:: previous – Black Mountain Honey Grim
The close of day. A time for reflection. A nice dinner, perhaps. Drinks, pleasant company.
Not for me. I’m stuck on this lakeside stroll around dad’s ranch listening to him go on and on about how unfair existence has treated him. I don’t care about crown conspiracies or what a dead king did decades ago. All I want is Misa.
And to eat something.
“So that’s that. Anyway…” He falls silent as we watch gold and violet sunset hues ripple across the lake. Around us, fireflies hover in the air like tiny lanterns.
“Haven’t been here in forever.” I breathe in cool air. It’s sweet and carries a sense of nostalgia. “I miss these views, all this space.”
“Yeah, I know you do. You used to run all around here explorin’.” The cowboy hat dad’s wearing hides his face in shadows, but there’s a smile in his voice. “Your old bedroom is still there anytime you and Misa wanna visit. All these acres will pass down to you and yours, anyway.”
Back at the house smoke curls from the grill, spreading scents of Misa and Tehanie’s cooking far and wide. Grub is almost ready.
We stop and fling rocks across the water.
Dad nudges my shoulder with a chuckle. “Ah, look at you… my son!” He pats my back with his heavy hand, almost knocking me over. “University graduate, works for the family business, owns a home and you’re getting married to an amazing woman. Man, it’s a shame I wasn’t more like you when I was your age. Would’ve saved my parents years of headaches.”
“You take after your momma. All that quiet discipline. Khiana would be proud of you.”
I liked where he was going until he invoked mom. Now I feel coerced to go on this walk under false pretenses.
“You wanted to talk about the wedding finances?” I remind him. “Misa and I agree. We don’t want a big wedding. I tried explaining this to your current wife, but Tehanie is insistent that all Black Mountain attends.”
“Why do you change the subject whenever I mention Khiana? It’s like you don’t miss her or something.”
Here we go.
“Difficult to miss a person responsible for an unforgivable crime.”
Dad stops in his tracks. I keep walking ahead.
I turn around, quickly getting annoyed. “What?”
He shakes his head and presses forward.
“She’s not really gone. Maybe she’s hiding. The crown is involved for sure. At least that’s what my people suspect… We’ll find the truth.”
Don’t respond, don’t engage.
We keep walking.
“Khiana and Misa would get along well.”
“Listen, can we stop talking about her? Out of respect for Misa—mom killed her brother, remember? Or did you conveniently forget?”
“Keep the memories to yourself.”
“What happened to Misa’s family is terrible and I hate she went through so much tragedy, but I believe it wasn’t Khiana behind that wheel.”
“We both watched the video file of mom plowing into Micah Honey with her car. Misa identified his body.”
“Listen, I’m not saying he’s not dead. We know he is. But anyone can create videos to serve any purpose. Look at all them major motion pictures… Movie magic.”
“We’ve been over this. The traffic camera recorded the accident on the street in Fortune where Micah got hit. Someone sent that same video to me the day mom was taken.”
“Stinks of a setup. Someone is putting puzzle pieces together that don’t fit using my Khiana to cover up something else. That’s what I smell. It’s foul.”
Ridiculous. “We tested the video’s authenticity three times. It’s real, and mom was in Fortune on crown business the day Micah died. I have the damn emails between me and her during her trip. Whoever sent me that video wanted me to know she killed Micah Honey… and I hate to say it, but it’s likely why she vanished. His death at her hands…” I shrug. “Maybe she upset the wrong people.”
“My Khiana didn’t kill anyone for anybody to be upset with her.”
“Well, it doesn’t help that Micah’s personal life is still up in the air… Misa said he was a private person but took good care of her after their parents died, started saving up money. Source unknown. That’s how she moved to Black Mountain after he died because of the sum he accumulated. Until Timothy Hollow almost left her penniless after paying for their date he couldn’t afford. And where is Timothy now? Gone. No trace. No university records. It’s like he never existed. How was he on campus with me and Misa?”
Dad shakes his head, muttering under his breath. He can keep shaking until it falls off. The truth is in front of him, but he’s too stubborn to see.
“Deep down, something tells me Micah Honey had associations with Timothy and Pace, the one Misa saw take mom. I wouldn’t be surprised if Timothy sent me the video file, either. Maybe try to make Misa leave me for mom killing her brother out of jealousy over our relationship. Makes sense to me.”
“There’s zero proof of what Misa saw. Just a bunch of static. None of it makes sense, son, just like that theatrical hit-and-run video.”
“Are you simple?”
“Who you talkin’ to? You better watch your damn mouth. We’re gonna have to agree to disagree on this.”
“Yeah, well, while you’re disagreeing with facts, don’t forget how Fortune Authorities lied to Misa when she asked for help to find Micah’s killer. They fed us the same nonsense when we inquired with the video file they refused to watch. We know nothing, the Chief of Fortune Authorities told us. Remember? Bitch ass robot mode. When the accident happened, I bet they found out mom was a crown official and planned to make the hit-and-run video public because sensational gossip always pays well, until the crown found out which led to the video’s seizure, classified status, and elimination of shame they would face if it surfaced. Add in some hush payment sprinkles, then everyone involved comes down with amnesia. It’s textbook C-Y-A. I learned that from my Earth Studies class.”
