Lies. I have no idea if she’ll answer me or not. For all I know, this is the last we’ll ever hear of her.
Wouldn’t bother me whatsoever either. I’m so done with this bullshit she puts us through. The emotional ringer we’re forced to deal with every time she flits in and out of our lives. I put up my walls long ago but Owen is still open and dying for Mom to love him. Really love him.
She doesn’t know how. And he hasn’t realized it yet.
Drew exits the room without a word, closing the door behind him, and I appreciate what he’s doing for us so much. He’s nonintrusive while I try to deal with my brother. He’s been nothing but gracious, opening his home up to both of us, giving Owen whatever he needs to ensure he’s comfortable here.
He’s amazing. And when I’m finished talking to Owen, I’m going to go to Drew and beg him to put his arms around me and just hold me.
I need him so badly right now. But first, I need to take care of my brother, who needs me more.
“What if she’s not fine?” Owen asks, his voice trembling. “What if something really did happen to her and she’s hurt and helpless somewhere? Or…worse? What then, Fable?”
The image his words conjure in my brain—no. There’s no way she’s a victim in all of this. She had a hand in it. I can feel it all the way in my bones. “I know you’re worried. But I need to be honest with you. She doesn’t care about us, Owen. Not like you want her to. She’s too wrapped up in her own problems to realize how much you need her. How much you want her around. She’d rather run off and go get drunk and hang out at the bar with her boyfriend.”
Owen stares at me, his cheeks red, his eyes filling with tears. “You don’t know shit. Maybe she doesn’t want to be around us because she knows how much you hate her.”
I flinch. “I’m not the one to blame here. She can’t stand the fact that we’re close. She’s jealous and it’s so stupid because she can’t see how much you crave that sort of closeness with her. She’s our mother yet she treats us like we’re nothing more than a pain in her ass.”
“Maybe to you she acts that way but never to me. She loves me!” He’s yelling, the tears are coursing down his cheeks and he swipes them away angrily. “Go on believing she’s a bitch. Maybe you’re being the bitch this time, Fabes. Did you ever think of that?”
I’m stunned. I can’t believe he just said that to me. I’m this close to falling completely apart and damn it, I need to be the strong one. “You’re upset,” I say quietly. “I understand. Why don’t we get a good night’s sleep and we can talk tomorrow.”
“Whatever.” Owen turns away from me and crawls onto the futon, fixing the pillows and then pulling the blankets over him, his back to me. He’s so stiff beneath the covers, he looks like he could shatter.
“I love you, Owen,” I murmur just before I close the door.
He doesn’t even bother with a reply.
I’m pacing my bedroom, waiting for Fable to come back. A million questions are running through my brain and I’m afraid to ask her any of them. We were having an amazing night. And now this…
If her mom really did ransack their apartment and take everything they pretty much freaking owned, leaving her kids only their clothes and personal stuff, then she’s incredibly selfish and callous. Owen is heartbroken. Fable’s so angry I’m afraid she’s going to lose it at any moment, though she has this weird calmness about her too. I’ve never seen her like this before, though hell, not like we’ve been together long.
This entire relationship of ours has been a whirlwind from day one. I can’t imagine my life without her. I’m also trying my best to be there for her. She’s not necessarily pushing me away.
But she’s not really including me either.
What the hell can I do for her anyway? I feel helpless. No one can get a hold of her mom. Owen hates me and views me as some sort of bad guy hell-bent on breaking his sister’s heart—again. The only thing I can offer is a place to stay and even then I still felt like I somehow f**ked up by making the suggestion.
I can’t win. I sound like a selfish baby, but damn. I want Fable to know she can depend on me no matter what. I’ll be her rock, her support, whatever she needs. I would do anything for her.
Unfortunately, I don’t think she fully realizes that yet.
Long, endless minutes later, she’s slipping inside my bedroom, closing the door softly behind her. Her shoulders slump forward as she leans against the door, her expression one of utter exhaustion.
I want to comfort her but she’s put up an invisible wall. One that says she can do this on her own, thank you very much.
Fuck that. I’m gonna tear down that wall, no matter how long it takes.
“How’s Owen?” I ask.
“He hates me.” She closes her eyes, a weird little smile appearing. “He blames me for our mom ditching us. Says that maybe if I wasn’t such a bitch, she wouldn’t have left in the first place.”
“What?” I practically shout and she opens her eyes, glaring at me.
“Ssh! He’ll hear you.” Pushing away from the door, she walks toward my bed and collapses on top of it, burrowing her head in the pillows. “I don’t want to talk about it, Drew. I just want to go to sleep.”
She’s acting odd but I’m not about to call her on it. She’s upset. Yet again her life has been turned completely upside down.
