
“She didn’t want to intrude on the family,” answered Collin.
Iris took a deep breath and released it, “Excuse me,” she said and left.
“I have to go also,” said Mitch before leaving.
Storm looked in the direction where Salina had gone and debated if he should try and catch up with her.
Salina had just left the director’s office, who did a very good job of explaining why she should stay at that hospital and complete her internship. Salina had been given full exemption for the days she had missed with the knowledge that she had to make up the work. She really would like Mitch’s help but how could she ask for his help knowing that she didn’t have answers to give him that wasn’t all lies. It was why she had requested the transfer. Not wanting him to be uncomfortable around her, she felt it best if she left.
It was outside by the curb waiting to cross the road to the parking lot where Iris finally caught up to her.
“Salina! Wait!” Iris yelled.
Salina turned to see Iris coming towards her. “Did something happen to Ayasha or the baby?” she asked concerned.
“No, nothing happened except you sneaking off like a thief in the night. You could have at least said congratulations to her face.”
“I think it’s inappropriate for me to be here now. I’m very happy…”
“Cut the shit.” Iris looked away before continuing. “You’re the only one she’s ever liked.” Iris looked away again as if making a decision. “When I was a teenage I had a crush on him. I was willing to give up my friendship with Ayasha for him. When I saw him with his girlfriends, I wanted to rip their eyes out. Ayasha and I got into a situation and as usual, when her dad wasn’t around, she went to her brother. Some guys who were jealous of him and Brad tried to get to take advantage of us and he didn’t take it lightly. But one of the guys said that he must be sleeping with me because of how he was defending me to which he replied, ‘She’s my sister you ass and if you hurt her, I’m going to hurt you.’ But then the guy said that I wasn’t but Storm’s reply was that I was like his sister. It was a hard pill to swallow. It took a while but eventually I realized I had a much better part of him. He would always be there for me and he’s been. He was happy with you. He smiled more. He worried more. He shared more. You’re the only one she’s ever liked for him, not even me. Go see her and the baby.”
“Iris, I’ll only upset everyone and bring down the mood of such a happy occasion.”
“No you won’t, because we care about you.”
Salina walked in the room tentatively. “Hi” she whispered to Ayasha.
“You’re here,” Ayasha said as she sat up. “Did you see her? She’s so beautiful.”
“Yes, I went to up and saw her. She is beautiful. How are you doing?” Salina asked.
Ayasha held out her arms for a hug and Salina hugged her back crying a bit. “Don’t cry,” said Ayasha.
“Congratulations,” said Salina. “I’m truly happy for you. You have a wonderful family.”
“Yes, I do and so do you. We’re still friends,” Ayasha said holding on to Salina’s hand.
Just then Storm and others came in. “Hey sweethe…” Storm began but suddenly stopped when he saw Salina.
“Hello there,” said Collin as he kissed Salina on the cheek. “Thanks for coming.”
“Thanks for having me,” replied Salina.
“Hello again,” said Brad to Salina as he also gave her a kiss.
“Hello.” Salina replied timidly but looked at Storm and very softly said “hello.”
“Hello,” Storm returned before turning to Ayasha. “She beautiful just like her mother.”
“Yes, she is. How are you feeling sweetheart?” Brad asked coming over to kiss Ayasha on the cheek.
“I feel well. I want to hold her.”
“You will, very soon. They’re bringing her down,” Collin replied.
Ayasha looked up at Storm, “It’ll be your turn soon.”
Storm immediately looked at Salina. When she felt his eyes on her, she looked at him then quickly looked away.
“Ayasha, I have to go. Congratulations to you both again. She’s beautiful.”
“Wait, stay a bit longer, they’re bringing her down,” Collin suggested.
“I can’t. Thank you. Goodbye.”
After Salina left, Storm walked over to Brad, “What did you mean by ‘hello again’?”
Brad looked at Storm, “All she cares about is you not being hurt.”
“What?” Storm asked confused.
“It’s a good thing I have the key and know the code of the alarm,” said Brad as he sat in the chair on the opposite side to Storm and took a drink of his beer.
Storm didn’t look up at him but took a drink of his beer also. Brad noticed he was on his sixth bottle and the look on his face was far from happy.
“For a guy who became an uncle less than a week ago, you don’t look happy.” Still no response. “There’s more to this breakup than what meets the eye. Or do you want a family that badly?”
“What do you want Brad?” Storm finally asked.
“I want to know the truth to begin with.”
After almost five minutes Storm spoke. “She’s worth millions and no one can find out.”
“Is it stolen?”
“No, legally earned and inherited.”
After about five minutes, Brad spoke, “That’s not all.” Brad watched as Storm swiftly look at him before turning away and tried to forced his body to relax but the tension was still about, just below the surface. “There’s more to this breakup. Secrets both you are holding on to that’s eating you both up inside. You’re my best friend and brother. You’re my family.”
After about ten minutes Storm spoke, “She’s the goddaughter of a notorious drug lord…”
“Her father didn’t know and when he found out he cut all ties. But Ian was already her godfather and when her father died, he came back for her. When she resisted,” he paused, “he beat her almost to death.”
“She was about fifteen years old.”
“Henry put the drug money in her name because of how her father’s will was written to save her life but she’s still afraid even though she’s gotten her inheritance.”
“That’s why she doesn’t want you hurt…”
“You keep saying that. When did you speak with her?”
“She ordered dinner but was afraid to come in. When I brought the food to her we spoke for a bit but she’s began to cry and kept saying she didn’t want you hurt.”
“She’s also worried about her nanny.”
“Yes, the only family she has left. She’s terrified of her getting hurt.”
“And she thinks the only way to protect you is to stay away from you.”
“She doesn’t trust me,” Storm said dragging his hand through his hair. “She doesn’t trust anyone.”
“Yeah, I know. She doesn’t know how.” Storm sighed.
After a brief moment of silence, “She loves you. She loves you enough to give you up,” said Brad. “You have to teach her how to trust you.”