The Truth Will Set You Free

Vanessa

            The second Griffin came home, the kids rushed him like they hadn’t seen him in weeks rather than a few hours. Like always, he released a playful growl then scooped both of them, pretending to be a bear playing with his cubs. He held Little Crow upside down and made him laugh, and then Cassandra was swinging from his arm like a monkey.

            Anytime I saw Griffin with our babies, my heart melted into a puddle on the floor.

            He kissed them and tickled them before he put them back on the ground. Then he moved to me, hugging me close and brushing a kiss over my hairline. “Hey, baby.” His hand cupped my face and he kissed me on the mouth.

            I melted further. If I didn’t have two little ones running around I would climb on this man and make him mine. “How was work?”

            “Fine.”

            “Was my dad there?”

            “Yeah, he stopped by.”

            “He did?” Every time I asked Griffin he said my father wasn’t around, but he finally made an appearance.

            “There was a problem with one of the shipments and he came out to resolve it.”

            “How—how did he seem?”

            “Fine.”

            I stared at him hard, trying to see a hint of a lie in his eyes. “Griffin.” I knew he and my father were close, more like father and son than in-laws. It made me happy to know they were so deeply bonded, but sometimes I felt left out.

            “I said he’s fine. He’s anxious for your mom to come home, but that’s it. How is she, by the way?”

            “She’s at the market right now.”

            “Did she say how much longer she’ll be staying?”

            I shook my head. “Do you not like her here?”

            “Of course I do. But it’s been a couple days now. She needs to face the music sometime.”

            “She really hasn’t talked to me about it. Did my dad say anything to you?”

            He looked me dead in the eye and shook his head.

            “I think you’re lying…”

            “Baby—”

            “Tell me.”

            He released a heavy sigh.

            “What the hell is going on between them?”

            “I would never betray your father’s confidence and you know that.” He put his foot down—firmly. “Your parents are going to be okay. I’m not worried about it.”

            I wanted to poke and prod until he gave me what I wanted, but I knew Griffin would never budge. He took a bullet for my father. Nothing I said or did would change a damn thing. “Alright…”

***

            When dinner was finished, Mom and I did the dishes and cleaned up while Griffin put the kids to bed upstairs. Our routine had changed slightly with my mother in the house. We had more time for each other, but he took on the evening duties so I could spend time with her one-on-one.

            He didn’t seem to mind.

            He said he wouldn’t be a good father—but he was the best there ever was.

            When we finished in the kitchen, we opened another bottle of wine and sat together at the table.

            “Griffin said Dad came to the winery today.”

            Her eyes were on her wineglass. “Good.”

            “There was an issue with a shipment or something. I guess he’s the only one that can take care of it.”

            “He’s been in the wine business a long time,” she said. “He learned everything from your grandmother. He’s said that her expertise is the reason he found such great success…” She gave a slight smile then took a drink from her glass.

            As interested as that sounded, I didn’t care. “Mom.”

            Her eyes lifted to mine.

            “I love having you here…but I want you to go home.”

            Her eyes remained on me.

            “It’s been four days…and I know Dad must be miserable.”

            She stirred her glass on the table.

            “Mom, you must miss him.”

            She gave a sad smile. “More than you know…”

            “Then go home. Have make up sex on the couch.”

            “Vanessa.” She released a chuckle but it was full of embarrassment.

            “I’m serious,” I snapped. “I’d rather know my parents are fucking and not fighting.”

            “Oh Jesus…” She took a drink of her wine, downing half of it in one go.

            “We’re all adults here…”

            “Sweetheart, listen to me…” She spun her wineglass by the stem, staring at the maroon color at the bottom. “I miss your father. This time apart has only shown me how much I love him, that there’s nothing he can possibly do to change the way I feel.”

            “That’s great…”

            “But before I go…there’s something I have to do and I haven’t wanted to do it.”

            “Okay…” The last few days had been strange, but now it seemed like it was about to get weirder.

            “I’m going to tell you a bit about what happened with your father and I…”

            Finally. “Okay.”

