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What Happens After

What Happens After

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William Scott was forbidden.
I knew it. He was never mine to have.
He belonged to someone else. His heart wasn't free to give.
Still I craved him.
I begged him for it.
His love was addictive.
Our time was never enough.
Then, he shattered my world like I’d shattered everyone else’s.
It was all fun and games before. I didn't think about what would happen after.

Main Tropes

  • Forbidden Romance
  • Secret Baby
  • Opposites Attract


William Scott was an enigma—a man who belonged to someone else. His heart was never free to give, and I knew it deep down. But despite the warnings, I couldn't resist the craving I had for him. I begged him to love me, to be mine. His love became my addiction, our stolen moments never enough. Yet, just as I had shattered hearts before, he shattered my world, leaving me to face the consequences I never considered.

Chapter 1

He lied to me. What’s worse than him lying to me
as my husband and the father of my child, my so-called soul mate, is that he
lied to me as my friend. Our history, our bond, our love, didn’t stop my best
friend from lying to me all these years. He kept secrets from me, and it hurts.
It hurts so badly—the half-truths, the deception, the words I never ever
thought I’d use… it all hurts.

I never thought that
anything associated with love could be so painful, but love betrayed definitely
is. This unfathomable heartache snuffs out all of my urges toward forgiveness
because now I know the truth. At least what I imagine the
truth to be—those images run continuously through my mind.

The love that once
was so sure has been replaced by anguish . A pain that erases the joy and
closeness we shared, pushing it further and further away, like a mirage—unreal.
Our history seems more like an illusion. Only vague images of our love and life
together remain, but those spectral images are tainted.

While my own memories
are like a half-forgotten dream, those moments I imagine are
all too vivid. Everywhere I look, I see betrayal, and I can’t get his
duplicitousness out of my head. My faith has been shaken to the core. Those
thoughts become an unbearable weight, a sickening fog that suffocates me, a
stench so bad it chokes all the beauty and joy out of life. All that remains is
blinding rage, anger, bitterness, and hatred. These thoughts turn my
consciousness into an abyss that I can’t escape. I secretly pray for the moment
I’ll feel nothing because anything is better than this.




Words I try to escape
from as the hours tick by. It feels like time has slowed down, but in reality
it is moving so fast it sneaks up on me—like a thief in the night. I look in
the mirror at the fine lines that have formed around my mouth and eyes, things
I overlooked before but are like flashing lights now. I wonder when this
happened. When was my youth stolen? Did it happen when Christopher turned ten,
or did it happen when I first saw my grandchild? Is today just the first day I
noticed them? This morning when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see them, but
they were there. Right? I just never noticed until now. I wasn’t even alarmed
by the increasing number of grey hairs I’ve accumulated over the years. Why
should I worry over trivial things like that anyway when there’s so much more
to regret?

I always knew life
was precious. You realize it when you find out you’ll never be able to produce
it. When you find out that you’re unable to do the one thing you believe you
were put on the planet to do―your God-given right as a woman to bear children.
I have come to appreciate that fertility is a gift, not a right, even though
I’m slightly resentful. The realization of just how precious the gift of life
is became even more evident once I heard the words, “You have stage-three
breast cancer.” Aging, living is a blessing, not something to worry about. When
I was able to say, “I beat cancer,” I quit worrying about the small things. If
I could survive cancer, I could survive anything. To wake up in the morning and
take a breath became so much more of a welcome event than one would ever think.

So it isn’t a wonder
why today, of all days, I notice the things I didn’t use to care about but today mean everything.

I wish I were just
being dramatic, but without hesitation, I can say being alive doesn’t seem as
important as it once was. These badges of maturity feel less like an honor and
more like a punishment, a cruel inside joke I’m not in on.

What else could I
think of it as?

My husband, my dear
husband, the man I love more than anything in the entire world, has always made
me feel beautiful. When I said wrinkles, he said laugh lines, and not only
that, he said they made me more beautiful than the day he first met me. I
believed him.

