How You Remind Me ...
Mace holds my arm and asks me if I am okay as I stand watching Mango's car drive away then turn to stand and stare at Gravel's house.
I smile at him and tell him I'm really nervous. I haven't seen or spoken to Gravel for over twenty years, we parted on bad terms and I really have no idea how this is going to go. He could very well slam the door in my face for all I know!!
I stack the cases up against the wall of the house, take a deep breath and knock on the door. There would have been a time when I would have just waltzed straight in without even knocking, but that was a long time ago.
A young girl opens the door pretty quickly, she appears from the direction of the kitchen and stands there smiling at me. I can see straight away she has Mango's hair and she is pregnant ... so this must be Coral and who all the fuss is about.
"You must be Coral, I'm sorry it's so late, is Gravel in?" I ask her and she smiles at me then glances at Mace for a moment who is stood behind me.
"Yes, come in I'll just get him for you, who shall I say it is." she frowns at me, probably because she has never seen me before, but I am wandering if she hasn't already spotted the resemblance.
"Just tell him it's an old friend, I haven't seen him for a while, I want to surprise him."
She gives me a strange look then walks across the living room and starts yelling Gravel really loudly up the stairs without taking her eyes off me. Minutes later he comes belting down the stairs asking if she's okay. He hasn't noticed me and Mace standing just inside the doorway. He is stood there with a paint brush in his hand and he's splattered in orange paint. Coral points in our direction and tells him he has visitors.
He looks over at us and I think it takes a while for it to sink in properly. His eyes widen as he drops the paintbrush out of his hand and just stands there with a strange look on his face. It's almost like I watch quite a few different expressions flash across his face - none of which I can really read. Suddenly he comes flying across the room and throws himself at me.
Gravel leaps on me and wraps his legs around me just like he used to when he was a kid and I automatically start swinging him around like I used to while we are both laughing and crying. He is really heavy or am I getting old, I have to put him down. I guess he's happy to see me at least.
"Yow!! Little brother I'm not as young as I used to be!!" I laugh at him thinking of all the years after he'd grown up when he never did that. "and you have gotten a lot heavy than the last time you tried to do that!!"
"GRANITE!! I don't believe it where did you come from?" he says while he's still hugging me.
"Mango phoned me." this wipes the smile right off his face. He steps backwards and away from me because I think he knows I must know. He looks nervously over at Coral
"When did you speak to Mango? He never said!!"
"No because I told him not to!!" I swing for him then and punch him as hard as I can in the face, I'm only getting one punch and I want it to hurt!! Coral starts screaming the house down.
"W -T -F Gran?!" Gravel mumbles as he's holding his mouth.
"Shut your bitch up!!" I snap at Gravel
Her hysterical screaming is going straight through me, and there really is no need when it was just one punch, the way she is carrying on you'd think I'd just stabbed him!! Gravel tells Coral it's okay, I'm his brother and there won't be any trouble. She shuts up almost straight away.
"What was that for Gran?" he ask
"Do you SERIOUSLY need to ask me that question?!" he just stands there holding his face staring at me "Take your pick - your list of back stabs is growing!! I promised Mango I would only hit you once even though what I really want to do is knock your damn head completely off you berry hole!!" I snap at him "Stabbing me in the back is one thing - but what you have done to your own son - it's disgusting and I'm ashamed to call you my brother!!"
"So why did you even bother coming here?" he snaps at me as he tries to wipe the blood off his nose and lip "Like you are an angel suddenly you crack head!!"
"Oh times change bro - do I honestly look like I'm still on that shit?!" I snap at him "I'm squeaky clean these days, level headed perfectly legal and sober. I'm definitely not here for you that's for sure!!" I poke him in the chest "I'm here so my nephew can have one of my kidneys because you are even too useless to do that for him - call yourself a Dad - you are a joke!!"
"They should never have found you!! I told them not to bother, I'm actually surprised you are still alive and haven't finished yourself off with all the shit you pour down your neck!!" he snaps at me as he stares at Mace "Who is this?" he asks quite rudely.
"USED TO pour down my neck and it's a very good job they have found me!!" I snap at him "This is Mace, he'll tell you I'm his boyfriend but really I just shag him!!" I hear Coral start laughing so I look over at her. I really don't know why but I already get the feeling I really don't like that girl!!
"Oh Berry!!" Gravel starts laughing "Well I know someone who is going to love this!! Not!! I take it by the cases you plan to stay here ... your own gaff not big enough? - you know three is a crowd and all that!" he smirks at me
"Wind your neck in Gravel, I wandered how long it would take you!! That was over twenty years ago!! Don't even start me Gravel I'm warning you!! ..."
I scowl at him quite nastily through gritted teeth and I think he can tell he's already gone too far as his face drops. He's already winding me by bringing Forrest up so soon, even though he didn't say his name out loud he might as well have done, Mace isn't stupid!! I can see he hasn't changed any, he is still as spiteful as ever. I bet he'd love nothing better than to set me and Mace off arguing!!
"So are you going to introduce me to the community bike or what?" Gravel scowls at me "Tell her I'm gay won't you I don't want any nasty surprises creeping into my bed in the middle of the night - I know how she likes to keep it in the family!!" I laugh at him because I can also play his game.
