Read Sweet Rome (Sweet Home) Online
Authors: Tillie Cole
Her fingers skirted up my arm and she said, “Not to be rude, but this conversation is kind of bringing me down, Rome. Death and Budweiser should never go together.”
She was trying to joke, but I had no humor for the shit hand she’d been dealt. I’d sensed that pain within her in class, but fuck, not the level she was at.
“So you and Shelly?” She interrupted my thoughts with the worst topic possible.
“Good subject change,” I answered dryly.
“Well, there had to be a reason she was so pissed at our kiss. Even if it was just for the initiation.”
“We’re… complicated.” I never talked about this, not even with Ally. But she’d shared who she was and for the first time ever, I wanted to do the same.
“That sounds like a copout if ever I’ve heard one.”
“Nah, not a copout. She’s been hounding me since sixth grade. Our families are pushing for an engagement. You know, to protect their investments, keep the company’s money in the family. Our fathers are business partners. I don’t even fucking like her. She’s a big old thorn in my side.” That was putting it mildly.
“But… are you going to go through with it? The engagement, I mean. I’m surprised you’d settle down with someone you don’t want. Or even settle down at all, if the rumors are to be believed.”
And there it was. The shit that came with being me had already reached her ears, in a matter of hours. The gossip mill doing its job to fucking perfection. Time to set her straight, share a few home truths.
“Fuckin’ rumors. Look, girls just throw themselves at me. When it’s offered, I take it. Why the hell not? I don’t have a girlfriend, never have. Sex helps me calm down from being so riled up all the time and shows folks that I’m definitely not with Shelly. I won’t apologize for it. I just like to fuck a lot and never the same girl twice.” I saw her jaw drop, but she’d asked. It was the truth. “My parents have a set plan. I’m expected to graduate, marry Shelly, take over the family business, and live the American fuckin’ dream.”
“So you don’t want to play football professionally? I thought I heard that you were destined for big things?”
That completely changed my mood. “Yeah, I do want to play. I love it. It’s as natural to me as breathing—the rush, the camaraderie, the roar of the crowd on game day, popping the perfect shot for a touchdown. My parents don’t support it. They just… Hell, it don’t matter. I just fucking hate my life being dictated by my folks, that’s all.” Saying something, telling someone about them, was helping, ridding me of my anger.
“Then do what you want. Screw everyone else,” she said, as simple as that.
“Easier said than done.”
Her soft hand squeezed mine. “You can’t live your life for other people, Rome. You have to do things that you want, achieve your dreams, in any way you want to do it. If you’re happy, then your parents surely will be too, and if not, they’ll get over it in time. Don’t be with someone you dislike like Shelly. Be with a girl you can’t resist, who you truly want above anyone else. Someone you connect with.”
What was she trying to say? “Like you, Mol…? A girl like you?”
“You don’t even know me.” She was pushing me away, so I said the first thing that came to mind, running my finger down her cheek, loving the effect it had on her breathing. “It only took Romeo one look at Juliet and his fate was sealed. Maybe I’m just like my namesake, and maybe you’re just like yours.”
Smooth, Rome, real smooth.
Oh, and I was sure that comment was an instant deduction of a thousand man-points, but it had the desired effect. She wanted me, and shit, at that moment, I wanted her too.
Placing my hand on her bare knee, I continued running it up her thigh, the heat of her skin increasing the closer I got to between her legs. My cock was as hard as granite as I watched those plump lips part, and I moved in, about to take her, when the fucking door handle began to shake. “Rome? Rome? Open up! I know you’re in there!”
Molly sucked in a breath and, knocking my hand from her thigh, straightened her toga.
“Fuck!” I screamed, turning and launching my beer into the trash, hearing the glass shatter.
“That girl!” Molly hissed and stared at me, looked me dead in the eye, waiting for me to say something. As I stared at her hopeful face, reality came crashing down. What the hell was I doing? Molly was damaged, too damaged to be just a fuck. From everything she’d told me, meaningless sex would just be cruel, and shit, I couldn’t give her anything more. I needed to get the hell out of Bama—
—and being with a girl that wasn’t Shelly was just going cause a shit storm of problems with my folks.
