Secrets Kept, Lies Told

Secrets Kept, Lies Told
By Sarah
Chapter 5

    "Mom, I'm not kidding, I swear, she knows my father!"
    "AJ, that can't be, you don't have any younger brothers or sisters," Denise insisted, trying to trick herself into believing it.  She wiped away more tears and reached for another tissue.
    "Mom, first she said that the man she remembered looked like me, then I showed her the picture and she nearly had a heart attack!  I swear, she knows him," AJ said urgently.
    Denise held back another bout of tears, for his sake.  She didn't want to tell him the truth, it would hurt him too much.  'But if she is my Alexa' "AJ, I'm not saying I don't believe you, just that I can't believe you.  Tell you what, bring her back here, I'll talk to her," Denise suggested.
    "Ok, we'll be there in about ten minutes."
    "Bye," Denise said.  She closed her cell phone and immediately burst into tears.  'If this is Alexa, I'm going to be so happy and so sad at the same time.  Then, I'm going to give her the life she deserves.'  Denise looked around the hotel room, thinking fast.  She gathered up the clothes strewn around and threw them into the next room, where they belonged anyway.  She walked into the bathroom and washed her face clean of tears, then hurriedly checked herself over.  She was about to walk out when she heard voices.

    "What the hell is going on, why have you dragged me here, and who are Heckle and Jeckle back there, following us?"  Alexa demanded, trying to struggle out of Nick and Brian's grasp.
    "Their names are Mike and Q, I suggest you be nice to them.  They're our bodyguards," AJ explained, walking up to the hotel room door.
    "Fine, I'll be nice to Heckle and Jeckle, but someone please tell me, WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING HERE?!?"  Alexa shouted.
    "Ooh, watch the language, Denise hates it when we curse," Nick said.
    "Denise?  Who the hell is Denise?  Is she another person I should be nice to?"  Alexa asked sarcastically.
    "You better be nice to her, or I'll toss your loud-mouth ass out of the window," AJ threatened, finally getting his key card to work.  He opened the door and saw his mother coming out of the bathroom.  "She has got the worst attitude problem," he said, walking in and sitting on the bed.
    "Like you once did?"  His mother asked lightly, playing with his curls.
    "Yeah, actually, a lot like me," AJ said.  His words seemed to hit a chord in his mother, but he ignored it.  "Frick, Frack, are you having a little trouble here?"  He called.
    "You might say that, she's awfully strong for someone so little," Nick called back.
    AJ sighed and stood up, walking to the door.  He saw both Brian and Nick struggling to pull Alexa into the room.
    "I'll get her," AJ said.  He walked over and tickled Alexa's stomach.
    "Hey!"  She exclaimed, laughing.  While she was laughing, AJ bent over and picked her up like a potato sack.
    "Hey," she repeated.  "Put me down!"  She started kicking her legs and pounding on his back.
    "Ow, stop that," AJ said, walking in the room.  She tossed her on the bed and stretched out his back.  "Aw, man, now it hurts," he said, walking to a chair.
    Nick and Brian walked in, followed by Mike and Q, and closed the door.  AJ watched as his mother looked closely at Alexa, and turn white as a ghost.

