“So, Cassie’s mother was living some kind of fucking fairy-tale life while her daughter was left with a father who didn’t give a damn about her? The American dream is only alive and well for the people who fuck their kids over,” he said bitterly. I agree with his sentiment completely. Maybe Cassie would have had a chance in life if she’d grown up with a caring mother who’d gotten her the help she’d needed at an early age. Instead, her mother started a new life elsewhere and left her behind.
“I know, man.” Max pauses to give Aidan an understanding look. “Any piece of trash can have a child but far less can actually be a parent,” Max spits out. I study him curiously, as I notice the anger in his voice. He’s my friend, but always somewhat a man of mystery. I had loving parents in the short time they were with me before their car accident, and Aidan’s parents dote on him to this day. But we’ve seen the devastation in both Cassie and Lia’s life. For a small group such as ours, it’s sobering so many of us have lived through abuse and neglect.
“I agree,” I say quietly and wait for Max to continue.
“Christina lived a relatively quiet life with Carson. They attended social functions on occasion but not often. They never had children of their own either. From what my source was able to gather, Christina and Monique never had a good relationship. Monique possibly resented her for stealing her father’s attention and Christina didn’t want to be a mother. Of course, we all know that to be true. Monique eventually moved out, went to college, and married Ansel Chester. He was a spoiled and volatile playboy with a gambling problem. Word is that he was the life of the party until he lost a few millions. Then he was a brawling son of a bitch.”
“So, Monique’s telling the truth about him being abusive,” I muse.
“It was pretty bad I gather,” Max agrees. “She disappeared and several years later, he filed for divorce. She legally changed her name and became Monique Chandler. Ansel agreed on a pretty hefty settlement in exchange for her keeping her mouth shut. I don’t think she would have been brave enough to talk, even if he hadn’t paid her off. She was supposedly terrified of him. So, she disappears after the divorce and that’s the end of April Chester. Monique Chandler appears out of nowhere and makes her way into Asheville society. She’s a very attractive woman with money so it wasn’t that hard I’m sure.”
“How did Christina die?” I ask, hoping it’s not some kind of unsolved murder case. That’s about all we need right now, more drama.
“Lung cancer,” Max says. “Apparently, she smoked on and off for years. Carson moved to Colorado after her death to live closer to a brother he has there. The son of that brother is the president of Carson’s companies.”
“I’m guessing Monique couldn’t take on such a public role while in hiding from her ex-husband,” Aidan says dryly.
“That’s right,” Max agrees readily. “Although she has reunited with her father since the death of her stepmother. I suspect it may be the reason he moved. It’s probably easier for her to maintain a low-key relationship with him thousands of miles from Ansel Chester. I’m not even sure that caution is needed any longer since there is no proof Ansel has looked into her whereabouts for years.”
Snorting, I say, “He should just be thanking his lucky stars and hoping SHE never looks for him.” Aidan smiles in response but doesn’t comment. Considering he’s been sleeping with Monique very recently, it’s probably a bit harder for him to throw stones this soon. “If there was never any love or even a relationship between Monique and Christina, then why the sudden interest in Cassie? She’s been in a mental hospital for eight years and no one outside of us has even attempted to contact her.”
“That’s been a little tougher to verify, but a source within their household—”
“Jesus, Max, you paying their maid to spy? Who do you have working for you?” Aidan asks incredulously.
“Someone worth the money he’s paid,” Max says flatly. “As I was saying, someone close says that Carson felt like it was his duty to reach out to Cassie when Christina passed away. Probably to prove what a loyal daughter she is, Monique volunteered to handle it for her father and eventually tracked Cassie down. I’m sure we’re missing some details in between, but that’s the rough draft of how Monique is connected to Cassie.”
“Am I the only one who keeps looking for a hidden camera?” Aidan asks as he glances around. “This shit just doesn’t happen in real life.”
“I think we’ve long known that our normal is different than most people. If I had to pick a long-lost relative for Cassie, then Monique would have certainly been right up there on my list of worst-case scenarios, so it makes a strange kind of sense.” Turning to Max, I ask, “What’s next?”
Max shifts uncomfortably as he looks at Aidan. “This question is probably going to piss you off, but I need to ask it. Should we really be doing anything at all here? Cassie is in a mental hospital. She’s an adult, and up to this point, there has been no family involvement. Now she has a wealthy stepfather and stepsister who are interested enough in her welfare to fight you for guardianship, and they’re more than likely going to win. Are you both sure you want to pursue this?”
I look from my friend to my lawyer. “That’s Aidan’s decision and I’ll support whatever he decides.”