Gravel swings for me then just like I knew he would. I was waiting for it and duck as I swipe his legs from underneath him - I get him with it ever time. He flies backwards and lands on his back I'm already crouched down waiting to pounce and I sit on top of him and he starts laughing when I start slapping his cheeks like I used to when he was a kid.
"You still haven't worked that one out have you Gravel!! I promised Mango I'd only hit you once, but I'm warning you, swing for me again and I'll be breaking promises you berry hole!!" I kiss his head "Put the kettle on, airplane and hospital coffee tastes like shite and I'm starving!!" I jump up and pull him to his feet. I turn to Mace and smirk
"I hope you didn't pack any of your wacky backy Mace - I did tell you my little brother is crooked filth didn't I ... he'll be rooting through our cases the minutes our backs are turned and he'll have no qualms about locking you up for it!!" Mace laughs
"No but I packed your kinky underwear and gimp suit!!" Mace laughs and winks at me. "So he might get a few shocks if he goes rooting through our cases!"
Hell!! where did that come from, it's been a long time since I've heard him give me a come back like that. I laugh at him as he puts his arm round me.
"Oh good!! I hope these walls are soundproof Grav because you are so in trouble!!" I smile at my brother who is rolling his eyes "I hope we are not getting a creaky bed either - I'd hate to keep you awake at night ... Oh! but I guess you don't get much sleep yourself these days do you!!" I glance over at Coral before I scowl at Gravel "What with the stolen piece half your age and your heavy conscience, I'm surprised you've not got bags the size of shopping trolleys under your eyes ... you berry hole!!"
"Still the joker I see!!" he starts laughing sarcastically "and I can't even smell booze on you - that's a first!!" I wandered how long it would take him to mention that again. Surely he must know I have to be completely clean to be a kidney donor!!
"Yep still the joker!! Haven't I already told you I'm completely clean and have been for over twenty years or are you deaf?! QUIT rubbing my face in my past Gravel - you've got no room to talk or right to judge anyone after what you and Miss easy have driven your son too!!" He is already starting to really rile me and turn me into a person I don't like. It's almost like the last twenty years have disappeared and we are stood here doing our usual routine!!
"QUIT digging at Coral I'm warning you!! he snaps quite nastily
"I'll quit digging when you do berry hole!!"
I have to laugh or I'd cry!! Things never change! We have always had a love hate relationship, even when we were kids. We have always rubbed each other up the wrong way, our personality's clash badly. I hate the person he is but I love him because he's my brother. One minute we are laughing the next being nasty ... I don't doubt we'll be having a punch up before the week is out!!
We walk though into the kitchen and Gravel starts cooking us something to eat while I stand watching him. Mace stays in the living room to talk to Coral. It seems a little weird watching Gravel cooking, it also feels very strange not having Amber around the place.
I ask him what's been happening in this sleeping town while I've been away. He shocks me when he starts telling me about the case he's been working on for the past eight months. The abduction of Mango's son Tapestry by Mango's evil Sister in Law and ex girlfriend and the possible involvement of his eldest son who Mango didn't even know existed until Tapestry was abducted from his murdered cousins funeral. Then he tells me about Tapestry's girlfriend who has just faded in childbirth along with one of the twins they were having.
"Hell!! This used to be such a quiet town where nothing ever happened - I use to be the one causing most of the shit in this town!!" Gravel starts laughing
"That's the trouble when you get anti mixing pure berry's moving into town!!"
"Shit I'm surprised Mango hasn't cracked up!!"
"We are talking about Mango here - you remember what he was like as a kid, he hasn't changed much ... and you haven't heard the half of it ..." Then he starts to tell me about his Sister in law reign of terror her list of victims and how she tried to murder Lilly, Mango's wife which put her in a four year coma, "She was pregnant at the time too with triplets - Coral, Mosaic and Tapestry." I'm a little surprised that Mosaic and Coral are part of triplets. On first impressions I think I can already see how different they are. I really like Mosaic and can't stand Coral.
"I'm glad to see you and Mango are still mates!" Gravel grunts
"I wouldn't exactly say we are mates anymore!! He's far from happy about me and Coral ... or the baby fiasco which no doubt he's filled you in on ... he thinks the sun shines out of Slates backside." he laughs a little
"Yeah you piss taking berry hole - Slate Granite Rock - why would you even call your kid that? You obviously don't give a shit about me so why would you switch my names round and give them to your kid?" He doesn't say anything he just keeps his back to me shrugs his shoulders and carries on cooking. "I'm sorry about Amber by the way!" he doesn't say anything he just stands staring blankly at the wall. "I was shocked when Mango told me - it must have been rough!!"
"So where have you been hiding yourself for the past twenty years?" he asks like he is trying to avoid all talk of Amber which I find strange.
"I've been rooted in Cherry Hill for the last ten years and I haven't exactly been hiding." he raises his eyebrows at me
"I never looked for you in Cherry Hill or Berry Shores I thought you would be out in the coded world!" he mumbles.
"Yeah right!! Obviously you haven't been looking for me at all!! A colour mix town should have been the first place for you to look I am a mixed berry after all - you could have found me quite easily if you had wanted to!"
We sit down to eat and it's just small talk conversation flying around the table, Coral does a lot of the talking, she's full of herself. The more I get to know her the more I don't like her!! It's hard to imagine that she's Mango's daughter or why my brother and nephew would even like her!! I'm actually very surprised at Gravel, Coral and Amber are so different it's unreal!! I loved Amber like a sister, I doubt I'm even going to like this one!!
