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Heartbroken



~~~



David Manoa




Copyright 2017 David Manoa

Smashwords Edition

v.2.9

~~~~



The author asserts the moral right to be identified as

The author of this work.



All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including photocopying, recording, information storage and retrieval systems, or otherwise, without prior permission in writing from the author, with the exception of a book reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.


~~~~~~



Nico Joel


I remember the first time I had my heart broken. I was 24 years old living with my Fiancé Heather Summers who was 21 years old at the time. We lived in a two bedroom apartment which was a humble start to get on the property ladder. I had this sense of content and accomplishment having everything set up for my lady. Ahead of all my peers.

Home bought 'Check.'

Good job 'Check.'

The Beautiful and gorgeous woman I want to spend my life with. Check! Check! check.

Sheesh, little did I know. Well, very little did I realize that Heather felt trapped imposing my ambitious life on her. Everything I strived for, a future for us. So many things went through my mind as a young man at the time. What I did wrong, what she did wrong. How we could make amends. I learned that you both have to want to the same things in life. To share the same dreams and vision for the future.

I have to admit, it was the time I cried my eyes out, standing in the lounge in my apartment with the lights off. No one could see me cry. I looked at the mirror across me. Bare-chested and hurt. I would pound my chest hard with a closed fist to drown out the sorrow and sadness. Spiraling emotions that tortured me.

The ambient light from the other apartments illuminated the lounge with a faint light. The darkness covering one side of my face. Hiding my puffy eyes and the stream of tears that went down to my chin then dripped to the floor. I looked at the ground thinking if I would get over this. When will the friggin pain in my head stop? I spent years in a cycle of alcohol and depression reclusing to myself. All hope of meeting someone. Futile.

When I turned 34, I met Candice my whole life changed. I embraced joy but a sense of distrust and caution. I always waited for the fall with her... and bless her heart, she stuck with me with all my insecurities and jealousy. It was then Candice fell pregnant and gave birth to my daughter India. That I was able to let go. Seeing this new life, half of me and half of Candice come into this world.

I had two ladies in my life to take care of. And five years on, I popped the question to Candice to marry me. I dreamed of the day we would walk down the aisle. Harping back to the fantasy I had as a young man. Older now, wiser I like to think. Deep down this is the time. But I had this notion something wasn't right. That point when we looked at each other’s eyes and seeing her hesitate for that split second before she said I do. I knew Candice had secrets but this one... Damn.... I guess you will have to ride with me to the end and find out...


***

Chapter 1: Secrets and white lies.

Onehunga Public Library.

Auckland.

New Zealand.

10am

Saturday.


I've been coming to this library ever since my uncle encouraged us to read. Every Saturday I would wake up to a big hearty breakfast of baked beans and scrambled eggs on toast then we would walk for 15 minutes here. I was always a keen reader since I was young. I was of that generation where Video games started to creep in eroding that joy of books. There was a fish and chip shop across the library that had some arcade coin machine operated games. I use to lie to my parents about my overdue fines to get money to feed my video game addiction. Now the internet and the PlayStation has changed all that. I sat in the children's section sitting on the ridiculously small green plastic chair and the table built for kids or dwarfs while India browsed for books. I let her browse the whole library to observe what would interest her. Her mother was never a reader of books more so magazines, so she always left these daddy moments for me to do solely. I loved it, though. I remember reading books to India when she was the womb. Candice berated me for thinking what I was doing was stupid. Little did she know it was my bonding time with her as soon as she was born. It was bizarre when I would speak to her as a little infant my words or tone of my voice calmed her more than actions of her mother unless if she hungry or soiled her nappies. India therein became more attached to me.

India pulled out a book and ran over to me. Jesus how time flew when you held this little one in your arm selecting books now she's on her own. I took out a tissue to wipe her runny nose. India had blonde hair like her mother, but with my tall, dark and handsome looks, she got everything else. Heart shaped face. Her innocent looking brown eyes stare at me.

“What?” I ask.

She reached over to touch my beard.

“Is there food stuck in there?” I asked

“No Daddy. There's heaps of white hairs.”

I laughed, “Daddy's getting old. Ancient.”

“Like Grandpa?”

“Umm... no. Not yet. I can still walk and run.” India pinched my beard, “Ow!”

“I'm taking it out, Daddy! I don't want you to be old like grandpa.”

I smiled, “Why not?”

“Umm... Because he's always sick! And he's wearing nappies, and he poos his pants!”

I laughed, “Trust me. I won't I be wearing nappies anytime soon.” I kissed her forehead, and she kept examining my beard before her attention went to my hair.

She points, “Your hairs on ya head are going white too daddy!”

“That's from your momma!” I laughed.

Her brows furrowed, “Huh?” she said, “What did mommy do to make your hair white?”

I paused knowing this might be awkward later when we arrive home. “Oh nothing dear, tell me what book did you choose?” Sneakily trying to change the subject as all adults do...

“I got two!” she smiles, “I got the book mommy reads.”

“Eh?”

Underneath her book of Where the Wild Things Are and a copy of Women's Weekly. The magazine is plastered with the Paparazzi headlines of sex scandals and scantily clad women. I pull out the magazine and slide it down on the table away from her.

She frowns, “I was reading that one Daddy!”

I sigh, “Not good for you Hun the words are hard to read.

“But there’s pictures!”

I raise a brow, “Not the ones you should be looking at. Besides it’s for grown-ups.”

“I'm gonna be a grown up one day daddy. I’m gonna be preettty like those girls in there and have big boobs!”

I raise a brow, “Not if you read that.” India frowns I kinda guess what she's gonna ask next. I take the proper book and open up the first page. “Uh... Let’s read now ok?”

She smiles, “Can you read to me, daddy?”

“Sure.” I said, “But can we move to the seats over there, my bum is getting sore.”

