T.W.: This chapter contains the following topics: Medical conditions related to Cancer, Dementia and Depression. Hospitalization and Death. I highly recommend that if you are sensitive to this type of content, you read it at your own discretion or just don't and wait for the next update.
Many thoughts were generated in Lester's head. This was going to be a formal conversation. After the shipwreck, the three of them were supposed to be stronger, more determined and honest to face any adversity together, so as not to distance themselves from each other. A cliché phrase - perhaps - but that had to have happened.
Victor acted callously; it was his last chance to do the right thing, but in his thoughts and in his actions he hurt the ones he loved the most. He got involved with Tamara out of fear and with a dangerous criminal for money. Benxamin made one last attempt to help him - but he only did it for Lester. He lost all trust in that person that he once considered his brother. In the shipwreck, Benxa believed he had recovered him, he looked for Victor, begged him to come back with him. He gave up; that was all. And by those coincidences of fate, he was hurt in the worst way by the tantrum of an erratic person.
“This shouldn't end like this, I don't understand why you hate me. What did I do to you? Did I say something I shouldn't?” Lester thought. “It's me who should hate you, but I can't. I don't know what is happening to me,” he had to be strong and he called his father on the telephone. James ran out of his office. August - who saw him go by - complained about his strange behaviour, but Mr. Haydar ignored him.
When he got to the bar, a dozen police officers were questioning witnesses to the accident - including Lester. He waited several minutes and separated his son from the rest of the crowd to accompany him in a taxi to the hospital. Marcel was desperate, he wanted to take the limo and look for "Victor", but he was being guarded by several agents. The poor young man was in a difficult situation that could jeopardize his future. He had the responsibility of taking care of Tamara and he took all the blame. They were going to take him to a police station, on the way he had to be assisted by some officers due to a sudden anxiety attack. Benxamin, on the other hand, was taken to intensive care - unconscious with a head injury.
The bad news also reached Stella Rivas. She was at her apartment that night when she received a call from James informing her of the accident. Painting a somewhat vulgar scene - she smoked as was her habit - immediately after hanging up she put aside her precious hobby and walked out of there, frantic, self-absorbed. Once at the hospital, Lester and his father were waiting for her at the entrance. The doctors told her that Benxa's prognosis was reserved, the young man's conditions were not the most favorable. She wanted to be alone again like the previous time, but Lester followed her until she stopped right in front of a window to try to assimilate what had happened.
Tamara's situation was unfortunate; she did not get out of the limousine, in a state of shock she continued to sit and with alcohol dominating her head. Ernest Witsel appeared out of nowhere to take his daughter away and hide her from the press. He wanted to bribe the policemen next to her not to arrest her, but hearing some conversations between them and Tamara about Marcel's guilt, he restrained himself and only pretended that his daughter was an innocent victim. The journalists did not hesitate to cover the news, making the singular accident public. They erroneously reported that the injured person was Victor Dautt - referring to him as a little-known actor.
Tamara asked her father to take her to "Victor". At first, Ernest joined the tide of confused people - thinking that the wounded man was his slave son-in-law. When he realized the mistake, he quickly approached James and handed him a check with an exorbitant amount of money to pay for the hospital expenses. And Stella - according to him - should give him "double" that amount, whether she wanted to or not. The kind and charismatic Mr. Estévez showed his true identity as Witsel by asking James for that favor.
From that moment there was a big change in Stella. She definitively abandoned painting and gave herself completely to Benxamin's care. She belatedly became the aunt the twins always needed. Benxa's situation was complicated; the young man remained in a coma for the next three months. Stella visited him every day, even spending the night on a small sofa in her nephew's room. Her protective attitude only occurred when this time Benxamin was the most affected. Although she was watching for Victor's recovery, her preference for the other twin was evident. Once Benxamin woke up, he couldn't speak, let alone move. It took time for him to learn to be autonomous again; his treatment was slow and painful.
