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“Mom!” I cried, immediately moving towards where they held her.

The girls with their hands on my shoulders weren’t expecting me to move, and I slipped out of their grip with ease. I only made it halfway when the two women caught up and grabbed me, pulling me back to them. Mom gave me a guilty look.

“My Clyburn, I’m sorry. I sent all the security away to help find you. I never thought… they’d come back to our home. I drank something, started getting sleepy, and the next thing I knew I was being dragged here.”

“I discovered a smuggler’s path in and out of our house. It’s how I left home so often, I told Tinya about it…” Hannah jerked and then shook her head. “If you think this will get me to cooperate, then you don’t know me very well!”

“Oh? She’s your Mother. She’s not some father figure absent from your life. She gave birth to you,” Tinya responded teasingly.

A fiery light shone in Hannah’s eyes. “I don’t care about her at all!”

“Ha-Hannah? You’re not involved in this, are you?”

Hannah ignored Mom, glaring at Tinya. “What do you want, Tinya? What do you plan to do to… her?”

Tinya chuckled. “Straight to the point, it’s what I love about you. It’s really very simple. I don’t plan to do anything. The question is, what do you plan to do to her?”

“…”

“We’re going to send a message to the world. Man-lovers like this woman won’t be tolerated. I know you hate her. You’ve told me as much. Now you can do whatever you want to her. If you do what I ask, then you can stay in the Primrose. I’ll even let you keep… that brother you kidnapped as a pet.”

“You… you did this?” Mom covered her mouth shaking her head in disbelief as she stared at Hannah. “You kidnapped your brother from me? You’ve held him here?”

“From you?” Hannah’s lips turned into a sneer as she glared at Mom. “That’s rich, coming from you, Mother.”

“Hannah, you don’t have to do this!” I broke in.

Tinya giggled. “If you don’t, you’ll just join her. We’ll beat you to death. Hmmm… I bet I could make it look like Clyburn beat you both to death and then shot himself in the head. We all know men are so violent, after all.”

“Shut up, Tinya. You wouldn’t dare-”

“If I can’t have you, you might as well die! I won’t lose anything else to a man!” Tinya shouted.

“Wait… I remember you… that stupid maid!” Mom’s face turned disgusted as she interrupted. “How could you? How could you do this to my family? We brought you in. We trusted you! How could you do this to-”

“to you?” Hannah jumped in, stepping towards Mom, the guards releasing her at Faeri’s nod. “I’m the one who kidnapped Clyburn. As to how? The answer is easily! Originally, I just wanted to kidnap Brother for payback. You spent so much time with him, and gave Madison and me nothing! I hated him… and… and I hate you!”

“Hannah…” Mom looked at the distorted face of the daughter she thought she knew and looked lost.

“Of course, Brother was just some selfish little man-child, scared of the world, clinging at Mommy’s apron strings… or so I thought.” Then Hannah smiled strangely. “Then he started to change. I didn’t know what to think. Suddenly, Brother was looking at me differently. He acted perverted. It excited me, but then Madison had to keep getting her nose in the way. She wouldn’t let me play!

“Still, I thought everything was fine… my brother was just more interesting now, but that wasn’t good enough for my Mother!” Hannah threw up her hands as if she was giving a speech to all of the gang members present. “You were losing control of him. My little brother was starting to think independently. So, what did my mom do? She fucked him! She screwed him until she was all he could think about!”

There were one or two gasps, but most of the women present just continued to stand still and watch curiously through the show Hannah was putting on. It was clear how she had captivated the hearts of all of these women and made them followers of her gang.

 She had a certain panache for the theatrics. I recalled a latent memory of mine that when she was twelve or so, she was in the theater; however, she had suddenly dropped it three years ago. That might have been when she joined Primrose.

“That’s not what happened…” Mom started.

“Oh, but Mom, you don’t even know!” Hannah said. “You don’t know just how much your Clyburn had grown up! I know! He’s told me things he’ll never tell you!”

“Hannah!” I couldn’t help but call out.

“Don’t worry, Brother, I won’t tell.” Hannah walked up to me until her lips just brushed my ear and then whispered. “It’ll be our little secret.”

“Hannah… I’m not angry,” Mom spoke up, interrupting Hannah, who was nearly holding me. “I’m just disappointed. I thought you were a better girl than this.”

