Chapter 14. Apologize
Mason and Avery started spending more time with each other, so whatever suspicion Mason had, it was gone. Things between Avery and me were tense, but we didn’t talk about it. Neither of us seemed to know what to say to the other.
I did the best I could to pretend I wasn’t as upset with Avery and the truth was I wasn’t. Why would Avery want to listen to Mason and me complain about our parents when he only had one left? I wasn’t upset with Avery nearly as much as I was with myself. This is how I knew we could never work. I was an insecure, immature, cranky, overly-sensitive sixteen-year-old girl. On the other hand, Avery was a confident, sexy, funny, smart eighteen-year-old and more mature than most forty-year-olds in the ways that it mattered at least.
Avery had made no attempt to talk to me. He watched me often and didn’t care that I would catch him doing it. I, on the other hand, stared at him from afar like a stalker. I hated the girls who paraded around him and groped him on a daily basis. I saw that the most, and it was a big part of what kept me away from him.
He could have any girl in Texas, and one day, I wasn’t going to be his choice anymore. Avery Prince wouldn’t want me forever, and God only knows why he wanted me now. Maybe it was an adrenaline thing because had we been caught, shit would have hit the fan. Who the hell would want to put up with me? My own damn family doesn’t want to even deal with me.
I turned at the sound of my name. “Oh, Ryder, hey,” I stuttered. “What’s up?”
“I was wondering if you wanted to catch a movie tonight?” he asked.
My lips parted in surprise. I bit down on my bottom lip and looked down at my feet as I tried to gather my thoughts. My thoughts had been centered on Avery most of the day because I knew he would be coming to my house after school.
“That’s not a good idea,” I said and looked back at him.
“Why?” Ryder asked.
“Um, my brother,” I said. Shouldn’t that be obvious? “I don’t date Mason’s friends.”
“Really? Not even Avery?” Ryder asked.
How the hell does he even know that? “What?” I scoffed and chuckled. “That’s ridiculous.”
“Is it? You two were always talking to each other, and then suddenly, it stopped a few weeks ago?” Ryder challenged. He raised both eyebrows.
“Of course we talk,” I said and shrugged. “Avery is Mason’s best friend. He’s practically like my other annoying older brother.”
“Right. Who are you trying to convince you or me?” Ryder smiled. “Give me a call sometime if you change your mind. The difference between Avery and me is I wouldn’t try to hide you.” Ryder slipped me his number and walked the other way.
I stared at the number in my hand for a long moment before I looked up and saw Avery staring at me. I swallowed hard. Oh boy. How much of that did he hear?
“Are you coming?” Avery asked nonchalantly.
“Yeah,” I said and sighed.
Avery and I walked to the truck in silence. We climbed into the cab and waited for my brother. As much as I didn’t want to, I knew that I had to speak to him.
“Avery,” I started.
“Hmm?” he hummed.
“I’m going car shopping soon. I found a few in my price range so that you can have the Plymouth back. I can have Mason run me to work in the next couple of weeks. I want to save up a little extra.”
“Okay,” he said.
The silence was awkward. I gritted my teeth and looked away. Luckily, Mason was nearly to the truck putting me out of my misery.
Avery was silent as he pulled out of the parking lot.
Mason’s voice filled the cab. He talked about the Mustang acting up. Mason wanted Avery to come over to help him figure out what was wrong with his car. Avery was always fixing people’s vehicles. I wasn’t sure how he was so good with them.
Mason and Avery were talking about the Mustang as we walked into the house. The house smelt like chili. Both boys stopped talking because they both knew what that meant. Mom was home.
I was the first one to see who was standing in the kitchen, and I stopped dead in my tracks. Avery stopped directly behind me. His chest pressed to my back. Mason stopped behind me beside Avery.
Mason started to move forward, but I grabbed his arm. He looked down at me. His expression was full of anger and disgust.
“Don’t,” I whispered.
“Mason, Stormie,” Dad greeted us. He was standing close to Mom. I couldn’t recall the last time I had seen them so close to each other. Dad’s eyes flickered to Avery. My dad never liked Avery. “Avery,” Dad said in an uninterested tone.
“Greg,” Avery said politely.
“What the hell is going on?” Mason sneered.
“We need to talk as a family,” Mom said. “Avery, you should leave.”
“Sure,” Avery said and backed away.
“No,” Mason snapped. “Avery and I have something more important to do.”
I bit down on my lip.
“We’ll do it another time, Mason,” Avery insisted. Avery turned and walked out the door without another word.
“Dad, what are you doing here?” I asked.
“Both of you come sit down,” Dad insisted.
“Go to hell,” Mason said and started for the living room.
Dad got in Mason’s way. “You won’t talk to me like that. I’m still your father.”
“Yeah? Well, I’m eighteen and have hardly seen you since I was fifteen. I don’t really care who the fuck you think you are, but I wouldn’t use the word, dad.”
“Mason, come on,” I said and pulled on his arm.
Mason looked down at me and sighed. “Fine,” he muttered. He walked over to the table and sat down.
