Futile Resistance Ch. 08byquintessentialquill©
Aidan jogged through the Public Garden, across Boston Common, then up and down the streets of Beacon Hill, pushing himself to run faster. There had been a break in the bitterly cold weather, but it was still only in the low to mid-thirties and the air sliced into his lungs with every breath. It was rough going, but he had needed the run in order to clear his head. In a way, he had escaped in the same way he accused French of doing. He understood her need for escape, her need to avoid dealing with things, a little better now. She accomplished escape through building walls around herself; he had escaped by running.
He had just had to get out, had needed time to think about what she had told him. It would have been impossible to do that with French screeching at him. He smirked to himself, thinking that she would kill him if she knew he thought she'd been screeching. Truthfully, he'd been about to lose it himself and had thought it better to remove himself than give in to the urge to punch something. He'd dressed in his running clothes that morning, thinking that later in the day, once it warmed up outside, he and French would go running together or at the very least for a walk. Neither of them was used to inactivity for more than a couple of days in a row and he knew they'd both be nursing a case of cabin fever after being indoors for several days leading up to and including Christmas. Lucky for him that he'd been dressed and had been able to walk out and hit the ground running, he thought. As he ran, he replayed their conversation in his head.
"Bullshit. Talk," he had said.
"Aidan, I'm telling you the truth. There is nothing going on," French had protested. The fact that she refused to meet his eyes and was fidgeting nervously had given lie to the words.
"Hello?" he'd said, waving a hand in front of her face, "I know you're lying. I can always tell when you're lying, you know."
"Aidan, just let it go. Trust me when I tell you that you need to just let it go."
"Let what go? You're starting to annoy me, Legs."
"Heaven forbid that you get annoyed." she'd flared.
"Stop trying to pick a fight," he'd told her, calling her out on what he knew was one of her avoidance tactics: picking a fight in order to avoid a difficult discussion.
"OK. Fine. You asked for it. The problem is that I cannot imagine that the day will ever come when I will be able to tolerate Patrick Hurst. He is the worst excuse for a human being I've ever seen. He apparently feels the same way about me, thus the check he wrote. He wants me out of your life for good and is willing to pay me handsomely to see me gone. I know how important the Hursts are to your family, Aidan. So, I think maybe we should just call it quits. Find someone else, someone your family, including the great Paddy Hurst, will approve of; it's probably the most sensible thing to do."
"You're not serious. Is this about the money? Please don't tell me you're going to take the money, French."
"Damn it, Aidan, I don't want Hurst's money! I don't have – nor have I ever had – any intention of taking it. I'm insulted that you think I would! In all honesty, I was planning to call it quits with you today anyway. There's no way we could work – we're too different. Insurmountably different."
She had made her grand pronouncement with such bravado and sanctimony that he had wanted to choke her. He had almost been convinced that she meant it, except that she totally overdid it. It was too grand a statement, too simplistic, too illogical, too calm. Too everything. If he had accused her of taking the money under normal circumstances, she would have taken his head off. She hadn't and thus he didn't believe her. So he had played along, pressed her for more information, knew that eventually he'd trip her up.
"French, our relationship would work just fine if you'd let it! But that's an issue we can discuss later. You're a grown woman, Paddy's a grown man. Both of you should be able to contain your dislike for each other. Your suggestion to break up with me in order to avoid him is ludicrous! Think of how long we've been together without you seeing him. It could very well be that long again. There's no reason for us to break up. Give this some time."
"Aidan, the man offered me money – lots of money – to leave you. Do you honestly think that he's just going to fade into the background? He wants me gone. I'm sure he'll make up a scandalous, salacious tale to tell your parents in order to turn them against me. How are you going to explain that to them?"
"My parents are not idiots. They met you themselves; they can make up their own minds about you. They already have. They like you. Hearsay, even from Paddy, isn't going to change what they think of you."
French's face had blanked with surprise. She hadn't known what to say to that, hadn't been able to come up with a reasonable rebuttal. She had seemed to be having an internal struggle about what to say next. He'd watched her face and seen the wheels turning in her mind. Finally, she reached her decision. She took a deep breath and said,
"Aidan, Patrick Hurst is my biological father." She had said it simply. She may as well have been saying, 'Aidan we're having roast chicken for dinner' there was so little emotion in her tone.