Hannah rolled her eyes and stepped back. “Sorry to disappoint you, Mother. But if we’re sharing our feelings now, I guess I might as well tell you… you’re a bad Mother.”

“Hannah!”

“And a whore…”

Mom’s face turned hateful for a moment, her teeth almost approaching a snarl.

“You kept dad all to yourself, even though it was a lie. You forced him to sneak around with women behind your back because you were too proud and selfish to share. You got him killed. You were trying to do the same thing to Clyburn!” Hannah snapped. “You don’t deserve my Clyburn.”

“He’s mine!” Mom took a step forward, causing several of the women to move defensively. “I’ve birthed him and taken care of him for his entire life. I love him more than you’ll ever know! What have you done for him?”

“I’ve done everything for him. I brought him away from you!” Hannah snarled. “Look around you? Look at my Primrose! Clyburn had everything he needed. Free from government interference. He had food. He had shelter. Thirty beautiful women to warm his bed every night… me… I would have shared. I knew from the beginning I could only ever enjoy Clyburn in spurts!”

There was murmuring as Hannah suggested the entire gang was there for my pleasure. It was becoming increasingly difficult to tell where the lies ended and the truth began. Hannah seemingly had changed her stance fluidly several times within the last day. The only thing I knew for certain coming from my sister was that she clearly wasn’t stable right now. She had been backed into a corner, and now she was letting everything out violently without remorse.

“Hannah… you’re sick…” Mom’s words caused me to clench my fist.

Mom wasn’t wrong, but once again, she didn’t have the right words to say. Hannah was boiling right now. I could possibly have calmed her down. However, Mom was like a cold glass of water. When it was tossed on the oil, the effect was obvious. I couldn’t see how to fix the situation. The one who caused it, Tinya, seemed content to watch the meltdown.

“Mother, what would you do?” Hannah’s voice was low, she wasn’t looking at anything particular, looking somewhat like she was lost in thought.

“What?”

“What would you do?” Hannah lifted her eyes to me, her expression turning cold, and nodded. “For him.”

“Hannah? I don’t… I don’t know what you’re asking…” Mom cautiously approached, the other women letting her go. “Hannah… let’s just go, okay? Let’s take Clyburn home. Okay?”

Mom spoke those words like she expected Tinya to just back off and let the three of us walk out. It’s possible she was too distraught and distracted to think clearly herself. With Hannah staring blankly in a corner and her voice lowered, Mom seemed to think that Hannah had finally blown off her steam. To Mom, Hannah finally finished rebelling and ended her tantrum, so now things could just go back to the way they started.

However, Mom was naïve in a lot of ways. From thirty-five years of experience, I didn’t become a savant. My life ended a mess, and my second life didn’t seem to be in much of a better condition. One thing I knew, though, was that there were some things that you couldn’t go back to. The world changes and people can’t just hit a button and restart all their relationships over again. I had to live with my mistakes, as did my mother and sister. There was no going back, only moving forward from this.

Mom reached out to grab Hannah’s shoulder. A second later, Hannah spun her fist slamming it into Mom’s face. The thirty women watching roared to life as my Mom stumbled back falling on to a crate which cracked under her. I tried to move forward, but all of the women immediately lined up into a circle like this was a high school fight. Some were even yelling ‘fight.’ I was reminded once again that most of these girls were just teenagers. I couldn’t manage to push my way through; thus I could only watch on helplessly.

“The answer is anything… Mother…” Hannah grinned scornfully. “I’d do anything for Clyburn. Even if that means getting rid of you! You’re no longer needed anymore. He’s mine!”

Mom’s face morphed from shock as she touched her bruised chin, to derision, and finally anger. “Hannah! You’re an awful child. I never should have had you!”

Mom immediately sprang back up and lunged at Hannah. Hannah met her face on, and the two women began to slap and hit each other. Mother got Hannah into a headlock and started pulling on her hair. It was absolutely ridiculous; my mother and sister were attacking each other. Years of family angst spilling out in a single moment. It wasn’t the right time, the right place, or the right situation, but I could tell neither of them was thinking clearly.  Hannah was pushed into a corner by Tinya, and Mom was confused and taking out a week of frustration and sleepless nights worrying over me on Hannah.

