I stand and watch Mace sleeping and laugh at this impossible situation that Cinnamon has put me into with the fake engagement. I seriously don't know how I'm going to do this - because if he thinks I'm getting down on one knee he can forget it!!
I strip off my clothes throwing them untidily on the floor. I leave the ring box in my cardigan pocket thinking I need to find somewhere to hide it later. I doubt he is even going to buy me telling him I love him, he won't even take the boyfriend label so getting him to accept an engagement ring is probably seriously not happening in my mind. Surely there could have been better ways to get him bugged?!
I crawl onto the bed. I whip the bed covers off Mace and start kissing his face and running my hands over his chest, stomach then inside his shorts. If nothing else I am going to make the most of there being no active bugs in the room yet.
Well I hope that ring isn't picking anything up from inside the box.
Mace opens his eyes slowly after moaning a few times and smiles at me.
"Give me chance to wake up first!!" he mumbles
"You are awake enough ... you just spoke!" I laugh at him before I start kissing him. After a while I stop kissing him and hover over him "I made you breakfast, but I think it might be cold by the time you get the chance to eat it, unless you want to eat first?" he glances at the food and laughs at me as he pulls me back towards him.
I take it that's a no!
Somewhere through this I've got to drop in those three little words, like it's natural, I doubt he'd buy it otherwise, if he buys it at all!! A month ago he definitely wouldn't have done, but now it might be a little more believable. I have stuck to my word, I haven't thrown Forrest at him once and things really have been a whole lot better, especially our sex life which has drastically changed in a short space of time from a one sided battle ground into something that we are both really enjoying and can't get enough of.
I keep saying the words in my head but they are stuck in my throat, I don't know how I'm going to get them out. After saying the words about a hundred times in my head I eventually say them out loud.
"What did you just say?"
Mace instantly stops what he's doing and is just hovering over me a look of shock written all over his face. Well that's just killed it!! I had hoped for a 'love you too' back and he'd just continue with what he is doing. I think I already know he's going to kick up a fuss!!
"Fudge Mace don't stop now!" I ignore his question and try to pull him back in my direction. I seriously spoke too soon!!
"No!" he holds himself up rigid on his arms so I can not budge him and pull him back towards me "WHAT did you just say?" he continues to stare down at me.
"I said I love you!" he frowns at me "It just slipped out."
I try again to pull him back in my direction to try and defuse the situation, I can already see he's not happy. Suddenly he jumps up off the floor and starts to pull his shorts back on, he looks like he's in a right mood. Shit!! I've messed it up already!! I knew he was never going to buy this!!
"It doesn't just slip out!! You was thinking about HIM wasn't you!!" he snaps at me angrily as he starts stomping around the room.
He knows me too well!! Yes I was thinking about Forrest but I can't admit that to him!!! Hell, I didn't say his name did I?! Mace starts to pick up my clothes that are scattered on the floor in temper calling me an untidy berry hole. I suddenly remember the ring, knowing he's going to check my pockets before he throws the clothes into the laundry basket.
"HELL NO!!!" I shout at him "I was talking to you Mace!!"
This is all serious going wrong! If he's reacting like this to me saying I love you, he will probably have the roof off and accuse me of buying it for Forrest if he sees the ring!! I jump up and tackle him to the floor, but it's already too late as he snatches my cardigan up into his arms, the ring box falls out of my pocket and bounces across the floor, and Mace has seen it. He starts struggling underneath me and doesn't take his eyes off the box.
I turn his head and try to kiss him hoping to take his mind off the box but I didn't think it would work somehow!! He is having none of it as he pushes me off him quite forcefully and tries to scramble for the box shouting at me saying that he wants to know what I'm trying to hide from him.
"DON'T TOUCH THAT!! You will spoil your surprise!!" I shout at him loudly which makes him hesitate for a second.
I get to the box first and knock it underneath the bed where he can't reach it, as I jump on him and pin him to the floor again and hover over him. I decide to try what usually works on him at home - the dumping game. I doubt I'll get round him any other way now anyway.
"Actually you have already gone and totally spoiled it!! Why do you have to spoil EVERYTHING Mace!! You have just totally killed it!!" he just stares up at me wide eyed.
"What's in the box Gran?" he frowns at me "What have I spoiled?"
"Something that you are not getting now because YOU just threw HIM at me!!" I snap at him. He frowns at me "I bought you something, but I guess I'll just have to return it and get my money back!!" I start laughing at him "I must have been mental to even think about doing it in the first place!!"
I let him go as I roll off him grabbing my boxers which are lying close by and pull them on as I stay lying on the floor. He sits up and watches me a puzzled look on his face.
"I don't know why we are even bothering to do us anymore!" I snap at him and his face does exactly what I want it to do. He pulls his worried scared pathetic look. I know I'm right about his feelings. "You might as well just pack your bags and use the door - I've had enough Mace I can't do this anymore!!" He sits there looking scared like he does every time I say this to him.
"What the hell did I do?" he tries to crawl into my arms and I push him away.
"Just get lost Mace I'm seriously done!!" I snap at him "I think it's time we called it quits, you are mashing my head up too much!!"
Now he is starting to look upset, I can actually see the tears welling up in his eyes!! I knew I was right!! He does genuinely love me!! It always scares the hell out of him when I tell him it's over. It amuses me a little, to say he's supposed to be this big bad hit man he is very easy for me to play, because he's very weak when it comes to his feelings!! he tries to crawl into my arms again and this time I let him.
"Please don't start this again Gran! It has been really good lately and you know I love you and whatever I've done to upset you, we can sort it out!" he lies in my arms and starts sniveling. "Gran what's wrong?"