Mace and Coral get onto the subject of painting and they are away with it while me and Gravel just listen. I notice Gravel continuously watching me and Mace. A lot of the time he's eyeing Mace up, he's probably trying to suss him out. I'm actually surprised that he hasn't given him the third degree yet.
When we finish eating Mace amuses me by collecting up the dishes and takes them over to the sink to wash them up. I wait for him to finish then go over to him and put my arms around him and hope he's not about to start moaning because of what I'm about to say to him.
"Can you go and find something to do - warm up the bed or do some unpacking, I need some alone time with my little brother." I smile at Mace. "I'm sure Coral will show you to our room, and make sure the bed is not right up against the wall, you know how banging headboards give me a headache!!" Mace laughs at me as he kisses me and walks out of the kitchen with Coral. I hear him start to natter away to her, he seems to be getting on with her okay.
"So ... you and the boyfriend?" he says as soon as they walk out of earshot. Oh here we go, I wandered how long it would take him to start on about Mace. "How long have you two been together?"
"Five years." I smile at him
"That looks expensive!" he says as he starts inspecting my watch
"Mace bought it me for valentines day last year - he's a bit of sap - he has a hissy fit if I don't wear it." he starts laughing at me. "I hate it but I wear it because it keeps him quiet and happy - he nags like a woman!"
"Is that the proceeds of crime or have you got yourself a rich toy boy? He looks younger than you." This makes me laugh "I notice his nails are squeaky clean, his hands look like they haven't done a hard days graft in his life, his clothes aren't cheap and that ring on his finger it must have cost a packet - his love of oil painting, he has expensive tastes!! Lobster since when did you eat lobster?!" He starts laughing.
I could have killed Mace for telling Coral the story about the lobsters and the funeral joke!! Especially when we are sat there eating Mac & Cheese - 'normal' food that Mace hasn't really done for a long time but will have to get used to while he's stopping here!!
"Nothing gets past you does it - I bet you already know how heavy he is, what size shoe he wears and which side it hangs!!" He laughs at me "Yeah I got me a toy boy - we bumped off his parents for the inheritance!" he frowns at me as his eyes widen.
"I hope you are joking!!"
"Of course I'm joking you jerk!! Like I'd tell you if I'd even ran a red light - I know how you love seeing me behind bars!!" he rolls his eyes at me "Yeah he's a spoiled rich kid, can't you tell - Daddy feeds his expensive tastes - he's a bum, he doesn't need to work!!"
I laugh to myself thinking that's as good a story as any to keep him quiet and off my back until he hears the real truth - not that this is really that far from the truth, he just doesn't realize I'm the Daddy who feeds his expensive tastes. He asks me what I do for money these days
"I work at the hospital." He starts laughing
"Cleaning bed pans is it ... nice!!" he carries on laughing - that's just typical of him, he could have asked what I actually do, but no he has to presume the worst of me!! He can think what he damn well likes I don't really care!!! I doubt he would believe the truth without an argument anyway!!
"Mango has given me the job of delivering the good news - I'm an acceptable match for Slate - he can have one of my kidneys." he looks a little shocked for a moment "You are useless you couldn't even give him the correct amount of your genes for a parent and he must have Ambers blood which luckily is the same group as mine!! I'm almost a perfect match for him which is a little puzzling as you didn't even come close - you'd think he was my kid not yours!!"
I start really laughing because I know that is not even remotely possible but it still doesn't make a lot of sense to me even though I've seen the results with my own eyes. He gets a funny expression wash across his face then he frowns at me for a moment.
"I see a lot of Mom in Slate and you've got a lot of Mom in you haven't you!!" he says suddenly and I frown at him wandering where that came from "You got her nose, her smile, her sense of humour, her stubbornness, her addiction to alcohol ... strange how you got all Dad's colouring when you are more like Mom and I got her grey hair and eye colouring when I'm nothing like her - genetics are strange!!"
"I'm actually surprised you remember her that well - I didn't think you would!!"
We lost both of our parents really early on in life. Gravel was only a child when our Mother faded, even younger when our Father, who was in the police force, faded at work, she faded only three years after he did. That is I think what sent me off the rails originally, I was a teenager when our Mother died and I was left alone with my little brother to look after. Luckily we were taken in by my boyfriends family, we actually had the choice, Mango's parent also offered to take us in but I chose to go with my boyfriends family. I've sometimes wished I'd gone the other way since, I doubt that Spicey Muffin would have let me go off the rails like I did, not that I blame Forrest's parents because I don't ... it was all me and my fault.
"Yeah I remember her, Dad too - I'm more like Dad aren't I?" this amuses me "Maybe what bit of Mom is in me Slate got." I'm not really sure what his logic is or what he's trying to say.
"Yeah you are like Dad in a lot of ways - both back stabbing slimy lying selfish filth!!" he cuts his eyes at me "Looking at Slate, I don't see any Amber bar his hair, he looks like a Rock to me - I notice the poor kid even got the nose so I'm surprised by the results!" he frowns at me and asks when I've seen Slate. "I've been at the hospital for most of the day getting tested and sitting with Slate and talking to Bayleaf."
"Lucky you!! I've only seen Slate once since he did it, the night they found him. Mango showed him me hooked up to all the machines then kicked me out. I'm now not even allowed to go in and see my own son, Mango has banned me until Slate says I can. Some crap about it being in the patients best interests" he says sarcastically and looks a little miserable. I can't help be a little amused at Mango, but in the circumstances knowing the facts I think I would have done the same thing.
