Her hold on my arm tightened and she pulled me around so that I was facing her. Her eyes, the ones where the green and gold in mine came from, locked intently on my face. “They didn’t do it because they wanted your gratitude or because they gave a single thought to whether or not you are worthy of an act of compassion and caring. They did it because, to them, it was the right thing to do. Your father has stepped in and helped out so many of their young men when they needed some guidance. To those girls this was simply what had to be done.” She grinned at me again. “To be fair, they would probably do the same thing for anyone in a dire situation, but the fact that you’re Brite’s daughter definitely doesn’t hurt matters.” Her dark eyebrows shot up and the softness on her face faded back to curiosity. “So, the lawyer?”
She shifted gears, but I was stuck on the fact that I had all this stuff and that I wouldn’t have to go without, or struggle to replace the bare necessities, all because a group of women that I hardly knew, that owed me nothing, thought it was the right thing to do. I wondered what that felt like. I wondered if knowing what was right felt as warm and as bright as being on the receiving end of that kind of positive action. I was warm, from my head to my toes, and my heart felt so full that it was a miracle it didn’t burst right out of my chest. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to deserve something this good. I wanted to be the kind of person that not only knew what the right thing was without thinking about it, but could also do the right thing, so that I could make someone else feel as appreciated and valued as I did in this moment.
“The lawyer is bound to be another in a long line of mistakes, but until we go down in flames, he makes me feel safe and he makes me think. I don’t do enough of that usually, and considering the recent circumstances, thinking is a good thing.” I reached up and patted her hand where it was still clutching my arm. “He also knows exactly how screwed up I am and what kind of havoc I can wreak, so I don’t feel like I have to warn him or protect him from the inevitable fallout. He’s not about to let me ruin the sweet gig he has going on.” And maybe that was why I liked him so much. I knew deep down inside that eventually this thing I had going on with Quaid was going to lead to total devastation, but at the end, he would still be standing strong, indestructible, and untouched by the damage I typically caused. To me, the man seemed stormproof, which meant he could survive me, the typhoon of tragedy I was inevitably going to rain down on us.
My mom sighed and let go of me but only so she could reach up and brush the back of her fingers across my cheek. “Oh, Avett. You have no idea how much you remind me of myself when I was your age.”
I couldn’t hold back the ragged laugh that escaped my lungs at her words. I was here to make peace with her, to start and bridge the gap that had opened wide over my river of bad choices and faults over the years, but her words stung. If we were so alike, how was it so easy for her to desert me when what I needed was for her to pull me closer and not let go? “Oh, really? Did you alienate everyone that loved you, too? Did you constantly disappoint your mother to the point she could barely stand to be in the same room as you? Did you screw up over and over again, fuck up so many times and so many different things that it seems like all you will ever be is someone else’s worst choice?”
I took a step away from her and went to walk around her so that we didn’t have to continue the conversation, but I should have known I couldn’t throw down the gauntlet and walk away.
She moved around me, and while I got my small stature from her, she was still taller than me and it was obvious from the look on her face that she wasn’t about to let me go anywhere. I was tempted to call for my dad, who was on the phone with the insurance company in the office at the front of her house so he could derail this long-coming showdown, but the time had come to own up to all of my sins. Especially the ones that had caused the most damage to the people I cared about most. I wanted to set things right with my mom. I wanted her to know that I was sorry for everything, but I was most sorry for the damage I had done to the relationship between her and my dad. I loved them both, and yet, I had made them both miserable in my quest for self-recrimination.
“Avett,” she sighed, and I could literally feel the weight of it as it echoed on the walls around us. “I always wanted you here, but you wanted to be with your father, and considering the way things ended between him and me, well, we both felt like he deserved to have you so much more than I did. Was there tension between us because of the way you suddenly started acting out? Yes, but that wasn’t anything we wouldn’t have been able to work out if I hadn’t screwed up, if I had been a stronger woman and a better wife. Because yes, I disappointed both my parents, not just my mother, and yes, I’ve often wondered if I was the worst choice your father could’ve made.”
I blinked at her like I had never seen her before and frowned so fiercely it actually hurt my forehead. “What are you talking about, Mom? Things were always fine, great, in fact. We were a picture perfect, happy family, until we weren’t.” And when they went south it was right around the time I realized exactly how dangerous and life changing doing nothing could be. I took my antics and my acting out to another level as I ran after some kind of celestial payback to make up for what had happened to Autumn.
“We worked really hard to make you believe things were fine, honey. That’s what parents who love their children do, even when they are struggling themselves. It got harder and harder to keep our issues from you the older you got. We never saw eye to eye on the best way to handle you, and you and your dad were so close.” She made a noise in her throat and shook her head at me. “Your dad was married when we met. I didn’t care, but my parents sure did. He was older than me by quite a bit and hadn’t quite handled everything he brought back with him from his time overseas. He liked to drink a little too much, and the crowd he ran around with wasn’t exactly mom and dad approved. None of that mattered to me, because I was in love with him, instantly. I adored him. I was obsessed with him. I told myself it didn’t matter what obstacles stood in our way. We were meant to be together. I didn’t respect the life he already had or the woman that already loved him. I met him, decided I wanted him, and was determined to get my way, despite warnings from everyone that cared about me, telling me it was too much, too soon.”