"We should have just stayed how we were before. It was less confusing for me at least I knew exactly where I stood with you!! Exactly why I never wanted to get into all this relationship shit ever again!!" I snap at him "I've done everything to try and make us work. I've taken my walls down and I'm giving you everything that you said you wanted and all you keep doing is throwing it back in my face! I swear you are playing games with me!!"
"I'm not playing games!!"
"Well it looks like you are playing games from where I'm sitting!! You nagged me for years for the boyfriend label and when I give it you, you threw it back at me. Finally I tell you I love you and you accuse me of thinking about HIM!!" I laugh sarcastically for a moment "If I even dared suggest we get engaged like I was going to you'll probably just throw that straight back in my face too!! I seriously don't even know why I wasted my money or time thinking it was a good idea - I must be going soft in the head!!"
"WHAT?!" He looks shocked as he sits up and stares at me. "Are you saying there is actually an engagement ring in that box?"
"Yes!! But you can forget it now!! You blew it when I told you I love you and you threw HIM at me!! If you can't see or tell my feeling for you have drastically changed lately - you can forget it!! I shouldn't have to argue over it to prove myself to you!!" I snap at him.
I don't think he's even listening to me now - his head and eyes are still fixed on that box under the bed. He mumbles he doesn't believe me as he scrambles under the bed and pulls out the box. He opens it and sits there on his knees staring at the ring in shock. He snaps the box shut suddenly and puts it down back on the floor almost like it has just burnt his fingers.
"When did you get that?" he asks quietly as I lie there just watching him, it's almost like he's frozen in shock and the look on his face is a picture!!
He's buying it!!
"When you went to the gym with Atlas the other day for your kiss and make up session, I sneaked out and bought it!" I reply quietly. I have already clocked the box that the ring is in, it's from a popular jewellery shop and luckily there is one in Cherry Hill. "What was all that about anyway?" I frown at him "You never did tell me properly why you two fell out after the game, you two were best mates for years then suddenly nothing!!"
He sits there looking at me sheepishly for a moment.
"He ... he tried it on with me and we had a huge fight because I'm not interested in him like that." I start howling at the look on his face "It's NOT funny he kissed me ..." he covers his mouth suddenly with his hand and he looks mortified like he's just blurted it out and hadn't meant to tell me.
I lie back on the carpet and carry on laughing, I've always suspected Atlas liked Mace a little too much and now I know why he has never really liked me - I've always been in his way! I see Mace's face change he's upset and his eyebrows scrunch together as he's starting to get angry by my reaction to his confession. That is when I realize I am seriously doing the wrong thing here - if I love him like I've told him, I shouldn't find this funny should I!! I'm blowing this again aren't I!! I suddenly stop laughing - I need to act like he usually does.
"I hope you didn't kiss him back!" I glare at him as he sits shaking his head like a naughty child "I guessed that berry hole liked you!! You wait till we get home ... I'm going to knock his damn head off!!" I snap at Mace "I don't want you hanging around with him anymore, I'm going to fade him if he lays one finger on you again!" he gets half a smile on his face
"Gran ..." he goes to say something but I cut him straight off
"Well this is just great!! first you throw HIM at me now I find out you have been kissing another bloke." I laugh sarcastically as he starts to protest that he's not the slightest bit interested in Atlas. "I must have been mad thinking we should get engaged!!"
"I'm sorry it was just the shock of you saying you loved me - I never thought it would happen!!" he mumbles and the tears are now running down his face "and I didn't kiss Atlas back I slapped him!!"
He slapped him! I am seriously finding it hard not to laugh out loud - the big bad hit man slapped him!! I'm no hit man and if someone kissed me who I didn't want kissing me he wouldn't just get a slap!!
Suddenly he pounces on me and starts kissing me like a maniac. I think he's bought it and now he's the one on the back foot. I don't say anything to him, as he starts to remove my boxers, too scared I might ruin it again and just let him take it where he wants to take it - again - this time I'm definitely keeping my mouth shut!!
I'm just glad that ring is still in its box and isn't listening to any of this!!
While Mace sits quietly down on the bed to eat the cold waffles and drink the cold coffee that I had made him earlier for breakfast, I see his eyes keep being drawn towards the ring box that is still sat on the floor where he had left it.
I take a quick shower and a breather. I'm a little amused because of the way he kept continuously glancing at the box. I can read him like a book! I know what he wants and what he is waiting for. He is itching to look at that ring again, he's now waiting for me to ask him and he probably thinks he has seriously blown it because he knows I can be stubborn. I've told him it's not happening now so he will now be plotting on how he can twist me and make it happen.
I start laughing as I turn off the shower, knowing Mace, I give him ten minutes and he'll have that ring on his finger somehow!!
"Was you seriously planning to propose to me?" he puts his arms round me and asks when I walk back into the bedroom after taking my shower. I laugh because I didn't expect him to hit me straight with it the moment I walked in ... okay, I've changed my mind - five minutes!!
"Well Obviously!!" I pull a stupid face at him "I don't sneak out and buy expensive engagement rings just for the fun of it!!" I laugh at him.
"So how was you going to do it?" he asks which makes me laugh a little
I was going to take you out tonight and do it properly, but I guess it's a good job I didn't really, you would probably only have showed me up in public having a tantrum because the ring isn't bigger or expensive enough!!"
"The ring is just fine, you don't have to change it, I love it!!" I am guessing while I was in the shower he has taken another look at it.
"It seems a waste for it to just be sat in that box!!" I smirk at him
"Okay ... lets do it!!" he says suddenly and throws himself at me and starts to suffocate me - I'm really not sure who is playing who here now, but it doesn't really matter because I'm getting the result that I need.
