Chapter 29. I Want To Keep My Nuts
It was the middle of June, and I hadn’t seen Stormie much since graduation a few weeks earlier. Everything was in my truck, ready to go. I closed the tailgate and turned to face my mom and Austin.
Mom smiled at me and embraced me. “I’m so proud of you, baby. You deserve it. You worked so hard.” She kissed my cheek.
I kissed her cheek. “At least one of us is proud of me,” I said and chuckled. I shook my head.
“I’m glad you aren’t drinking anymore,” she said.
“Hell, I’m not smoking either. Sober isn’t half bad,” I told her and smiled.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Mm, yeah. I’ll live,” I said and shrugged.
“I love you,” she said.
“Yeah, me too,” I said. I knelt down to get eye level with my little brother. “Take care of Mom, man, or I’ll kick your butt.”
“Okay,” he said sadly. “Love you.”
“Me too,” I said. “Come here.” I opened my arms for him.
He ran into them and held onto me tightly. “See you soon, right?”
“Yeah, of course,” I said. I rubbed his back gently. “I’ll visit as much as I can.”
“Okay,” he said. “Bye.”
“Bye, bud,” I said. I pushed his hat down over his eyes.
He laughed and pulled it back up. He took mom’s hand and waved goodbye to me.
Mom and Austin got into the car and drove away.
My uncle Rob pulled into the drive. I stopped, confused.
He pulled off to the side. He got out and smiled. “Hey, kid,” he said.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Didn’t you hear?” he asked.
“No?” I raised my brows.
“I’m moving in,” he said and smirked.
“What?” I laughed. “What are you talking about?”
“Well, I heard you needed to hire a hand. I thought I could lend a hand,” he said.
“Rob,” I started and shook my head. “That’s great, but you have the trampoline park to run.”
He shook his head. “That place has so many workers and is so damn popular that I don’t need to be there. Missy is taking care of it for me. It’s only for a few years,” he said. “I didn’t want to see all your hard work to go to waste. You did a good job keeping up on this place after your dad died.”
I mashed my lips in a thin line and looked down at the ground. Tears built in my eyes, but I bit them back. “Thanks, man,” I said and looked up at him. “I was getting ready to sell it,” I admitted. “How did you find out, anyway?”
“Your girl,” he said.
I swallowed hard. “W-what?”
“Stormie, isn’t it? She called a couple of weeks ago. She happened to catch me while I was at the trampoline park. She was worried about you. She said you were exhausted and said there was no way you could do it alone,” he said. “All you had to do was call me, kid. You know that” he said and rolled his eyes.
My throat was thick with emotion. “We’re not–” I shook my head. “Nevermind. Thanks for doing this.”
“Did she pop yet?” he asked.
I chuckled. “No, not yet. I’ll come home and help when I can.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “Get out of here.”
“We left most of the furniture and dishes. Mom said she wanted to start over, and it gave her a chance to shop. I didn’t need to take much either,” I explained.
“Alright,” he said and nodded.
I pulled two keys off my key chain. “One is for the front, and one is for the back. The side door doesn’t have a key to it, so be careful with that.”
“See ya,” I said. I hugged him goodbye.
“Good luck, kid,” he said.
I headed for my truck and stopped. “Rob?” I asked.
“Yeah?” he asked. He turned to face me.
Can you do me one more favor?” I asked.
He raised his eyebrows questioningly.
The door opened.
I leaned against the doorframe of her bedroom door. I kept my sunglasses over my eyes, not wanting her to see the pain in them. The pain that was always there when I saw her.
She was wearing a long-sleeved white maternity dress. She stunned me as she always did. Her Blond hair was nearly to her waist. Her blue eyes swept over me. They danced in a way I hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Hi,” I said and smiled weakly at her. “Can we talk?” I asked.
“Hey, come in,” she said. She moved back to let me past her. She closed the door behind her.
“You’re in a dress,” I said and tilted my head. “Don’t get me wrong, you look beautiful, but you’re not fond of dresses.”
She snorted. “Yeah, well, not a lot fits me.”
“Do you need money for clothes?” I asked.
“N-no, it’s fine,” she said and shook her head. “I have enough to get me by.”
“Well, call me if you need anything,” I told her.
“Do you want me to call if I go into labor?” she asked.
“Yeah, of course,” I said. “No matter what time it is. Blow my phone up.”
She laughed. “Okay, I will,” she promises.
