Chapter 11: Blake’s Journal, Part II
Chun stared around his room, his eyes traveling over the pictures of the homes on the wall. He had come up to his bedroom, and now he could view these pictures with a new knowledge. His brother had created these homes; a brother that he was coming to know through his journal entries.
He absently rubbed a hand over his heart, where he could feel an ache growing. He’d never had the chance to meet his brother when he was alive, but Blake had known about him. Blake had kept an eye on him like an older brother. As hard as it was to believe, as much as he didn’t want to believe it, Blake had loved him. Because … what good would that knowledge do now?
Chun grimaced slightly, rubbing at his eyes impatiently. His father, with his controlling manner, had tainted his view of Blake. Chun had believed that Blake could only have been like Chase Wu, but this journal proved otherwise.
His eyes stung once more, as he wished, from the bottom of his heart, that he had had the chance to meet the brother he can never know.
I saw her again today. Well, more like, I was walking down the hallway to my office, and she fell in front of me. Almost gave me a heart attack. At that point I didn’t know it was her, but when I pulled her up, it was her familiar face under that fiery red blush. It was surprising how familiar her face was, when I’d only seen it once.
She’s a temp the agency sent over to my office. Since my secretary took two days off, I had Ella for the day.
That girl is really clumsy. No one falls as much as she does. She fell at least three times in the morning. I swear she tripped on air at one point. The third time she tripped … she fell into my arms. I still remember her scent.
Why am I writing about her in this journal?
But … she smelled like jasmine.
Anyway, I got her to take her heels off. It seems she doesn’t have any practice wearing them. Once they were off, she had no more trouble.
She has cute feet. Is it weird that I just wrote that?
But, yeah, she is clumsy. When she wasn’t falling, she dropped reams of paper all over the office floor. She made thousands of copies when I’d asked for five. And let’s not forget her repeat performance. She spilled on me again, but this time it was tea. Hot tea.
Lucky, lucky me.
She was blushing the entire time. Wouldn’t look me in the eye. When I touched her on the shoulder to get her attention, she jumped a mile in the air. I barely controlled myself from pinching one of her cheeks.
My poor assistant. The guy was threatening to report her to the temp agency by the end of the day. I stopped him.
Why? Why did I do that? I mean, she was really, really bad at her job.
Ella called today. We haven’t seen each other since she finished temping at my office, but she was suddenly on the phone. I don’t even know why I picked up the phone; I usually don’t when I don’t know the number.
I was surprised that she called me, and I have to admit that I was a little bit wary. I mean, I knew nothing about her. Why would she be calling me? What did I have to offer her? I hadn’t even seriously talked to a girl after I decided to dedicate myself to becoming the perfect Wu heir. I’ve learned how to talk business with women comfortably, but when I am in private conversation with a woman, I can be socially awkward. I know that much about myself.
She said that she’d made sure to call me in the evening because she didn’t want to disturb me at work. She said she knew how dedicated I was to my work, and that she wouldn’t want to take away from that.
At first her voice was breathy, as if she was nervous … anxious over something. But as we continued to talk, I began to hear the smile in her voice. She kept up a gentle conversation with me, filling all the silences with her steady, bright chatter. Her throaty voice was very soothing. It calmed an ache inside of my heart that I didn’t even know was there.
She began to ask me all kinds of questions.
What did I like to do in my free time?
What did I like to eat?
What was my favorite color, favorite movie, and favorite book?
Orange. Memento. Didn’t have one.
She got confused about that. How could someone like to write, but wouldn’t even bother to read another author’s works? I couldn’t tell her I wrote in a journal, could I?
She asked me when my birthday was, where I went to school, and what my university major was. She went on and on.
No one has asked me these questions before. No one has wanted to know the answers. I was surprised, to say the least. And a little bit touched.
For a moment I wondered if she was working for a newspaper now, and I would see my interview plastered all over tomorrow. By the time the phone call ended, we had talked for two hours.
My heart felt so much lighter.
Ella invited me to lunch yesterday. She kept on smiling and blushing every time I looked at her. And … for some reason, I couldn’t help but stare at her. Her gentle, brown eyes mesmerized me. Her lips have this habit of forming a pout that made me want to kiss them to find out if they were as soft as they looked.
She had on an orange dress, a soft, clingy thing. It draped lovingly over her body. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, and revel in her warmth. I controlled myself, but …
But all that blushing. I hope that she isn’t sickening. A part of me feels like she might have a crush on me … but that isn’t possible, right? Why would she like me?
Ella invited me to dinner today. We went to a restaurant that she told me her friends had recommended. The food was good. The atmosphere soft and romantic. And the company was excellent.
We danced for the first time tonight. I finally got the chance to hold her in my arms. Those ten heady minutes were like heaven, or what I think heaven would be. She settled easily into my arms, as if she already belonged there. I breathed in her scent, and imprinted the feel of her into my memories. I wanted to cherish this first touch between us forever.
I know that fifty years from now, when I’m lying in my cold bed, I will be able to remember the sensation of holding this beautiful woman in my arms. Down to the smallest detail.
My feelings for her have grown so intense, that I don’t know what I will do if she leaves my life. How will I live without her? It scares me sometimes.
Ella invited me over to her house today. I was late, and was anticipating that she would shout at me when I walked through the door. We had become such good friends, so I knew that she would have no qualms in letting loose on me.
But when I opened the door, there was an explosive sound and there was a confetti shower.
She’d planned a surprise birthday party for me. For me.
Everything was planned carefully. I could see the effort she had put in. She had a carrot theme going. Carrot cake. Carrot appetizers. And carrot decorations. I could see the anxiety in her eyes as she waited for my reaction.
I was baffled. Shocked. No one … no one had bothered to throw a party for me, nothing like this. Nothing that took my likes and dislikes into account. Nothing that was small and intimate. No one had ever cared enough to do this.
I walked over and grabbed her up in a big bear hug. She blushed like a ripe tomato. And I finally gave in, and pinched her cheek.
I really think … I really hope … I pray that she feels something for me … something that is beyond friendship.
I don’t think I can be satisfied with anything less than her entire heart.
We were in the park today, watching the sun set. It was a beautiful moment. The birds had grown silent, the sky darkened. We gazed at the moon for a while. When she shivered from the cold, I tentatively put an arm around her, drawing her close.