"Well that serves you right Gravel!! Your son's girlfriend for berry's sake?!" I snap at him "Do you know how lucky you are - I'd give anything to have a kid of my own, that is the only reason why I hate being gay!! You have a kid!! You are supposed to protect your kids not stab them in the back - Slate should be your life - especially after all the trouble that you went through to have him, you lost Amber because of it for berry's sake!! HOW could you be THAT selfish and do that to him?? What the hell were you thinking??
"I wasn't thinking with my head obviously - I tried to fight it but ... I love her and she loves me - it just happened." he scowls at me "Don't even bother to lay into me either, I know what I've done to Slate without you telling me like everyone else already has!! You we'ren't here, you didn't see what he was like, he'll see one day it was for the best ..." I start laughing at him thinking about what Bayleaf told me.
"Yeah Bay told me your half baked theory about Slate being gay and not finding himself yet!!" I snap at him "So don't bother - I don't want to hear your crap!! Blame shifting rubbish - even Bay has got you taped!!" I laugh at the look on his face "I thought you would have grown out of lying by now!! Seriously though your crap gets worse - You've rescued Coral and set Slate free to find himself ... BULLSHIT!!!" I scowl at him for a moment "Hell!! You crossed a line Gravel that you NEVER should have crossed!! He is your son for berry's sake!! Your timing stinks too ... you and me both know the chances of those babies being yours is not good with your fertility problems - odds on those babies are Slates and you have probably split up a family there for what?!"
"Don't tell Coral about my problem for berry's sake she's almost convinced herself that those babies are mine!!"
"Please tell me you haven't been straight with her!? You jerk!!" I frown at him as he shakes his head and looks down "What the hell is wrong with you Gravel - is your sole aim in life to ruin every one close to you just for your own pleasure?!"
"Don't be ridiculous I don't aim to hurt anyone!! They could be mine ..." he snaps. The defeated look on his face tells me he might be saying it but he doesn't believe what he's saying himself!!
"Yeah and pigs might fly ... so come on how many years was it you and Amber were trying with fertility treatment and everything else they could throw at you - 3 years that I know too and how many rounds of Artificial Incemination did you and Amber go through or whatever else you tried after I left before Slate arrived? You are fooling yourself Gravel - and that girl - she thinks they are your babies - I'd bet everything I own on them being Slates!!"
"It was just one more AI after you left ... and there is always a chance no matter how slim that they could still be mine so don't you DARE say a word to Coral!!"
"You need to tell her Gravel it isn't fair it's going to be harder for her to take when they arrive and she's disappointed!!! Actually I'm surprised Mango hasn't picked up on it, he does know about your problems I take it - you are mates after all!" I laugh at him as he pulls a really horrible face. "So Mango doesn't know!! - Hell I should have known he doesn't know because I doubt you'd be sat there in one piece otherwise - you do realize you are playing with your mates daughter and I doubt he treats his kids like you have treated yours!!"
"No Mango doesn't know - we kind of lost touch for a lot of years, he went away to that boarding school and when he came back he brought back a load of his school mates with him including Lilly. He didn't have time for me with them, his career and then what went on with Lilly - we've only really reconnected because of Coral and Slate being together and Tapestry. He is not my doctor so he wouldn't know unless someone tells him or he goes poking about in my medical files and it's been over 20 years so I doubt he would look back that far!!"
"Well you want to hope not for your sake!!" I frown at him "YOU NEED TO COME CLEAN with Coral!! I hate to remind you when Slate wakes up and finds out she is pregnant won't he say something?"
"No because he doesn't know about my problems!" he laughs
"For berry's Sake Gravel!! Have you actually told that boy of yours ANYTHING?! I know he doesn't know I even exist, Forrest, Meadow, Mommy, Paps?! What the hell HAVE you been telling him?! The poor kid thinks he's got no family but you - I don't get it?!" I laugh sarcastically "You know I seriously wouldn't put it past you to tell Slate the babies are yours even when they are not ..."
"DON'T BE SO FUDGING STUPID!!!" He suddenly yells at me and gets a strange look on his face. It's almost like I've hit a nerve, like that is what he was planning - I seriously wouldn't put it past him to be that sick to keep Coral sweet!!
"Well Slate needs warning so he can prepare himself for what's coming - I know those babies are going to be his like you do!! I'm sorry but I WILL be telling Slate about your problems when he wakes up and is told about the pregnancy - so you better get Coral told quickly and if you don't I will when I tell Slate and Mango - you can't keep playing with peoples lives like you do!!"
"Says you!!" he grabs my hand off the table and frowns down at my ring "Please tell me that's Forest's ring and not a new one!!"
"Its Forrest's, I've never taken it off!!" I snap as I snatch my hand back "And don't you go telling Mace - he knows that I used to be married but he doesn't realize I'm still wearing my wedding ring he thinks this is just a normal ring!!"
"Used to be?" he starts laughing "Have you divorced him?"
"No but no doubt he's divorced me years ago for abandoning him!"
"Oh bro ... are you in for a surprise!!" he carries on laughing almost hysterically "It's a good job you haven't married your toy boy - the word bigamy springs to mind - you can get six years for that you know!!" I just sit there staring at him "You are STILL married to Forrest you twat!!"
