Just for Now, Page 2Abbi Glines
“I’m gonna pay rent before I leave, but I know you have some other bills. Where are they?”
She reached for the pack of cigarettes sitting in the ashtray in the middle of her small brown Formica table. “The bills are on top of the fridge. I hid ’em from Randy. They made him pissy.”
Great. The electricity bill and water bill pissed the man off. My mother sure knew how to pick them.
“Oh, Pweston, can I have one of dese now?” Daisy asked, holding up an orange.
“Of course you can. Come here and I’ll peel it,” I replied, holding out my hand for her to give it to me.
“Stop babying her. You come in here and baby her, then leave, and I’m left to deal with her spoiled ass. She needs to grow up and do shit herself.” Momma’s bitter words weren’t anything new. However, watching Daisy flinch and her eyes fill up with tears I knew she wouldn’t shed for fear of getting slapped caused my blood to boil.
I bent down and kissed the top of her head before taking the orange from her and peeling it. Confronting Momma would only make her worse. When I left, it would be up to Jimmy to make sure Daisy was safe. Leaving them here wasn’t easy, but I didn’t have the kind of money it would take to go to court over it. And the lifestyle I’d chosen in order to make sure they were okay and taken care of wasn’t one that the courts would look favorably on. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell I’d ever get them. The best I could do was come here once a week and feed them and make sure their bills were paid. I couldn’t be around Momma more than that.
“When’s Daisy’s next doctor’s appointment?” I asked, wanting to change the subject and find out when I needed to come pick her up and take her.
“I think it’s last week. Why don’t you call the doc yourself and find out, if you’re so damn worried about it. She ain’t sick. She’s just lazy.”
I finished peeling the orange and grabbed a paper towel, then handed it to Daisy.
“Tank you, Pweston.”
I knelt down to her level. “You’re welcome. Eat that up. It’s good for you. I bet Jimmy will go out on the porch with you if you want.”
Daisy frowned and leaned forward. “Jimmy won’t go outside ’cause Becky Ann lives next doowah. He tinks she’s pwetty.”
Grinning, I glanced back at Jimmy, whose cheeks were bright red.
“Dammit, Daisy, why you have to go and tell him that?”
“Watch the language with your sister,” I warned, and stood up. “Ain’t no reason to be embarrassed ’cause you think some girl is good-looking.”
“Don’t listen to him. He’s in a different one’s panties ever’ night. Just like his daddy was.” Momma loved to make me look bad in front of the kids.
Jimmy grinned. “I know. I’m gonna be just like Preston when I grow up.”
I slapped him on the back of the head. “Keep it in your pants, boy.”
Jimmy laughed and headed for the door. “Come on, Daisy May. I’ll go outside with you for a while.”
I didn’t look back at Momma as I finished putting away the food, then retrieved the bills from the top of the fridge. Brent sat silently on the bar stool, watching me. I would have to spend a little time with him before I left. He was the middle one, the one who didn’t push for my attention. I’d sent the other two outside knowing he liked to have me to himself.
“So, what’s new?” I asked, leaning on the bar across from him.
He smiled and shrugged. “Nothing much. I wanna play football this year, but Momma says it costs too much and I’d be bad at it ’cause I’m scrawny.”
God, she was a bitch.
“Is that so? Well, I disagree. I think you’d make an awesome corner or wide receiver. Why don’t you get me the info on this and I’ll check into it?”
Brent’s eyes lit up. “For real? ’Cause Greg and Joe are playing, and they live in the trailers back there.” He pointed toward the back of the trailer park. “Their daddy said I could ride with them and stuff. I just needed someone to fill out the paper and pay for it.”
“Go on ahead and pay for it. Let him get hurt, and see whose fault it’ll be,” Momma said through the cigarette hanging out of her mouth.
“I’m sure they have coaches and adults overseeing this so that it is rare someone gets really hurt at this age,” I said, shooting a warning glare back at her.
“You’re making me raise the sorriest bunch of brats in town. When they all need bailed outta jail in a few years, that shit is all on you.” She stood up and walked back to her room. Once the door slammed behind her, I looked back at Brent.
