Authors: Monica Murphy
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Teen & Young Adult, #Love & Romance, #Contemporary, #Romance
My cheeks heat and I’m thankful I’m not facing Evan. Talk about embarrassing. I haven’t given any guy a blow job. Not since Nick. I don’t want him thinking I do that sort of thing. I might be acting the fool but I don’t want my brother to think less of me.
“Go back to being you, Reverie,” he says encouragingly, his speech almost working. “You know it’ll please Mom and Dad.”
And those particular words just ruined it. Definitely not what I wanted to hear and like I care if I make Mom and Dad happy. They certainly didn’t care about Evan and me when they were doing whatever the heck they wanted. Spending other people’s money and robbing everyone who believed in them.
The thing that hurts the most? They deny nothing. I’ve never heard Dad or Mother say they didn’t do it. They just moan and cry over unjust treatment and not being able to tell their side of the story. Like anyone wants to hear it.
I know I certainly don’t. Most of the time. But every once in a while, I’m curious. I’d love to hear their excuses. I’m sure that’s all they have…a bunch of excuses. Meaningless words that sound pretty but have zero substance.
I shrug out of Evan’s hold and grab my paper plate, taking it over to the kitchen counter and plopping onto the barstool. I eat without looking at him, without saying a word and the aggravated noise he makes doesn’t startle me like I’m sure he hoped.
“I’m taking a shower,” he declares as he grabs one half of my bagel and takes a huge bite out of it. I glare at him and he smiles in return. Jerk. He seems way too lighthearted this morning. I’d rather he was grumpy like me. “And then I suggest you do the same. We need to leave in an hour.”
Evan exits the kitchen, his words killing what little appetite I had. I drop the bagel onto my plate and stare off into space, my thoughts consumed with what I’m going to have to face in approximately ninety minutes.
That they let me live with Evan in the first place is some sort of miracle. That Evan wanted me living with him is even more of a miracle. Mom and Dad are holed up in some swank hotel, awaiting word on their fate. We visit them every Saturday and have lunch in their suite, listening to them drone on and on, every word positive as they talk to us like we’re little innocent children who haven’t a clue as to what’s going on.
But we know. We’re not stupid. I read the articles on the gossip sites. I watch the national news because they’ve even made that. A few times. Our father embezzled millions of dollars from The Flock of the Lambs.
I can hardly wrap my head around it.
My phone buzzes and I grab it, checking to see who texted me.
You bailed last night.
I couldn’t find you.
I typed my quick answer and take another bite of my bagel, wishing I had poured a cup of coffee for myself but too lazy to get up and do it.
How’d you get home?
Evan picked me up.
Your hot brother! Would you care if I became your SIL someday? I wanna have his babies.
Ugh. They all want my brother. It’s weird.
He farts. Like all the time. And he scratches his butt. Forgets to shower. Which means he stinks.
I can deal with that.
I set my phone down, not bothering to send her another text. These girls…maybe I should listen to Evan. It’s all about boys and sex and booze and skipping class. I can’t remember the last time I sat down and read. I used to love to read. I pretended to love the classics but really I was gobbling every romance I could get my hands on. Historical fiction too. Oh, and true crime.
I have a serious issue with reading true crime books.
But not anymore. I don’t read at all. I’m nothing like my old self.
Maybe I should reconnect with her.
Or maybe not.
“Darlings!” Mother rushes toward us as we enter the hotel suite, tragically elegant in a silk nightgown and robe, her hair perfectly styled, as is her makeup. “You’re finally here. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Can I get you anything?”
Evan sends me an irritated glare before he flashes Mom a strained smile. “Sorry we’re late. Traffic was bad.”
It’s a lie. I was bad. Resistant. I acted like a baby and told him I wasn’t going with him. We got into an argument and he practically had to drag me out of his apartment. I fumed the entire drive to the hotel, refusing to talk to Evan and finally muttering an apology to him as we rode up the elevator to our parents’ fancy hotel suite.
Even while in supposed exile, they do it in style. Not that I’m surprised.
“Never mind that. You’re with me now.” She draws Evan into her arms and smothers his face with kisses. She grabs at him almost desperately, holding him so close I swear I hear him gasp for air.
She doesn’t do that with me. Evan is hers. I’m Dad’s. The divide has always been there but it’s even more defined now.
“Rev.” I turn to find Dad standing before me wearing a suit, looking as if he’s about to go speak in front of a crowd. I wonder if he misses it. Talking to people. Helping them, leading them. I wonder if he has any guilt for what he’s done.
I think he did it. He’s never admitted anything and neither has Mother but Evan and I have talked about it a lot. We both think they’re guilty.
“Hi Dad.” I let him draw me into his arms, feel his lips press against my forehead, wondering if he notices I don’t call him Daddy anymore. I can’t. It doesn’t feel right. Innocence lost and all that crap.
Closing my eyes, I squeeze them tight so the tears that want to form don’t get a chance. I want to take the comfort he offers me but it’s so hard. I’m still angry at him, at Mom. But his familiar smell messes with my head and makes me forget. Makes me feel like a little girl again.
I don’t like it. I want to fight against the memories and tell him to let me go but I won’t. I think he needs this. Our weekly visits where we pretend for a few hours that we’re a normal family.