India chuckles as she bolts over to the large red sofa. She clears the books that were left carelessly there, and she sits as I stagger over like grandpa with the pins and needles in my lower half of my body. I drop down stretching my legs out when India shifts right next to me. I open up the book and begin to read, India is engaged and enjoying the first half when she falls asleep.

In that quiet moment, I stare out into the library to all the people coming through from all walks of life. Being the community library, it has a leaning to attracting the unemployed and the odd people with bizarre behavior that come in. There is this one lady who frequents the romance section with piles of books only to return the next day again with another large collection, I’m a fast reader but either this lady is very lonely or is a savant speed reader.

The computer section has more people using them than actual readers in the library. The free wireless a wholesome attraction. The skinny Indian security guard walks past me playing on his phone oblivious to his job. I notice the big boned, six foot five bald headed, glass wearing Librarian, standing over a young mother who is using a computer. She has a pram beside her, with her baby. The kid is crying, and with her best attempts is trying to quiet the child. She is disrupting the group of computer users around her, I see them turning muttering a string of curses and crossed brows. It is when the baby screams to the top her lungs that the librarian points to the door, signaling to her to leave. She points to her screen perhaps waiting for something to print or a message. She points over to our area. Taking out a baby bottle. She appears stressed out, she lifts the baby out of the pram and walks over here. Nursing the baby in her arms. India wakes up and sees the baby, she rubs her eyes.

“India, let's go,” I say.

“Why is the baby crying?” she stated in a loud voice.

I squeeze my eyes when the young mother catches an earshot of what she said.

She says to India and me, “I'm so sorry to disturb you both.”

“That's ok,” I said. I move over one, and the young mother sits next to me. She tries to feed the baby, but the baby continues to cry. India turns to me.

“Go, Daddy!” she nudges me.

“What?” I raise a brow.

India cups her hand to my ear. “Read to the baby so she can be quiet.”

The young mother smiles as India starts shushing the little one when the baby begins to settle.

“Hi my name is Kerryn, and this noisy little one here is Zach.”

“Nico and this little monster here is India.”

Kerryn smiles, teeth so straight and white. Brunette hair tied back, she had a slim build. “Could I ask you a favor and can you hold my son while I finish using my computer? Be only be a few minutes. I will be so grateful.”

“Ok.”

She hands me her son when I hold him in my arms. Gosh, it reminds me so much of India. India is curious about the kid. She touches his little hands. Zach studies us both.

“Is it a boy?” she asks as Zach starts to cry.

Yes, Hun. You use to be this size you know.”

“Really!”

“Uh huh. You didn’t cry this loud, though.” I muttered.

India smiles, then frowns “Is the baby sad. Daddy?”

“No, I think he's hungry. I’ll try and give his milk. See how he's drinking from the bottle.”

Zach calms, India tries to hold the bottle. “Yeah.”

“That's why.”

“Oh.”

I flick my eyes to Kerryn who is collecting her printed pieces of paper and slots them in a folder. She walks back over here.

“Thank you so much, Nico. If I stayed any longer, they would have booted me out.”

“No worries.”

“You seem to be a natural with kids Zach rarely is ever calm with strangers.”

India blurts “My daddy is the best!”

I blush, when the young mother chuckles. “I'm sure he is, your wife and you are very lucky.”

I flinch when pieces of paper fall out of the folder. They seem like rental agreements. I try to read more when Kerryn catches me staring at them.

“Sorry, it's for a statehouse I'm applying for.” She said with a flushed face.

“Oh.” I say, “I'm sorry you are finding things difficult.”

She flinches, her eyes water slightly. Her arms reach out, and I hand her back Zach. Being close to Kerryn, I notice her features again. Slim body, brown eyes, and light brown hair. Kerryn is an attractive young woman. But there is something you see in the face the compounding effects of stress that puts tension on the eyes. A permanent puffiness.

She puts Zach in the Pram and places a blanket on him, and India pulls up the blanket slightly.

Kerryn smiles “You would make a great big sister for Zach. Thank you, India.”

India straightens up with words of encouragement makes her proud. She smiles her face lighting up the whole library. Kerryn spears her hair, then threads her handbag on her shoulder.

She said, “I've seen you here a lot reading to your daughter. I admire that you invest your time in your child. I wish I had more time to do those things instead of having to work.”

I raise a brow, “I would have thought the Domestic Purposes Benefit would cover that?”

“No. I only get $400 a week. When you take out rent, power, and food. Then there are the childcare costs. That is $200 a week. Sometimes I think I'm better off quitting work but what I earn just gets us by.”

It hit my heartstrings because Kerryn was so beautiful and to see her struggle reminded me of why I worked my ass off to be financially independent for my family. I stared at the ground for a moment thinking the consequences and the life Kerryn is living when India grabbed my hand and squeezed shifting me back to reality.

I peer up, “I hope things improve for you and your son.”

She smiles pulling down the plastic cover over the pram. “Thank you, Nico. I guess I'll be seeing you around. Appreciate you minding my son.” We stood as Kerryn pushed her pram out the door when I knelt to pick up our books. India tried to put the magazine back in when I raised a brow. She put it back on the table.

“Let's go home. Mommy's gonna wonder why we are late.”

“Can we buy an ice-cream from McDonald's daddy?”

I smoothed my jaw when I remembered the bar and grill next door, which had outdoor chairs where I can enjoy a beer in the summer sun. I check my phone and its 1 pm.

I nodded, “I'll text mom and say we going to be slightly delayed.”

“Yay! Mmm Ice cream.” India screams. We head out and my mouth parched dry in his heat thought mmmm beer...

***

The Zookeepers Inn

Royal Oak

2pm.


After grabbing an Oreo Mc flurry for India, we crossed the zebra crossing to head to the bar. We sat in the outdoor area next to the main road. Sheltered by the giant green sun umbrella, sitting back in the comfy chair. I watched traffic pass while India swirled the crushed Oreos around in her cup like she was mixing concrete. I winced.

“Do you like it, Hun?” I asked.

