Broken and screwed 2, p.26
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       Broken and Screwed 2, p.26
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         Part #2 of Broken and Screwed series by Tijan

  “Then Ethan’s birthday.”

  “The anniversary of Ethan’s death,” Jesse added, throwing me a grin.

  “After that it was more frequent. I was with him in Vegas last year. You guys came for the game, but I was there too. I stayed with him in his room.” My parents seemed to shrivel before me and I grinned. I was loving this effect on them. Any effect, any sign that I mattered, I wanted. It didn’t mean they still cared. I was a pest to them. It concerned my father that I could’ve been brought back into the family. He wanted me gone. My mother told the 911 operator the same sentiment. Her daughter was not to know anything. That’s when I asked, targeting her, “Did you really try to kill yourself?”

  She flushed. Her head jerked down.

  My father covered her hand with his. “Alex,” he warned me.

  I ignored him. “You told the 911 operator that your daughter wasn’t supposed to know anything about what happened. The nurses said you hadn’t taken enough to kill yourself, only to go to sleep. They think it was a cry for help.” I frowned, pain flooding me once again. No. It hadn’t stopped. I was always in pain. They had broken me long ago. “Want to know what I think? I think you were giving yourself an excuse. Dad jumped on board. He whisked you away, for your safekeeping. You left me in the house alone, with Ethan.”

  Her head lifted again. Her eyes searched mine, a hope rekindled.

  I shook my head. “His ghost, Mom. Only his ghost. He’s there, you know. He’s everywhere. I used to feel him all the time. I don’t anymore, not as much. Some days I do, but other days...” I couldn’t feel him anymore. It was like he didn’t want to associate with this event. Regret flared in me. I didn’t know what that meant. Maybe I shouldn’t have reacted? Maybe I should’ve let my parents go? It’s what they wanted. They wanted to forget everything.

  My father cleared his throat. Rage was still brimming in his depths, but he only turned to Jesse.

  He’d never change.

  “Is that true? Is my daughter living with you?”

  Jesse frowned. His eyebrows furrowed together, but he lifted his chin in response. “Yes.” He didn’t stutter. He didn’t falter. He was standing against my father.

  “Are the two of you sleeping together?”“Every time she’ll let me.”

  My mom flinched in her seat.

  My heart began picking up its pace again. Something close to hope fluttered in my stomach.

  “This has been happening from the start?”

  Jesse nodded. His frown deepened, but his hand clenched tighter over mine. He pulled me back to his side so we were touching.

  “And if I asked for this to stop?”

  “Not a chance.”

  The frown turned into a scowl on my father and he turned away, nodding to himself.

  “Are you happy?”

  The question came out of nowhere. I turned, shocked, at the soft voice that came from my mother. It wasn’t a tone I heard from her, not in so long, not after Ethan’s death. She sounded like a mother, like she cared. But no... She couldn’t.

  “Are you?” Jesse asked me.

  A lump settled in my throat, but I nodded. I couldn’t talk and tears threatened to spill, but I nodded again. “Yes,” ripped from me.

  She smiled. “I’m glad then.”

  “Shelby!”

  “Don,” she lifted a hand and placed it on the table. “Leave it be. I don’t think you’ve thought this through. Do you want to hurt Alexandra? Or Jesse?”

  He fell silent.

  “We’ve been hurt enough. Going off and leaving our daughter wasn’t the right thing. My life coaches were right. We should’ve rallied together as a family and not what we did. We fell apart.”

  He sucked in his breath. His jaw clenched.

  I couldn’t watch any longer. I knew what was going to happen. My father wouldn’t listen. He had rallied for her, not for me. He had kept her from falling apart, but he cut me loose because of that. No matter the change of heart in my mother, if it was real or not, wouldn’t matter.

  “It’s okay, Dad.”

  He turned to me, searching my eyes. I tried to lift the corners of my mouth. “I’m cutting you loose. You don’t have any obligations to me.” Jesse pulled at my hand. He was trying to get my attention. I ignored him. “You can do whatever you want. I’ll contact the lawyers and clear whatever it is with them. After that, you don’t have to see me again.”

  His shoulders dropped. He was relieved. He was fucking relieved that he didn’t have to see his daughter anymore.

  My mother stood. She’d lost weight. She had weighed one hundred and thirty pounds before, but she looked about a hundred and ten, maybe only a hundred pounds even. She wore a shawl over a cashmere sweater and jeans. My mother looked like someone Tiffany would’ve loved to have as a mom. I glanced over, wondering if she was looking at an older version of herself, but I saw tears instead. That made me pause. Why was Tiffany crying? I assumed they would’ve loved this. My own parents loathed me. That was right up her alley. She could use that for years to torture me.

