Twenty-seven years did not alter their revulsion for each other. Time felt stagnant as the buzz of florescent lighting filled
the otherwise silent space between them. Benjamin's heart was a timpani pounding in allegro, his eyes flickering like wildfire. The last time he had laid eyes on James D. Sullivan was at the Boston
Logan Airport, handcuffed in police custody. As a matter of fact, it was the last time he had seen Claire as well until her passing.
"Nearly three decades and you have nothing to say?" Sullivan antagonized, his silver eyes boring into his rival.
At that point, Harvey was certain this was the one his father had warned him about. Sullivan; the man that was able to paralyze a seemingly fearless man with terror. Instinctively, he glanced at his sister to survey her reaction. Her skin seemed to lack color as she stood agape.
"How dare you show up here?" Benjamin growled, knuckles white with rage. When his muscles started to tighten, his son clutched his good shoulder.
"Not today guys..." Harvey attempted to step between them and diffuse the situation, at least for now. Seeing the seething rage they each held for each other was overwhelming. The cold, hateful, sterling eyes of his unknown enemy finally met with his own. A chill ran up Harvey's spine. "Let's just pay our respects, alright?" His tone was low and non-threatening, his palms open in surrender.
Sullivan clenched his jaw and smirked. "You've got it..." he agreed condescendingly. Adjusting the lapel on his suit, James turned his attention to his daughter. "Harley?" Their eyes met like a reflection, Sullivan's sharp with intent.
Harley didn't need to be told twice. The man was testing his daughter's loyalty by simply uttering her name. Without question, she hung her head and joined his side. After his simper broadened with satisfaction, Sullivan turned on his heel with his arm tight around his daughter's shoulders. Harley glanced back at her twin and his father with apologetic doe eyes.
Benjamin gritted his teeth. "What did I tell you...?"
Once Claire Porter's emotional service and burial had ended, Harvey and Ben showed gratitude to the nurses, doctors, and few others that knew her as Camilla St. John. Harvey was glad to be able to grieve and put his mother to rest, but his father's anxiety was rubbing off on him. Once most of the guests had filtered out, the late woman's son pulled his dad to the side.
"Hey, how are you doing dad?" Harvey inquired, resting his hand on Benjamin's shoulder once more.
The irishman was tense and over focused. His topaz eyes zeroed in on Sullivan's position across the room. "It was a nice service..."
Harvey sighed. "I understand you're uncomfortable dad, but a lot of time has passed. You should relax and allow yourself to absorb this."
Benjamin smiled weakly at his son's naivety but simply embraced him and with a low voice, spoke in his ear. "Alight son, thank you." He patted Harvey's back. The truth was, he could never and would never trust Sullivan. Benjamin knew what he was capable of; rape, kidnap, murder, torture... Watching him over his son's shoulder made him cringe. The dynamic between Jim and Harley was so similar to that which he had shared with Claire. Harley seemed so helpless, scared, submissive... Meanwhile Sullivan stood with her arm woven through his, smug intimidation emanating from his pores. As if he weren't the very reason Claire Porter lay pale and lifeless in that coffin.
"I was concerned when I saw you with those people..." Sullivan's deep voice began manipulating his confused daughter. Just as he expected, her curious eyes met his over the Styrofoam cup. "I can understand you wanting to pay your respects to your mother, but that man is a good part of why she is dead."
Harley swallowed a lump in her throat as anxiety started smothering her. "What are you talking about?" she demanded nervously.
"He impregnated your mother in the worst way possible... Then left her to fend for herself by framing me and putting me away for decades. Only when he discovered you weren't his did he come into the picture and make the decision to give you up. Your mother never had a choice." Jim sighed and shook his head. "He is a sick individual... and from what I hear, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. The son's violent episodes are what put her over the edge." Sullivan looked at his bewildered daughter. "I just want you to be careful... I don't want you to end up like your mother." The tall man then embraced his daughter tenderly.
Harley was overcome with confusion and concern. She recalled Benjamin apologizing for "everything"... Was it possible that her dad was telling her the truth? Harvey did have a black eye and seemed hesitant to discuss it, simply stating: "It happens." As if violence weren't a farfetched occurrence in his life. Maybe she had been too quick to dismiss her own father, and too hasty in trusting her brother and his father. As a single woman among men, it was important for Harley to maintain a safe distance from dangerous environments and keep her wits about her. "Thank you dad..." she smiled softly.
Jim Sullivan brushed the dark hair from his lovely daughter's face. "I know you don't know me well Harley, but we are all we have. You're my daughter and I love you, and I won't allow anyone tear us apart. Okay?"
Unaware of her father's sociopathic past, Harley ate up the illusion he'd served up for her. Warmth and comfort filled her heart as she hugged her father once more. She made sure to give him a supportive smile before strolling down the hall to where her mother's photographs were displayed. As she approached the bulletin board, she noticed a man gazing at them.
The man appeared near this 30s and well kempt. What Harley found most interesting about his appearance was the untraditional bow tie he was wearing. Once the fair featured man noticed her, he smiled.
