If you have not read chap 16 with both Evelyn’s POV in Westview Park, please click here and read it first as this is a continuation of that chapter! :)
1:45pm, Westview Park
I stepped out of the cab at Westview Park more confused than ever. Maybe Lyre was right and it was Susanna who’d come to Reena’s school demanding access to her niece. Why hadn’t I’d asked her about it? I had the perfect opportunity to find out what Susanna knew about my daughter and it never crossed my mind. I sighed. This was why I couldn’t cut it as a father. I had no idea what priorities should be in the running to even put them into order of importance.
When we first met, Lyre was already a has-been at 27. She was part of a girl pop group who got an opportunity with a big music company. Lyre’s parents, who never thought their music would succeed, wanted her to give it up and stay at home, finish school. She ran away and joined her group instead. She was only 16 when Gold Divas starting climbing their way up in the big times. They had a hit with the incredibly irritating overplayed dance pop song “Melt”. And then it’s near equal “Not Cold”. After that Gold Divas songs were screeching through anything with a speaker. Everyone was forced to know who they were, including those of us who didn’t care, because you couldn’t go anywhere, or watch anything without being reminded of the fabulous Gold Divas.
But the music industry is not known for its patience or kindness and Gold Divas were no exception to its fickle attitude. After a few years, their young fans either leeched on to the next big thing or their tastes matured. The group didn’t bring in the money like they used to. Fighting amongst themselves and poor management of their careers and money didn’t help. When she was 22, the group split up and the Gold Divas were no more. Lyre tried to go solo. She even had a ballad that broke the top 40 for a week. But her endeavors never gained traction.
Today, I found Lyre sitting on a bench wearing a brown trenchcoat, sunglasses, and a fedora pulled low over her forehead. It was cool enough for a jacket or a sweater, but a buttoned thick trench coat with the belt wrapped tight was too much. She looked like an old film noir detective. Ridiculous.
I sat down next to her without speaking. The only words I could think of were “you look pathetic” and I guess that wouldn’t be the best way to start the conversation. Besides, after the day I had, I felt pathetic so maybe we’re even.
It had been obvious that Lyre was with Henry for his money and status, not because she loved him. Her parents had cut her off years ago out of spite for running away. She pulled off a show of living a semi-rich girl life in public through debt and by only dating people with money who were willing to take care of her. For his part, Henry loved her and showered her with all the gifts and money she felt she deserved.
“Do you remember the first time we met?” Lyre asked me, leaning close and pulling down her glasses just enough so that her sparkling brown eyes full of promises of hot lust filled delights to come peeked out at me. “I was tanning by your father’s pool and you looked at me like you wanted to–”
“Did you ever find out if it was Susanna who came to Reena’s school?” I cut her off.
Her eyes flamed with anger. I wasn’t about to let her soften me up before she said what she came to say. She’s good at what she does–seducing the pants off men. Problem is, we were both well versed in manipulation. Her hooks only caught me if I allowed them to. I haven’t had the desire to play Lyre’s games in years.
She pushed her sunglasses back up the bridge of her nose then sat back against the bench with a huff.
“Well?” I pushed.
“Yes, you found out, or yes, it was Susanna?” I asked.
“I found out.” Was all she said.
That meant it wasn’t Susanna. Lyre would have gloated that discovery the moment she saw me.
“It’s not Susanna.” I stated. “Do you know who it is?”
“Why can’t we talk like two civil human beings? Hmm?”
“I can’t take you seriously when you’re dressed like you just stepped out of a time travel machine from the 1940s.”
Lyre pulled the brim of her hat lower. “I don’t want anyone to recognize me.” She hissed.
“No one ever does.”
If Lyre had been satisfied with money alone and a man who adored her, she would have been set for life.
Unlike the rest of us Langs who went through significant others like they were the fruit of the month, I’d only seen Henry serious with one woman: Lyre. He was really shy when it came to love and romance. (Which is why his boldness with Avie was out of nowhere.) The point is, Henry was the most likely to keep her even if she did him wrong. She was counting on that. What she didn’t understand, and what I knew all too well, was that Henry held his pride above all else.
“Would you take off the hat and glasses?” I demanded. “You’re bringing attention to us. It’s embarrassing.”
A jogger slowed down as he passed us with a raised eyebrow and a smirk at Lyre. I felt Lyre stiffen beside me. She quickly pulled the hat and glasses off. The jogger chuckled as he sped up.