"Does that mean you are saying yes?" I ask him when he finally lets go of me.
"Yes, on one condition" he says as he smirks "You ask me properly!"
"This doesn't involve my knee does it?" I pull a face at him, I seriously hoped I would avoid having to do it this way!
"Yes, especially your knee!!" he laughs at me
GREAT!! This is just Great!!
I didn't argue with Mace when he told me he wanted me to ask him properly in case he had a tantrum and started back peddling, not that I think that he would now but I am not going to take the risk. Cinnamon owes me big time for this, he's probably in for a big fat promotion for hauling in Mace and Grave while he's taking my life to peices!! So to get the ring out of the box and onto his finger, like they want me to, I had to get down on one knee and ask him properly.
I really didn't enjoy doing it, knowing this is all fake. Knowing this is going to be the shortest bogus engagement in history. My head is swimming with confusion and my mixed emotions are making me feel sick. My life is totally out of my control and I don't like what is happening or what I'm having to do.
I am especially hating that ring, knowing what it really is, what it is going to do to me and to Mace, even Gravel. I am helping them take down my brother which makes me no better than him, I'm doing to him now what he did to me all those years ago and I hate myself for it!!
I hate the direction this is taking us all in and there is nothing I can do to stop it.
Mace hardly gave me a chance to stand up before he throws himself on me and we fall back onto the bed. The first thing he does is start peeling off my boxers again. Now knowing that the ring is out of it's box and he has a listening device on his finger and they are listening to us, I feel really uncomfortable.
I'm finding it hard to concentrate, I'm thinking about what I've just had to do and I suddenly can't stop thinking about Forrest. Just thinking about Forrest while I'm lying underneath another man who is making love to me, which I'm now totally enjoying when really I shouldn't be, is makes me wander where my head and feelings are at. I don't love Mace because I still love Forrest, but I love how he makes me feel which is confusing the hell out of me. I suddenly feel like my emotions are now a jumbled mess and I really don't know what is going on in my head any more. I've wanted Forrest back for so many years and now I know it is still possible, he still loves me like I love him and I just want to get back there but at the same time I don't want to let Mace go. He has been a big part of my life for the last five years and I thought this was going to be forever. Now I know we are coming to an end whether I want it or not, our days together are literally numbered and it is already hurting like hell. Emotionally I'm already wrecked!!
I also feel really really bad like I'm playing with Maces emotions regardless of what he might be doing to me in his game with Gravel. I don't care what anyone says I know that he loves me and I can see how happy he is right now - for him this is real. What is this going to do to him when he finds out this is all fake and part of a police operation and that ring that I've just put on his finger is nothing more than a listening devise that is sealing his fate, it's sending him straight to spending the rest of his lifetime locked up in a pokey prison cell.
Not believing what they are saying about him is also really playing on my mind and confusing the hell out of me. Something just doesn't feel right about any of this!! The Mace that I know can not be this evil monster that hacks people down because he's been asked or paid to. His nature just wouldn't allow him to be that person. I feel like somehow I need to prove it for his sake and my sanity and I don't know how or why. It's not like I can even talk to him about it.
I have to switch my mind off from thinking before I start driving myself crazy or Mace notices that there is something wrong with me, I'm already crying and I'm not really sure why. I start concentrating on what we are doing and get lost in it, I even forget about the listening ring.
My mind only snaps back to reality when Elderberry turned up at Gravels house on the off chance that Mace is free. This tickled me a little because I think they knew exactly what we were doing when she came banging the front door down which had Coral shouting up the stairs after us.
She asked Mace if he fancied going shopping out of town. It amused me a little that she picked on Sugar Falls for their shopping trip which is in the opposite direction to Apple Hill, of course he was born there so he would never have entertained going anywhere near Apple Hill. It took him all of two seconds to start flashing his new ring to Elderberry.
I left them to their giggling, telling Mace I am going to the hospital to check on Slate. He was too excited and wrapped up with Elderberry over the engagement and ring to worry about me going off alone. They were both acting like a pair of hyperactive school girls.
I walk down the front path towards the taxi howling at Elderberry who has already sucked Mace right in and is really playing the part. She started squealing when he showed her the ring and the first words out of her mouth were - "Oh Mace, you so have to let me help you plan your wedding!! I LOVE weddings, this is so exciting and I'm so jealous!! I bet it will be years before Cinnamon is going to get round it proposing to me if ever!!"
When I walk into Forrest's office Cinnamon has his head buried deep in police files and is talking to the two police man who are sat over in the corner of the room. They have their head stuck behind a lap top each, they both have headphones on, like they are listening to something.
I hear congratulations are in order!! Cinnamon looks up and starts really laughing at me as I sit down on one of the chairs opposite him. "Nicely played but that sounded like hard work!!" he continues to laugh "I nearly shit myself when you told him to pack his bags and use the door - I wandered what you was doing!!"
"DON'T even joke about it I thought I'd blown it!! At home I'm always playing the dumping game and telling him to use the door when he's having a tantrum, it calms him down every time!!" he's really laughing "Please tell me that ring wasn't working from inside the box!!"
"I'm afraid so!!" he starts laughing at me as I cover my face in embarrassment, all the times I thought they were not listening now I find out they were!! "Oh yes we heard every single thing!!"
"Mate you two aren't human! Please tell me that isn't normal practice, it's hardly stopped since last night!! we both start laughing "I had to send El round early to part you two and take Mace shopping because we couldn't take it anymore - could we lads!!"
He looks over at the policemen who are now also sat laughing. I just want the ground to open up and swallow me whole!! Cinnamon explains that they are tapped in and are listening to the house and ring. While most of it is being handled by his team over in Apple Hill, the two guys in the corner are also listening in.
