I'm not a stranger, no, I am yours
With crippled anger and tears that still drip sore
A fragile frame aged with misery
And when our eyes meet I know you see
"Heaven. Heaven. Heaven, wake up."
Heaven groaned and opened her eyes. She was back in her room, alone in her bed with Trish standing over her holding a white outfit and a long black wig. She stretched her arms over her head and groaned when she felt the soreness of her muscles...
Last night had been eye opening.
Not like what she expected at all...
And she couldn't wait to do it all over again.
When it was over, Aiden carried her to the bathroom and bathed with her before he made love thrice more. When they got out he massaged her body from head to toe with lavender oil to soothe her injuries, then got into bed and held her close until she fell asleep with her head on his heart and a serene smile on her face.
She smiled to herself before remembering that Trish was there raising her eyebrow at her questionably.
"Put this on," Trish said laying the outfit onto the bed, "We're leaving in two hours. Let me know if you need anything else." She turned abruptly on her heels.
"Wait," Heaven called after her, "Where are we going?"
"It's Keegan and Ash's funeral." She walked out and closed the door behind her.
Heaven sat up and looked at the simple white midi dress and the blazer that came with it then poked the wig as if to check that it wasn't a rodent playing dead. She chewed on her lip. Why didn't Aiden bring it to her himself, and if they were going to a funeral, why weren't they wearing black?
She was escorted to the bathroom by one of the maids then dressed in under an hour. She struggled to brush through her candied tufts, trying to tame her tresses that she'd neglected to tie down before she fell asleep so that the wig could lay flat. She soon gave up and pulled it into a low ponytail and yanked her new hairstyle over it. She thought it strange that she was preparing to go to a funeral of Aiden's younger brother, the one who started all of this mess that landed her here, and Ash, Aiden's scorned ex-lover who tried to kill her, but she knew she didn't have a choice. What was stranger still was that she wouldn't be burying her father, if there was even anything left of him to bury. Heaven wondered if the fire department had gotten to the remains of the burning car in time to recover some of his body or if he'd burned away to dust. Had Uncle Chris thrown a memorial? Was he even still mourning him? There was nothing tainting The Syndicates' admiration of her father; they knew who the real Vince Lockewood was. Heaven didn't know if she had it in her to morn her father the way a once doting daughter was supposed to, the way that she would have had he not turned out to be a monster, but she would mourn him. He was still her dad at the end other day. While everyone around her cried for Keegan and Ash, she alone would shed tears for her Dad.
She slipped on the white pumps at the foot of the bed then let the maid outside her door escort her to the kitchen where Aiden sat alone at the head of the modest dining table in silence, waiting.
You'd think that dressed in from head to toe in white that maybe he'd look like less of a threat but it only made him seem more powerful. His attire contrasted with his dark skin and glowed around him like a halo. He looked as brilliant as he did naked, like a god. His face was tighter, especially around his red rimmed eyes and downturned mouth, and his energy was palatable. Irritated and highly strung. Every inch of him was rigid; it was clear to see he was doing his very best to try not to fall apart in front of her as she guessed he'd done in the privacy of his bedroom, if the puffiness of his eyes was anything to go by.
She sat at the place set next to him and touched his arm, "I wish I knew what to say to you right now."
Aiden looked down at her hand, tempted to brush her off. Today of all days made him question why he'd taken to the Lockewood girl so strongly. He didn't want to have any hostility towards her, she was the last person that should carry any blame and he knew that, but it was so hard to look at her and not project what he felt towards her father for her. He couldn't turn it off. It was her father's fault that he was burying his family. This...relationship was an insult to Keegan's memory. "There's nothing you can say." He patted her hand and pulled away.
Heaven frowned at him and tucked her hand into her lap. She didn't like withdrawn Aiden. He had the power to make her feel so insignificant and unworthy whenever he pushed her away. She picked at her granola.
They sat in silence, the tension and mixed feelings bearing down on them when a vibration from inside Aiden's jacket sounded. "What is it?" he snapped into the receiver. His brow furrowed, "What? Are you fucking..." he gritted his teeth and lowered his voice into a venomous hiss, "Are you fucking kidding me? How could you let this happen?"
