Cole Cameron's Revenge(7)

By: Sandra Marton


It was a bribe, she thought a few minutes later, as she drove out the gates of the Cameron estate and turned her station wagon onto the main road, but so what? It had brought a smile to her little boy's face. His happiness was everything to her.

Ted had felt the same way.

Ted, Faith thought, and she felt the sorrow welling inside her heart again. What a wonderful man he'd been. The people of Liberty thought so, too, even if they also thought he was a fool to have married her.

Her hands tightened on the wheel. What had made him come to see her, that fateful day nine long years ago? Cole had been gone just a little over seven weeks when he'd knocked at the trailer door. Her mother had opened it, then stepped back with a little gasp.

"My word," she'd said. "You must be... Faith? It's-it's Mr. Cameron."

Faith had been in the tiny kitchen. Her heart had leaped into her throat at the sound of those words. "Cole," she'd said, "oh, Cole..."

But it was Ted she saw, when she came racing to the door. She knew him by sight, though they'd never spoken. Ted was years older than Cole. He worked in the bank his father owned. The only other thing she knew about him was that Cole said the two of them were as different as night and day.

"What do you want?" she'd said, disappointment sharpening her tone. Ted had smiled and said he'd come to see her, acting as if he made visits to trailer parks all the time, and saying, "Yes, thank you very much," to her flustered mother's offer of a cup of tea.

"Are you okay?" he'd asked quietly, once he and Faith were alone.

"I don't know what you mean."

"Look, Faith, I know you and Cole... I know he meant a lot to you-"

"Cole?" Faith tossed her head. "I hardly remember him."

"Faith. Please. I know you're hurt-"

"You don't know anything!" Without warning, she started to weep. "I hate your brother. You hear what I'm saying? I hate him!"

Ted's gaze went from her face to her hand. She looked down and realized that she'd inadvertently placed her hand protectively over her still-flat stomach. Heat rushed to her face as she looked up and her eyes met Ted's.

"You're pregnant," he said softly.

"No!" Her face turned white. "I'm not ... pregnant," she said, the word hissing softly from between her teeth. She shot a nervous glance over her shoulder. "You go home, you hear me? Just just get out of here and-

"Don't lie to me, dammit. You're carrying my brother's child."

The fight went out of her like air from a collapsing balloon. She sank down on the stained sofa and he sat down beside her, his eyes never leaving hers.

"What are you going to do?"

"Keep your voice down!"

"Faith." Ted took her hand. "You have to tell me what you're going to do."

"I'm not getting rid of my baby," she said, jerking her hand from his, "if that's what you were thinking."

"I don't know what I'm thinking," he said honestly. "Aren't you still in high school?"

"So?"

"So, how can you hope to take care of a baby?" "I'll do what I have to do."

"Meaning, you'll quit school, take a job at the Burger Pit, have your baby and bring him home to this place."

Faith felt her cheeks flame. "'This place,"' she said, trying to sound offended but knowing she probably only sounded defensive, "is my home."

Ted was blunt. "Sure," he said, "and that's what you want for your baby, right? And for yourself?"

How she'd despised him that day! He'd forced her to see that cramped, ugly little room; to smell the stink of beer rising from the sagging furniture; to hear her father's snores coming through the pressboard walls while he slept off a drunk.

Cole used to hold her in his arms and tell her he'd take her away from all this someday but Cole had lied. Now she sat beside his brother while he told her, in painfully bleak terms, that she'd never escape this life, that, worse still, her child would never escape it.

"Let me help you, Faith."

"I don't want Cameron charity."

"I'm not talking about charity, I'm talking about doing the right thing for Cole's child. What are you going to tell people, when they see that you're pregnant?"

"I don't have to tell them anything," she said, even though it was a lie. Liberty wasn't the kind of town where you could tell people to mind their own business.

"You mean, you'd rather keep your pride and let people play guessing games about who put that baby inside you?"

"They'll do that anyway."

Ted shifted closer to her. She could still remember the sound of the ancient springs in the sofa creaking as he did.

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