“Who was the woman at the school?” I asked again.
Lyre ran her fingers through her short dark brown hair. “It’s not anyone we know.”
“How do you know that?”
She sighed. “She came again yesterday. This time, the school called police as soon as they saw her come in and they nabbed her. I didn’t find out until after I left your place.They got her on security cameras raving about being Reena’s aunt again.”
“So she’s behind bars?” I asked, relieved.
Lyre shook her head. “No. She made bail and was released yesterday evening. Her name’s Annette Holsworth. She’s an actress. They said she had a play or something she was late for when she got out.”
“She’s free? She’s out there? Where’s Reena?”
“At sch–” I stood, unable to sit still and listen to the madness that spewed from her lips. “There’s a crazy woman after our daughter and you can’t take her out one day to make sure she’s not there if it happens again?”
“The police know who she is. She isn’t going to try anything.”
“What if Annette Holsworth decides to up her game? She’s got nothing to lose. She could kidnap Reena and disappear.”
Lyre was so stupid. She didn’t think anything through. If she’d been good at gold digging she would have told Henry that his brother was hitting on her or at least told me no. I thought I would get her to flirt with me to annoy Henry. I didn’t think she’d sleep with me that easily. Not that I had any intention of stopping her.
“Reena doesn’t know anything’s going on. If I disrupt her life, I’ll have to explain why. Everyone at that building is on the lookout.” Lyre reached up and placed her hand on my cheek. “Corbin, it’s fine. School is the safest place for her to be.”
I pushed her fingers from my face, but I kept her hand in mine. I needed something to hold even if it was her. Lyre wasn’t as dumb as I made her out to be. In all honesty, choosing me over Henry was a smart move. I don’t shy away from a good time and Lyre enjoyed going out, being seen, and having fun all night whether in public or private. I would take her out when Henry was too busy or tired or simply didn’t want to. It was the perfect situation to cheat.
Ultimately, Henry could give her half of what she wanted. With me, however, she could have it all. Money, position, parties, and a spontaneous lifestyle–I was the brother who could give her that, if she played her cards right. I was the one who might have thought her music ambitions were dumb, but would have let her do it because it was kind of cool and I could meet musicians I do like. To Henry, it was a phase of her childhood she was maturing past. He never realized how much it meant to her; how obsessed she was with climbing back to the top. She was willing to sacrifice any and everything. That’s what I saw in her. That’s what I pounced on.
She tried to seduce me to get her claws into a better deal, but all I was looking for was a path to cut Henry’s heart. She shouldn’t have gotten greedy, trying to have it all, and I wouldn’t have had anything to leech on to. Neither of us were good people and this woman, whatever her motives, might be more like us than not. This time, we had the chance to do something right. The chance to say I did everything in my power to protect my family, those I love, was one I couldn’t pass up.
“I have to tell my father,” I told her, dropping her hand.
“No! Not yet.”
Sacrificing everything to get what we thought we wanted had not resulted in the happiness we’d envisioned. Our lives were more messed up than they were six years ago. If Reena had been Henry’s daughter, like she was supposed to be, she’d never be in this situation. Henry wouldn’t have allowed it. She’d be safe because Henry was the responsible sort even to a fault.
“She’s not at school all day every day.” I said. “Annette Holsworth still has opportunity.”
“He’ll take her from me. I’ll never see her ever again.”
“You don’t know that, Lyre. Just because he doesn’t like you doesn’t mean he won’t understand that you’re her mother.”
“He blames me for ruining both sons. Paul said if I ever disrupt or intrude on his family again, he’ll make my life a living nightmare. He’ll take everything even the last crumb on my plate! Those are his words, Corbin.”
“You’re always telling me that, but he had to be thinking of you trying something new not something that already exists.” I stood. “Look, Lyre, I’m leaving, tonight. I’ll be gone for awhile and I need someone watching over Reena that I can trust will protect her at all costs.”
Lyre stood, too. “And you can’t trust me?”
“I’ve never trusted you, Lyre.”
“But you trust Paul now?”
I thought about it. I had hated my father for so long. While I was taking Lyre from Henry, I was also costing my father millions. I hadn’t completely ruined him like I’d planned, but I had damaged his life’s work. He had blamed Lyre, at first, believing she was the puppet master who’d orchestrated a scheme to get the Lang fortune all to herself. I still recalled the glee I’d felt when I, eventually, set the record straight.
