Thursday, January 15, 2015

Completed: Chapter 18

Completed: a Devoured novella
Chapter 18


“You’re leaving?” I repeat my mother’s words, stunned by the bombshell she just dropped on my brother and me. Honestly, this is the last thing I expected her to say. When she nods, I pull my brows together in a frown. “When did you decide to do this? And where exactly are you moving?” By now, I’m literally sitting on the edge of my seat, dying to know what Mom has up her sleeve this time.

She stops pacing a few feet from entrance to living room. With her back turned to us, she lifts her thin shoulders into a shrug. “Why does it matter when I decided to get the hell out of here? All you need to know is that I’m leaving a week from now to stay with friends.”

I cringe. Because the first thing that comes to my mind are the friends she used to surround herself with when Seth and I were kids. “How—” I start to ask, but Mom cuts me off by turning around and holding up her hands to stop me.

“And no, I don’t know how long I’ll be gone for, but I can’t be around this type of environment anymore.”

The irritated tone that she uses when she speaks those words, and the way she gestures around at my living room, puts a sour taste in my mouth. From opposite ends of the couch, Seth and I glance at each other. His brown eyes are narrowed into thin slits, and when he mouths, “What the fuck?” I know he’s thinking the same thing I am.

 Aggravated, I come right out and confront her. “Mom, if you’re trying to say that the reason that you’re leaving is because of us, you can stop right there.”

“Nobody said a damn thing about you being the reason, Sienna.” Sitting down on the edge of the chaise lounge by the fireplace, she combs her hands through her strawberry blond hair and sighs. “Maybe you’re thinking that way because you’re guilty.”

“Neither of us is guilty,” I retort before Seth can say a word, and he gives me a nod before turning his focus back on our mother.

“Have you told Gram about your plans yet?” he asks.

My muscles tighten in suppressed anger when Mom rolls her green eyes and lifts her shoulders again. I already know she’s going to say something totally warped, so I should just cover my ears, but I don’t.  “Why does it matter?” she asks, looking me right in the eye as she says it, knowingly baiting me.

Those four words start the argument. It’s heated and I’m sure my new neighbors can probably hear the back and forth yelling that echoes through the giant house, but I don’t care. By the time Seth leaves, taking our mother along with him, I’m shaking and my entire body is flushed because here’s the thing: I can deal just fine with Mom’s flippant attitude toward me—hell, I’m used to it—but for her not to even consider Gram’s feelings…

Well, that infuriates me.

I’m still fuming when I go out to dinner with Gram and Seth two nights later. Because Lucas is flying in to Nashville later tonight, we opt for an earlier than usual time to meet at one of Gram’s favorite restaurant in Green Hills. Since I moved back to Nashville earlier this year, we try to have dinner out at least once a month, but tonight we sit in unusual silence. It reminds me of the time we came here this last summer—right before I left to go on tour with Lucas and Your Toxic Sequel. Seth had turned dinner into an awkward situation when he’d lectured me about leaving with Lucas, even going as far as to give me safe sex advice.

Tonight, however, my little brother says nothing.

He doesn’t want to break our grandma’s heart with the news that Mom is planning on leaving without telling her, and neither do I.

By the time we get through our appetizers and the waiter brings out our main course, Gram has had enough of the uncomfortable silence. From her spot next to me, she sets her sweet tea down beside her plate and sits back in the booth. She stares between my brother and me. “Seth, when you don’t talk, I know something is wrong.” Her bright blue eyes narrow. “Tell me what’s going on.”

Seth focuses his dark eyes down at his plate, and across from him, I tap my fingers on the table. He doesn’t look up. Of course, my little brother would lose his ability to speak and leave this up to me. I release a heavy sigh. “Gram, Mom talked to Seth and me the other day, and—”

“She’s skipping town.” It isn’t a question—and there’s not even a hint of surprise in her voice. She already knows about this, and I feel my heart sink. Seth’s gaze pops up, and we both stare at her, waiting for her to continue. She takes another sip of her sweet tea. “I figured it out when she asked me for money.”

“How much?” I whisper.

“Five thousand.”

I swallow hard. Gram’s not a rich woman. Thanks to my mom, she’d lost her home at the beginning of this year. To think that she’s being played again makes me see red. “Gram … did you give it to her?” I ask in the gentlest tone I can manage.

She shakes her head, turning her attention on the half-eaten grilled salmon on her plate. A sad smile plays at the corner of her mouth. “But boy did she give me a story about wanting to start over. Sienna, Seth … I want her to start over—more than anything else, I want that for your mother—but I can’t do it anymore.”

“So, is she still planning to move?” my brother asks, not even trying to hide the hope in his voice.

“Thanks for finally contributing to the conversation,” I say under my breath, and he shoots me a dark look as my grandmother responds to his question with an unsure nod.

When Gram turns toward me, covers my hand with hers, I already know what she’s about to tell me, but I still suck in a breath through my teeth when she says, “She’s planning to ask Lucas for money, Sienna. I thought it was fair to warn you.”

“Fuck,” Seth says, and Gram presses her lips into a line, causing him to immediately apologize.

I start to tell them both that Lucas absolutely won’t give my mother the time of day, but then I vividly recall how he’d aided her before with her early release. It had been an attempt to get her off my back, but his plan had backfired when she decided to place herself directly into my life again. Lucas has said over and over again how different my mood is when Mom is around, so who knows what he’d be willing to do to make her leave.

Turning my hand, I give Gram’s fingers a little squeeze. “I’ll talk to him tonight.”

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Completed: Chapter Seventeen

Completed: a Devoured novella
Chapter 17


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.

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.

My mother.

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.”
 
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