"What?" he'd asked, shaking his head as though to clear away cobwebs that were keeping him from hearing her properly. Whatever he'd expected to hear, it certainly wasn't that.
"He's my father. Patrick Hurst is my father."
"He can't be. He's got Paddy Jr, Pierce and Paige..."
"Don't you dare mention their names to me!" came her fierce reply. She didn't want to hear anything about her half-siblings.
"But, French, I don't understand. Paddy would never..." he was at an utter loss for words.
"I assure you, Aidan, 'Paddy' would and he did," she said angrily through gritted teeth.
"Are you serious? How can this be possible?"
"Let me break it down for you, because you seem to be confused," she said, then continued in a singsong voice, "Hurst is a man. Maman is a woman. They fucked," she said, trying to shock him with the foulness of her word choice and also because, in truth, that was all it had been. It hadn't been making love, it hadn't even been sex between two adults who had respected each other, were attracted to one another and sought pleasure together. No, it had been fucking, pure and simple. Each of the parties involved had been using the other to get something they wanted.
"They fucked," she said again, "et voilà, nine months later, baby Francoise made her world debut."
"Stop patronizing me. I'm asking how this is possible because Patrick Jr. is the same age as you, maybe..." he trailed off and did the math in his head, " two months older. How could you be Paddy's daughter?"
"Aidan, I know you believe that everything is always exactly as it should be, but that statement's a little naïve, even for you. Hurst obviously cheated on his wife with my mother." Her voice had been laden with sarcasm and disdain that he had thought was totally uncalled for.
"Goddamn it, French, stop it! You've just dropped an enormous pile of shit in my lap; let me think!" he'd ground out. But he couldn't think; his mind was one great, big giant blank.
He had turned his back to her, walked a little distance away and stared out of his living room window, seeing nothing of the city landscape that spread out in front of him. He was having difficulty wrapping his mind around what French had told him. Paddy was her father. It just didn't compute. Paddy, the avuncular man he had known his entire life was her father?! Paddy was a fixture in Aidan's life. His earliest memories included Paddy. Holidays, vacations, graduations, births, deaths and every other of life's special occasions. Paddy had always just been there. It was inconceivable to Aidan that the man he thought he knew so well could have harbored such a secret. How could Paddy have known that he had a daughter somewhere and not want to be a part of her life?
"Did he – does he know?" Aidan asked.
"Yes, he did and he does. He paid my mother child support – or should I call it hush money? – for years. It wasn't much, but it was always on time. I'll give the guy that," came her bitter reply. "In fact, he owned the house I grew up in, deeded it over to Maman when I was a kid."
Oh God, it just kept getting worse. Paddy had known exactly where to find his daughter and had never gone to see her, had never taken any interest in her whatsoever? Jesus. Paddy wasn't the type of man who could do something like that. Paddy was a wonderful father. He had always been just as devoted to his wife and family as Iain was to Maggie, Brian and him. Paddy was the friend, the surrogate father – a confidant, the guy he'd been able to talk to about things he had foolishly been unwilling to go to his own father about.
Aidan remembered going to Paddy when he had had his first wet dream. Paddy had laughed and thrown an arm around his shoulder. He had assured young Aidan that it was all entirely normal; he'd gone so far as to suggest that with the occurrence of a wet dream, Aidan had become a man and was eligible for entry to an exclusive club. He'd given Aidan the old 'wink wink nudge nudge'. It wasn't that Aidan couldn't have gone to his dad about it, but that Paddy had always seemed a little more openly sexual than Iain was. Aidan had been naive enough to want to talk to a man's man, one who wouldn't discuss the responsibilities that came along with manhood; Iain, on the other hand, definitely would have treated the situation with the solemnity required to convey the consequences of sex to a young boy. Not so with Paddy. He had had a love 'em and leave 'em attitude and thought that a guy should get as many notches on his bedpost as he could. He'd been the type who took what he wanted and to hell with the consequences.