"I did warn you didn't I! Mace has a very high sex drive, I gave up trying to fight him off years ago!" I smirk at him trying to hide my embarrassment now knowing they heard every single thing! "Hell I thought the ring couldn't hear anything from inside the box!!
Cinnamon make me laugh a little when his face goes serious and he comments and starts to show concerns about my attitude towards Gravel. They had heard our carry on in the kitchen this morning. He thinks I need to be a little more pleasant to him and not to try winding him up so much or he's going to get suspicious. I had to explain to him that this is how we have always been, our relationship has always been more hate than love, we have always had a serious personality clash going on between us. What they heard this morning is nothing compared to how it can get and if I even tried to be nice to my brother then that is when he would get suspicious of something going on!!
"Have you spoken to Forrest?" I ask him as Mango walks into the room.
"No, we have a problem there ... he took off about a week ago, not even his sister knows where he is because he's not answering his phone to anyone. She's actually really worried about him, but we've got people out looking for him." I start to panic inside and ask him what he means by took off "Meadow said that he reckoned he needed time alone, to sort his head out, he said he was going to stop at the resort over in Sandy Shores. He checked out of the resort three days ago, we don't have a clue where he is now, but don't worry, we'll find him!!" he smiles at me.
Mango starts to get all stressed over Forrest's disappearance, which really isn't helping me very much. Cinnamon suggests that Mango sends him a text asking him to contact him urgently which he does straight away. He says Bay has already sent him a text, they seem to be the closest people to Forrest so he is more likely to respond to their texts.
"So Granite have you thought of anything over night that might help us?" Cinnamon asks me.
"Not really but something that Mango said yesterday is really playing on my mind - when he said Gravel and Forrest had a huge fight over finding me because of Slate needing a kidney. Mango said Gravel was going ballistic acting like he didn't want me found or anywhere near Slate - why? Gravel also made it pretty clear to me this morning, as you probably heard, that he wants me to leave town and keep out of Slate's life. It's not just Forrest he's trying to keep me away from, Slate too, and I think I'm only near him now because of my kidney and Gravel hasn't had a choice because he didn't even know I was coming!! I'm only here because Mango and Bay contacted me, not Gravel." I frown at Cinnamon for a moment "Why does he want me away from Slate and Forrest?"
"That is what we need to work out!!" he smiles at me
"Also Quite a few things have been bugging me since I've been back, lies and secrets that I've picked up on, I'm not sure they even have anything to do with this but I get the feeling something is going on around Slate - like he seems to be at the center of it all somehow!"
"What do you mean?" Cinnamon frowns at me
"I don't know it's just a feeling, all the lies and secrets seem to connect back to Slate, he seems to have a lot of things being hidden from him. Slate doesn't know I even exist and according to Bay, Slate thinks his ONLY family is Gravel. Slate doesn't even know Forrest is his Uncle - Why? Slate doesn't know about Forrest's family being Gravels adopted family either. Why has Gravel hidden it all from Slate and why have they, especially Forrest, played along with it?"
Mango sits and explains that he's been threatened by Gravel and put in the awkward position of having to keep his mouth shut about the adopted family, me and Forrest, something he has never understood. He also explained the reasoning that Gravel has given over the years, but Gravels reasons don't seem very good ones to me. As I sit listening to Mango I can't stop thinking about the other thing that is really bugging me - the two babies that his daughter is carrying.
"Slate doesn't even know how he was created or about Gravels fertility problems, he's admitted to me he's never told the boy about his problems or anyone else for that matter!!" Mango looks at me like I've gone mad for a moment then asks me what I'm on about.
"Something else that Slate is at the center of Mango, I know this has probably totally nothing to do with what is going on here, but there is something I really need to tell you - another one of Gravels secrets and something he's been lying to everyone about, especially Coral - his fertility problems." Mango frowns at me in a really weird way. "You have obviously never checked back in Gravel's medical records and obviously he's hidden it from you too because I don't think you know that Slate wasn't created in the normal way, he came from artificial insemination ..."
Mango looks really puzzled so I explain to them everything from the beginning.
"Do you remember when we were kids, that time I hit Gravel with the cricket ball and he was in hospital for weeks and had to have a few operations on his private bits as he used to call them?" I ask Mango
"Yeah I do! I was there remember, he dropped like a tonne of bricks, we thought you'd faded him!" he starts laughing then suddenly stops as his eyebrows scrunch together, I think he gets it. "Oh fudge!!"
When Gravel was a child his groin was smashed quite badly with a cricket ball. He had to have a few operations to fix the damage and they warned him when he was older he would probably have fertility problems, which he did. That he will always blame me for as I was the one who threw the ball - an innocent game of cricket when we were kids turned into a nightmare for Gravel and this is one of the reasons why there is so much bad feeling between us, even though it was purely an accident Gravel will never see it that way.
When Amber and Gravel started trying for a baby, of course it wasn't happening. So they went onto a fertility program and had all sorts of fertility treatment. They got onto the Artificial Insemination program and they had quite a few failed attempts before Slate arrived.
"... he basically fires blanks I was shocked he'd even managed to create a child!! So the chance of those babies being Gravels conceived naturally is virtually none - they are going to be Slate's I guarantee it!! Mango are the twins monozygotic?" I ask him
No, they are fraternal." he laughs for a moment "You know I've thought we could even be looking at 'heteropaternal superfecundation! here!!"
"Oh Berry Mango - don't even go there!!" I laugh at him for a moment.