The rest of us sat down at the table. Neither Mom nor Dad looked as if they knew where to start. Dad looked at Mom for guidance.
“I called your father,” Mom started. “A week ago and asked him if he would be willing to come down to Texas so we could work some things out.”
“You’ve been here for a week, and you’re just now seeing us?” I asked. My gaze locked with my father’s. Anger flooded through me, and I made a fist.
Mason placed his hand gently over my fist.
My gaze met Mason’s.
Mason gave me a reassuring look.
Once I relaxed, I squeezed Mason’s hand to let him know that I was okay.
“Your mother and I needed to work some things out before we could work anything out with the two of you,” Dad said. “We screwed up, and we know that. It was difficult for us. We hurt each other and hated each other for it. We distanced ourselves from both of you, and that was the worst thing we ever could have done. We’re both deeply sorry for that.”
“How do we know it isn’t going to happen again?” I challenged.
“We can’t prove that. You’ll just have to trust us over time,” Mom said.
“Cindy and I are getting divorced, and I’m going to be living in Gransbury. I got a job in Fort Worth. I know I didn’t help you with your license, Stormie. I want to help you get a car. I helped Mason, and that wouldn’t be fair to you,” Dad said.
“Bitch wasn’t as great as you thought, huh?” Mason sneered.
“Mason James West,” Mom scolded and brought a hand down on the table. “That is enough.”
“Your mother is also concerned that you two are going down the wrong path. Do you want to own up to anything? You won’t get away with nearly as much with both of us around, I can assure you of that.”
“We plan to take our old family vacation as well up to Avery’s grandparents’ cabin during Christmas break. Avery, Austin, and Rachel will be joining us. Possibly Jay as well. We want to get things back to normal for both of you.”
“We haven’t done that trip in three years. Don’t you think that is a little ridiculous?” I asked.
“No, we don’t,” Dad said.
“Is there anything you would like to tell us?” Mom asked.
“I made the cheerleading team. I’m pretty sure neither of you knew that. Of course, you would if you had been parents. You know, not having parents kind of made Mason and I a little more independent, so good luck keeping a leash on us now. By the way, I can’t do the whole trip thing because I have a job. I already told them I would work all of Christmas break,” I said. I stood up and headed upstairs to my bedroom.
After I climbed out of the shower, I grabbed a towel and wound it tightly around me. I brushed through my hair to get the snarls out. Mason was over at Claire’s. Mom was asleep, and Dad had gone back to the hotel he had been staying at.
My room was dimly lit by a lamp that was on my desk near a window. A hooded figure stood in the corner of my room. I gasped in horror and clutched the towel tighter to myself. The figure raised his head, and my gaze locked with a pair of familiar green eyes.
“Oh, you fucking asshole!” I hissed. I grabbed a shoe off the floor and whipped it at Avery.
Avery’s hand flew up and caught the shoe before it could hit him in the forehead. He tossed it down onto the floor and moved away from the wall.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he murmured.
“What are you doing here?” I asked breathlessly. I was hoping my heartbeat would slow from the scare, but it only seemed to pump faster the closer he got to me.
“Your mom gave my mom the gist of what was going on. I thought I better come, make sure you weren’t killing your parents or anything,” he said and shrugged.
I scoffed. “You didn’t come here for that. I know you better than that.”
His body was less than an inch from mine. He stared down at me. “I was worried about you. I know things have been hard for you since they split up. I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for what I said. I’ve never been put in your situation just as you haven’t been put in mine, and I had no right to assume how you should feel.”
The fact that he was apologizing for something I should have apologized for broke the barbed wire that I wrapped around my heart to keep him out. My gaze fell to our feet, and I swallowed hard.
“Don’t apologize,” I muttered.
“You’re still angry with me?” he asked.
“Avery,” I started and looked up at him.
“Don’t do that,” he said.
“You don’t even know what I was going to say,” I huffed.
“I know exactly what you are going to say,” he muttered. He ran a hand through his hair in irritation.
“Enlighten me, then,” I challenged.
“We’re not going to work, Avery,” he mocked my voice. “We can’t hide it from my brother forever. We should stop this now before we both get hurt.”
“Exactly,” I said and threw one arm in the air.
“There is one problem with that,” he sneered. He backed me up against the wall.
“What?” I swallowed hard.
“You’re breaking my fucking heart. Every day that you don’t talk to me, you chip one more piece off of it. Whenever you act like I don’t care about you or that you’re not good enough for me, it fucks me up badly. I hate what you’re doing to us,” he murmured.
I tensed up. “Avery.”
“Kiss me,” he murmured.
“I can’t,” I breathed. My legs started to shake.
He rested his forehead against mine. “Why can’t you just trust me?”
Tears built up in my eyes, and I looked away from him. I was sure that it didn’t hurt him nearly as badly as it hurt me. He would get over it. Avery could have anyone he wanted. He was going to have an amazing life, and I wasn’t going to let my brother and I fuck that up for him.
“Get out,” I said through clenched teeth.