“Oh, by the way, I ordered some stuff for the babies. It’s coming to you. It should be here in about three days. So, don’t buy anything for them. You know, just in case I already bought them it,” I said.
“Okay,” she said and shrugged. “What did you get them?”
“You’ll see when you open it,” I said and shrugged.
“So, when are you going?” she asked.
“Now,” I said.
“Really? I thought you wouldn’t be for a few more days,” she said.
“Yeah, well, I want to get over there and find a job and get settled in. All that fun crap,” I explained.
“Good luck,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said. I turned for the door and stopped with my hand on the knob. “I know what you did, by the way.”
“What?” she asked, confused.
“You called Rob,” I said.
“How did you know?” she asked.
“He ratted you out,” I said and turned to her. “He’s moving into my house. Honestly, you saved me from having to sell it, so thanks.”
“I know it means a lot to you,” she murmured and shrugged.
“See ya,” I said.
“See ya,” she said.
Howie plopped down beside me. “It’s kind of cool we wound up roommates,” he said.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “I’m kind of glad it wasn’t with a stranger.”
The dorms weren’t too bad here. They were practically miniature apartments. We sat on the couch in the small living room. I had been here for three days and had one interview earlier today.
He offered me a joint.
“I don’t smoke,” I said.
He laughed. “Yeah, right, man. Me neither,” he said.
I bit my lip to hide my smile. “No, man, really, I don’t smoke anymore,” I said. A chuckle escaped me.
“Yeah, I don’t know. It doesn’t do much for me anymore,” I said.
“Why?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “I just don’t feel high. I just get tired as fuck.”
“Maybe it has to do with Stormie? How is she doing, by the way?” he asked.
“She’s good. She’s huge,” I chuckled. “Don’t tell her I said that. I want to keep my nuts.”
He threw his head back and laughed. “So, you two aren’t any closer to getting back together, huh?”
“No,” I said and sighed. “She doesn’t trust me. She didn’t trust me from the start, but I gained some of her trust then lost it then gained it then lost it again,” I muttered.
“She’s that complicated? What the hell did you stay with her for? I would have bailed,” he said and chuckled.
I rolled my eyes. “I like complicated, I guess.”
“Is it that bad?” he asked.
“You haven’t been the same in months, man,” Howie said. His expression was worried, and Howie never worried.
“Hurts like hell, but it was worth it.”
“That good, huh?” he chuckled.
“You got no clue,” I said.
My phone rang.
I looked at the caller ID and laughed.
“What?” Howie asked.
“She’s going to kill me,” I said.
“Well, she’s calling, which means she got the stuff I ordered.”
“What did you order?”
“Everything,” I said. I slid my thumb across the screen to answer her. “Hi,” I said innocently.
“Avery!” she shrieked. “What the fuck is all of this? The car is one thing, but this?! Do you even know what half of this is?!”
I pursed my lips. “No, but I’m confident that you could use all of it.”
“You bought fifty boxes of diapers!”
“In my defense, there are two of them,” I said.
Howie howled with laughter.
“Is that Howie?” Stormie asked, confused.
“Yeah, it is,” I said.
“Oh, tell him I said hi,” she said.
“Stormie said hi,” I told him.
He laughed. “Hey, Stormie.”
“I’m sending some of it back. We were supposed to buy things evenly, Avery. You bought everything they needed and things that I needed. This is ridiculous. My living room is so full of boxes I can’t make it from one end to the other! Where did you get the money for all of this shit?”
“I sold weed for a long time,” I said. “I had nothing better to spend it on. Wait until you see some of the onesies I got the babies. They’re funny.”
She sighed. “You’re going to put me into labor. Do you know that? Like how am I going to explain this to my fucking parents?”
“Um, I’m not sure,” I said and pursed my lips.
“Do you realize how many boxes I have to carry upstairs?” she grunted. She breathed heavily through the phone.
I sat forward on the couch. “Stormie, you better not be carrying that shit upstairs by yourself.” I snapped.
“You should have thought about that when you bought it!” she yelled.
“That shit is too heavy for you to carry. Put it down, now. Have Mason or your dad do it.”
She sighed. “They’re not here.”
“Wait until they get back.”
“I don’t know when that is going to be, and if they see this mess, they’re going to wig out.”
“I’ll come to help you. Just stop.”
“Stormie, what the hell is all of this?”
I sighed with relief and fell back onto the couch.
“Dad’s here,” she said.
“Okay,” I said.
“Bro, she’s pissed,” he chuckled. “How much did you spend?” he asked.
“Thousands,” I said simply.