The Billionaire's WifeBy: Holly Rayner
“He’s disgusting,” Cecile said. I went on reading.
“It says their incisors can grow to six inches long.”
“What’s an incisor?” he asked.
“These two teeth,” I said, showing him.
“How big is six inches?”
I showed him with my hands and he said, “Yeah, Mom’s right, disgusting!”
After a few more stops and a lot more questions, we took a break at the little snack shack for lunch. Mark woofed down his hamburger and fries and wanted to go play so while Cecile and I ate, Mark dug for “dinosaur” bones in the exhibit the zoo had set up for the kids to play in.
“He’s gotten so big,” I said, not even aware I’d said it aloud until Cecile responded.
“Yeah, too fast. It’s mostly what prompted me to leave Jake.”
I looked at her strangely wondering what she meant by that.
“When he was little, I think Jake found him more tolerable. Now, he likes to talk…a lot. I’m sure you’ve noticed.”
I laughed and said, “Yeah, I did notice that.”
She smiled and said, “It’s nice that you enjoy it. It’s sad, but it annoys Jake and when he’s home, he can get very verbally abusive to poor Markie about it.”
“Verbally abusive, Jake?” Jake had been my best friend and I didn’t recall ever hearing him even raise his voice. I had a hard time believing that he could be that way towards an innocent child.
“Yeah and not just verbally, eventually he started spanking him as a punishment for things. Sometimes, when he was in a really bad mood, he’d take it too far and I’d have to step in and tell him that was enough.”
“The first time anyone raises a hand to your son is enough, Cecile,” I told her. “Father or not.”
“I know. I did step in, every time,” she said, changing her story. “He’d turn his anger on me then, but I didn’t care, as long as he was leaving my baby alone. The last time he did it before we left, it crossed the line from a spanking to abuse and I had enough.”
“Jake was physically abusive towards him?” My stomach ached just thinking about anyone laying a hand on that precious child. I still had a hard time imagining that someone being Jake though.
“Yeah, he was on the verge of it.”
“Did you go to the authorities?”
“No, I didn’t want to put Mark through that. I just packed our things while he was gone at work and we left. I had a few thousand dollars I took from the safe, but that was it. The next day I went to the bank, Jake had frozen our accounts. I don’t care about the money though, I’ll find a job. If Jake calls you, please don’t tell him where we are. He’s going to give you some crazy sob story. I’ve found out that he’s good at that, presenting himself as this really nice guy. Don’t fall for it, please. Just look at Mark’s eyes, remember how fearful he looked at you at first today? That’s all Jake’s doing. Mark has issues getting close to people now because of him.”
I looked over at Mark, happily digging in the sand. It was still hard for me to imagine Jake abusing anyone, much less his own son. I just couldn’t see any reason for Cecile to lie to me about something so terrible though. I know how much she loved Mark and as self-centered as I knew she could be, I couldn’t believe she would use her own son to get…what? My attention? She wasn’t asking me for anything else. She knew about Holly and Eric, so obviously she didn’t expect any more from me than that.
“So where are you staying?” I asked her.
“I rented us a little cottage near the water. It’s nice…kind of expensive…It’ll do for another month and then I’ll have to find a job and a cheaper place.”
“Do you need money?”
“I don’t want to take money from you Aiden. That’s not what any of this is about. I just want my son to have a good life. I can make that for him on my own. You know I have a business degree, even though I’ve hardly used it. I’ll find a job…eventually. You have your own family to support now.”
I looked at her and said, “Cecile, you of all people know that I have more money than I could ever spend in a lifetime. I don’t want Mark to do without anything. I don’t care about money. It’s not important. If you need money, please tell me.”
“Most of our assets are in Jake’s name. He set up the accounts and I had no reason to think we weren’t going to work out…”