Ever After. Chapter 17

The orange glow from the morning sun cast a circle in the middle of her room, making the wicker chairs glow a deep brown. Julia groaned. There was a heavy weight inside her head, and her eyes felt grimy and dry.

She stretched, wincing at her clenched muscles, and grabbed her phone. Judging by the time on the screen, she must’ve slept an hour or less. All through the night, Julia kept tossing and turning, going over her revealing conversation with Damian and all of her decisions ever since vowing never to return.

How could her father have lied to her like that? How could he have had the nerve to stand in this very room, and tell her that he had been right and that Damian had never loved her?

It was inconceivable to Julia that a father would go to such measures just because he was, too, much of a snob to accept her daughter had fallen for someone who not necessarily came from money like she did. It infuriated her how he had used Danny to deliver the final blow. Because if Danny had taken part in their plan, it had been because he had probably lied to her as well.

Julia had wanted to deal with this last night, but she’d still been too riled up. She knew she would’ve ended lashing out at Danny. The last thing she wanted was to add more anger and resentment to what she still had brewing in the pit of her stomach.

With her finger, she searched her contact info and pressed dial on the screen. It took a couple of rings before her sister’s voice came on. Danny sounded agitated, like she’d been moving or running. There was excessive chatter and clinking in the background. Julia had to say hi twice before her sister could hear her.

“Oh, Julia! Hey.”

“Hey, Danny. Where are you?”

“Why?”

“It’s just…..there’s a lot of noise.”

“Oh, right. Give me five seconds, okay?”

Julia heard the noise starting to diminish and then the hushed exchange between her sister and someone else and then complete silence. Danny’s voice sounded as if she was still catching her breath, but after a few exhales she said. “There. You hear me better?”

“Yes. Where were you?”

“I was…….walking down Fifth Avenue. You know how it gets, lots of people and cars, it is crazy.”

“You’re in New York?” Julia asked, surprised Danny hadn’t said anything during the last time they’d seen each other. Which reminded her. “Is that why you haven’t replied to my emails?”

There was momentary silence then her sister said. “Ah…sure, I just haven’t had time.”

Danny was being evasive, Julia realized. Despite their distancing and that they didn’t get to see each other often, her big sister instinct told her Danny wasn’t telling her the full story. But she had more pressing matters to tackle with her.

“Danny. I need to ask you something.” The seriousness in her voice had her sister pausing then saying. “Yeah?”

Julia closed her eyes then opened them again. There was no use beating around the bush. She decided to be direct. “Did you write the letter?”

“Letter?” Danny sounded confused. “What letter?”

“The letter to Damian.”

Complete silence. If Julia could see her sister now, she was a hundred percent sure she had gone pale and that her eyes had gone wide. The same way they did, whenever she got caught misbehaving at home.

“Danny?” She said her name, already feeling some of that bitterness take hold of her, despite her knowing Danny had probably had no choice.

“Oh Julia,” she sighed to the phone. “I am so sorry.”

Hearing her confess to it didn’t make it any easier. Julia asked the most logical question of all. One that had found a place right next to her in bed and hadn’t let her go to sleep.

“Why?”

When Danny didn’t answer, Julia prompted. “Why, Danny? I thought you liked Damian. I thought….”

“Because dad told me to.” She blurted. Julia heard her taking a deep breath before she continued. “He said he had gotten a call from Esperanza telling him she had seen Damian in town with another girl and that it looked serious. He also said you were planning on leaving. That you would be throwing your life away and your family for a guy who was probably going to marry someone else.”

Danny’s voice shook in the end. Julia pressed her eyes shut with her index finger and thumb, hurting all over again from her father’s deceit. Finally, when she was sure she wouldn’t lose it with her sister, Julia moved to the edge of the bed, with her head bent down and she muttered. “Jesus, Danny.”

“I’m so sorry, Julia.”

“But I still can’t understand why.”

“Because I was sick of hearing you fight with mom and dad.” Danny countered over the phone. Julia was surprised at the anger in her voice. “It was horrible. The yelling, how you wouldn’t talk to them. I just was tired of it all. And……and….”

“And what?”

“And I didn’t want you to go, okay?” Julia could hear the tears in her sister’s voice. “You were going to leave me behind, and God knew dad wouldn’t have let you visit or me visit you. I knew we were never going to see each other. So, when dad told me about Damian, I did it. I did it because I thought I was protecting you and because I didn’t want to lose my sister.”