My father responded by kicking me as much out of his life as a person can without outright disowning me. It’s only been within the last two years that we’ve attempted some sort of a relationship.
“Keeping this a secret was a mistake.” I said not answering her question. “Whether or not I trust Paul overall is irrelevant. I know without a shadow of doubt that he’d die of shame before allowing a blight on the family name.”
“Like being associated with me!”
“No, like the world finding out he had a granddaughter he didn’t take care of.” We weren’t buddies while I grew up, but my father had looked after me in his own distant way (more than I realized according to Susanna). His sudden desire to give me an inheritance is probably because if he didn’t people would search to figure out why. Whether out of love or guaranteeing that the family would keep up appearances–or both–he protected his own. That was good enough for me. I took out my phone.
“What are you doing?” Lyre tried to snatch the phone away, but I switched hands. “I have a better plan. Corbin, listen to me.”
“Keeping quiet was your plan. It’s not working.” I pulled up my father’s private number.
“Wait! I’m pregnant!”
The line was ringing, but I was no longer paying attention. I stared at her for a confused moment while the information sunk in. Pregnant? Then it occurred to me. What the hell do I care? That was between her and Harley. She could have a billion kids; I was only worried about one. I was about to tell her so when someone else spoke before I could.
“Is this why we broke up?”
Lyre and I both snapped our heads in the direction of the voice. I recognized it, but I couldn’t believe I was hearing her at that exact moment.
“Were you sleeping with her while you were with me?” Evelyn’s grey eyes were hard as steel.
I’d seen Evelyn angry before and, sure, usually at me. This time was like nothing before. She moved towards me with this “I’m going to kill you” expression that scared the shit out of me, but after backing away a few stumbling steps, I stood my ground so hopefully she couldn’t tell.
“Answer me!” Evelyn demanded.
“This is why I married. I don’t have to deal with crazy exes anymore.” Lyre said. She gave me a side glance. “Except for one.”
“No one is talking to you, Lyre.” I turned back to Evelyn. What she’d overheard had clearly given her the wrong idea, but I didn’t want to say it and send her on her way. I wanted to sit down and talk. I had a lot to tell her. Seeing her standing there in all her pissed off glory made me want to wrap my arms around her and be with her. This could be the last time for a long time. “Can you give us a few minutes? Then I’ll explain everything.”
Evelyn pressed her lips together for a moment. Her eyes never left my face. “I’m over it. I’m done with you and– and whatever the hell this is.” She waved a hand at Lyre and me. “Live your life however you want, I don’t care anymore. All you’ve done is lie to me with your secret life, lover and secret pregnancy and your secret daughter and… and all your secrets–”
“What did you say?” I grabbed her arm and pulled her away from where Lyre was standing near some trees on the other side of the path.
Evelyn tried to pull out of my grasp. “Let go of me!”
“How do you know about my daughter?” I hissed, praying she would say Matteo told her.
She narrowed her eyes at me. “The same way I know you’re in a Trey Parker film and shot a scene last night for, um, Ghost Slayer. It sounds stupid, by the way.”
I felt like I’d fallen through thin ice into a deep watery beyond. Shocked and chilled with darkness creeping at all sides. I gripped both her forearms.
“Why do you know that?” I asked, terrified of her answer, but so tired of the vague grey I’d been floating in.
“Corbin. You’re hurting me; let go!” She pulled her body back, trying to get away.
I responded by tightening my grip. I didn’t want to hurt her, but I couldn’t let her run off before I got some answers.
“How do you know what happened last night with Trey Parker?” I managed to keep my voice low despite the urge to scream pushing at the back of my throat.
“Is everything ok over there?” Lyre asked. She sounded like she was still standing where we’d left her which was good. She couldn’t overhear anything. We must have looked bad, though, for Lyre to ask. I didn’t give her an answer.
Evelyn stared up at me her face a mixture of shock and pain. It was so much worse than that time I made her cry.
“Tell me. Just tell me!” I demanded.
“Lola. It was Lola.”
“Lola?” I searched my mind trying to put a face to the name, but came up empty. “Who’s Lola?”
“She was in the scene you shot last night. She said it was mostly improv and you were brilliant. And Parker’s a genius.”
“Was she a– a dead body?”
“No. I don’t think so. She had lines. She said them, but I don’t remember.”
The dead body was a dumb question. Susanna had already showed me that those were real dead bodies. The only woman with “lines” was the one I’d spoken with. “Were they something like, he wants your heart and strum the strings, sing the music?”
