Crucifix: Temptation Ch. 06

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Brody considered not answering the phone but knew he had to. “Sorry.” He kissed Claudia, not wanting to give up the moment but knowing that he had to. He slowly pulled himself from her and noticed they were both dripping with sweat. He glanced at the clock. Eleven fifteen. He got the phone from his desk and cleared his throat, “Brody Anderson.”

Claudia sat up and grabbed the blanket off the couch across from her. She was totally exhausted. But thoroughly content. She lay back down and closed her eyes. She halfway heard Brody talking. Her mind and body were still reeling from what had just happened. In her mind’s eye, she relived his face above her.

“Yes? Can I help you?” He blew Claudia a kiss and tried to focus on the voice on the phone. “Yes, she works for my family.” He glanced down at Claudia and saw that she was almost asleep. “Could you hold on just a second?”

He put on his jeans and picked back up the phone. “Florida?” Why was someone from the Florida State Highway Patrol calling for Claudia?

Claudia heard ‘Florida’ and her eyes flew open. “Who is it?”

“Someone with the Florida Highway Patrol. Why are they calling you?”

“My family is in Florida.” She reached for the phone, “Remember. I told you the first time I met you.” Claudia took the phone and put it to her ear, “This is Claudia Fitzpatrick.” Brody watched her as she listened to the voice on the other end. He saw her elated expression fall into a blank emotionless façade. “Yes, I understand. Thank you.”

She handed Brody the phone and he listened to the receiver. Whoever it was had hung up. Claudia started putting on her clothes. “What’s wrong, Claudia?” She didn’t answer. “Claudia, please tell me what’s wrong?”

She walked to the studio door and turned to him, “My mother and father were killed this afternoon. The lady said they’ve been trying to reach me. My brother was in the car, too. I have to go to him.” She turned and walked away. Claudia reached to pull her long hair out from inside her shirt and it got caught on the clasp of her necklace.

“Oh, God. Claudia.” Brody grabbed his own shirt and ran after her, “Claudia, wait. Please.”

Claudia turned and looked at him. She was not the same person he’d been holding only moments ago. She tried to pull the hair out of the clasp with no success. With little care, she yanked the chain from her neck, pulling some hair with it and threw it on the floor. Claudia looked at the piece of jewelry as it lay there and walked away.

She didn’t even pack. She just showered and then waited for the cab to come and take her to the train station. “Claudia, please let me take you. The girls are asleep. It’s alright. Please let me take you.” But she wouldn’t have it. Brody sat with her and held her. She was an empty shell. He tried to talk to her, but she’d turned to stone and didn’t want to say or hear anything.

When the taxi arrived, Brody walked her to the green minivan and held the door open for her. She turned just before she got in and kissed him one last time then whispered so quietly, he could barely hear her, “I love you, Brody Anderson.”

Tears streamed down his face, as he said, “I love you, Claudia Fitzpatrick.” She sat and pulled the door shut. He stood there in the dark of that night and watched as the red taillights disappeared into the inky nothingness. She was gone.

Brody walked numbly back to his studio, stopping only to pick up Claudia’s crucifix. If God was punishing him, punishing them, He was doing one fucking good job. Brody fell onto his couch and grabbed the blanket. He could still smell her on it. The next thing he knew, the bright August sun was stabbing at his sleeping eyes.

He stretched and was greeted with a painfully stiff neck. As Brody went to rub the muscle, he realized he still had Claudia’s crucifix in his hand. So it wasn’t just some beautiful dream that had morphed into an unspeakable nightmare. It did happen. He’d had her, made love to her, tasted her, become one with her and now, she was gone.

He felt as though something had been ripped from his soul and he was drowning in sorrow. Only there was neither a lifeline nor a shore just a vast cold ocean of sorrow. When Nina and the boys asked where Claudia had gone, Brody told them about her parents. Nolan and Nicholas were upset that she’d left without telling them goodbye and Brody tried to explain that she couldn’t.

Nina, sweet Nina. She could tell from the look on her father’s face that there was more behind his words. She could see the sadness in his green eyes. Though she wasn’t exactly sure what had actually happened between the two of them, she knew that look. It was the same look she’d had when Lou-Lou, her poodle had been hit by that car last year. It was the type of sadness one has when they know that the thing they adored was gone forever.

