CHAPTER 3: RED

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Laurent and I had spent the rest of the morning together, talking about Thomas, the man who had conceived me, and the danger he represented. Although Laurent was a lot more pleasant to be around than I thought he would be, he was still secretive, and I knew there were parts of the story he was hiding from me. For example, he explained to me how I was not the only child Thomas had conceived and that he had coldheartedly killed the others before, which meant that I was in a great danger. But, he did not tell me any reason he would do such an atrocious thing. I could suppose that he was a psychopath, but I still felt like the idea of murdering his own children without even getting something in return was very unlikely.

Moreover, the main odd fact about Laurent was that he had no explainable motive to protect me. He was not working for the police nor the government, he did not know me or my family personally, and he claimed to be the CEO of a wealthy steel company in Beauce, which meant he was not doing it for any financial purpose. Therefore, he could simply let me die at the hands of Thomas, and it would not change anything in his life.

Laurent told me he and his friends were the only ones who could stop Thomas because of his power, and that they had the ''social responsibility to use their own power to stop a monster''. I wondered what power they had that made them more suited for this case than the police... In general, his story was suspicious, and I was afraid that he was part of some kind of gang or mafia, but I followed my guts and decided to let him do whatever he was doing. He promised me that he would explain everything when the time would be right. I was probably extremely imprudent to believe that, but I did not have tons of other choices.

It had been three days since that conversation, and I was desperately attempting to keep my life as normal as possible, respecting my routine as usual. I knew I had to confront my mother Joanne about Thomas, but I could not help but avoid her. My vision of her had changed, and I would never be able to look at her the same way I used to, that was for sure. Still, I needed to confirm the story Laurent had told, if I wanted to trust him.

A knock on my bedroom door broke my train of thoughts. I reluctantly sat on my bed, knowing what was coming.

''Come in'', I said, grabbing hastily a book in my hand to pretend that I was reading.

Joanne entered, still wearing her posh work clothes, and closed the door behind her. She sat on my desk chair, and passed her hand to fix her short, dark brown hair, which announced that she was in for a big talk.

''How are you?'' she enquired first, interrupting the awkward silence.

''I'm fine, and you?'' I answered while slowly closing the book.

She sighed, crossing her legs.

''You don't look fine, Jade. We haven't talked since you told us about the stalker, and I feel like you are avoiding us. You surely don't have that much homework that you need to eat every meal in your bedroom, do you?'' she gave me a pointed look.

''I do have a lot of homework'', I trailed off.

She raised her eyebrows sceptically but ignored my last remark.

''Have you seen him again? Did you call the police? Is there something you are afraid of telling me or Marie?'' she questioned softly.

I hated those kinds of conversation, because it always made me feel like crying, and I hated crying in front of others, even my mother.

''I did see him'', I started, my throat feeling constricted.

''What happened?'' she asked worriedly. ''Did you call the police like we said?''

''We talked'', I admitted distantly. ''He told me who he was and why he was following me.''

''And?'' she continued impatiently.

''H-he told me about...Thomas Vincent, my father'', I let out quietly, staring at my fingers, then at Joanne with hard eyes.

Her face fell in a second. She clearly was not expecting that. I think it was the first time in my life that I had seen my mother so taken aback, so speechless. She was usually a strong, mostly cold woman who did not often show her emotions, but now, she seemed vulnerable.

''Jade...'' she whispered guiltily, her mouth opened in shock.

''According to Laurent, Thomas is a killer, and I'm next on his list'', I stated shakily, with my jaw clenched.

What triggered my anger was that she did not even seem surprised by my statement. As I stared at her, I realized that she knew. She knew the monster that he was, and she knew that being his child put a big, red target on my back.

''You knew about this and you did nothing!'' I accused her, seething. ''I could be dead, by now! Do you know that?''

''I did not do nothing!'' she defended, angry too. ''Marie and I, we did everything we could to keep you safe through the years! I moved here before I met her, I changed our identities, I left everything I had back to make sure he would never find you! I was lucky that Marie adopted you without asking too many questions!''

''How could you?'' I shouted, tears streaming down my face. ''How could you keep this away from me?''

''Jade'', she tried to say, but I was seeing red.

''Why did you not get rid of me when you could?'' I cried out, devastated. ''How could you raise me, knowing where I came from?''

''Jade, I've loved you since the day I learned about your existence. You are Marie and I's daughter, not his, do you understand?''

I was sobbing loudly on my bed when Marie came in the room too. I had well hidden how fucked up my life was in the last days, but all my emotions were exiting my body like a waterfall. My whole life was falling upside down and it was hard to stay optimistic. I had no perspectives anymore. I used to be fueled by my ambition of becoming a doctor, and all my efforts were based on that dreamed future. Now, I could not see further than my tragical present, because I was not even sure anymore if there was a future for me.

''Jade, I know you are mad at me right now, and you have every right to be'', Joanne started, her eyes red and sad. ''But for your safety, I need you to tell me a little more about this Laurent. Tell me everything you know about him, please, and why is he following you?''

I sighed, wiping my wet face, and tried to focus on answering her question.

''I-I don't know, his name his Laurent Eastwood and he said he was 24'', I began slowly. ''He lives in a small town in Beauce and he manages his father's company. We talked more about me than him, I guess. He's protecting me, because he said he wants to take Thomas down'', I explained, frowning.

To my surprise, Joanne seemed relieved. Marie was frowning, staring at her wife with inquisitive eyes.

''I know who his family is'', Joanne admitted. ''They're good people. How do you feel about him?''

''He's nice to me. And for some unknown reason, I feel like I can trust him'', I said, although I found her question and the fact she knew her family a bit odd.

I would have asked about it, but I was still angry at her and I only wanted to end the conversation to go to sleep. At my response, Joanne gave Marie a knowing look while nodding.

''You are safe with him'', she agreed unexpectedly.

I felt exhausted and confused.

''Can you leave now? I need to be alone'', I requested, laying down on my bed.

''I am sorry'', Joanne said one last time beforethey both left my room.     

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