Nothing was worth that.
“I’m going to go, Rome,” she finally said with a disappointed sigh. “I’ll leave you with her. It’s probably for the best.”
“Mol—” I started, but she was probably right. It
for the best.
But when she walked past, something in me clicked, and I grabbed her hand, smashing her into my chest. Her golden eyes were huge as she stared up at me, waiting… just fucking waiting for something. “I liked talking to you, Shakespeare. It was different…” I eventually confided with a strained voice.
Gripping her toga, I pulled her closer to me, holding the back of her neck in my hand, but her expectant gaze told me she needed more.
Her face dropped as I stalled, and she said disappointedly, “You too, Romeo. But our little conversation seems to have come to an end. I imagine it’s probably for the best anyhow.”
Before I could stop her, she pulled away, walking to the bedroom, and I followed. Mol pulled on the handle and the door burst open, Shelly came running straight toward me, jumping into my arms and crushing her fat lips against mine. “I want you, Rome. Fuck me, right here, right now.”
Her legs tightened around my waist and she began grinding her panty-less crotch against my jeans. Clasping the top of her arms, I pushed her back, my attention honing in on the door. It was shut, and Molly was gone.
Turning, I threw Shelly off me and onto the bed. “What the fuck, Shel?” I hissed.
She wobbled to her knees, smiling, her red lipstick smeared all over her teeth. “Daddy called, told me we’re getting hitched next July. I wanted to celebrate with you.”
Something within me broke, and Molly’s advice circled my brain.
You can’t live your life for other people, Rome. You have to do things that you want, achieve your dreams, in any way you want to do it.
She was right.
she was right! What the hell was I doing?
Staring at Shelly on the bed, I asked, “Why do you want to marry me, Shel? You don’t love me. I don’t love you. What’s the pull?”
“I do love you! I always have,” she slurred.
Shaking my head in exasperation, I argued. “No, you love the
of me. Fuck, Shel, you don’t even
me. How can you love me? How can you want this friggin’ engagement? Don’t you want a man who’ll love you back?”
Her eyes glossed and her shoulders slumped. “My daddy wants it to happen. My momma taught me from a young age what it would be like to marry for money, and like most women in my position, I would have to let you do your own thing, have your little
. I accept that. But in society’s eyes,
would always be your wife.
would be the one on your arm at social functions and
would be the mother to your kids. We could give each other what our folks—and Tuscaloosa’s society—expect.”
Her gaze had dropped during her speech, but then she looked up at me with her bloodshot eyes and said, “I’m not stupid, Rome, despite what you think. I know you don’t love me, but, let’s face it; it’s not about love, is it? It’s who we are, who we were raised to be.”
“Don’t you want more for yourself? Don’t you have dreams? Things you want to achieve away from all the pressure to be something that we’re not? Hell, Shel, I’m not made for that kind of life! I’m football player. That’s what I was born to be, not some miserable suit!”
Her head began to shake back and forth. “No! I don’t
something like football as an alternative. I don’t
a perfect four-point GPA or some other skill to use as a backup. I’m a Blair, and you know what, Rome? I
the life my momma has, and I need
to make that happen.” Her eyes narrowed and, glancing at the open balcony, she stated, “And I will do anything to get it.”
I straightened at her thinly veiled threat, realizing there was no getting through to her in this state. “It ain’t happening, Shel. I’m sorry.”
Whipping back to face me, she once again adopted her usual bitch façade and shouted, “You’re such a selfish prick! Think of me! If it’s about sex, don’t worry. You know I’d fuck you anytime you wanted. It’s all here for you to take! The perfect life on a silver platter!”
“Have some damn pride, woman!”
“I have pride, but I’m starting to wonder if you even have a dick, pussying out of your duty and acting like a whining little bitch instead of just doing what you’re told!”
I strode to the end of the bed, Shelly shuffling back at the severe look on my face. “You and me—never happening. You’re pathetic and I hate everything you stand for. I’ll never marry you. Ever. You get me?”