"Get lost Gravel, I don't find you funny!!" I snap at him "It's been twenty years I know he has got to have moved on and divorced me by now!"
"Straight up - you are still married to Forrest." he puts his hand on his chest and does look serious "I'm not joking if that's what you think!! On my life you are still legally married - the sap just never bothered to divorce you!!" I can feel the blood draining from my face. I'm shocked, but Mace springs to mind and how he is going to react after I've convinced him that Forrest would have divorced me - I thought he would have divorced me!! If Mace finds this out he is going to go absolutely ballistic and I could really do without the headache.
"Hell!! Whatever you do DON'T tell Mace ..."
"What was it you said just a minute ago about me not telling Coral?" he gets that smug look across his face that I hate.
"The secrets you are keeping are totally different and you know it!! Me and Forrest have been apart for twenty years - its over - a trip to the solicitors, a piece of paper signed and its done - its not like its going to wreck the rest of Maces life just spare his feelings until the divorce is final you on the other hand are playing with the rest of four peoples lifes!!"
Whatever!!" he snaps at me
"Just Don't tell Mace - he'll have a hissy fit!!" I frown at him "He doesn't need to be upset over it and I'll fix it before he finds out!!"
"Don't tell Mace what?" hearing Mace's voice makes me jump, he's stood in the doorway just wearing his shorts. "Fix what?" he starts scowling at me.
"I'm sorry Gran I'll feel awful if we don't come clean!" Gravel smiles at me with that smug look again. I'm just about to call him a berry hole thinking he's going to tell him I'm still married to Forrest just to be spiteful. "I've broken his watch, I'm sorry - I was messing with it and it's stopped working!!" The slimy git!! "I'll get it fixed as I broke it."
Gravel is holding his hand out to me asking for the watch. I can't do anything else but play along with him to avoid telling Mace the truth and upsetting him, so I take the watch off and give it to him.
"I'm sorry Mace, I feel awful ... I'll take it to the jewelers first thing in the morning and get it repaired." he laughs a little "I don't know what you've done to my brother Mace but you've sent him all sappy - I've never known him get so sentimental over a gift before - I thought he was going to start crying when he realized I'd broken it!!"
Oh please stop, enough already!! I just stand staring at my brother not quite believing the slimy tripe coming out of his mouth. More proof that he is just a slimy lying berry hole and I'm stood here playing along with it!! Of course I can see Mace has fell for his crap hook like and sinker as he's now grinning at me as he puts his arms round me.
"Sorry!!" I smile at him as I hug him
"I'll let you off seeing as it will get fixed and you are upset about it!" he smiles back then turns to Gravel "Coral said it's okay for me to put the kettle on."
"Yes of course it is you don't have to ask Mace. Make yourself at home, there's food in the fridge, just help yourself!!" he smiles at Mace "Mine's three sugars".
"THREE?!" I look at him wandering how he went from one to three as I sit back down at the table. "You need to cut down on the sugar bro, it's bad for you especially in those quantities!!"
"Says the bloke who used to constantly pour vodka down his throat, eat amphetamines like they were sweets, sniff crack, smoke weed and inject heroine - and he's telling me sugar is bad for me?!" Gravel laughs at me.
"You just can't help yourself can you!! You should be happy I'm clean now, not keep reminding me and rubbing my face in it!!" I snap at him "I was just a kid back then, I've grown up a lot since then and so should you!!" I slam my fist on the table "Why don't you tell Mace all about my criminal activities, I bet you know my charge sheet off by heart don't you!! You might as well get it all out in the open while you're at it and you forgot the LSD we mustn't forget the acid trips!!"
I stand up sending the chair flying and storm through into the living room because I'm sick of looking at him and his smug face.
It's not like Mace doesn't know any of my past or I'm hiding anything because I've told him everything. I just want to forget all about it, it's the past and that is where it should stay - Gravel is never going to let me forget any of it because he is always going to be raking it up and rubbing my face in it.
I hear Mace shouting at Gravel and telling him to leave me alone and stop winding me up because I still have a problem and struggle with my alcohol addiction so I don't need to keep being reminded of it. This makes me laugh a little. It goes quiet then Mace comes into the living room chasing after me.
I've thrown myself on the couch and turned the television on. Mace sits down next to me and puts his arm round me and tells me to ignore him, he has noticed how we wind each other up constantly, then he amuses me by saying he doesn't think he likes my brother very much!
"I warned you didn't I!! He gets my back up continuously going on!!" I snap at Mace even though I shouldn't be taking it out on him. "I want to forget those things and he has to keep on reminding me and rubbing my face in it!!" I laugh sarcastically "I told him I worked at the hospital and just guess what he said!?" Mace shrugs "Cleaning bedpans is it - nice!!" I shout really loudly hoping he'll hear it "My Brother is a conceited Berry Hole and I HATE HIM!!"
It's not just Gravel that has wound me up, it's this whole situation - the situation Gravel has created!! I can already see a trail of his dodgy lies and secrets. I can see there is a lot of upset coming for people especially Slate. I've got what Bayleaf told me earlier still really playing on my mind and now I've got my marriage stuck there legally still intact. Why the hell did he not divorce me?!
Mace has virtually crawled on my lap and starts kissing me. I don't stop him, I could probably do with a distraction, something to help me switch my head off from all this shit for a while. Gravel is already making me want alcohol!!