“Yeah, yummy, yummy for my tummy. Mommy gets the m&m one, and I always choose the Oreo.”

“It looks like dirt.”

“Nooo!” she laughs dipping her spoon into the ice-cream to feed me. “Here. Have some daddy?”

“Uh, no thanks ill have grown up food.”


I signal to the waiter who brings a tray with my glass of beer. The waiter lays it down in front of me. Watching the amber liquid bubble. Condensation falling on the sides of the glass like it's sweating. My mouth is salivating anticipation the bitter, refreshing liquid. But before I indulge I take out my phone and take a picture.

SNAP

#Saturday Arvo Goals!

I Upload it to Facebook then took the first sip. India is watching, frowning. All my friends liking my post. 34 and all.

“What?” I ask.

“Mommy says you drink too much.”

“C'mon Hun, really?”

She says beer makes you fat and stupid!”

“Well so does Oreo ice creams.” I laughed.

“No!” She screamed.

I take another sip when India points. My head turns, and its Hemi Porter. My brown brother, I mean light brown brother from another mother. He's wearing a black suit with a black tie with his Prada glasses. Standing 6 feet, slim athletic build he spears back his salt and pepper hair which is unusual for someone in his mid-twenties. Must be the same thing I had…

“Ha, Nico! You motherfuc-” I cringe when I thumb point to India who lowers her book. “Mother Flutter... Hey, India!”

She smiles, “Hi Hemi!”

Hemi takes a seat, putting his keys on the table. He fist bumps India. “Of all places I find you here Nico! How you been?” he asks.

“Surviving mate. You’re looking extremely dapper today.” I said, “Court appearance for crimes against humanity?”

Hemi chuckles, “ha-ha fu- um... f you man.” Looking at India. “Just been finalizing my side with Nicole. Kinda getting messy.”

“She wanting custody of Milan?”

No, we're all clear on that. It's the house were trying sort, it isn't about that 50 /50 these days. You know we decided to split amicably as they say. And for a few months, we were living our own lives. Then I met Mary this new girl in my life.”

I sit up. “Wow Damn, you moved quickly.”

“Mary’s all understanding with my kid and all that but Nicole... Oh my god when she found out... she went all psycho. Like a stalker, stalker psycho.”

“Dude she was insane to start with.” I said, “I knew there were problems when I had to make up excuses so you could come out with me. I'm glad you're out. You were a prisoner in your own home. Where do I start with Nicole, texting and calling to check up you? Deciding what you can and can't wear, she was even asking you to grow a beard! Dude, straight up you were her house slave!”

Hemi smooths his face, “No I was her house nigga. That's just the start.” He sighs, “Sometimes I wish I just stayed with her ass. She's causing a lot of stress with Mary.”

“What do you mean?”

“Her behavior is crazy dude! Well because Nicole did the dirty on me on the house. Mary has been staying with me. So when my turn to have Milan comes round she's making up shit, I mean ship.” He flicks his eyes at India who smirks. “That I'm still sleeping with her.”

“Jesus.”

“Nicole even wanted to fight her. Cause she growled off Milan!”

“Dude, you need to call the cops and put a restraining order on Nicole.”

“I don't get it. Why can't Nicole just leave me be and let me be happy?”

“She can't. Because she's a control freak. Maybe things will change once she gets her own man.”

“Doubt it Nico. She seems hell bent on messing mine up first. She's even using Milan to spy on me.” he says, “My own son!”

“Jesus that low?”

“Uh huh. And the odd thing is Milan doesn’t know he's doing it. Nicole is the most cunning interrogator.”

We pause to admire the gray Lamborghini drive past when I signal to the waiter to bring two more beers. I flick my eyes to India who is still reading her book.

“You ok Hun?” I asked her.

She nods, then resumes reading.

Hemi said, “Gosh she's growing Nico. Last time I saw her, she was as high as my knee. Where's Candice?”

“Home. Her mother is here for the day, so they are hanging out.”

Hemi lifts his beer and takes a sip, “Daddy day care again. Huh?”

“Yeah. Great times.”

“I tell you what. I dream, well I mean, I wished I had what you have dude. I knew my gut was telling to break it off with Nicole six months in when she tried to change me.”

“Well can't be all bad you were a builder remember getting pittance pay doing 60 hour weeks?”

Hemi examines rough hands, scratching at the calluses. “Yeah, I'll give her that gratitude, for pushing me into doing things that were uncomfortable. Meeting all her Richie rich friends. Mixing and mingling talking posh. Learning to eat with a knife and fork properly ha-ha. All of her networking leading me to the job I’m in now. Selling houses. Can't say I'm happier in my job, but the good money I'm making now is because of her.”

“Sweet and sour.”

Hemi grins, “That's for damn sure.”

“I swear Nicole is gonna do anything to wreck my relationship. I'm thinking of asking Mary to be my wife.”

I nearly choked on my beer. “What! The heck are you crazy?”

“I know. It will get Nicole off my back, though.”

“Dude I dunno. Sounds like a bad excuse.”

“What can I do? I mean I love Mary, and I view her as a long-term girl. So what's the difference?”

“Dude if she found out the only reason was of Nicole. She' be upset. C'mon man there's gotta be another way.”

“Got any friends who might be interested in Nicole?”

“Na nor would I want to introduce them to her either. I don't know what kind of guy would suit her headstrong personality.”

“Fire with fire.”

“Um... Maybe she needs those alpha male types, Candice reads in her romance novels.”

Hemi pulls on his suit, then adjusts his cufflinks. “What! I'm an alpha male.”

I roll my eyes, “Dude you are an Omega Male when you with her. Your voice changes every time you talk to her like your balls have dropped to your toes. Squeak Squeak. Ha-ha!”

“Shut up Nico.” Hemi face palms when India copies me.

Hemi phone rings and the name 'psycho bitch face slut' pops up on screen.

“Gosh, that bad huh?”