But we’re not. We never will be again.
Dad pulls away from me slightly, a frown on his face as he stares at me. “Too much makeup,” he declares, his voice hard.
Immediately I roll my eyes and shrug out of his touch. “Stop.” I put on the extra eyeliner, shadow and mascara just to irritate him.
“You don’t need it,” he says with a smile. Trying to soften his approach.
It won’t work.
“You’re pretty enough without it,” he continues.
“Leave her alone,” Mother chastises. “Let’s have a nice lunch.”
Lunch is anything but nice. We sit around a too-small table eating decent room service food. Mother got me a salad because I need to watch my figure and I watch with envy as Evan eats a hamburger, dunking his fries into the mound of catsup on his plate and waving them at me before he shoves them in his mouth.
He’s so annoying. Almost twenty and he acts like he’s ten.
During lunch, Dad talks of lies and falsehoods and Evan rolls his eyes. Mother wants to talk about memories and live in the past. Memories of when Evan and I were little and everything was sweet and peaceful and we had the lord on our side.
Those are her words.
When the lord was on our side.
I bet he’s not on their side anymore, what with the way they stole from people. Innocent people, most of them elderly and the majority of them on a fixed income, who wanted nothing more than to help Reverend Hale and his flock.
If I think about it too much, all the innocent people who were affected by what my parents did, it makes me sick.
I remain silent as they talk and so does Evan. We listen to what our parents say but don’t offer much in return. Not that they notice. They’re too wrapped up in their problems and think they’re doing the right thing by keeping us away from them. That’s what Mother says every time she sees us.
I hate not having you with me Rev but I don’t want our troubles to taint you. It’s best you stay out of it.
Whatever. I think it’s easier for them to not have us around so they can be completely selfish and worry about their own problems. Heaven forbid they want to deal with us.
“I saw something on the news about that boy who worked for us last summer,” Mom says, catching my interest.
“What guy?” Evan asks, his gaze sliding to me. The look in his eyes says everything. He knows who she’s talking about.
And I’m silently begging him not to say anything else.
“That boy who shadowed Michael everywhere. Nick something.” Mom waves a hand, dismissing my Nick with a flick of her fingers. “He was questioned in the murder of his ex-girlfriend.” She mock shivers. “Disgusting. Can’t believe we had a supposed murderer working at our home.”
“It’s not our home,” I say, my teeth clenched so tight my jaw hurts. “Not anymore.”
“Well, you know what I mean.” She sounds uncomfortable and her nervous laughter grates. I hate her.
I hate myself. What if I turn into a version of her someday? I don’t know if I could deal.
“Leave it alone, Rev,” Evan warns but I ignore him.
I’m so sick of her passing judgment on something she doesn’t know or understand. He might’ve dumped me without a word but I know without a doubt he didn’t touch Krista. He was with me on what turned into both the best and worst night of my life.
“He didn’t do it.”
“Didn’t do what?” Mom rests a hand on her chest, her eyes wide in surprise. I bet she really did just forget who she was talking about. People mean nothing to her so this wouldn’t surprise me.
“Nick. He didn’t kill that girl.”
“How do you know?” Mom asks, her voice sharp. Even Dad is staring at me now, waiting for my answer.
I part my lips but no words come out. I can’t say it. The truth would freak them out.
I know because I spent the night with him, naked in his bed. He never left my side.
That so wouldn’t go over too well.
“I just…I know.”
“They talked a few times,” Evan adds, sending me another one of those looks. This one says
shut the hell up before you make it worse
and I decide to take his advice.
Clamping my lips shut, I fold my hands into my lap and keep my head down. I’m done. I have nothing else to say.
I’m ready to leave.
“We gotta go,” Evan the mind reader says after a few long minutes of silent, tense torture. The relieved look I send him doesn’t go unnoticed.
Mother’s face falls in disappointment as she looks from me to Evan. “So soon?”
“I have to be at work at five.” That’s not a lie. Evan found a job at a bar, cleaning tables and basically being the bartenders’ errand boy. Despite how awful it sounds, he likes his job and they pay him under the table, which he loves. He told me I need a job too to help with rent but…I have no idea who’d hire me. I have zero skills. Mom and Dad can provide us no money since their accounts are locked.
“But it’s only two-thirty,” Dad says. He sounds as disappointed as Mother but that doesn’t surprise me. They grab hold of this time together and cling to it like us being together again is going to make everything magically better.
Evan says nothing in answer. I don’t either and neither do my parents.
“Next Saturday then,” Mother says brightly, trying to cover up the uncomfortable silence that had just settled over the room. “Maybe you can stay longer. We’d love that you know. I understand you’re busy but…”
“Sure. We might be able to,” Evan says easily. Another lie. He’s so smooth. His lies never trip him up. I could take a lesson from him.
He stands and starts toward the door, practically shaking Mom off as she tries to grab at him.
“Is everything okay?” Dad reaches out and places his hand over mine on the table just as I try to stand, effectively trapping me. “Living with Evan, your schoolwork…it’s all going fine, right?”
I study him, see the concern etched all over his handsome face. Evan got his good looks from Dad. His attractive features are overshadowed by worry. Dark circles under his eyes, wrinkles in his face, his skin pale. He doesn’t look well.
Facing jail will do that to a person I suppose.