His hands balled up into fists and Heaven leant away from him. If he was tense before it was nothing compared to the roiling heated rage that he was giving off now. It was similar to the storminess that he had when he returned to the compound the day before, but worse. The veins in his neck stood out prominently, his jaw was locked tight and his black skin was visibly warming. Aiden's fist came down hard on the table. Heaven jumped. "YOU'RE MEANT TO BE WATCHING HER!"
He growled and hurled his phone at the wall so hard that it smashed apart, "FUCKKKK!"
His eyes blazed as he jumped to his feet and flipped the dining table over, roaring like a man possessed.
Heaven shrieked and backed herself into the corner by the cabinet, out of his way.
He slammed his fists into cupboards, swept things off of the shelves and broke apart whatever he could get his hands on.
Jamie wailed in the background as Dougie and Trish ran into the kitchen, eyes wide at the destruction he had caused so far.
Dougie wrapped his skinny frame around the bulk of his friend, "Yo A, chill man!"
"GET OFF OF ME!" He shook him off and picked up a dining chair, raising it above his head and smashing it against the tiled floor until it came apart in his bare hands.
"Aiden!" Heaven screamed, bewildered and frightened by the ascending ferocity of his violence.
Dougie glared at her cowering wide eyed in the corner, "Did you do this?"
She shook her head and pointed to the fragments of Aiden's phone scattered across the floor.
"SHE'S HIGH!" Aiden smashed another chair to pieces, "IT'S HIS FUNERAL AND SHE'S FUCKING HIGH!"
"Oh no," Trish groaned. Growing up so close to Aiden and Keegan made her and Dougie very aware of their mother's shortfalls, namely her substance abuse problems. Being the youngest Trish hadn't been subject to how young Aiden had dealt with Grace, but she'd seen the way teen Aiden did. How he'd gone from panicked to oblivious, to over-involved, and finally, angry. Each time she fell off he'd get angrier, flipping out and losing his cool to the point where he would regularly tear their family home apart.
He tried to help her, God knows he did, and for miraculous bursts of time it worked...until it didn't. Until times like now that made his sanity burst at the seams.
This rage was why Aiden Michaels was such a force to be reckoned with.
Trish studied Heaven with her back pressed against the wall, witnessing this hurricane of a man with the kind of fear his behaviour deserved. Then she looked at her brother, stoic and calm but the corners of his mouth turned down. He understood what he saw just as Trish did; a man who'd lost too much and was scared to death that, as destructive and unpleasant as she was, he'd lose his mother too. That was what made him so mad, that she was carelessly killing herself while he was trying so desperately to keep her alive.
"AS IF I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH SHIT TO DEAL WITH! WHY WOULD SHE DO THIS? WHY TODAY OF ALL DAYS?" Another chair, this one cracked and splintered against the wall in one fell swoop, his strength nearing its full potential the more worked up he got. "DOES SHE THINK SHE'S THE ONLY ONE IN THIS?"
Dougie's face turned stony, "Get her out of here," he ordered his sister.
"NO!" Aiden dropped the broken chair leg and rushed over to Heaven like a child protecting his favourite toy from being taken away as a result of his misbehaviour. He grabbed her wrist and yanked her behind him, out of Dougie's reach, "She stays with me."
Heaven felt his racing pulse thumping against her skin as he held her too tightly. She twisted her hand and circled her fingers around his wrist softly, creating a mutual link between them. Though she'd never seen him throw a tantrum like that before, she was becoming familiar with his mercurial behaviour and was beginning to learn that sometimes they way to tame him was to go with him into whatever hell he was going through.
Aiden's shoulders rose high then fell with a hushed sigh that only Heaven could hear. He loosened his grip on her and rubbed his thumb over her skin.
"What about your mum?"
"I'm going to deal with that." His voice was smoother now.
"With her?" Dougie jabbed his finger at the glimpse of Heaven that he could spot tensed behind Aiden's frame, "Are you out of your fucking mind?"
Trish shook her head, "That's a bad idea, A. She doesn't need to see that."
Aiden deepened his tone with finality, "Where I go, she goes."