  “I’m glad that you are in Jesse’s life,” my mother started, but stopped as my father stormed from the room. The door swung shut behind him and we watched as he went to their car. Getting inside, he turned the car on, but it didn’t move. He was waiting for my mother. They were leaving. Again.

  Her shoulders lifted for a deep breath. There was so much pain in her eyes. It struck my own, bringing tears to mine, but I wouldn’t shed them. Not for her. She took a step towards me, but I moved away. She stopped. Her head hung down. “I am sorry about how your father and I have behaved. I know that I cannot ask for your forgiveness—”

  “Because you don’t want it,” I cut in. I saw it was true.

  Shame flashed in her gaze. She didn’t mask it. It remained as she nodded. “You’re right, Alexandra. I don’t want your forgiveness, because I don’t deserve it. There is no excuse for what we have done to you. You didn’t do anything wrong. There was no reason for us to leave you. I want you to know that.”

  The tears slid down my cheeks now. Then why did they? Why did she?

  She turned to Jesse, “Have you told her?”

  He shook his head. His entire body tensed at the question.

  “You can, if you’d like.”

  “It’s not my secret to tell.”

  “Oh.” My mother frowned. “So you’ve had contact with her?”

  He jerked his head in a nod. He pulled his hand from me and moved away, avoiding my gaze.

  “Oh.”

  My mind was reeling. Her? Secret? This was it—the secret Jesse had been holding back from me. Every sense in me was tingling. My secret was out. It was his turn. He had to tell me.

  My mother looked torn, like she wanted to ask something more of him. Jesse cast a wary glance at her. He shook his head. “Don’t. After what you did, you can’t ask that from her.” He looked at me. “And after what you’ve done to Alex, you don’t deserve to see her.”

  My mother seemed to crumble before my eyes. The momentary kindness she had shown me was gone. Even her coldness was gone. She looked broken instead, just like me. She nodded to herself and left. No one said goodbye. No one followed her to the door. She paused there and looked over once more. Her eyes caught mine. I stiffened, pain searing me again, but I didn’t look away. I wanted to, but I held firm. She said, “Losing your brother changed our family. I am sorry for my part. I know that I’ve not been a good mother, but I lost that ability when I lost Ethan. He was my first baby and—” She cut off, her voice shaking from emotion. “There’s no excuse. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry, Alexandra. You’ve become so beautiful. Do you know that?”

  I swallowed over a lump. She thought I was beautiful?

  “So beautiful,” she whispered to herself as she left. The door closed behind her, leaving the room in a shocked silence.

  I was beautiful? I never thought of myself as beautiful.

  I was reeling from everything th
at had happened. Somehow, I ended up in a bathroom with Tiffany. She pressed cool washcloths to my face. For what, I wasn’t sure, but she was being nice. I frowned as she patted my forehead. “Why are you being nice to me?” Then I remembered she’d been crying out there. Why the tears? Did Tiffany Chatsworth actually have a heart? This wasn’t foreseeable.

  Her lips pressed together as she drew the washcloth down the side of my face and wet it again. “Don’t get all worked up about it. This doesn’t mean we’re going to be friends. I just,” she frowned and lifted a shoulder. “I dunno. I guess I can relate, in some way. I suppose.”

  “You can relate to being dumped by your parents?”

  She took the washcloth to my face again. “You’ve never asked Hannah about our parents?”

  “I don’t ask anyone about anything.”

  Her eyes found me.

  “I don’t usually want to know the answers.”

  She gave me the washcloth and sat back on the toilet. Then she shrugged again. “Our dad left us. He left my mom when we were teenagers. I always wondered if it was because of us, if maybe we were too much to handle or something. I didn’t know.” She leaned forward and pressed fingers to her temples. She began to massage them as she continued, “And it wasn’t even because he had an affair or another family. He just left. He didn’t want to deal with having a family. That’s what my mom said. I guess I took it as we were too much or something.”

  I frowned at her through the mirror. She was hunched over, but I wet the washcloth again. My mind was still reeling. My pulse was racing, but not as much. Maybe the cold water was helping, or maybe it was hearing her sob story. I sighed, “We all have a story, don’t we?”

  “Hannah loved our dad. She was his little girl. Not me, I was more into baking and make-up and doing girl things. He took off when she was in seventh grade. That’s when she started sleeping with guys.”

  “Isn’t that when she started dating Dylan?”

