Trigger Warning: Lots and lots of love. May make grumpy people happy. Or happy people gag…who knows! Oh and there is a vote at the end of this chapter! Please tell me your thoughts!
It had taken everything in me to tell Jin the whole degrading story. Every last detail of what had been going on between me and this man, who called himself, Alex. I had run through a myriad of emotions, as I watched Jin come to terms with all I was telling him. His facial expressions had changed very little, but I could see it all in his eyes. His disappointment, fear and yes, that dreaded rage.
When I could say no more, all he did was glare at me. But I could see his breathing had quickened and he was swallowing a great deal, as if to hold back the urge to scream out the rage I knew, he must be feeling.
Suddenly, he jumped up from the swing, startling my already quickened heart that couldn’t decide if it wanted to beat in my chest, or swim in my stomach along with the butterflies. He paced from one side of the gazebo to the other, back and forth with such a look of anguish on his face. When he stopped, he turned to look my way but then, made a small growl of frustration, before heading out of the gazebo.
I stood on shaky legs, hoping to make my escape so I could find a place to hide in peace. Yet at that moment, Jin spun on his heel and came storming back towards me. I cowered, covering my face for fear he intended to slap me.
(this is not a pose! Jade literally did this herself as Jin walked towards her!)
Instead, he grabbed both my wrists and pulled me into an embrace. He gripped me so tight, I found it hard to breath and I felt his body shaking from head to toe. I wrapped my arms around him, and hugged him in return.
We stood like that for quite some time, it seemed.
Finally, he pushed me away from him but held my shoulders and lightly shook me. It wasn’t meant to hurt me, yet it shocked me just the same.
“Do you have any idea how devastated I would have been if I had lost you?” Jin said, as his eyes welled up.
“You don’t get it do you?” Jin said softly but firm. “No matter what I do you just don’t get it! You’re my sister and I love you! We can’t keep tossing bombs at one another. This isn’t how mom and dad would want things to be for us.”
“You and I, we have to stick together. We’re each others link to them and I would do anything in the world to keep you safe. You have to understand how hard it is for me. To see you grow up as they would have wanted. Second guessing every choice I make. Walking that fine line between just being your brother and being our dad, for you. I know I have been tough on you, but let’s face it, you haven’t made it easy either! You’re angry, and I’m definitely angry. Yet the funny this, deep down, I don’t think either one of us is actually angry with each other. We’re mad at them! You, for missing our parents and feeling abandoned by them. Feeling the loss of the life every child expects to live. I’m angry for all different kinds of reasons. We didn’t get that fairy tale family, but it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s not mine and logically I know, it’s not at all yours either. So starting right now, how about we stop treating each other like the enemy. Because I don’t want to be the bad guy in your eyes, not anymore. There is so much about our lives you don’t know yet and I have to protect you from. But, you’re not a child anymore and it’s time you learn.
There are definite reasons why we live the way we do. We’ve kept you safe and sheltered from it all, but this magazine, gave you a little taste of what it could be like for you, if we lived differently. So please believe me when I say, everything I do, every choice I have made; it’s not about keeping you prisoner or denying you the life you believe you deserve. It’s always and forever about love, my commitment to them, to you and our family.”
By the time Jin finished I didn’t know how to respond. I stood there shaking, and staring at him, waiting for him to say more.
“Do you understand?”
I nodded at him.
“We have a lot more to talk about, but that can wait till later. So go in, wash your face to remove that make-up and maybe lay down for a nap. It sounds like you had a long, hard night. You’re probably very tired.” Jin paused, “Okay?”
I looked down at the ground, and focused on wiping the wetness from my face. Tears I had no idea had fallen. A nap sounded good just about then.
“I’m not sure how much more I can tell you at this point,” Travis said. “A lot of time has passed since Jade and I last spoke and obviously many things have conspired, since we are now where we are at this moment.”
“So this is my fault,” Sun replies holding back tears. “If I hadn’t asked her to check out S.A.I.D., this man never would have gotten in contact with her.”
“No Mrs. Bell. I honestly don’t think you should look at it in that manner. You did what was right for Jade. I know, setting this man aside, the site was good for her and it did help. Place the blame on the organization for not having better security measures to protect her. Not on yourself.”
“He, I’m guessing it must be a male, could be doing this to other girls,” Jin responded, as if the thought had just crossed his mind.
“Question becomes, what do we do now? Those pictures Jin!”
“It will be up to the family lawyer to tell us what to do,” Jin replied. “I’ve already called him and he will be here in two days time.”
Travis nodded. “I believe that might be best. If you respond or take action, you could find yourself in a worse predicament. It is a tough situation. Please do know, though, that Jade feels devastated by this situation she has caused.”
“Well,” Jin stated. “I thank you for all your help Travis. I do know that things could have been tragic if you had not been involved. I appreciate what you have done, but I think it’s time for you to go. Give my regards to your father.”