“All I can say you are a lucky man to be with Candice. Hey, I gotta go, call me when you want to have a beer. I promise I won't be needing a late pass now,” he cuts the air with his hand like a knife. “Ever.”

Hemi stood taking his ringing phone to answer with swear words that made me cover India's ears. I guess we better head home and see my wife!

***


Chapter 2: Happy Wife, Happy Life?


Hemi was kind enough to drop us home after our beer. He lingered around the carpark long enough that he spotted us walking. Even though it was just the one, there is something about the hot day that makes you light headed. We lived in a 1940's villa, which I bought when I met my first girlfriend, Heather. Over the years, I renovated to the point where there was nothing left to do. Things fell into place when I was looking for another project to do when Candice got pregnant with India.

I opened the gate to see Candice out on the deck smoking a cigarette. She was wearing a white bathrobe, and her hair was wrapped in a towel. She blew smoke, shaking her head. The scent drifted across making India cover her mouth. The thing about her school is the anti-smoking messages they instilled in India that made her give Candice her 2c worth. But it's the nature of that addiction, I remember fighting tooth and nail for her not to smoke while pregnant. Though I'm sure, she must have snuck in a few.

She stood leaning on the pillar, hand under elbow. Taking in another drag when India ran up to her. She hugged her legs before bolting inside with her books. I approached her, she blew out her held back smoke, blowing in a downwards direction. I gave her a peck on the check.

“I can smell beer on you, Nico!”

“It was just the one!”

She flicks her eyes up the driveway waving to Hemi as he reverses out. “Not when you're with that numbskull Hemi.”

“He spotted us at the bar then joined us. He's going through a stressful time with his breakup.” She said nothing, only to take another pull from her cigarette. “How was your mother?”

“She's Fine,” she said. “She just left half an hour ago, she wanted to say goodbye to India.”

“Oh, sorry about that Hun. You should have called.”

“I did.”

“When?”

“Where's your phone?”

I took it out and looked at it, the battery was dead. I showed it to Candice. She shook her head.

“If there was an emergency what are you gonna do?” she said, “You gotta be more responsible.”

“Sorry. The switch for the charger wasn't on this morning, but it was 50%. Charged.”

“You know how these phones are with their shitty battery life. Again. It's about being responsible.”

I sigh, “Jeez Relax woman.”

She said nothing letting the ash build up. The muscles in her jaw pulsed.

I said, “What's for dinner?”

Candice stubbed out the cigarette. “You cook your own fucking dinner.” She walked back inside, and I stared at the smoke drifting up from the stubbed cigarette. Sheesh, what the hell is her problem? I plonked my butt on the deck chair outside knowing Candice is in her moods again. I tried to think if it was her period but the more I thought about it. Her bitchiness seemed to revolve so often that it wasn't.

India ran out with one of her books, she sat on my lap when she pointed to her page.

Daddy, what's this word?”

“Hold on a minute.” I craned my neck to the side, “Hun, what's mommy doing?”

“She's watching TV and doing her make up.”

“Oh, so no dinner then.”

“She made me coco pops for dinner. Yummy.”

I winced.

“I told mommy we had ice-cream and I said that it makes you fat and stupid.”

I closed my eyes, “Oh! India it was a secret!”

She shrugged, “I wanted to ask mommy if it was true.”

I shook my head and rubbed my eye knowing Candice has more ammunition to shoot me with. I needed something to dull my brain from the verbal bullets.

“Can you grab me a beer from the fridge? Don't let mommy see you.”

“Can I take an ice block?”

“Mmmm ok.”

She smiles and sneaks off.

I take her book and examine it. Flicking through the pages of the title Cat in the Hat... gosh, this book brings back memories. India arrives with a beer in hand clutching an ice block on the other. I take the beer and open it as she sat next to me. The shade from the nectarine tree covered us I looked ahead at the bbq wondering if I should cook dinner since wifey is angry.

Hey,” I said. “You want bbq?”

India's eyes light up “Yeah I want sausage and bread and heaps and heeeaaps of tomato sauce!”

I winced remembering the last time we did a bbq. Literally, India’s sausage was drenched in sauce. I felt like doing marinated chicken breast with a crisp salad.

“We'll head down to the supermarket and grab some chicken, you want to come?”

“Yeah!”

Candice comes out again with her handbag, she's dressed up. Wearing a black mini skirt. Black heels and a dousing of fake tan.

“Hun I'm gonna cook a bbq. Is that ok.”

She opened the car, rolling her eyes, “Whatever.”

“Where you going?”

“Out. I do have friends you know, Nico.”

She sat in the car and started it up pulling out of the driveway. I turned to India.

“Mommy's always angry daddy.” She says.

“I know.”

“Is she eating too much ice cream?” she asked.

I kiss her forehead. “No, mommy is just going through a hard time. I'll talk to her at bedtime. C'mon lets go to the supermarket.”

***


Onehunga Countdown Supermarket

7pm


We walked 400 meters down to our local supermarket, the great thing about living here in Onehunga is the proximity to everything. The airport, the city, and parks. India rode her tricycle as we crossed the zebra crossing to head into the supermarket. There was a homeless man outside dressed in an old army green jacket and torn jeans who sat with a rusted tin asking for change. He reached out and scared India making her stop. But he was just waving saying hi. I took the bike chain and tied it around the pole which had the parking time. I reached out and gave the man five dollars. India stared at the man who then smiled with rotten teeth, she hid behind me, and then we went in to buy our groceries. I took a trolley and lifted her up to put her in the spot.

“Gosh, you might be too big for this now.”

“Nooo!” she said squirming to fit.

I pushed the trolley, as went first though the fruit and veggies Isles. The refreshing scent and air-con made me relaxed.

India said, “Daddy what did you give the man the money for?”

“Hun, sometimes in life you gotta show a little kindness for those less fortunate.”

“Is he poor daddy?”

