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The Sun to your Moon #14

Updated: Dec 17, 2022


Imposter


John watched the snow fall through the living room window above Albie and Alex’s heads.

They were kitted out in their snowsuits, waiting for Sally to announce it was time to venture out and make a snowman.

Flick scrunched her nose up at the idea before burrowing under her blanket. Her hot chocolate sat on the coffee table overflowing with melting marshmallows.


“Okay.” Sally said from the doorway, dressed in her winter coat, earmuffs, and scarf. “Snowman time.”


Alex and Albie rushed her, each taking one of her hands and hauling her towards the backdoor.


“Want to help John?”


He shook his head, content to watch from the window seat.

Alex and Albie rushed out and plunged their hands into the snow.

Their amazement lasted for a few seconds then the cold kicked in.

They snatched their hands back, fascinated by their red raw skin.


“You could go out there too?” Flick suggested from her blanket nest on the sofa. “Mum sucks at making snowmen.”


John watched as Sally tried. "She can't be that bad."


"Just you wait," Flick exhaled a tired breath. "Dad, he used to make good ones. One year he even made an igloo."


"We never get enough snow for an igloo."


"I never said it was a big one. It could only fit one person inside at a time and you had to curl up to sit down. It was...fun. Dad was fun. Hard to believe now."


Sally’s snowman crumbled and she flung up her arms.


“You could go out?” John countered.


“I hate the cold.”


“Like Scott.”


John had learned Scott despised the winter months and needed his heated blanket to get through them. The one snow day they’d had in the three years, Scott refused to leave the house and shot daggers at the garden from the sofa.

John placed his hand on the windowpane, letting the cold seep into his skin. He found the cold numbing. Pleasant.


Flick groaned. “I’m nothing like Scott. He’s annoying.”


John raised his eyebrow at Flick.


She grabbed a cushion and threatened to throw it. “I’m not annoying.”


“Never said you were.”


“If I’m like Scott, then you’re like Alex.”


Alex rushed past the window laughing while Albie chased him. They both ended up in a heap of snow, giggling until Albie blew an impressive snot bubble before wiping it on his sleeve.


“I’m not like Alex,” John whispered. “He’s happy.”


“Well…fuck you.”


John spun around. “What?”


Flick peered over the back of the sofa at the door, making sure David hadn't heard her. She relaxed and flopped back down again.


“I’m sorry I make you unhappy.”


“That’s not what I meant.”


Flick snorted. She poked her hand out and waved it dismissively. “Whatever.”


“I find it hard to be happy.” He squeezed his eyes shut, hating how ridiculous it sounded. “It doesn’t come easy to me like it does to Alex. Maybe it’s something you learn when you’re first growing up.”


“You could try running around in the snow and see how you feel?”


“I imagine I’d feel pretty stupid.”


“If Scott was here, you’d enjoy it.”


John lowered his gaze and nodded. “I would.”


“He’s like your best friend.”


More than that. Scott was everything he wanted, but couldn’t have. He sighed and resumed his vigil over the garden. Sally continued her struggles to make a snowman. She’d managed to get a ball going, gathering fresh snow as she pushed it to the garden hedge. Alex and Albie continued to roll about, patting snow on each other’s heads and bursting into fits of giggles.

Happiness outweighed the bitter sting of cold fingers and toes.

Alex ran his hand along the fence around the pool, making music out of the railings.

Albie joined him and they used the fence as a xylophone, running round and round until John grew dizzy.


"That sounds awful." Flick covered her ears. "Only one of the family can be gifted with music,"

she lowered her hands and shot John a smile. "Okay, maybe two."


"I'm not part of the family."


"The snow really does bring out the doom and gloom in you, doesn’t it?"


"All I meant was…" John sighed, trying to find the words. They took so long forming that Alex and Albie grew bored of running around the pool. "I don't fit in here like Alex. I feel like an imposter in your family, not a part of it."


"Since Scott isn't here, I'll have to be the one to do it…"


John dragged his eyes off the garden and turned to Flick. "Do what?"


A pillow hit him squarely in the face, knocking him back.


"You are part of the family, idiot, whether you feel like it or not, you're our brother."


"Our?"


"Alex's, Albie's, and mine."


John nipped his lip. "Not Scott’s?"


"If anyone is an imposter it's him. I swear mum must have bought the wrong baby home from the hospital."


John snorted.


The whine of the gate brought his focus back to the window.

It swung open, and Alex tumbled inside. The pool cover had a sheet of tempting ice, twinkling in the sun. John banged the window, startling Flick out of her blankets. Sally whipped around at John's frantic banging and started running down the clear trail of grass she had left.

Albie backed away from the pool.


His fear was plain to see at John and Sally's reactions, but Alex stayed. He crouched down, jabbing his finger at the ice, tipping forward. John ran, thrusting the living room door open, and knocking a picture frame off the wall. It shattered behind him, but he spared it no thought as he barged the backdoor open with his shoulder and rushed around the side of the house.

