Music played somewhere in the distance as I spun in circles searching for it. Just before I twirled off a huge cliff and plunged to my death, my eyes snapped open. I stared at the ceiling. The music was much louder now. Colbi Caillat was letting me know I had a phone call. Groaning, I reached for my phone on the pillow beside me. I’d gone to sleep hoping to get a text from Sawyer but it never came.
Why was my mother calling at seven-thirty in the morning?
“Hey honey, I’m sorry to wake you but I wanted to call you before your stupid father did. You need to hear this from me and not him. He has absolutely not one drop of compassion for others. He just goes around hurting people and doing whatever his sorry ass wants to do. Selfish man. He hasn’t called you, has he? Because if he has already called, I’m going to jump on a plane and fly to New York City and kick his—”
“Mom, could you tell me what’s going on please?” I’d pulled myself up to a sitting position while my mother had rambled on about my father. That was her favorite past-time. Coming up with names for my dad.
“Sorry. I got carried away,” she sighed into the phone. “Your dad is getting married Lana, to that new whore of his.”
I was prepared for this, maybe not so soon, but I knew he had moved away to be near some woman he’d met on a business trip. I was hoping to visit him one week this summer if he found time in his schedule. Sounded pathetic that I was hoping he could pencil in time for me but he was my dad. Up until last year, he’d lived in my house. I’d hated him at first but eventually I’d wanted a relationship with my dad again.
“Okay,” I began, trying carefully to filter my words while talking to my mother. She went crazy if I ever defended him. I didn’t like her reminding me that he’d left me too, whenever I tried to take up for him. Because she was right. He had left me too, but he loved me. I knew he did. He’d told me the day he signed the divorce papers that he’d stayed with her until I was grown. He had been planning to leave her the moment I went off to college but things had happened and he’d had to leave a little early. He’d said that none of it was because of me. He loved me and was proud of me. I needed to believe that. I held onto that at night when I lay in bed and heard my mother crying and screaming as she threw things across her bedroom.
“We knew he was serious when he moved out there to be with her. When is he planning on getting married?”
“I most certainly did not expect your forty-seven year old father to marry his twenty- three year old slut! What will people think? He’s ruining our reputation. People in this town will find out and they will talk. You won’t be able to walk around town without people whispering behind your back. This is going to RUIN us, Lana. Just ruin us!”
Twenty-three? I cringed. What was my dad doing engaged to a girl only five years older than me? That was just… gross. My mother continued to rant and call my dad names as I sat there staring at the wall in front of me. The message ‘Home is where the heart is’ was stenciled on a framed painting and hung on the pale blue wall mocking me. Home? What was home now? My mother’s house where there was never any peace? My dad’s apartment in Manhattan? It was about 500 square feet and he was about to move in his college age wife. Tears stung my eyes as the smell of coffee wafted down the hall. I could hear my aunt and uncle chatting happily in the kitchen and bacon frying on the stove. This was a home. One like I’d never really known.
“Did you hear me Lana?”
Shaking myself out of the pity party I was having, I cleared my throat. “Sorry Mom, what was that?”
“He wants to fly you to New York City to be in the wedding. Can you believe that? My baby in New York. I told him no way. You wouldn’t want to be in his ridiculous wedding. But he insisted that he’d talk to you first. Be ready for that call today. The little floozy wants you to be the maid-of-honor. You haven’t even met her.”
“Okay, mom. Thank you for letting me know. I need to go. I’ll call you later. Ashton is waiting on me to go for a morning run.” Mom bought my lie and I fell back against the pillow as I ended the call.
Could this get anymore screwed up? The house phone rang and I heard my aunt answer it. I didn’t have to pick-up to know it was my mother telling my aunt everything she’d just told me. If mom mentioned the lie I’d told her about running with Ashton, I knew my aunt would cover for me. She understood. She always had. I snuggled down into the covers and closed my eyes. For now, I could pretend this was my home. That I had a safe happy place.
Walking into the kitchen several hours later the faint smell of bacon still filled the air. Ashton stood by the counter in her pajamas and mussed hair pouring herself a cup of coffee.
“Morning,” I said, stopping beside the cabinet to get myself a coffee cup.
“Oh, it’s my early morning running buddy,” the teasing tone to her voice made me smile.
“Uh, yeah, sorry about that. I needed an excuse to get off the phone.”
Ashton laughed and handed me the pot of coffee. “No worries. Mom covered for you according to the note she left us.” She pointed to the letter lying on the bar.
I reached over and picked it up.
Good morning girls,
I hope you enjoyed your early morning run. I have to say that when Caroline called me this morning and mentioned that you two were out running I was a little surprised. I could have sworn I’d passed both your doors and they were closed tightly. But do not worry, I didn’t share that information with my sister. She believes you both enjoyed a nice long run before coming inside to eat some of the bacon and eggs I fried up.