We’ve been tiptoeing around this for so many months. I want to say something. My feelings for Ella go far deeper than friendship. Whenever I am with her, I am soothed. I love her for her caring … for her warmth … for her goodness. I want to love her for the rest of my life. But … my heart feels fear for the first time. No one has ever loved me back. I know that. It’s a reality I live with everyday of my life. What if … what if I am seeing something that isn’t there?
She muttered something that I didn’t hear.
“When are you going to make a move?” she finally blurted out, her lips forming that pout I’ve come to love. It made my body clench in need.
She roughly pushed me off the bench we were sitting on. As I sat there, staring at her in shock, she came to stand over me.
“I love you, you dumbass!” She was shouting by this point. “What the hell is wrong with you that you can’t see that?”
How could I tell her that no one had ever loved me before? How could I tell her that I didn’t know how to recognize love? How could I tell her that I was afraid?
Her lips scrunched together, and she rapidly blinked her eyes, as if fighting back tears. Heaving a broken sigh at my continued silence, she turned and walked away.
At that moment, nothing beat the fear of losing her. I raced after her and grabbed her in a hug. She struggled, hitting me in the eye with her head. Turning her around, I pulled her in for a kiss.
She bit me. My sweet Ella, after shouting her love for me, bit me hard enough to draw blood. She pulled back and then slapped me in the face. “I don’t need a pity kiss!” She was shouting again.
Cradling a hand to my rapidly swelling cheek, I assured her that I didn’t feel pity for her. Putting a hand over her mouth, I finally made my confession.
“I love you, too.”
She stared at me, wide-eyed. I was reminded once again of a guppy.
I found the courage to say the words. “Let’s date.”
She could only nod eagerly.
Ella. My Ella now. She loves me. She wants me to love her back. I feel this joy bubbling inside of me, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve never been this happy before.
I think my Ella gave me a black eye.
I bought the ring today. It’s sitting right in front of me, while I write in this journal.
I know she loves me. I know that by asking her to marry me, I would be making a commitment to someone who would willingly die for me. I’m not bragging … it still surprises me that I found someone who would love me so much. It’s not like there are a lot of people in my life who love me. But she does. Ella does. Ella will be by my side forever.
That has a nice ring to it. Someone who would only be in my corner. Someone to support me, cherish me. As I will cherish her.
I’ve never had a dream of my own. Chase Wu wanted me to get a degree in business and join the company. So I did. He planned my future for me, and I followed through. I wanted to share a little bit of Chun’s dreams, so I got a degree in architecture. I’ve never planned for myself … never set my own goals … never dared to dream. I never had the courage to. That is … until I loved her.
And now, I dream about a future with her. I dream of her by my side. I dream of our children.
All I know is that I am a lucky, lucky man. Now, I just have to find the courage to propose to her. I can take care of any problems that crop up after that.
Nothing will take my happiness away from me. No one will take my Ella away from me.
He laughed in my face. When I told Chase Wu that I wanted to marry Ella, and when I tried to convince him that she would be good for me … for us, he laughed in my face. I wanted him to say okay. I wanted him to give me this much, but he only … laughed in my face.
I told him that I didn’t need his approval, and that was when he revealed his true face. I knew how cold and manipulative he was, but this …
“You think I don’t know about your PI’s reporting to you about Chun on a weekly basis? My men are always around you, keeping an eye on you 24 hours a day. You’re my heir, Blake. But … if you can’t be my heir, if the burden is too much for you, then I can always turn to Chun.”
He smiled when he said those words.
“How do you think your brother will feel when he discovers his true origins? I can make his life quite difficult for him, you know?”
I tried to protest. I tried to remind this man that Chun was his son. I was incredulous that he could so casually threaten to tear Chun’s life apart.
“So? Aren’t you my son, as well?” That was his only response. He was right. If he could attempt to take away the woman I loved, when I had grown up in this man’s house, why would he hesitate to rip Chun’s life away from him?
I’ve lost. Again. But this time, I won’t be the only one who will suffer the consequences. My Ella will suffer right beside me.
I’m going to the reception hall in two hours. I’m going to get engaged to a woman my father has chosen for his heir. She is the polar opposite of my Ella. She lacks the warmth that I found in my Ella’s arms. She will never love me the way Ella loves me. She is exactly like my parents … cold, manipulative, and spoiled. She is used to getting everything in life, and now she’s decided that she wants me.
I will marry her. I will once again follow through on the plans my father has made for me.
I will abandon the only woman I could ever love. I will break her heart, and betray her trust in me.
After all, I made a promise that I can’t break.
I have to protect my brother. I have to protect Chun.
Ella … I’m sorry.
Chapter 12: Taste the Blame
Chun’s hands shook as he gently closed the book. His brow crinkled, as he thought about what he had just read. Fire began to burn higher inside of him, his anger growing, as he realized how his father had derided Blake in front of him. Chase Wu had nothing complimentary to say about his son. That man had made of fun of Blake, calling him a waste of space …weak … a poor excuse of a man. Everything that Chun had believed unquestioningly.
Chun got up, tenderly placing the journal on the bedside table. His fingers lightly traced over the cheap covering of the notebook. Tears appeared in his eyes. This notebook … worth only a few dollars … this was the only way his brother could express himself. There was no one in this world … no one that Blake could have revealed his heartache to. Blake had … had no one. His fingers clenched into a fist, as he tried to fight the chaotic emotions welling up inside of him once more.
Blake had been betrayed by his father. By his stepmother. He had been forgotten by his own mother, and Chun … Chun had never had the chance to know him.
They had stolen his brother from him.
Why hadn’t he … Blake had looked exactly like him. The media had surrounded him and hounded him like vultures, hoping that this heir to an empire would show some weakness … some vulnerability that they could use to tear him apart. The world admired and hated Chase Wu simultaneously, and Blake had suffered from that backlash. He remembered the first time he had seen a picture of Blake Wu … the first time he had noticed the similarity. He had asked his mother, as a joke, if they were brothers. He’d gone on to say teasingly that it would be kind of great to have a rich brother like that.
And his mother … she had stared him right in the eyes and said no. She had denied her own son. His trust in her had been so complete that his curiosity hadn’t gone beyond that one panicked “No!”
His hand flailed out in anger, throwing everything from the bedside table to the floor. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, trying to wipe the emotion away. But that was a lot harder to do than he had supposed. His eyes stared unseeing into space, as he tried to comprehend the extent of his loss. When he had found out that Blake had been his brother, he had allowed his opinion of Chase and Belinda Wu to color his opinion of Blake. He had thought that Blake, a man who had grown up with these snakes, could only be like them. He had never thought to question. He had never had the heart to question.
