Suzi watched as Chrissie left the house with Jack Johnson, the man Chrissie didn't know was her half-brother. Odd, but she had no worries that a mother normally had, none to do with the sexual misadventures of her child, but instead worried about what was going to come as a result. Odd how nothing was ever going to be the same again, not her relationship with Chrissie, and not her relationship with Peter. Suzi bit her lower lip nervously as she considered again just what she'd say to him, how she'd tell him that she'd lied so long ago, that Chrissie's natural father was still alive and doing quite well. She thought of her husband, of his loyalty, his generosity, and his good nature, and felt like crying. She loved him so much, and indeed, had come to understand the depth of love over the years. What she'd had with Jared had been a moment's passion, a youthful indiscretion, to borrow a cliché, and she'd known it almost immediately, but there was something magical in Peter's touch, something in his voice that still sent shivers down her back, something in the way he looked at her that made her feel like the most cherished woman in the entire world.
Would that look change now that she had to tell him the truth? Would her confession of this teenaged affair change his feelings toward her? Or, maybe not the affair, but the lies she'd told to cover it? How would he react?
"Mom!" came a voice interrupting her reverie. She turned to see P.J. her eighteen year old son, who had been the former source of most of the gray hair she artfully covered. "What's wrong, Mom? You look worried. I haven't done anything wrong. Lately, that is. No tickets, no trouble in school. In fact," and he brandished a folder in her face, "I thought I'd show you this-an 'A' on my project for that class I have in computer science."
Recovering quickly, Suzi smiled at her boy. Like her husband, and his father, P.J. had a quick sense of humor, and a mischievous gleam in his eyes. "College is easier than I thought, if you don't count chemistry and biology."
"Does that mean you're doing poorly in those classes?" Suzi asked, grateful to have something to talk about that didn't include the confession of her past.
"No, just that I'm having to work harder than I did in high school. Those honors courses are tough, but at least they're interesting. We've been studying genetics and like that."
"Great," she muttered, remembering how much Chrissie's eyes resembled Jack's. She looked at P.J. and wondered what he'd think when he found out the truth, as he ultimately would. She closed her eyes and wished that she knew what to say, and that it had already been said.
"Oh, and by the way," he injected, "Just thought I'd let you know that I'm going out with the guys tonight."
"Fine," she told him, somewhat distractedly. "Be in at a civilized hour."
Christina Castles studied the young man sitting across the table and wondered what it was about him that seemed familiar. He didn't look anything like Dean Summers, whom she'd been dating for the last couple of months. Dean was so into computers that he seemed to have little time for anything but talking about them, while Jack seemed to find computers the farthest thing from his mind. Odd, but while she appeared to be the focus of his attention, he didn't seem the least bit romantically interested in her. He just looked at her as if he was trying to memorize her features.
"Uh, do I have something on my face?" she asked, finally. "Maybe ketchup or something?"
Jack laughed suddenly, breaking the silence that had begun to change a much anticipated evening into an endlessly awkward bore. His eyes twinkled as he answered, "No, Christina. Forgive me for being distracted-it's just that this evening has turned into something very strange for me, and no, it's not your fault. In fact, it's not my fault, either."
"I'm not following you," Christina told him, wondering why she felt like she was missing something. "If there's some sort of a private joke, let me in on it."
Suddenly serious, Jack told her, "It's just that I've happened onto some information that made me very interested in meeting you, and," he laughed, looking up, then back into her eyes. "This is a bit strange, but...oh, hell, there's no comfortable way to tell you this but just to say it and hope that you don't hate anybody because of it."
Baffled, Christina said, "Go on. I don't have a clue what you're talking about."
"We're family. I'm your half-brother."
Christina stared at him as if he'd suddenly sprouted feathers and other strange appendages. "Family? You're my half-brother? You want to explain this to me?"
"Not really, but under the circumstances, I think I'd better. We share a father."
Chrissie continued to study his face, stunned and silent. Then, she asked, "Why didn't Dad ever mention you? Does he know about you?"
"I don't think you understand," Jack began again. "Our father is Jared Andrews."
It was time. Past time. Peter had to know the truth tonight, Suzi decided as she walked into the study where Peter was working with the computer.
"Peter?" she began, almost timidly. She looked at the man she loved, and for the first time in her life knew what it was to fear his loss. "Peter? I have to tell you something."
Peter Castles looked at Suzi, at the troubled expression she wore and stood up. "Suzi? Is something wrong? P.J. or Christina?"
Her voice breaking, Suzi said, "I lied to you years ago when I led you to believe that Chrissie's father died. He didn't die, Peter. He's still alive and he came to see me. Oh, god, I hate to tell you this, but I have to. Chrissie believes that you're her father, Peter, and I never wanted it any other way. I love you-I always have."
"I am Chrissie's father in every way that counts, and, as far as I'm concerned, the other man is dead. He walked away years ago and did me one big favor." He tilted her face to his and kissed her trembling lips. "It's okay, darling. The world won't end over this and nothing will stop me from loving you."
"But that man had another child and that child is Jack Johnson. Chrissie is out with him tonight and I'm afraid that he'll tell her. Peter, I just found out about Jack, and I didn't know what to do."
"So that's what's been distracting you for the last couple of days." Peter smiled the crooked smile that Suzi loved, and it brought tears to her eyes.
"Peter, what did I ever do to deserve you?"
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