I believed him
because he’s my best friend, my confidant, my own personal superhero… or at
least he was yesterday. Today, he’s my personally-crafted villain. One who
knows my weaknesses and knows me better than anyone else in the world. I’ve
shared my deepest secrets with him. He’s been my glue when my world was on the
cusp of falling apart several times over―at least I thought he was. Maybe he
wasn’t, or maybe he was for a while, or maybe it was all a façade.

Maybe I was just a
fool. I must have been a fool, an arrogant one. Because until today, I never
understood why the women I grew up with felt self-conscious about their
appearances as each birthday passed. Because I knew it all, I had it all
figured out—they’d married the wrong man. I thought that if you married your
soul’s true mate, a life partner, they should appreciate who
you are now, who you’ve grown to become. My
husband, my best friend, told me that, and like a fool in love, I never once
questioned it— until today.

Because today is the
day I found out that my husband—my best friend, the
man I turned my world upside down for, whom I gave my youth to, my best days,
my joy, my entire self—has not only been screwing my son’s best friend but also
has a child with her. Before today, I considered her―the twenty-seven-year-old
without a single laugh line who grew up before my very eyes―like a daughter.
But now I know her as my husband’s lover.

So today, I look in
this mirror and see every single thing that makes me different from the girl he
fell in love with and the girl he betrayed me with.
Today, I question all the times I stood in front of this mirror, pulling myself
together to greet each day with a smile while I fought the flesh-eating monster
living inside me, to make life easier for him. Today it all seems pointless,
worthless! If I’d just given in when death came for me, I wouldn’t be
experiencing the pain I’m in now, a fate that seems worse than death. I hate
thinking like this! I hate these thoughts, but they’re honest and feel more
real than anything else today. Truer than love, more honest than forgiveness,
and more authentic than the last twenty-five years of what I thought was an
unbreakable marriage.

I want to cry and
vomit at the same time. Maybe I could just crawl into myself as if I didn’t
exist. Here I stand, forty-nine years old, a woman and mother who beat the odds
of advanced cancer. Yesterday morning, I felt invincible. Now I feel as fragile
as a seventeen-year-old whose heart has been broken, crushed, demolished.

A grown woman
decimated and paralyzed.

It’s hard to remember
how to move. Not so much in the literal sense, even though my limbs feel heavy,
but how do I get out of this space I’m in? How do I escape from what feels like
a prison? My husband has cheated, broken my trust, and produced a child with my
son’s best friend.

When I think about
Christopher, all of this feels so much worse. He had to be the one to tell me.
The words that came from his mouth crashed all around me. They were the worst
words I’ve ever heard, words so jarring, so life-altering, so unbelievable my psyche
couldn’t comprehend them. My soul sang out to God, Please,
please let what he just said, what was just released into the universe, be a
mistake. Somewhere in my mind, I believed it could be changed, that
there was an error that could be easily fixed. That it could be taken back. But
it couldn’t. It couldn’t ever be taken back.

I’d give anything
just to have found out first so my son wouldn’t have had the burden of
delivering the message from hell. To say things that had to have been almost
harder for him to say than for me to hear… my baby… their baby. My son has a
sister, a half-sister.

My husband has a
child, a biological one. One I could never give him, no matter how much I
wanted to, but she could. A twenty-seven-year-old who can barely remember where
her keys are was able to give my husband a child.

“Mom?” Christopher’s
voice comes from the other side of the bathroom door, where I’ve been for I
don’t know how long. A half hour, or has it been two hours? “Mom, can I come

His voice is low and
laced with sorrow, like when he was a little boy who’d done something bad and
was coming to tell on himself.

I try to muster up
sound from my dry, constricted throat. “Umm, one minute, honey.”

I move quickly and
turn on the sink to splash water on my face. I try but fail miserably to mask
my pain, the dull, throbbing ache coursing through me that has my breath
tightened and my head heavy. I attempt to break out of the catatonic state I’ve
been trapped in and conjure up any amount of strength to hold myself up, to
keep my emotions from pouring out of me. My son… my son needs to see that I’m
not a complete blubbering mess even if I have to fake it. I take one more
breath before opening the door.