Gravel disturbs us clearing his throat as he puts two mugs down on the coffee table.
"Your coffee is on the table. I'm going to go and help Coral finish painting the spare room, to give you two some space." he says as he walks off up the stairs, I notice there is no apology coming from him!
I look at Mace and laugh sarcastically for a moment before I carry on kissing him. I think he gets what I'm up to when my hand goes inside his shorts and I start removing them slowly. He pushes me away.
"We can't do it here!!" he looks shocked.
"Why not? We do at home and we can't really go upstairs can we, they will hear us, besides they are busy painting they'll never know if we are quiet and quick!!" I smirk at him.
"We'll get caught! We can't" he looks a little worried as he glances in the direction of the stairs.
"I didn't hear you complaining in the plane toilets - it'll be a rush running the risk of getting caught - you've obviously never lived and need educating!!"
"You are so BAD!!" he says smirking at me.
"So I keep being told, well I may as well act the part!" he laughs at me.
"What's wrong with you suddenly anyway ... are you having a midlife crisis or something?" he starts laughing as I start kissing his neck and he starts undoing my trousers.
"I don't know - are you complaining?" he shakes his head as I force him back onto the couch and crawl over him. "Good!"
I'm sat at the kitchen table the next morning reading the newspaper.
I left Mace in bed snoring his head off. I didn't sleep too well I've been tossing and turning all night, the bed is uncomfortable, the house too noisy and I just lay there not being able to get Forrest off my mind wandering why after all these years he has never divorced me.
Slate is also still really playing on my mind because of the things that Bayleaf told me. It sounds and feels like my nephew is going to need me here which worries me a little because moving back to Sugar Valley was the farthest thing on my mind. I've just got the nasty feeling that Gravel is up to his old tricks but I can't work out what! I can't for the life of me work out why Gravel wouldn't have told Slate about me, about Forrest being his Uncle, about Forrest's parents and sister and why have they kept their distance ... why all the secrets and lies?!
Gravel walks sleepily into the kitchen.
"Do you want toast or cereal Slate? We've run out of Cherio's so it'll have to be cornflakes." he says and I drop the paper and frown at him "Well?" he turns to look at me then and pulls a face. "Fudge!! Granite!!" he starts laughing at himself.
"Forgotten me already have you and your son is in the hospital where you put him or have you forgotten."
"I do know!!" he snaps at me "It's force of habit ... it was seeing you sat there reading the newspaper ... I'm not awake yet!"
"Try sleeping at night instead of bonking till the early hours of the morning then you'd be awake when you get up!! Fudge I thought the racket was never going to stop!! You need to move your bed away from the wall too!!" he just laughs at me
"Like you can talk!!" he starts laughing "Don't think I don't know what you two got up to on the couch and in the shower!! Don't you two know how to use a bed?" he laughs at me "So ... how exactly are you planning to educate your bitch? You want to be careful - public lewdness, gross indecency, indecent exposure ..."
"Still as sneaky slimy and observant as ever I see, which beggars belief as to how you could get me mixed up with Slate just then?" He kills me he never misses a trick, you can tell he is a policeman alright, always watching even when you think he isn't! I should have known he would be standing at the top of the stairs listening to what we were saying after he went up, he's always been sneaky like that. "Isn't ear wigging an invasion of privacy and also a do able offense?" he just laughs
"Slate always used to sit there in that seat every morning reading the paper waiting for me or Coral to make his breakfast for him ... I think I spoiled him when he was a kid, totally self absorbed that boy!"
"Cornflakes are fine by the way." I laugh at him as I hand him my mug "NO sugar!" he laughs at me. I see there is still no apology coming for last night! He stands there laughing at me.
"Slate is just like you - Lord Muck!! I bet Mace has to run around after you and wait on you hand and foot doesn't he!!" he laughs as he hands me my watch which he takes out of his pocket. I roll my eyes as I put it back on my wrist. "Just tell him it started working again in the night, he'll never know!"
"You are a dodgy berry hole!! I'll never trust you again that's for sure!!" I frown at him then start to read the newspaper again while he makes us coffee and cereal. "They should make backstabbing and lying illegal crimes ... just think they would have locked you up and thrown the key away years ago!!" he just ignores me "Gravel why didn't Forrest divorce me?" I ask and he shrugs his shoulders "I don't get it! He has got to have moved on by now!!"
"Why are you still wearing his ring that's what I don't get?" Gravel frowns at me, I notice he avoids answering my questions.
"Why do you think!! I still love him and if I could go back I would, you know I didn't want to leave - I was forced to. YOU fucked everything up for us which I'm never going to forgive you for!!"
"No YOU did that all by yourself - you created the situation, you gave me the rope to hang you with!! You are a twat!! You still love Forrest - so what is with your bitch upstairs?" he frowns as he places the cereal bowls down on the table and sits down
I explain the situation to him, how it started as just a sex thing. That Mace loves me and he knows I don't love him because I still love Forrest. I tell him that things have got pretty bad between us lately, I was treating him badly and he was acting up for attention. It was either make or break so I've decided to try to make it work with Mace because what other alternative have I got - I know there is never any going back for me to Forrest even though that's what I've always wanted, it's too late. Me and Mace have been together for five years so it's better the devil I know. I also tell him that I need him to keep me away from my addictions, I can't hack living alone and I do still struggle with alcohol, even though I haven't tasted a drop since prison I still crave it all the time.
