“You’re crushing me, Dad.” I choke out.
He pulls back, gripping my shoulders. “I’m just so proud of you, kid.”
“Thanks, Dad,” I mutter.
“Way to go, Cass!” My brothers say simultaneously, crushing me between them.
“Is everyone just going to crush me today?” I chuckle.
“Probably!” Caden laughs.
“Alright, alright, guys. There will be plenty of time for that when we get home.” Sharp calls out, walking over, pulling me under his arm, “I got you.” He says loud enough for me to hear.
“Thank you.” I mouth back. I never cared for having all the attention on me.
“Well, hurry back, Cass. We’ve got quite the shindig planned!” Bitz lightly shook my shoulder.
“Oh, great.” I fake a smile, “I’ll be home soon. Just have one stop to make!”
Replying to all of the congratulation texts as I walk to my truck. When I look up, Ghost is leaning against the grill.
“What are you doing here? I thought you took off.” I brush past him.
“Uh, no. I just needed some time to think.”
“Got it. Well, I have to go, the guys are waiting on me. See you around.” I reach for the door handle.
“Wait, Cass. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you think I left. I just needed to figure some shit out. And uh, I wanted to give you this.” He held out a slim long black box.
“Um, thank you.” I squint at the box, not entirely sure why he would get me anything.
“Of course. I didn’t forget about today.”
“You were here for the walk?”
“Well, yeah. It’s a big milestone, regardless of how mindfucked you have me. I wasn’t going to miss it.”
“Huh, I didn’t even see you. Well, thanks for coming.”
“Look, Cassie, this is new to me. I’ve never felt anything like this for anyone. I don’t know what any of this means. It’s screwing with my head. I wasn’t trying to be an ass. It’s just hard to figure you out while trying to figure out my own damn thoughts.” He rushes out.
“I get it. It’s new for me too. But I’m not running off over it.”
“You’re only seventeen, Cassie. I’m five years older than you. Your Dad would lose his shit! This isn’t easy for me. This club is my life, as well as my job. I don’t want to fuck that up, and I don’t want to fuck this up either.” He motions his hand between us.
“It’s easy for me. Even though you’re extremely unpredictable, you’re easy to be around. I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve spent together, but I also get it from your side, and I’m not going to spend my time trying to get you to see it differently. Just don’t expect me to do this hot and cold thing anymore. Because you’re right, I’m only seventeen, and I could just as easily spend my time with someone who wants the same things.” I say, climbing into the driver's seat, “Can you move, please?” I ask, reaching for the door.
“God damn it, Cassie.” He grabs the door, stopping me from closing it. “Now I’m the one trying to talk to you, and you’re the one trying to leave. Don’t you see how complicated this is? It shouldn’t be this hard.”
“Then let my door go.” I glare at him.
“For fucks sake.” He took a deep breath, slowly exhaling, “Whatever, screw it! I’m coming with you. We’re not done talking.”
“Bullshit. This isn’t an understanding. This is neither of us wanting to deal with this.”
“Whatever. Hurry up. I have shit to do.” I cave, seeing his determination.
“Move over. I’ll drive.” He demands, moving closer.
“You don’t even know where we’re going.”
“Well, you do. So you can tell me.”
“I don’t get you. What the hells the difference if I drive or you do?”
“I’m old school?” He half asks.
“Suit yourself then, gramps.” I push the center seat's backrest up and slide over.
“So, where are we going?” He asks, turning the key.
“The cemetery.” I shrug my shoulder.
His head snaps toward me, “The cemetery? I don’t have to go with you. We can talk later.”
“It’s alright. You already made a big deal of coming, so let’s just go.”
“How the hell am I supposed to talk about us on the way to see your Mom in a cemetery? That’s not even right.”
“I doubt she’d mind. She’s dead.”
“Well, that’s fucking morbid.” He shook his head.
“I’m joking, and we don’t have to talk. You can just drive me. I haven’t gone to see her in a while.”
“Um, okay?” He questions me with a raised brow.
“Just go,” I say, rolling my eyes.
We didn’t say much the rest of the ride, other than him asking which turns to take.
“I’ll be back,” I say before closing the door.
I walk over to her plot and brush the debris off of her headstone before sitting down.
“Hey, Mom. I’m sorry it’s been so long; things have been a little hectic with graduation. I wish you could have been there. I got your necklace from Dad today. It’s beautiful.” I say, then sit silently for a moment, fiddling with the necklace.
“I really miss you, and I’m still so angry. You should be here. It’s just not fair! My memories of you have faded too much. I wish more than anything we were still making memories.” The tears forming in my eyes were threatening to spill over. “I just hate this so much. How do I stop being so mad that you’re gone? I’ve always heard about the stages of grief, but I’ve never moved past anger. Will I ever?” I start sobbing. Suddenly overtaken with so much hurt, I curl into my knees and cry. For the first time in maybe ever, I’m crying over my Mom's death.
“I’m sorry, Mom. This was supposed to be a happy visit.” My voice came out as barely a whisper.
“I’m sure she’s happy you’re here, regardless.” Ghost whispers, kneeling next to me. “I’m so sorry, Cass.” He says, rubbing light circles on my back.
“It’s not fair. It’s just not.” I cry, shaking my head against my knees.
“I know, life’s never fair. But hey, you still have a lot of people around that care for you.”
“It’s not the same. It will never be the same. I’ll never have another Mom. I didn’t even get much time with her, to begin with.” My voice trembles.
“It will get easier over time. Most things usually do. I’m sure she’s still around somewhere, watching over you. I doubt anyone could ever truly leave you.”
“Time is the worst part of it. It’s only getting easier because my memories of her are so faded. Like I never knew her to begin with. I’m the worst daughter on earth.”
“They may be faded, but they’re still in there somewhere.”
“Until they’re not.” I sigh.
“Hopefully, that doesn’t happen.” He says, pulling my chin up in one hand and wiping the tears running down my cheeks with the other, “You’re beautiful. You know that?”
“Yeah, okay.” I laugh, “I’m ready to go. That’s enough crying for me.”
“Let us go then.” He stood, holding his hand out for me.
“Things change, emotions change, can’t go through life only reacting with one emotion.” He shrugs.
“I guess you’re kind of right, but this is a little different. Either you want a person, or you don’t.”
“Yeah, I guess there’s a pretty big difference.” He pulls at his neck with a groan.
“So, which is it?” I fold my arms across my chest, putting him on the spot.
“I do want you. It’s just not as simple as that.”
“Well, it could be if you got your head out of your ass.”
“No, you’re underage. Your Dad is my boss, and I’m much older than you. It’s not so cut and dry.”
“But it is. I’m eighteen in a few months, my Dad will get the fuck over it, and age is just a number once I’m of age. So, any other bullshit excuses?”
“They’re not bullshit excuses.” He groans, running his hands down his face.
“Yep. Keep telling yourself that. You act like you’re a pupil law-abiding citizen all of a sudden when it comes to my age.” I shake my head, exasperated.
We ride back to the clubhouse in silence, neither of us willing to set our pride aside and just say something.
Ghost puts the shifter in neutral and engages the parking brake before turning to face me, “Look, I don’t mean to do this whole hot and cold thing. It’s just hard for me. Whether you believe my reasons or not, they’re real for me.”
“I’m just done with this. I’m not going to play mind games or do this whole back and forth thing. If you want this to go anywhere, I’m leaving it up to you to prove it.” I give up. What difference are a few months? When we literally reside in a clubhouse? Laws are more like suggestions to everyone around here.
“I do want you. But it just can’t happen right now.” He says, handing me the black box from earlier, “open it.”
I give him an unsure look but listen anyway.