"Well then I'm coming with you," Dougie said, matching his tone. Heaven peeked out from behind Aiden's shoulder to see him glaring at her.
The moment she caught his eye he smiled.
She disappeared back behind Aiden, knowing as well as anybody did that it was no pleasure at all to have Dougie Monroe smile at you, especially when you knew he didn't want you around.
Aiden narrowed his eyes at his best friend, knowing that he was getting a kick out of intimidating her. "I don't need a chaperone," he snarled.
"Yeah right, 'cause you're gonna handle this well," he sniped as he headed out. "I'll tell Driver to bring the car around in five."
"I'm leaving now," Aiden said uncovering Heaven now that Dougie wasn't within touching distance.
"You might wanna change out of all that white first."
"Why would I need to change?"
Two shots quietly whistled through the air reserving the loud frightening noises for the moment Titan's body hit the ground. Heaven choked on her scream and the Mafia soldiers present turned their eyes away from the harrowing sight of the huge man that laid at Aiden's feet with blood spewing from both of his eye sockets.
Dougie clapped his hand on Aiden's shoulder, "Nice aim," he said proudly as he smiled at the precise entry points of the pair of bullet wounds.
Aiden unscrewed the silencer from his pistol and slipped the weapon back into his harness, "Seeing as he's no good at watching people, he doesn't need his eyes."
"Or his life apparently. It's a shame; I liked Titan."
"So did I." Aiden stepped over the body and sighed, "Get someone over here to clean up this mess."
"I'm on it. Aren't you glad I told you to change?"
Aiden looked down at the dark smatterings of Titan's blood that glistened against his black blazer like a morbid constellation, "You know me too well." He rolled his neck and flexed his shoulders as he placed his hand on the entrance to his mother's home. Killing Titan made him feel a little less angry but he knew that that feeling was temporary because the moment that he set eyes on Grace in the pathetic state he was all too familiar with seeing her in, that he'd wish he could kill his solider again. "The rest of you, watch the area and deny access to this floor until that," he pointed at the body, "is dealt with. Heaven, come with me." He held out his hand but looked back when she didn't move. Her eyes were trained on the dead man with the gaping wounds for eyes. She tried her best not to let the nauseating sight and smell of gunpowder, blood and death make her throw up her barely eaten granola. "Heaven."
She edged backwards, "You shot him. Just like that. You...you..." She looked up at Aiden, "He's dead."
"I told you not to bring her," Dougie grumbled.
Aiden flared his nostrils and his friend shrugged and proceeded to calling the maids. He refocused on Heaven, quivering and sweating, making the long dark strands of hair from her wig stick to her face. "Don't get yourself worked up. I don't have time for it right now. Give me your hand," he commanded. When she still didn't move he added "Or you can stay out here with Dougie."
She soon snapped out of it and carefully manoeuvred around the body to take Aiden's hand.
They entered his mother's flat which looked even worse than usual. Half of its contents were thrown across the floor, hanging out of cupboards and drawers, knocked off the shelves, floorboards were pulled up, ornaments shattered, electronic devices pried apart. Aiden knew what this meant; she'd been looking. That as hard as he tried to keep her clean, she had a stash hidden away in some crevice. If Titan had done his job properly he would have heard her rooting around because from the look of it she'd been quite frantic in her search. There would definitely have been enough noise to alert him that something untoward was happening.
"Mum?" Aiden called out peeking around the doors to locate her. He hadn't given Titan a chance to tell him where she was. A slurred groan came from down the hall to their left. Aiden clenched his jaw and opened the bathroom door.
Sprawled out in numb tranquillity was his mother with a belt strap loose above her elbow and an empty syringe on the ground next to her. Behind her an area stuffed with newspaper around the pipe that went from the toilet into the wall to keep mice from getting in, had been pulled away. Amongst the crumpled monochromatic balls, in a little baggie was brown crumbs and torn, blackened pieces of foil. What Grace Michaels lacked in being a mother she made up for in being a really good junkie. He hadn't thought to search there.
"Look at you," he sneered in disgust. Her hair was unkempt, her lips chapped and her skin ashy and withdrawn. All she had on was a flimsy old nightgown that exposed the many needle marks and scars from year of gratuitous drug use.