“I don’t know, Corbin. I was too busy being pissed at you for not telling me about it to pay attention. Now get off me before I knee you in the groin!”
Evelyn took a kickboxing class twice a week. I’d never been on the receiving end of what she learned and I wasn’t about to be. I released her. She shoved me hard in the chest. I stumbled back hitting a tree trunk. I didn’t think she was lying. I hoped she wasn’t. There was still a chance that she was. While she rubbed her arms, I ran my hand through my hair and tried to figured out what all this meant.
“How do you know that woman?” I asked. “When did she tell you?”
Evelyn glared at me. “Her name is Lola. She’s a cast member in Summer’s Reminisce. We talked about it this morning at the gym.”
“Then you’re not involved? Trey Parker didn’t put you up to this?”
“What are you talking about? Involved in Trey Parker’s little film project? No.” She closed the gap between us. “And I’ll never be. I don’t want to be a part of anything you’re in!”
Lyre had walked up to us at some point. She stood just behind Evelyn, listening.
“What, Lyre?” I asked still shouting.
“Trey Parker, huh?” Lyre said. “He’s supposed to be directing a promo for my show today.”
I could feel a nerve quaking in my jaw. How is that guy everywhere in my life?
“You can’t meet with him,” I told her. “He’s dangerous. He took Matteo.”
“Stop making up stories, you liar!” Evelyn said.
“I’m not the one.” I shouted, my rising anger and confusion making it impossible to control my voice. “I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve told about my daughter and you’re not one of them. How do you know about her? Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I wanted you to tell me yourself.” She sniffed. “If you told me then you trust me. I can keep your secrets, Corbin. But you won’t let anyone in your heart so you remain the only one in your world. You’ll never care about me the way I care about you. You only lie to me.”
I hadn’t lied to her. Where was she getting that from? She didn’t jump to conclusions, she was thoughtful, and always patient. She looked for the best in people while I looked for the worst. Unlike me, she wasn’t type to overhear something and not give a person a chance. Unless she already made up her mind on the matter, then she was more stubborn than I was. She turned to walk away. I grabbed her arm.
“Evelyn, whatever you’re thinking is either wrong or only part of the story. I really need to talk to you. I want to explain it all, but,” I pointed my head in Lyre’s direction, “I have to finish with her first. Please, baby.” I cupped her face in my hands. “Stay with me. I need you to stay with me.”
I meant that. With all my heart, I did. I knew what I had to do with Reena and Lyre. There was no one else on the planet that I wanted by my side, holding my hand when this happened. I’d spent more time with Evelyn over the past few months than with anyone else. I liked being with her. She made me laugh and see the world completely differently. Even now I felt calmer, like somehow everything would work out, just because she was there.
But she scared me. A lot. Because I do trust her and I never trust anyone. If she was lying to me, keeping something from me, I was willing to hear her out. She was right. I was holding back. How could I demand her life’s story when I refused to give up mine?
“I’m sorry.” I told her. “Everything I said and did, I’m sorry. Stay with me and afterward you can do what you feel is right. Just give me a moment.”
I could see the struggle in her eyes. She wanted to believe me, I could tell. Hope filled me as I waited for her answer. Then I felt her jaw clench beneath my palms.
“I almost fell for it.” She stepped out of my grasp. “You really are that good of an actor. Stay away from me.”
She turned and walked off. I hadn’t lied to her, but wasn’t completely up front. I had given her a good reason not to trust me the other night when I cut her out of my life. She begged me to talk and I refused. Now that I was ready to talk, she didn’t want to hear me.
“Evelyn!” I called out to try one more time.
She didn’t stop or respond. She moved between some trees and down a trail. I thought about running after her, saying what I had to say whether she listened or not, getting it out in the open. I would have pestered her until she could never say that I kept secrets from even if she still decided she wanted nothing to do with me.
I would have, but Lyre placed her fingers on my shoulder and clucked her tongue. That’s when I remembered. Reena. Trey Parker. That man couldn’t be anywhere near my daughter and that included his proximity to her mother. Evelyn wasn’t interested in Parker so she should be ok. Lyre was scheduled to meet with him that day. This had to be my priority. Besides, just because I could trust Evelyn once, didn’t mean I could trust her now. I was wrong about her.
“We need to get Reena,” I told Lyre. “Then we’re going to see my father.”