"As they are fraternal that is all the more reason why they are never going to be Gravels!! He could hardly manage it once with fertility treatment so the odds on him doing it twice without fertility treatment is impossible!! If those babies do turn out to be Gravels it will be a bloody miracle!!" I laugh for a moment "Gravel is trying to keep it quiet especially from Coral, but I've warned him, I am telling Slate and Coral about his problems ... it's not fair on either of them!! Slate needs to prepare himself and Coral has convinced herself they are Gravels babies, she's going to be mortified when they turn out to be Slates because she is not even open minded about it any more." Mango's face is now pure evil "I've told him I'm going to tell Coral and he has threatened me to keep my mouth shut!!"
"Now I get why he was threatening to break all your fingers this morning!!" Cinnamon suddenly starts laughing "Tick tock tick tock - I was going to ask you what that was all about!!" he carries on laughing as he starts scribbling on his pad - I forgot they were listening to our conversation this morning! "What is heteropaternal superfecundation? You need to speak English I don't understand all your doctor talk!!" he frowns at us both.
"Basically fraternal twins are none identical, so they have been created from two different eggs fertilized by two different sperm and not necessarily at the same time - they could have been conceived up to 7 days apart. So it doesn't necessarily mean they have the same father as Coral was sleeping with them both at the same time. One could be Slates child and the other Gravels child. Heteropaternal superfecundation is fraternal twins who have two different fathers." Mango explains and Cinnamon sits there with his mouth and eyes wide open. We both laugh at him for a moment.
I wander for a moment if I should tell them my stupid theory, I feel mad thinking it so I'm going to feel even madder saying it. There is only one reason that I can think of that he would want to keep his problems a secret.
"I know I'm probably just being stupid, but I know how twisted my brother is .. I've got a nasty feeling he is up to something dodgy - I wouldn't even put a false paternity test result past him!! He has told me he has someone here inside the hospital who runs for him, he has runners all over the place." Mango is almost com-busting in front of me "and while we are on this subject, I may as well get it all out - I'm also suspicious of Amber fading, Mango why did she fade? Gravel refuses to even talk about it and every time I so much as mention her name he clams up."
"Cinn you might have to lock me up because I'm going to fade him if he's trying to mess about with Slate, Coral and my Grandchildren, he's already caused enough crap for us to deal with!!"
Mango snaps as he virtually pushes Cinnamon out of his seat and off the desk. Cinnamon just stands there laughing at him, I know that Cinnamon and Bayleaf see Mango as an Uncle and I guess they know how he gets when he's incensed, like I do he was always like this as a child growing up. Mango dives onto the computer while he's mumbling to himself, I guess to go rooting through Gravel and Amber's medical records.
"You don't have to worry about Amber!" he looks up at me briefly "She had an obstructed labour and hemorrhaged not even Gravel could have masterminded that one!! I don't think, but you never know with Gravel!!" he laughs briefly "Oh boy I remember that day, it was just shocking and awful!! Me, Forrest and Mammy had to literally scrape Gravel up off the floor he was in a right state!! He struggled to go anywhere near Slate for months, Forrest had to take care of Slate. Gravel blamed Slate for Amber fading, we worried that he was never going to take to the baby because of the circumstances." Mango mutters from behind the computer screen then he goes quiet for ages while I presume he is reading through one of their medical records.
"FUDGE BERRY!!" he says suddenly then looks at me and just sits there frowning at me like he's gone mad! "I just knew there was something not right going on here!!"
"Amber's blood type was O." he is seriously frowning at me now. It takes me a few moments to get what his concern is. He is thinking about the kidney compatibility blood testing.
"That can't be right!! Gravel is B, Slate is A so Amber would have had to be A, it's impossible for her to be O - look again Mango you've got that wrong!"
"There is nothing wrong with my eyesight Dr Rock!!" he frowns at me with attitude like he is saying how dare I question him!! "Exactly, I was also expecting to see Amber with blood type A. Slate is A and Amber was O. Not having Ambers blood group means Slate has received his A blood type from his father, so Gravel who is B can not possibly be Slates biological father can he!! There is no disputing Slate's Rock genes is there GRANITE!! So is there something you need to be telling us?" he says my name in a peculiar way almost like he is pointing the finger at me. "You know Slate does look more like you than he does Gravel!!"
"Well he sure as hell isn't mine if that is what you are getting at, so don't even look at me Mango!!" I laugh at him, he's off his head even suggesting it from where I'm sitting!! "Firstly I was in prison before Amber got pregnant and I've never been anywhere near a woman, not even my mouth, and especially not Amber, I'm not like my brother I would never have crossed that line - there has got to be a mistake with Amber's records - she HAD to be an A!!" I start laughing "Any idiot can see he's Gravels kid - he's even got his damn piggy nose!!"
"Well I know Amber found out she was pregnant the exact same day you got yourself arrested and locked up for everything, I remember that day quite clearly, Gravel came to me in tears he was in a right state he didn't know whether he was coming or going with the baby news and you!!" he frowns at me as I frown back at him. "I also had Forrest falling to pieces on me that day because of you - I was seriously wet by the end of the day!" The expression on Mango's face makes me laugh a little but not for long.
"I don't know why Gravel was upset over me when he was the one who had me arrested!!" I snap as I frown at Mango. "That is strange Gravel told me the attempt they had before I was arrested failed and they had one more attempt after which was the successful one!!"