He skidded to a stop with his heart in his mouth. A choked gasp left him and the adrenaline flooding his system stopped dead.


Sally had Alex away from the pool. She crouched down in front of him and explained why it was dangerous. Alex sniffled and snuffled, not enjoying the telling off.

He didn't need John to save him.

He didn’t need John at all.


“Sorry mummy.” Alex wrapped his arms around her, and she hugged him in return.


John slunk back before Alex noticed him. He removed his wet socks and threw them in the clothes hamper

on the way past, intent on going upstairs and hiding from Scott’s family.

Not his family, never his, but Scott’s.


“John?”


He froze at David’s croaked voice. Months had passed since his confrontation with Scott, and John hadn’t forgiven him. He’d become extra attentive whenever Alex was around him and kept a wary eye out for when he'd been drinking


“Come here, will ya.”


John eyed him in the office door, hair ruffled, tie askew. Alcohol made his vision swim, and he struggled to keep his focus on John and not the wall behind him. He’d declared he had meetings all day and couldn’t help with the snowman. Albie and Alex had both whined and became teary-eyed forcing Sally to bring out the hot chocolate earlier than planned.


“Why?”


David sighed, resting his cheek against the doorframe. “I need your help.” He flicked his gaze around the hallway, bouncing from one family photograph to the next. “We need your help.”


John took a deep breath before following David into the office. Papers were strewn all over the desk and floor. A stack of letters was pinned with what looked like a dagger, straight into the wooden desk, and a bottle of whiskey lay on its side, dripping its remains onto the cream carpet.

David didn’t appear to notice.


He gestured to the seat in front of the desk.

“Sit.”


John sat down, righting the bottle.


The sound of glass scraping against wood snapped David's head up, and his voice came out with more cheer. “Do you want a glass?”


“No thank you,” John said, but David ambled over to his drinks cabinet and grabbed two glasses and an unopened bottle of whiskey.


“This one is my favourite, expensive, but worth it.” He albeit collapsed in the chair opposite John, dropping the glasses on the desk.

They didn’t break, but they did clunk and leave a dent in the wood. John glanced back at the door. A spike of fear hit him in the gut at it being closed.


“Every man has a brand of whiskey.”


David picked at the top of the bottle, breaking the plastic to get to the hidden cap. He didn’t look at John, he spoke to the whiskey as it filled a glass. “Never liked me, have you?”


John blinked, thinking over his answer. “That’s not true.”


“Huh?”


“I was indifferent to you, all until you threatened to punch Scott, that’s when I started hating you.”


“I would never have hit him.”


“You were angry.”


David bobbed his head, pushing the glass in John’s direction. He caught it before it could slide off the desk. “I was angry. The situation made me angry. That wasn’t Scott’s fault, it was mine, and I’ve since apologised to him for the way I acted, but I’d never have hit him. I would’ve come to my senses. I would’ve punched the wall and broken every bone in my hand rather than hurt one of my kids. Hell, I'd cut off my arm rather than hurt them.”


He studied his hand, stretching out all his fingers before curling them into a fist. “But you don’t believe me, do you?”


“I want to believe you, but I saw that look on your face. It’s the expression I’ve seen on a lot of men’s faces before they lash out.”


“Not me,” David shook his head. “Never would I hurt my boy. Never have, never will. That man isn’t me,” he tugged his crumpled shirt. “This one isn’t either, but I’ll be honest with you John.

I’m struggling to keep it together.”


He snatched up his glass of whiskey and knocked it back. John sipped his own, and bit his tongue at the taste. Beer and whiskey were both firmly on John's no thanks list.


"We're in trouble," David spoke to the whiskey as it glugged from the bottle into his glass.


"What kind of trouble?"


"The financial kind. Business isn't good. It's worse than that. All the papers have been signed."


"What papers?"


"Liquidation. Yales Home Security is on the way out."


John didn't know what else to say. He tipped his whiskey back and forth before grimacing through another sip.


"You're still an MP though. You still have a job."


David snorted. "But for how long, that's the question. One more allegation and I'm gone."


"There hasn't been one—"


"There has. Bethany Green. Remember her?"


John placed his glass back down on the table. He'd contacted a lot of women to help him years before, but she was the only one who agreed to be his mother and she’d gone all out, answering all Sally’s phone calls and creating a backstory about John’s dad.

As soon as he told her not to contact them, she deleted everything and destroyed the phone.


"The same woman you were paying to deceive my family."


"The same woman you were betraying your family with for sex."


David flared his nostrils, leaning back in his chair. "Allegedly.”


John glared until he broke eye contact.


“Look. I had my reasons, and I'm not going to get into them with you. I made mistakes, I'm no saint. But I stopped. Now she's threatening to go to the press unless I pay her off."


