Authors: Kelly Moran
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
© COPYRIGHT 2016 by Kelly Moran
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Cover Art by: Kelly Moran
Photo Credit: Dollar Photo Club
Smashwords eBook Edition
Published in the United States of America
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he last thing, the very
thing on earth I expected to see when I opened my front door was my estranged mother standing on my front porch, wringing her hands. It took me point five frazzled seconds to connect the woman I’d only met in photographs with the one before me. My fingers closed over the doorknob with a death grip. Dizziness swamped me, sending the room into a whirl.
This couldn’t be real. But, yet...
I focused on keeping my limbs from leaping across the threshold and wrapping her in my arms.
Stupid, stupid, Summer. You’re not a kid anymore.
Oh, and today of all days to show up? Not good. History proved I needed to immerse myself in my art or I’d lose it. There were several paintings that had to be finished for the charity auction. And it was four years ago today my dad had died. I needed to keep my mind focused on the first and off the latter.
“Hello,” Sharon said. “I’m—“
“I know who you are,” I breathed.
“Can we talk?” The southern twang in my mother’s voice was more pronounced than the accent here in the Carolinas. Texas? Louisiana?
“Uh...” God, I was so articulate. Wait…did she say ‘talk?’ Talk about what? What could there possibly be to talk about after twenty-eight years?
After gaping at her for several elongated moments, I snapped out of my haze and stepped back, holding the door open. I should have said something like,
what in the hell are you doing here?
But words failed me. I wasn’t smooth in high stress situations like my boyfriend, Matt. I couldn’t yell my way out of an argument like my best friend, Ian. Most of the time, I was a coward. My hands shook, so I fisted them at my sides and strode through the living room into the kitchen.
I knew I had acrylic paint in my hair. I looked down at myself. And on my clothes. Tears tightened my throat. It figured. My mother had finally come home, and I looked like a Pollock painting gone haywire.
I stopped in the long, narrow kitchen by the stove, unable to turn around and face her. Several blue and white checkered linoleum squares were between me and the table where she had sat down. A strange sort of numb shock was keeping me from acting.
“You want some tea?” I asked, my back still to her. Was that too civilized?
Sharon cleared her throat. “Sure.” Silence. “It looks different in here than when I last saw it.”
Biting my retort, I set the kettle to boil and transferred two tea bags into two mugs.
. I hadn’t needed to make two cups of tea since Daddy died. No one else but me and him drank the stuff. Ian wouldn’t even drink iced sweet tea.
Suddenly, the anger I thought I had banked over the years returned, fierce and potent, completely overruling my nerves. It had been festering my whole life and was now ready to explode. Envisioning the overly dramatic aftermath of holes through the painted yellow wall and the china broken in pieces on the linoleum, I marched to the table and set the mug of tea down in front of Sharon so hard the honey-colored liquid sloshed over the side.
She didn’t flinch, just picked up the tea bag and dipped it repeatedly to steep, an aura of calm surrounding her. Which seemed false. I walked to the counter by the back door and took the opportunity to examine her while she was distracted with her tea.
She was close to my height and build, but her frame was more willowy, and she wore the yellow sundress well. Her hair had turned from the pale strawberry blonde in my father’s photos to a champagne color. It was pixie short, too. In pictures, it had been long, trailing to the middle of her back in thick waves. There were fine lines around her eyes and mouth that hadn’t been there in her youthful form, but she had aged well, not looking at all like fifty-something.
I frowned. Laugh lines on the woman who must have had many good memories in her absence here. That only served to fuel my temper. What right did she have to be happy?
Sharon looked up then, her blue gaze locking on mine. Her eyes mirrored my own and had a weariness to them that almost brought down my fury. Almost.
“You have my eyes,” Sharon said, as if reading my thoughts.
I leaned against the counter and crossed my arms. Sharon’s voice wasn’t as I imagined it would be, but then, I didn’t have anything to base it on either. It was soft, like the still waters of the creek behind my home.
“Don’t you think that’s a bit sad? That the only thing I ever got from you was your eyes?”
There weren’t calls on my birthday or bedtime stories or kissed boo-boos. No. All I’d ever had to prove I had a mother once upon a time were crystal blue eyes that darkened around the edges.
Sharon nodded knowingly. “You’re angry.”
I uncrossed my arms and had to grip the counter for control. “Am I not supposed to be? This is a relatively small community…Sharon.” I wanted to say
Mother, Mom, Mama
—but those endearments wedged in my throat. Didn’t seem right. “Do you have any idea what it was like for Dad? How humiliated he must have felt because his wife ran out on him? How hard it was raising a daughter all on his own?”
Sharon looked away. “What about you, Summer? What was it like for you?”
What was it like for me? Well, let’s see. I spent my whole childhood thinking there was something wrong with me, my teenage years utterly angry and bitter, and my adulthood empty and alone. What the hell do you think?