And now …
Staring down, he saw the journal once more, splayed open on the carpet. A hand came up to absently rub at his heart. His eyes glanced upon something peeking out from its pages. Reaching down, he grasped at the object, bringing them out for his perusal.
It was a picture. Of him. He was happy, smiling. His hands trembled, as he turned it over and saw the words on the back. The date. This picture had been taken a few days before Blake’s engagement ceremony … a few days before Blake’s accident. In fact, he reached out to check the picture he had of Ella he’d found, this picture had been taken on the same day as Ella’s picture. Picking up the journal, Chun stared at the last page of the journal.
Blake’s final words stared back at him.
“I want to be happy.”
“I want Ella to be happy.”
“I need Chun to be happy.”
Chun stared at the house in front of him, trying to find the courage to get out of the car and go to her. It had taken him one week to find the courage to come here.
She was in there, right now. He stared down at the picture of Ella in his hands. That smile. It pulled at something deep inside of him. Reaching out, he gently traced that proof of joy in her. The love in her eyes was proof positive that Blake had taken this picture. The blush, the flirting pose, the slight pout all proved that she had been staring at her lover.
He was the reason that smile had disappeared. He was the reason that Ella and Blake had lost their chance at happiness. Taking a deep breath, he got out of the car and walked to the door. He wanted to tell her that Blake had loved her. He wanted to tell her that she had been right in believing in him. He wanted to tell her that it was his fault … that he was the reason that Blake had to betray her.
He needed to tell her. It didn’t matter that she would hate him after this; she would most likely blame him for that loss. His mere existence had obliterated any hope of her happiness with Blake. It only made sense.
“Ella,” he called out softly, hesitantly stepping into the house. “Ella?” There was still no answer. He had spent the last five minutes knocking, but there had been no answer. The lights were on. He could hear the TV playing softly in some corner of the house. He’d tried the doorknob, not thinking that it would open.
He walked down the short hallway, staring at the pictures on the walls as he walked by. Pictures of Ella and two other girls. A young Ella. A smiling Ella. A happy Ella. Moving down the hallway he stopped short when his gaze landed on a picture of Ella and Blake together. Slowly moving to it, he reached out a hand to gently touch her face. She was like a mischievous little fairy princess. And Blake … he was her knight in shining armor. They fit together, as if two parts of a perfect whole.
He heard a soft moan. Turning, he moved toward the sound. His gaze landed on Ella, lying in a heap on the living room floor. She was in a fetal position, her face buried in the circle of her arms.
“Ella!” he called out in panic, racing toward the prone figure. “Ella, wake up. What’s wrong? Ella, answer me!” His voice grew progressively louder, as he tapped at her cheeks, urging her to wake up. She didn’t respond, and his heart began to beat wildly as he wondered what had happened to her.
‘An ambulance. I need to call an ambulance. I need to get help.’ Looking around, he saw nothing that could give him a clue to Ella’s current condition.
“Ella! Wake up!” he shouted, shaking her roughly, as if his desire would be enough to awaken her from her stupor. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his cellphone. And then … he heard the sound he had been hoping for. She moaned again, turning over to stare up at the ceiling. Putting up a hand, she absently rubbed at her forehead.
“What the …,” she began wearily, turning her head to look around the room. She jumped when her gaze landed on Chun.
“What are you doing here?” she finally demanded.
“I … the door was open,” he said, finally smelling the pervasive odor of alcohol that was heavily evident in the room. His panic had blocked any connection between that and Ella’s current state.
“Since when did you need the door to come in?” she finally responded.
“What do you mean?” he asked, puzzled.
“In the past you’ve usually appeared out of nowhere,” she said. Reaching up, she placed a soft hand against his cheek, cradling it for a moment. “Bothering me. Teasing me. Making me angry and feel emotions that I thought were long dead.” She sighed. “I’ve missed you,” she whispered sheepishly. “It’s been hell the past week,” she murmured. “I’m so glad you’re here. I thought I wouldn’t see you again.”
“I’ll …,” he swallowed. “I’ll always be by your side,” he uttered, surprised at the emotions that were running through him at her words. A part of him still struggled with the fact that he had feelings for Ella, but he had to do everything he could to make her happy. For her. For his brother. And for himself.
“I’m sorry,” she finally whispered, tracing his lips with a trembling finger.
“For the things I said last time,” she mumbled unhappily.
“It was my fault,” he said quietly, reaching out a hand to smooth back the hair on her forehead. “I shouldn’t have kissed you. I could see that you weren’t ready, but a part of me just wanted to … reach out and touch. You looked so small, so fragile,” he confessed. “I just wanted to cradle you in my arms and protect you.”
She sighed softly, and opened her arms to him. He pulled her into his arms, cradling her close. And deep inside, the ice around his heart began to thaw. The heart he thought was dead had come back to life.
“I’m sorry,” she said again, tucking her head under his chin.
“Why do you keep on saying that?” he demanded, pulling away and putting a finger under her chin, bringing her eyes up to meet his. “You have nothing to apologize for.”
“I do,” she said stubbornly. “I’m sorry that I put your ring away. I’m sorry that I said I would forget you. I’m sorry that I didn’t trust you.”
Chun froze, her words circling around in his mind. “What?” he asked.
“I’m sorry that I stopped trusting you, Blake,” she repeated hopelessly, snuggling close once more. “You didn’t deserve that. Just because … just because some stranger, even if he is your twin brother, said that you were a womanizer … how could I believe him?” She shook her head in disbelief.
Chun pulled away, his arms loosening from around her. Ella yelped as she fell to the carpet, her head hitting the floor with a thud. “What the hell, Blake?! I said I was sorry, didn’t I?” She rubbed at her head.
Chun reached out a hand and slapped her on the cheek. “Snap out of it! You’re so drunk that you don’t even know who you’re talking to.”
She glared at him, forming fists with her hands. “You know, for a ghost, you’re pretty disgruntled. A little angry, are you?”
“I’m surprised that you didn’t forget that I was dead,” Chun snapped back.
“How could I forget you were dead?” she asked tearfully, knuckling fiercely at her eyes. “You don’t have to remind me that every time I halluc— hal— think about you,” she muttered.
