Chapter 1: Truth hurts, but secrets kill
I walked down Vineyard Road. The street was busy like always. People came here to try out the delicious wines available. He entire street was filled with tasting rooms from wineries from the area.
I smiled at some of the familiar faces and made my way towards Happily Ever After Inc. It was well after 5 in the afternoon and my boss had called me in. I was a photographer and one of our customers was asking for me.
Happily Ever After Inc. was a one stop shop for weddings. We had people of all sorts of different jobs hired, and if we didn’t, we would find someone. At first it was just photographers and wedding planners. Now it was caterers, dress designers, table setters, cake designers, and so forth.
I walked towards the building at the end of the street.
“Bri!” Said Julia, my cousin. She was more like a sister.
I smiled over to her. “Hey Julia.”
Julia walked over to me and gave me a hug. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”
I stepped away from her and plastered a smile on. “Just busy. You know how summers get at work.”
“You coming to dinner tonight?” Julia glanced at her phone.
I knew dinner was in half hour at my mom’s place, like it was every week since we moved out. “Uhm… maybe. I’m not sure. I got called in today but I’m not sure how long that’s going to take.” I was for once grateful for the bridezilla I called a customer.
Julia frowned. “We miss you. It hasn’t been the entire family in months.”
I nodded. “Fingers crossed I get out in time.” Though I was going to make sure I didn’t.
Julia watched me for a moment. “You’re not avoiding us, are you?”
“Of course not. It’s just summer, you know? There is a such thing as wedding season. It’s crazy, especially with Martha on maternity leave.” It wasn’t a lie, technically.
Julia nodded. “Alright, well hopefully you can make it today.” She gave me another hug then waved goodbye.
I waved at my cousin and watched her make her way towards Addington Winery. The father of her son worked there. He also happened to be the guy I’d been in love with since I met him freshman year in high school, 10 years ago. I quickly looked away and made my way over to Happily Ever After Inc.
I would throw myself into work and move on from the past. I had to.
I glared at my brother once again as we made our way towards our childhood home.
“Stop glaring at me,” my brother Denny said. He held his sleeping three-year-old daughter Annie, in his arms. Denny had spotted me walking out of work and forced me to go to dinner.
“I hate you,” I said.
Becky laughed as she linked her arms with mine. “You know it’s impossible to hate him.” Becky and Denny had been married for nearly 4 years now and were still somehow in the honeymoon stage. They’d been together for 10 years all together.
Denny blew a kiss over to Becky.
I rolled my eyes. It was usually cute how much they loved each other, but right now it made me want to barf.
Becky walked over to Denny and opened the front door. The two walked inside.
I sighed as I walked inside and heard all the voices from the dining room. I stood in the foyer for a moment.
Becky looked over to me and gave me a funny look.
I forced a smile on and walked over to her. The two of us made our way into the dining room.
“Look who I found!” Becky sang.
“I found her,” Denny said.
I rolled my eyes and was quickly engulfed in hugs from my parents.
My mother pinched me causing me to yelp.
“Why?” I said as I rubbed my arm.
“That’s for not coming to family dinner for over a month,” my mother said looking mad. She shook her head and walked back into the kitchen.
I looked over to the dining table and found it nearly full. My dad took his seat at the head of the table. To his right was Denny, to Denny’s right was Becky. And to Becky’s right was Annie’s seat, who was to my mother’s left at the opposite end from dad. To my mother’s right was Julia, to her right was Leo and there was an empty seat on Leo’s right and on my father’s left. I walked over to my seat and tickled Leo. Leo was Julia’s son and he was six-years-old.
“Briiiii!” Leo giggled.
I laughed as I rubbed his brown hair that matched his mom’s. I looked over to Julia who was smiling at me, and I smiled back.
“I’m glad you made it,” Julia said.
“Same,” I said with a smile. I looked across from me, at my brother and stuck my tongue out at him.
Denny blew me a kiss. His daughter Annie was back in his arms. She had woken up from her nap and was still a little grumpy.
“Okay everyone. Dinner is ready,” my mother said as she walked over to us, holding a large bowl. We were having enchiladas today with beans and rice. Not long after we had all served ourselves and were eating and talking.
My dad and Denny were talking about soccer. My mother and Julia talked with Becky as she cut her daughter’s food up. Leo and I were talking about which dinosaur was the best one.
“It has to be the velociraptor,” Leo said as he pushed up his glasses. He had gotten them last year.
I chewed on my food and thought about his answer. “You’re just saying that because of Jurassic Park,” I responded.
Leo shook his head. “Nu uh. Momma won’t let me see it!”
“But the Sauropods are so cool,” I said as I put more hot sauce on my food.
“You’re just saying that because they’re herbivores,” Leo said.
Julia looked over to us. “Leo, how do you know what herbivores are? And how to say herbivores?”
“Auntie Bri taught me,” Leo said with a shrug.
