Where There's Hope(3)

By: Marianne Rice


Grades never mattered to him. He wanted to work with his hands. Instead of joining the sailing club or picking up tennis in high school, Cameron hung out with the dockworkers where his parents’ yacht was kept. Working with wires, taking apart engines, figuring out why something didn’t work appealed to him more than stuffy country clubs.

And the older he got, the more he enjoyed pissing off his parents. Surprisingly, he and Justin remained close. Until Justin went to Yale and Cameron opted to work full-time and skip schooling.

The warmth of the burger in his hands was comforting. He bit into the greasy diner food and nearly moaned as it warmed his insides. Burgers and fries instead of caviar and filet mignon—although he wouldn’t mind a nice New York steak or rib eye—was his style. A beer, not scotch. Jeans, and never a suit and tie.

But Justin...Justin was a mini-Thomas Smithfield. He would wear a suit by choice. He prided himself on his designer clothes from Italy and Paris. His casualwear had come from Brooks Brothers, and he’d liked his scotch neat, just like good old dad.

Cameron never blamed Justin for being their parents’ pawn. Justin had truly loved the life. He’d thrived off high society, followed the stock market, and had his sights set on following in their father’s footsteps.

And then there was Janice. It wasn’t until after high school when Cameron started seeing another side to their mother. There were moments when she looked sad and defeated, when streaks of gray showed through her auburn highlights. Janice had never been a hands-on mom, leaving their father to set the rules, follow through with discipline, and to drop the insults.

Janice Murphy Smithfield kept to the background, rarely holding an unsupervised conversation with Justin or Cameron without Thomas around. The housekeeper, chauffeur, and maids got them ready for school, made their breakfast and lunch, and had them out the door for school before Janice even woke.

The revolving door of strangers spent more time raising the Smithfield twins than their parents.

Not wanting his bitterness toward his parents to ruin his lunch, Cameron ate the last of his French fries and wadded up his trash, hauling himself to his feet. He spent too much time by himself. It was no use going down memory lane over and over again. That’s all he did during the first year in prison. Doubting himself and wondering if he’d tried harder if things would have ended up differently.

And then the self-doubt turned to anger, and Cameron used the one hour a day of free time in the gym. During lockdown, he’d do burpees, push-ups, and sit-ups until he couldn’t move anymore.

The last decade had him taking on a whole new train of thought, but seeing Hope again stirred up too many memories of the past. And yet, he had to stay. Had to deal with it. They needed to talk. Especially with Delaney in the picture.

Delaney. Her name triggered a memory that got him through prison.

He wished he were her father, and yet he didn’t. Better the child have the smart, charming, high-achieving genes rather than the convicted felon’s. Hope chose well.

He spotted a garbage can near the picnic table and tossed his trash in it.

“Nice shot, hotshot,” Hope’s protector called from across the path.

Cameron hadn’t realized she and Ty had something going on, but it was obvious by the darkened stare down he gave Cameron earlier. He literally shielded Hope from him.

Like he’d do anything to hurt her.

It wasn’t like Cameron would call Ty a friend; he didn’t have any and wouldn’t know what a real friendship was like, but they’d seemed to hit it off when they first met last month.

Ty continued to scrutinize Cameron as he walked toward him. Better to come clean now than let the imagination and rumors run wild. So much for staying under the radar.

“Is it true?”

Cameron didn’t ask for clarification. He knew.

“Yeah.”

“You murdered Delaney’s father?”

“Involuntary motor vehicular manslaughter.”

“Drunk driving?”

So Hope hadn’t given him all the details. If she even knew them. No one did, really. Only what was in the papers. And even that wasn’t one hundred percent true. It was hard to get a fair trial when your father’s a reputable judge and wanted you to serve the harshest sentence.

“No.”

“You do it on purpose?”

“No.” Cameron shoved his hands in his coat pockets and bit back his story. He wanted to talk to an unbiased person, to unload a decade’s worth of guilt, but he needed to wait until he spoke with Hope. See what she knew. How involved she was with the sentencing.

Thomas and Janice either paid off Hope to keep Delaney away and out of the papers, or they hadn’t a clue they were grandparents. Or maybe they were involved grandparents, who knew? He hadn’t heard a word from his parents, aunts, uncles or even cousins since Justin’s death.

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