Julia sat on the edge of the bed, too stupefied to say anything. How could she have been so selfish? All she had been thinking at the time was how much she longed to get the hell out and be with Damian. Never did she stop to think what her leaving home would do to Danny. And her sister was right. Who knew if they would’ve been able to see each other again?

For the first time in a long time, their five years age difference weighed down on her. It was like going back in time, when Julia would be there for her sister whenever she fell down, got sick or had a fight with one of her friends at school. It dawned on her that she not only would have abandoned a world that she didn’t want, but she would’ve abandoned her sister. The only person who called her every time one of her books made it to the bestseller list to tell her how proud she was of her.

“Oh Danny, I had no idea. I…..”

“I know.” Danny sniffed. “I felt terrible. I wanted to tell you, I swear. But then you went there and you found out about Damian getting married and the kid,. I knew Dad had been right. I saw how much it hurt you to find out that he’d slept with someone else. So, after a while I was convinced I had done the right thing. I should’ve told you, though.”

“Yeah, well. He lied to you, Danny. Dad, he lied to you, to me, to Damian.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that Damian wasn’t seeing another girl at the time.”

Julia could feel her sister making sense of what she just told her. When it dawned on her, she heard her sharp intake of breath before she said. “Oh, no. But wait, what do you mean at the time?”

Tears gathered in her eyes, and Julia whispered.

“When he got the letter, he went like crazy. He slept with Sophia and they had a kid.”

There was a sob from the other side of the line.

The shock of saying what had really happened one more time hung in the air between the two sisters. Danny was now breathing heavily. Julia kept her head bent down, the injustice of it all mocking her in the face.

“Oh, Julia, I swear if I’d known, as much as I would’ve missed you, I would have never written that letter. I…..”

“I know. It’s not your fault.”

Julia sat up and began pacing her room, the unfairness of it all finally finding a way out as her voice shook from anger. “Hell, I was fooled, too. I have spent ten years of my life hating a man who in turn spent his time hating me back.”

Her sister’s next silence had Julia imagining her flinching at her words. For a while, neither sister uttered a single word. After what felt like hours, Danny came to another realization. “Wait a minute. You’re at La Providencia?”

“Yes.”

“And is Damian back?

“Sort of. He bought the house, Danny. He was the mysterious buyer all along.”

“Oh. My. God.”

And Julia began telling Danny about being shocked at discovering Damian had been behind the whole deal this entire time. About the failed papers, her car, and how she was staying at the house, though she skipped the road incident and her near death experience with the scorpions, and that other letter she had hidden in one of her drawers. However, she did tell her about Damian’s father.

Danny’s only response was a breathless “wow.”

“The sad thing of all this is if dad had known who his father was, then maybe none of this would’ve happened. But like I said, it’s sad and wrong.” Danny said.

Julia couldn’t agree more.

“Anyway, he got what he wanted. He took him away from me and there’s no getting those years back. He won.” Julia said with bitterness spilling out from her, the pain of it all squeezing her heart.

“So, have you met his wife?”

Julia paused.

“Julia?”

“He didn’t.”

“He didn’t what?”

“He didn’t get married.”

The line shook with Danny’s shock. Julia heard her sister swallow, and then say, with some conviction.

“So, you can still make things right.”

“Danny, I don’t…..”

But Danny jumped right in, enthusiastically and didn’t let her finish.

“I know he has a kid and all. But he is not with anyone Julia. I bet he couldn’t get married because he was still in love with you.”

Julia stood up and went over to sit on one of the chairs by the window. She was gazing out at the peacefulness of the garden, the grass covered in a sea of crystals reflecting the light from the sun, as the water from the watering system that went on every night, still clung to the tips of the grass.

Even from here Julia could hear the town starting its daily activities. She could even picture her friends, Sonia and Magdalena, getting ready to open up their restaurants. Life went on as normal, yet hers had been an upheaval of emotions since last night.

“I don’t know. It’s been ten years. Many things have changed. I have a life now, Danny. I have a job and….”

“Okay, let me stop you there, sis. You work 24/7, you’re traveling most of the time or you’re going to the gym to run like a maniac. You don’t have a life, Julia. You have never even dated during this whole time. And I think we both know it is because you never really stopped loving Damian, despite all.”

