Imagine my surprise when I stop in my doorway to find it’s my mom in my room, going through the jumble of stuff that litters the top of my dresser. Resting my hands on my hips, I clear my throat and she gasps, whirling on me with her hand pressed against her chest.
“Fable! When did you get home?” She fans her hand in front of her face like she’s some Southern belle about to faint in the wretched heat. “You scared the life out of me.”
“Good.” I flick my chin in her direction. “What are you doing in here?”
She sneers at me, the Southern belle act evaporating like smoke. “No, ‘Hi, Mom, how are you?’ Since when did you get so rude?”
“About the same time you started neglecting us completely.” I enter my room, already weary with the fight. My high has come crashing down and I’m left facing the reality that is my shitty relationship with my no-good mother. “Why are you going through my stuff?”
“I lost something.” She tilts her nose in the air, a sure sign she’s lying. “A ring of mine has gone missing.”
Like I’d steal her crappy jewelry. “What are you trying to say?”
“Did you take it?”
“Why would I take your old-ass jewelry?” She’s probably pawned or sold everything off anyway. She has nothing of any value anymore. I don’t have anything either, but I never really did.
I do have a stash of tip money in my room, though. Hidden in a sweater pocket deep in my closet.
“Christ, you’re a brat,” Mom mutters, shaking her head as she starts for the door. “Can’t even have a decent conversation with me.”
“You just can’t barge into my room and go through my things,” I call after her. She needs to know her boundaries. More than anything, she needs to know she’s not welcome in here.
“I can too.” She turns on me, her expression indignant, her green eyes, so much like mine though a little faded and a lot jaded, blaze fire as she glares at me. “This is my apartment. The lease is in my name. I own all of this stuff. I bought everything in here for you. If I want to go through it, I have every right.”
“Give me a break. The furniture is hand-me-downs from relatives and friends. All the stuff in here, the clothes and the cheap jewelry and everything you see?” I wave my fingers around. “I bought it with money I earned. And your name may be on the lease, but I’m the one who pays all the bills every month. So don’t act like a righteous bitch who can take everything from me just because you’re my mom. I’m an adult. You don’t own me.”
I release a shuddering breath, surprised at my outburst. I can’t believe what I just said to her. I’ve been holding that in for months. Hell, for years. And now I’m so angry, I’m literally shaking.
Where’s Drew’s miracle shrink when I need her?
“How dare you talk to me like that?” Mom whispers, her voice rough, her jaw tight. “You are the most ungrateful child ever. Fine, if you’re such a high and mighty princess who can support yourself without me, then go find your own damn place to live.”
“I’ve been thinking you should be the one to leave instead. You can’t afford this place on your own and you know it. You don’t even have a job. At least I pay the rent and take care of Owen.” I hate her. I didn’t realize the depths of my hatred for her but this conversation, everything she’s saying, how she’s acting, it all seals the deal.
She’s awful. A spiteful woman who couldn’t give a crap about me or Owen. All she cares about is herself.
“You can’t kick me out of my own house.” She straightens her shoulders and pushes her bleached blonde hair away from her face. My mom looks tired. Old. Small and mean. Her eyes are hazy and I wonder if she’s drunk. Or high.
She disgusts me. I can hardly stand looking at her. Yet…I also feel sorry for her. She’s my mom. Only forty-two years old and look at her, with her crappy life and her crappy boyfriend, going nowhere fast. I’ve been scared for years I’ll end up exactly like her.
But I’m nothing like her. I have ambitions and dreams. I’m just putting them on hold until Owen’s old enough to take care of himself.
“Go back to Larry’s, Mom. Go stay there and leave Owen and me alone, okay? Do you need money? Is that why you’re digging around my room? I’ll give you money. Just…let us be.” I go to the kitchen where I left my purse on the counter and dig through it, finding my wallet and pulling out a wad of dollar bills from last night’s tip money. “Is this what you were looking for?” I ask her when she follows me into the kitchen, holding the cash out toward her.
She snatches the money from my fingers and stuffs it into the front pocket of her jeans. “I won’t refuse it.”
Great. Doesn’t even bother with a thank-you. She’s a real prize.
“Maybe I should stick around until Owen comes home.” Mom leans against the kitchen counter, trying her best for nonchalance. I know she’s really trying to get a rise out of me. Again. “I need to spend more time with my baby boy.”
I refrain from rolling my eyes but just barely. “He’s going to his friend’s house after school.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, he’s working on a class project with his friend after school. He won’t be home for hours.” I’m totally lying. They worked on the project last night. But I don’t want her lurking around here waiting for Owen and freaking him out. He’s uncomfortable around her.