I open it and look at
the man I’ve raised since he was five years old. He used to be so small. Now
he’s a foot taller than me, broad-shouldered, and can appear intimidating but
wouldn’t hurt a fly. When I look into his eyes, I never know who I’ll see: the
mild-mannered gentleman with a heart of gold or the person who’s built a wall
around himself to protect himself from being hurt. I should’ve taken notes on
how to build that wall.

His big green eyes
find mine. They shift from my face to his feet several times before I force
myself to give him a smile and hug him the way I did when he was a little boy.

“I’m so sorry, Mom.”
His voice quivers.

I rub his back and
open my mouth to tell him everything will be okay, that this all will work out,
but I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t lie to him, because I know how it
feels to be lied to, betrayed, and treated like a child who can’t handle life’s

“I shouldn’t have
told you like that. I-I—”

His voice gives in,
and I pray for him to have the strength he needs—that he doesn’t fall apart. He
has his own daughter he has to be strong for now. My and his father’s problems
should be just that—ours. But I know life doesn’t work like that; love doesn’t
allow you to just shift burdens that you want to help carry.

“You have nothing to
be sorry about,” I say, commanding my voice to steady.

“How could they do
that to you, to us? How could he do that, Mom?”

I can see his
distress as I continue to rub his back, hoping to calm him down. “I don’t

I’ve been trying to
figure out how he could lie and betray me and his son, how he could do so
without guilt, how he could continue to live as if nothing had changed, and I
can’t come up with anything. Christopher lets me go and turns his back toward
me, grabbing a towel and wiping his face. I walk past him out of the bathroom
and sit on the settee in my bedroom.

“Is your dad still
out there?” I ask quietly, gesturing to my bedroom door where his father has
been camped out.

“Yeah, he fell
asleep.” He’s cross, his jaw tight and his hands clenched into fists.

As angry as I am with
William, I loathe what I’ve just seen, the look of hatred and bitterness that
flashed across his son’s face at the mention of him.

“You should come back
to Chicago with me and Lauren. You can’t stay here with him.”

My thoughts haven’t
even gone beyond what I heard tonight, but he’s right. I can’t stay in this
house with him. I don’t know if I can stay in this house at all, where they…
where he and Lisa…

“This is my fault. If
I wasn’t friends with her…” he mutters.

I gently grip his
chin and make him look at me. “This is not your fault.
You had nothing to do with this.” My voice is stern, but he shakes his head. I
see his anger intensify.

“That’s the thing. He
didn’t think about me. He didn’t think about you! I can’t forgive him for this.
There’s no way we can get past this.”

I put my face in my
hands and try to think of life without William. A day without William. To think
that the William I believed in is no more. He’s a lie, a distant memory. No
longer my protector, my confidant, my best friend. I squeeze my eyes shut and
rub my temples. How do we get past this? How do I save my family when the
damage is beyond repair? I fought cancer with all I had to save my family. I
knew the family would crumble without me. At the time, William and Chris had
been at odds because of Cal, and without me as their buffer and mediator, I
knew they’d be lost. Now at least Chris has his own family, a beautiful little
girl and a wife who loves him the way I loved William.

Loved William?

I wish after all of
this I could truly use past tense with confidence. At least whatever happens,
Christopher will be fine. He has to be.

“Do you want to leave
in the morning?”

His question
interrupts my thoughts.

“I just want to sleep
right now, I think. We’ll figure everything out tomorrow,” I tell him,
squeezing his hands.

He looks at me with
worry and concern, and a moment later, his face is hard and his expression has
gone cold. “Do you want me to make him leave?”

His voice is low and
bitter, which makes my stomach drop. I can’t take more fighting, more
confrontation, confusion, and anger. Is this all that’s left of my family? No.
It can’t be. I want to fix it, but how do I fix it when I’m broken? How do you
fix yourself after you brea

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