Delusion by Avery North


Chapter 1

The rain beat against the windshield as Amber drove down the dark lonely highway on her way to the cabin. The cabin, her retreat. She needed to getaway. The pictures kept flashing in her mind as the tears fell down her cheeks. How? How could Jake do that to her? When did that happen?

She knew she should have stayed and confronted him when he returned from work, but she hadn’t felt able to. She felt sick and needed to getaway. He’d see them when he got home.

Amber could still feel bile in the back of her throat. They were going to get married. They were going to be so happy and now nothing. Everything was ruined. She could never look Jake in the eyes again, knowing what he had done. The look on his smiling face in those photographs would haunt her forever.

Pulling onto the gravel road that led to the cabin, she parked her car and laid her forehead on the steering wheel, letting her tears fall. One minute she was on cloud nine, preparing to leave on a wonderful trip, and the next, her dream and future were shattered.

The constant buzzing of her phone let her know that Jake had gotten home and had seen the photos. Ignoring it, she grabbed her purse, opened the car door, and walked around to the trunk to retrieve her suitcases. She couldn’t even handle talking to him right now for fear that the sound of his voice would turn her stomach.

She needed time to think. Time to plan. She’d get in contact with Susan and go ahead and foster Adam on her own. She’d fight to adopt him, even though she wasn’t married. The authorities would have to see what a good environment she could provide for him. She could raise him by herself. She didn’t need Jake or any man for that matter. She’d make a life for herself and Adam.

Walking into the cabin, she took a breath. Everything reminded her of Jake. The many places where they had made love when they came up here. The way Jake danced around in the kitchen when he was preparing breakfast for her. The walks down by the water. The glances, the hugs, and the kisses led to other things. So many memories. Memories that she wanted to forget.

“Damn you, Jake. Why?”

After settling into the cabin, Amber poured herself a glass of wine and sat down on the couch, running her fingers through her hair. She felt so empty inside, so lost. Feeling the need to speak to someone, she pulled out her phone, ignoring the twenty-six messages from Jake, and dialed her friend Susan’s number.

“Hey! What’s up? I thought you guys were going away?” Susan asked when she answered the phone.

"It’s over,” Amber answered. “Jake and I are done.”

“WHAT? What do you mean? Where are you? Are you okay?” Susan asked urgently, hearing the pain in Amber’s voice.

“I’m up at the cabin. Can you come?” Amber asked, fighting desperately to hold back the tears. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“I’m on my way. Do you need anything?” Susan asked.

“Wine,” Amber said simply, hanging up the phone. Susan would comfort her, and right now, Amber needed a shoulder to cry on.

“Okay, just give me an hour to make arrangements and pack a few things,” Susan said. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Feeling slightly better now that Susan was coming, Amber went over to the couch and sat down. Feeling a slight buzz from the wine, she sat quietly in the living room, trying to empty her mind of her dark thoughts.

“Jake, why did you feel that you needed to be with someone else?” Amber said out loud. “I never denied you sex. You were always telling me how beautiful I was and how you didn’t need anyone else. Obviously, that was all a lie.”

Letting the tears flow again, she sat, filled with pain, mourning the end of her wonderful new life. It was over. There was no way that she would ever go back to him now. Everything they had worked so hard to accomplish, the gallery, which was Jake’s dream, the Cornerstone, the plans they had made for their future and their house, Adam, their beautiful big house that they had planned to fill with the sounds of children’s laughter. Everything was gone. Feeling the rage building up inside of her, Amber picked up her wine glass and hurled it across the room, watching it hit the fireplace bricks and shatter into a million pieces on the hearth.

“Fuck you, Jake,” she yelled at the top of her lungs.

The sound of tires crunching on the gravel driveway lifted her spirits, knowing that Susan had arrived.

“Thanks so much for coming,” Amber said, opening the door to let Susan in.

“What the fuck happened?” Susan said, putting down her small suitcase and wrapping her arms around Amber, who immediately broke into sobs.

“Oh God, Susan,” Amber cried. “You’ll never believe it.”

“Okay, come on. Let’s sit down; I’ll get a glass of wine, and you can tell me what happened. It must be pretty serious to put you in such a state,” Susan said, guiding Amber back into the living room.

Noticing the shards of glass on the floor, Susan looked at Amber. “What happened here?”

“Anger release,” Amber answered. “Get me another, please.”

Pouring two glasses of wine, Susan sat down on the couch, handing Amber a glass, and looked at her friend. “Okay, what happened?”

Amber proceeded to tell her about Corrine and the envelope and what she had found in it. “How could he do this to me?”

Susan frowned. “Amber, that doesn’t make any sense. Jake loves you. Why would he do something like that?”

“Exactly what I keep asking myself,” Amber said hopelessly.

“So, what did he say when you showed him the pictures?”

“I didn’t stick around. I was so disgusted, angry, and upset, I left and came up here. I don’t ever want to see that man again,” Amber said, finishing her glass of wine and pouring another.

“You mean you haven't even let him explain? It’s got to be a mistake. How old were the pictures?” Susan asked.

“They looked recent. It was definitely Jake now, not Jake ten years ago,” Amber said. “I just want it all to go away. What am I going to do, Susan?

Susan frowned. “It just doesn’t make sense. Jake of all people. How did Corrine find you?”

“She apparently went to the gallery and asked,” Amber said. “Frederick gave her our address.”

“Who’s Frederick?”

“The new curator that Jake hired so he would have more free time,” Amber said. “Obviously more free time to fuck around.”

“So, Corrine didn’t say anything to you about the pictures? She just handed them to you?”

“Yep. She said to consider it an early wedding present,” Amber said, staring broodily into her wine glass.

“Don’t you think that sounds odd?” Susan said, shaking her head. “I mean, considering your history with Corrine? Personally, I can’t see Jake doing something like this.”

“Oh, it was Jake alright, and why would Corrine want to do something like that? And could she do it? Did she hire someone to follow Jake? None of it makes any sense. Fuck, I’m so confused.”

“Well, first, I think you need to talk to Jake. I find it very hard to believe that he would do something like that,” Susan said. “You said Corrine handed you the envelope. That in itself seems strange, doesn’t it? You haven't heard from her in ages, and all of a sudden, she shows up on your doorstep. And how did she get the pictures to begin with? If I were you, instead of thinking Jake is guilty, I’d be trying to find Corrine.”

"Corrine has had it out for me ever since my parents died, and she got nothing," Amber said, shaking her head. “I’m sure she thought it would be great fun to ruin my life. Maybe she had Jake followed and found out he was having an affair. That’s the only reasonable explanation.”

“Why would Jake have an affair?” Susan scoffed. “Come on, Amber. Be reasonable. That man loves you and would move heaven and earth for you.”

“Yeah, but he also has the money to do anything he wants. He could have been doing this on the side ever since I met him,” Amber answered.

“Doing what?

“Fucking other women. He told me he lived a very quiet life, but does he really? Is there a side to the man I fell in love with that I don’t know?”

“You sound ridiculous; you know that," Susan said.

Amber shook her head. “I don’t know. I just don’t know,” Amber moaned, laying her head down on the arm of the couch. “I think I’ve had too much wine. I’m just going to lie down.”

Susan looked at her friend and smiled. “Have a nap. I’ll be right here when you wake up,” she said softly as she pulled a blanket over Amber.