"It is also very strange that Gravel is 2/6, that straight away throws into doubt him being Slates parent! You are 4/6 so he has more of your tissue type. Then there is your blood which is almost a perfect match for Slates both A neg, and the quickest mix match I've ever witnessed, he basically has your blood in my book!! That's too much of a coincidence don't you think!! Gravels blood is a totally different group which throws him straight out of the equation. The nose is a genetic thing, they both have your Dad's nose - Gravel could quite easily have a child with your nose which is your Mother's nose, just like Mosaic has my mothers hair when I don't." Mango starts waging his finger at me "Slate being your child would make perfect and more sense of what has been confusing the hell out of me this past month - which is how Slate doesn't have a 3/6 with Gravel which is normal for any parent and child. I've thought he's probably your child Granite and even though you've already denied it once in jest, I didn't quite believe you because it is the only way that this could make sense!! Gravel is right about one thing, Slate is in his manner so much like you it is hysterical. You can not deny that the medical facts point to Slate being your child - I'd bet everything that I own on a paternity test being in your favour - maybe we should do one to put our minds at rest!" he laughs for a moment "I've seen you in some states in the past, so smashed or hammered you didn't even know your own name, so how do you know you didn't cross that line when you was off your head!!"
"She was a woman for a start!! If I was that off my head, I wouldn't have been capable would I and I'm sure Amber would have said something and Gravel and Forrest would have battered me!!" I laugh for a moment "And you can do a paternity test with pleasure - but you'll be wasting your time and losing everything you own Mango!" I laugh at him "I can't dispute that the medical facts do point more to Slate being my kid rather than Gravels, but trust me he is not mine!! I've even joked about it with Gravel myself ..." I suddenly remember the very strange look that had washed across Gravels face when I'd said it in jest. "... but trust me THERE IS NO WAY that Slate could possibly ... " I have to stop as I suddenly remember something "be ... my ... child ... " Oh fudge No, he wouldn't!! Oh yes he probably would!! "FUDGE!!!!"
Oh Hell!! Yes there is a way!! I suddenly remember something that I had completely forgotten about which makes my blood run cold.
I jump up and move Mango off the computer. He has still got the page open on Ambers medical records so I scroll back hunting for the notes on the Artificial Insemination
"Cinnamon - do you have my files there, I need to know the exact date that I got locked up for the assault on the guy at the dive bar." he nods then starts looking in one of the files he has on the desk. "If I've got this right it should be May I think!"
That was the day I was locked up for the last time, the day Gravel decided to take me down with the Brownie brothers. We had been arrested for fighting in the dive bar and while we were in custody Gravel decided to spill everything that I'd told him to help me get the brothers off my back. He was only ever meant to take them down. I along with them was remanded straight into custody without bail until sentencing and didn't walk free again until I had served my sentence which was halved because of good behaviour. Mango asks me what I'm looking for so I tell him the date of the successful AI attempt that created Slate.
I stare at the date on the screen and when Cinnamon tells me the date on the file, I start to feel very very sick. I was locked up in May a month AFTER the successful AI in April. As soon as I see it's the first of APRIL, that confirms it for me!! I ask Mango when Slates birthday is and he says January. Oh Fudge!! All the dates are connecting up!! Now Gravel told me they had one more attempt AFTER I was locked up - he lied to me - Mango was right and Amber was already pregnant when I got locked up. I just sit there my head is swimming again because I suspect that isn't the only lie that Gravel has told me!!
"Mango you best had do that paternity test - I think Slate might just be my kid after all!!" Cinnamon and Mango both frown at me in confusion, which I can understand I've just sat flatly denying it and now I'm saying he probably is ... but I had forgotten all about one thing!!
"Granite you need to explain because now you are back peddling!! Have you suddenly remembered crossing that line you said you would never cross?!" Mango frowns at me and not in a nice way, I laugh at him.
"I swear to you, on my life, I never went anywhere near Amber!" I hold my hands up and laugh at the confusion on his face "I think Gravel has pulled a blinder of a scam and the April fools joke really is on me after all!!" I laugh sarcastically, because if I don't, I am going to explode, I'm starting to get angry, if Gravel has done what I think he's done ... "And if Slate is my child, I'll be paying Mace myself to make Gravel his next hit!!"
Cinnamon and Mango are now highly confused.
I tell them when Gravel and Amber got onto the Artificial Insemination program after quite a few failed attempts they were warned they would only get so many attempts and because of how weak Gravels sperm was even with all the fertility treatments - the medical staff said he's basically firing blanks and didn't hold up much hope of them ever conceiving and suggested they think about sperm donation.
It was the only time I've ever seen Amber and Gravel having a really serious argument. Amber didn't care, she just wanted a baby, it didn't matter to her who's sperm created it just as long as she got one, she was on the verge of being neurotic over wanting a baby. Gravel was livid with her attitude towards it!! He couldn't stand the thought of Amber having another mans child, he thought he wouldn't be able to live with it knowing it wasn't his child. Knowing how selfish Gravel is, I would have feared for any child that wasn't biologically his anyway. Gravel commented that probably the only child he could stomach Amber having that wasn't his would be mine. It would be his nephew, it would be family, that is the only way he could live with it. Keeping it in the family so to speak. I'm gay and never going to have children of my own, which I would love, so I liked the idea and so did Amber - it was a way for me to have a child and Amber to have the baby she was so desperate for, so I agreed to help them.
We did it all the right way. I went to the hospital with them as the possible 'sperm' donor but they wouldn't even entertain the idea. I'm gay and the alcohol and drug abuse were their reasons. Even if I had cleaned up my act they still wouldn't accept it, me being gay was enough for them. I know the policy is a lot different these days but back then they excluded anyone who had sexual relationships with other men because of the higher risk of contracting infections like HIV. We tried to argue with them because it was not like me and Forrest have been promiscuous, from the age of thirteen we have only ever been with each other, but they wouldn't have it.
It really upset me and almost destroyed Amber because Gravel put his foot down then and said if I can't do it then they will just have to go without children. I actually thought it was going to split them up. Amber managed to talk Gravel into carrying on with the AI and whatever else they might be able to do in the hope they might do it themselves eventually. I think it was the only thing stopping her from walking out on him for someone who could give her a baby. I think he was scared of that happening eventually anyway.
