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Torn: Chapter 34


Kenzi ~ age one month

Tor ~ age fifteen

Ember ~ age fifteen

‘There you are,’ Ember whispers, coming into the nursery.

She peeks into the baby’s crib and then looks me over, sitting in the rocking chair two feet away.

‘Thank you for putting her to sleep. I’m sorry I got stuck on the phone with my sister.’

‘It’s okay. She went right to sleep. No crying.’

‘She always does for you,’ she says with a smile. ‘You don’t have to stay in here. You can go hang out with Ash. He’s home now.’

Standing, I walk over to the crib and gently rub my finger over the baby’s tiny hand curled up into a tiny fist next to her face. ‘I like watching her sleep. She’s so peaceful.’ I say.

That’s true, but I don’t tell Ember that I saw a show about SIDS and now I’m petrified of Kenzi never waking up. I lay awake at night worrying about it and always end up watching her sleep if I’m hanging out at Asher’s place.

‘She is. I didn’t know I could love her so much.’

I didn’t know I could, either.


Of course I don’t go to bed like my father told me to. I sat in the dim living room with a small Tiffany lamp giving off the only light and stared at my parents’ wedding picture hanging over the fireplace. Tor and I are in the picture too, him standing next to my father, smiling, and me standing next to my mother in a little white dress holding a bouquet of pink roses. I wait almost two hours, never expecting him to come home with a bloody nose and swollen eye.

‘Oh my God, he hit you?’

‘I hit him first,” he answers, wiping at his face with a dishtowel he must have taken from the kitchen on his way in here. Like it matters who hit whom first. I’m beyond angry and upset that they would actually resort to hitting each other. I had hoped they would just talk like adults.

‘Dad!’ I burst into tears. ‘I don’t want you guys to hurt each other. Why can’t you just talk?’

He falls onto the couch next to me. ‘Because I’m furious with him and I want to hurt him.’

‘I don’t like you this way,’ I sob. ‘This isn’t you. Mom would hate this, you know.’

He puts his arm around me, pulling me until my head is resting on his chest and he gently rubs the back of my head.

‘I know, Kenz.’ He answers softly.

‘How bad did you hurt him? Is he okay?’ I ask, crying against his chest. I can’t bear the thought of Tor being in any more pain. I want to get in my car right now and drive over to his house and never leave him again.

‘Don’t worry about him. He’s a big boy.’

‘I want to go see him.’

‘No.’ He answers firmly.

‘Please, Dad. Don’t be like this.’

His hand continues to slowly rub the back of my head and his chest moves up and down as he sighs. ‘I want you to stay away from him, Kenzi,” his voice is lower and gravelly from yelling and I pray it doesn’t affect his upcoming tour. “It’s for the best, trust me. I know you don’t believe me, but you’re too young to be in a serious relationship with an older man. Especially one that practically raised you. He’s got your head all messed up.’

‘He doesn’t. Not at all.’ I protest.

‘I want you to grow up and find yourself, Kenzi. Have fun. Date guys your age. Find something you want to do. Come on tour with me if you want. Just give yourself time to live before you make such huge commitments. You’ll thank me someday.’

‘Do you regret me and mom?’ I demand quietly, wondering if he regrets getting married and having a family so young. Maybe he was never as happy as he appeared to be. ‘Is that why you’re being this way?’

His lips touch the top of my head before he replies. ‘I don’t regret one moment. You and mom are everything to me.’

‘Then why can’t you believe that me and Tor can have the same?’

His chest heaves up and down once again. ‘Because it’s wrong. He’s too old for you. You called him your uncle for almost your entire life. He babysat you and changed your diapers. It’s perverted, Kenzi. I feel sick just thinking about it,” he pauses and his hand stills on the back of my head. “Did he ever touch you when you were younger? Make you do things? Maybe play odd games?’

I lift my head up and stare at him, horrified at the mere idea of any of that. ‘Never. How can you even think that? He’s your best friend, Dad. And yeah I know he took care of me but our relationship changed. We became more like friends as I got older. And then that slowly turned into more. It happened over the course of eighteen years, Dad. It grew and changed and evolved. None of those feelings were there when I was five, and I know deep down you know that. You or Mom would have known. And I would tell you if I had any memories at all that were creepy. There aren’t any. You have to believe that.’