  She shook her head as she continued to massage her temples. Her fingers were working harder, faster. “They started at the end of the summer. She started sleeping around the beginning of the year. That’s why I knew it wasn’t going to be good when they broke up. The asshole. He did the same to her that our dad did. He just left her. His excuse wasn’t even a good one because now he’s with her roommate and he transferred here.”

  “What about Beth?”

  She looked up now, genuinely confused. “What about her?”

  “I get why Hannah’s broken. Why’s Beth? What happened to her?”

  She took a breath and stood up. Crossing to me, she wet the washcloth again and pressed it to the crook of my neck. “I don’t know. Beth and I aren’t close.”

  I frowned, but then went with my hunch. It helped to think of their problems. My problems were bad, but in some way I didn’t feel like such a freak. “What’s your mom like?”

  “Before Dad left? She was happy. After he left, she became a stoner. She was like a hippy.” Tiffany kept wetting the washcloth. She folded it over inside the sink and pressed down, then would wet it again. I shifted back as she continued that motion. “I think she was one when she was younger before she met our dad. Maybe that’s why Hannah’s like that, I don’t know. I took the mother role. My mom couldn’t handle it. She hasn’t handled much since, except some guy’s dick or pottery. She’s a genius at making pots. Go figure.”

  My eyebrow arched at that one, but left it alone.

  She jerked her head back up. “Why’d you ask about Beth?”

  “Just curious.”

  “Oh.” She frowned and looked back down. It was then that she realized what she was doing. She threw the washcloth to the side and backed away to the door.

  I grinned at her. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone about your momentary lapse in judgment.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “You.” I gestured to her, then to me. “Being nice to me. I know we aren’t friends.”

  Her hand fell from the handle. She leaned against it and crossed her arms over her chest. “You have a really horrible opinion of me.”

  I shrugged. “You’ve been a bitch, so…yeah.”

  A corner of her mouth lifted up before she dropped her arms. “I’m not a bitch because of my sister or whatever reasons you might think. And it’s not because I want Jesse—”

  “But you do.”

  She stopped.

  “Want Jesse. You do want him.”

  Her shoulders lifted as she took a breath. “Yeah, maybe, but I care about him.”

  “So do I.”

  “I know. Trust me, I know.” Her hand gestured towards the door. “I got it. I heard the history of you and him. And I’ve seen how he is with you. He’s not like the Jesse I met last year. You and him, and him and your brother had some bond that I’ll never compete against. I’m getting it. Trust me. Hearing all that was hard.”

  I wasn’t sure what to say to that.

  “And you’re right.”

  I looked back up.

  “He does love you.”

  “Did he tell you that?”

  “No, but it’s obvious. He loves you so you don’t have to worry. And I can tell he didn’t know about your parents. That’s what you said, right? That your parents dumped you and you kept it a secret. People don’t keep secrets unless they’re scared of something, maybe about the other person reacting, but I’m telling you. You don’t have to worry about Jesse. It pissed him off, hearing what your parents did to you. I could tell that too.”

  “Oh.”

  She sighed. “I don’t want to be your friend, but I’m in a position where I have to be.”

  “That’s a great endorsement.”

  She rolled her eyes and brushed her platinum hair over her shoulder. “I don’t give a damn. I’m just saying it how it is. I care about Jesse and it’s not because of his money or his Hollywood connections. I really do just care about him, but I can see that he genuinely cares about you. You’re not going anywhere. I get it. Not happy about it, but I get it. So…I figure I should call a cease fire? I’m not proposing that we be friends, but maybe not enemies?”

  “I thought that’s what we were when you were ignoring me.”

  She grimaced. “I did that to piss you off. It didn’t work, did it?”

  “I liked it.”

  “Yeah,” she blew out a breath. “That’s what I figured. That pissed me off instead.”

  I shrugged.

  “All right. Well, I’m going to go. You’re better?”

  I nodded. As she reached for the handle and opened the door, I reached for her. “Hey.”

  “Yeah?”

  “Shut the door.” As she did, I took another deep breath. My heart began picking up again. This could blow our truce, but whatever. This was what not being an enemy and not being friends meant to me. Maybe. I had no idea. Oh well. Here it goes. “You should know that Jamie was the one who sought your sister out.”

  A scowl formed over her face. “What are you talking about? Jamie said she’s the one that came on to him.”

  “No. I heard them one time at school. He was pushing her and she was trying to say no. I know it’s not a ringing endorsement, as you said before, but it is what it is. She was really drunk that night and he got a bottle to make sure she stayed drunk. He was taking advantage of her.”

  “My sister’s not exactly a saint.”

 
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