Broken and screwed 2, p.30
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       Broken and Screwed 2, p.30
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         Part #2 of Broken and Screwed series by Tijan

  “Oh, come on. I can name a ton of athletes that have endorsements.”

  “Not in college. Are you kidding me?”

  “Alexandra,” my father interrupted them. The chill from him sent shivers down my back. “Since Jesse isn’t answering my questions. You will. When did this become serious with you two? Did you give him your virginity?”

  “Don,” my mother joined the conversation. She placed a hand to her husband’s arm. “Not here.”

  “No, Shelby. We need to know. We were ignorant the last time. I want to get on top of this one before it grows into something like before.”

  My mother fell back against her chair, ashen. She looked down and drew her cashmere sweater tighter around herself, but I caught the trembling in her arm.

  Jesse bit out a laugh. “Like last time? Are you kidding me?”

  My father looked ready to reach over the table and strangle Jesse with his bare hands.

  Things had definitely changed between him and my parents. And I sat up. He wasn’t going to take them on alone.

  “Last time?” Malcolm was in the dark. “What are you talking about? This has happened before?” He swept his gaze over me. “I thought you said you weren’t together before that day?”

  “Not us, father.” Jesse’s gaze never left my father’s. “Ethan.”

  “Oh.” He frowned. “What are you talking about?”

  Then Jesse shifted to me. There was hidden meaning behind his depths and he looked to my father. He hadn’t said a word, but I knew he was trying to tell me something. I sat up further. Jesse’s hand fell to my back. He trailed a finger down my spine. He was the epitome of calm and calculating now while my father was squirming in his seat. Something was going on here and Jesse was trying to give me answers. I felt it in my gut. He couldn’t tell me, but then a light bulb went off in me. My parents could. My parents knew.

  Determination kicked in. I was going to find out Ethan’s secret, one way or another.

  “I don’t think this is like the last time. From what I recall, I doubt my mother had been sleeping with you.”

  My mother sucked in her breath. Her trembling started up again.

  My father didn’t move. He didn’t say a word, but I knew he was enraged. The threat of violence was imminent in the room. And Malcolm had been reaching for his water. His hand jerked, sending his glass to the side. All the water spilled onto his girlfriend’s lap. She screeched, pushing up from the table and started dabbing at her lap. “Malcolm!”

  “Oh.” He blinked rapidly, but only turned back to Jesse. “Your mother and Don?”

  “No, Dad.” Jesse never tore his gaze from my dad’s. “That’s the point. Mom was faithful to you.”

  “Oh Jesse,” my mother whimpered. “You went there.”

  Then my father erupted. He burst out of his chair and leaned across the table. His hand reached out, but Jesse never moved. He didn’t bat an eyelash and my father was forced to retract his hand, but he shook his finger in Jesse’s face. “You stop this. Right now. I won’t have you drag my name through the mud.”

  “Not like last time, right?” Jesse’s tone had cooled. My father was boiling mad, but I grew wary. I knew my father would never touch Jesse, not the son of Malcolm Hunt, but that didn’t go for Jesse. He would do violence. This was the Jesse that was starting not to give a damn. And his father grew quiet as well. This was the son he was used to over the years. We shared a look, both concerned, but I didn’t say anything. Jesse was making my father like this. He was doing it on purpose so I could hear the truth. My gut was telling me that’s what was going on. He added, so cold and disdainful, “Not like Ethan did.”

  A vein popped from my dad’s throat. His hands slammed down on the table and a pin could’ve been heard. I glanced towards the end of the table. All eyes were on us. Cord was watching Jesse, as was his other roommates. Kara had a hand to her mouth. Cord’s date seemed confused, but Tiffany surprised me like last time. She was watching me. There was no fear. She looked ready to handle anything.

  I took a deep breath. If Tiffany was this cool, calm, and collected, by damn that I wasn’t going to be. I met Jesse’s gaze. He’d been holding my father’s in a standoff, but he caught my gaze. I felt his push then. He wanted me to take over so I put my napkin on the table and stood. I felt everyone’s eyes now on me and my father stepped away from the table. It was a small movement, but enough for me.

  My mother lifted a hand to her husband’s arm. She began to shake her head and her fingers tightened.

  “Stop.”

  She looked to me. I caught the fear there, and the guilt. She was so damned guilty. How had I not seen this before? This wasn’t about me. This was about Ethan, whatever secret there was. I remembered Barbie’s revelations. Ethan had become friends with her and Jeremy Benson. They were known for using drugs. She told me that Ethan had been with her on his last night before Jesse called.

  I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. “I blamed Jesse, but I was wrong.”

  My mother’s chest lifted as she took a deep breath.

  “Wasn’t I?”

  She tore her gaze away and stood beside my father. “Don, honey. We should go.”