Then about a week later, Gravel came to me with an idea. He said he was willing to break the law to get Amber the baby she wanted and one that he could live with, so he had worked out a way that we could scam the hospital. He can scam his way around anything!! On their next AI attempt he planned to switch my sperm for his and he didn't even want Amber to know what we were up to until afterwards, he said her nerves wouldn't hold up if she had to stand there lying to the hospital. I told him he was mad, not only hiding it from Amber but they would spot the difference in sperm, mine normally thick, his is like water. He said not to worry about that he has someone on the inside to help cover that up. The knock back from the hospital had upset me more than I thought it would, for a short time I could see the chance of me actually having a child of my own and they took it all away again ... so I just went with it.
The morning of the AI he had me ... well you know. He went off to the hospital with Amber and my sperm in a tub in his pocket. When he returned back from the hospital he kept having hysterics, and laughing at me, calling me a wanker and a tosser. He said he'd thrown the tub in the trash, he never had any intention of breaking the law by pulling the scam. He turned it into a joke - it was actually April fools day. He had made out it was a prank and he'd had me good and proper - in the bedroom on my own pulling one off for nothing - just so he could have a laugh!! Forrest and Gravel ribbed me for weeks for falling for it!! He'd pulled Forrest to one side before hand and told him the switch scam was just an April fools joke on me. So we bought it as a sick joke and I've forgotten all about it since.
To me it was just another one of the stunts we used to pull. I'm surprised over the years that we have never faded each other, sometimes we used to take it way too far!! Me and Gravel have always done below the belt stuff like that to each other, the week before he'd peed me off switching my stash of cocaine for bicarb so you can imagine what it did to me when it went up my nose - so I threw a whole tub of laxatives in his food and he spent three days in agony on the toilet - I guessed with the April fools joke he was just getting me back for that. Which he paid for big time a few days later when I pulled my next stunt, our sick games where continuous, Amber and Forrest used to get really annoyed with us sometimes.
"The ONLY way that Slate can be my child is if Gravel did actually go ahead and switch the sperm and he lied to me, Amber and Forrest about it ... and he is sick enough!! I guess only a paternity test can prove it either way!!"
Mango is up and at me with a needle and drawing blood from my arm before the words have barely left my mouth, then he's taking a mouth swab. I laugh at him as he leaves the samples on the desk then mumbles something about having the forms in his office and he leaves the room, he's like a man on a mission.
"If Slate does turn out to be your child and Forrest does now know the truth, this might be why Gravel is trying to keep you two apart to stop him from telling you and why he might have Mace, like I've said before using you to lay low, as well as sitting on you in Cherry Hill, to keep you away from here, Forrest and finding the truth out."
"and why he has probably hidden my existence from Slate and why he doesn't want me anywhere near Slate - he probably hoped we would never cross paths!!" I mumble.
Everything starts to fall into place in my mind, even down to the boy getting my switched round names. Him locking me up could even have been his way of keeping me totally away from Slate, he made a point of telling the Brownie brothers it was me who grassed them up, maybe he was hoping they would finish me off inside. Maybe he hoped I would fade then me and Slate would never find out. That is if he is even my child!? My mind starts swimming.
Cinnamon laughs at Mango who is back in no time and kicking him off the desk unceremoniously again while he sits filling out the paternity test forms. Mango has an air of authority about him and he doesn't care who feels it!!
"We are just speculating and could be way off the mark, we need to find something concrete quickly!" Cinnamon frowns at me "Granite now Mace has that ring on his finger I need you to try and engineer something - we need to get Gravel and Mace together and alone. Somewhere where they will probably talk shop, this really is the only way we are going to find out what they are actually up to." he smiles at me "If you and Mace continue to lock yourself away in the bedroom like you have so far we are never going to find out what they are up to." I laugh at him "We need Gravel and Mace alone together as much as possible!"
"I'll try, but it's not going to be easy!!" I laugh, I get the impression Mace doesn't actually like Gravel very much. "Maybe you should get their phones tapped they have had plenty of phone conversations over the past five years I've noticed from Mace's old phone bills."
"We've already got that in hand!! Do either of you have any idea where Forrest might have taken off to?"
"If Forrest is still a creature of habit - Sandy Shores is the only place I would have said he would be other than home or Meadows." Mango says pretty much the same thing, the only vacations he's taken over the past twenty years have been either to Meadows or Sandy shores. "If he is still in Sandy Shores you could try the place where we always used to stay, if it's still there - it's a B&B on the sea front called "Sea View"
One of the policemen suddenly interrupts Cinnamon and tells him that El and Mace are on their way back from the shopping trip and heading for the hospital and Slates room looking for me. Me and Mango have to head straight down to Slates room to get there before they do. Cinnamon stays behind to do some paperwork and make some phone calls.
When we walk into Slates room Bay is sat there reading a book out loud to Slate. He stops reading and looks up when we walk into the room. Bay puts his book down and smiles at us then watches curiously as Mango takes some blood from Slates arm and also a mouth swab then walks out saying he'll take it down to the path lab and get it rushed through.
I just stand there staring down at Slate.
I haven't really been too close to Slate or actually taken a really good look at him properly since I've been here. Now I'm stood inspecting every inch of him trying to find myself in him. Wandering if it really is possible that he could turn out to be my child.
I pull back one of his eyelids and stare at the colour of his eyes. They throw me for a minute. I'm sure Mango has said that he has Amber's eyes, but they are not the orange eyes that I remember Amber having, I'd say they are more like mine. Then I remember Mango is colourblind so he would only know what he's been told.
