Rich Prick

Page 41

I shrugged. I was. It’d been a dick thing to say. “Honesty. It can be a weapon.”

My mom looked down, her eyes closed. I could almost hear her counting for patience.

And Stephen just looked at me. His eyes were clear, no judgment, nothing clouding them.

So why not? “I have to ask, Stephen. Did you divorce your wife in the hopes of starting a new family with my mom and me?” I gave him a questioning look. “Because you missed the boat with us. I’ve met your other son. You’re better off with him.”

“Blaise!” My mom’s chair scraped against the floor, and she grabbed my arm, yanking me out of my seat.

I was more surprised than anything.

I went with her, and she dragged me to the back hallway, toward her room. Deviating to the basement, I jogged down the stairs and veered into my room.

She trailed me. “I don’t understand why you’re always so mean. That man upstairs stood up for you—”

I gave her a scowl, rifling through my drawers. “I don’t need anyone standing up for me.” I grabbed a bag and began filling it with clothes and shit. “And if he hadn’t beat the shit out of Griffith, I would’ve. Learned how to fight back in New York out of necessity, Mom. You were just usually too baked out of your head to notice.”


What else would I need for tomorrow?

A suit.

Crap. Had I even brought any suits from New York?

I headed for the closet.

She followed me, standing in the doorway. “I was not baked out of my head.”

“You were—stoned, wasted, drunk. Does it matter? I don’t blame you.” I tempered this with a smile as I put my hands on a suit I hadn’t remembered I even owned.

Shit. Would I actually need this? I should take it, just in case. I moved past her, tossing it on the bed and headed back to the closet.

“He was abusive. He was verbally and emotionally abusive to you, and he was verbally, mentally, emotionally, and physically abusive to me. That’s the way the cookie crumbled. It was life. We dealt with it. You divorced him, and now he’s out of our lives. So yay you, Mom. You did stand up for me. You don’t have to have any guilt there anymore.” I grabbed a bunch of clothes and paused to pat her shoulder, giving her a wide smile. “Thumbs-up, Marie.”

“Fuck you,” she hissed.

I was being a dick, such a dick, but I was numb to it.

I wanted distance.

I wanted away.

I wanted Aspen, but I couldn’t have Aspen so I’d pack, go to Zeke’s, and get wasted. When Aspen called, I’d get a ride to her or I’d sober up so I could drive to her, and then I’d be okay again.

“What is wrong with you?” my mother asked.

I smirked. “Lots. We know this.”

She sucked in a ragged breath, and I saw the tears.

Hell. I hated when she cried. I really hated it.

I tried to tune her out, but I heard her say, “I am sorry, Blaise.”

I paused, not seeing what I was stuffing into the bag.

She kept crying. “I didn’t protect you from him, and I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, for everything. I wanted you for myself. I was scared Stephen would take you from me. I’m…” She hesitated. “I went to see a therapist this past week.”

I stood there, holding whatever was in my hand, and I didn’t move.

I didn’t dare move.

“It felt good, talking about everything. I’m going to go again. I actually—” A sad laugh came from her. “—have it set up for the next six months. She thought I needed that many sessions considering what we left behind, you and me.”

I closed my eyes.

“Stephen’s the one who suggested her. He said he went to see her right after he left his ex. He said Taz is thinking about seeing her too.”

She was going to take a knife and drag it across my chest. I was just waiting…

“I can’t control you. You have your own money. You’re eighteen. You have more power as an adult now than I ever felt I had, so I’m not going to try to be your parent. Not now. I messed that up by staying with him for so long.”

I knew tears were still sliding down her face. But she sounded strong. She sounded resigned.

I’d never heard my mother sound like that.

After a moment, she shifted gears. “Taz said you have a girlfriend?”

My eyes opened, and I looked down. I’d been holding a pair of socks. Snorting, I tossed them aside and rifled through the bag. What the hell had I even thrown in here?

“What’s her name?”

