Authors: S. Ann Cole
Tags: #Amazon Copy, #February 4
She doesn’t answer. Opens a small bottle of rum, pours some into her tea, picks it up along with her box of cigarettes, and then zombies out onto the balcony.
I can’t tell where she keeps getting alcohol and cigarettes from, seeing as she claims to be flat broke and all the bills are paid by me, and she never leaves the house. Yet, I keep seeing new boxes of cigarettes and bottles of rum.
When I first found out about her cancer, I cried. A lot. I had nightmares and anxiety attacks. Until one day, I woke up and just stopped caring. If she doesn’t care enough to eliminate the substances that got her there in the first place, to try staying alive as long as she possibly can in the case a liver becomes available for a transplant, then why should I be stressing my battered little brain so hard?
I’ve just come to accept the fact that she’s going to die—much sooner than later by the looks of it—and I need to channel my focus and energy into preparing myself for
. Life after being impoverished and orphaned.
Kicking off my slippers, I curl up into the couch, aka my bed—Mom gets the bedroom.
As the noisome scent of Mom’s cigarette wafts into the apartment, I huff out a sigh and yank the blanket from off the back of the couch and haul it over my head to block it out.
I fall asleep. Not to the cigarette scent. Or to anxious thoughts about my craptastic life. But to flashes of Sexy Demon’s arched and exposed throat in the backseat of the cab.
Mom’s chain-smoking and excessive drinking—despite her illness—all made sense to me one dark and desolate evening. Turns out the cancer wasn’t executing its threat fast enough. Death was too far off. So she took matters into her own hands.
I got home one evening, after spending hours trying to get someone to hire me, and found Mom’s pale, lifeless body slumped on the kitchen floor. Beside her, a spilled bottle of rum, along with two empty pill bottles.
Selfish bitch that the woman is, she overdosed on her medication and finished what the cancer started.
I hurt. But I didn’t shed a tear. Instead, I went out on the balcony, took a seat in the rusty wrought-iron chair she sat in every day, and dialed 911.
I loved her, I really did. But, obviously, she loved Dad more than she loved me. I’d been her prize to winning Dad over. But when Dad faded, apparently so did I, as far as she was concerned. I no longer mattered. No longer had a purpose in her life. She ceased caring. About life. About me. She ceased caring long before the cancer.
So many times I would come home with wounds and bruises inflicted by Andrew and she never once inquired how, where, or why I got them. Or if I was alright. I’d have frequent anxiety attacks, sometimes crying for hours on end, unable to stop myself, and Mom, when I needed her the most, never looked my way once, or offered me a word of consolation. Never assured me everything would be alright, like a mother should. It’s as if I was
to her. She’d just moved around the house like a ghost. Leaving me completely on my own.
When we were living affluently in Manhattan, had her love and affection toward me all been for show? Did she ever really love me? Did she ever really care?
I don’t know. I don’t. But I do know that upon walking into the apartment to her lifeless body, I felt nothing but numbness. And a little bit of resentment, to be honest. The woman messed up my whole savings plan. Never considering that I’m broke and jobless and would have difficulty burying her. No. She hadn’t been thinking of
at all. Too eager to leave me and go chase after Dad.
Andrew volunteers to cover the funeral. All the while, as we go through the process together, ranting on how Mom was a “stupid bitch.” I don’t argue with him about his irreverence of the dead. Just let him be him, so long as he’s taking this sad and lumbering burden off my hands.
It’s the hour of the funeral. Only five attendants are present. My half-brother, Graham. My best friend, Kiera. Andrew, myself, and the priest.
The priest and I are the only ones here for Mom. Graham, Kiera, and Andrew are here to console me.
Graham is three years older than I am and absolutely despises Mom for ruining his family. He hated me in the beginning, too. His mother, Sarah, is a humble, benign woman, so despite Dad’s major misdemeanor, she remained friends with him and was the one to arrange things so Graham spent every other weekend with us, so he could get more time in with his Dad. Whenever he was over, he tried his best to shade me, block me, scowl and snarl at me, shove me away from him. But even as a kid, I was obdurate, as I never gave up trying to get to know my brother. I wore him down until he could no longer resist me, and we eventually grew a tight bond, loved each other, as we ought to. His enmity for Mom, however, never waned.
Even after Dad’s downfall and our downgrading, he phoned quite often to check up on me, but I was too embarrassed to let him see how deplorable our situation was, so I never asked him for help, no matter how badly I needed it. Plus he’d probably suggest I come live with him and leave Mom behind.
Graham made it clear the second he arrived, his shiny Aston Martin beeping behind him, that he was here for
and “not that evil bitch.” I just shrugged; his aversion understandable.
Mom’s funeral is quick and emotionless. No lamenting, or sorrowful singing, no kind words except from the priest.
Wooden and unfeeling, I watch as they lower her casket six feet under. Then I stoop down, scoop up a handful of dirt and sprinkle it over the top of her casket, whispering one final goodbye.
“Okay, is that it?” I hear Andrew ask from behind me in a rude and impatient tone. “Is this thing over or what?”
As the priest grouses something and ambles off with his Bible clutched to his chest, I whirl on Andrew and glare daggers at him. “This is my mother’s
He gives a dismissive wave of his hand, shifting from foot to foot. “Whatever. Can we go now?”
Graham moves from his position at Kiera’s side and comes up to me, effectively blocking out Andrew, clasping my hands in his. “I really hate that I have to leave you, sis, but I have a plane to catch. Will you be okay? Are you sure you don’t want to come with Mom and me to Turks and Caicos for Spring Break? It would be the perfect getaway for you right now.”
to come? Of course, I want to come!