I smiled to myself and laid the letter back down.
“How does your mom manage to be so cool and mine is a crazed psycho?” I asked, taking a sip of my black coffee.
Ashton didn’t even deny my mother’s insane tendencies. She gave me a sad frown and shrugged.
“Why’d your mom call so early this morning?”
I rolled my shoulders and set my cup back down. I didn’t really want to talk about this but I knew hashing it out with someone other than my mom would make my decision easier.
“Dad’s getting married.”
Ashton’s eyes widened and she leaned forward on the counter resting on both elbows and studied me a moment. I knew she was trying to gauge my reaction to this news.
“You were expecting this, right?” she asked hesitantly.
“Yes, I was. But not so soon and maybe not to a girl only five years older than me.”
Her jaw dropped, “Uncle Nolan is engaged to a twenty-three year old?”
It sounded ludicrous when she said it aloud, too. My dad was not an attractive guy. Sure, I loved him but he was old and balding. Not to mention he had a potbelly. “Crazy, huh?”
“Yeah, real crazy… are you okay? Is he going to call you?”
I wasn’t sure if I had ever been okay. Even when both my parents lived at home. They fought constantly. Most of my memories growing up had a scene in them where my mother was screaming at my dad.
“I’m fine. He’s supposed to call today. His fiancée… she wants me to be her maid-of-honor. I’ve never even met her. I think I’m going to ask him if I can just be his best man. I think I could rock a tux.”
Ashton let out a long sigh then walked around the bar to stand beside me. She wrapped her arm around my waist and squeezed. “When you want to talk, rant or even cry, I’m here.”
My eyes teared up and I swallowed the lump in my throat. I didn’t like people thinking I was weak. I’d never been one to share my emotions. I kept things inside. Dealt with them on my own. But knowing someone was there and cared— it meant a lot. More than she would ever know. I rested my head against hers and we stared out at the backyard together in silence. There wasn’t much more to say. Just having someone there beside me made things so much easier.
Beau: What days do you have to be in Florida for practices?
Me: Three days a week starting in July.
Beau: Bama is the same. We’ve really only got June to take that camping trip.
Me: I’m ready when you are.
Beau: You talked to Lana?
Me: Not today. Just got back from the field house working out.
Beau: Ash is spending the morning with her. She’s got some shit going on with her parents.
I stared down at Beau’s last text. Lana being upset made me anxious. Not sure I liked that. I didn’t have time for anything more than a summer fling.
Me: I’ll call her. Thanks.
Beau: Be careful with her.
I didn’t respond. This wasn’t his business. When I’d been with Ashton he’d been more involved than he should have been but I’d let it slide because Ash was a part of his life too. But Lana… she was not his concern. Throwing the phone down on the bed, I headed to the bathroom for a shower. I’d already planned out a day where I could have Lana all to myself anyway. It had been my inspiration while running up and down the bleachers one hundred times.
“Where you headed, sweetheart?”
My mom called out from her office as I passed it on my way to the garage. I’d hoped to sneak by her without having to answer her questions. She’d been upset when Ashton had broken up with me. She’d been even more upset when she’d found out Beau had been my replacement. We’d spent a lot of time in counseling together. We’d had to deal with my dad’s dishonesty and find a way to face the truth without ripping our family apart. I still wanted Dad to reach out to Beau but he wouldn’t. There was no way Beau was going to make the first move. He had a lot of well-deserved bitterness inside him where my dad was concerned.
“I’m headed to pick up Lana, you remember Ashton’s cousin from Georgia. We’re going to head to Mobile to do some shopping for camping gear and maybe catch a movie or something.”
Mom tilted her head and frowned. “Isn’t Lana the daughter of that crazy sister of Sarah’s?”
I didn’t know much about Lana’s mom other than Ashton was not a fan. Shrugging I shoved my hands in my pockets. “Lana isn’t crazy. That’s all that matters.”
“Hmmph… well, don’t get too attached. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
My Aunt Honey’s voice rang in my ears when not too long ago she’d said the same thing about my dad and Beau. Scowling, I replied, “Yeah, I realized that when I found out dad was unfaithful and then lied about it to those he was supposed to love.”
My mother’s back went ramrod straight. I hated the hurt look I’d put in her eyes. She didn’t deserve my anger. She’d been a victim too.
“I shouldn’t have butted into your business. You’re right. Go have fun. Enjoy yourself this summer. Everything changes this fall. There’s a big sea out there with lots of fish and now you and Ashton have moved on. It’s time you start sampling the variety.”
Mom had loved Ashton. I think she may have even picked out our china patterns at one point. Hearing her say that I needed to start “sampling the variety” was a major step for her. I walked across the room and bent down to place a kiss on the top of her head.
“Love you,” I said before turning to leave.
“I love you too, sweet boy,” she replied.