As for Brody, he had to cope. The world was still spinning and wasn’t going to stop for him. He, Escort too, was a walking talking shell of a person.

Brody didn’t really care about what happened in the following months. Summer ended and the kids went to school. He was alone all day so he drew. Drew like a madman. Dark, hard, images. His editor loved it. But Brody hated every single image.

Brody was trying so hard to put Claudia out of his mind. But it was hard. Especially when he worked. He kept finding little sketches of her. And then there was the painting. It hurt so badly.

And then he had to deal with Shannon. She’d come back after about five weeks later, professing her undying sorrow at what she’d put him through, begging him to take her back. But he wouldn’t have her. In fact, when she arrived at the house and found that the locks had been changed she was furious.

She pulled out her cell phone and looked up to the studio window, “Goddamn it, Brody, open this fucking door now. This is my house, too. Listen you mother fucker, if you don’t open this goddamn door, I’ll call the sheriff.” She saw Brody stand up and look out the window and down at her.

When Brody opened the door he stared at her as though she’d stepped out of some dark pit. In the back of his weary, beleaguered mind he prayed that Claudia would come back, or call, or write. And if she did, and Shannon was there, Brody feared that she’d walk away from him again.. But Claudia didn’t come back. She walked out that night and never looked back.

As he stood there in the doorway looking at her with less than an ounce of care or concern, Shannon realized he was serious about not trying to make their marriage work. The snake in her came out and she became vindictive. She looked around the living room and said, “I’ll take every fucking thing you have, Brody Anderson. Everything.”

“Go ahead. Give it your best shot, Shannon. I don’t really fucking care.” Brody went to his studio and locked the door.

“You’ll care.” She screamed at him as he walked away from her. “Do you hear me Brody? You’ll fucking care!” Shannon hired a top divorce attorney and she wasn’t joking when she professed her intentions. She went after him for everything. The house, the kids, even the rights to his comic book heroine. He had based her off of Shannon, a much younger, kinder Shannon.

But he didn’t care about the house, in fact he’d moved himself and the kids to his mother’s house three days after Shannon came back. He threw the new house keys at her as he and the kids left that day, “Here you go Shannon” He put the kids in the Escalade and put the key in the ignition.

Just before he closed the door, he stepped out and had one final thing to say to her, “Hope you’re fucking happy here, alone.” As he headed back to the SUV he turned and smiled at her, “Oh, and, by the way, yes, I did sleep with her. And she was better than you ever were. Ever.”

He saw Shannon’s eyes narrow and if a look could drip acid the ground around her would have melted as the hatred in her surfaced. “Fuck you, Brody.”

“You already did, Shannon. But never again.”

Brody’s mother cleared out the attic for him, just like when he was younger, to be his new studio. As he worked, or tried to work, he’d often run across a sketch he’s drawn of Claudia. He thought burned every one. And those that he found were a painful reminder. He burned those, too.

But the painting, he kept that one, hidden behind that cloth. Every now and again, when he felt so lonely he wanted to die, he’d pull back the material and stare at her sleeping there beside the rose bushes. Somehow, as if the image had some type of medicinal quality, it eased the pain.

He figured Claudia decided to move on with her life. She’d often talked about how excited she was to go away to college. She was probably sitting down in some cool campus eatery discussing the upcoming game or finals. It was going to be such a change for her, after having spent the last four years of her life in a strict Catholic boarding school. And he was sure guys were salivating to be with her. It killed him.

Shannon almost triumphantly took over the house and threw out anything that reminded her of Brody. When the kids came to visit they demanded to know where everything was. “Gone, now shut up and eat your dinner.” No, Shannon was not a very happy person and wanted to make everyone around her suffer, too. She called her lawyer almost daily asking about progress on the settlement.

But when her attorney said that they’d end up going to court, she was livid. She contacted Brody’s editor and informed him that he was about to lose the right to use her image. And she contacted the school the kids were attending and tried to tell the principal that Brody had no right to enroll them and that she could sue the district. Both actions pissed Brody off beyond words.

But Brody didn’t care about his most lucrative character. However, the kids, they were a different matter. He fought her tooth and nail for them. And it looked like she was going to win, especially when he admitted to the judge that he’d slept with Claudia, that one time. He wasn’t ashamed of it, so why not tell? It was the most beautiful thing he’d been a part of, aside from his children being born. Brody prayed that the judge would see through Shannon. But she was their ‘mother’ and mothers usually win.

