It had been more than two weeks since the attack when Eliana returned to her own apartment. Not to stay; she didn't feel quite ready for that yet. And Sonny and Jason were right - she'd be safer at the penthouse until at least Sorel's trial was over. But the mystery surrounding those dual birth certificates was eating at her as much as everything else
No sense in putting it off any longer, she thought to herself as she inserted the key into the lock. The conversation with Sonny made the decision easy. They had to know the truth.
No matter how hard she tried to concentrate on her work, her thoughts kept coming back to the same questions about the papers Sorel had thrown at her. Today, it was even harder. Finally, after a half-day, she gave up and left her gallery and had come here. The bodyguard Sonny had assigned her did a quick walk-through then left to take up his post in the hallway. Eliana stood in the foyer of her apartment. It felt unreal being there, like the Eliana that had lived here before was not the same person that had come back today. It was silent, almost too silent, and dust motes danced in the beams of afternoon sunlight slanting in through the Venetian blinds.
Eliana wanted to start getting her life back to normal. That was hard though. Sudden moves and sounds made her jumpy, and she still couldn't concentrate on things very long. Her injuries couldn't be hidden, so her staff had been told that she had been the victim of a mugging. From the way she'd looked, they'd been hovering over her, and considering their words. She realized they were just trying to be sensitive to her needs, but it was damned uncomfortable on both sides, even still.
The apartment felt empty, almost like a mausoleum. Here lies the remains of Eliana Salazar, the woman I once was. She shook off the morbid thought and walked into the living room.
Eliana took a deep breath and then picked up the first of the boxes and carried it to the coffee table.
An hour later, she took a break. The boxes had mostly contained old photographs and letters. Any other time, she would have been fascinated by the family history she'd found. But today, none of it mattered. She brewed a cup of tea, staring at the mess she'd made. Nothing yet, but there had to be an explanation for why those double sets of birth certificates existed.
She finished her tea and returned to the task. At the bottom of the third box, Eliana came across a book sized velvet case. She opened it and found a very old picture of herself. She had to smile at the tiny infant swathed in lace. She looked on the back for a date. All of one week old.
With the photograph was a stack of old letters. A photograph was on top. Eliana recognized her own abuela and Nana Zubia, her grandmother's sister. She opened the first letter and began to read.
It was an hour later when she had finished going through them all. Eliana just sat there, stunned with the answers she'd found. The stack of letters had been a series of correspondence between the two sisters. Zubia and Maria had known from the start the lie of her life and each had chosen to take it to the grave. Only Zubia, knowing that except for Eliana and Eduardo, she was the last of the Salazar line, had tried to do anything at the end of her life to try and make things right. But could they ever be?
Sonny arrived on the pier soon after getting the call from the guard he'd assigned to watch over Eliana. He'd called Sonny after Eliana had spent more than an
hour staring out over the water, saying nothing. The sun had set, the air had gone chill and still, she hadn't moved.
She didn't notice him approaching.
"Hey." He said.
She turned to look at him. Sonny was startled to see the strain in her face. "Hey." She said. "Sorry to pull you away from your business."
"I got some good news. Sorel was indicted and held over for trial. The judge denied bail, so he's currently a guest of the PC County Jail." Sonny shrugged her apology away. "You're my business too. I told you that before. Mi familia."
When she didn't respond to the news about Sorel, he looked at her closer. "What is it?"
Eliana turned her head. She bit her lip then began to speak, her voice low, without looking at him. "I found out what happened."
Sonny tilted his head in curiosity and waited. Let her do this her way.
Eliana told him about the letters she'd found.
"It turns out that my mother...no, the woman I thought was my mother, couldn't have any children. And she wanted a child. Desperately. Desperately enough that my - my father, got her one."
God, How as she was going to tell him?
"Did Deke sell his own kid? Did he get my mother pregnant and then sell her baby?"