Leaning over her, he reached out a hand to wipe away her tears. “Don’t cry,” he ordered, uncomfortable the waterworks. One fist shot up and landed a glancing blow under an unwary eye.
“What the fuc— what the hell is wrong with you?” he shouted, falling back and away from her flailing fists.
“Fuck. No one hits me,” she said, struggling to sit up. “What are you doing here, Chun? Ever heard of the concept of priv— privateness. Uh hell, you can’t just walk in on people!”
“Did you finally figure out who was sitting in front of you?” Chun demanded, gently prodding at the ache beneath his eye.
“You can’t hit a ghost or a hallucination,” Ella slurred out. “Also, I’ve never wanted to hit Blake in any of my hallucinations. You’re the only one that brings out these violent tendencies. My head is spinning,” she muttered, finally getting to her feet. She swayed slightly.
Getting up, he grabbed an arm, stopping her from sliding sideways down to the floor once more.
“What is wrong with you? Why are you drinking like this?” he demanded angrily, concerned about her increasingly worrying behavior.
“None of you bishness,” she muttered, walking away from him.
“Ella, tell me.”
Ella stumbled down the hallway, and stopped dead at the picture of her and Blake. She stared at the smiling faces for a moment, before continuing on to her bedroom. “I need to get some sleep.”
“Ella! Tell me what’s wrong,” Chun called out from behind her. “Tell me.”
She ignored him.
Chun grabbed her arm, tugging her around to face him. “Tell me or I don’t let you go. We can stand here all night.”
Ella stared at him mutely, but as the seconds turned into minutes and he wouldn’t let go, the fire went out of her. She was suddenly so tired … the emotional fatigue bringing a physical ache to her body. She just wanted to lie down and forget for a while. And he wouldn’t let her. She plucked at his fingers, but Chun’s grip was strong. Too strong for her to free herself.
“Today,” she finally began resentfully, “Today I lost someone very important to me,” she finally said bleakly. “Someone so close to my heart … she was my heart.”
“Today isn’t the day my brother died,” he said irritably. “Who else …?”
“My daughter,” Ella ground out, furious with him for making her say the words. “Blake’s and mine. I lost her today. I loved him, but I could have lived without him. I was strong enough. But when I lost her … my world went dark.”
Chun’s fingers loosened their grip around Ella’s arms. She gently pulled away and stepped through the doorway of her bedroom. Putting out a hand, she started to close the door.
Chun stood there, frozen by the words that Ella had spoken. He didn’t know what to say or how to respond to this revelation. He rubbed at his heart once more … so much loss, so much grief and all because of him. All because Blake needed to protect him.
“Ella.” He stepped forward once more, not sure of how he would continue. What he would say.
“I need to be alone right now,” she finally said. “Leave me alone.”
“Let me stay with you … let me help you in any way I can.”
“Don’t you know?” she asked, after a startled pause.
“How hard it is for me to be around you? How hard it is to be around that face?”
Chun tried to speak, but the words wouldn’t come.
“You can only ever be a pale imitation of the man I lost,” she finally shouted. “You can never be Blake. I could never want you to be a part of my life. You …”
Chun stepped back, his face paling at the anger he heard in her words.
“You can’t comfort me. You can’t ease my grief. You are not my friend. You are not my lover. You are not my love.”
“You can’t be alone tonight,” he interrupted, not wanting to hear anymore. He didn’t want to know that there was no hope. He didn’t want to hear that there was no future. He didn’t want to let go.
“Chun, you can never be anything to me,” she finished implacably.
“Ella, then let me just stay. In case you need anything.”
“Your being here could only hurt me. Please. Leave. I don’t want or need anything from you.”
She gently closed the door.
Chapter 13: The World is Burning
Ella was humming softly, enjoying the warmth of the sunlight as it filtered through the blinds. She was so happy. Placing a hand over the bump, she smiled. A smile that was tinged with an edge of bitterness. Even though Blake wasn’t with her … she had her baby.
Putting the stuffed toys on top of the dresser, she began to set up the changing table. She wanted everything to be just perfect for her little child … her little miracle. Her hands were slow and careful as she put the pieces together, wanting to prolong every moment of preparation. As long as she kept busy, she knew that the time would fly by and her baby would be in her arms before she knew it.
Her entire being ached to hold that little life in her arms. To fill the hole that Blake had left behind in her heart.
“Ella, what are you doing?” a voice demanded from the door.
Ella turned to look at Hebe and Selina walking in the door. “What are you two doing here?” she asked, looking at Hebe. “I thought you were going to show Selina around the area. Get her acquainted with everything.” She looked at her new roommate in inquiry.
“Selina got a call,” Hebe said abruptly. “She needs to go in for work. I thought I’d keep you company.”
Ella nodded, before turning back to put the final touches on the changing table. “I was thinking that we should go shopping,” she said brightly.
“What? Forget about that for a moment,” Hebe said impatiently. “I wanted to ask you something.”
“What?” Ella asked distractedly.
“Have you seen the news today?” Hebe asked, staring at her. Ella looked at her blankly, and then turned to sorting out the baby clothes they had bought last week. “No, I’ve been too busy with setting up the nursery. Besides, when is there anything ever good on the news?”
She heard a soft sigh behind her. When she turned to look, she caught the looks of relief on both Hebe and Selina’s faces.
“What’s the matter? Did I miss something?” she asked in confusion. The two quickly shook their heads.
“Forget about that.” Hebe came over, and gently touched Ella’s stomach. “I can’t believe that you’re already four months along,’ Hebe murmured. “It took you long enough to figure out that you were pregnant.”
“It’s not like you were any better,’ Ella retorted, glaring at Hebe. “It took Selina to point out that I might be pregnant.” The two friends started laughing at how naïve Ella had been about the changes her body had been going through in the early stages of her pregnancy. The two grew somber when they realized that they had attributed the pregnancy symptoms to grief over Blake’s passing.
“Help me with this,” Ella said brightly, turning to get up on the step, her hands holding a framed picture of Blake.
“Ella! Get off that step. I’ll take care of it. You don’t need to do this kind of stuff.”
“Hebe, don’t be such a worrywart. I’ll be fine. What can happ—aaahhh!”
“Ella! Oh my God! Ella, are you okay?” Hebe’s cries were frantic as she raced to her friend. Ella could only moan, as pain knifed through her body.
“Hebe, I don’t think she’s okay,” Selina said somberly, pointing at the blood running down Ella’s legs. “I’ll call for an ambulance.”