Grace's glassy eyes rolled up to her son and she frowned, "What the fuck do you want?" she slurred. "Get out of here. I don't want you. I want my baby. I want Keegan."
"Keegan is dead."
"I know he's dead. It's his funeral."
"Exactly, so why the fuck are you high?"
She fanned him off, "It's not every day you bury your child, you know."
"You're not burying anyone. Not like this."
"What? I only took a little...just to take the edge off."
"No, Grace." He turned away from her and she grabbed him by the scruff of his trouser leg, "You can't stop me from attending my child's funeral, Aiden. I won't let you."
"Like it matters -you can't even stand up. You wanted to shoot up and take the edge off, well congratulations. I hope it was worth it." He shook her off.
"Wait. Wait, Aiden! Aiden come back here... Wait. You, girl...you look familiar," Grace craned her neck and squinted at Heaven who hovered uncomfortably by the wall, peering past the long dark fringe of the wig to her unforgettable autumn yes that had been plastered across the front page of every British newspaper and gossip magazine. "Very familiar."
HEIRESS OF LOCKEWOOD EMPIRE, KIDNAPPED!
THE STRAND STATION SNATCHING!
MISSING! LOCKEWOOD'S SECRET CHILD.
And then there were the broadsheets that were more focused on Vince Lockewood's dodgy dealings that the police were carefully uncovering, and what his daughter's involvement in the ordeal meant. A third of the country wanted to rescue her while the others wanted to interrogate or kill her, needless to say, she was one of London's most wanted. The more they speculated, the more her reputation as the sweet little Lockewood girl came into question, and now the police were more eager to locate her for questioning than to save her from her brooding tyrant (and occasional lover).
Her chest tightened. This was the moment she'd longed for, the moment that someone would recognise her -her first chance at a real escape. Sure, her saviour swayed before her in the form of her captor's drug riddled mother, but from what she witnessed, Grace wasn't her firstborn's biggest fan so maybe she'd be willing to help her.
Heaven held her breath and waited.
Aiden's muscles locked up and his jaw clenched.
Grace took a wobbly step towards her, scrunching her eyes up at Heaven the way you would if you were trying to get a better look at the sun. "Yes, I do know you."
"Stay away from her," Aiden growled as he shielded her from his mother's view.
Grace's prying eyes flicked between Aiden and the young girl half concealed behind the bulk of the volatile gang leader who only moments ago had shot a man on his mother's doorstep for not making better use of his own.
Highly strung and bad tempered wasn't the best state to provoke Aiden in, but Grace persisted, struggling to piece together the extraordinary features of the costumed girl. "What's your name?"
"Don't speak to her," Aiden snapped, and although the warning was directed at Grace, Heaven knew it was meant for her too.
"What do you mean 'don't speak to her'? This is my house and I will speak to whoever I choose, however I choose." She kissed her teeth at him.
He lifted his chin to glare down his nose at the wavering woman trying to assert what little authority she hadn't squandered away. "She's not your concern. Your only concern is staying here and riding this out."
"I'm not staying here," she hissed, the glassy look in her eyes starting to splinter, "I'm burying my son!"
"It's here or rehab."
"You wouldn't dare."
Aiden's glare darkened, "Try me."
"I don't need rehab, what I need is to never have had you!" she barged past him and stumbled into the hall.
Heaven's brows knotted together. She was tempted to touch her hand to Aiden's tensed shoulder blade. He clenched and unclenched his fist like he was ready to become a tornado all over again but he was trying to grasp onto the slither of patience he had left.
"I used to be happy," Grace spat feeling her way along nicotine tinged walls to guide herself as steadily as she could to the kitchen. "I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and then you came along and fucked everything up for me." She dug clumsily through her cupboards, trying to locate a bottle of something to compliment her high that wasn't already empty with sticky residue and desperate fingerprints smeared around the outside.
At the sound of the bottle clinking against what was most likely to be a dirty glass, Aiden swallowed his pride and marched into the kitchen.
"What are you doing?"