I nod, and India leans to the side of me to watch him through the window when I reach for the lettuce and cherry tomatoes. We push on further to the meat section, and I reach out for the chicken breasts.

“There Daddy get the sausages!”

I turn to left there was the selection of the precooked and the fresh ones. I examined the packaging comparing the rosemary lamb and the precooked.

India pointed to my left, “Get that one it's on special.”

I smiled, knowing I taught her well to keep an eye out for the tags “There is a reason. Sheesh, there is only 60% beef in these. I wonder what the rest is.”

I reach for the lamb ones and chuck that in the trolley and head to check out. We wait in line, and I start to put the groceries on the conveyor belt when I see India lick her lips eyeing the confectionery. “Don't even think about it. You've had too much sugar today.”

“Aww!” India says her lips turn inwards.

I give the cashier cash, and she hands me back a ten dollar note with coins. India in her cheeky voice told me she would take it and reached out as the lady placed it in her hands.

“Here give me the change?” I said.

“Can I keep it, daddy? I got you the beer!”

She said it in that cute tone that got the people behind me saying things. Dunno if it was a great idea she mentioned beer. Lol. I rolled my eyes, “Ok. C'mon lets go.”

We walk out when we see the homeless man gone we pass a few shops when India rides her tricycle ahead and stops in front of the liquor store. I catch up with her, and I see the homeless man buying single cans of beer stuffing it in his jacket. I shook my head.

“Sheesh, maybe beer does make you stupid.” I turn to India, “C'mon.”


We cut through the upper-level car park when I spot a black van by the stairs that take you to the road. India rides close to the van. It’s dented and has rust spots all over. Even the paint job looks like it’s been sprayed on with spray-paint with its matt like finish. The passenger door is open, I peer inside to kitchen utensils a makeshift table. A gas bottle at the back, I see a mattress laid down with blankets. I see feet and hands kicking up and the cries of an infant. Then India rides around the other side when she stops. It's the lady I met from the library. She in holding a baby bottle and towel around her wrist.

“Oh. Nico!” She flushed red, she's wearing a faded brown t-shirt and jeans, “We were here to do some shopping.”

“Oh ok.” I paused, knowing she is living out her van.

“Excuse me one sec.” She goes into her van to get her son and feeds him. “Gosh, how long have you been living out of your van?” I asked.

She pauses saying nothing for a moment, nursing the bottle to feed Zach. She sighs then flicks her eyes up to me. “It's only been a week. That's why I was doing the forms to get emergency housing.”

“Damn what happened before? You said you were renting.”

“I was. I fell behind on my rent payments when they raised it. I got kicked out, lost my bond too. I was too ashamed to tell you I was living on the street.”

“I'm sorry.”

“I can't blame the landlord, there's only so many times. I kept giving her excuses. When I turned up to find all my stuff outside the door with the locks changed. I sold what I could and bought this van for my baby and me.”

“Damn don't you have any family you can stay with?”

She flinched, “No.”

I raised a brow, puzzled. “Seriously you don't have anyone?”

She said nothing when he removed her bottle from her son when he drifted off to sleep. She put him back on the mattress and India and I, peered into her setup. Looking at the cans of tinned food stacked up and 2-minute noodles. Jesus who can live in something like this. We leaned back when she slid the door halfway. She leaned on the van raking back her hair looking down when India took out her change and put it in her jeans.

She broke down in tears...

India comforted her by wrapping her arms around her. She held her palms by her face and wept. I took out my wallet and took out all the cash I had $300 cash and all. I reached across and handed it. She refused.

“No.” she sniffled I can't take it. “Thank you, for your generosity. I shouldn't have put my sob story on you. Once my forms come through, I'll be on my feet again. I promise. Everything has been tough.” It was then the baby cried again when she open the door nursing him. She sniffled. “I need to change him can you hold him while I get the nappies?”

“Ok.” I hold the little one when I slip the cash under Zach’s shirt. I wait till Kerryn comes around when she takes him. “It was great to see you. We better get back.”

***


8pm

BBQ is on!


Raising a young lady has it benefits. One she can learn from the number one chef in the world! Ha-ha. There's this thing about me I like to impress India with my culinary skills. We at the kitchen table where we start marinating the chicken breasts. Our kitchen with the bi-fold doors opens out to the deck. I fire up the bbq to get it hot before heading back to the bench. I have my apron on, and India is standing on a chair watching me. She washes her hands and dries it with the paper towel.

“Ok. Pay close attention!” I said.

“I'm watching daddy!”

“Cool. Pay attention cause one day you gonna be cooking for your husband.”

“Ew.”

I laugh, “That will be around your 40s.”

“Huh?” she's Puzzled. “Why 40?”

“Nothing it’s an inside dad joke. Anyways, ok the first step take out the chicken and put it in the bowl.”

“Can I do it?”

“Ok.” I take the knife slice around the plastic. I drain the excess fluid. “Take the chicken pieces and put it in the bowl.”

India grabs the chicken breast. “Ew, it's so slimy Daddy.”

“C'mon just put it in.”

She places the pieces in, and I take out the virgin olive oil. Himalayan sea salt and black cracked pepper and soy sauce and Manuka honey and start adding it.

“Now mix it all up India,” India clucks her tongue and mixes around the ingredients. “Cool. That's enough. Now wash your hands.”

She examines her hands and fingers. Her tongue pokes out just about to lick it.

“AH! No! Don't lick your fingers. The raw chicken can make you sick.”

“Then why we eating it daddy?”

“The bbq will kill all the germs. Remember when you poke it the juices should run clear or else you might get a sore stomach.”

“I'm having a sausage then.”

She washes her hands, and I peer up at the clock to check that Candice isn't back yet. I cover the bowl and take it out to bbq, to start it on the grill. “Might be just you and me tonight Hun?”

“Mommy not eating?”

“No.”

She blinks her eyes, mouth turns inwards “ok.”