Julia looked over to me with a small smile. “So, she’s the one who got you into dinosaurs?”
“I take full credit for that one,” said a new voice.
I looked over and felt my stomach twist. Luke Addington stood a few feet away from the dining table.
“Daddy!” Leo said as he jumped out of his seat and ran over to his dad. Conversation stopped around the table.
“Have a seat Luke. I had no idea you were coming. If I did, I would have set you a plate,” my mother said as she gave Julia a glare and quickly stood up.
Julia looked over to Luke. “Now I’m in trouble because of you,” Julia said with narrowed eyes.
Luke grinned and sat down on Leo’s seat, and placed Leo on his lap. “Hey Bri. Fancy meeting you here.” Luke smirked over to me.
I rolled my eyes. He had managed to come to more family dinners than I have, and he wouldn’t let me forget it. “Luke,” I said as I shoved a forkful of rice into my mouth.
“How are the grapes Luke?” My dad asked.
“They’re doing good Javier. How’s the office?” Luke asked. The two began to talk about work and I poked Leo who giggled as I did.
“Here you go Luke,” my mother said as she placed a plate filled with food in front of Luke. My mother took her seat and looked around the table, a smile on her lips. Her eyes fell on me and her smile fell.
I knew this was bad news for me. I quickly looked to my food and hoped she wouldn’t say anything.
“Brenin,” my mother said, and the table grew quiet again.
“You’re in trouble,” Luke whispered over.
I resisted the urge to shove Luke. I took a deep breath and looked over to my mother. I even smiled. “Yes mom?”
My mother watched me for a moment, which made me more nervous. “I’m happy you’re here Bri,” my mother said with a smile.
My eyes went a little wide. She was happy? And she called me Bri? I looked around the table and everyone looked as confused as I felt. “Uhm… I’m happy to be here mom.”
My mother placed a strand of hair delicately behind her ear. “I’m just happy that I have my family here. My son with his wife and their beautiful daughter. My dear Julia with lovely Luke and their perfect boy. And… you.” My mother said the last word, like it was bad.
I held my breath. I knew what was coming. It was one of the reasons I had avoided coming to dinner. That and because of the person whose thigh was up against mine at the moment.
“My precious Brenin Alexandria. You are 24 now. You have that career you always wanted and finally live back at home. It’s time you took the next step,” my mother said.
“Next step? With who? Bri is as single as they come,” Denny said.
My mother nodded. “Exactly.”
“Mom, can we talk about this another time?” I was already embarrassed, and we had barely started talking about it.
“I’d say yes, but I never see you.”
“Brenin. It’s the truth. You’re never here. Always at that job. You’re not getting any younger Brenin. Look at Dennis and Julia. They both have families.”
“Can I just point out that I am not with Luke,” Julia said.
My mother gave her a look. “Not yet. I want more grandchildren Brenin.”
I resisted the urge to groan and slide down in my seat. This was always the issue between my mom and me. Well, one of them. She wanted me to have kids already. She wanted me to have kids when Julia was pregnant.
“You already have two,” my dad said.
“I want more.” My mother gave my father a look.
I sighed this time. “Mom. I’m not seeing anyone so I’m not going to have kids right now. I’m barely 24. I have time for all that.”
“I was 18 when I had your brother and I was 22 when I had you. And your Aunt Marisol had Julia when she was your age,” my mother said.
“I don’t think she’s the best example,” Julia said. She hadn’t spoken to her mother in years.
My mom shifted in her seat and looked over to me mad. As if what she said was my fault.
“How about we have some dessert now?” Becky said as she stood up. She looked over to me and gave me a small smile. Becky walked into the kitchen followed by my mother.
I sighed and slid a little down in my seat. I hated talking about this.
“What about a triceratops,” Leo said.
I looked over to the small boy, sat up, and smiled. “They’re good, but brachiosaurus are better.”
“Have we talked about t-rex’s yet?” Luke said.
Leo and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes.
“That was so basic dad,” Leo said.
I laughed as Luke looked shocked at his son.
“Did you just call me basic?” Luke asked.
“If the yoga pants fit,” I said.
Luke looked over to me, a perfect smile on his lips and his crystal blue eyes on me.
My breath got stuck in my throat. Suddenly I felt a sharp kick to my shin. “Ow!” I looked over to Denny who was watching me. “Whata h…heck?” I made sure I didn’t curse in front of the kids.
“Can you pass me a napkin?” Denny asked. His eyes narrowing a bit.
I took a deep breath and passed him the napkin. I watched my brother for a moment then looked down at my food. He knew. He always knew.
“What about a minmi?” Leo asked.
I looked over to Leo. “Mmmm. Okay fine. Just because they have those cool spike things.” I had a few more names I had memorized but I didn’t want to get distracted by Luke again.
Leo grinned and got back to his food.
I glanced over to Luke.
He had a small smile on his lips as he watched me. I quickly looked away as his leg brushed up against mine again. I was in deep trouble.