"How much are we talking?"


"A lot and I don’t have money to pay her. The lawyer's fees and settling the last two cases out of court have put me in a difficult situation. That difficult I'm asking you for help."

David knocked back his next lot of whiskey.


"You want me to talk to Bethany?"


"No. I want you to help our family, A different way.”


"Our family?"


"Your part of it, right?"


John averted his gaze. "I'm not sure what I am to this family."


"You're either with us or against us."


“If they are the only choices, then I'm with you, but I don’t understand how I can help?”


David squeezed his eyes shut. “Come on, John. Fourteen years old, and you were pulling money from websites like apples from trees.”


“What I was doing was illegal.”


“But necessary in your circumstance. You had to do it so you could take care of Alex and yourself. Food, clothes, bills, your education, all the stuff Alex needed. You did that. You took care of him. You took care of your family like I took care of mine. In the space of six months, I could lose everything, so I’m asking you, man, to man, family to family, will you help us?”


John glanced at the door. Scott would tell him to say no, more than that, Scott would probably tip the desk over and yell in his dad's face.


"I can't—"


“Scott adores you. He was distraught at the thought of you being taken away and I saw that, it affected me. I took you into our family out of the goodness of my heart and you’ve lived under my roof for three years now. I don’t want to ask you to do this. I hate that I have to, it’s humiliating if I’m honest.” He poured out another glass of whiskey. “But I’ve exhausted all my assets, and now I’m asking for yours.”


“How much?” John asked.


“250k.”


John’s jaw dropped. “I can’t take a lump sum like that. It’s too obvious. I’d get caught.” He pushed away from the desk. “I can’t do what you’re asking.”


“Wait,” David surged to his feet. He swayed, tripping on the legs of his chair. “I’ll talk to Bethany. She might agree to smaller amounts over a longer period.”


“She’s blackmailing you. Go to the police.”


“And she’ll sell her story. John, this isn’t about the money. It’s about my family. If I lose my job, I won’t be able to support them financially. Scott’s university isn’t cheap, and Felicity wants to go to the royal orchestra school in London. Albie and Alex’s future lays in your hands and I’m asking for you to help.”


“I don’t think—”


“You told me you don't know how you fit in with this family, well this is how you do, by saving it, ensuring your siblings have a future, one that isn't tainted by the stupid mistakes I've made. You once needed Scott, now he needs you."


John would always need Scott, but the type of needs changed over time.


He dropped his shoulders. “I can’t get you a lump sum. It has to be small and built over time. Not one website, but many. Tiny amounts that all add up. That's the only way I can do it."


"And will you, will you help us?"


John nodded.


"Thank you." David collapsed back in his chair and held his face in his hands. "Thank you, John. The last few months have been hell. I don’t want to be this person. I want to be the old me. I want to be a dad again and I will be, with your help I will be."


John didn’t say anything else. He left the door, clicking the latch behind him. He spied Alex and Albie through the kitchen door, complaining to Sally about their cold hands.

John's phone chirped with a notification from Scott. He pulled it free and scrolled through the photographs of Scott playing in the snow with his university friends.


John paused on one photo of Scott and a woman. Their red cheeks were pressed together as they posed in front of a giant snowman.

Tammy. Scott's new girlfriend.


John shoved the phone out of sight and went to clean up the smashed picture frame.


****


John woke the next day to excited chatter on the stairs and stomping feet. He lay in bed, listening.


"John!"


His heart missed a beat at Alex's shout. He flung off his duvet and rushed downstairs in bare feet.

Alex waited for him on the bottom step.


"What is it? Are you okay?"


"Come see."


John hesitated before holding Alex's outstretched hand. His sticky fingers slipped through John's ones, and he winced at the jam gluing them together.

He let Alex pull him into the living room and up to the window where both Albie and Felicity were also staring.

A huge snowman complete with a cashmere scarf, top hat and cigar sat in the snow, facing the window.

Beside the snowman, stood David, for once not in a suit, but jeans and a jumper. He cupped his hands over his mouth and shouted at them.


"Coming out?"


Alex and Albie rushed off to find their snowsuits leaving John and Flick by the window. She shucked the blanket off her shoulders and handed it to John with a big smile on her face.


"Thought you hated the cold."


"There's always an exception," she whispered.


“Which is?"


"Enjoying it with people you love."


John thought back to the photograph of Scott and Tammy embracing in the snow.

Scott hated the cold.


“Joining us?” Flick asked.


He shook his head. "I'm okay here."


She ran off to get ready, and John listened to the commotion in the hallway.

Sally had to fight the still-damp snowsuits back onto Albie and Alex.


David gave him a thumbs up through the window, before being embraced by his smiling children.


Chapter Fifteen: https://www.louisecollinswrites.com/post/the-sun-to-your-moon-15

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