‘I’m trying to.’

‘He was terrified when things started to change. He pushed me away, he yelled at me. He made me go to Aunt Katherine’s to put space between us. You have no idea how much he fought it, Dad,’ I say. ‘And honestly? I pulled him. I wanted to be in a relationship with him and I knew he felt the same way. I kept pulling him out of denial. So be mad at me.’

Shaking his head, he swipes his other hand across his face with the towel he’s holding. ‘I can’t be mad at you. But I’m disappointed that you would lie to me and do things behind my back. I thought we were close enough where you could tell me anything.’

My stomach burns with emotion. He’s right, I could always tell him and my mom anything and everything. ‘We are. But I knew you would never understand this and I was right.’

‘You knew I wouldn’t understand it because it’s wrong.’

‘No,’ I say firmly. ‘I knew you wouldn’t understand because it doesn’t fit into what you think is right.’

He’s silent, staring off across the room as he idly rubs circles on my back.

‘Dad…I love you, but you have to let me make my own choices. I’m an adult, whether you like it or not.’

‘I totally understand that. But there is no way in hell I can look at you with him, or be in the same room with him knowing he’s had his hands on you. I’ll go crazy.’ He pauses for a moment. ‘I can’t lose you, too, Kenzi. I can’t have Mom being the way she is and you out there living your life and not being a part of mine.’

‘Then just accept us. Don’t make me choose. At least try.’ I beg.

‘I can’t,” he replies with tortured regret thick in his voice.

Despair floods through me, seeping into every crevice of my heart and soul. I’m trapped and torn between the two men I love most in the world. I can’t imagine hurting either one of them or walking away from either one of them. Choosing one would only hurt the other, and that would devastate me beyond words.

I love them both. I need them both. I want them both in my life.

After I convince my dad to shower and go to bed, I quietly go back to my room and send Tor a text, my fingers shaking over the tiny keyboard.

Me: Are you okay? I’ve been so worried.

Tor: I’m only worried about the pain this is causing you.

Me: Did he hurt you? He said he hit you and I know you hit him

Tor: I didn’t want to hit him but he said some really nasty things and I snapped. I’m sorry. Is he ok?

Me: He’s fine. He just fell asleep. Please tell me if you’re ok.

Tor: He fucked up my ribs pretty bad. I’m pretty sure he re-broke a few. He may have broken my nose, too. Tris is coming over in about an hour to take me to the ER.

I burst into uncontrollable tears as more anger and sorrow over this situation swell up in me.

Me: I can’t believe he hurt you like that. I’m so sorry, Tor. This is my fault.

Tor: It’s not, Angel. I should have talked to him when this first started. Or just never let this happen at all. I knew all along there wouldn’t be a happy ending.

My heart clenches like a fist has grabbed hold of it and my stomach sinks at his words. If he retreats back into the mindset that we shouldn’t be together, my heart will shatter into a million pieces.

Me: What are you saying? Are you giving up on us?

Tor: I’ll never give up on us. I just don’t know what to do. I can’t come between you and your father. That will eat me alive and you’ll eventually resent me.

Me: I could never resent you. I love you.

Tor: I love you, too. I just need to think. And so do you.

Me: That’s all I’ve been doing. I want to see you.

Tor: I want to see you too but let’s wait until later today. Let me get cleaned up and clear my head. There’s something else I have to tell you.

Me: Okay…

Tor: Asher loaned me the money for this house. It was a cheap fixer upper when I bought it. He wants all the money owed or he wants me out in two weeks. I’m going to have to move.

Me: What?! He’s taking your house away? I can’t believe he would do that. I’ll talk to him.

My God. How could my father turn so cruel? Can he really hate Tor just like that? After being best friends their entire lives? I cannot even fathom that.

Tor: Please don’t. I’d rather not be owing him anything anymore.

Me: I’m devastated about this. I’m so disappointed in him.

Tor: Don’t be. He loves you. Trust me, I expected all of this and worse. I have to go shower and change before Tris gets here. I’ll call you as soon as I get home. Please don’t worry, Angel. I love you. We’ll figure something out.