"You Twat!!" he mumbles through a mouthful of cereal.
"So come on ... you spend time with him - why didn't he divorce me?" he looks over his shoulder and into the living room.
"Gran, we need to save this conversation until your bitch is not around, I don't want him walking in on us and having a repeat of last night's performance! I'll get Coral to take him out later then we can talk properly!!" he smiles at me. I frown at him, why does he keep avoiding that question?! He is up to something, I just know it!!
"One conversation we do need to have - you keep rubbing my past in my face - IT HAS GOT TO STOP!!" he frowns at me "I don't like who I used to be, I know I put the three of you through hell Mommy and Paps too and I will always feel guilty about it but I can never take it back. I'm different now - you should be happy, wasn't it what you always wanted me clean of the drugs, alcohol and crime!! Well I am now and have been for twenty years!! Hell just being home reminds me of what and who I used to be enough without you keep going on with it!!" he just smiles at me "Mace was right, I do still struggle with alcohol, I still crave it - I don't need reminding of it over and over so QUIT it before you drive me back to the drink!! All it will take is ONE mouthful and I'll be gone again!!"
"Okay! I am Sorry!! I'll stop it! I'm sorry I didn't mean to upset you last night either, I'll try not to mention it again!" I raise my eyebrows
Gravel apologizing that's a first!!
I creep outside and round to the side of the house, out of Coral earshot, once Granite and Mace have gone off to the hospital to visit Slate. I really don't like what is going on here - if Forrest and Granite cross paths it's going to be a total disaster for me!!
I never banked on Granite feeling the same way about Forrest STILL. I was really happy when he walked in with Mace, I thought he'd moved on and wouldn't bother about Forrest, but after our conversation at breakfast, I find out he's stuck in exactly the same place as Forrest is ... this is like my worst nightmare!!
I've sat and watched Forrest all these years acting like a pathetic idiot pining after Granite, now I find out my brother has been doing exactly the same thing. I know what they had was special but after being apart for twenty years ... this is just fudging ridiculous!!
I have to keep them apart!!
I stare down at my phone for a moment feeling a little guilty. I don't want to do this to him, but I've got too!! Forrest is like a brother to me and I really don't want to hurt him but what other choice do I have.
When our parents faded Forrest's parents took us in, gave us a home and saved us from going into care. His parents were our parents best friends so I'd known them all my life and Forrest and Granite were already dating. I was only a very small child so when they adopted me it was quite easy for me to adjust to my new family, his parents replaced mine and we called them Mommy and Paps, his sister Meadow became my sister and Forest became my brother.
I feel more guilty over hurting Forrest than I do Granite, he doesn't deserve it, neither of them do really but ... if I don't do this I am the only one here who is going to get hurt. If the truth ever comes out about what I did over twenty years ago - I'm going to lose EVERYTHING!!! Including Coral probably! Forrest knows the truth and if he gets anywhere near Granite I know it will be the first thing that he tells him. This is exactly why I NEVER wanted Granite found!!
I take a deep breath and dial his number.
"Hey bro how's it hanging?" Forrest laughs at me.
"Oh you know as limp as ever!" this makes me laugh. "I'd ask you the same question but I think I already know the answer to that one!! Coral!!"
"Listen, Granite has landed - he got here last night." I say quietly
"I know Mango warned me" there is a silence "How is he?"
"He's great ... although you are really not going to like what I have to tell you, I thought I better warn you ... he didn't come alone." Forrest says nothing "I'm sorry bro - he has got himself another bitch." all that greets me is a cold silence, I know he's not going to like this! "I'm sorry I know how much this is going to hurt you but ... they look pretty serious about each other to me, I did warn you this might happen didn't I!" I can hear him choking.
"Very, they are all over each other, they are talking about getting married ..."
"He'll have a job on - he does know he is still married to me doesn't he!!" I can hear him getting upset "I don't suppose by any chance you've told him the truth?"
"No I haven't Forrest and you know I'm never going to!" I snap at him
"I'm coming round to sort this out once and for all!! It's about time he heard the truth Gravel!!" he almost yells at me "It's not fair for you to continue with this now he's back!!"
"NO!! Him knowing the truth now won't do you, Slate or anyone else any good Forest!! It's TOO LATE!! It's twenty years too late!! I was talking to him earlier, he doesn't want anything to do with you, he doesn't even want to see or talk to you!! It is done - finished - over for him!! He has moved on!! He knows you are still married and he's going to see a solicitor while he's here and get it sorted." he stays quiet "You know he's been clean for the past 20 years but he still struggles with his alcohol addiction - he thinks you was a big part of the problem, he could never clean his act up while you was around ... he thinks you would drive him back to the drink if he even sees you!!"
"You are talking SHIT he would NEVER say that!! He loved me you know he did he was trying to get clean for me, us ... he wouldn't say that!!"
"I'm sorry Forest, that is exactly what he's said and why he doesn't want to even set eyes on you - he just wants an end to it so he can get on with his life with Mace who he's madly in love with and who he's very happy with, even happier then he ever was with you he recons. He's told me as soon as he's given Slate one of his kidneys he's slinging his hook back home to where he's been with Mace for the past 10 years!! So what is the point of him even knowing the truth, he'll be gone and back out of all our lives pretty soon."