And then…Frank Hennesy mailed Brody a letter with pictures and videos of Shannon doing things that were so depraved, so scandalous they would make the typical housewife look like a fucking saint. Brody finally saw a little flicker of light at the end of the pitch black tunnel he’d been trapped in for months. The only condition, he couldn’t tell anyone from whom he had received the pornographic material. When asked, Brody said, “I got them in the mail.” Which wasn’t a lie.

Yes, it seems dear Frank, the bondage and pain man, was pissed with Shannon for screwing him over on some type of business deal after they’d split up. He wanted her to get what she deserved. And being that some of the people in those videos were obviously minors, that meant the possibility of jail time. The ensuing investigation was almost too much for Brody and his children. But, in the end, Shannon got her comeuppance.

Shannon was looking at twelve years for the statutory rape of Jefferson Green, the sixteen year old son of her boss. She plea bargained for a lesser sentence, six years and the title of ‘sexual predator’ that would haunt her for the rest of her life. Needless to say, the judge granted Brody sole custody of the kids.

The day she went to prison, Shannon didn’t even get to say goodbye to her kids. But Brody did. As sat across from her in the little holding room he smiled, “Well, Shannon, I guess you got your wish. I’ll bet you’ll be told to do lots of things. Yes, I’m sure you’ll get to have lots of fun fucking your new cell mates. Why, I’ll bet they’ll have something special waiting for you tonight. Goodbye, Shannon. No, wait…not good…just bye.” He got up to leave the holding room.

Shannon, dressed in blue jeans and a white T-shirt, halfway laughed, “Well, you know me, Brody, I’ll make the best of it.” The guard came to escort Shannon out the back door. Before she stepped out, she turned to her now ex-husband and said with a grin, “Oh, yeah, Brody, I meant to tell you earlier. You know my attorney, he’s a real thorough fellow. When you told everyone about your fuckfest with that little bitch, he sent a P.I. out to find her. You know, get a little dirt on the deflowered slut.”

Brody stopped and turned. Shannon laughed again, only it was the most ill-tempered, shrewish laugh he’d ever heard, “He found her. Yep. Back home in Orlando. She’s been pretty busy with her brother and other things. Pretty pathetic if you ask me. Apparently James felt sorry for her and told her why he was there. You know, I figured she would have been on the first flight back here to help you fight for the kids. But she wasn’t. Hmm, maybe she’s over you, Brody. Maybe she was over you before you came inside her. Or maybe, James got a little taste of that sweet little ass of hers, too. Yum, I’ll bet it was good.”

Brody jumped towards her and almost made it across the table before Dean Winston, his attorney, rushed to hold him back. “She’s not worth it Brody.”

The guard yanked Shannon toward the door and Shannon blew him a kiss and waved, “Bye lover. Sweet dreams.” The door closed and she was out of his life, at least for the next six years.

Dean drove him to his mother’s house and told him how sorry he was for what Shannon had said. As he drove out of sight, Brody walked dejectedly into his old childhood home. He kissed his kids as they ran to greet him.

Nina, now eleven, was the only one of them who really understood had happened to their mother and why they wouldn’t be seeing her. They showed him the cookies they’d baked with Grandma. And when Nicholas handed him Mr. Snoop because he looked so sad, Brody wanted to shoot himself.

Grandma Anderson smiled and put dinner on the table. “Well, now that all this mess is over, why don’t you take the kids out of school and go on a nice trip somewhere. It’s so cold here. I know, why don’t you go to the Keys? You always loved the Keys, Brody, remember?”

{Florida Keys?} He stared at his roasted chicken. {Florida} Brody took a sip of water. {Orlando} He smiled into his glass, “What about Disney World?”

The kids all whooped with excitement. And Nolan jumped up and danced around the room shouting, “We’re going to see the mouse. Going to see the mouse. Uh, huh, yeah, yeah.”

The next morning, Brody called Shannon’s attorney and he, somewhat reluctantly, told Brody where to find Claudia. Grandma came along for the trip and Brody was appreciative of her presence, too. Three kids could be a lot to deal with, especially with what he’d been through and hoped to do.

Once they’d settled in to their hotel suite, Brody went to the computer and pulled up a map of how to get to Claudia’s. It was nearly six thirty and he was so tired. They’d been up since five o’clock that morning and then there was the plane ride and the fiasco with picking up the car not to mention finding the stupid hotel.

