I told her how scared I’d been.
I told her that I couldn’t remember the whole night, and that was the only thing I couldn’t remember.
I told her about the other attempts.
I told her everything, all the sordid details, and she seemed to shrink into herself with each word I spoke.
About my decision.
About seeing Kash in the interrogation room, then the elevator.
About leaving her that morning.
About coming to this new and huge home.
About meeting Cyclone, Seraphina, Matt. About Marie and Theresa. About seeing my father for the first time.
I told her about the first day, the second, the third. I told her how I couldn’t go on a computer.
All of it. I left nothing out, except the sex.
And I ended by saying, softly, as I moved so I knew she could feel my words on her back, “And I’m pretty sure, not completely, but fairly certain, to a one-hundred-twenty-percent sure, that I’m falling in love with that boyfriend you mentioned.” A deep breath. A painful breath. And I released the rest. “And I’m terrified because, while my father ignores me and Matt lies to me, I don’t know how Kash can hurt me, but I know that if he does, he could shatter me. Shatter, Mom.”
She turned then, big fat sobs rolling down her face.
“Oh, honey. Come here.”
And then I stepped into my mother’s arms, where I should’ve been the entire time.
Chrissy was up before any of us the next morning. She marched over to the main house and had a word with Marie. Somehow, the two had a hashing out of sorts. Neither would tell me what they spoke about, but they did let Quinn and Peter know that my mother was staying.
They didn’t ask. They informed.
There were other words shared. I wasn’t allowed in on that conversation, but I got the gist of it later. Chrissy said it was for the parents. Quinn, Peter, my mother, and Marie were all included. Kash and I weren’t. Not that I was champing at the bit to get in there, but I knew they were talking about me.
My mom had been not happy when I mentioned the part about Peter ignoring me, so I was guessing she wanted to deliver an ass chewing, and I was guessing Marie wanted to be witness to it.
An hour later they came out and the decision was announced.
My mother was here to stay.
Quinn left moments after that for a charity meeting, and the other bit of business was next dealt with. Seraphina and Cyclone were told about my mother, and then about me. No one could have been prepared for their reactions. Cyclone started sprinting around, pumping his fists in the air, his head back, chanting, “Yes to the matriarchy!” Seraphina dissolved into tears.
I’d been nervous about how they would react. Having a fun friend was one thing; having a sister was a whole different thing. At the first sight of Ser’s tears, I almost dropped to the floor. Kash grabbed my arm, holding me up until Seraphina had wiped enough tears aside and came to me. Those thin little arms wrapped tightly around my waist, and she buried her face into my side.
Her words, though. Her words cemented everything.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, her nose pressed into my shirt.
“Honey.” I exchanged worried looks with the rest of the women in the room. Quinn was noticeably absent. No shock there, and something I knew my mom had noted, pressing her lips together.
Unwinding Seraphina’s arms, I knelt down so we were face-to-face. Or closer to equal level, because now she towered over me. She’d had a recent growth spurt that I was just catching on to.
“Ser? What are you sorry about?”
“How you must’ve felt.” Her eyes were decidedly not looking at me. She was biting her lip. Her head folded low and she was bunching her shirtsleeve over her hand, tucking back some hair that wasn’t there. Her hair was perfectly swept back in a bun. Looked too tight for her head, to be honest.
Her head lowered even more, almost falling to my shoulder. I could barely make out her next words.
“Us not knowing. You … We love you already.” Her eyes lifted, meeting mine. Tears lined them. She was still whispering, but with renewed vigor. “You being our sister, now we can love you more. Should’ve loved you like that from the start. We didn’t know.” Her eyes fell to the ground again. Her voice hitched on a sob. “I’m sorry we didn’t know.”
She felt bad for me, for them not knowing.
Done. Everything was done for me then. I had fallen in love with my siblings before, but now I was even more in love. Chrissy and I were never leaving. School be damned. Well, not school and life in general, because I couldn’t only be here.
She sniffled, and I promptly lost my resolve.
I was never leaving this little girl’s side. Bring us bunk beds, because I was moving in. To infinity and beyond infinity.
“Oh, Ser.” That’s all I could get out. A huge slobbering lump formed in my throat, blocking me from talking and doing anything else. I just gathered her close, and I didn’t think I could let her go. I managed to break out, “You loving me the way you’ve already been is more than enough. I’m not going anywhere.”
We were both blubbering messes.
Chrissy was wiping at her nose.
Marie was blinking over and over again, then turning sharply to wheeze.
The men … I had no clue what they were doing. Kash was in the room, behind me somewhere. Cyclone had quieted. And Peter was there too, but like all the other times, he was in the background and still being quiet. Since my mom had arrived he hadn’t looked at me, but why would I expect otherwise? Past behavior predicts the future. Well, future meet the same. He was being the same.
Then Cyclone launched himself at Seraphina and me and the moment was done. He hugged us both, kissed us both on the cheeks, and tipped his head back again to yell out, “Pillow fight!”
And it was on.
He got Marie right in the face.
Chrissy went for him, a pillow in hand. Seraphina was giggling, shrieking, trying to help Marie get him back. When they began advancing on Kash, he gave them a look, arched an eyebrow, and they took off.
We could hear Cyclone yelling down the hallway, “Theresa! We’re coming for you!”
Seraphina was still giggling right with him.
I looked up, but Peter had disappeared.
Chrissy saw, too, and I swear, if she’d been holding a balloon, it would’ve deflated from disappointment. Marie took it all in, then slapped her hands to her legs. “Right. Okay.” She said to my mother, “You come with me. We’ll find you a room on the estate somewhere.”