“Let me ask you something. You really think she killed someone? The strictest, most rule following person there is. A hit-and-run? Listen, if Khiana hit Misa’s brother, she would’ve kept her ass there and helped him because that’s the person she is. A good woman… with a poor attitude sometimes with me and you.”
“With a vendetta against House Honey. Don’t forget mom crashed into Misa’s car after taking pills she got from Timothy.” Dad shakes his head. “That’s what you told me. What were they doing together? I wouldn’t be surprised if Timothy planned on taking mom then.”
Wish he did. I’ll never forget how she fucked up that night for Misa and me. Our first time hanging out…
“That’s because of troubles between us. I saw what Hollow looked like. Around your age, handsome, blonde. Pfft, I get it.” He lunges a rock into the lake reminiscent of his pitching days for the Black Mountain Pythons. “Your momma told me they met at the hotel bar she was staying at and was headed to his place. Revenge on me or some bullshit. Then that liquor and pills she took to feel good kicked in and she ended up coming to your apartment instead and… crashed into Misa’s parked car.”
“And beat down Misa’s door in a rage fueled jealous tantrum over your current wives.”
He grumbles. “Uh-huh.”
“Mm hm.” I nod, wide-eyed. “A good woman, huh?”
“She just has stresses, Emilian. Remember when you were a kid? Momma was different. She was happier back then. It was work that changed her. Damn crown took over her life—all that corruption when fat ass King Crow was running things. She must’ve seen too much. Knew too much.” He shakes his head, muttering to himself. “Now they got this new king not much older than you moping around in palace shadows with his sister running things. You know the stories!” I nod, feigning interest. I’ve heard this rant before. “The crown didn’t lift a finger to help find Khiana. She worked there forever and now they wanna refuse us information about her. Talking about damn privacy concerns. Stupid ass fools. We were married for years!” He growls. “She’s my wife!”
“Alright, alright calm down… Was your wife. You’re divorced. The crown refused me too, and they know I’m her son. They’re protecting their reputation… We should be thankful. If news about mom killing Micah got out, it’d put Grim Systems in an unpleasant light considering your own past. People may wonder why Misa wants to marry me. I can see the headline now: Sister of murdered man marries the killer woman’s son whose father killed one of three wives on Earth. It’s sensational torture.”
“Let me tell you something. Anything anyone says about my past is a lying bastard. Lux died in a vehicular accident during a trip on Earth and was reborn there. I risked mine and Tehanie’s lives traveling through earth time to find her. What matters is she’s here now. I got her back. Case closed. That’s the truth you, me, Tehanie and Lux hold.” He says it like its breaking news. I helped him with the Vegas operation. “I didn’t give up on Lux, and I won’t with Khiana. So that’s that.”
“Hm. The day after mom crashed into Misa’s car, you told me she told you she wanted to die… Why would mom say that?”
Sounds like guilt to me.
“Depression. The stress from work reached a tipping point, and she lost it. She needs me in her life. I keep her level… Did you know she was gonna leave the crown? She was excited about you finally having a girlfriend. I read it all in her journal the night before she was taken. She wrote, and I quote, I look forward to the future with bright eyes now. Things were gonna get better.”
Hmph. Everything looks wonderful to me as it is now.
“Weston!” Tehanie shouts from back at the house. “Dinner’s ready!”
He flings another rock. One long, perfect skip.
“If we found mom, she couldn’t be around Misa since she watched the video too, don’t forget. Unless your assessment that this is a ruse proves true and we discover who really killed Micah… But what about Tehanie and Lux? How will your current wives feel bringing mom back into the relationship?”
He stiffens. I follow his gaze to the skyline as two birds sail above the water.
“Tehanie would adapt.”
Words lined in ice.
I pat his back, leading him toward the house. “Let’s go eat.”
He’s lost his mind.
. . .
At the house, we find Tehanie, Misa, and Lux in the backyard sharing laughs over cold ones, colorful salad, steaks grilled to medium-rare perfection topped with shrimp, and garlic butter asparagus.
Despite the mayhem this past year, I’m thrilled Misa and my family get along. Working together at Grim Systems had a lot to do with that.
I’ll miss her happiness around the office once she starts her job at the library.
“You two are beautiful together.” Tehanie gushes, waving me over to the dining table.
Dad takes a seat in between her and Lux as she plays a soft melody on her guitar. I grab a beer from an ice bath and sit beside Misa.
“Now tell me, when can we expect babies?” Tehanie beams. She hands me and Dad a loaded plate of food.
Misa takes an unusually long sip of lemonade. She has a bright red blush on her cheeks.
I clear my throat. “We haven’t really spoken about kids.”
“We are now.” Tehanie grins.
Lux and Dad do the same.
Stop. I mouth to them. I forgot how bashful Misa can get.
“Ah, okay, okay, I know, I’m super embarrassing. Sorry. Lux told me she dreamed of sunflowers and it got me thinking about you two. I’m so excited about this wedding!”
So am I.
Misa takes a bite of steak, savors it, then smiles at me like she’s passed through the gates of a food paradise. “Mm! I was starving!” She mumbles against the napkin at her lips.
I sit back and wrap my arm around her chair, imagining watching every sunset, just like this…
Together and happy.
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