Everything was hazy, the world receding from her consciousness. She could hear Hebe. She could hear Selina’s words, but her mind couldn’t process the words for a moment. It was as if her body knew before her brain could grasp the reality of what had just happened. And then, suddenly, the truth became all too clear.
‘No, God. No. No. No. Please, no. No. I can’t lose my baby. Please, no. No. No. No.’
Ella woke up with a start, her hand going to her stomach. No bump. Flat.
Why did she have to dream about that again? Why did she have to relive that nightmare over and over? And it hurt. It still hurt. She rubbed her head warily. She’d been so happy … for a little while. And then … she should have realized that it was dream. When was the last time she had been so happy?
She groaned, as the pain in her head finally made itself known. From the funny taste in her mouth she could surmise that she’d done the same thing this year that she had done for the past two. Getting drunk hadn’t helped then, and it didn’t help now. Even if the pain was numbed for a little while, it only came back harder, biting deeper than ever before.
Turning over carefully, she stared at the clock. 10 A.M.? She jerked up in shock. She was late for work! Jumping up from the bed, she stumbled toward the bathroom, and then froze as the world started to sway. Clutching her head, she groaned in pain. Hangovers were not her friend. ‘Wait, I’m not late for work. I can’t be late for work. I don’t even have a job right now.’ Moving gingerly back to the bed, she sat down, careful not to do more damage to her head.
After five minutes of peace and quiet, she got up, and moved to the bedroom door. She needed coffee and Tylenol. Shuffling out the door, she moved down the hall, promising herself that she would never do this again. Like she did every year. She hoped that next year would be the year that the pain would have lessened enough for her to handle it.
Moving down the hall, she walked past the living room entrance, making her way to the kitchen. ‘Wait a minute.’ Shuffling backwards, she stared into the living room. Her eyes widened when her eyes confirmed what she had seen before. A figure, lying on the couch. She gasped in surprised, and then slapped a hand over her mouth.
It wasn’t just any figure, but a MALE figure. She crinkled her brow, wondering if she had had any visitors the night before. But no. She didn’t remember anyone. Then … was it a burglar? ‘Did the guy just grow tired in the middle of robbing us?’
Warily moving forward, she saw a wallet and keys on the side table. Sidling around the coffee table, she leaned over to grab the articles, before quickly jumping back. She didn’t want to be within the man’s reach if he should awaken. Opening the wallet, her eyes widened when she saw Wu Chun’s ID.
‘What are you doing here?’ she silently asked the figure sleeping on her couch. ‘What did I do last night? Did I say anything that I need to be embarrassed about? See, this is why you shouldn’t drink,’ she internally berated herself.
‘Shut up. You’re not the boss of me.’ Came back the reply. Ella made a face at her inner bitch. She then scratched her head, wondering if arguing with herself put her in the crazy category. Shrugging, she turned her attention back to Wu Chun. She could worry about that later.
She tiptoed over to him, and stared down at his sleeping face. His features were relaxed in sleep; the lines that she usually saw there had disappeared. He looked so much younger, so much happier.
‘What happens to you when you’re awake? Why are you always so angry? So irritable? So … annoying?’ she stared down at his lips, curved in a slight smile. ‘His lashes are so thick. I think he might be prettier than me,” her inner bitch muttered resentfully.
“Seen enough? Can I move now?” he sleepily murmured, opening his warm brown eyes. She blinked, and then jumped back. She yelped as her feet caught in the coffee table, and she landed on her butt.
“What the hell, Chun?” she growled angry, staring into those pretty eyes. She began to rub her abused posterior, as she glared at him. “What are you doing here, sleeping on my couch?”
Chun got up, bringing his legs to floor. Putting up a hand, he massaged his aching neck. He looked her over. Her eyes were bloodshot from a lack of restful sleep. Her hair was rumpled. He took a slight whiff and winced at the smell of alcohol coming from her.
But … her eyes were sparkling with irritation. Her lips were pursed with emotion. Her cheeks rosy. She looked alive. And she looked like the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Absentmindedly, he put up a hand to rub at his heart.
He wouldn’t … couldn’t tell her about Blake. The truth would only hurt her. How could he tell her that Blake had chosen his brother over her? How could he tell her that Blake would have gotten engaged to Melanie? How could he tell her that her baby might not have had a father?
“Hello? Chun? Are you listening to me? I’m asking you what you’re doing here?”
“I came last night,” he finally said.
“I assumed that you did,” she snapped back. “Seeing as how you slept here,” she pointed out acerbically. “But what were you doing here in the first place?”
“I found you drunk. Why were you in that state?”
“I get that way sometimes. I can’t help it,” she replied grumpily.
“It’s not a medical condition that you can’t control, Ella,” he pointed out gently. “You chose to get drunk.”
“None of your business,” she said, unconsciously repeating the words she had said to him last night.
“You … you mentioned losing your baby,” he said hesitantly, after a short pause. He watched as the color fled from her cheeks, and the emotion bled from her eyes, leaving them expressionless.
“That,” she muttered hoarsely, “is really none of your business. Don’t ever bring it up again.”
“Ella … I’m sorry.”
“I told you not to bring it up,” she yelled at him, getting up abruptly. Turning she moved toward her bedroom.
“Ella,” he said in protest, coming after her. Reaching out, he grabbed her arm. “You mentioned it last night. When you were here all alone. Drunk. I can’t just ignore what you said. You lost your baby. You lost your will to live. How can I ignore that?”
“What does this have to do with you? Why do you care?” she shouted in his face, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I care!” he shouted back, easily subduing her. “I care, because you were hurt. I care because you lost a baby. A baby that was not only your last link to Blake, but also my last link to my brother. You lost that baby on the day that I went public as the Wu heir. That same day, can you believe that? It means something to me. How could it not? Ella, I’m sorry that you lost your baby. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he murmured, pulling her into his embrace. “It wasn’t your fault,” he murmured.
“How do you know?” she mumbled into his shirt. “I was standing on the step. I was hanging something up. I fell. I was the one who did something stupid.”
“Ella, it wasn’t your fault,” he repeated softly. “It wasn’t.”
She had initially stiffened at the contact, afraid to move. When he had only clasped her to him, she let herself relax, letting the tears flow. She clutched at his male warmth, pretending for a moment that he was Blake. Blake comforting her at the loss of their child. Blake saying the words that she had needed to hear for three bleak years.
