Eighteen Years Old
Sweat drips down my forehead as I dribble the ball in this sweltering heat. Spring months here in Camden, South Carolina, can be brutal. April is one of the hottest.
With the basketball in hand, I dribble it on the hard pavement; reaching the rim, I toss it through the hoop. While I don’t play basketball as a sport, I do for fun, and I’m damn good too.
“Slam dunk,” I boast to my buddy Wyatt. We’re currently in his driveway shooting hoops. He lives in one of those suburban-type neighborhoods—the opposite of where I grew up.
In a run-down trailer park.
“Remind me why you chose not to play for the high school basketball team?” Wyatt asks.
“I don’t want to play on a team with sweaty guys and a coach ordering me around. I’m not you, man. I play for fun. Not competition.” Wyatt is what you call competitive. He’s the captain of the Kershaw Cougars high school football team.
We’re the opposites, my best friend and I. Whereas he’s the popular jock at Kershaw High. I’m known as the bad boy. The girls love me, and the guys hate me. Teachers look at me like I’m a delinquent. Wyatt is the pretty boy. People think we’re brothers and I’m the family’s black sheep.
Other than Wyatt and my mother, I don’t have any other family. I’ve known Wyatt Benedetti since we were in kindergarten. Some little shit tripped him on the school playground, and I shoved the little asshole to the ground. I got sent to the principal’s office, and Mama had to leave her job at the diner to come and get me.
After that, Wyatt and I were inseparable. My brother, by choice, is what we always call each other.
“So Scarlet was asking about you the other day. There’s this party at Jacob Matthews on Friday night. She was asking if you would be there. I’m going with Vanessa.”
There’s another thing that makes us different. Wyatt is the settling-down type. He’s been with Vanessa Andrews since our junior year. She’s head cheerleader, and he’s captain of the football team—they’re a total cliché.
Me, I don’t do relationships.
I lost my virginity to Mindy Myers at age fifteen, who lives three trailers down from us. Her brother is the dealer in the park. One night, when he wasn’t around, she broke into his stash of Kush. We got so high and horney I ended up fucking her right on that dick, brother of her shitty mattress. That’s what the fucker gets for ripping me off. The rest of my hookups have been at parties. I won’t ever settle down. Life is too short to be tied down to just one person. All love does is get you hurt. I watched my mom find love only to get burned.
I won’t suffer the same fate.
“Nah, I’m not interested, man,” I reply, pouring a bottle of cool water over my head.
“She’s my girl’s best friend. I’m sick of hearing Vanessa complain—one double date. Come on, brother. I bet she’ll even spread those legs on the first date.” No doubt.
Before I can reply, a black Ford Fifty Raptor pulls up to the house. I’m here almost every day; this is the first time I’ve seen that vehicle. This causes my brows to furrow.
The driver’s side swings open, and some prick with slick black hair in a button-down, chinos, and a pair of dress shoes steps out. His focus immediately turned to us. I don’t miss the growl coming from Wyatt, who’s eyeing the bastard.
“Who’s this asshole?”
“Ugh, that’s Chad, some cocky fucker mom’s been dating.”
That’s news to me. I’ve been coming here for years, and this is the first time I’ve seen a man step foot on their property. Especially a man dressed like this douche canoe.
Like me, Wyatt’s biological father isn’t in the picture. He was the head quarterback who knocked his mom up during their senior year of high school. After he discovered Liliana was pregnant, he baled. He pursued his dreams in the NFL and was drafted by the Denver Broncos.
Fucking low life.
Troy O’Connor. He won one Super Bowl before a tackle ended his football career at twenty-one. Fucker got his. I heard he’s married now with three kids. Fucking prick. It makes my blood boil just thinking how someone could hurt a woman as sweet as Liliana.
Liliana Benedetti is one of the strongest women I know. She raised Wyatt on her own, with the help of her parents and best friend Mia, who lives next door.
She’s a special woman. One I can never get off my mind. One I shouldn’t think naughty thoughts about. But do.
“Hey Bud,” this fuckwad Chad comes up to us and gives Wyatt a playful punch to the arm. My friend gives him a look like he’s ready to kill. Fuck, I feel the same.
“Ahem,” Chad clears his throat uncomfortably as we stand in the sweltering heat, eyeing this schmuck down.
Just then, the front door opens, and out walks Liliana, looking like every guy’s wet dream. She’s in a skin-tight light pink dress with one slit to the side, bringing out her olive skin. Her long black natural silk hair is cascading down her shoulders. As she gets closer, my eyes are drawn to her pink, plump, glossy lips. The same lips I’ve dreamed about being wrapped around my.
“Hey, boys.” She calls out as she’s walking toward us, showcasing those long, slender legs. I want to punch Chad in the throat when I see his eyes drawn to Liliana’s chest. The dress has a V shape, showcasing her tits perfectly.