Jin stared at Travis giving the exact impression he meant what he said, but surprisingly Travis replied,
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“You are no longer needed here. You, may, go.” Jin said more firmly.
“I understand what you are saying sir,” Travis replied looking at Jin directly, but I’m not leaving. Not until this whole thing is taken care of.”
Jin stood, and crossed his arms while maintaining his stare. Travis also rose and stood his ground.
“This is a family matter. We don’t wish outsiders to be involved. I don’t know how much clearer I can be.”
Sun also rose and stood behind Travis. “Jin?”
“That would be my position as well Mr. Bell, if Jade were my family. However, I’m not an outsider. I’ve been very involved in this since the beginning, where as you only learned of this situation today. You will need me.”
“I can take care of my sister just fine without your help,” Jin replied, his voice now indicating a low growl.
“Well, with all due respect sir, if I hadn’t shown up like I had, Jade would be gone. So like it or not, you do need me. Because this situation has been happening under your nose and in your own home for quite some time now. Sooooo,” Travis replied.
“Travis!” Jin began.
“Jin!” Sun interrupted. “Whether Travis stays or not, isn’t really a problem. I’m sure he has no desire to share any information with the press, or hurt Jade in any fashion.”
“No,” was all Travis said as he continued to look back at Jin who was attempting to make him cower.
“Good! See Jin, no problems here. Travis, I’m sure you must be hungry. How about some lunch?”
“Thank you Mrs. Bell, I am hungry. Let me help you in the kitchen,” then he gave Jin a nod before turning to follow Sun. As they walked away, Jin could hear Sun saying what a nice young man he is and she insisted he call her by her first name.
Travis never saw it, but Jin, actually smiled.
It was sometime around noon when I felt a light touch on my hand which woke me from a deep, and chaotic sleep.
“Hey pretty girl. I thought I should wake you so you didn’t sleep the whole day away. How are you feeling?”
Rubbing my eyes, I pondered her question and had no answer to give. I couldn’t quite meet Sun’s eyes at first and feigned sleepiness, while I tried to decide what to say.
“Everything,” was all I could manage.
“I’m sure,” Sun replied. “Been a rough year hasn’t it, more than Jin or I ever knew.”
Tears began to fill up my eyes. “Is Travis still here?”
“Oh yes. He is having great fun playing with the babies, and they are certainly enjoying him. A new face in the household.” She paused, “Did you want to see him?”
I shook my head. “No please! I can’t face him right now.”
“You know, you have a good and loyal friend in him. You should have seen him standing up to your brother. It was definitely a sight to see.”
“I don’t know why he would want to be my friend. I’ve treated him terribly,” I replied.
“Oh I don’t know if that can be true. He’s here, isn’t he?” Sun replied. I said nothing in return to her.
“Are you hungry? How about some lunch?” she asked. I shook my head in return.
“Okay, but supper won’t be an option, just so you understand.” Sun walked around the bed and was about to leave the room, when suddenly I was overwhelmed with emotion.
“Mama?” I began to sob. “Will you ever forgive me?”
“Oh Jade,” she said as she slid onto the bed to give me a hug. “I know it feels like the world is ending right now. Everything is going to be okay, I promise. We’ve all had a wake-up call, Jin and I included. Why didn’t you come to me, tell me things were so bad? I could have helped you Jade.”
“You were so busy with the babies. I didn’t want to be a burden.”
“Jade,” Sun began gently. “You have never, ever been a burden. My dear girl, I may not have given birth to you, but my daughter you will always be in my heart. You were my first baby and I love you, no differently than I do Alex, Bella, Anna or Bonnie.”
“I’m sorry Mama. I’m so very, very sorry.”
Sun held me till I couldn’t cry anymore. “Feel a little better?”
I nodded as I dried all my tears. “I’m going to get you some food. You need to eat.” She slid off my bed, and placed her hand on the door knob. She hesitated before she turned back to me. “It’s been a while since you’ve called me Mama.” She smiled at me, before leaving my room.
“So, we have been working very diligently on this case since we first received your call, Mr. Bell. Our investigators have been very thorough in this matter. I want to start off by saying, I really don’t think it’s as bad as it could have been. Certainly nowhere near as bad as other celebrity children scandals you see in the news.”
Sun let out a big sigh, “Well that is a relief.”
“The firm has already put out several injunctions. The magazine has been stopped from selling the photos to anyone else and has been ordered to submit all copies to the court.”
“Good,” said Jin.
“The judge also ordered all unsold copies of the edition to be returned to the magazine and destroyed. An officer of the court has been put in charge of making sure the owner of the magazine follows through with the order. An audit of the Famous Teen company has already been set in motion. Lastly, since no parent authorization paperwork could be produced in regards to the sale of the photos, alteration or publication of such photos, the owner of the magazine has been charged with distributing child pornography. Basically what I am saying is, Famous Teen is history, as of today.”