It was only at this moment that I realized that every eye was focused on Mom and Hannah. Didn’t that mean no one was paying attention to me? In fact, in the entire room, I had the most freedom of movement. I could have fled the building and likely no one would notice. That was ridiculous though, I wouldn’t abandon my Mother and sister to whatever Primrose would do. I suspected that whoever won the fight, the Primrose would still toss both women in lock up.

Thus, my eyes wandered for something I could do to end this. If I could pull a fire alarm, that would certainly cause issues. Or, better yet, I could-

My eyes immediately fell a single person standing nearby, only partially hidden in shadows. She was the only person not looking at the fight, but at me. She gestured me over, and I immediately snuck over to her, making sure to stay behind the crowd. As soon as I came in range, she grabbed me and pulled me behind a crate.

“Clyburn, you’re in one piece.” Brooke looked me up and down, her face looking slightly relieved.

“What are you doing here? Did you know where this place was or did you follow Mom?”

“A little of both,” Brooke responded quietly. “We were already suspecting this place might be where they were, but we didn’t have proof. Fortunately, I put a tracker on your Mom. The police are outside ready to move, but what the hell is going on?  What is this mess?”

Brooke’s voice was hard to make out over the shouting and screaming. It felt like an extreme fighting match, with spectators yelling for more blood. That blood was coming from two of the people I held the dearest.

“Mom and Hannah, they’ve lost it!”

Brooke nodded thoughtfully as I explained what happened. “I thought this might happen.”

“What? How could you guess my Mom would fistfight my sister!”

“I’m sorry, has your Mother ever acted like a rational woman?” Brooke gave me a stare. “Plus… with the baby…”

I shut my lips as I remembered the countless times she’s always acted spontaneous and random. Mom had once mentioned that she had been a bit of a wild girl. That was a complete understatement! She hadn’t grown up at all, she was still wild. So was her daughter, for that matter. It’s genetic! Suddenly, my eyes widened as the last part crashed home.

“The baby! She can’t be fighting with-”

Brooke slapped me upside the head. “Stop focusing on stuff you can’t do anything about and focus on what you can do! You wanted to be in on the rescue for your sister. Well, guess what, that’s happening now. Take this!”

Brooke handed me a canister, which basically just looked like a spray can with a pull tag.

“Gas?”

Brooke nodded. “It’s a gas canister. It’ll fill the room up with smoke. These stupid kids should hopefully panic and run out. Just yell fire or something… and they’ll run right into police custody. They got squad cars at every door. The smoke needs to spread quickly or they’re going to guess something is up. On ten, you release it over there, I release it over here.”

“And then?” I asked.

“And then, stay low and hide behind a crate!” Brooke barked. “Ready? Go!”

Her lips began to move in a silent count, and I left the area behind the crate and immediately dashed for the other side of the room. Mom appeared to be on the floor, digging her elbow into Hannah’s back. Hannah was kicking her in the knee and biting her arm. Brooke told me to sit back, but I wouldn’t. A soon as the crowds dispersed, I’d run to break up Hannah and Mom. I didn’t care what happened to me. I’d fix this.

As soon as I said ten in my mind, I took the can and pulled the pin. Smoke immediately began to shoot out. It looked like Brooke had pulled two or three of them while only asking me to pull one. Once again, it was a job she probably just gave me to humor me. My hands tightened into a fist as the smoke rose around me. These didn’t appear to be tear gas cans, so they didn’t sting the eyes. It was possible that tear gas wasn’t a thing in this world. It was also possible that there was magic that could suppress a crowd better than gas, but Brooke used what she had access to.

Once the gas lifted up to my vision, I began to hear cries of confusion. There was a shout of fire, and soon the crowd of women began to move all around me. I couldn’t see anything but ill-defined shapes. My ears were focused on the sounds of the fight. It was my Mom and my sister fighting that held my interest the most. Slowly, I started walking through the fog, trying to find the sound of wrestling and grunts of fighting.

“Clyburn!” A face came out from the fog and shoved me, causing me to trip and fall on my ass.

That face was Tinya. Rage and disgust matted her face, and she glared down at me with hostility.

“You did this, I know you did!” Tinya snarled.

“You did this to yourself.” I shot back. “Just give up. You’re all going to jail now.”