"Bay what colour are his eyes?" I ask him as a stare at them
"I always thought they were a washy orange, that Gravel said he got from his Mother, until I saw your eyes. I think he has actually got your eyes and your mouth." he laughs for a moment "Except for his piggy nose he actually looks and acts more like you than Gravel!"
"Don't even joke about it Bay!" he frowns at me not knowing what he's just said to me. "Does Slate have any pictures of his Mother?"
"No! That's something that has always upset Slate!" he shakes his head miserably and I frown at him "Gravel told him he was angry and very upset when she faded, he destroyed all her photo's in his grief and anger. So Slate has never seen one and doesn't have a clue what his Mother looked like at all!"
"Gravel is a selfish Berry hole!!"
That seriously is not normal behaviour - destroying photo's like that ... it's probably another sign that he's trying to hide something!! Seriously how selfish is Gravel depriving Slate of seeing one single picture of his Mother?!
I know that Amber is on mine and Forrest's wedding photographs and I know we had lots of photographs with Amber on them. Then I think if Slate doesn't know I exist and that I'm married to Forrest then he would never have been shown our wedding photo's. As soon as I can get my hands on Forrest and our photo collection which I HOPE Forrest still has, Slate will be seeing plenty of photo's of his Mother, I'll make sure of that!!
I pick up his hand up and compare his fingers against mine. He has my fingers too. Hell!! Gravel has Dads stumpy fat fingers, I have Mom's long thin fingers and so does Slate. I put our palms together and our hands and fingers are exactly the same length.
I start thinking about Gravel's strange explanation about Slate having a lot of Mom in him like I do and how strange genetics are. Excuses for why I had a more compatible kidney than he does. Excuses that confused me at the time, but now I'm wandering if his rubbish was his way of trying to cover up what he's done. I think I can already see where this trail of lies and secrets is going to end - Slate being my child!! Mango is right it's the only way any of this would make any sense!!
This just makes me crack up and I stand there crying. If he does turn out to be my child, they are going to have to lock Gravel up quickly because I doubt I'll be able to stop myself from fading him!! He will have robbed me of twenty years of my child's life!!
"What's wrong, is something wrong with Slate?!" Bay starts to get all panicked at me crying. "Why did Mango just come and take blood then rush off ... something is wrong isn't it?!"
"Nothing is wrong Bay chill out!!" I look at him as I wipe the tears off my face. "Slate is fine!! Mango just took bloods for a routine test." I smile at him
"Everything is going to schedule, they are taking him off the barbiturates tomorrow." he frowns at me "The drug that is keeping him in the induced coma, so in three or four days you should have your boyfriend back."
"I wish you'd stop calling him my boyfriend!!" he snaps and I just laugh at him "Granite, what's going on? All this shit with Gravel and Mace ...."
"Don't worry Bay!! Mace and Gravel will soon be history!! I am definitely staying in Sugar Valley permanently - he is going to need me when this shit is all over, so you won't be on your own!" I smile at him "You just keep doing what Cinnamon is telling you to do and it will soon all be over!" he pulls a face at me "We are going to have to sit down you me and Mango and decided what we are and are not going to tell Slate when he wakes up!!"
I know Bay is worrying about how Slate is going to take all of this on top of everything else that he has already got to cope with and Bay doesn't know the half of what we are speculating about yet. If any of our speculation is correct, I'm really worrying about how we are going to keep all this from Slate until he is strong enough to cope with it.
I am sitting eating breakfast the next morning, mindlessly chewing my cereal quietly while I'm staring into my bowl wandering how I am going to get Mace and Gravel together on their own, like Cinnamon has asked. It's a Saturday and I know Gravel is not at work today, not that I've actually seen him go to work much while we have been here.
I am trying not to look at Gravel, just him sitting opposite me is getting my back up. I just want to have it out with him over Slate, planting Mace on me and the lies that he's told me and Forrest, but I know that I can't. I'm struggling to even be in the same room with him at the moment because of everything that I know or think already, but I know I have to keep my cool with him and act thick. If I don't I could blow this whole police operation wide open. This for me now is the only way I'll probably find out the truth about everything and that is all that I want - the truth!!
"So what do you two have planned today?" I ask Gravel without looking at him.
"Me and Gravel are going round to Mom and Dad's, it's my turn to sit with Mom today." Coral answers. She quickly gives me an idea.
"How about I come to your Mom's with you instead." I smile at her. I don't like the girl very much but I would much rather be in her company than my brothers at the moment. "I'd like to meet your Mother and I'd love to see your Grandparents again, I haven't seen either of them since I got back to Sugar Valley." I glance at Gravel then "Gravel maybe you and Mace could go out and do something together." Mace just stops eating and stares into his dish while Gravel starts choking on his food.
"Can't we just all go round to Lilly and Mango's together?" Mace says frowning at me.
"I thought it would be nice if we all got to know each other better. You and Gravel don't know each other, like Me and Coral don't." Mace just smiles at me, I don't even want to look at the expression on Gravels face. "You and Gravel can spend some time together and I'll do the same and spend some time with Coral."
"I think it's a good idea!" Coral smiles at me.
"Good that's settled then!" I smile as I finish what's left of my cereal.
After breakfast I leave the house with Coral laughing to myself because that was easier than I thought it would be. Gravel and Mace didn't really put up any fight at all, once Coral had said she thought it was a good idea they just carried on eating in silence.
I guess I've just made it easy for them to have one of their secret meetings or whatever they do. I just hope they are going to give Cinnamon plenty of what he wants and give us some idea of what they are up to.
I'm really not looking forward to finding out what their game is!!