Aidan had thought that Paddy's theories about women and sex had been just that. Theories. Because the real Paddy – the one he had thought he'd known – didn't actually behave in that way. What he knew of Paddy just didn't jibe with the version of him that French had presented. They were two entirely different people. Paddy was loyal and faithful; a true blue husband, father and friend. Hurst - as he'd come to think of the dark side of Paddy - was a cruel manipulator. How could two such opposite personas be contained in one person? Aidan had trouble believing that anyone could perpetrate such a farce for thirty or so years. At some point, there would have been a crack, something small that gave him away.
"Yoo-hoo? Aidan?" French called him back to the here and now.
"I'm sorry," he'd said abstractedly. "I'm having a little trouble synthesizing this."
"Ha. You're having trouble. Imagine my utter delight when I met him in your parents' driveway last night!"
"Paddy would never do that..." No, Paddy wouldn't – couldn't – but, Hurst could. Aidan believed that Paddy or Hurst – hell, whoever – had probably compartmentalized his life to such a degree that he had no trouble living with what he did.
"Aidan, he did! He is my father!" French insisted, misunderstanding what Aidan had meant by his last statement of denial. "Goddamn it! I knew this would happen. You just go right ahead and defend your precious Paddy. Go right ahead; see if I care! But you can do it without me. I don't want to hear another fucking word about Patrick Hurst!"
"French, wait -," Aidan tried to stop her.
French charged up the stairs to the bedroom, intending to grab her things and get the hell out of there. Then she remembered that she wasn't dressed and that her clothes were in Aidan's car. Goddamn it! She charged back down the stairs, almost losing her footing, and stormed up to Aidan.
"Get my things out of your car. I want to get out of here."
"Honey, wait. Just calm down."
"Don't 'honey' me! I'm through with being calm. I've been calm all my life! I've tried to be the calm, dignified person people like you and Patrick Hurst would accept and look where it's gotten me! I'm done with it! Fuck you. And fuck Patrick Hurst! How dare you stand there and tell me 'Paddy would never do that'?!" she asked him, throwing his words back in his face. "Get my things!!" she screamed, beyond all control.
"No! There's no reasoning with you when you're like this. I'm going for a run."
After hearing about Hurst, Aidan had walked away from her, leaving her trapped in his apartment. Fury boiled in French's veins. She wanted to tear her hair out, break things. She was seething with fury and outrage, felt that doing damage to something or someone would soothe some of the hurt she was feeling. She wanted out – out of the apartment, out of Aidan's life. Out of her life. She was sick to death of being Francoise Delauney.
She paced furiously, thinking about how she would get out of there before Aidan got back from running. Suddenly she remembered that Aidan had a spare set of keys in his studio. She ran down the hallway situated beneath the stairs, skidded across the hardwood floor into Aidan's office and ransacked his desk drawers until she found them. She left the contents of his desk a shambles, but she was beyond caring. She just wanted out.
She knew she would look like a lunatic running through the building wearing nothing but a men's shirt and a pair of socks, but she'd risk it if it meant escaping. Besides, if she was lucky, she wouldn't run into anyone; it was the holiday weekend, after all, and it was likely that most people were out of town. Or so she hoped.
She hopped in the elevator, praying that she wouldn't see anyone. She was lucky for once in her life and made it to his car without being seen. She unlocked the trunk and began rifling through her bags until she found the pair of jeans she was looking for. Without stopping to think, she yanked them on, then stuffed her feet into her running shoes. Shit! She'd left her coat upstairs. There was no way she was going back up and risk running into Aidan. She checked her bag again and found a pullover sweater. It would have to do. She struggled into it and grabbed the rest of her things out of the trunk. Loaded down with bags and boxes, she tossed the spare set of keys into the trunk and slammed it shut. Take that, you asshole, she thought with grim satisfaction as she hightailed it out of the garage toward home.