“Ignore that. You hear me? You’re smart, and you’re gonna make something of yourself. I believe in you.”
Brent nodded. “I know. Thank you for football.”
I reached out and patted his head. “You’re welcome. Now, why don’t you come on outside and walk me to my Jeep?”
Marcus, my older brother, was mad at me. He was convinced I was staying home instead of going to Auburn like I’d planned because of Mom. I wasn’t. Not really. Well, maybe a little bit. At first it had been for completely selfish reasons. I’d wanted to get Preston Drake to notice me. Well, three months ago I’d gotten my wish for about forty minutes. Since then he hadn’t looked my way once. After several pitiful attempts to get his attention, I stopped trying.
Unfortunately, it was a little too late to decide I wanted to go to Auburn instead of the local junior college. I was almost relieved I couldn’t go away, though. My mom was dealing with the betrayal and desertion of my dad. He now lived an hour away with his new young girlfriend and their child.
Leaving home meant leaving Mom all alone in this big house. If I hadn’t made the decision to stay and try to get Preston’s attention, I’d be leaving today for Auburn. Mom would be crying and I would be sick to my stomach with worry. She just wasn’t strong enough to be left alone just yet. Maybe next year.
“You can’t live here forever, Amanda,” Marcus said as he paced in front of me. I had come outside to the pool with the new copy of People magazine hoping to get some sun, but Marcus had shown up. “At some point we’re going to have to let Mom learn to cope. I know it’s hard. Look at me, I’m still stopping by four to five times a week just to make sure she’s okay. But I don’t want you giving up your dreams because you feel responsible for our mother.”
I’d managed to keep my not going away to Auburn a secret from him until today. Normally, he was so wrapped up in his world with his fiancée, Willow, and his online courses to keep up with what I was doing.
“I know this, but maybe I just wasn’t ready to leave home. Maybe this is all about me. You ever think of that?”
Marcus frowned and rubbed his chin hard, which meant he was frustrated. “Okay. Fine. Say you don’t want to go away just yet. Have you considered maybe going in January? Getting your feet wet with college while at home, then venturing out?”
Sighing, I laid my magazine in my lap. I might as well give up on reading it until he’d gotten this off his chest. “No, I haven’t, because that is stupid. I can go an entire year here, then transfer next year. It works for me. I know people here, and I want to be here for the wedding. I want to help Willow plan it. I don’t want to be four hours away missing all this.”
I’d hit him below the belt. Anything to do with his wedding and he went all soft. Marcus stopped his endless pacing and sat down on the end of the lounge chair beside me. “So this is really about you wanting to stay at home? You’re just not ready to leave yet? Because if that is really the case, then I’m good with that. I don’t want you going off if you’re not ready. Sure as hell don’t want you going to Auburn. But if this is what you want—you want—then I’m happy. I just don’t want what Dad did to take away any more of our lives than it already has.”
He was such a good guy. Why couldn’t I be infatuated with a good guy like my overprotective, loving brother? There were guys out there like him. I’d met a few. Why did I have to be hung up on a ma
“It is all about me. I swear.”
Marcus nodded, then slapped my foot before standing back up. “Good. I feel better now. Since you’re not moving away today, you’re invited to the engagement party the guys are throwing for me and Low.”
Guys? “What guys?”
“You know, the guys. Rock, Preston, Dewayne—well, the truth is, mostly Trisha is throwing it and the guys are all planning the alcohol.”
“Does she need help?” I asked, thinking how ridiculous it was that I was asking in hopes that I would be thrown together with Preston in some part of the planning.
“Yeah, I’m sure she does. Why don’t you give her a call?”
I would do that. Today. “Okay, cool. When is it?”
“This Friday night.”
“Where do I put these large paper balls, and what the hell are these, anyway?”
Trisha, the only other female who’d managed to get one of my friends to tie the knot, glanced back at me from her perch on top of the ladder and laughed. “Put the box of lanterns on the table over there beside the flowers,” Trisha instructed me before turning back to tying ribbon from the ceiling.