As for paying Ernest back, she sold all her paintings, her jewelry, the furniture she ever had the luxury of using, and worked extra shifts to be free. Putting herself in Victor's shoes was when she realized how bad the young man was having.
During that time, another unfortunate situation happened. It was May 1995, in the oncology area of the hospital where Mira was being treated. She asked Lester to buy her an ice cream. When he gave it to her, she devoured it with as much relish as if she hadn't eaten one of those delicacies in years. She spoke to her son as if he were a child - something she rarely did - but in the end she expressed her concern for his studies.
“Can we pick up the conversation about your classes?”
Lester placed his hands on his mother's. “I'm doing well, I'll be able to graduate next year,” he said with a fake smile and quickly looking away from her. Lester didn't know how to lie - he was too clumsy to do it.
Mira knew it. She didn't question him; she just held out her arms to hug him. Lester was surprised by her motherly behavior. He responded softly, closing his eyes.
His mother leaned into his ear whispering something unexpected. “Don't give up.”
Lester slowly moved away from her, as if she had understood his falsehood. He didn't cry in front of Mira; he decided to wait alone in his bedroom hours after.
The next day it was Marcus's turn to visit his friend. He had a bouquet of red roses - elegantly dressed - he wanted to talk to her, something was worrying him. He knocked on the room door several times, when he opened there was another patient; an old man with his grandchildren. The man paled, a passing nurse approached him and told him without hesitation that Mira had died the night before. The commander couldn't continue her fight against that enemy called Cancer that little by little ended up defeating her and she stopped living when Lester was 19 years old.
To the surprise of the Haydar family, Stella accompanied them at the funeral. It was a rainy day; early in the morning. The young man was sitting next to his mother's coffin. James, on a sofa with August and Marcus. The woman walked over to him and put her hands on his shoulders. Lester didn't hold back the tears; his best friend and counselor was no longer going to be with him. He told Mira every detail of his life except his scam, but he never regretted lying to her the last time he saw her. He knew that he had to face the world alone with his father. Stella remembered the death of her sister and how terrible it was for her nephews to have lost their beloved mother and when they needed her most, she separated from them because of her artistic tastes, her selfishness and her want to be famous.
James - with some debts - depressed by the death of his only love, became an extremely sensitive and melancholic man who could not contain his emotions at all times and places. His co-workers were quick to offer comfort and emotional support; but they weren't the best counselors he could need. They took him to frequent bars and discos. And from there - in his sadness - he began to drink.
But that was not all, something strange happened. He progressively began to forget details of his life. First it was his keys, then the clothes he wore, the places he frequented and so on, until one day he forgot about his wife's death when he saw pictures of her on his nightstand before going to work. He decided to prepare breakfast - Lester was not there - he put it on the dining room table, waited for his wife and then left. A few hours later in the office he realized what had happened. He didn't tell anyone, he thought he should go to the doctor. But inevitably, he also forgot to do it days later.
Victor had no luck either. Once he told Lester that he hated him in that wretched bar and went with Marcus Nel to testify about his illegal work to the police, nothing good came of it. With Mira's help - a few days before she died - Marcus hired a lawyer to defend him. The intention of all of them was that Victor could receive a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison, but the judge in charge of his sentence and without giving many explanations, increased his sentence to 10.
Marcus visited Stella at her workplace to give her all the details of his conviction,
“I can't believe Victor is in prison,” she said indignantly.
“For good behavior, he could be released in 7 or 8 years. But we can appeal.”
“I know that the judge was bought by Ernest.”
“I also think the same,” Marcus affirmed.
“Ernest Witsel destroyed my family.”
“The boy is responsible for this, Mrs. Rivas.”
“It was my fault; all this time I left him alone. If I had listened as much to him as to Benxamin, this would never have happened.”
Marcus thought of Lester and wondered if he was doing the right thing by lying to him.
“Lester doesn't know about this. James has expressly asked me to avoid giving the boy any details. In reality, few of us know what is happening with Victor. I have told him that he lives in another city for security reasons.”