"No, Sonny…" she watched him apprehensively; afraid of how he was going to react. His dark eyes burning into hers demanded the truth. "Deke Woods offered his wife - our mother - to my father. To give the woman I thought was my mother the child she so desperately wanted."
"He gave my mother to his partner?" Sonny's voice was savage and incredulous all at once.
Eliana swallowed. There was a lump in her throat that made it hard to speak, but she forced the words out. "There was no such thing as artificial insemination back then. Not for people like them. So he paid Deke…and then…then..." she squeezed her eyes shut on a spasm of guilt; Eliana couldn't bring herself to say the words. "It took three months before she got pregnant…. then they waited the nine months…"
"And stole you out of my mother's arms." Sonny turned and walked away from her, trying to come to grips with this. That had been the final blow to his mother's soul, he knew it. She'd never been the same after that, and had passed away, no, faded away into death soon after. He'd always known that Deke was a monster, but this was beyond any cruelty that Sonny could have ever thought of. He paced to the end of the dock with his dangerous, fluid glide, but the anger in him was there in every movement, and with every step he took, it built to a white-hot intensity. "Damn you, Deke." He whispered, barely able to get the words out at first. Then he roared it to the heavens. "Damn you!"
Eliana stood there, motionless, while Sonny absorbed this horror. She'd spent the last hour or more trying to comprehend it as well. This had been her beginning. Ugly and sordid. She hated it, hated herself. Her eyes filled with tears as she watched him walk away from her. Of course he had to get away from her. Why shouldn't he hate her as well? The pain of it stabbed through her. Eliana put her hands to her mouth as a single choked sob escaped.
The sound turned Sonny back towards her. From across the dock, they stared into one another's eyes, seeing the anguish, and slowly realizing that it was shared. Then as one, they were moving towards each other.
Sonny's arms came up around her and held her tightly, as Eliana buried her face in his shoulder.
"I couldn't protect her." Sonny whispered, his voice hoarse with long-buried pain. "I couldn't help her. I couldn't save her."
Tears slipped down Eliana's cheeks unnoticed.
"It's okay, Sonny, its okay. You saved me."
And the both of them mourned for their mother.
Eventually they went to an anonymous diner, ordering cups of coffee that mostly went untouched while Sonny told her the story of his mother's marriage to Deke. What he had done to her with the Salazars was just one more transgression in a long list of dishonor and abuse.
"Now I know why my mother - our mother - had been so sad that year. After the pregnancy, after losing you, she was never the same after that." Sonny said.
"Of course, as luck would have it, a year after she got me, she became pregnant and had my brother. Isn't that the way it always works? The sun and the moon rose and set on him in my house." Eliana told him, her voice bitter. Her eyes darkened with those memories and she felt silent for a minute. She shook her head and continued. "I read the letters and they say that she had the original birth certificate made without anyone else's knowledge. The hospital staff had come to her early in the morning, before visiting hours with the forms to fill out, and she had one made, the one with my hand and footprints. Later that same day, Deke and Juan came and took the baby away. She kept her copy of the birth certificate hidden away until her last sickness, and then sent it to my grandmother, who passed it on to my great-aunt.
"When I realized what had happened, I thought you'd hate me. You have a half sister who came to be because your mother was forced to bear her. The letters make it clear that she wasn't asked." She dropped her eyes, no longer able to look at him, still afraid of what she would see in his eyes.
"Don't you blame yourself for this. You had nothing to do with it. She was still our mother. Remember, she put Corinthos on the birth certificate. She wanted us to know the truth one day." Sonny said. He reached out and touched her chin, raising her eyes to his. His expression was serious. "And half? What's this half nonsense? Which half of you should I claim? We are of the same blood. You are my sister, Eliana. Period."
Eliana put her hand over his where it rested on the table and smiled, albeit sadly. "You think, maybe, she would be happy that we're finally together?"
Sonny's expression softened. "I think she'd like that."
"Yeah. Me too."
They sat there in silence after that, long into the night.