She nods and follows me inside the house. I pause in the foyer, not quite familiar enough with the house to know where my father would be at the moment. Ezra passes me, muttering a “goodnight,” and heads up the stairs. She must live here.
It sounds like my voice, but more worn. I turn and am suddenly face to face with the man in all the family photos lining the walls. He’s missing the brilliantly fake smile, though.
He eyes me up and down, as if the mere sight of his son disappoints him.
He turns and walks through a door leading out of the foyer. His silence and the assurance in his steps demand I follow him, so I do. We walk into his study, and he slowly edges around his desk and takes a seat. He leans forward and folds his arms over the mahogany wood. “Care to explain?”
I’m tempted to explain. I really am. I want to tell him that I have no idea who he is, no idea why he’s angry, no idea who I am.
I should probably be nervous or intimidated by him. I’m sure yesterday’s Silas would have been, but it’s hard to feel intimidated by someone I don’t know at all. As far as I’m concerned, he has no power over me, and power is the primary ingredient of intimidation.
“Care to explain what?” I ask.
My eyes move to a shelf of books on the wall behind him. They look like classics. Collectibles. I wonder if he’s read any of the books or if they’re just more ingredients for his intimidation.
“Silas!” His voice is so deep and sharp; it feels like the tip of a knife piercing my ears. I press my hand against the side of my neck and squeeze before looking at him again. He eyes the chair across from him, silently commanding me to sit down.
I get the feeling yesterday’s Silas would be saying, “Yes, sir,” right about now.
Today’s Silas smiles and walks slowly to his seat.
“Why was she inside this house today?”
He’s referring to Charlie like she’s poison. He’s referring to her the same way her mother referred to me. I look down at the arm of the chair and pick at a piece of worn leather. “She wasn’t feeling well at school. She needed a ride home, and we took a quick detour.”
This man…my father…leans back in his chair. He brings a hand up to his jaw and rubs it.
Five seconds pass.
Ten seconds pass.
He finally leans forward again. “You seeing her again?”
Is this a trick question? Because it feels like one.
If I say yes, it’ll obviously piss him off. If I say no, it feels like I’ll be letting him win. I don’t know why, but I really don’t want this man to win. He seems like he’s accustomed to winning.
“What if I am?”
His hand is no longer rubbing his jaw because it’s now moving across the desk, fisting into the collar of my shirt. He yanks me toward him just as my hands grip the edges of the desk for resistance. We’re eye to eye now, and I expect he’s about to hit me. I wonder if this type of interaction with him is common?
Instead of hitting me like I know he wants to, he pushes his fist against my chest and releases me. I fall back into my seat, but only for a second. I push out of my chair and take a few steps back.
I probably should have hit the asshole, but I don’t hate him enough to do that yet. I also don’t like him enough to be affected by his reaction. It does confuse me, though.
He picks up a paperweight and hurls it across the room, luckily not in my direction. It smashes against a wooden shelf and knocks the contents to the floor. A few books. A picture frame. A rock.
I stand still and watch him pace back and forth, beads of sweat dripping from his forehead. I don’t understand why he could possibly be this upset over the fact that Charlie was here today. Especially since Ezra said we grew up together.
His palms are now flat against the desk. He’s breathing heavily, nostrils flaring like a raging bull. I expect him to start kicking up dust with his foot any second now. “We had an understanding, Silas. Me and you. I wasn’t going to push you to testify if you swore to me you wouldn’t see that man’s daughter again.” One of his hands flail toward a locked cabinet while his other hand runs through what’s left of his thinning hair. “I know you don’t think she took those files from this office, but I know she did! And the only reason I haven’t pursued it further is because you swore to me we wouldn’t have to deal with that family again. And here you are…” He shudders. Literally shudders. “Here you are bringing her to this house like the last twelve months never even happened!” More frustrated hand flailing, twisted facial expressions. “That girl’s father almost ruined this family, Silas! Does that not mean a damn thing to you?”
Not really, I want to say.
I make a mental note to never get this angry. It’s not an attractive look on a Nash.
I search for some sort of emotion that conveys remorse, so that he can see it on my face. It’s hard though, when the only thing I’m experiencing is curiosity.
The door to the office opens and we both move our attention to whomever is entering.
“Landon, this doesn’t concern you,” my father says, his voice soft. I briefly face my father again, just to make sure the words actually fell from his mouth and not someone else’s. It almost sounds like the voice of a caring father, rather than the monster I just witnessed.
Landon—nice to finally know my little brother’s name—looks at me. “Coach is on the phone for you, Silas.”
I glance back at my father, who now has his back turned to me. I assume that means our conversation is over. I walk toward the door and gladly exit the room, followed closely by Landon.
“Where’s the phone?” I ask him when I reach the stairs. Valid question, though. How am I supposed to know if he called on a cell phone or a landline?
Landon laughs and moves past me. “There’s no phone call. I was just getting you out of there.”
He continues up the stairs and I watch as he reaches the top and then turns left, disappearing down the hall. He’s a good brother, I think. I make my way to what I assume is his room, and I knock lightly on the door. It’s slightly ajar, so I push it open. “Landon?” I open the door all the way and he’s seated at a desk. He looks over his shoulder briefly and then returns his attention to his computer. “Thanks,” I say, stepping into the room. Do brothers thank each other? Probably not. I should have said something along the lines of, “Took you long enough, asshole.”
Landon turns in his chair and tilts his head. A combination of confusion and admiration plays out in his smile. “I’m not sure what your deal is. You aren’t showing up for practice, and that’s never happened. You act like you don’t give a shit that Charlie has been screwing Brian Finley. And then you have the balls to bring her here? After all the shit Dad and Brett went through?” He shakes his head. “I’m surprised you escaped his office without a bloodbath.”
He spins back around and leaves me to process everything. I turn and rush toward my bedroom.
Brett Wynwood, Brett Wynwood, Brett Wynwood.
I repeat his name in my head so I’ll know exactly what to search when I get to my computer. Surely I have a computer.
When I reach my room, the first thing I do is walk to my dresser. I pick up the pen Charlie handed me earlier today and read the imprint again.