“But what about Jade?” Jin asked.
“I have a few documents here for you both to see…ah yes, here they are. Now the partners have had several meetings regarding what else can be done, and they believe you have three options.”
“Your first option, is to deny the pictures are of Jade. This was listed as a viable option, by the partners. Other than this one picture on page 24, you can’t really tell these are of Jade. With the blond hair and the heavy make up in some, it really could be a look a like model. We could deny this Sim is Jade and sue the magazine in that regard.”
Jin studied the photos and I sat there staring at the table, wishing the chair could swallow me up and make me disappear.
“Second, we simply sue the magazine company for distributing photographs of a minor and for slander…well a whole slew of things really. Which would be quite successful considering the judge already threw the book at this company. But in doing so, you are admitting the pictures are of Jade. So that is something to consider carefully. However, by doing so, all you are accomplishing is a cash payout, since the charges have been laid and the magazine has already been shut down.”
“Third, we could also sue the non-profit organization S.A.I.D.-“
“NO! No no no!” I firmly stated. “This is my fault and not theirs.” I couldn’t even look the lawyer in the face. “Please Jin!”
“Perhaps we could come back around to that one at a later date, if necessary.”
“Fine. That’s fine. There will be charges laid against this man when he is found, assuming it is a man. It could just as easily be a woman, but our fraud department has logged all indicators are, this is likely a male. You will at that time, have the option to sue him as well. I will be more than happy to take care of that for you!”
“Will Jade need to testify or be in court for any of those proceedings?” Jin asked.
Panic rose up in my chest at the mention of court. “I don’t want to see him!”
“And you won’t have to Jade,” the lawyer assured me. “As a minor you can not be photographed in court or be forced to face your abuser. It’s the law, Jade. You would meet with the judge and the lawyers in the judges chambers, with your guardians of course.”
“There is something else here. Our fraud department has also raised some red flags indicating this man may have been stalking the real Alexander Stokes for some time now. Until we find him, or our investigators turn up anything new, we won’t know if Jade or Alexander have been his only targets. They have sent me this picture as an example here.”
He pulled a picture from the file and laid it on the table.
“Jade, this is one of the pics we found on your computer that was sent to you.”
“Have you spoken to the real Alexander Stokes?” Sun asked.
“Yes we have, and he is currently under surveillance for his own safety, and to see if we can catch his stalker. However, the police have also indicated that since his abduction attempt the other day failed, he may have scattered into the wind, or moved on to a new target.”
“One last thing. The police chief would like to know if you want officers placed here on the island for Jade’s protection.”
“Oh gawd,” I moaned. Wait, did I say that out loud?
“It’s okay Jade. Tell him thank you, but I think we will be just fine,” Jin replied.
“He figured you would say that, being a former police officer and all. But he insisted I remind you that this perpetrator does know where you live. The island is small Jin, but you can’t watch everywhere on your own.”
“Tell him thank you, but not at this time.”
The lawyer gathered all his papers, then asked “Do you have any other questions for me or the team?”
“I, I don’t think so,” Sun replied, looking at Jin with a questioning look. Jin shook his head. The lawyer stood up.
“May I suggest, that regardless of choice one or two, it would be wise if Jade changes her appearance. I know this isn’t my place to say, but regardless of what you decide, having Jade look completely different from the girl in those photo’s would be a wise decision.”
“And make your job much easier either way, I assume.” Sun stated.
The lawyer smiled, then turned to shake Jin’s hand. “A pleasure as always,” he said to Jin.
We will walk you out, Sun had said to him, but I stayed behind, rooted to my seat.
Words I had heard during the interview were swirling around in my head.
and I was paralyzed with fear. Had I really done this? Put myself in a situation where all these things were true? These were the kind of words one heard in movies or television shows.
I pulled the magazine towards me and forced myself to finally take a look.
I had only glimpsed the cover until now and I certainly had not looked inside. Too embarrassed. Too ill to my stomach at the thought Alex, my Alex was some pervert who probably enjoyed my photos in more ways than I ever wanted to know about. Remembering the fantasies I had of him brought on the “creepy crawlies” all over my skin.
I knew the photos had been altered, but not to the extent they had been.
Backgrounds had been removed and replaced to completely manipulate the look. The one of me on the bed? I had been sitting on my desk for that one, with the ocean in the background. The one in pink on page 24, which the lawyer mentioned, I had been sitting in my desk chair with my feet on the desk. They were all like this, every single one.
How could things have gone so wrong? I was lost, so lost that I had no idea who or what I was anymore.
**Special, special thanks to Kymber from Noble Doubt, for creating the front page of the magazine for this chapter! She did fabulous work! Please check out her site: Noble Doubt for even more great content and story!