    "Alexa?"  Denise asked quietly.  It was her Alexa, her curly brown hair that she had from day one, her large chocolate brown eyes, and the feistiness that she was born with.
    "Who are you?"  Alexa asked, equally as quiet.
    "I'm Denise McLean, AJ's mother," Denise said, holding back her tears.  'And I'm your mother,' Denise added mentally.
    "And?  Does everyone around here talk like I should be bowing and kissing their feet?  My Lord!"  Alexa exclaimed.
    "Alexa, what is your name short for?"
    "Do you know the rest of your name?"
    "No, I don't know anything else except that I was found when I was about four, walking around the streets of Orlando."
    Denise sat down, trying to keep her emotions under control.  "How do you know AJ's father?"  She asked.
    "That's his father?  Well, I don't know, to tell you the truth.  I think he's my father," Alexa said.
    "Tell her what you told us, what you remember," AJ said.
    "No," Alexa said harshly, talking back.
    "You will tell her, dammit," AJ said, loosing his temper.
    "Alexander James, stop it," Denise warned.  "Alexa, tell me what you remember, please."
    Alexa looked down at her hands on her lap, fidgeting with the ring on her finger.  "I remember sitting in a kitchen, eating fruit, when the man came in and pushed me to the floor.  He started yelling at me and blaming all his trouble, which included me, on my mother, a woman I never met.  I once saw her picture, though, when he was crying over it.  She's really pretty, reddish curly hair, a little like mine, and brown eyes that." Alexa looked up at Denise.  "Brown eyes, that look just like yours..." She trailed off.
    Denise nodded and felt tears roll down her face.  "Do you remember anything else from when you were little?"  She asked quietly.
    Alexa nodded, still looking at Denise.  "Yeah, a tape someone singing to me, I think I don't know who it was, I can't picture her face, but I still remember it I must've been too young to know, but I remember the singing"
    Denise smiled and knelt in front of Alexa.  "Good night, my angel, now its time to dream.  And dream how wonderful your life will be.  Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby, then in your heart, there will always be a part of me," Denise sang quietly, then trailed off.  Alexa's face was white, whiter than Denise's was.
    " did you know that?"  Alexa asked, tears running slowly down her face.
    "Because, Alexandra Denise McLean, I sang that to you," Denise replied.
    "Alexandra Denise... that's what he called me but, but how could you?!?"  Alexa demanded, tears coursing down her face faster.
    "You were taken from me when you were four days old, I had no control"
    "No control?  No control?!?  You had no control over who took your baby?  You've probably known all along it was my father who took me, you just never had the guts to find out!  Instead, you let me live and practically die in a hellhole, not caring which I did.  I've lived on the streets of Orlando for the last fourteen years, trying to survive and live, for my own sake.  I needed you there and you weren't there.  What kind of mother are you?!"  Alexa demanded, standing up.  She ran out of the hotel room, past Mike and Q, and towards the back.
    "Alexa!"  AJ hollered, running after her.
    "No, AJ, please," Denise said, collapsing in her tears.  She couldn't help but cry, knowing what she had done to Alexa was killing her inside and Alexa made her realize just how bad she'd had.
    AJ looked down at his mother, who was on the floor in tears.  He looked down the hall and saw Alexa in the elevator, the doors closing, and her head in her hands, crying.  He wanted to run after her and make her feel better, but at the same time, to yell at her.  He watched as the elevator doors closed and the numbers started to change, then looked back at his mother.  She was crying, he'd never seen her cry.  Never.  And if this girl had the power to make his mother, who was as strong as they come, cry, then he needed to find her, and find her now.
    "AJ, where are you going?"  Brian asked as AJ grabbed his car keys.
    "Out," AJ answered.  He grabbed a hat and ran to the back stairs, opening the door.  He hurried all the way down and out the back, to his car.  He climbed in and started thinking of places where Alexa could hide, or be staying.

    Alexa hurried down the street, her recovered shopping bags banging against her legs.  She wiped away the tears and ignored the people she passed, not caring what the thought of her.  She hurried to the church and snuck in the side door.  She stashed the bags in her hiding place, an old janitor's closet that everyone thought was locked for good, when only Alexa had the key.  She locked the door behind her and started for her cot.  She wanted to lie down for a while, clear her head a little, and rest.  She felt so tired, so very tired.