“You… bastard!” Tinya shouted, fumbling with her jacket. “I’ll never forgive you, I’ll never…”

I shot to my feet and my hand went up in an uppercut. Not expecting it, she didn’t dodge when my fist struck her chin. Rage was flowing through me now. I saw her trying to pull something from her side, and I knew I wouldn’t let her do it. This woman, Tinya… although Hannah may have been involved in a lot of what happened to me the last week, it was Tinya who kidnapped my Mother and incited my sister into fighting. We may have had sex once, but at that moment, when I looked at Tinya, all I could see was rage.

“You fucker, you…” Tinya cursed with a bloodied mouth as she swung at me.

I hit her again. This time, the item she was pulling out, a small pistol, fell from her hands and went flying, skidding off in the fog. She threw a punch at me, hitting my shoulder. However, with testosterone flowing through me, and pure anger driving me, I barely even felt it. I shoved Tinya back, causing her to fall down the same way she had pushed me down a moment ago. Her face was bloodied, and I hovered over her, my entire body red and shaking, my face clenched.

I was never an angry man in my previous life, but I had been through hell the last week, and all of that rage came boiling to the surface. Even though Tinya wasn’t necessarily solely at fault, she was the one who had to face my wrath. My helplessness, my frustration, my ineptitude, it all came boiling over. I jumped on top of Tinya, and her expression changed from disgust to fear. I started hitting her. Once, two more times.

“Ghhaa…. I hate you!” My hand stopped before I heard her again.

Her face was bloodied, and she was terrified, but she was still conscious. However, the voice I had heard was no her voice, but Hannah’s. I brought my bloody shaking hands back to me, finally moving to my feet. Tinya stayed down, afraid to get back up again. I turned away and moved over to the sounds of fighting.

Hannah was panting, her face flushed. She had somehow gotten a bat in her hand. Mom was lying on the floor. I immediately ran up to Mom, kneeling down next to her. As soon as I touched her, Mom groaned and I let out a sigh of relief. I looked over both women, and I instantly realized that for the length of time the two had been fighting, they were surprisingly devoid of injuries. Hannah had a black eye. Mom had a bite mark. There were scratches and bruises. However, I had left Tinya in far worse shape than either of these women.

Mom wasn’t unconscious. It looked more like she was dizzy and disorientated. Perhaps her pregnancy plus fighting in the smoke caused her to momentarily lose her faculties. As to Hannah, she held the bat as if contemplating hitting Mom, but she didn’t move to do it.

I stood up and snatched the bat away from Hannah, not even giving her another choice. Hannah looked flustered, but when her eyes met mine, a mischievous smile formed on her lips.

“Why… Clyburn… Brother… I-”

My lips took Hannah’s, as I kissed her deeply right there and then. Hannah could do nothing but kiss me back until I was satisfied. When I finally pulled away, she was breathless.

“Don’t ever do that again!” I said in an admonishing tone. “You’re mine, and I won’t have my women fighting! You worried me sick! Do you understand! You were never going to hurt Mom, so stop pretending. Just as you know my secrets… I know yours… so stop hiding how you feel behind your tricks!”

Hannah looked down, her face suddenly turning demure. “Yes… Brother.”

“It’s good you understand,” I said, and as I patted her on the head, tears started to fall down my cheeks.

As we spoke, the smoke was starting to dissipate, and the cops were moving in to handcuff anyone who didn’t escape from the smoke.

“H-how did you know?” Hannah asked, pouting as I continued to stroke her head. “That I wouldn’t hurt Mom…”

I smiled wryly. “You avoided her stomach. Every hit you did was to her arms or her head, but you made sure never to touch her abdomen, even if that meant she got you worst.”

“Ah! Th-that…” Hannah looked even more shy, blushing furiously.

Hannah wore a complicated expression as she looked at Mom on the ground. I let Hannah walked over to Mom, looking down like she wanted to help Mom up, but didn’t know how. More police flowed in, and suddenly Brooke broke out of the fog.

“It looks like 25 Primrose are already in custody, and the rest of about to give up.” Brooke wiped her hands before her eyes suddenly shot to my shoulder. “What’s this? A tear? You didn’t stay put, did you!”

“I… uh… did not?” I laughed, scratching my head.

“You…” Brooke glowered at me. “How am I going to have a baby if the baby’s daddy keeps putting himself at so much risk!”

“Eh? I thought Aiko was going to have the baby.”

