I quickly crawl away from him, but in my haste to get out of his grip, I forgot about the other man in the room. His hand quickly grabs a handful of my hair and yanks me up off of the floor while Finn continues to whimper and moan.
“Get up, you weak fuck,” the man spits at Finn as I flail my arms and try to hit my target. I get a few smacks and punches in before he grabs onto one of my arms and wrenches it behind me so hard and fast that I hear a snap in one of the bones and a white hot, blinding pain shoots up my arm.
A blood curdling scream flies out of my mouth, and he suddenly shoves me away from him. I trip over my feet and throw out my uninjured arm to try and brace my fall as I smack my hip to the hard floor.
The pain in my hip is no match for the excruciating agony radiating through the upper half of my body, and it’s quickly forgotten as I cradle my arm against my chest.
“We haven’t formally met. My real name is Billy, but you probably know me best as Ray,” the man says as he stands above me.
Using my feet, I push against the floor and slide myself away from him, but he follows me until my back hits the pole in the middle of the room and I have to stop. Billy crouches down in front of me while Finn finally regains his composure and stands up behind him, staring at me with hatred burning in his eyes and blood dripping off of his chin.
“I used to fuck your mother, you know,” Billy says casually with a smile. “Back in the day, before she got all high and mighty. She liked to slum it and come to my trailer late at night, asking me for favors, and in return I got a piece of that sweet ass. She wrote me off after she sank her claws into your father, but I knew she’d be back. And sure enough, she darkened my doorstep one night asking me to do a little mechanical work on your father’s car. A little poke to the brake line so the fluid would slowly leak out and POOF! No more Daddy.”
A sob bursts from my mouth and echoes around the room as I listen to this man admit that he killed my father. And that my mother had him do it.
“No! No, no, no,” I mumble over and over as I shake my head back and forth in denial and cry for the man who would have done anything for me.
“Yes, yes, yes, princess! Isn’t it good to finally hear the truth?” Billy asks with a laugh. “The truth shall set you free! And since we’re on a roll, Finn, how about you clue her in on some more truths that will blow her mind.”
Finn wipes blood off of his mouth with the back of his hand and limps over next to Billy. If I could muster up the strength, I would laugh in his face right now, pleased with myself at how much damage I did to him.
“I’m sorry, Layla! Oh God, I’m so sorry. I didn’t want it to go this far, I didn’t. You have to believe me,” Finn pleads, his mood doing a complete one-eighty as he squats down next to me and reaches out to gently touch the bruise that I can feel forming on my cheek from the hit.
Billy scoffs and rolls his eyes. “Jesus Christ, you are such a fucking pussy. GET UP!”
Finn looks at me sadly and quickly stands back up next to Billy.
“Tell her how you really feel, Finn. Tell her all the things you’ve told me this last year. Get it all out of your system,” Billy encourages.
I watch as the kindness in Finn’s eyes is once again replaced by anger.
“You were always the golden child. The little princess who got everything handed to her because you had a perfect father, not some nameless, faceless asshole who knocked your mother up and then fled. I found out the truth when I was in another country, shot to hell and bleeding out in a two-bit operating room in a tent in the middle of the dessert,” Finn says calmly.
I don’t like the monotone timbre his voice has taken on. It’s like someone flipped a switch in his brain and he’s turned into a completely different person. I need to get Finn back. The real Finn. The one who has been by my side all these years, the one I know is still in there somewhere. I don’t know what truth he’s talking about, and I don’t care. I just need to make him remember what we mean to each other.
“Finn, please. I love you, you know that. You’re my best friend and I would do anything for you. It’s not too late, we can fix this. We can fix everything,” I plead with him.
Billy moves in a flash, stopping my appeal to Finn’s good side as the steel toe of his boot connects with the side of my thigh. Once again, my screams of pain fill the room as I fall to the side, gingerly holding my broken arm to my chest and clutching onto my thigh with my good hand. My forehead rests against the cool, hard ground as I sob into the floor and wonder why the hell this is happening to me. It has to be a dream. This can’t be real. I need to wake up.