            She gave a sigh before she spoke. “Your father is a very loyal man. I’ve never had to question his commitment to me or our family. It’s never felt like an obligation, but a choice. I’ve felt his love every day, even as my appearance has changed while his has somehow remained preserved. But I’ve learned that there’s been some things that have happened behind my back that your father kept from me…”

            My heart dropped into my stomach and I felt the blood drain from my face. “No…”

            She seemed to understand my train of thought. “These secrets aren’t to protect his actions, but to protect my feelings. Things that have happened to him…not things he’s done.”

            “Like the waitress at the restaurant?”

            She nodded. “Yes. Apparently, these types of things have happened a lot. And I mean, a lot…” She grabbed her glass and took a drink.

            “Mom…you can’t be mad at him for that. He didn’t do anything wrong—”

            “There’s more, Vanessa. No, I’m obviously not angry with him for things that are out of his control. But some of these instances have happened with women that I personally know, women that I’ve seen on a regular basis. I smiled at them while they tried to steal my husband away—and your father kept this all to himself.”

            Now I understood…and the dread dropped into my stomach like a stone.

            “That’s why I’m upset. I’ve opened my home to these women. I’ve employed them at the business that’s legally half mine. And they disrespected me and your father let that happen. If this were reserved…” She shook her head. “Your father would lose his shit.”

            “Yeah…I can see that.” He never got viciously angry with me and Conway. I’d never seen him raise his voice to my mother. But there were times when people crossed him…and I witnessed his ruthless reaction. “Why did he decide to tell you now?”

            “Uncle Cane told him it was the right thing to do.”

            And that seemed to have bit him hard in the ass.

            “I just felt so foolish and stupid, having no idea what was going on right under my nose…and that made me so angry with him. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was this angry…” She stared into her glass.

            I knew Griffin got offers everywhere he went. Of course it bothered me, but I’d come to accept it was inevitable being married to a god like him. Instead of stressing about what happened in my absence, I chose to trust him and the love we had. “Who was it?”

            “It was multiple people. One of them was Lacey, who’s in the distribution department. I doubt you remember her because this was ten years ago. Your father promoted her and sent her to Milan to get her out of his hair. She’s lucky that I’m not so petty as to fire her ass when she’s hundreds of miles away…”

            I’d probably fire her. “Who else?”

            “That brings me to the purpose of this conversation…” She lifted her gaze from the wineglass and looked at me dead in the eye. “One of the women is someone you know…quite well.”

            My eyes narrowed, not having a clue who could be responsible for this. “Aunt Adelina…?”

            “God, no.” She released a laugh. “Aunt Adelina wants to drive to Milan and beat that bitch in the parking lot…”

            “I want to get in on that too.”  My father would never betray my mother, but it pissed me off that my mom was in so much pain over all this. That she felt disrespected. That these skanks thought they could walk all over her.

            She gave a slight smile. “There’s no easy way to say this…but I feel like you should know.”

            “Who the hell is it, Mom?”

            She paused, taking her time getting it out. “Nadine…”

            “Nadine who?” I asked, completely bewildered.

            “Your best friend Nadine…”

            “My friend?” I asked incredulously. “My friend I’ve had since I was like five?”

            She gave a nod.

            “No…”

            “I’m sorry, Vanessa—”

            “There’s just no way Nadine would try to fuck my dad…”

            “Well, she did. Multiple times. Walked in on him in the shower when you were visiting for the summer during university.”

            I felt disgusted, so disgusted I might throw up all the wine I’d just drunk. “I…” I didn’t know what to say, how to process this horrible information. There was something so inherently disturbing about it. When I thought about trying to fuck her dad it made me even more sick.

            “Your father never said anything because he didn’t want to interfere with your friendship…but I think you should know what kind of friend you have, Vanessa.”

            I was still in shock, so shocked I didn’t know what to say.

            “It’s a lot to take in—”

            “I need to hear this from Nadine. Because I just…can’t believe she would do that.”

            My mother turned quiet as she watched me. “Your father wouldn’t lie about something about that—”

            ‘I’m not saying I don’t believe you. I just…can’t believe it.” Nadine and I had been friends for decades. She was the godmother to my children. We’d been through so much together, and not once did I suspect she would do something like that. There were times when she teased me about having a DILF for a dad…but I thought it was just a joke.

            “Take all the time you need, Vanessa. I know it’s a lot…”

            I stared at the bottle of wine, picturing my best friend’s face, the way she laughed.

            “I wish your father had told me this stuff sooner…so I think you’d want to know too.”