When I’d agreed to help with this party for Marcus and Low, I’d thought that meant I was chipping in for the beer. Not carrying shit and hanging it up all day long. Trisha had demanded we all be here at eight this morning. She’d barely given us a break for lunch. The next time one of my dumbass friends got engaged, I wasn’t making the mistake of offering to help again.
“Five more boxes in the truck, Preston. What’re you standing around for?” Rock asked as he walked in behind me and dropped a box on the table.
“I’m trying to find a way to get the hell out of here.”
Rock chuckled. “Good luck with that. My woman ain’t letting anyone free until we’ve got this thing looking just the way she wants it.”
“A warning that Trisha was a party-decorating Nazi would have been nice.”
Rock slapped my back. “Nope. Then it’d just be me and Trisha. I wanted y’all to suffer through it with me.”
Fine. Five more boxes, and then I was finding a way to sneak out. I followed Rock back outside to the truck. A familiar little Mercedes coupe pulled into the drive. What the hell was Amanda doing here? She was supposed to be safely tucked away at college by now. I wouldn’t have come to the Hardys’ beach condo if I’d thought there was a chance she could be here. Damn it. The girl was driving me crazy. She’d started flirting with me heavily about three months ago. And she hadn’t let up. I wasn’t someone she needed to be flirting with. My life was too fucked up for the likes of an innocent like Amanda.
Her car door swung open, and out came a very long tanned leg. I stopped. I was weak where she was concerned. After a very vivid dream about what she’d feel like and taste like, I’d been closing my eyes and pretending like every other woman I ended up fucking was Amanda. I was sorry scum for doing it, but . . . ah, hell . . .
Amanda stood up, and the tiny little red shorts she was wearing made those long legs that ended in a pair of red heels look endless. Fuck, I was going to get a boner. I’d been thinking about those legs wrapped around me for three months too long. If she’d treat me like the creep I was, then it would be easier to ignore, but she didn’t. She smiled and batted her long eyelashes and flipped her blond hair over her shoulder. Even the few nights she’d managed to get drunk at Live Bay, the local club, the innocence pouring off her was a major red flag.
“Get a box!” Rock yelled at me as he pulled out another one of the boxes from the truck. I didn’t make eye contact with her. I couldn’t. She’d smile, and I’d be an ass trying to get her to go away. Ignoring her worked better. I didn’t like to see that sweet little flirty gleam in her eyes suddenly turn to hurt when I opened my mouth and spewed lies. I’d seen it too many times this summer. I was staying the hell away from that. My heart couldn’t take it.
Grabbing a box, I headed back to her daddy’s condo. It was set directly on the beach, and a perfect spot for tonight’s party. The patio opened up to the condo’s pool—we had reserved it for a private party.
“Hello, Preston.” Amanda was beside me.
She was relentless. “Manda, aren’t you supposed to be off at college by now?” Please, God, let her be leaving and getting far away from my dirty mind.
“I’m staying here this year. I decided I wasn’t ready to leave home just yet.”
Well, fuck me. She was staying here? No! I needed her to leave before I did something stupid. Like hauling her ass into the nearest bedroom and stripping off them red shorts, then tasting every last inch of her.
“Gonna have to grow up sometime, Manda. Can’t stay at home with Mommy forever.” I was a prick.
I didn’t have to glance over to know Amanda had stopped walking beside me. I’d done it again. All I ever managed to do was say things to hurt her feelings. I needed to leave it like this, just go inside and pretend like we hadn’t even spoken. But I couldn’t.
I stopped and turned to look back at her. She was standing there with her hands clasped tightly in front of her, making her tits push together and—holy fucking shit! She wasn’t wearing a bra under that flimsy little shirt she had on. You could see her nipples poking through the fabric. What was she doing? She didn’t need to dress like that.
“Manda, go put on a bra. I know your boobs aren’t that big, but that shirt requires a bra.”