WAKE UP DAMMIT!
“Shut the hell up!” Billy yells at me, and I flinch at his raised voice. He quickly squats down to my level, and just like a moment ago, he grabs onto my hair again and yanks my face up so he can hold it inches from his own, the stench of alcohol on his breath hitting me in the face and making me gag. “Haven’t you figured it out yet? Haven’t you realized why Finn hates you? Because he does, you know. He hates you. Isn’t that right, Finn? Tell her why you hate this bitch!”
It hurts to cry but I can’t stop the tears from falling as I look away from Billy and into the eyes of the man I’ve known almost my whole life. We took care of each other and we did everything for each other. My heart is breaking all over again wondering if he really does hate me, that all these years have been a lie, that his friendship was a farce the whole time.
“No, I don’t hate her! I don’t! I’m just mad. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I just wanted what should have been mine,” Finn cries.
“Is all of this about you not playing guitar?” I ask him with a sob. “Finn, you know I have always supported you and your choices. I have always wanted what was best for you. If you wanted to do it professionally I would have helped you. I would have done everything I could to make it happen for you.”
Billy laughs and Finn growls in anger. “I didn’t want your charity! I wanted your life! It should have been mine. All of it should have been mine!”
I gasp at his words, not understanding how all this time he never said anything. He never once made his feelings or his desires known.
“I would have given it to you! Do you understand that, Finn?” I shout back at him. “I never wanted any of it! I love you and I would have gladly handed it all to you if I knew it was what you wanted.”
Finn’s anger falters at that point, and I can see the war that’s going on his head as he stares at me. He wants to be pissed at me for having everything he’s always wanted, but he knows I’m right. He knows I would have done anything for him. All he had to do was ask.
Billy frantically looks back and forth between Finn and me, tosses me to the side again, and suddenly jumps up, turning around and throwing a fist into Finn’s face. I cry out as I watch a spray of blood fly from Finn’s mouth and splatter on the floor.
Finn rounds on Billy and clenches his fists tightly to his side, his body shaking with the need to hit back.
“Does that make you angry? Huh, Finn? Are you good and pissed off now? TELL HER THE TRUTH!” Billy screams.
“I don’t care about the truth, Finn,” I rush to tell him, trying to get him to focus on me and what we mean to each other instead of what this monster is trying to do to us. “It doesn’t matter. You’re my best friend and we’ve always done everything for each other. Remember when you were twelve and you had pneumonia? I made you Campbell’s chicken soup every day and we played Mad Libs until our sides ached from laughing and you forgot about how sick you were. And remember when I was fourteen and you dared me to jump my bike over the stream behind my house and I crashed and cried like a girl? There was so much blood everywhere and you carried me ten blocks to the hospital, apologizing the whole way and telling me you’d never let me get hurt again?”
The tears blur my vision as I remember back on our years together and how it was always us against the world. Right when I think I’m finally getting to him though, the softness in his eyes from remembering immediately turns to fury.
“Of course I remember carrying you to the hospital. I also remember listening to the doctor tell you that you were bleeding so much because you had this weird, rare blood disorder called hemophilia. Something passed on by your mother,” Finn spits out angrily at me.
Billy stares at Finn and nods his head enthusiastically. “There you go, boy. Finally, the grand finale.”
“Yes, I remember,” I mutter in confusion, ignoring Billy’s excitement. “They couldn’t get the bleeding to stop from the gash in my leg so they ran tests. You made a joke that you’d have to put me in a bubble so I’d never bleed again,” I whisper, wondering why he’s bringing this up now.
“When I was in Afghanistan and bleeding out on the table, they couldn’t understand why my blood wouldn’t clot, so they ran some tests. Do you have any idea how rare it is for someone to have hemophilia, Layla? Do you have any idea how rare it is for two best friends, who live in the same town, have the same eye color, and the same two dimples in our cheeks to have hemophilia?”