How could Julia argue with her sister’s right on assessment of her life? She had thought so herself after Raul had dropped her off the other day. And she had come to the same conclusion about Damian as well. She wasn’t over him and yes, she still loved him. Julia had never stopped loving him even when the pain of what he had supposedly done followed her everyday.

“It’s complicated, Danny.” Was all she could say.

“You’re making it complicated.”

Was she? Could she just go down to Damian’s study right now and propose they start over again?  Could they erase the past ten years and take it from where they had left off?

Julia felt the answer inside her. No. It wasn’t that easy. It wasn’t only Damian now. There was his son to consider. And though it had all been empowered by a lie, he had slept with someone else to hurt her and part of her still couldn’t quite forgive that.

“I’m glad we talked.” Julia changed the subject, sending a silent request to her sister to forget about Damian.

“Me, too.”

Julia could feel Danny wanted to say more, so she waited until her sister did so.

“Uhm, Julia? Since we are being all honest here, I need to tell you something.”

Julia straightened up. So she had been right. There was something going on. It was the way Danny’s voice seemed to lower down at the end, that she knew whatever she was going to tell her was huge. Julia braced herself for yet another shock.

“Sure. Go ahead.”

Her sister took a deep breath and as she exhaled she said. “I quit.”

“You quit?” Julia asked, unable to understand what her sister meant.

“School. Harvard. I couldn’t do it anymore. I waited until the semester ended and I left. That’s why I’m in New York. I want to sing and act and dance, it’s what makes me happy.”

“Danny I…….God, are you serious? But I thought you liked the idea of becoming a lawyer.” Of all the things she had imagined, this was not one of them. Baffled, Julia listened to her sister’s explanations.

“I thought I would like it but I didn’t. Then, I joined a kind of glee club near college and I knew that was it. Remember how I used to be in every damn play at school when I was little? I thought that had been just a phase. Only when I joined the group in college and we started performing, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I tried talking to mom. Of course, you can imagine how that went. At least you got to get all of your stuff from the house. I came to New York with what I had on campus.”

“She kicked you out? Where are you living?” Julia still couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her little sister had stood up to her mother and she, too, had been shunned out for not measuring up to what her mother thought was acceptable.

Poor Danny. Julia recalled her first months of not seeing an end to her problems, questioning if maybe her parents had been right and she was just wasting her time.

“I found a place to stay with the sister of one of my friend’s from the glee club. I found a job as a hostess at some fancy place here in Manhattan. It doesn’t pay much but I want to save up so I can enter some acting classes, vocal coaching, you know. And I need to find a place to rent, I can’t quite keep living with my friend’s sister rent free.”

“And you won’t. Do you have where to write down?”

There was the sound of a drawer opening then of her sister saying. “Got it.”

“Okay, write this number.” Julia recited Susan’s cell phone number. “Her name is Susan, she is my boss and she has an extra set of keys to my place. I always leave them with her in case of an emergency, when I am traveling. Call her and tell her your Danny. She knows who you are because I talk about you all the time, my baby sister the lawyer.” Julia paused and corrected that last statement. “I mean my baby sister the next big Broadway star. Tell her to give you the key. You’re staying with me, okay? I’m not going to leave you alone because I know how hard it can be, and I’ll pay for those classes and anything you need to do to make your dream come true, you hear me?”

“Julia, I………”

“Don’t you dare say no.”

“I wasn’t. I was just going to ask if I could move in tonight after my shift.”

“Of course you can. I’ll call Susan and tell her to expect your call.”

“Thanks, Julia. I know you should hate me for what I put you through and….”

“Hey, hey. You listen to me. It wasn’t your fault. You just believed in them just like I did at some point. It’s over now. We’ll be okay, the two of us. Don’t worry.”

“I love you, you know that, right? And if I may add something. Some advice.”

“Okay.”

“Don’t waste more time. Don’t give them the satisfaction. You know where your heart lies, you just need to convince your cautious mind to trust in it again.”

With that, Danny said goodbye to her sister and hung up the phone.

After a quick call to Susan, Julia showered, somehow feeling lighter inside, less burdened and in a way excited for Danny. Though she did everything to keep her sister’s last words out of her mind.

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