She faltered for a moment before answering. “You will, Rome. I’ve known you my whole life and you’ve always done what your folks told you to do. What’s changed?”
It was rhetorical, but I glared at her for the longest time before smiling victoriously.
I pounded out of Ally’s room, not bothering to evict Shelly, and went searching for Molly to make sure she was okay. Down on the lawn, I spotted her on a bench with Ally, Jimmy-Don, the scary girl I’d seen with Jimmy-Don, and some chick with black lips and jet-black hair.
Molly looked so pissed off, so sad, and, not wanting to cause a scene, I got the hell out of there. I needed to do something while I had the courage, something that was in no way going to be easy but had to be done to finally break free.
I just hoped I didn’t live to regret it.
“Mr. Prince will see you now, Rome.”
I rose from the cold, hard leather couch in the vast, sparsely decorated white lobby and, nodding at Jean, my daddy’s assistant, I entered his office, firmly closing the door behind me.
There he sat, king of the whole fucking world, dressed in his black pinstriped power suit, behind his desk, scowling as I approached. “Rome. To what do I owe this pleasure?” I caught the sarcasm in his voice but ignored it and slumped into the free chair at his desk.
“I need to speak to you,” I said firmly, embracing the detached numbness I always felt in his presence.
He sat back, smirking, crossing his arms. I’d never come to him like this before, and it had obviously humored the bastard. “Go ahead. I’m all ears.”
Taking a deep breath, I met his cold eyes and declared, “I’m done.”
That wiped the smirk off his face, and his graying eyebrows pulled together in confusion. “Done with what, boy?”
“All of it. Your controlling shit, Momma being overbearing and ragging on me nonstop for being such a fucking mistake to you both.” I leaned forward to hammer the final nail into the Prince Empire’s coffin, seeing my daddy’s lip curl in annoyance at the bold gesture. “And I’m not marrying Shel, not for anything. There isn’t enough money in the world or any threat you can issue that would make me want to legally bind myself to her for life. Cut me out of your lives if you want, but I can’t and I
The silence was suffocating in the expansive, antique-decorated room as the two Prince men stared each other down. Finally, my daddy sat forward, calm as the sea, and said, “I don’t know where the hell you got the idea that you had any choice in this.”
Exactly the response I was expecting.
have a choice. And I’m not going through with it. I’m going to enter the draft, and this time you can’t stop me. I’m gonna leave this place once and for all, and live my own goddamn life. God, you should be proud! Why do I get the only father in the whole of Alabama who
want his son to enter the NFL? I’m good, Daddy, real good, if only you’d realize it. Maybe if you come to one of my games, you’d see I wasn’t right for a life in the business world.”
Daddy stilled, his face burning red. Then he launched to his feet, swiping at his desk. It took me completely by surprise, and I jerked back in my seat. He’d always been physical, domineering, but this reaction seemed kind of extreme, even for him. He was always calm and collected, especially in public,
at his work.
Slamming his hands on the solid mahogany desktop, he yelled, “You will do it, boy! It’s your
! Prince Oil needs the Blairs, and I will not allow some nobody from outside the family to weasel his way into my company when Shelly finally marries! The business has been passed down to the next generation for years, but, oh no,
get the punk of a son who decides against it. Jesus Christ!”
I quickly stood and, shocked at his outburst, shouted back, “What the hell? What’s wrong with you? Why’re you reacting like this? This can’t be just about me not wanting to marry Shel. You’re acting crazy. What’s really going on?”
His eyes narrowed and a strange, almost panicked expression flashed across his face. “It
about the marriage! You’re gonna do it, if it’s the last thing you do!”
Running my hands through my hair, I sighed deeply and began backing out of the room. “I’m done. Deal with it. And don’t bother trying to convince me otherwise.”
I opened the door to the lobby, and Mr. Blair, Shelly’s daddy, spotted me. “Rome!” He held his arms wide, smiling his expensive veneered smile. He wasn’t a bad man, just had his priorities messed up: money and social standing first, and they trumped everything else. Shelly clearly had daddy issues, and the way he put most things above her, it didn’t take a genius to figure out why.