None of your business.

What the hell else did I need?

“Where’d you meet her?”

I dropped the bag and turned around. “I’m not talking about her.”

“Okay. Yeah.” She tried to smile, but those tears.

I hated when she cried. Cursing, I hauled my mom into my arms.

She sniffled, tensing, but I cradled the back of her head, and that was enough. She dissolved in my arms.

I didn’t know if that was right or not. It was what it was.

I waited until she had stopped crying. Zeke would be here by now. I pulled back and smiled down at her. “Cheer up, Mom. You got a pain-in-the-ass son who will someday not be such a pain in the ass.”

She laughed, flicking the last of her tears away.

“And it seems you have a good guy upstairs.” I bent down, resting my forehead to hers. “I will try to not be such a dick.”

Pulling away, I studied her.

“You like Taz, huh?”

She smiled, bobbing her head. “I do. She’s a good girl, just lonely. I can understand that.”

A bit of my wall crumbled. I didn’t like thinking of my mom as lonely.

“I think counseling will be good for you, Mom.”

Her eyes turned sad, and she eased back a step. She cupped the side of my face. “You’re such a handsome boy. I got lucky having you. Real lucky. Despite the things you say, you’ve always taken care of me when I needed it.”

I batted away her hand. “Okay. Sentimental shit is my cue to leave.”

She reached up and held the sides of my face. “Let me say this. I know you are hurting. I know I can’t help you with that, but I also know you persevere. That’s your trait. You’re always strong, and you always get through whatever it is you’re dealing with. And I can’t take credit for that. That’s you. That’s all you, and I want you to be proud of that.”

Her eyes flicked to the ceiling and back to mine. “As for them, and the changes in our lives, it’ll all work out. I just want you to keep working on you. And whoever this girl is, I can tell she’s good for you. I’ve always seen fragments of the man you’ll become, and lately, I’ve been seeing more and more of them. You will become a man I’m proud of, and I know this because you’re already a son I’m so proud of.” She hugged me tightly. “So proud of you.”

I let her hug me.

“Mom, I can’t be a dick with you being a Pinterest hologram and saying all this cheesy shit.” But I grinned as I straightened a strand of her hair.

I loved my mom.

I might be a massive dick, but everything she’d said was right.

I pressed a kiss to her forehead and whispered, “Love you.”

Zeke was standing in the hallway just inside the back door when I came up from the basement.

His face lit up when he saw me. “Bruh!”

“Let’s head.”

His face faltered. “Dude. Brunch?”

“I’ll pay.”

“Dude.” He grinned again, and we left.

I tried to tell myself I wasn’t being a pansy when I pulled my phone out later and texted Taz.

Me: Congrats on your graduation tomorrow. I’ll come to your party if you want me there.



Nate kept trying to talk me into letting him rent a camper. He was allergic to tents, he’d explained, but not campers. He loved campers. The whole time was like that. Nate making a joke. Me laughing. Then we’d descend into silence with awkward looks.

I didn’t know my brother. Not really.

I knew this, but knowing it and experiencing it were two different things.

It was sad, to be honest. I wished I knew him. I wished I knew him how I knew Owen.

I sighed at one point. “I miss Owen.”

Nate had been on his phone, but he looked up and without a word said, he put it away. He leaned back. “I wished I knew Owen how you knew him.”

I’m here, dudes.

I grinned. “Some days it’s like he never left, and some days it’s like he never existed. He was my only friend.”

Nate’s eyes closed. “Aspen.”

“He was funny. He was fun. He was reckless sometimes. He was cocky. He was the popular guy at school. So many girls liked him.” Giving Nate a more intense look, I said, “He was like a mix of you and Blaise together.”

Nate’s mouth turned in, and he was trying to contain his grimace. “Thanks?”

I laughed. “No. Owen was the best of all of us.”

Sure. You wouldn’t have said that if I was alive. Now I’m dead, and all things are holy Owen.

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