I took a deep breath as I took the dusty road that lead to a rustic barn out in the middle of nowhere. The way I was gripping the steering wheel, you would have thought I was lost, or maybe even in the middle of a horror movie. You would never guess that I was driving to my father’s rehearsal dinner for his wedding.
I was still in disbelief.
It wasn’t the fact that my father was remarrying after only being divorced from my mother a year. It was the fact that he was marrying a woman I had only met once in passing. A woman from his past that he had run into at the grocery store a few months ago.
And now he was marrying her?
He was in love. Or at least that’s what he kept telling me. Dad had always been so no nonsense that this sudden rush into marriage confused me. He had worked for the state ever since I was a baby. Always traveling, always getting called out. As the lead inspector, he stayed on the go, so when the hell did he find time to get a girlfriend/fiancee/wife?
“Why are you driving so slow? I could get out and walk faster than this.”
Turning my head, I made a face at my best friend Bryland. “Because I don’t know where I am going and because I’m debating on bailing on this whole thing.”
I looked up in my rearview mirror, seeing Claudia pop her head up between the seats. Shrugging, I made a face but was glad that my two best friends had agreed to come with me tonight. There was no way I could do this by myself. No way in hell I would have wanted to.
I knew nothing about my future step-mother, nothing except her name. Judith Hays. The one time I had actually met her was in passing. I had been driving in for the weekend and she was on her way out. Judith was an ER nurse and worked 12-hour shifts. She seemed nice enough, but how would I even know after just one meeting.
All I knew was that my world was about to be turned upside down. Since my parents’ divorce, I had been spending more and more time at my dads. His lake house was my peaceful solitude. Now Judith and her two kids would move in and invade my personal space.
Selfishly, I had made my father promise that my room would be off limits. I had the same bedroom at the lake for as long as I could remember, and I wasn’t willing to give it up. The house had four bedrooms, but dad had turned one into an office long ago. When he had brought up the subject of me possibly sharing my room, I had shot him a look and next thing I knew, he had moved his office into the den. Even now, crews were adding on an office to house.
Putting my car in park, I leaned back. “I don’t even know her kids’ names.”
“Neither can your dad,” Bryland added, laughing. “I think he has called Judith’s son every name in the damn book.”
Claudia popped her head back up. “He did know the little sister’s name. I was actually paying attention for this. Tori. It’s short for Victoria.”
Bryland and I both turned to look at her. “He can remember all that but not his soon to be step son’s name? Isn’t he like 22? I wonder if he is hot.”
Rolling my eyes, I shrugged. “Who the hell knows. Maybe he will move out soon. He was supposedly only living with Judith to help her take care of his sister since she works all the damn time.”
“Tori,” Claudia added.
“Yeah Tori,” I mumbled. “I’m telling you dad does not know what he is getting himself into. He is rushing into this and it’s going to be a fucking disaster.”
“You sound like your mom,” Claudia said, opening the door. “Let your dad be happy.”
Opening my door I stepped out, pulling the pale pink dress I had been forced to wear down. I thought the color clashed with my blonde hair. It was Claudia and Bryland that had convinced me that I had a dark enough tan to pull it off.
“I’m happy he is happy,” I said, looking down at my freshly polished toes. “I just wasn’t ready for a ready made family to come take over my life.”
I knew I sounded like a spoiled brat. I was19, turning 20. I didn’t even have to go to my dads, but I did. In fact, I stayed with him more than I did my mom. We had an agreement. As long as I was in college, I could live with them. That way, I wouldn’t have to work full time on top of trying to keep my grades up. It had worked out for me, I had a 4.0n average.
Dad’s sudden marriage had shocked everyone. No one more than me. I had always been an only child. Always had my dad wrapped roundly fingers. Now that his high school sweetheart had popped out of thin air, I wasn’t sure where I stood in his world anymore. It wasn’t that he was treating me differently. It was just the fact that I’d never had to share him before.
Entering the venue, I was happy to have the girls, one on each side of me. They were my emotional crutch. I was a ball of mixed emotions. I didn’t even know Judith, yet I was about to be her maid of honor. Should I be honored? Did she see this as some sort of peace offering? Or was she only doing this to appease my father?
Walking in, I had to admit that the inside of the bar was beautifully decorated with chandeliers, beautiful flower arrangements, and even several fountains. It was what I would call rustic farmhouse yet still managed to remain elegant at the same time. The inside was nothing what I had expected. I was happy to see some familiar faces, but I was still super nervous to meet my soon to be stepmom and siblings.