“It wasn’t your fault.”
After a few moments of peace, Ella reluctantly moved away. Before she could get a word out, he asked the question that had been bothering him all night.
“Where are Hebe and Selina?”
“They’re at a conference,” she said, wiping surreptitiously at her cheeks, trying to erase all traces of her tears. “They won’t be back until tomorrow night.”
“They left you alone at a time like this?” he asked.
“They didn’t have a choice,” Ella said, defending her friends. “They had to do it for work.”
“Let’s go,” Chun suddenly said, coming to a decision.
“I can’t leave you alone,” he responded. “And your friends won’t be back until tomorrow. The only thing you can do is come with me.”
“The only thing? Who died and made you God?” Ella asked incredulously. “I could just stay in MY home.”
“Ella, I’m not leaving you alone.”
“Chun, it’s none of your business what I do.”
“It is. You were my brother’s fiancé,” he said softly.
“I mean what I said. You were my brother’s fiancé. And I know … that you’re somebody special. I feel like I owe m—“
“You don’t owe me anything,” Ella interrupted. “Just stop being weird and go away. We barely know each other. You didn’t believe that I was engaged to your brother. And you don’t know me from Eve. So … just go. Leave me alone.”
“I owe my brother something,” he finished his sentence. “I know that you were my brother’s fiancé. I know that Melanie wasn’t. I know that you loved him and mourned him sincerely. Melanie didn’t. I know that you cherished and then lost his child. I know that Melanie would not have cherished their child.”
Ella shrugged, and turned to stare out the window. She so desperately wanted to ignore his words.
“I know that we have kissed,” he said suddenly, changing tack.
Ella whirled back to stare at him in surprise.
“I know that I want you.”
“I know that you were my brother’s love. I know that I shouldn’t be saying this, but … I want you,” he said helplessly. “I’m not leaving you alone at a time like this. I won’t. So, you decide.”
“Will you spend the next two days, here with me. All alone in this house? Or will you go with me to another place? There will be other people there,” he promised.
“I’ll go,” she said resentfully. “Why the hell would I want to spend the day alone with you?” Despondently, she turned to go into her bedroom. ‘How could he just say that? Is he crazy? What the hell is he thinking? Wait, where are we going?’
“Wait,” she said out loud, turning back to look at him. “Where are we going?”
“You’re going to meet my family today.”
Chapter 14: A Fortunate Meeting
“Your family?” Ella muttered resentfully, glaring at him from the corner of her eye. “Why do I have to meet your family? They don’t even know me!” she protested, her voice getting progressively louder. “It would just be too weird. Did you even think how your mom would feel? She hadn’t seen her son for decades, how would she feel about meeting her deceased son’s fiancé?”
“That doesn’t matter,” he said harshly, keeping his attention on the road. She stared at him, shocked at the anger she heard in his voice. “I think you gave me a black eye,” he said lightly, trying to change the subject.
“I don’t think … I know that I don’t want to meet her,” Ella argued, ignoring his words. “It’s hard enough seeing you all of the time,” she murmured, glancing at him before quickly looking away. “It would just be too awkward. And … it would hurt her to see me, Chun.”
He ignored her words.
“You … you want to hurt her, don’t you?” she asked suddenly, turning to stare at him in shock. “Why would you do that to your own mother? She’s taken care of you. She’s loved you and supported you. She’s provided for you. She has been nothing but a good mother, and yet, you’re taking me to hurt her? What is wrong with you?”
The car screeched to a halt, as Chun slammed his foot on the brake. Pulling over to the side of the road, he turned to glare at her. “You’re right,” he said. “She took care of me. She loved and supported me. She provided for me. She was a good mother to me. What about Blake? Didn’t he deserve more? Did he deserve to be abandoned by the only person who could have ever loved him unconditionally?” He sighed softly, and then continued. “I don’t want to hurt her. But she needs to know. She needs to see.”
“Know what? See what?” Ella demanded.
“That there was a son out there that she abandoned.”
“I don’t think that a moment goes by without her thinking about your brother,” Ella replied.
“How would you know that?” he asked through gritted teeth.
“I was almost a mother, Chun,” she snapped back. “I carried a baby inside of me for months. I dreamed a life for that baby. I had hopes. And I lost that child. There isn’t a moment I don’t think about her.”
Chun was silent, processing what she had told him.
“We should go back,” she urged him softly. “This isn’t a good idea.”
“My sister is getting married today,” he finally said. “I have to go. I have to be there. I’m her only brother. Now.”
“I won’t tell mom that you were Blake’s fiancé,” he finally said, conceding that this might not be the best moment to introduce Ella to his mother as Blake’s fiancé. “I won’t tell her … that you were the only person to ever love Blake the way he deserved to be loved. If …”
“If … you do feel comfortable with mother, tell her. That you were Blake’s.”
“I won’t make any promises.”
“My mother needs to know.”
“Chun!” Ella protested angrily at his stubbornness. “She knows, okay!”
“No. My mother needs to know that Blake was loved. You’re right; I don’t have to remind her of the son she abandoned. She has buried herself in the guilt over that abandonment over the past three years,” Chun revealed.
There was a moment of silence, and Chun started the car, pulling out into traffic once more.
“My mother hasn’t cried since Blake died. She doesn’t feel like she has the right to grieve.”
“Your daughter makes a beautiful bride,” Ella murmured, talking to Chun’s mother. She hadn’t seen Chun since they had arrived in the midst of wedding chaos. He had gone off to direct the preparation of the wedding reception, and she had stayed busy helping the bride get ready and keeping the children occupied.
With only an hour left before the wedding, Ella sat in the kitchen with Chun’s mother, drinking a quick cup of coffee before helping with directing the exodus to the church.
“She is precious to me,” Elizabeth said softly. “My heart breaks when I think that I’ll be losing her today. She will no longer be my little girl.”
“But she’s going off to build a life of her own. Won’t you also be wishing her well on that journey?” Ella asked.
Elizabeth chuckled softly, nodding in agreement. “I could only ever wish the best for my children,” she said softly. “For all of my children. All of them … all of them deserve to be loved … to be supported … all of them deserve their own happiness. But no matter how much you hope and dream for your children, that doesn’t mean your hopes … dreams will come true.” Her face grew grim as she said the words, and she got up from the table, moving to the sink. Picking up a dish, she began to distractedly wash it. “A parent can only pray with all of her heart … that her child will not lose his life before he has lived a happy and full life. But there is no guarantee the prayer will be heard.” She sighed brokenly, putting up a hand to massage at her aching temples. “Ella, I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m getting so emotional. It must go with the territory. I had heard that a mother of the bride cries at her daughter’s wedding, but I didn’t know that I’d start the waterworks before the wedding.”
