Biting my lip, I put away the last of my dress inventory while my thoughts drifted to Maximus. I know I should find out what he does for work but at the same time, I don’t want to risk finding out what it is and have it send me running.
I’m getting the feeling it will.
The fact he was in the bad side of town.
The fact that Desimond shows fear and awe at him.
The fact that when he came barging into my shop with a gunshot wound, it wasn’t his first time he found himself in that situation and was completely calm.
The fact that Maximus has scars littering his entire body.
All of these add up to him being more than a man who was at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Yet despite all these warning signs telling me to walk away, I can’t. I’m not a hopeless romantic, I have seen multiple relationships start and end. I have seen relationships and the love in it become twisted and fake.
I’m not saying I’ve fallen in love with Maximus, but there is something that is keeping me from walking away. Even if it would be in my best interest.
Deep down I know the fun of the mysterious, dangerous man may end in the way I met Maximus.
“Well doesn’t this place look like it always has.” A voice spoke behind me making me close my eyes and slowly open them. Turning I find my ‘mother’ standing in the door frame with her nose wrinkled in distaste. “God, I have always hated it here.”
Crossing my arms, I shifted looking her over. She was wearing a pastel pink pencil skirt with a blue blouse, her hair down and face covered in make-up, a face that looks likes she is on face lift number six.
Burying my emotion at the woman in front of me, I try to keep my face passive. “Then what are you doing here, Monica?”
She put her hand on her chest making it look like she is hurt. “My is that any way to talk to your mother?”
I shifted on my feet, I wanted nothing more than to yell at her to ‘get the fuck out’, that she shouldn’t be here to play victim when she is about to use me. But I guess there is always a part of me that hopes she is here to make amends.
She tried to raise a brow at me waiting for my response, but the movement was barely noticeable from the Botox. “You are many things but you have never been a mother to me.”
“Maybe I want to be?” She asked sweetly taking a step forward. “Stella, you have always been my daughter.”
“Thought I was the result of a broken condom.” I muttered trying to make sure my walls are up with her. “I mean, that’s what you always told me.”
She gave me a soft smile, one I sensed is forced. “I know I have done wrong by you and I’m sorry. You deserved better.”
“Glad you agree.” I snap taking a deep breath. “Heard you were looking for Nanna, she’s not here.”
“Sweetie.” She took a few steps towards me, her face as relaxed as it could be. “I’m here for you first.”
My heart warmed at her words, words I have always waited for. A voice in the back of my head said ‘don’t fall for it’. But I can’t help it. “Well if that is the case I’m glad you are here, when did you come to town maybe we can catch up?”
Monica flipped her bright red hair over her shoulder, her hand dismissing my words. “Oh, I have been here for a while, sadly another husband has fallen ill...Have to separate from him now.”
Another husband? I can’t keep track of what number she is on.
I fought back the embarrassment I have over her, the way people describe her as ‘the gold-digging whore’ makes me feel ashamed for how I’m with Maximus. Even if I don’t think about his money.
Shame filled me again thinking of the words that are used on Monica and how I could think of my mother that way. I know we could never have the ‘Gilmore Girl’ mother-daughter relationship, but I can’t help but think that despite the pain she has caused me, I should still give her the benefit of the doubt and not call her cruel names.
Taking a careful breath to keep emotion away I smile softly. “I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe you should take a break and spend time on you.”
She nodded to me and took my hands in hers. “I would love nothing more. Maybe we should see your Nanna with her health detreating and check with my lawyers about her finances.”
And there it is.
My heart deflated seeing that she is here for money and that she tried to manipulated me again.
“God!” I exclaim taking my hand from hers with a flinch. “You’re here for money! Of course, you are, why would I think any different.”
Monica tsked and lifted her chin up. “Now that isn’t fair, I have rights.”
I shook my head laughing at how I’m here again with the woman, it feels like a merry-go-round. You keep going around and around, waiting for the freedom to get off but it never comes. “No, you don’t get to use Nana for money. You don’t get to be so, so…”
“Finish that.” She said with an edge making me flinch.
Fighting within myself I wanted to argue with her, to shout at her to stop being so cruel but I couldn’t. I never can, always thinking that if I yell at her she will never change for me. “I just don’t understand why it is always about money mother.”