I want to run so far, far away from here and never, ever look back
But I see Andrew shifting from behind Graham, sending me an oblique warning with those empty black eyes. I can’t go. I can’t say yes. Andrew won’t let me. He knows if I board a plane and leave this country he won’t ever see me again, because no way in hell would I come back to him. This is not the smart way to leave him, when he’s watching out for it. I have to go when he’s not expecting me to.
“A trip to Turks and Caicos sounds like
ultimate getaway,” I say with a small smile, struggling not to cringe as I squeeze the words out. “But now just isn’t the best time, Gray. I need to…I have to stay here and sort some things out.”
Graham studies me through a thin film of skepticism. Spitting image of our father, he’s tall and lean and handsome as all get out. Short blond hair parted at the side and groomed back in smooth waves, eyes a brighter blue than mine, courtesy of Raymond Cooley. Graham is this dashing, debonair, picture-perfect, most-wanted Bachelor, and I’m…nothing.
He moves in closer, lowering his voice to an octave only I can hear, “Lotty, you know you can tell me anything, right?”
My eyes flick over his shoulder to Andrew, who’s checking his watch and shifting restlessly.
Just tell him
!’ urges Rational Lotty. ‘
Swallow your shame and let him help us out of this! He has the means. He. Can. Help. Us
“Gray…” My throat is dry, my heartbeat ratcheting up in my chest. “I…I’m…I need—”
“Lotty, baby…” Andrew breaks in, striding up to us, wrapping his fingers around my upper arm. He seems nervous. “I’ve something to ask you.”
“Do you mind?” Graham bites at him. “We’re having a conversation here.”
Undeterred, Andrew shoulders himself between us, effectively placing a barrier between us. “And
don’t like how close you’re standing to my girl.”
Graham looks like he’s one second away from planting his fist in Andrew’s stupid face. “She’s my
“Yeah, well, from what I know about you rich kids, you all don’t have boundaries. No one’s off limits for you.”
Now Graham is fuming, and slightly revolted. “Dude, if you’re insinuating what I think you are, you’re
Kiera, thank heavens, is there in a flash, grabbing Graham by the arm and hauling him away.
What am I thinking? Telling Graham won’t help. Andrew is too much of a psycho. Has far too many informants and questionable muscles in Brooklyn. The last thing I want is to cause Graham hurt.
“Gray,” I say, aborting my foolish plan to tell him the truth. “It’s cool. I’m fine. I’ll be fine. Have fun on your trip.”
Graham hesitates, glancing from me to Andrew, Andrew to me. “Are you su—”
“Just go, Gray. I’ll call you.”
He lingers for a beat, runs his hand over his mouth, firing one last glare at Andrew before promising, “I’m here for you, Lotty. I love you. Always remember that,” before turning and leaving us.
Kiera folds her lips and watches him leave. She, too, is aware of nothing. She thinks Andrew shits gold bricks.
As Andrew turns to face me, he has the nerve to look apologetic. “Sorry about that, baby. I’m just a little on edge.”
mother didn’t die. What are you on edge about?” As much as I’m afraid of him, I can’t hide the exasperation in my voice.
He shuffles on his feet. Again. “Something I…want to ask you.”
? What do you want to ask me?” I snap out, bravado in effect only because of Kiera’s presence. “What’s so important that you had to pick a fight with Gray?”
Andrew’s right hand disappears into his pocket, reemerging with an ominous little black box.
Oh no. This is not happening. This is not happening. This. Is. Not. Happening.
Please note, this chanting is not out of excitement, but of
On one knee, he sinks down in front of me. Right at my mother’s
. “Charlotte Cooley, I love you. I know most times my actions might say otherwise…but you need to know there’s no one else for me. I mess up and I screw around sometimes, but you’re my
. You’re my anchor. You’re the one I want by my side ‘til death. You’re
. Will you…”—he flips open the box—“...marry me?”
This isn’t happening
This isn’t happening.
Is this really happening? Is he seriously proposing to me in a cemetery? Over my mother’s unburied
casket? This has to be
most morbid proposal in history. I mean,
More so, is he truly
to me? If I’m ever stupid enough to marry this reprobate, this is exactly where I’d end up spending my honeymoon. In a
. As a ghost.
My blown-wide eyes swing to Kiera and find her eyebrows are kissing her hairline. Horrified. I know she’s not shocked about the proposal itself, but the nature of it. Unlike Graham, Kiera likes Andrew. That’s because she doesn’t know the kind of man Andrew is. I haven’t told her. She’s so convinced he’s some kind of prince charming, and gushes over him because he has a perfect face and a mouthwatering body. But even she can’t deny that this proposal is ghastly.
I bring my gaze back to the ring sitting boastfully in its cushiony seat in the box, and I have to admit I’m taken aback by the size. How is he able to afford a diamond this size? Baguette cut, on a platinum band, with two smaller diamonds on either side. Andrew does well for himself financially, but he isn’t rich. At least, not enough to be able to afford something like this.
“I sold one of the cars,” he offers when he notices me gawking at the ring, reading the question right off my mind. Giving me an abashed smile, he angles his thumb to the inner side of the lid, bringing my attention to what I didn’t notice before: the intertwined H and W.
. “I figured if we’re gonna do this, then you deserve the best of the best. So, will you?”
Andrew might be wearing a cutely shy expression on his face, and he might be “asking” me to marry him, but I know him well enough to know there’s only one answer I can give to his question. Considering, especially, that he went through the trouble of selling one of his cars.
I realize, now more than ever, that I
to find a way out of this relationship, and fast, before it’s too late.