But he couldn’t wait any longer. He wrote down the directions and kissed his kids goodbye, knowing they were in good hands with his mother. His mother whispered in his ear, “Brody, are you sure you want to do this?” He didn’t answer. He just turned and left the suite.

As he drove, Brody got so frustrated. The on-line map obviously hadn’t been updated for a while as there were new roads and exits all over the place. Brody finally stopped at a gas station and asked how to get to Barrington Grove Road.

He pulled up in front of beautiful home at nineteen thirty six Barrington Grove Road and sat there for a while. It was a gorgeous Mediterranean style home. He knew her family had to be pretty well off to be able to afford to send her to Holy Cross for high school. He pulled out the little box with her necklace. He’d had the chain fixed and wanted to give it back to her.

Maybe she had been mad at God on that day and probably was still pretty ticked off with Him, but Brody knew that one day, she’d be thankful to have the necklace back. And maybe, she’d want him back, too. He went to the front door and rang the bell. He waited for what seemed to be the longest two minutes of his life.

A tall older woman opened the door, “Yes?”

“Yes, uh, hi. Is this the Fitzpatrick home?”

“Yes. May I help you?”

“Is Claudia in? Or do you know how I can get in touch with her?” He felt so nervous, like when he went on his first date.

“Miss Fitzpatrick is in. Whom should I say is calling?” Brody looked at his feet. The wizened older woman shook her head, “Oh, you must be Mr. Anderson. Won’t you come in, please?” Brody didn’t know what to make of her tone but he stepped inside. “Please wait here.” She motioned for Brody to sit in one of the living room chairs. He heard a boy shouting at a video game and figured it had to be William.

He followed the voice and found William sitting in front of a huge TV playing some racing game. William looked over at Brody and nodded. Brody knew that he was seventeen and noticed that he had the same stunning blue green eyes as Claudia and was extremely handsome.

William would definitely not have any trouble getting girls. Then Brody saw the wheelchair the boy was sitting in and also that he was missing his right leg, just below the knee. {That’s right. He was in the accident, too.} Well, at least Brody could understand the angry face Claudia’s brother wore. Lost his parents. Lost his leg. {Damn}

The old woman found Brody and asked him to follow her. “Miss Marshall is sitting by the pool, Mr. Anderson.” As they stepped out onto the patio she turned to Brody and added, “Please Mr. Anderson, do not upset her. She’s got enough to deal with right now.”

He came up behind Claudia and smiled. Brody missed her so much he wanted to run up and hug her in half, just so there would be twice as much of her.

“Hello, Brody.” Claudia didn’t turn around. Her voice sounded sad but still melodic.

“Claudia,” he stood behind her, “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Have you? Funny, you never returned my letters.”

“What letters?” Brody was confused. “You sent me letters?”

“Yes, four of them about five months ago.”

Brody sighed, “Christ I’m sorry. I moved out of the house. Shannon probably threw them away. I’m sorry.” He watched Claudia put her hand to her head. “But I’m here now, Claudia.”

He went to kiss her shoulder. But Claudia leaned forward, placing her head in her hands and started to cry before he could. “I thought you forgot me. I thought you didn’t love me anymore.”

“God, no, Claudia.” He rubbed her shoulders, “But you never came back. Or called. You could have called. I knew you were devastated when your parents died. I thought you decided to go on with your life without me.”

Claudia’s sobs grew stronger. But she stopped long enough to say, “I’m pregnant.” And then she started crying more.


“You heard me. I’m pregnant.” She stood up and even though she was wearing a short loose baby doll style dress there was no mistaking the small bump at the front of her tiny body. “I’m so sorry. I was going to…but I just couldn’t, I mean I couldn’t do it…”

Brody was stunned. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything, Brody. It’s my fault. I should have walked away. You warned me. You don’t have to worry about supporting me or anything. We’re doing okay now that the estate has been settled. You can leave if you want to. I understand.” Tears streamed down her face.

“Leave? Why would I leave you? I told you I love you. I meant it.” He held her close and rocked her gently as she cried on his shoulder. “And this,” he rubbed her belly, “just proves it.” He kissed her and when he felt her soft lips part and then felt her silky tongue glide across his, it only reaffirmed how much he loved her.

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