“When will they know something?” I ask, dropping my head forward. I hate this.
“I’m not sure, son,” my dad says quietly. I lift my head to look at him.
“I need her, Dad. I feel like I can’t breathe.” I scrub my hands over my face. “I feel like I’m dying inside.” I look at my wedding band, rubbing my thumb over the shiny piece of jewelry. “Her parents are going to be here today. I have to take the kids with me to go pick them up. Her mom and dad are going to have a lot of questions—questions I don’t have answers for.”
“I will come with you. The kids can stay with your mom. You and I will go to the airport and pick them up.”
“Thanks,” I say, not looking up at him. I have already failed Lilly as her husband. What kind of man lets his woman go to jail? I don’t deserve her. “I have never deserved her.”
“Hey, none of that feeling sorry for yourself bullshit,” my dad says, and I realize I must have spoken out loud.
“It’s the truth,” I tell him.
“You’re probably right. You probably don’t deserve her, but she’s yours, and I raised you to be a good man, a strong man, and a man worthy of a good woman’s love.” He stands and pats my shoulder. “You need to be strong for her and those two little ones.” I know he’s right, and I won’t let my kids be touched by what’s going on, but it doesn’t make it any easier to look at myself in the mirror. The worst part is that Jules is claiming me to be an unfit parent, and at this point, the judge is considering joint custody due to her claims about my wife—though Jules has been gracious enough to tell me that if I left Lil, she would be willing to let things be. I let her know where to shove that idea. There were no forces on this Earth strong enough to tear me away from Lilly. Just because I wasn’t good enough for her doesn’t mean I would ever give her up.
“I got it,” Nico says the second he steps through the sliding glass doors.
“Please tell me that it’s good,” I say and stand up.
“We need to talk,” he says.
“What the f**k are you talking about? I want to see what’s on the tape,” I say, sliding open the door he just came through.
“Wait, we need to talk for a second before I put this in,” Nico says, grabbing my elbow.
“What? You have a tape that proves that Lil is innocent and you want me to wait?”
“No, I want to make sure that you know that no matter what’s on this tape, we’ve got your back.”
“Jesus, you still don’t trust her,” I whisper in disgust. I haven’t even thought once that she may not be innocent. I know that she didn’t do what she is being accused of.
“Did I say that I didn’t believe her?” Nico asks, shaking his head. “Dude, I know she didn’t f**king do it. The thing I want you to prepare yourself for is what else is on this tape.”
“What does that mean?”
“You will see, but know that we’ve all got your back.” I lift my chin, wondering what the f**k is on the tape, feeling like I don’t even want to know at this point. We walk into my parents’ house where the kids and I have been staying since she got placed in jail. I don’t want to be home without her, and I know that with us staying at my parents’ they seem to have fewer questions about where she is. That doesn’t mean that when bedtime, bath time or any time that they normally spend with her during the day comes along they don’t cry for her or look around waiting for her. That’s the part that kills me. I hate seeing that lost look on my kids’ faces. It has been bad enough dealing with the look on Jax’s face over the past couple years when his mother doesn’t show up. But now it’s worse knowing that if Lil had it her way, she would be with them. This isn’t something that she is choosing to do. “You ready for this?”
“Put it in,” I tell him. He sets up the video and my dad comes into the room, taking a seat in his old recliner. I sit on the couch and wait for the blank screen to light up.
“All right, now, the first part of the tape is all garbage, just normal people cashing their checks. Then around two, something interesting happens,” Nico says, and I watch the screen go black.
“What the f**k did you do to the tape?” I stand up.
“I didn’t do anything.” He shrugs like it’s all the same to him, and then stands as well. “So I’m guessing that you didn’t catch it, huh?”
“Catch what?” I growl. “I’m not in the mood for your f**king games.”
“I’m going to play it again; calm your tits.” He smiles. “This time, pay close attention to what happens right before the screen goes black. He presses play again, and this time I stare at the screen so hard that I feel like my eyes are going to dry out, but right before the screen goes black, I catch it.
“You have got to be f**king with me.” I take a breath and then another, trying to squelch the urge to find a gun and put a bullet in someone’s brain.
“I guess you caught it that time,” Nico says smiling.
“I’m going to f**king kill her,” I say, my hands fisting at my sides.
“Now, son,” Dad says, and I hear him, but I couldn’t f**king care less right now.
“I’m going to f**king kill the bitch,” I repeat.
“Cash, son, I need you to calm down and think about this.”
“She has done it again. She has f**ked with my life again.” I close my eyes, images of Lilly when I first met her flashing in my mind—how the love we had for each other back then could have grown, and how lucky I am to have it now. Images of Ashlyn come next, everything I missed with her, all the moments I will never get back. Then Jax, and how my son has suffered having her as a mother. How until Lilly, he never knew what it was like to have a mother who loved him completely. Yes, I’m going to kill the bitch. “Where the f**k is she?” I ask, looking at Nico. Now he has Sophie, he should know the anguish I’m feeling.
“Jules doesn’t know I have this tape,” Nico says. “I say we call the lawyer and have him get this tape admitted into evidence, then Lilly can finally get her chance in front of the judge. Hopefully, he will look at this and realize he has the wrong person and let her go.
“Yeah, but that’s not a lot of evidence proving her innocence,” I realize and speak out loud.