Pretty sad when a kid doesn’t like being around his mother because she’s so removed from his day-to-day life.
“Great. So I’m not around, you’re not around, what kind of trouble is he getting into if we’re all too busy for him? Stupid kid,” she mutters, shaking her head.
That does it. How dare she criticize Owen? “He’s a child. What do you expect him to do if no one is around to supervise him?”
“Well, where are you?” she accuses.
“I’m working!” The words explode from my chest. “Where the hell are you? Oh, I know, you’re out drinking and doing drugs with your a**hole boyfriend. Maybe you’re sleeping in all day when you should be out hunting for a job? When you should be, you know, staying at home so you can be here for your son? Don’t blame me for your inadequacies as a mother. It’s not my fault you have better things to do.”
I’m riled up all over again. No one else does this to me. No one. I’m usually the calm in a storm. I’ll rush to someone’s defense in a heartbeat, but I don’t get worked up easily. I’m also loyal to a fault.
My loyalty to my mom disappeared years ago. I can’t count on her. No one can. She always acts like the victim or blames everyone else for her mistakes. She can’t own up to the fact that she sucks as a mother and she’s lazy.
So I don’t mind reminding her of both.
“I won’t tolerate your disrespect. I am your mother,” she stresses.
“Then act like one.” My voice is calm. Like scary calm. I cross my arms in front of my chest, practically daring her to step into the role she’s supposed to embrace every day of her life. Knowing full well she won’t.
“I don’t need this sort of abuse.” She grabs her purse from where she left it on the coffee table and slings it over her arm, heading toward the door without looking at me once. “You can go to hell, Fable.”
She slams the door behind her and a fall apart. Just…completely fall apart like a crying, out-of-control baby. I curl up on the couch and press my hands to my face, my tears soaking my palms. My entire body is shaking, I’m so angry, so frustrated, so…
Ugh. There are too many emotions coursing through me to try to sort them all out. I’ve gone from the most extreme high to the most extreme low in a matter of minutes and my mind, my heart can’t take it any longer.
Despite my anger, it feels good to cry. It’s a release from all the built up resentment and tumultuous emotions that have been swirling within me the last few months. Hell, the last few years. I don’t know how long I sit here, crying until my chest aches and my eyes sting, when I finally throw back my head and stare up at the ceiling.
My mom hates me and I hate her. I have to reconcile that fact and come to terms with it. I need to protect Owen from her too. I should probably get serious about finding another apartment because I wouldn’t put it past Mom to pull some stunt and somehow screw us out of living here.
There’s a lot to do, but what else is new? I take care of everything and everyone. It doesn’t even occur to me I could’ve asked for help from Drew until this very moment. One text message, one simple word and he would’ve dropped everything and come running to my rescue.
How I hate that I doubt him even a little bit.
I’m in the midst of planning a special night for Fable when I get the call from the one person I dread talking to more than any other. I’m so caught up in searching for the right place to take Fable to dinner tonight, I don’t bother checking who’s on the other end when I pick up my cell and answer with a distracted hello.
“Andrew.” Fuck me sideways. The sound of Adele’s voice sends icy shivers down my spine. “I can’t believe you answered.”
“It was a mistake, trust me.” I pull the phone away from my ear, ready to end the call, but I can hear her frantically saying my name, begging me not to hang up.
Like an idiot, I bring the phone back to my ear, silently waiting for her explanation.
What the hell could she have to say to me? Why am I giving her a chance to explain anything? Am I doing it for my dad? Because I sure as hell have no reason to talk to her ever again. Not after that bomb she dropped on me the day Fable and I left Carmel.
Vanessa’s not your sister, Andrew. She’s your daughter.
I close my eyes against the memory. How downright excited Adele had sounded when she made that outrageous declaration. I’ve talked about Vanessa with Dr. Harris. She knows the circumstances that surround Vanessa’s death, my guilt over leaving her alone. How it’s my fault she’s dead. How my affair with my stepmom might’ve resulted in the birth of Vanessa. My sister, my daughter… Hell, I still don’t know what to believe.
There’s also that underlying fear Adele will confess all to my dad and he’ll hate me for what I’ve done. The threat of divorce makes people do crazy things to keep their marriage together. It also makes people do outrageous things to break up their marriage for good.
Adele is a loose cannon. I’m scared to death she’ll reveal all my secrets and I’ll look like the world’s worst son. The very last thing I want to do is disappoint my dad.
Too late for that. I’ve disappointed him countless times and most of the stuff I’ve done, he doesn’t know about.
“Your father wants to leave me,” she finally says.
I crack open my eyes, stare blearily at the blurred laptop screen in front of me. “I thought you two already kissed and made up.”