Running along the Charles River now, Aidan continued to puzzle over what French had told him. Hurst was obviously a master of deception. He was manipulative, cunning and secretive. He felt a fool for having believed in the man's goodness his whole life. He was livid with Hurst for trying to interfere in his and French's relationship. How dare the man try to bribe the woman he loved in order to get her to exit stage left? What if French had actually been scared off by him and walked out of Aidan's life without a by-your-leave? Thank God she was made of sterner stuff than that. She was mad as hell, but he'd go home after he'd had time to process all of this and deal with her.
Aidan wasn't fooled. He knew that Hurst's attempt to remove French from his life had had nothing to do with wanting to protect Aidan. No, Hurst had wanted French gone so that he could protect himself. Hurst had too much going for himself to allow a mistake from his past to come blasting into the present and expose him for the creep he was. Aidan wondered what else Hurst was hiding. Hell - if he could hide the fact that he had a daughter, he could hide anything.
In fact, what was real about him? Which persona was the real Patrick Hurst? Did such a man even exist? Will the real Patrick Hurst please stand up? he thought bitterly.
Questions. All he had were questions, it seemed. Did his parents know about Hurst's illegitimate daughter? He doubted it. Not that his parents were uptight about that kind of thing. Quite the contrary. But he thought that they would have at least encouraged Hurst to have a relationship with his daughter. They were of the school of thought that parents were responsible for more than the financial upkeep of their children. A parent was a teacher, a guide, a confidant, a protector. Hurst had been none of those things for French. French especially had needed someone to look after her and care for her, considering her sorry excuse for a mother. Knowing that Hurst had been an excellent parent to his other children, but not for French, made Aidan angry. French deserved better than to be thrown away.
He couldn't imagine that his parents would have remained bosom buddies with Hurst if they had known. They would have – surely they would have – subtly distanced themselves from him if they had even an inkling of what the man was capable of. He hoped so. But then, he thought he'd known Paddy. Did you ever really, truly know a person or did you only know what that person wanted you to know? He had to wonder. God, was he honestly doubting his parents' integrity? he thought, shaken by the possibility that he was doing exactly that.
He was on shaky ground if he was thinking that way. He was unaccustomed to the idea that he couldn't trust them. Yes, of course, he knew that there were untrustworthy people in the world and those were the people he avoided like the plague. He had always surrounded himself with genuine people, just as his parents had taught him - both through what they said and did - to do. His breath came a little easier when he reminded himself of that. Iain and Maggie weren't hypocrites or phonies. They wouldn't tell him one thing and do something entirely different. There was no way they knew about Paddy and French.
Now, the question was, should he tell them? It didn't take much more than a second for him to decide that of course he would tell them. They would be as shocked as he was, but they would deal with it. They would help him - and French - deal with it. He could think of no better allies to have in this situation. They would easily see that none of this was French's fault – that went without saying. She'd been a pawn her whole life, since before she'd even been born.
He was under no illusions about French's mother, Marcheline. She had probably gotten pregnant on purpose, hoping to secure a cushy future for herself. Goddamn it. He was growing weary just thinking about it. French had lived it; it was no wonder she was skittish.
With that thought, he changed direction and headed back toward home. He realized that he needed to get to French. She would need him right now. It was time to circle the wagons. He would call his parents, maybe go back up to their house so they could figure out what to do. Between the four of them, five including Brian, they'd figure something out. Right now he needed his family – all of them, including French – around him. She needed them, too, whether she would admit it or not.
When he got to his apartment, he called out for her. She didn't answer. He checked the downstairs bathroom, then ran upstairs to see if she had gone back to bed or if she was in the bathroom up there. She wasn't there. He ran back downstairs to check the closet and saw her coat still hanging there. He was becoming alarmed. Where could she have gone with no clothes and shoes? He checked his office and saw the mess on top of his desk and it hit him – she had found his spare keys. He left the apartment at a sprint, racing to the garage to see if he could catch her.
She was gone. He ran back inside and, too impatient to wait for the elevator, took the fire stairs up to his floor. Frantically, he dialed her phone number. No answer. Again he dialed; no answer. He let the phone ring until her voice mail message came on. He hung up and called her over and over again, hoping that the constant, insistent ringing of the phone would annoy her so badly that she would finally answer.