“I don't know if it's fair to him, but who am I to judge his father's decisions. The man turned alcoholic, I'm sorry for Lester.” Stella sighed, “I'm not going to tell him either.”
“James is stressed. He hasn't gotten over Mira's death and sometimes, he says things I don't understand,” Marcus said scratching his chin.
“I hope he asks for help. If he won't do it for Lester, I can force him to do it.”
Marcus sensed that he was talking too much, so he changed the subject to ask about Benxa,
“How is Benxamin?”
“He wants to go back to university. I was an idiot to think that Ernest was doing this to help Victor. I will pay everything. My shitty art can wait, but my nephews can't.”
She continued, “the boy learned to walk again. Benxamin is so strong and he still plays philosopher to lecture me about my job. He said that I was lazy and if I continued like this my boss would fire me.”
“I can't believe he can do all that. Well,... he has always been exceptional.”
“Me neither. I admire him, although sometimes he thinks he's a know-it-all.”
Marcus said goodbye to her expressing one more concern; “Ernest can keep an eye on you, he knows where you live and work. In case you feel that something bad is happening, don't hesitate to call me.”
Police officers raided Ernest Witsel's shop, but for some reason found nothing. Witsel had his contacts; clients with enormous organizational influences. Like all corrupt businessman, he implemented a code that no one could "manipulate". Victor was possibly going to be annihilated by the people in his entourage. That should be the fate of traitors - but two reasons were enough to keep him alive.
A few months after what happened, Ernest was having dinner with his daughter at home. The first of these situations took place in a surprising way. People who did business with Witsel knew that he was ruthless and violent when angry with his group of conspirators. No one from his family or friends knew how he acted. But according to what Marcus discovered through his research sources, he was - to put it nicely - a perpetrator of souls. Still, the man's weakness depended on his daughter's feelings; she was not going to forgive him the inevitable punishment of the young man. This was something much more delicate for him.
After Victor's arrest, Tamara changed. She was angry with herself - more than anyone else involved - she was directly responsible for much of what happened. She was a spoiled child who wanted attention, but there was one thing she had to tell her father. A secret Tamara hid once her boyfriend was jailed and she knew it was a matter of time before people found out. She was forced to reveal it to Ernest at that moment when they were alone.
She stopped eating, went up to her father, hesitated - her palms were sweating. She loved Victor madly despite his obvious rejection.
Ernest thought that she was involved in another troublesome situation. He wanted to tell her to stop thinking of him as an endless source of money. Tamara lowered her head and spoke while she sobbed with a bit of melodrama.
He didn't say anything; he was surprised as expected. He got up from his chair, left his daughter alone and walked absently to his bedroom. This became the perfect excuse to be closer to Victor; but he made him pay for his rebellion. He remembered the boy's judgment and compared it to his. Ernest didn't have to be blamed for his sins, he found dirty ways to escape justice. Money was not a problem. He could hire whomever he wanted and he did, no one condemned him.
Secretly - and this was the second reason - Witsel used Tamara's pregnancy to keep an eye on Victor. What Marcus once said made sense. Instead of respecting him as the romantic partner of his daughter, the first time he saw him, he felt something he himself couldn't understand. Ernest considered him his only successor in the organization. A young man who quickly learned his fatal trade from him and could be his faithful ally through threats.
However, Tamara grabbed him first and in a hurry. Witsel never touched him, never approached him with dark intentions, much less during his imprisonment. He promised himself to avoid getting romantically involved with Victor and he did; his age, his status, it was all a big risk. He wasn't going to demonstrate love. So, against his convictions - through some friends from prison - he tried to find a way to keep Victor from getting hurt. But it was not easy; it was not a place Ernest could control.
Why the attraction to Victor? He appreciated him for being smart, cunning and a good disciple, but lacking in money and needs. This was Ernest's chosen twin: the boy who wanted to help others and took the easy path to be the hero nobody asked for.