"I'm sorry..." Harley blushed bashfully. "I didn't mean to stare, I just haven't seen anyone wear a bow tie in a very long time."
The stranger chuckled. "Well, funerals are a pretty dismal occasion. I feel the bow tie adds a whimsical element to an otherwise dark situation." A handsome smile crossed his lips. "You must be her daughter, you look just like her."
"That's what I've heard..." Harley simpered softly. "How did you know her?"
"Well, I didn't really get to know her. I just admired her from a distance."
"I can relate..." Harley raised her eyebrows.
"I'm Jefferson Stone." The man introduced himself and more of his pearly whites.
There was something electrifying about him that Harley just couldn't put her finger on. Other than his striking good looks, he had a very intoxicating energy. "Harley Sullivan." she clutched his out reached hand and felt instant tingling sensations up her forearm. There was no denying her increased heart rate or flushed cheeks.
Neither of them said a word or let go right away. When they finally did, Jefferson broke the silence by clearing his throat. "Uhm, I know this is probably terribly inappropriate, but I would like to see you under different circumstances."
The temperature of her skin rose even more as she giggled. "I was just thinking the same thing."
Harvey furrowed his brow witnessing the affection between the infamous James Sullivan and Harley, his recently discovered twin sister. It was alarming that she appeared to be close to the man that his father so desperately despised. Over stimulated by the dynamic in the hall, Harvey ducked out back behind the building to smoke a cigarette.
Rain had started falling by the time he lit his cigarette. It was a very dark day both literally and figuratively. Harvey exhaled and swept a nervous hand over his dampening face. His life had drastically changed in less than a week's time. Before he could get through half the cigarette, the squeak of the opening door's hinges sounded. When Harvey whirled around, his cigarette fell from his lips extinguishing itself in a shallow puddle.
"Guess you'll have to start over." Sullivan smirked offering him a smoke.
Harley caught a glimpse of her over enthusiastic reflection in the punch before she poured herself a cup with the ladle. As she took a sip with painted lips, she felt someone's presence suddenly intrude on her space. Inhaling nervously, she glanced to her right and saw Ben beside her. Instantly, her mood dropped once more. "Sorry, I didn't see you there..." she muttered at him.
"I didn't mean to startle you..." Benjamin apologized. "I was surprised to see your father here. I wasn't aware you were in each other's lives."
Harley lifted an eyebrow. "Well, someone had to be."
Detecting the sharpness in her tone, Ben met eyes with his lover's daughter. "Pardon?"
"I am just saying, no one is perfect... But at least he made an effort." Annoyance was impossible to keep from her voice.
"Listen missy, this is not the time to be radical with your emotions. You don't have all the facts." The already tightly wound man poured himself some coffee to steady his hand.
Sullivan's daughter dwelled on her father's reverberating words, not taking her eyes off of Everett. "Maybe not. But I do know what I have always wanted to; that you are the reason my mother gave me up. That's enough for me."
The sound of raindrops pelting the pavement filled the air with white noise and mist. Otherwise, silence had fallen between them. "I didn't poison it kid, take it." Sullivan insisted from under his large black umbrella.
Hesitantly, Harvey took the cigarette from the controversial stranger. Beads of sweat formed at his temples as he leaned into the flame to light his cigarette, blue eyes wide and staring.
"You must be Harvey..." Sullivan exhaled smoke. "I'm sure your father has already told you all about me..." He shook his head in bleak amusement. "Quite the shiner you've got there... What happened?"
It was difficult to form a sentence. There was so much Harvey wanted to say and do to this man, but his presence was extremely intimidating.
"Shy, huh?" Sullivan took another drag of his cigarette. "I'm not going to hurt you; you can't always take other people's word in situations like this. What is between your father and me is just between us... Alright?"
Harvey swallowed slowly. "Well, I got this black eye from talking too much so I'm trying the opposite approach." the young man finally answered.
Sullivan smiled. "Smart kid. You get that from your mother."
Benjamin froze mid stir and turned his attention back toward Harley. He stood up straight, narrowing his tired eyes at the young woman. "I was just trying to do what I thought was right."
Harley scoffed. "What was right? I met my mother today in her casket, Ben. That's not right." With a disapproving glare, she started to storm away.
"Don't do this Harley!" Benjamin warned. "You're making a huge mistake..."
She turned to respond to this statement. "I almost did."
Harvey's heart dropped thinking of the interaction Sullivan had allegedly had with his mother. There were butterflies erratically fluttering in the pit of his stomach. Noticing the cigarette had burned a while without being ashed or dragged, Harvey did both.
"Other than your looks, you remind me of her." Sullivan admitted. "I was with her when she was pregnant with you... We didn't know yet, but she was the most beautiful I had ever seen her. I wish it had been different..."
Silence fell again as Sullivan reflected and Harvey's nerves continued rattling. He didn't realize his cigarette was down to the filter until it burned his fingers when he went to drag. "Fuck!" Harvey swore, shaking the pain out of his hand then bringing the wound to his mouth.