She plastered on a smile, one I knew was fake as I have seen it so many times before. “I need help, and as my daughter it is your role to help your dear mother. Someone who has sacrificed so much for you and brought you into this world.”
I looked at her, the voice in the back of my head screaming to not fall for her but I couldn’t help but cave. To be the dutiful daughter and hope that one day she will see that I love her. I’m aware of her toxic nature but every time I try to fight to get away I feel her entangle me in again.
“Why do I still fall for your act.” I whispered looking at her.
The sound of the store door opening cut off her response.
“Well if it isn’t the wicked step-witch of the west.” Anthony snarled leaning against the door frame making me smile and look to him.
Monica spun glaring at Anthony. “My ungrateful brat.”
Many years ago, I met Anthony at the wedding of Monica and Anthony’s father. Anthony hated my mother the second he met her but it didn’t stop his father from making the mistake of marrying her.
Thankfully Anthony gave me a chance and we became the close friends we are today. When our parents broke up we got even closer, hell I’m still close to his dad who gives me free legal advice and a check on my birthday. Despite the time that has passed, Anthony still hates my mother and is there to pick up the pieces when she tears me down each time I see her.
“Mhm, one of the happiest days of my life was when you were no longer my step-mother and my dad sent you packing.” Anthony looked over to me making me nod saying I was okay before he turned back to her. “Don’t you have someone to go whore yourself to and swindle money from?”
Monica scoffed giving us both a glare and started to walk towards the door. Just when I thought I was free to breath again she looked back at me. Pure hate in her face directed towards me. “I made you, you can never be free of me so be a good daughter and do as I say.”
The second she left the store I couldn’t help the deep breath I released and immediately sunk into my couch to stare up to the ceiling.
“Why is it that no matter what happens, I always want her to change. Like its pathetic I leave myself so open to her.” I said feeling exhausted from talking with her. “I know she comes in for money but I hope and give her the chance to be more.”
Anthony plopped down next to me passing me a chocolate bar making me chuckle and look at him. “She’s your mother Stella, it’s natural to want her to love you.”
Scoffing I took a bite of the chocolate with a sigh. “Even when I know she will never give me anything but emotional torment? A little girl waiting for her mother’s love. I should know better.”
He shrugged and lifted his arm, my body taking the invitation to cuddle into him. “You have a big heart Stella, she uses it against you. Have you thought of therapy?”
Rolling my head to him I gave him a look. “And when would I have time for that?”
Anthony rolled his eyes. “Make time, it could help you figure out things with your mom and how to handle your feeling on her. Give you peace and learn how she manipulates you.”
Giving a hum I looked away from him and over the store, my thoughts on Monica and whether there will be a day I can fully call her shit out and walk away from her.
My phone buzzed making me check it, a smile breaking out when I saw it was from Maximus asking me if he could see me tonight.
Anthony purred from beside me. “You still with the hot Italian? That’s my girl!”
I nudged him with my elbow, quickly texting him back that I’m free at eight and he is welcome to come over. “It’s casual.”
He hummed beside me. “Sure, casual. Besides the fact that you smile more, have more of a pep in your step and hang out with someone who, by the way, looks at you as if you were his Stella.” I rolled my eyes to him as he moved his eyebrows up and down from his pun. “See what I did there?”
“Wow it’s like you’re the first one to use my name as a pun for star.” I mock the excitement in my voice and Maximus texted back saying he will be there. “And its casual okay, I only have time for fun, not a relationship. Now I’m going to close up. We getting food or what?”
“Listen to me Stella.” Puckering my lips, I stare into my best friend’s eyes. “Friends with benefits may start out as casual but they never end casual. Sooner or later it always gets messy, someone catches feelings. You need to be careful that you don’t get your heart broken if you end up falling for him.”
Shaking my head, I dismissed his warning. “We both understand that we don’t want anything else.”
“You both say that now.” Anthony rolled his eyes and stood up, his hand lowering to help me up. “You okay from seeing Monica?”
Taking a deep breath, I pushed Monica out of my head again. “I will be, one day. Now I want food, move it.”
He chuckled helping me up and I thought back to Max, a smile appearing on my face. One that I won’t let Monica take away. But Anthony is right, I can’t say its causal when the way I'm starting to feel about him is anything but.
Anthony is right, I should really go to therapy. Who knows how many problems I have that a shrink could help me get rid of.