Ella stared at Elizabeth’s slumped back; Elizabeth’s unexpressed grief was palpable in the silent room. Ella got up, and moved to stand beside Elizabeth, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Elizabeth,” she finally said, after a slight pause to think about what she was about to reveal. “I … Chun brought me here for a reason today.”
“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked, turning to gaze at Ella.
“He wanted to introduce me to you as … I didn’t let him give a full introduction.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not just Chun’s friend, although I really wouldn’t call myself a friend, anyways.”
“I’m afraid that I don’t understand, Ella. What are you saying?”
“I am also … I was also Blake’s fiancé. We were engaged to be married. Blake … Blake loved me more than life. He told me so. And I … I loved him more than anything or anyone else on this earth. Although, Belinda and Chase Wu were not satisfied with our relationship, Blake asked me to marry him. He bought me a ring.” Ella chose not to mention the whole problem with Melanie, the other fiancé.
Elizabeth stared at Ella, her eyes wide in shock. “What …” her voice trailed off, unable to continue. She was unable to give voice to the questions rising up inside of her.
“I loved him, Elizabeth. I can promise you that,” Ella blurted out. “Blake was loved by at least one other person in his lifetime. I hope … I hope that I was able to show him all the love that you were never allowed to give him. This ring,” she said, pulling out the ring she had unthinkingly put into her purse this morning, not wanting to part with it, “He gave me this ring as a promise of marriage.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened as she caught sight of the ring.
“What is it?” Ella asked, watching the tears well up into Elizabeth’s eyes.
“This is an exact replica of a family heirloom,” Elizabeth said softly. The tears began to fall down her cheeks. “I gave the original to Chun to give to his future bride. I didn’t know that Blake knew about this ring. Family tradition says that it is supposed to go to the oldest son. I didn’t know that this was one more thing that I had deprived my son of.” She began to sob loudly, finally allowing her grief to pour out. “My son. My poor son.”
Ella pulled her into her arms, wanting to provide comfort to the woman that would have been her mother-in-law.
“The sunset is breathtaking isn’t it?” a soft voice asked, coming from her right. The wedding had gone off without a hitch. Everyone was gone, save for Chun and herself. Knowing that Chun had wanted to talk to his parents privately, Ella had taken off for a while. She had been enjoying the peace and solitude of the quiet countryside before being joined by another individual.
Ella sighed, and then nodded happily. “It’s … I can’t find the words to describe it,” she said softly, staring at the colors in front of her. It was beautiful. For a second, a part of her wished that Blake could be here, next to her, enjoying this moment with her. But then she smiled softly, letting the beauty seep into her soul, putting her at peace.
There was a soft exhalation from the figure beside her. “The sunset …,” the voice began musingly, “Makes me believe … that there must be some higher being up there … something that makes this world work.” The figure shifted slightly, as if settling into the hard rock for a long stay. “It gives me hope for something bigger than this life. It gives me hope … that the people that have left us are just on the other side of that sky, almost within reach.”
Ella turned slightly at the words, but kept her gaze trained on the sinking sun.
“And maybe at this time of the day … when the sky blooms with these colors … the barrier between this world and the next breaks down; the veil is pulled aside. And our loved ones are close by … just waiting for us to call out to them. Waiting to connect with us.”
“Did you lose someone close to you?” she finally asked, breaking the silence. The sun had almost sunk beneath the horizon, the light almost completely gone.
“My wife,” the man finally answered, after a long pause. “She died giving birth to our first child,” he said, his voice breaking slightly on the words. “Sometimes, when I’m sitting here, watching the sunsets, I can feel her besides me. It’s as if, in these moments, she comes back to me. She comforts me. But, when the night comes, she leaves; leaving me behind, alone on this side of the veil.”
“I’m sorry,” Ella murmured, her heart aching for the grief she could hear in the man’s voice.
“I miss her so much,” he murmured. “But today, I don’t feel so alone. Maybe because there’s someone else here today, to share this moment with me.”
Ella nodded in understanding. Grief was always easier to bear when there was someone to share it with you, especially if that someone had lived through the same hell.
“Why do I feel like you know exactly what I’m talking about?”
Turning, Ella finally looked at the man she had been talking to as the world turned dark around them. “Hi,” she said, flashing a smile. “My name is Ella. Ella Chen.”
He flashed back a bright smile. Her eyes widened as she saw the joy in his face, a direct contradiction to the melancholy she had heard in his voice. His joy made her want to smile in return, and keep on smiling. She gave in, flashing him another smile.
“My name is Jiro. Jiro Wang. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said, putting out a hand.
Chapter 15: Beneath the Stars
“The night sky has its own charm,” Ella said musingly, staring up at the stars. “It’s been so long since I’ve been away from the city. I haven’t had a chance to look at a sky that wasn’t dimmed by all of the city lights around me.” Ella sighed. “My fiancé used to tell me that even if I counted all of the stars in the sky, they wouldn’t equal the number of things he loved about me,” she said dreamily.
Jiro chuckled softly.
“I know,” Ella said, turning to smile at him. “He was a cheesy guy. You wouldn’t know it to look at him. On the surface, he appeared to be this coolly, confident man. He really opened up after we got to know each other better, and I realized how far away he was from that image. Normally, I’d be afraid to even talk to someone like him. I’d have never approached him on my own. But he sought me out. The messy, klutzy person that I was … it even surprised me when he approached me. Mind you, I was the first one to confess and push him into revealing his feelings, but if he hadn’t come after me, I would never have made that final jump.” Ella paused for a moment, trying to swallow down the emotions that had welled up. “He didn’t like me despite my shortcomings, he loved me because of them.” Ella stared down at the ring that had found its way back to her hand. Only, this time, she’d placed it on her right hand. Blake would always be a part of her, and she wouldn’t take this ring off again. Not until she was really ready.
“Is that the right time?” Ella suddenly yelped, her eyes falling on her watch. “It can’t be 7:00 p.m. I can’t have been here for the past two hours.”