“Tom said you were a happy kid.” Sharon looked at me again. There was a wistful sort of optimism in her voice, as if she actually hoped it were true. “That you were extremely independent and an over-achiever, but happy.”
I couldn’t bring myself to respond. Hearing my dad’s name from Sharon’s lips was jarring. Plus, I hadn’t been a happy kid. Not a lot of the time. Had it not been for Ian, having a best friend right next door, I’m not so sure I would’ve had any friends. And something about seeing her sitting in my kitchen made me feel like an unwanted child again.
Sharon stood and took a step closer.
I jerked away from the counter and moved away. “What do you want? Why did you come?”
Why didn’t you ever come back? What was wrong with me?
Sharon reached out, but quickly pulled her hand back, the movement making me catch a trace of lilac and fabric softener. Smells that should have no familiarity, but did. They were entirely different from Daddy’s scent of pine and Ivory soap.
“I wanted to see you,” she said, coming no closer to crowd me, but the room suddenly felt smaller. “I’ve made mistakes…” Her shoulders slumped. Marginal, but noticeable.
“A little late, isn’t it?”
“The best thing I could do for you was leave. I wasn’t cut out for parenthood. Tom…” She paused over his name like it hurt to say. “I’m sorry.
was so excited for you to arrive. I felt trapped. I was never a responsible person, less so then. Later, I wanted to come see you, but—”
“But what?” There was a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. The very long pause my mother left hanging in the room only deepened the churning.
“Your dad wouldn’t let me.”
“You lie,” I ground through clenched teeth. “What do you really want?”
After sighing heavily and turning to the table, Sharon extracted an envelope from her purse. She handed it over. No wedding ring. Briefly, before I could quash the thought, a wave of relief hit that Sharon hadn’t replaced us with a new family in her absence.
“What is this?” I stared at the envelope, hating the tremor in my voice.
“The deed to this house. Legally, it’s in my name.”
The room shrank, taking all the air. Only the counter held me up when I stumbled against it. I fumbled with the envelope. “That’s impossible. He left a will—”
“Which mentions it going to you. But my lawyer called and told me my name was still on the original deed. Your father must have forgotten—”
“He’s been dead four years. Why now?”
“I only just found out.” Her tone was pleading.
So that’s why she came back. She didn’t want to see me or say she was sorry or be a mother. It shouldn’t hurt so much, but it did. Old ghosts I should have exorcised years ago.
Placing a hand to my head to stop the pounding, I looked at her. “You want to take my home from me? I grew up here. Dad died here. My whole life is in this house. My studio, my…”
Sharon shook her head as if in disbelief. “Twenty years have gone by and I don’t know my daughter.”
Twenty-eight. “Whose fault is that?” I clamped my mouth shut, remembering Sharon blamed my father. I wasn’t going down that road now. The bomb she’d laid on me about the house was enough. “So…what? You want to move in and get to know me? Be all lovey and pretend everything is kosher? Or just take the house from me?”
“I don’t know. I thought…” She glanced around the room before returning my gaze. “We have to work out the arrangements for the house. Maybe we could get better acquainted.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. When I was a child, I would have given anything,
for this moment. An explanation, an apology, or just to see my mom standing there in my kitchen. But it was too late.
. Now, after all this time, she’d returned, threatening to take my only sanctuary in this awful world and claiming to want to know me all in one sentence.
“You lost the right to worry about me. You lost the right to know anything about me and my life.” Fixing my eyes to Sharon’s, to hold her there and make my case clear, I said, “I don’t want anything to do with you. And this is my house. You will not take it from me. There’s the door.” I pointed. “But then, you remember that much, right?”
Visibly shaken, Sharon placed a hand to her breast, making me feel like the bad guy. Guilt punched my chest. After a moment, Sharon nodded, grabbed her purse from the table, and headed to the back door.
Stopping with her hand poised over the doorknob, she didn’t turn around. “For what it’s worth, I thought about you every day. Here’s my information in case you change your mind. You don’t know everything, Summer. You need to hear the truth.” Setting a small scrap of paper down on the counter, she left.
The click of the kitchen door echoed off the walls. Frozen in place, I stood in the middle of the room and tried to get my bearings. Tried to breathe. Shaking my head profusely, I flung my hands over my face and nearly fell to my knees.
Sharon was gone.
And again, I was all alone.
Sucking in a breath, I straightened. Not now. Now was not the time for this.
I needed to go see our attorney. This had to be some horrible, crazy mix-up. How, after he’d been gone four years, had this just come up now?
No way in hell was that woman taking Daddy’s house from me.
ummer, calm down.” Tim Avery put his palms up and rounded his enormous walnut desk in his enormous, expensively decorated office, with his enormous girth jutting over his belt.
Normally, I liked our attorney, Tim. I hadn’t the need to call on him often through the years, but he’d always been patient and composed. There was no calming me now. I’d pushed through the outer glass doors on Main Street, marching right past his flustered secretary and into his office down the hall. He’d taken one look at me and ended his phone call.