“Hun, can you grab two plates and set up the table?” India nods when I grab the tongs to throw the pieces on the grill “Oh and grab me a beer too!”

“Huh? I only got two hands daddy!” she said hands on hips.

“One at a time then.”

I checked my phone. My fully charged phone had no messages from Candice. I sent her a text that I'm doing the bbq now. I put away my phone when India came up with a beer on hand and knives and forks in the other.

“Thanks, Hun.”

I turned the chicken breast around there is a nice caramelization happening, and it smells fantastic. I checked my phone.

Candice: Don't worry about me going to dinner with the girls then clubbing. Need to let my hair down a bit. Will be back late. Make sure India is in bed before 9 pm.

For fucks sakes. I took a sip from my beer when I hear the familiar rumble of a BMW. I turn my head, and my boy Hemi is here. He gets out wearing his navy blue suit, white shirt, and brown shoes. He rubs his tummy, then licks his lips.

“Smells delicious.” Hemi said, “Hey India!”

“Jesus Hemi, you have this knack of always turning up at the right time don't you?”

He smiles, “Hey I just brought back one the books India left in my car. But it looks like the food gods have drawn me here also.”

“Oh, thanks. Bring your car into the driveway, it’s not safe to park on the road. I'm assuming you'll be staying for dinner.”

“If I'm not intruding.” He grins, “Hey where's Candice?”

“Out for Dinner with the girls then Clubbing.”

His eyes widen then shakes her head. “Sounds familiar.”

I sip my beer, “What does?”

“Nothing. I just had this conflicting internal conversation in my head.”

I roll my eyes. India comes back with a beer for Hemi. We stand to watch the chicken finish cooking while she sets up the table.

Hemi said, looking at India, “Dude I wish my own son could be that well trained. Damn kid is spoiled now he uses each parent to get his way.” He sips his beer. “Had to drop him off to her mother just before, and I'm in my car with Mary and Nicole comes out dressing all sexy and shit.”

“Bizarre, maybe she's trying to make you think you're missing out on something.”

“Don't get me wrong Mary is not the most psychically attractive but her heart and kindness.”

“She is on the big side.” Hemi chokes on his drink, he pinches his nose. “No offense. What's that term a bit of junk in the trunk?”

Hemi smiles, “Fuck you man, I prefer voluptuous.”

I raise a brow, “Big words for an ex-builder.” I laugh. “I'm glad I met her, though she's got a good heart.”

“Yeah, she does,” Hemi said. “Check this out, man.”

Hemi reaches into his left jacket pocket and takes out a small red velvet jewelry box.

“Oh man! Don't tell me you gonna marry her!”

He laughs, “Relax dude it's a pair of diamond earrings. Ding dong!”

“Phew.”

“I just wanted to do something nice for her. Sticking by me with all my crap and all. Thought about what you said, marrying her wasn't the best idea.”

“Great to know you're using your brain Hemi. Choose your moment wisely.”

We turn to India finish setting up the table, and I put the chicken on a cooling tray, and we sat down for dinner.

India says, “Where's Milan, Hemi?”

“He's at his mother's.”

“Oh, the crazy lady!”

I nudge her, “India!”

Hemi laughs when I take off the foil and starts serving the food.

“That's all right India you have to meet my new girlfriend Mary sometime.”

“New Girlfriend? Are you allowed to have two?”

“Uh no, dear. I'm not with the crazy lady anymore.”

India scratches her head. I'm thinking we better change the subject this might be a bit too much for my little girl to understand. I take a sausage and slice of bread wrapping it up. India is holding the tomato sauce itching to dollop a whole lot of her sausage. I snatch the sauce from her putting on an adequate amount.

“Go Watch TV India. Hemi and I gonna have a talk.”

“Okay, daddy.”

Hemi opens ups the red box and shows me. The earrings sparkle like anything.

“Wow.” I said admiring the bling, “I hope you didn't use all your pay on that?”

“Na, that's what credit cards are for. So check this out it's 18 carats white gold with 1 carat diamonds, damn when she see these puppies she will be over the moon! So… Nico tell me what's been happening in your life.”

“Jesus you a shrink now? Same old apart from the missus getting shitter now. Thinks I'm a drunk.”

“You still drinking every day?” Hemi closes the velvet box and slips it into his jacket pocket.

“It's only the one.” I pause, “Okay two or three.”

Hemi shakes his head, “A tiger's stripes never change, do they? I worry for you man. I'm seeing the signs.”

“Of what?” I said, “That you're retarded?”

“C'mon don't be so pretentious.”

I take another sip, “Another word... Jesus, have you been reading books again?”

“Ha. I'm just saying. I reckon Candice is getting sick of you. It starts with resentment. The little flake that turns into a giant snowball. “

“It's just a phase. I will sit down and chat with her, been a while since we had a one on one.”

Hemi exhales, “Sorry if I'm cutting deep. But you need to get your snowboard ready dude.”

“What?”

“It was a metaphor.” He squeezes his eyes. “Meh, I got my own problems to think about.” Hemi starts to cut into the chicken and eat.

“For sure Hemi.” I say, “Where is Mary anyway?”

“Dunno.” He says mouth full. “Mmm, this is good.”

“Of course it is.”

“What? Isn’t Mary living with you?”

“Off and on now.” He presses his lips, wiping the condensation off the beer with his index finger. “We are taking our time.”

“Time apart.”

“No nothing like that as in I'm waiting for my half of the money to come through from the settlement so I can build a new house.”

I raise a brow, “You weren't even fricking married with Nicole? What half? You were broke when you met Nicole. The way I view it is if you enter the relationship with nothing you leave with nothing.”

He grins, licking his fingers. “That's not how the government views it.”

“Please explain.”

“De-facto relationships take into account the substantial contribution I made.”

“Huh? Which was nothing, broke ass.”