"What does it look like?" she sneered tippling a bit more of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum into a tumbler that was as grotty as Aiden suspected, with more desperate sticky fingerprints on the outside and flecks of black ash floating in the liquid from where she'd lazily tapped her cigarette out in it at some point. Grace, forfeiting her namesake, raised the dirty rum into the air and sloshed the contents over the rim as she swayed. "To Keegan, God have mercy on his soul. ...I'm so sorry..." The splintering glassy look fractured and beads of warm salty water leaked out onto her lined face.
Aiden looked away.
"I'm so sorry that I let you -" she jabbed the glass in Aiden's direction making more of it spill out onto the checkered linoleum floor as her sadness returned to malice, "-ruin the only good thing I had left in my life." She gripped the glass tighter. The small ache Aiden developed in his chest from the brief glimpse of his mother's humanity shrivelled up and died as quickly as it had bloomed. "And I hope you burn in hell for it!"
Thunder, wind chimes and rain sounded and shards of murky glass glittered along the kitchen floor in pools of rum that trickled and dripped down the wall. Aiden's eyes burned with a fury so intense that his solid black irises melted to tar. Laboured breaths hissed through his teeth and vibrated with the murmur of a growl.
"YOU IDIOT!" Grace howled. She tugged at her tangled tufts of hair, watching her liquid peace in ruins at her feet. Suddenly she bent down and grabbed the largest shard of glass and lunged at Aiden. She swiped her unsteady hand hither and tither manically, screaming at the top of her lungs, "IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU! IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU!"
The glass made contact with his perfect face; it dipped below the surface of his melanin, shallow enough not to pierce through the inside of his cheek, but deep enough to draw blood to carve out the extension of his snarl.
He grabbed his mother by her wrist and squeezed until the muscles in her hand surrendered to his strength and forced her to release her weapon so that it, like his adolescent heart, could fall and break into a million pieces.
His own mother tried to kill him.
As rotten as she was, Grace had never physically harmed Aiden before, but now her venomous words were no longer just words.
He yanked her to him and bent his head so he could stare straight into her loveless eyes as his blood spilled down his neck and onto his collar. "You can do whatever the fuck you want from now on. You are nothing to me. So get high, drink yourself stupid -I don't care! I am done with you, Mum..." his voice turned hoarse. He swallowed, "You won't see any more of my soldiers guarding your door or another penny of my money. You want me dead so bad? Consider it done. I'm dead to you."
He flung her wrist out of his hold and turned his back on her, grimacing as the fresh wound on his formerly unmarred face, opened and closed as his scowl set in. He had no good reason to shoot anyone else at that point, but he found himself trying to create one.
Aiden returned to the bathroom and grabbed a bewildered Heaven without a word.
She gasped, "Did she do that?"
He didn't reply.
As they passed the kitchen, Heaven's once hopeful gaze turned sour as she frowned at Grace Michaels. His own mother... What an awful woman. No wonder he's so screwed up. Sure, her father was no angel, but at least he'd loved her. Grace had wished Aiden dead a thousand times over, despite how hard he tried to earn her love. Despite the vile creature that she demonstrated that she was, up until that point, Aiden was stuck in the wearing cycle of vain attempts to hold on to the love that the small child inside of him had for his mother. When she cut his face she cut the last fraying thread of hope that they could have a real shot at being a family.
Grace caught Heaven's eyes and the light that the captive prayed would switch on when her potential saviour first had an inkling as to who she really was, exploded inside of her dilated pupils like a meteor bursting through earth's atmosphere and hurtling towards the plant, intent on mass destruction.
"Lockewood," she smiled triumphantly.
Heaven's heart skipped a beat.
"I knew I recognised you, girl. Ava-Marie Lockewood, the heir of the late billionaire, Vincent Lockewood." She sneered at Aiden, "I should have known that you had something to do with this. Only you would be this fucking psychotic."
Aiden bit down on his jaw, "Ignore her."
"Oh, I don't think so." Grace slinked sloppily over to the doorway and leant against the flaking doorjamb in a fashion that would have appeared cool and calculating had she not relied on it so heavily to keep her upright. "You are Ava-Marie Lockewood, aren't you, girl?"