"You know that I'm proud of you, Benjy, right?" My ma asks me, flashing me one of those rare motherly smiles of hers – usually it's a frown, at least with me, especially back when I was a cocky teen.
"I know, Ma." I return her smile, a warmth filling my veins. I don't care what anyone says, I love my parents but my mom is my hero in life.
"What a mommy's boy." Laura mocks as if able to read my thoughts. "Even have her as your screen saver."
I roll my eyes at my little sister and grab my phone back from her. "Shut it, brat!"
"Now a little less proud." Ma changes her feet, siding with my sisters as always.
Laura snickers condescendingly before leaving the kitchen. I swear, she and my parent's other brats are the reason why I barely stop by anymore.
"I'd be even more proud if you proposed to that wonderful girlfriend of yours," Ma adds, delighted by just the idea of it. "I'm still waiting on you to be a grandma, you know."
She's going to be waiting a long time. My sisters will beat me to the punch at the rate I'm going. Ever since Bex, commitment is petrifying – like a fear that I can't simply banish from my life. The thought of marriage and babies was once something I wanted. Now, the thought makes me want to throw up. It makes me feel physically sick to my stomach.
"We broke up." I lie.
Technically, though, we did.
"What?" My mother gasps in disappointment. "But why?"
"Did she cheat on you?" Sash asks as she enters the kitchen to get a snack out of the fridge.
"First of all, stop eavesdropping!" I whine, irritated by their presences. My sisters are like a nasty infestation that won't go away. "Second, not everyone cheats on me."
"They better not," Sash replies fiercely, taking me by surprise. "Only I hurt my brother. Oh, and my sisters."
I sigh when that warm feeling returns. "That's actually kind of sweet, Sash, in a twisted way."
She sends me a smile and pats my upper arm as she makes her way out the room. "Love you bro, even if you are fat now."
I scoff. "Am not!" I stick my head out the kitchen door and yell at her, stooping down to her level of maturity – immaturity.
My mother clears her throat. "Benley." She sends me a pitied stare. "Leave your sisters be."
"They're jerks, Ma." I complain, stubbornly folding my arms across my chest. "They always bully me."
"Anyway," she changes the subject, not bothering to address my pathetic complaints, "I know you're lying."
"You do?" I arch an eyebrow, at a loss as to how she found out that AJ and I were never going out to begin with.
She nods. "I got AJ's number from Sash and invited her over for lunch. She was only too excited to come." She frowns up at me while I mentally curse my sister. "Why would you lie and say that you two broke up? She's on her way right now."
I shake my head in realization. "Of course, she is."
The girl is never going to let up. She's never going to stop.
"And to think that I thought three sisters would teach you to treat girls properly." My mother huffs in dismay.
"Pft!" I laugh humorlessly. "Okay."
If anything, they've made me appreciate the female race a little less.
"Are you keeping with bad company again? Is this why you're treating your beautiful girlfriend in this regard? Is it that 'Grey' character again?" She bemuses, trying to figure out why I'd so such a thing to my 'wonderful and beautiful girlfriend'.
Whenever my mother questions my behavior, I blame it on Grey. I'd hate for him to ever meet her. She's grown to hate him with an intensity that is terrifying.
"I ran into Oliver," I tell her truthfully, still not quite over the two encounters of mind-numbing stupidity.
Her face instantly softens. "Aww, my poor boy. I'm so sorry." She embraces me, her anger having melted away. "Did he apologize at all?"
I shake my head. "Nothing genuine. Nothing ever is with that meatball."
"Sorry, Son." My father finally puts down his newspaper to ruffle my hair, sending me some of his sympathy. "Despite what your mother thinks, I still say that you're a good kid."
"Bradley!" Ma elbows him in irritation for that comment of his.
I chuckle. "I'm also your favorite kid, right?" I ask, aware that my sisters are listening just outside the door – they know no boundaries.
"Totally, kiddo," he agrees in ease.
"Hey!" My sisters immediately bolt into the room and start attacking my father with endless questions.
"Hey." My father mocks them by greeting them back with a wave.
My sisters begin insulting the two of us, even going as far as slapping me as if it's somehow all my fault – it's always the case in this household.
"Watch it! Dad's the one who said it!" I make an attempt to block their brutal attacks.
Despite the hits being tossed at me, I can't help but laugh when I see my father laughing aloud, clearly having expected their reaction too.
"The men in this house!" Laura shakes her head in disgust, giving me the evil eye.
What would I do without my father? I wouldn't survive.
The doorbell ringing puts an end to all of our laughter.
I freeze and look to Sash fearfully. She meets my gaze and smirks knowingly. I begin to shake my head. "Sash, no--"
"I got it!" She shouts over me.
"No!" I protest in fury.
We both end up running for the door.