  “Not before you tell me!”

  “Jesse, what is going on?” Malcolm hissed under his breath.

  But Jesse didn’t answer. He didn’t move. He remained in his seat—a lurking predator that chose to stay crouched down. I knew he would spring up if I needed him, but this was my time. This was my fight. He laid the path for me. I would see it through now.

  “What happened with Ethan, Mom?”

  “Oh, honey.”

  “Dad?”

  My father was taking deep breaths. I could hear him wheezing as his lungs were rattling inside of him. He was a monster. So I asked, “Who did you sleep with? And Ethan knew about it? You said like last time. What did you mean?”

  “Stop this, Alexandra,” my mother pleaded.

  I swallowed the last bit of sympathy for her. As I saw my father still struggling for composure, I grew even more determined. “Who was it? How did Ethan know about her?”

  “Shut up.” Finally. My father snapped. His face grew red and his Adam’s apple was bobbing up and down. It wouldn’t stop. He seethed at me and I saw that his teeth were grinding against each other. “You shut up now.”

  “Don!”

  No one else spoke. This was a family moment, in front of an audience, but I heard Jesse lean forward behind me. His hand touched the back of my leg and my father lashed out, “You stop touching her.”

  “Then start telling the truth.” There was no fear in Jesse’s tone. It was even keen.

  Malcolm stood now, skirting between the two sides of the table. He slowly put his cloth napkin on his plate as well. “I think this dinner has moved past social etiquette. Don, Shelby, I’d like to thank you for coming. It was a pleasure, as always.”

  Jesse laughed, “Are you shitting me, Dad? Isn’t this what you wanted?”

  My father’s icy gaze never left mine, but he asked Malcolm, “What is your son referring to?”

  “Nothing, Don. Nothing at all. Jesse, you stop this right now.”

  “No.”

  “Jesse.”

  My dad was teetering. He wanted to lose his cool. He wanted to yell at me, but he kept himself restrained. He was right there. Only a small nudge and I had him. I could taste all the secrets.

  I drew in a breath, ready to deliver a taunt, but then I heard, “Oh, for goodness’ sake. Don, tell her. It’ll come out someday.”

  “No!”

  “Tell her.” My mother lifted her chin to him. The trembling was gone and defiance had taken over. “Or I will. This is your secret. You should be the one to tell her.”

  “Not here.” He scanned the entire table. “Not in front of their friends.”

  I half expected a flippant remark from Jamie, or even Tiffany. None came. I relaxed slightly, but dug my fingers around the table’s edge. They co
uldn’t leave. Not like this. I was so close. “Who did you sleep with? What does that have to do with Ethan?”

  “Everything.” My mother gave up. Her shoulders went down in defeat and she hung her head. “It has everything to do with Ethan and everything to do with his accident.”

  “Shelby.” My father twisted and gripped her arm. His hold tightened and she whelped from pain.

  “Stop it, Dad,” I cried out.

  “Don,” Jesse started.

  “You don’t talk to me anymore. You don’t have that right, Jesse.” My father looked ready to murder. “You have lost all privileges with my family and with my daughter. Remove your hand at once.”

  “No.” His hand moved to my back and he took a possessive hold now. “I don’t have my privileges anymore? Are you fucking with me?”

  “Jesse,” Malcolm admonished.

  He ignored his father and addressed mine, “To cover your ass, you’ve hurt the one person who was innocent in all of this.”

  “Stop it!” His fist hit the table again. A glass tipped over from the reverberations.

  Malcolm’s girlfriend scrambled from her chair again, squealing as she fled to the bathroom.

  “Tell her. This is ridiculous.”

  “Tell me.”

  “Your father had an affair.” The words came low and swift from my mother.

  “No!” he roared. “I won’t stand here and listen to my good name being ruined. I won’t have it. Shelby, come with me.”

  “No, Don.” She touched his arm, but her hand was gentle. He tore away from her. My mother never flinched. “I tried to lose myself because of everything you put our family through. I won’t lose my daughter. She’s my last living child. This has gone on long enough. You wanted to shield her from this, but we’ve done the opposite. We’ve hurt her. It has to stop.”

  “Mom?”

  “NO!”

  “Then leave,” she snapped at him. “But I’m staying. I am staying with my child. You can go, and keep your good name. That’s all you care about. Your name. You don’t even care what you did to Ethan. My son killed himself because of you. It was all because of you.”

  My son killed himself… My son killed himself… I couldn’t not hear those words again and I shook my head as they kept repeating. Over and over, I heard them. They wouldn’t stop. Someone stood in the distance and a faint voice said, “I think we should go home.” More people rose from the table. People were murmuring their goodnights. A few touched my arm, but I couldn’t get past what had just been said.

  Ethan killed himself?