I crumble again after our texting. I finally give in and call Chloe, spilling out the entire story in between hysterical crying spurts. She listens patiently while I ramble in mostly jumbled and incoherent sentences.

‘Wow,’ she says when I’m done. ‘I wish you had talked to me sooner, Kenzi, rather than going through this alone. What do you think friends are for?’

‘I’m sorry…I was afraid to tell anyone.’

‘I understand now. I probably would have done the same. But damn, you slept with the walking orgasm? I need to just let my imagination run with that for a few minutes.’

I let out a little laugh, which I know is the response she was aiming for. ‘Still focusing on sex?’ I try to tease back.

‘Sadly, yes. Is he as good as I imagine he must be? I mean that body…that voice…that hair…those eyes. All that ink…’

‘Chloe. Stop.’

‘Come on, give me something here and then we can get off the subject of his hotness.’

Sighing, I can’t keep the grin off my face as memories of making love with him cycle through my mind. ‘Fine. He’s amazing, Chloe. Not that I have anything to compare him to other than books and movies, but yeah. He’s extremely romantic and sensual, and he pretty much turns me to mush in every way possible. Happy now?’

‘Damn. I hate you right now.’


‘I mean that in the most loving way possible. I’m very jealous. But also happy for you. You deserve someone like him. And seriously, Kenz, I saw this coming for miles. You two have been attached at the hip for like your entire life. His eyes literally dazzle when he looks at you and you look like you’re going to melt when you look at him. It was obvious as fuck.’

‘Really? It was that noticeable?’

‘I definitely caught the vibe.’

I wonder how many other people could tell something was going on between us? How did my parents not notice if everyone else did? Or could they just not even fathom that anything could be growing between us?

‘I’m so confused, Chloe. I don’t know what to do. My dad is so pissed and heartbroken over this. I’ve never seen him this angry. And he beat the shit out of Tor. You know my father – he can’t stand fighting or violence in any way.’

‘Yeah but you’re his little girl. That changes everything.’

‘I guess you’re right. And I had no idea that he loaned Tor the money for his house.’

‘It sounds like over the years your Dad really did everything he could for Toren. Paying for his lawyers, helping his business, making sure he got all the royalties he’s owed, helping him get a house. Him finding out that Tor was sexually involved with his daughter must seem like a massive betrayal for him. How could it not?’

‘But its not just sexual, Chloe. We love each other and want to spend our lives together. It’s not some kind of fling. This is real.’

‘I understand that, but men don’t really think that way. I think all your dad is seeing is his best friend, who’s his age, crawling all over his daughter. It’s a typical father reaction, I think.’

I sink down onto the floor and rub my pulsing forehead. I’ve had a massive headache since this all started last night and it’s not letting up.

‘I don’t know what to do, Chloe. I’m so confused and heartbroken.’

‘Do you want my honest advice? I don’t know if it’s the right advice, but it’s my best advice based on how well I know you and your situation and how you grew up.’

‘Okay. Let’s hear it.’

‘I think you need to get away from both of them for a while.’


‘Just listen. You’ve spent your entire life encapsulated in this little world with your parents, and the band, and Tor. I think your family is great; I love your dad and I think Tor is a rare gem, but I think you need to cut the cord from both of them for a while and just be you. You and your father are way too attached to each other. He has to learn how to let you go, and you have to stop trying to take care of him.’

I let her words filter in and take hold. Deep down, I know what she’s saying is true. I just don’t know how to let go. And I don’t think my dad and Tor do, either. We’re all mangled up in each other.

‘I don’t know…’

‘Kenzi, you have to do some soul searching and stand on your own for awhile without your father on one side of you and Tor on the other. And your father needs to accept the fact that he created this monster he now hates. You can’t shove two people together practically 24/7 and expect that nothing may grow from it. And I think in some ways, your dad is holding onto you because of what happened to your mother. You’re not her,’ she says softly. ‘He needs to stand on his own, too, and so does Tor. I mean seriously, the guy has spent almost his entire life with you. He took that role of guardian and freakin’ ran with it. I’m not saying he’s not really in love with you, because I think he is, but I think you guys all need some major separation to get your shit together. And after you all do some thinking and settling down, then figure out where you want to go from there,’ she pauses, giving me time to absorb. ‘I know you won’t come here to New York, so why don’t you go to Katherine’s for a few months? You love it there and she doesn’t suffocate you.’