Her big green eyes welled up with unshed tears. It was a punch to the gut. I hated that every word I said to her was cruel, but I needed her to stay away from me. She had no idea exactly who I was. No one did, really. I was many different things to many different people. Sometimes I didn’t even know who the hell I was anymore.
She ducked her head, and long blond hair fell over her shoulders. She crossed her arms over her chest and walked briskly past me and into the condo. I set the box down at the door, then turned and headed out to my Jeep. I couldn’t stay here. I needed to go beat the shit out of something before I lost it.
I was done. No more. I couldn’t continue to try to make Preston like me. He acted as if I was still his best friend’s kid sister and he hadn’t screwed my brains out behind a club. This was just hurting me more and more. It was past time I moved on. Let this one go. He’d just let me know how lacking my body was. I would just put the memory of how I lost my virginity away. Forget about it and never look back. Besides, it wasn’t like I could ever share the experience with anyone. It was humiliating enough just to know I’d sent him running. He hadn’t even kissed me. The idea of kissing me had repulsed him that much.
I didn’t need to face anyone just yet. I ran up the steps instead of going into the living room, where everyone was getting ready. Sadie White, my best friend, would be here tonight. I wouldn’t be alone in this crowd of people. Closing the door to my bedroom in my dad’s place, I pulled my phone out of my purse and called Sadie.
I hadn’t told her everything. She had no idea I’d given Preston my virginity in a storage unit like some cheap slut. I was too ashamed to tell her that part of the awful truth. But she did know he had flirted heavily with me and we’d gone out to his Jeep and made out a bit before he walked off and left me.
“Hello.” Sadie’s voice was happy and cheerful. Jax, her rock-star boyfriend was in town. She was always on cloud nine when he came to visit. He was here this time to pack her up and move her off to California. I was trying not to think about that.
“I know you and lover boy are packing you up and all, but I wanted to make sure you’re coming tonight.” I hadn’t been able to mask the hurt in my voice. She was going to pick up on it.
“Yes. What’s wrong, Amanda?” I could hear the concern in her voice.
Swallowing through the lump in my throat, I gripped the phone tightly and tried real hard to control my emotions. “I just didn’t want to be alone. With . . . everyone.”
/> Sadie sighed. “Is this about Preston? I swear I want to kick his butt.”
“No. It . . . okay, well, maybe it is. But it’s my fault. I should have stayed away from him. I knew he was like this.” Maybe I hadn’t known he would actually screw me and walk away, never to be nice to me again. But I had known he was a player. This was his brush-off.
“I’ll be there. You won’t be alone. In fact, you’ll have a date.”
I stopped blinking back tears and waited for an explanation of her last statement. What did she mean by “a date”? Was she sharing Jax? No . . . that made no sense.
Sadie cleared her throat, then covered the phone with her hand, and I heard her muffled voice. I waited patiently for her to stop her private conversation and clue me in.
“Okay. Here’s the thing. Jason, Jax’s brother, is here too. You met him about six months ago, remember? He was at the birthday party I threw for Jax at the beach house.”
“Of course I remember Jason. He’s hard to forget.” He looked a lot like Jax. He just had a quieter demeanor. I’d had to talk to him that night because he didn’t say a whole lot.
“Well, he’s been asking about you. I knew you were hung up on Preston, which I can’t really figure out. He’s cute and all, but he’s a man whore. Jason mentioned you again today.”
Jason Stone, younger brother to the world’s biggest teenage heartthrob, liked me? “Uh, well, um, okay. I think. I mean, really? Jason? He dates models and stuff. I saw him on Teen Heat last week with Kipley McKnowel. I can’t compete with that. I’ve seen her makeup commercial.”
Sadie laughed. “She’s airbrushed in that commercial. She’s really not that fabulous in real life. I met her. Trust me. Besides, he was with her that one time. He said she was missing intelligence. He wasn’t interested.”
“Jason Stone . . . really?” I was just having too hard a time comprehending this. I’d just recently gotten used to Jax Stone randomly showing up at my house on Sadie’s arm. Now to actually go on a date with his brother?