Completed: a Devoured novella
My head is still spinning in the best way possible when my brother texts four days later, on Wednesday, asking if he can come over. Since Gram has probably already told him all about the house Lucas gave me—I’d excitedly given her the grand tour on Monday when she stopped by before a doctor’s appointment—I message him back to let him know I’ll be home.
I swear that word is going to take more getting used to than fiancé did.
Waiting for Seth to show up, I try my best to put some order to the moving clutter in the foyer. Lucas hadn’t left for Los Angeles until yesterday evening, which had given me more time with him than I’d anticipated. Instead of spending that extra time in bed (or, you know, against a wall), like we normally would, we’d started the process of furniture shopping. Well, I picked out furniture. He’d chuckled at my excitement, telling me he didn’t give a fuck what the inside of the house looked like as long as I’m in it.
I’d nearly swooned like a fool right in the middle of Restoration Hardware.
I’m in the middle of toting a couple of empty boxes to the garage when the doorbell rings. I toss the empty cardboard into the massive, empty space, and then race to the front door. Wearing a giant smile, I swing the door open and freeze when I get an eyeful of who’s standing on the porch with my brother.
I’m going to choke my kid brother.
Seeing her so soon after our latest confrontation brings back that involuntary desire to grind my teeth, but I instead I continue to smile, which draws a hesitant, ghost of a grin from her. I don’t feel like dealing with a Rebecca-inspired headache tonight, but Gram had raised me to respect my parents, to be kind. Even though I’ve struggled like hell with that lately, I’m not going to tell my mother to go away. Not when she hasn’t done anything to antagonize me.
If and when that happens, though … well, then I’ll gladly show Mom the door.
Before I can say anything, my brother shrugs his broad shoulders sheepishly. “I was at Gram’s and she—”
“I’m standing right here, Seth, let me speak for my own damn self,” Mom interrupts, glaring daggers up at him. I bite the inside of my cheek. I haven’t even invited them inside and already she’s snippy. Turning her attention to me, one side of her mouth quirks up. “The three of us need to have a talk. And since I’ve heard Mama brag about this place for days—” She gestures widely to the house. “You gonna let us in, Sienna, or do you want your neighbors to hear everything I have to say?”
I feel every muscle in my body tighten as I move aside to let my brother and mother in. It takes every inch of self-control not to angrily slam the door because of the snide suggestion I heard in her words. Or hell, maybe I was just so used to her typical rudeness, I automatically assumed the worst. We’ve reached a point where the constant back-and-forth between us has to be playing tricks on my brain.
Locking the front door, I cross my arms tightly over my chest and walk slowly beside my brother. My mom has wandered ahead, staring up at the high ceilings and peeking around corners, and she’s out of earshot when Seth bends his head and whispers, “Don’t be too pissed, Si. She wouldn’t back down and—”
I shake my head. “I’ll get over it, let’s just … let’s see what she wants, okay?”
When Mom disappears down a hallway, I tell Seth where the living room is and leave him behind, walking a little faster to find her. She doesn’t go far, because I quickly locate her in my new laundry room—which is state-of-the-art and gets me excited to do laundry every time I walk inside. Mom is leaning against the granite counters, staring out at the empty spots where my new washer and dryer will eventually stand.
She stays silent until I eventually walk in front of her with my eyebrow raised. I almost expect to see her eyes glazed over, but Mom was never into actually taking drugs—just selling them. She’s completely alert, completely herself, when she releases a harsh laugh and rakes her hand through her strawberry blond hair. “Lord, Sienna. You don’t give me any credit.”
I glance behind me, at the outlet box, and then turn my focus back to her green eyes, which are now narrowed. “You’re looking at a wall. Sorry, but that worries me a little.”
She laughs and I can’t decide if it’s bitter or genuine, so I hold my breath, waiting for her to talk. “When your dad and I got married, we dreamt of this.” I make a little noise, but she shakes her head. “And before you act like a smartass and ask if I’m talking about the goddamn laundry room, I’m not. I’m talking about this. This house. Well, houses like it. Never worked out.”
“When you got remarried you had a nice place,” I point out, and she rolls her eyes.
“You love to throw that up in my face.”
I haven’t directly brought up my asshole ex-stepfather or the big house they ran their mini drug empire from since Lucas helped her get an early release, but I decide to apologize anyway. “Sorry, but it was a general statement. Wasn’t throwing anything in your face.” When she gives me a stiff nod, I sigh. “Look, I don’t want to argue. Seth is waiting for us in the other room. We should go have that talk. I have a dinner appointment with a client at eight-thirty, and I can’t be late.”
It’s a lie, and a horrible one at that, but my mother seems to accept it. Gesturing to the hallway, she smirks. “Well, I don’t want to keep you, Sienna. Let’s get this over with.”
When we reach my new living room, Seth is texting, sprawled out on the linen sofa like he’s lived here for years. Glancing over at us, he lazily sits up. “You and douchebag are welcome to get me a couch like this for Christmas,” he drawls, ducking when I reach out to smack the back of his head as I sit next to him.
“I’d think by now you’d stop calling him that.”
“Someday,” my brother promises, sliding down to the other end of the couch so he’s far away from my reach.
From across the room, Mom clears her throat, pulling my brother’s brown eyes and my blue ones up to look at her. She’s pacing back and forth in front of the mantle and built-in bookshelves, clenching her thin hands together. “I realize what you two must think of me by now. I know what kind of person you think I am—and you’re probably justified. I’ve brought a world of hurt into both your lives, but I was never meant to be a mother. We all know that, so there’s no use pretending.”
Beside me, Seth groans. “Mom—”
She holds up her hand. “Let me finish,” she snaps, and I sink my fingers into the cushions. Feel a sharp pang in my chest because I can’t help but wonder if the next thing out my mother’s mouth will be to tell Seth and I we shouldn’t have been born or something equally as awful. Finally she continues, “The thing is, I don’t want to change. I don’t know how.”
Her words send a hot, familiar emotion flashing through me, and I drag my tongue over my teeth before I ask her why the hell we’re having this conversation if she has no intention of trying. But then Mom’s lips part again. And what she says next immediately silences me.
“Which is why I’m leaving.”