“Na man! I built the house with her money yes. I did all the work myself using all my contacts saving her thousands of dollars and labor. Even made all the council approvals and red tape cheaper and quicker. The value of that house has doubled now over the past three years I'm entitled to something especially when we are sharing Milan now.”

“Gosh, you have a point there. How much do you think you going to end with?” I said, “If you don’t mind me asking?”

“The house will have to be sold first. But current values make me thinks I'll walk away with a million. Easy…”

“Ha! Walk? Nicole will never let you walk with that amount of money. I can understand why she's trying to rope you back in.”

“Never happen mate. I swear on my father's grave and the Jedi Knights. I'll never go back to that bitch. Even if she was the last woman on earth.”

I roll my eyes. “Doubt it. Bet you the moment things start to become complicated with Mary, you'll be running back into Nicole's arms. One thing about Nicole she knows how to seduce you.”

He drains his drink, “Ah! Never.”

I open another bottle of beer and hand to him. “You promise?”

“Yeah. My heart is with Mary Couthers. My one and only. And my diamond gift of appreciation will make sure of that!”

“Cheers to that.”

CLICK!

Hemi drains the rest of bottle. He stands to place the empty bottle in the bin. “Thanks for the meal, much appreciated. I gotta get back. Tell Candice I said Hi.”

“Ok.”

I sat at the table watching India as she switched off the TV to read her book when she drifted off to sleep. I lifted her up and took her to bed tucking her in as turned on her side. You relish these moments as a father. This is what life is about. I flicked off the light and leaned against the window that looked out to the driveway waiting for Candice to come back. For one she will be drunk as a skunk. And two, in that state. Perhaps best to go to bed and not engage in a serious discussion that will lead to an argument.

***


3am

I'm lying in bed when I hear Candice’s car pull in. I listen to her heels clicking on the floor, then the jingle of the keys hitting the porcelain bowl in the kitchen. I hear the shower turn on, I turn over putting the pillow over my head to drown out the noise.

Minutes later, I sense her body slip into the Bed. She moves behind me arm draped across my body. He starts to kiss the back of my neck. The scent of alcohol makes my nose twitch. I turn around. Her hand reaches down to stroke my flaccid cock. With the way she's been treating me, only to now be in the mood. I felt numb.

I said, “What are you doing?”

“What do you think?”

“It's 3 am. It’s too early, and I’m friggin tired to have sex. Jesus don’t tell me you drove drunk!”

“No. My friend drove.” She pulled on my cock, fingers stroking… “Don’t be so frigid. This hasn't stopped you before.”

“How your night go?”

“Stop trying to change the subject.” She kissed me again trying to evoke a response, “Just another night...” the kisses continue. She pulls at my underwear. “Take your underwear off.” I feel irritated. Hurt. I pull her hand away.

“What the hell is your problem?”

“Five nights this past week when I made advances, you reject me. And now when you're drunk, now you want to do it?”

I sit up and peel away the covers, I stand at the end of the bed. Candice sits up at the end of the bed, arms wrapped around her knees. I walk to the window sill to lean, my arm draped in the moonlight.

“Candice, I just feel you’ve been distant with me over last six months. Tell me what am I doing wrong? Am I drinking too much? What is it? Just be straight up with me.”

Candice sighed and grabbed the pillow. “Nico I'm just not feeling it. In this marriage. I can't explain, but everything about you repulses me. Harsh choice of words yes. So many things, the connection and that I’m not attracted to you.”

The blunt shock of it hit me, “Bullshit. You were tugging on my dick back then.”

“I felt horny because this guy in the club hit on me.”

“What!”

“Every part of being wanted to go home with him and sleep with him, but I couldn't. Somewhere in that mind of mine, I realized I am still a married woman. As much as I want to put my feelings and resentment towards you. It's not. I finally realized that it's me and I couldn't admit that. Nico, you are a good father to our daughter, gosh, India is closer to you than I will ever be. But there's something I want to tell you some secret I've been keeping since India was born.”

“What?”

She sighs, “She's not your daughter.”

“No!” I said, “You are all fucking bullshit!”

“I'm not. And I have a paternity test to prove it.”

“Who is the father then?”

“My ex Jake.”

“What the dickhead who hit you!” I rubbed my jaw, “I don't get it, why are you telling me this? Why now?”

Candice rakes back her hair, Stares…“Because I want a divorce.”

The sting of the words made me fall back to the wall. I clutch the chair then sat. I leaned over elbows on knees, palms covering my eyes. “Can't we talk this over Candice? We can go to counseling. See a priest even! Sort our shit out!”

“No.” She said in a terse tone, “It's a waste of money for something, I'm now definitely sure of. I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and it was definite after talking with mom. I have already spoken with the lawyer. In taking the first steps.”

I swallow upset at how far she's taken things already. “And what is that?”

“I want to sell this house and take half.”

“No way? Since when do you think you are entitled to half? I bought this house even before I met you! I supported the both of us right to the point India turned five. Tell me where do you think in your mind do you think you are entitled to half?”

“It's the law, and my lawyer said I'm entitled to it.”

I smooth the window sill, staring out at the inky sky. No stars are twinkling as if God destroyed the universe. “Everything I worked so hard for to be taken away. I was a fool not getting you to sign a prenuptial. I put my trust in you and believed that this would last. You could have given me a chance.”

She said nothing. Stared at the floor, like I was a piece of shit.

“Well?”

“Chances are, things always go to the inevitable with me. Unavoidable in the sense that I don’t sit on the fence with my decision. Black or white, never gray. Grey is taking a chance. Just be glad that I wanted out now, rather than faking it till I’m old. I hope you can appreciate that Nico. I don’t want to be like my mother regretting the chance to be happy rather than to put up and shut up with the situation, just plodding along accepting your lot in life. My mom waited till she was 66 before she had the courage to divorce dad.

I look at the relationship my mom had with my dad. How she lived a lonely life, they were two opposites. Dad was stoic, a man of few words. His way of love was providing working his arse off with two jobs to put a roof over our heads. Grateful as we all may be. Not being there with mom made her distant with dad.