Fuck, my dick is growing hard, tempting me to adjust myself in my basketball shorts. But that would alert my best friend that I have a boner for his mom.
No fucking way. Stand down, dick.
“Where you goin?” Wyatt asks protectively, still staring down at Chad.
“I’m taking your mother to get sushi.” Liliana hates sushi.
“Mom, you hate sushi,” Wyatt adds. No one knows her like I do, except maybe her son. Chad gives her a look of surprise like he had no idea.
Liliani places a soft hand on her son’s arm. “I don’t mind it.” She lies, shooting Chad a fake smile. Why does she find the need to lie to this bastard?
Instead of the guy offering to take her somewhere else, he laces his fingers with hers, making my jaw clench. Why do I feel so fucking feral around Liliana? Protective.
I shouldn’t feel this way toward my best friend’s mom.
Fuck, I hate it.
“What time will you be home?” Wyatt asks like he’s her father.
“Probably before midnight, Dad,” Liliana replies, sarcastically rolling her eyes and kissing her son’s cheek. Then, before stalking off to the shithead’s truck, she kisses my cheek, too. Her lips touching my skin makes my heart flutter. Fucking flutter. Those plump, soft lips would have landed on mine if I had moved more to the right.
We both stare as the truck drives away.
“What does your mom see in that fucker?”
“I know. The guy is a total loser, some insurance broker or some shit. He’s wanted to get in Mom’s panties for some time now. Like most of the fuckers in this shit town.” As much as the thought boils my blood, Wyatt isn’t wrong.
Liliana is gorgeous. She’s full-blooded Italian. Everything from her hazel eyes to her olive skin is perfect. I would love to bury myself inside of her. Which is something I’ll never get the chance to do.
The thought of being inside her is enough to bring me to hell.
You don’t fuck with your best friend’s mom. And a guy like me doesn’t stand a chance with a woman like Liliana. My darkness would only diminish her light.
“Thanks for the ride, brother.” As I open his used Pontiac Grand Am door, Wyatt gives me a fist pump. It makes me wish I owned a car.
With the money I’m saving working at Grant’s auto body shop, I should be able to afford a beater within the next few months—just something to get me around town.
Wyatt speeds off as I make my way up my mom’s trailer’s old, creaky steps. I’ve been stuck here in this shit hole. Trailer park life is all I know. But I’m determined not to let this be my life forever.
I hear shouting as I twist the doorknob. As I enter, I see my asshole stepfather rear his hand back, giving my mother a loud “thwack” to the cheek. And this wouldn’t be the first time. It’s something that happens often.
Ronnie wasn’t always this way. He came into my life when I was ten; a year later, he became my stepfather. He turned into a different man once he got laid off from his job as an oil rigger. The booze turned him into an abusive prick. The first time I saw him strike my mom, I was twelve. Then he started smacking me around, too.
When I turned thirteen and started lifting weights, he stopped fucking with me. One night, he tried getting handsy, and I gave him a fist to the jaw that knocked his ass out, just like what’s about to happen right now.
Storming over to the asshole, I grip him by his stained t-shirt. The smell of beer on his breath is strong. It’s either that or the stench from his rotten teeth. “I fucking warned you, mother fucker, what would happen if you put your hands on my mother again.” I rear my fist back and slam it into his nose. I hear the crackling of bones and see the blood pour out, landing on my brand-new white Nikes.
“You little shit. Broke my fucking nose.” He cries out on the floor, curled up in a ball like the little bitch that he is. My mom kneels, rushing to his aid.
“Really mom. This fucker hits you, and you kneel to him like he’s your fucking king.”
Ronnie lets out a sinister laugh. “Don’t you know, boy? Your mother will always choose me over you.” He glares at me with his darkened eyes. I look down at my mother, who can’t bare to look me in the eye.
“That’s it then. You choose this scumbag over your own son?”
Mom stands to her feet and finally faces me. With watery eyes, she says in a whisper. “I think it’s best if you leave, Ryder. And don’t come back.” I stare at her in disbelief. That she would choose an abusive fucker over her son.
“Well, you heard her. Pack your shit and get the fuck out.” Ronnie bellows, spittle flying everywhere.
I stalk to my room, grab a duffle from my closet, and toss whatever I can inside. When I return to the living room, I see my mom holding an ice pack to Ronnie’s nose on the couch while he drinks. She gives me one last glance. I can see the shame in her eyes. She wants to tell me to stay but can’t get the words out of her mouth.
“Good luck out there in the streets. Don’t come back here.” Ronnie threatens. There’s no chance in hell I would come back. I can’t save my mother if she doesn’t want to be saved. I twist the knob and exit the place I called home for the last sixteen years.
With no other family around, there’s only one person I can turn to.
My best friend, Wyatt.