  I looked at Jesse. Guilt. He knew. My gut kicked in as I realized that he’d known the whole time. Sucking in my breath, I started to move away. Why hadn’t he told me? But no, there was more. I lifted my head and saw my mother was still there. She had taken her seat again, looking composed despite the evening’s events. Jesse had sat as well. I kept looking around. No one else remained. It was the three of us and both of them were waiting for me.

  Slowly, I reached behind me to feel for my seat. As my fingers found it, I sat but I never looked away from my mother. She picked up her wine and sipped from it. Setting it back down, she leaned back in her chair again. She was still waiting.

  I choked out, “What?”

  “Your brother killed himself. The car accident wasn’t an accident.”

  Jesse spoke up, “We don’t know that.”

  My mother sucked in her breath, only to release it at once. The trembling was gone and instead she looked broken. I recognized the look because I’d had it and now I got my second shocking realization for the evening.

  I wasn’t broken anymore.

  I didn’t know when it happened, but it had. I breathed in and out, trying to get over that surprise and I tried to clue in. This was about my brother. I feared that I wouldn’t hear this again so I shoved everything aside and only listened to my mother.

  She started again, swirling her wine around in the glass, “All of this started, well, it didn’t start with the girl, but it did for me. Earlier in the year, Ethan brought a girl home to meet us. I believe you were at a party with the girls. He wanted us to meet her first. You know how Ethan was with you, he always wanted to protect you and make sure you only knew the tiniest bit of information. He did it out of love.”

  “I never knew Ethan had a girlfriend.”

  “He didn’t. Not for long.”

  Jesse leaned forward beside me. His arm touched mine. I knew he did that on purpose, but I pulled away. My hunch was telling me things would different after this evening. The secrets were coming out. All of them.

  “This girl was named Claire and imagine my surprise when I realized who she was.” My mother tipped her wine glass towards me. “Her mother used to be my best friend. She worked with your father. I even named you after her daughter.”

  My middle name was Claire.

  “I thought they had moved away. That’s what Stella told me all those years ago. I think they did move away, but I never knew they came back during the summers. I had no idea, but Stella’s husband, Claire’s father, still worked with Malcolm on a few projects.”

  Jesse spoke up, “I took Ethan to a party that summer before. I was bored. My dad was making me go so I asked him to go. I had no idea what would happen, Alex.”

  “Anyway,” my mother took center stage again. She had finished her wine so she reached for my father’s. The waiter had poured it after he gulped down the first one. It had been left untouched until now. She picked it up and drank half of it in one swallow. As she took a breath, her eyes moved to the side. She was looking over my shoulder. The pain filtered in and I knew she wasn’t seeing me. She was seeing Ethan. I could feel him. He was always there. “You can’t even know the bomb that she dropped that night. Little Miss Claire recognized Ethan from the beginning. She got close to him because she knew the real reason why her parents had split from us.” She laughed to herself, a sad and lonely one. “She walked in on her mother and your father. They were having an affair. Don never wants to talk about it, but I think it had been going on for a long time. He won’t even tell me when it started, just some time when you and Claire were little. I think they only stopped because her daughter caught them. And afterwards, your father threatened Stella. He told her to go away, to stop our friendship, everything, or he was going to tell her husband. I still don’t know if Jacob ever knew. He was a good man.”

  So much was swarming my head. I was struggling to get all the information correct.

  My mother continued as she finished my father’s glass of wine, “I think I’m drunk.” She giggled to herself as a tear slid down her cheek. “I think that’s the only way I could tell you all of this.”

  “Mom,” I whispered. I was reeling. Everything was being pulled up inside of me and it was swirling into a massive storm. I couldn’t do much except sit there and listen. Everything would settle once again. I hoped it would.

  “Your father made them break up. I think he scared Claire away and I think she stopped talking to your brother. It wasn’t good, honey. It wasn’t good at all. We found later that the reason Ethan wanted us to meet her that night was because she was pregnant. I was going to have a grandchild.” She stopped and bowed her head. The wine was pushed away and she began weeping into a cloth napkin.

  Jesse found my hand under the table.

  I clung to him. It was all I could do.

  We listened as she continued to cry. As we sat there, I lost track of time until she had regained control. When she looked back up, I barely recognized my mother. She was broken, but she wasn’t the mother who had raised me. She wasn’t even a shadow of that woman. This person was a stranger now.

  She gestured to the wine bottle beside Malcolm’s seat. “Jesse, pour me a glass. I need it tonight.”

  He did and when he handed it over, her arm had the shakes. She didn’t care. She didn’t flinch as she guzzled more of the alcohol. “As I was saying,” her eyes grew haunted. “That was the begin
ning of the end. For me and for your brother. Ethan got a letter. She served him with a restraining order to stay away from her and the baby. I didn’t know about that letter until later, but it broke my
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