“C’mon Candice, you know I’m not working like that! I put in the hard yards so I can spend time with you. Our situation is nothing like your parents.”

“I know. But my mom’s point was, Dad never changed from the time they got married till the divorce. I’m looking at my lot in life right now, and I don’t want this.”

“You’re not willing to make this work for our child?”

“Don’t use India as an excuse for a chance. This is between you and me. How we relate. A child should enrich a marriage not be the reason for it.” She exhales, “It's over Nico.”

I mulled over the words, I bit my lip. Clenched my fist, looking at the wall to punch a god damn hole in.

“I'm gonna contact my lawyer to advise what I can do. I don't think you are entitled to half, sheesh Candice you are gonna put us out on the street.”

“No, I'm going to move back to my mothers.”

“Jesus that's why she was here?” I said, “That's so sneaky doing all this. Why couldn't you be open with me about your feelings in the first place? Why the fuck did you just let things build up? Did you ever think about the welfare of our daughter and how this will affect her? Couldn't you make this work for the sake of her?”

India is not your daughter, and if you don't agree to the home being done fairly, I'm going to go for full custody.”

“Fuck you, Candice. I don't believe that. I know she's mine.”

“Candice stands and starts to get dressed.” She says, “My lawyer says I'm entitled by every right to this house and India. Gosh, Nico don't be such a prick and make this worse for yourself. I'm giving you a chance to do this in a way that is fair by the law in place.”

I wiped my eyes sensing the gravity of the situation. “So this is it huh?”

“Yes,”

“I'm not letting you take me to the cleaners to have start again. I'll see you in court.”

I watched as Candice took her blanket, she said, “I'm sleeping on the couch.”

***


Chapter 3: The Beginning of the End

10am.


I woke to the sound of the wardrobes being opened, and drawers pulled as Candice threw her clothes on the end of my bed. She went out into the hallway to drag in two suitcases when India bolted in and jumped on my side of the bed. Sheesh, what am I going to tell our little one? India cuddles up next to me, and we watch as Candice stuffs all her shoes.

“Where you going, Mommy?”

“I'm going to nana's house to stay. I'm packing your things too so start getting all the stuff you want to take.”

I jolt, “Excuse me? Over my dead body!”

I stand when Candice waves her finger, “I'm taking her, and that's final.”

“No!” I say.

Candice zips up her bags and takes it out to the hallway. Her brother Adrian is there and takes the cases. He barely makes eye contact he moves downstairs. His stocky frame and muscles over muscles make me think he could carry the house.

Candice goes, “India c’mon let's go!”

India stays within the sheets “No! I don't want to go to nana's she's mean, and she stinks like cat pee!”

Candice pulls the covers off and drags her by the ankles, India is clutching the sheets when I grab Candice’s hand to let go.

“India!” she screams, “Stop playing around!”

India cries when I tell Candice to let go. She closes her fist got me right in the nose making my eyes water, She hit me again when I tried to protect myself when I pushed her. She went back first into the wardrobe smashing the mirror. Her eyes widened then she touched the back of her head. There was blood on the back of it.

“Ah! Stop it! Stop hitting me! Stop hitting me, Nico!” Candice yelled. She started to grab the lampshade and flung it at me.

Next minute Adrian bust in the door tackling me, I went back first to the bed then we rolled off the other side of the bed.

Adrian screams, “You fuck!” He lays two big hooks one in my stomach then one on the edge of the face. India is crying screaming at Adrian to stop hitting me. I squeeze my eyes, the hit brings with it a shock. I'm bleeding from the forehead when he lifts me up by the collar.

WHACK!

He head-butts me, I fall to ground I peer up at India holding me. Screaming at Adrian to go away, he tries to brush her aside to throw another punch. I blank out.

***


Auckland Police Station

Time: unknown


I heard the sound of rolling metal doors opening and closing. My eyes are glued shut. I open them slightly to pick out the sleep in them. I woke up in the cell, lying on an uncomfortable blue plastic mattress. I smell sweat and piss, the air stifling and hot. I gander around at the 4x4 cell painted in white. Scratched graffiti on the walls and blots of toilet paper on the ceiling, next to a flickering fluorescent tube light encased in metal mesh. I see the stainless steel toilet and basin at the top. The tap is dripping making my headache worse, and I stood staggering over to the door. I spot an officer throw another guy in a cell. He peered at his folder and stepped over to me. He pushed the slider over. His pale skin, a large porno star mustache, and rancid breath make me wince.

SHUCK

I see his narrowed eyes, He said, “Nico Joel?”

“Yes.”

The officer turns to the side, then the other then stares back. “The wife beater huh? You piece of pond scum, of all the criminals we get in here, it’s your kind that makes me sick higher than the drug addicts we got in this shithole. Take the crack whore I just threw in there. People think the problem is her addiction, but it’s not. It’s the drug dealers, the peddlers who propagate it. The source. Domestic Violence offenders are the pure form. The source and the cause.”

“Dude, I was setup!”

“They all say that.” He unlocks the cell and opens it. “You’re free to go.”

“What?”

“Collect your stuff from the office. You’ve been done with a trespass order too from your wife.”

I said nothing. Being escorted to processing, I’m given my things, and I walk outside. I see Hemi waiting for outside sitting on the bonnet of his white five series BMW. He slid off it, patting the dust off his backside.

“Sheesh, how long you been waiting?”

“As soon as you got locked up, Candice gave me the call to pick you up. The cop said you would be few hours, so I waited.”

“What she say?”

“Nothing much that you both had an argument.”

“Did she say I hit her?”

“No.” he frowned. “Just said for me to pick you up. C’mon let’s get you home.”


We took the drive back home via the southern motorway. I wound down the window, breathing in healthy air. Deep breaths to purge the lungs. I’m glad I didn’t have to spend any longer in there.

I said, “If Candice didn’t tell you. She’s filing for divorce.”


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