“That’s the right time,” Jiro said, getting up. Holding out a hand, he grabbed Ella’s hand, helping her up.
“He’s going to kill me,” Ella muttered, moving tentatively in the dark. She stumbled slightly. Jiro reached out and grabbed her elbow, steadying her.
“Do you need me to hold your hand?” Jiro asked, keeping a cautionary hand on her elbow. “You have trouble seeing in the dark? My wife was like that.”
Ella peered down at the ground. “I don’t have night blindness, but I told you I was klutzy, right? I could trip on air.” She moved away. “I’ll be more careful. It’s this landscape … this is my first time out here. I’m much better when I’m familiar with the place.”
“What are you doing here?” Jiro asked, falling into step beside her.
“I was attending a wedding,” Ella said, striding through the field. “After everything had quieted down a bit, I thought I’d go out for a stroll.”
“You were here for the Wu wedding?” Jiro asked, surprised.
“Yes,” Ella answered.
“Were you Milly’s friend?”
“I’m sorry. Milly?” Ella asked in confusion.
“Milly. Melinda. Wu Chun’s sister,” Jiro explained drily. “I guess you’re not her friend. Then … you’re with the groom’s side?”
“No,” Ella replied, wobbling uncertainly in the grass, before catching her balance. “I know Wu Chun. He brought me down.”
“Ah, so you’re Wu Chun’s friend,” Jiro finally said.
“Why do you sound like that?” Ella demanded, turning to look at him. She began to walk backwards, her gaze on Jiro.
“Like what?” Jiro asked evasively.
“Like you’re surprised. Or unsure. What’s the big deal?”
“No deal,” Jiro said. “It’s just that … are you sure you should be walking like that?”
“I’m fin—aaaahhh!” Ella screamed lightly, tripping over something. Her foot twisted underneath her, and she grunted, landing on the hard ground. The breath was knocked out of her. She groaned, feeling the pain in her back. She knew that she would be bruised tomorrow.
“God. Ella! Are you okay?” Jiro came over to kneel beside her. Helping her into a sitting position, he stared at her in concern. “You didn’t hurt your head, did you? Does anything feel broken?”
“No, I’m fine,” Ella muttered, a blush rising to her cheeks. “No concussion. Nothing broken. But my ankle … it hurts. How far are we from the Wu’s?”
“I’d say half a mile.”
“Well, I guess I should start walking. Help me up?” Ella asked, putting out a hand. Jiro took her hand, and gently pulled her up. Putting his arms around her, he picked her up.
“Jiro! What are you doing? We’re half a mile away! You’ll hurt your back if you carry me the whole way.”
“It’ll be fine,” he replied, carrying her easily. “We’re not that far away, and I can’t have you suffering the entire way back, can I?” Ella though of struggling briefly, but then the agony in her ankle made itself known. Mere motion and the night air were making it ache. She really hoped that it wasn’t broken.
“Thank you,” Ella said softly, looking up at him in the moonlight. “I don’t think I’d have been able to find my way back in the dark, if you hadn’t been there. I was sure the house was in the other direction,” Ella said in confusion.
“Not a problem,” Jiro said, holding her close. After a moment, Ella laid her head on Jiro’s shoulder. She sighed deeply, before allowing herself to relax completely. Although she didn’t think it was anything serious, but her head was beginning to ache along with her ankle. She slowly became aware of his scent. She stiffened slightly when she realized why that scent had been tugging at her senses. Blake used to wear the same scent. She’d given it to him as a present. She breathed deeply, sinking into the memories for a moment. For a small moment, she allowed herself to pretend that she was back in Blake’s arms.
And then the thudding of his heart penetrated her thoughts, and she realized how fast it was beating. Ella pulled away, to stare up at him. “You’re probably getting tired right about now. Why don’t you let me down and rest for a moment?” Ella asked, wiggling slightly.
“I’m fine,” Jiro said, breathing heavily. “We’re almost there. Look, there it is.” He pointed with his chin. Ella turned to see the house right in front of them. She smiled, relieved to be back.
Jiro stumbled, cursing under his breath as his hold loosened on her. Ella shrieked, clinging to him, afraid that he would drop her.
“What’s going on there?” a voice demanded from across the lawn. “What are you doing to Ella?” Ella turned to stare at Chun racing toward them. Calvin wasn’t far behind. Ella’s eyes widened as she saw the anger in Chun’s face. “What…?” she began hesitantly.
“She’s hurt, Chun,” Jiro said warningly. “I was just helping her back.”
“You’re good at that, aren’t you,” Chun said bitterly, “helping damsels in distress?” He carefully pulled Ella from Jiro’s arms, and set her down. “Help her back into the house, Calvin.”
“What about you?” Ella asked uncertainly.
“I’ll be right in. I need to talk to Jiro,” Chun said, pulling Jiro away from them.
“It was nice meeting you,” Ella called out after Jiro’s retreating back. “Thank you for helping me back.” Ella turned a bewildered gaze to Calvin. “What was that about? Why was Chun so irritated? Was it because I was out so late? If so, he has no right to be angry. I was being considerate!” Ella was growing irate at Chun’s attitude.
“He’s not angry at you, Ella,” Calvin said, putting an arm around her waist. He helped her onto the porch, and settled her in a seat.
“Then … he’s angry at Jiro? Why? Jiro seems nice,” Ella protested. “The poor man lost his wife not too long ago. He’s so broken up about it. You know that, you’ve grown up around here too. I’m sure you know him.”
“I do. In fact, he was my best friend. He was Chun’s best friend,” Calvin said.
“Then what’s the problem with him? His best friend helped me back,” Ella said.
“They’re not best friends anymore,” Calvin said, smiling sadly. He paused for a minute to collect his thoughts while Ella waited impatiently for him to continue. “Ella, remember when I told you about Chun’s fiancé?”
“Yes. Samantha, right?”
“Well, when Samantha left Chun, she went to … Jiro. And Jiro accepted her. He had always loved her, but she chose Chun. When she broke up with Chun, she went to Jiro and Jiro couldn’t refuse her. Even if it meant losing Chun as a friend.”
Ella gasped softly, shocked at Calvin’s revelation.
“Jiro lost Samantha in childbirth, even though they’d known from the beginning that Samantha couldn’t safely have children. But somehow … Samantha got pregnant and the very thing happened that the doctors had warned her about.”
Ella stared at Calvin.
“Chun still blames Jiro for Samantha’s death.”