“Do you want to change into something more comfortable?” I ask.
Her shoulders shake like she’s laughing. She still won’t face me. “Are you trying to use some sort of line on me? Let me warn you up front. I’m not in the mood.”
“Fable.” Like I would expect anything from her tonight. “I’m not trying to get in your pants. I want to take care of you.”
“Fine.” She rolls over onto her back and undoes the snap on her jeans, shimmying out of them. Despite my not wanting anything from her—and I swear I don’t—I can’t help but stare at her legs, those lacy pink panties she has on that are barely covering her.
Swallowing hard, I glance down, trying to gain some composure. I shouldn’t act like a pervert in her time of need, but I look at her and I want her. It’s an automatic reaction.
I glance up to catch her shrugging out of her shirt and tossing it on the floor. She reaches beneath her tank and undoes the clasp of her bra, pulling it off from under her top in that magical way girls have. The bra is white and lacy, a little scrap of fabric that falls from her fingertips. She’s wearing just the tank and the panties, her n**ples pressing against her top, gooseflesh rising on her skin, and I release a shuddering breath. Tell myself to get the hell over it and do the right thing.
“Cold? I can grab an extra blanket…”
“No.” She shakes her head and bounds up from the bed, tugging back the comforter and sheet so she can slip beneath them. “I’m just really, really tired.”
I stand there, not knowing what to do. She’s giving off a weird vibe. I know she’s upset and she has every reason to be. Not only did her mom pull a really crappy move. Owen blames her for it.
Her back is to me, her blonde hair a mess around her head, and I want to go to her so bad. But I’m afraid she’ll reject me. “Are you coming to bed?” she asks, her voice soft.
She just made up my mind for me. “Yeah,” I say, removing my clothes until I’m only in my boxer briefs. Turning off the bedside lamp, I get into bed and pull the covers over me, wondering if I should reach for her.
I decide to stay on my back and stare up at the ceiling instead, my arms folded behind my head. She’s quiet, she’s hardly moving, and I think she might’ve already fallen asleep.
Guess she’s still awake. “Yeah.”
“Thank you for letting us stay with you.” She rolls over to face me and I turn my head so our gazes meet. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“What the hell?” I’m irritated. Does she think I’ll let her deal with this on her own? “Of course I had to do that. Where else would you two go?”
She shrugs one shoulder. “I would’ve figured something out. I bet Colin would’ve taken us in. I hear he lives in a freaking mansion. I’m sure he has plenty of room.”
Fuck me. I can’t believe she would say that. The guy was a total dick to me that night I first saw her, making me believe he had something going on with her, and now she’s saying she would’ve moved in with him like no problem?
“I don’t want to inconvenience you,” she continues. “First thing tomorrow before I go to work, I’m going apartment hunting.”
“Why do you do that?” I ask, my voice so low, I sound like I’m growling. But damn it, I’m pissed. “Why do you act like you never want my help? Like you can’t count on me to come through for anything?”
“Seriously?” Her voice rises. “When have you ever come through? I can’t count on anyone. No one. I’ve always taken care of myself. I’m not about to become dependent on you now.”
“Why the hell not? We haven’t been together long enough for me to come through for you when the going gets tough. But I’m here now. Offering everything I have to try to help you and you act like you could give a shit.” My blood is boiling. I’m infuriated she’s treating me like this. A voice inside my head whispers I need to tread lightly, but screw it. The gloves are coming off. I need to tell her how I feel before I explode and really lose my shit.
“I said thank you,” she whispers.
“Yeah, like I held a gun to your head and forced you to say it,” I return, flicking my gaze away from her so I can stare at the ceiling once again.
She’s quiet, I hear the rustle of the sheets and comforter and I glance at her out of the corner of my eye to see she’s curled into a ball, her shoulder shaking. A sob escapes hers and she slaps her hand over her mouth.
God, she’s crying. Probably over how I just yelled at her, like I’m some sort of jackass.
“Come here,” I whisper, gathering her in my arms. She comes to me easily, curling her arms around my middle as she rests her head against my bare chest. Her tears dampen my skin as I smooth her hair away from her forehead. I whisper soft words of comfort close to her ear, hating how despondent she sounds. She’s crying hard, her entire body shaking. I fear her heart might be breaking in two.
“I—I don’t know what to d—do,” she sobs. “I can’t believe she left us with nothing. That she didn’t tell us she was leaving.”
“It’s going to be all right.” I tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, run my index finger down the side of her throat. “I swear, I’ll help you with whatever you need.”
She takes a deep, shuddering breath. “It’s not that I’m ungrateful. I just…I don’t know how to do this. Accept help from someone. I’ve always carried this load on my own. It’s hard to believe someone wants to share the burden.”