Sullivan smiled genuinely. At first he simply wanted to manipulate the boy's mind but he shockingly felt an unexplainable connection with him. Despite the likeness to his father, he possessed the heart of his mother.
Before either of them could say another word, the door swung open and Harley emerged huffing and puffing. "Are you ready dad?" Just then she noticed Harvey standing beside him and knitted her brows.
The aura Harvey's sister was giving off was not the one he recognized. He felt some sort of malice in her demeanor that he couldn't place. "Are you alright?"
The other twin sighed. "Yeah, it's just been a lot Harvey, we are going back to Washington. I'll stop by mom's house on the way out. Thank you for your hospitality and everything else."
Harvey felt his heart sinking. He wasn't sure what he had expected, but his hope was that Harley and him would become close like twins should be. All he felt now was her being torn from him. And worse, he did not know what Sullivan was truly capable of now. Their interaction was not enough to have his whole outlook changed. "Well, I am disappointed to see you go... But I had a great time getting to know you. You are always welcome."
Harley smiled sadly at her brother and softened her exterior by embracing him. "I'm sorry Harvey..." she whispered in his ear. With sad eyes, she turned and started to walk away.
Sullivan exhaled his final puff of tobacco and sighed along with it, placing a hand on Harvey's shoulder. "I know you don't know me Harvey, other than what you've heard... But if you need anything, you can reach me through Harley."
Harvey felt confused and petrified as Sullivan, his father's sworn enemy and mother's alleged tormentor, embraced him. As they parted, he felt even more perplexed.
"Take care of yourself kid... And don't let your dad lay his hands on you again." Sullivan advised him. With a pat on the shoulder, he followed behind his daughter to their car leaving Harvey drenched in solitude.
By the time things were wrapped up at the funeral home, Harvey was very downtrodden. The departure of first his mother and now his sister was a lot to handle. Even more disorienting, the man he had been told to fear ended up being the only one who expressed warmth and compassion toward him during the bleak events of the day. Not to mention his insight on the scuffle between he and his father. How did he know? Before he could process these thoughts, his father joined him in the car. Unable to find a single comforting word to say, Harvey simply sighed and drove them back to his mother's in the storm.
It was mid-afternoon but it was still as dark as if it were evening. The wounded Mr. Everett solemnly peered out the window of his son's car. "I take it your sister isn't coming back, huh?" his low voice inquired in monotone.
"I guess not... I don't know what happened, I was really hoping to get more time with her." Harvey deflated behind the steering wheel.
"Sullivan happened..." Benjamin growled.
"You didn't say anything to her? I got a weird vibe when I came back to the living room last night."
With a telltale sigh, his father spoke. "I just told her I was sorry... I didn't get any further than that. I avoided her for all of these years out of fear and selfishness, but seeing her changed all of that. She reminds me so much of your mother, I wanted to be a part of her life. But at the service she made it clear that she didn't want anything to do with me."
Harvey's eyebrows knitted. "What did she say?" he recalled his sister storming out of the building with a frazzled appearance.
Ben sighed and shook his head. "That she knew I was the reason your mother gave her up... I tried to explain but she wasn't hearin' it. I don't know that she ever will come back son."
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Harvey pulled into the driveway of his mother's house. Harley's car was gone and the house was unlit. His eyes stared blankly as he shut off the engine and pulled the E brake.
"I'm sorry Harvey... for everything. I know I have lost my temper and been hard to deal with at times. This whole process has been... so hard on me." The irishman's voice wavered. "I can't help but feel like I have become someone I don't want to be! And looking at you with that black eye..."
"I'm fine dad, tensions were high and I crossed the line. I don't blame you for that or anything else... I just hate all of these secrets! I am sure Harley is confused by the lack of information and doesn't even know what to think about us." Harvey tried to talk his dad off the ledge. "For example, you stumbling into the house with a bullet in your shoulder!"
Air stood stagnant in the increasingly humid car as Benjamin let his son's words soak in. "I know... I know. We were just trying to protect you kids from the ugliness that surrounded our lives... But perhaps we went about some of it the wrong way. The truth is I don't know who shot me. It was dark and the headlights were shining in my face... Beaming through the deafening downpour." He rolled down his window and lit up a cigarette. "Obviously it wasn't long after I left here yesterday. Dusk was falling and I was walking down the road by the train tracks. It was almost as if I knew it were coming... When I heard the acceleration of the car my heart just... plummeted." Recalling the event caused Benjamin to perspire slightly. "I had to turn around, just so I could try and get a glimpse at whoever was set on sealing my fate. But all I saw was the headlights and the barrel of the gun before it shot me."
Harvey's breath hung in the air of the fogged up car. "Jesus, Dad... You think it was Sullivan?"
Ben let out a short, nervous chuckle. "That would be the most logical explanation; obviously he was in town and capable... But I have known James Sullivan for a long time and he has never been one for inflicting pain at a distance. It's not his style. Which leads me to believe someone else is behind it..." Exhaling a smoke cloud, Benjamin ran his fingers through his graying hair. "And honestly, that scares the shit out of me."
© Copyright 2016 Autumn Leaves. All rights reserved.
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