"TEN YEARS?!" I can hear him cracking up. I know it's only five and nothing like I'm painting it, but every bit of exaggeration helps. Hell is where I'm headed because I'm never getting into heaven!!
"I'm sorry bro ... you serious need to keep away from him for your own and especially Slates sake ... I can't afford to have you sending him off the rails before he's given Slate a kidney. He's happier now than I've ever seen him and it's about time you did the same - moved on just like I've been telling you to do all these years and forget the berry hole!!"
"THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT GRAVEL - I'M NEVER GOING TO FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS!!" he starts crying quite badly "You could have stopped this right from the start - you could have found him YEARS ago and put this right - you could have sorted all this shit out and none of this would ever have happened - we would have spent the last 20 years together instead of apart - you've ruined our life!!"
"I did try to find him ..."
"LIAR!!! I'm quickly losing faith in anything you tell me when it took Mango and Bay only FOUR DAYS - you say you've been searching for 20 years - sometimes I wander if you've even bothered to look at all!!" he laughs sarcastically "Shit I guess Tapestry is going to be missing for the next 20 years too cause I doubt you'll find him either - I doubt he'll turn up until Mango goes out and finds his son himself!!"
"Forest - don't start taking it out on me, I can't control what my brother is saying or doing - I'm just the messenger here!! I'm actually on your side here, you've been more of a brother to me than he ever has!!" I can hear he's getting upset again
"DON'T keep saying that about him you berry hole - he is your brother and he never did you any wrong even with his addictions - you on the other hand have been nobody's brother - when you stabbed him in the back it was both of us you stuck the knife into - both of your brothers - and still I've been fool enough to stand by you just like I know he would, he wouldn't be here otherwise fixing your mess giving Slate the kidney he needs!!" he's cracking up now. "You seriously don't know or care about how much pain you cause people do you - just as long as Gravel is happy!!"
"Sorry is never going be good enough!!" he snaps at me "If you weren't my brother and I hadn't promised Mom I'd look after you then I'd have ditched you a long time ago after what you've done to us while you sit there with your happy life!! I HATE you and I'm never going to forgive you!!"
"You don't mean that!! You are just upset right now - maybe you need to get away from it all!! Why don't you take off for a while. I hate knowing you are upset and it's only going to get worse if you bump into him!! He's a selfish berry hole and he won't care about how much he's upsetting you - you don't deserve it!! You could do with saving yourself the agony and I know Meadow could really do with some help with Paps at the moment!! Maybe you should go and stay with sis and spend some time with Paps for a while - you know I'd even get out the brown hair dye and contacts and come with you, but you know I can't take time out at the moment what with Slate, Tapestry, Coral and everything else going on here."
"I think I might have to go to Meadow's for a while because I don't think I could stomach seeing him with anyone else, especially seeing him happy!! This is too soon after Mom for me to cope with Grav." he stops talking but I can hear him sniveling "I might as well stay there permanently, what is there to keep me here now!!"
"Well thank's bro - I love you too!!"
"Sorry but you know he was the only reason I've stayed in this town, I seriously thought he would always come back and feel the same way I did!! - my life is a joke - Slate doesn't even know who I really am because we've spent 20 years lying to him, he wouldn't miss me and neither would you!!" I don't say anything because while I would miss him, I also would feel a lot safer if he wasn't here to cause me trouble and blow everything for me. "You know Slate is going to freak when he wakes up and finds out about all the crap we've been hiding and he doesn't know!! - how did we get to this?" we both go silent for a while "Have you told Gran about Mom?"
"No not yet - I haven't had chance to, I planned to tell him later." he laughs "So are you going to Meadows? You know I think it's best I don't want to see you hurting anymore!!"
"Yeah I think I will - I need to sort my head out - I know why he left even if he didn't know the truth himself, he stayed away and I know he would have been doing it for the right reasons but I always thought one day he would come back when he thought he could and still feel the same way that I do!"
This is cracking me up - I can see what he's doing here, like always, trying to find excuses for him and defending him all the time, I can't even make Forrest hate him or get angry with him, but I've got to keep trying to drive him out of town at least until Granite has gone back to Cherry Hill.
"Yeah well, I always told you didn't I, he is and always was a selfish berry hole he would never have put himself or you into that situation in the first place otherwise, and you deserve better." I laugh sarcastically "I can't believe the nerve of him waltzing back into town like nothing with his new bitch knowing full well he's still married to you!!"
"You can't talk!! You are actually the only selfish berry hole here letting this carry on for 20 years, it's your lies that got us into this mess in the first place Gravel or do you forget that?!" he snaps at me. "Its your lies that sent him away and kept him away - it's your fault he's done this!!"
"I know and I'm sorry I never meant for you to get hurt in all this!! Don't you think I don't beat myself up over it every day seeing what I've done to you!"
"Yeah right! I know you Gravel remember - and if you did beat yourself up over it ever day or give a shit about me Granite and Slate, you would have done something about it YEARS ago!! You would be putting Granite straight and telling him the truth right now but you are not are you!!" he snaps at me. I hear a beeping noise going off in the background. "Listen, I've got to go - my pager is going off, I'm on emergency call out today so I'm needed at the hospital. I'll phone you back later when I'm free!"
The call goes dead as Forrest cuts it off.
The hospital - shit!!
Granite is at the hospital visiting Slate!!
Song ~ How You Remind Me ~ Nickleback