‘I’m afraid to leave them.’ I’m afraid they’ll kill each other. I’m afraid I’ll lose them both. I’m afraid of missing them.

‘I know you are. But I think you have to, for all of you. Give them time to work this out between them. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Give Tor time to think, and give yourself some time to get out from under them and then follow your heart. I think in the end, it will be what’s best for all of you.’

‘What you’re saying all makes so much sense. I’m just scared. I don’t want to hurt them. And I’m afraid if I leave Tor I might lose him forever.’

‘If that happens, Kenzi, then it just wasn’t meant to be. But I honestly think the guy will wait a hundred years for you.’

I lean back against my bed, mulling this all over in my mind. Everything Chloe said rings true.

As frightening as it feels, it also seems like it might be what needs to be done for all of us to find our way to the other side of this.

I stand in the doorway for a few moments before I cross the room with slow, light steps, and lower myself into the blue vinyl chair next to the bed.

Taking her hand in mine, I’m comforted by how warm it is. I run my finger over her wedding band. Never taken off.

There is life here. There is hope here. There is so much love here.

‘Mom…I’m so sorry I haven’t been here,’ Her eyes are closed and her breathing is soft and even. Her blonde hair cascades around her on the white pillow like a golden halo, and she looks as beautiful to me as she did the day this happened to her. She still looks so young and vibrant.

‘I miss you so much. I’m eighteen now and so much has happened. I wish we could talk. I know you could help me and would have the right words to say. I’m in love with Toren, Mom. I know you would understand. I want what you wanted. I want to get married and have a baby and just have a nice, simple, happy life with Tor. He wants that, too. Daddy is so mad. He can’t see that what we have is so special and so right. I don’t want to lose either one of them, but they’re tearing each other apart and I’m stuck in the middle,’ I swallow hard. ‘I’m going to go stay with Aunt Katherine for a while. I’m going to have to leave Dad alone, Mom, and I’m sorry. I’ve tried to take care of him for you. He misses you and loves you so much. He’s still committed to you in every single way. But we need you. Especially Dad, he’s so lost without you. You always had a way to calm us all down and make everything better. So if you’re in there somewhere and you can hear me, try to come back. We’re all here for you and we love you.’

My heart jumps when her fingers move ever so slightly in mine.

She moved. Dad was right.

‘Mom…’ My voice wavers as a tear tracks down my cheek. ‘Can you hear me? If you can, just move your finger again. Please…’

I wait, unmoving, barely breathing until her ring finger moves a teeny bit, giving me goose bumps.

‘I felt that,’ I say softly. ‘You have to try to wake up, Mom. I know it’s hard and maybe it hurts. But we’ll take care of you. No matter what. You’re okay. You’re still beautiful. Are you afraid that you’re hurt? You’re not. You’re perfect. You just hit your head and you drowned for a few minutes. I don’t really know what happened, but I know that you’re okay other than you can’t wake up. You’re breathing by yourself,’ I can’t help but wonder if maybe she thinks she’s broken, or disfigured, or other horrible things like that. Maybe it’s scaring her into staying suspended where she is. ‘And you can understand me. I think you’re just tired and weak. That’s all. But we can fix that.’ More tears stream down my cheeks.

‘Are you okay, Miss Valentine?’ The older, gray-haired nurse places her hand gently on my shoulder. ‘What a nice surprise to see you here today.’

I blink back my tears and look up at her. ‘She moved her hand. I felt it. Then I asked her to do it again and she did.’

She nods and smiles, the corners of her eyes creasing. ‘Yes, I’m sure she hears you, honey.’

‘Then she should wake up, right?’

The nurse shifts her eyes over to my mom then back to me. ‘She will when her mind and body are ready.’

‘But what if that just never happens?’ I ask desperately.

She squeezes my shoulder. ‘You just have to have faith, Miss Valentine. It’s all in God’s hands. But I think your mother is very happy you came here today. Sometimes all we need is a little time to get things right in our heads. I hope you come back.’

As she walks away, I turn back to my mom.

‘I have faith in you, Mom. And I love you. I promise I’ll come back soon.’


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