My brain hears everything Finn is saying to me right now, but my heart refuses to process the words. It refuses to acknowledge that what he’s saying makes sense.
“I should have had your life. I COULD HAVE had your life. It should have been MINE! I was the first born. Our mother should have made ME the star. She should have put ME on the pedestal. When I came home from the war, armed with the news the doctors had given me and a hunch about who I was, I demanded that she tell me the truth. Instead of being happy about it, she paid me to keep my mouth shut.”
I gasp at his words, running them through my mind over and over as he stares at me with murderous rage in his eyes.
Our mother, our mother, our mother.
“No. It’s not possible,” I mumble, even though I know he speaks the truth.
Our mother, our mother, our mother.
“Look at that! I think she sees the light, Finn!” Billy exclaims from behind him. “Layla, meet your brother, Finn. I’m so glad I get to be a part of this heart felt family reunion.”
“All these years I’ve been wanting to get back at dear old Eve for using me only when she needed something. Imagine my surprise last year when Finn here found my contact information in some of Eve’s things,” Billy explains as he paces back and forth in front of me. “Finn hatched up a genius plan where I would get to stalk the beautiful Layla Carlysle, and he would come in and be the hero, saving the day, and have his face plastered all over magazines and television. The grateful public would want to know everything about him of course, and they would soon learn that, oh my gosh, he can play the guitar?!”
Billy stops pacing and pulls the handcuffs out of his pocket, swinging them around his finger as he continues.
“And of course, once the news broke, people would start digging into Finn’s life and wait, what’s this? His mother is really Eve Carlysle? She had a bastard child right before she married Jack and tossed him into an orphanage? Oh the horror! And wait, there’s more!” Billy says with a sinister laugh. “A grown-up Finn comes home from the war, after fighting for his country and almost losing his life, and he knows the truth! Oh my! But Eve, she pays him off to keep him quiet. Offered him a job close to her so she could keep an eye on him. Oh no. How tragic. Poor Finn.”
I crumble to the ground, unable to hold myself up any longer, crying so hard I’m surprised I have any tears left.
Turning my head against the floor so I can look up, my gaze goes back and forth between the two men staring down at me.
“So Finn would get his fame and fortune and you would get revenge on Eve when everyone found out the truth,” I croak with a raspy voice, my throat aching from all the tears.
“Little Miss Perfect would be blackballed in the music world. It really was a perfect plan,” Billy states. “Until that bitch felt the need to hire a PI who started sticking his nose in things.”
Billy bends over and slaps the cuffs on my good arm, pulling on it roughly until it’s extended out from my body, securing the other end to the support pole. I moan in pain, not even attempting to struggle against him.
“I tried to warn you, Layla. I tried to tell you that guy was bad news, but you didn’t listen,” Finn states softly. “I bugged his place when I dropped off your stuff the other night. He knew about your dad. He knew all about Jack’s death, and he didn’t tell you. He kept it from you because he doesn’t give a shit about you.”
Finn is back to sounding like he cares about me, and my head is spinning from the back and forth he’s doing. One minute he’s pissed and the next he’s on my side. I don’t know which Finn is the real one. I don’t know what is happening to him.
My eyes close and I rest my cheek on my arm handcuffed to the pole, wanting to just give up. I don’t care about anything anymore. There isn’t one person in my life who hasn’t betrayed me. I am alone and I’m going to die in this basement alone. Billy and Finn have divulged all of their secrets. Secrets they won’t want anyone to know about. No matter what confusion is going on in Finn’s head right now, there’s no way he’s going to want the truth of what he’s done to get out.
“Finn here was getting a little nervous about the whole stalking thing,” Billy tells me after making sure the handcuffs are secure. “After a few of our phone calls, I had to wonder if he had the balls to follow through with our plan. He thought I was taking it too far with you. I had to convince him that I knew what I was doing and it would all work out in his favor in the end. I had to promise him that you wouldn’t really be harmed. A little white lie never hurt anyone.”