The Insiders

Page 8


I turned away.

“I don’t need to see you naked. No one needs to see their parent without clothes.”

She just laughed, and I heard the water sloshing around. “I got ready for a bath. How can I not take advantage of this? Do you know how many hotels have a claw-foot bathtub? None that I know of. This is so rare, and ooh, it feels so good. Do me a favor, sweetie.”

“Are you covered by the bubbles? Is it safe to look?”

She laughed. “I’ve got the same parts as you do, just a different size. Every female should be appreciated. If we all looked the same, there’d be no fun in life.”

“Seriously, Chrissy.”

This wasn’t a vacation, but back to my whole diatribe earlier, she thought it was. Oh, to hell with it. I snagged one of the wine bottles and sank down to the floor beside the tub.

I didn’t know the time anymore, but drinks made the most sense.

Chrissy smiled at me, her head just over the bubbles and wine in hand. “Cheers, honey.”

Yes. Cheers. We saluted each other.

She sipped her wine, next reaching for one of the candy bars. “Help yourself. I did a whole raid through everything.”

My stomach was metaphorically on the floor. “Mom, we have to talk about what happened.”

It was time.

“Oh.” She waved that off. “Not now.” Finishing her wine, she settled back, closing her eyes. “I know what happened was traumatizing, but you’re safe and…” Her voice slipped. “Do you really want to bring up all the bad stuff tonight? We’re in the lap of luxury here.”


She opened her eyes again. Her mouth flattened. “Okay.” She nodded, sitting back up, some of the water splashing over the side of the tub and wetting where my feet were. “Okay. You’re right. You must have a million questions—”

Before she even finished, I started, “How?”

She choked a little before a knowing grin tugged at her mouth. “Bailey. If you don’t know how a baby is made by now, then—”

“Mom.” I wasn’t amused. I let her see that.

She laughed. “Okay. Enough teasing. Give me another wine thingy. They aren’t big enough.”

I grabbed one that was on the edge of the toilet and handed it over. Her hand closed over my wrist instead, and she tugged.


I’d been kneeling to give her the wine, and from my position, my side hit the tub before she pulled the rest of me into the bath with her.


She was laughing. The water was going everywhere.

“Come on. Let’s have a bath together. You and me. Mother and daughter.”

I ignored her comment. Some days she was Mom. Others, she was the child. I tended to switch too, except I was never supposed to be the parent. That was her job.

I shoved up. Half the water was on the floor now. “Who’s the child in our relationship now?”

“Oh, myself, for sure. That’s a no-brainer.”

I got out of the bath. My pants completely drenched. “I’m soaked.”

She waved, her hand and arm covered in bubbles. “Put the robe on. Peter always was the best at planning for any outliers—his word, not mine.”

Just like that, I sobered up.

It wasn’t the outliers word, though it still stung. It was how she said Peter’s name.

She said his name for the first time as if she knew him. It was a window to how they were when they would’ve made me. I hungered for more. I needed more, but I did as she suggested. I shimmied out of my wet pants and shirt, pulling the robe on and then ridding myself of the rest.

I was heading back to the bathroom when there was a soft knock on the door.

A guard was on the other side. “The vehicle will be downstairs at six in the morning.”

Six a.m.

It was so early, but as my throat burned, it wasn’t enough time.

Not nearly enough time.


* * *


We were lounging on the couch.

My mother had gone through half the contents of the minibar, and she was groaning, rubbing her stomach. “I may be in pain right now, but I’m not going to regret this night. Not one bit.” She was grinning, eyeing me. “How about you?” Her eyes grew concerned. “I noticed you’ve barely touched any of the food or drinks all night. You okay?”

Now. It had to be now.

It was nearing eleven, and I knew my mother would pass out within the hour.

I sat up and pulled a pillow to rest on my lap. It felt like a small amount of protection against what was coming.

“I have to know everything, Mom.”

“Bailey.” She sighed. “How about we have this conversation tomorrow? We can get coffee on the way back to the house and talk everything over at Carla’s.”

“Why Carla’s?” She was a coworker, neighbor, and the closest person my mom had to a best friend.

“I’m assuming there’s still damage at the house.” She sat up, moving slow, and got up to start cleaning.

Now she cleaned?

She frowned at the pizza box. “You won’t want any for breakfast?”

I shook my head.

She turned to the door. “I could offer the last few pieces to the guards outside. They must be hungry.”

There was my mother.

She was stalling and evading. She was even avoiding. Let’s throw in some deflection while we’re at it. It was my new favorite word.

I sat there, watching her getting up and starting to clean the room, and I knew I should be the dutiful daughter and help. I didn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to move from this couch. If I did, I wouldn’t have the courage to keep pressing. She would increase her attempts, asking to cuddle or trying to talk me into watching a movie as she crawled into bed. Either way, we wouldn’t get anywhere, or I wouldn’t get anywhere.

The guards turned down the food, so she shrugged and put the box in the garbage. She rinsed out the emptied little wine bottles and put them in the recycling bin.

All the candy wrappers went in the trash.

She went to the bathroom. I heard her moving around.

Ten minutes or so later, she came back. I caught the whiff of toothpaste and mouthwash as she returned to her perch on the couch.

Seeing I hadn’t moved at all, she raised an eyebrow, then sat. Her shoulders fell down.

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