    AJ drove down yet another street and was about to give up when he thought of another place.  'The church,' he said to himself.  'The church established a homeless program a few years ago, maybe she's there, its worth a shot, I've been everywhere else I could think of in the last two hours.'  He pulled his
car up next to the church and hurried up the steps to the door.  He walked into the back and stopped in front of a desk.  'Sherry Clark,' read the nameplate.  A woman sitting behind the desk looked up.
    "Can I help you?"  She asked.
    "Maybe, do you have anyone staying here by the name of Alexa?"  AJ asked for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.
    "Yes, we do, why?"  Sherry asked suspiciously.
    "I need to talk to her."
    "And you are?"
    "How does she know you?
    "I'm her brother."
    "Alexa doesn't have any brothers.  Good day, AJ," she said, gesturing to the door.
    AJ'd had enough.  He was beyond frustrated and he was tired of searching everywhere.  "Look, Sherry, I didn't know she was my sister until about three hours ago, now where is she?!?"  He demanded.
    Sherry looked up at him, surprised.  She got up and walked to a doorbehind her, opening it.  "Lolly?  Have you seen Alexa?"
    "Yeah, she's taking a nap.  She said she's really tired and doesn't want anyone to bother her," a little perky voice answered.
    Sherry nodded and AJ heard little footsteps run away.  "Come with me," Sherry said.
    AJ walked around the desk and followed Sherry into the back.  He walked through the row of cots and children, most of them playing happily with one another.  Sherry walked over to a cot in the back corner, a small figure resting on it.  "Alexa?"  She asked quietly.
    "What?  Didn't Lolly tell everyone to leave me alone?"  Alexa groaned.
    "Yes, but I need to talk to you," Sherry said.  She glanced up at AJ.  "Do you know anyone named AJ?"
    Alexa sat up and faced AJ.  "Oh no, not you again," she said.
    "Alexa, please, I have never seen my mother cry and if you made her cry, I have a right to know why," AJ said.
    "Its because she is my mother, you idiot.  Now, let me sleep in peace, I think I've just had the weirdest day of my life and I want it to all just go away," Alexa said, lying back down.
    "Alexa, honey, if AJ is your brother and you have a mother, why don't you go see them?"  Sherry asked gently.
    "Because, she'll only make me cry again and I don't want anything to do with the mother who abandoned me," Alexa answered, her voice cracking.
    "If she could've done anything about it, Alexa, I know she would've," Sherry said quietly.  "Alexa, it's finally come, your chance to get out of here, like you always wanted.  I remember you telling me that you couldn't wait to get out of here and sleep in your own bed instead of a cot, do whatever you want, be whomever you want.  Go take that chance, Alexa, I did and look at me, I'm helping you all and the satisfaction in my job is watching people grow and find who they've been looking for."  Sherry smiled
lightly at Alexa, smoothing her hair back.
    Alexa sniffled and looked up at AJ.  "Ok, I'll go, but one word and I'll turn around and you won't be able to find me again," she threatened.
    "Deal," AJ said, holding out his hand.  Alexa shook it and got off her cot, walking to the hallway.
    "Now, AJ, I know that you really just want to help Alexa, but if you do one thing wrong and she comes back here crying, so help me God, I will come and kill you myself," Sherry said, standing up.
    "I promise, Sherry, I won't do anything."  AJ said.
    "Good," Sherry said, nodding.  "Ok, here's the low down on Alexa, she's seventeen and will be eighteen tomorrow, she remembers very little from when she was younger, but I was the one who found her wandering the streets.  I think of her as my own daughter, one that I would've liked to have.  I took care of her when no one else would and she grew up with morals and standards.  She gets nothing but the best you can give her, understand?  If you can't give her what she needs, then she will disappear and it won't be easy finding her because she has hiding places all over Orlando.  Now, I don't know what she does in her spare time, but she is forever running from thugs named Lenny and Rich, stay away from them.  They'll only cause you trouble, I promise.  You can't do anything to protect her from them, they'll find her before
anyone can find them.  So whatever you do, keep everything a secret, do not let anyone know that you have her, where you are, that she is with you.  They, or one of their friends, will come and get her and take her away before you know it and she'll probably never be seen again," Sherry explained.
    "That won't be a problem, I have bodyguards for that sort of thing," AJ said, without thinking.
    "What the hell do you mean?  What, are you in the mob or something?" Sherry asked, surprised.
    AJ laughed.  "No, maybe I should've been more clear.  I'm AJ McLean," he said, holding out his hand.
    "And?  Am I suppose to be impressed by that?"  Sherry said.
    "Let me explain, I work as a performer with a group called the Backstreet Boys, we're based here in Orlando," AJ said.
    "Oh, ok, that's how I know your face.  So, you're telling me that Alexa is your sister?  And you want to take her on tour with you?  She'll throw a fit when she finds out," Sherry said.
    "Because she's not used to that sort of thing.  Running from goons, begging for food, scavenging for clothes, those are things she's used to doing.  But traveling around the world?  She'll have a breakdown."
    "Maybe, maybe not.  My mother goes everywhere with us, so she'll have her too.  Maybe she can work with us, you never know," AJ said.
    "That's right, but don't expect Alexa to be cooperative, she's used to doing her own thing, so don't be surprised if she disappears for a little while.  She'll be back before you know it, ready to do it again," Sherry explained as Alexa came out of the bathroom.
    "Sherry, I think I should give you this," Alexa said, holding out a key.
    "What's this?"
    "The spare key to the front door," Alexa said sheepishly.
    "I've been looking for this!  Alexa, are you taking all my keys?"  Sherry demanded.
    "No, that's the only one.  And I found that one by accident, you dropped it on the floor and I borrowed it for a while"
    Sherry smiled and gave Alexa a hug.  "Boy, I sure am going to miss your antics around hereâ?¦not to mention Lolly."
    Alexa nodded and looked over at a pixie-like little girl playing with a bunch of other children.  "And I'm going to miss everyone here expect frequent visits," she said.
    Sherry laughed and AJ smiled.  'Little does she know, she might not have time for those visits,' he said to himself.  "I hate to break this up, but we have to leave," AJ interrupted them.
    "Sheesh, you've been my brother for not even half a day and already you're bossing me around," Alexa said.  "Don't think I'll stand for it either," she said, wagging her finger in his face.
    "Just go get your stuff so we can go," AJ said.
    Alexa sighed and walked away.  Sherry turned around as someone called her name.  "I have to go, but take care of her, AJ, or I will hold up my promise," she said.  She walked back to her office and closed the door behind her.
    AJ walked in the direction Alexa had went and found her taking two bags out of a closet.  "What, is this your hiding place?"  He asked.
   Alexa looked at him crossly.  "No, my own private closet, that's all, nosy."  She closed the closet behind her and locked it with a key.  She picked up the bags and walked to the doorway where AJ was standing.  "Let me give this to Lolly, then we'll go," she said.  She dropped the bags and walked over to a little girl.  She knelt down in front of her and handed her the key, saying something.  Both of them started to cry and Alexa hugged her.  She finally stood up and walked back over to AJ.  "Ok, we can leave now," Alexa said quietly, wiping away tears.  AJ nodded and picked up one of the bags.  He led Alexa out the front of the church and to his car.  He helped her in and drove back to the hotel.
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