Reminding myself that I was grown and what my father did, didn’t really concern me I continued down the steps, following the sound of my father’s voice. If I didn’t like dad’s new ready-made family, I didn’t have to deal with them. I could always just stay with my mom. I wasn’t that big of a deal. Feeling better after my little mini pep talk, I walked up to my father with renewed energy, ready to face whatever the night may bring.
“There’s my girl,” my father said, beaming as he looked over and saw us approaching. Looking down at Judith, he nodded, “I know it was a quick hi and bye, but you remember Tatum, don’t you?”
I didn’t have time to go over all the comments I wanted to make over his little hi and bye comment before Judith turned her attention on me. “Yes,” she said smiling as she reached out grabbing my hands, making me jump. “I know it must seem like I’m a complete stranger to you, Tatum, but I can’t wait to get to know you better. Tori is super excited to have a big sister.”
As much as I wanted to immediately dislike her, I found that I couldn’t. Judith’s smile appeared genuine, and it was clear by the way she kept looking up at my dad that she loved him. Maybe thing wouldn’t be so bad.
“I can’t wait to meet her,” I said, meeting her eyes.
Laughing, Judith pushed her brown hair back behind her ear. “Yes, you will love her. My son, on the other hand, can be quite the smartass.”
At my dad’s laugh I shrugged, “can’t we all.”
As if on cue, a young girl walked up, crossing her arms. “Mom…”
Judith her out her arms, encircling the girl who was clearly her daughter. They both had the same dark brown hair with hints of gold laced through. It made me wonder what the brother looked like. My thoughts, however, were interrupted by Judith.
“Tori, this is Tatum.”
Tori’s entire face lit up. “You’re going to be my big sister?”
I nodded, “I’m afraid so kid.”
Tori made a face. “I’m not a kid. I’m 10. Can you French braid hair? Will you be staying with us? We are moving into the lake house? Can you swim? Is there a diving board? Is my...”
“Tori,” Judy said, cutting her off. “You’re going to run Tatum away before you even get a chance for her to answer your first question.”
I laughed, “don’t worry, she sounds like these two.” I used both hands to point at Bryland and Claudia as they pretended to be offended.
“Why, I’ve never,” Bryland said in a thick southern accent that was heavily exaggerated.
Everyone was giggling when Judith stood up straight. “There’s Liam and his friends now.”
I turned a little, caught off following Judith’s gaze. It was then I felt my heart drop to the floor. It was him. Liam had been laughing. His head turned saying something to one of his friends, when he looked ahead and suddenly stopped walking. Our eyes met, and we both had a look of pure confusion cross our face.
Liam seemed to snap out if it quicker than me and continued walking toward us. “You have to be fucking kidding me,” Bryland whispered loud enough for her to hear.
Looking up, I watched as the guys stopped in front of us. All of them clearly amused. “Hey Tatum, Bryland, and Claudia,” one of Liam’s friends, Evan said laughing.
Liam turned to look at him sharply as Judith looked confused. “Have ya’ll met?”
Liam shook his head, “Evan and Bryland used to date.”
Judith nodded, “small world isn’t it. Well Liam, I have no idea if you’ve met her yet, but this is Tatum.” She smiled, “soon to be your new stepsister.”
I could barely meet Liam’s dark gaze. I wondered if my face was as red as it felt. Shocked, I didn’t know if I should say hey or turn and run. It was Liam to break the silence, “nice to meet you Tatum.”
My name falling from his lips made me look up, “hey.”
My words were barely a whisper, but neither of our parents seemed to notice the awkwardness in our meeting. A couple walking up to them had distracted them. It was now Liam, his friends, me, and mine.
I couldn’t see Bryland or Claudia’s face but I saw Liam’s friend’s face, and it was definitely an “oh shit,” moment. I knew Evan, but not the other guy with them. I could tell by his face, however, that he knew our little secret.
“Small world huh,” Evan said, laughing out of nowhere.
Shaking my head, I turned quickly, flanked by my two friends. I could feel eyes on me. Liam’s eyes. This little shotgun weeding was about to be a lot more chaotic than I first thought.
I stood watching Tatum practically run away from me, taking a seat at a table far across the room. I couldn’t help but laugh. “I guess I don’t have to worry about getting to know her, huh?”
“Considering you’ve fucked your soon to be step sister, I think you need to get to know her less.”
I leaned back in my chair, looking over to where Tatum was sitting with her friends. I could tell that she was nervous. A smile slipped onto my lips as I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and sent a text.