“It’s the same thing. It doesn’t matter. Shut up!” Brooke gave a pout, looking away as I chuckled.

“Ah!” Hannah suddenly screamed, causing the room to turn in her direction.

Mom was halfway up to her feet, but she was holding something in her hand. That thing was a pistol. Not just a pistol, it was the same one I had knocked away from Tinya earlier. It must have landed somewhere near Mom. Mom was exhausted and confused. She hadn’t slept in over a week, was several months pregnant, and had recently been drugged. In that state of mind, she didn’t realize the fight was over.

“You wanted to know what I’d do for Clyburn?” Mom shouted. “You’re right. I’d do anything!”

“Mom, no!” I screamed, but there was no way I could move fast enough.

A few policewomen were nearer, including one who held Tinya in cuffs. Mom straightened her back, the intent in her eyes was clear. A second later she pulled the trigger. A small pop resounded through the warehouse. Hannah started to fall to the side.

I ran as fast as I could. Hannah ended up stumbling several feet to the side, ramming into a crate painfully, her eyes holding a bewildered look. The person who fell into my arms wasn’t Hannah at all.

“No… no… no…” I looked down at the bloodied face that looked back.

Tinya had shoved Hannah out of the way. She was still handcuffed, but she had managed to save Hannah. The bullet had landed square in the center of her chest. I looked down at the first woman I had seen since I had come to this world. This was the woman who took my virginity and started me on the path leading to now.

“I… love… ha..han…” Tinya’s eyes went slack, the last words she tried to say were obvious, but they never came to the surface.

I slowly put her down on the ground, shaking my head. My hands went and closed her eyelids. My brain was long past the point of exhaustion and common sense. Doing anything that involved conscious thought was proving impossible.

“She… tried to kill me… she tried to kill me…” Hannah was shaking as she looked at Mom, who was still staring with her mouth open. “Hahahaha… you can’t even kill your daughter right! You killed the wrong person! You stupid Mother! Can’t do anything, can’t…”

What little sanity Hannah had left dissipated as she cried and laughed at the same time. Mom looked down at the gun still smoking, and as if deciding to still go through with it, she started to raise her hand towards the gloating Hannah. However, two policewomen immediately grabbed her and pulled the gun from her possession before she could finish acting. Mom blinked as if she didn’t really know where she was.

“Hey, what are you doing, you’re putting her in handcuffs?” I raced forward as they shoved Mom over a crate and started cuffing her.

Brooke grabbed my arm. “Stop, Cly… your Mom just killed someone. She needs to go to jail.”

“What? No… she’s my mom, she’s…” The tears fell, but it didn’t make a difference.

I watched as Mom was cuffed into the back of a police car, while Hannah was cuffed and placed in another. She was still laughing at seemingly nothing, not even noticing me. An ambulance came and took Tinya’s body. A detective asked me a series of questions I don’t remember answering. For what it was worth, none of the cops approached me or gave me sexual looks that I recalled. Within a few minutes, the cars left, taking the last of the criminals of Primrose, that including my sister. Like that, I was left standing in front of a vacant warehouse alone.

“Come on, kid, I’ll take you home,” Brooke said quietly, leading me to a hover car that must have been hers.

The drive home was quiet. When we drove up to the mansion, it was dark and empty. I walked into the room with no lights on. Not even the maids were there at the moment. Madison had left days ago.

“Aunt Rose, I gave her a call. She’s at the station seeing what she can do about your Mother,” Brooke still spoke quietly.

I nodded and headed for my room without a word, collapsing on the large and comfy bed I hadn’t seen in a week. Like that, I had lost everything. Hannah, Madison, Morgan… my entire family was gone. I was all that was left of the Bonholdt household. When my wife had cheated on me, I had turned to alcohol and smoking. My life fell apart and within a few years, I died. I had been given a second chance here. This time, it only took a year to fuck it all up. Would I give up and spiral back into depression?

“No…”

I stood up, my fists tightening as I got ready for battle. I quickly found a phone and a phone book. This world’s communication wasn’t that different from my old world, but my Mother still depended on landlines. I looked for numbers and started dialing. I ended up making calls for around three hours before I found the person I needed.

“My name in Clyburn Bonholdt, a man. A few hours ago, my Mother was arrested for shooting a woman to protect me. I’d like to cut a deal with you.”

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