Scott was halfway back to the manor when another idea struck him. Changing course he turned the bicycle he’d been forced to ride since Pete refused to let him drive without a license, and headed toward the retirement village. He didn’t know why he suddenly wanted to go see his mother, especially after the scene with Natalie’s own mom, but that’s where he was headed right now.
“Name?” The security guard asked once he pulled up to the gate. He sounded different to the usual one, his voice more gruff, and struck with an idea, Scott tried something new to get in.
“Pete Garrison.” He lied. He wasn’t making any progress getting in as himself, and one way or another his mother was going to see him today. She could yell, she could insult him, she could scream a number of profanities, but she was seeing him.
The gates to the retirement village opened, and before the security guard could come to his senses or ask for ID or something Scott rode in. The place was more of a trendy hipster village than a retirement facility with its solar panels on all the roofs, sustainable gardens, the trendy organic cafe near the entrance. Everywhere he looked something sustainable, clean and energy efficient looked back at him. It was a much different place to where he’d come to visit Grandma Poppy back when he was six.
He made his way through the village on his own, trying to remember small landmarks so he’d find his way back. He had no idea where he was going, no idea how to even find his mom, walking around aimlessly, hoping he’d just stumble upon her. After 20 minutes with no such luck, he cracked and asked a few of the residents, each of them pointing him down the same path.
He ended up outside a small flat, plastic pink flamingos decorating the tiny garden outside like an image from the Sims. He knew this had to be her place, she’d always had a terrible eye for decorating, his father often having to hire someone to fix every room she worked on.
He knocked, announcing his arrival, and a second later the door swung open. His mom stared up at him, her eyes clouded over in confusion as she tried to place him. He saw it the moment recognition crossed her eyes, surprise taking over as she took in the son standing before her, surprise that slowly faded to disappointment because it wasn’t the son she’d been hoping for.
“Hi Mom.” He greeted.
“How did you get in?” She asked, her voice firm, holding no warmth for him.
“Told the guy at the gate I was Pete.”
“Hmm.” She scoffed. “I’ll be having a word to security. I’ve told them they should be checking ID.”
“Is it really that terrible to see me?”
“If I wanted to see you Scott, I would have seen you.”
Her words hurt more than he expected them to. It had been two years since they’d seen each other, two years since she’d given up on him. He’d thought coming back to Spring Fields would change something, at the very least get him a phone call.
“Fine.” He conceded. “Maybe I wanted to see you.”
“Why? You walked out on this family.” She replied. “We tried time and time again to stay in touch. We came to visit every few months. All we wanted was the same effort from you. But you couldn’t even come back for your own father’s funeral. You didn’t want to be part of this family, now you’re not.”
She stepped away from the doorw, slamming it smack in his face, the sound stinging his ears. Guilt ripped at his stomach. He knew he should have come back for the funeral, he hated that he’d stayed away, but he hadn’t been able to come home. Everything was keeping him away, Pete, his mom, Natalie. He wasn’t ready to face any of it. It was just too hard, too painful every time he looked into someone’s eyes and only ever saw contempt, disappointment and loathing. Maybe he was a bastard for never coming back until now, but they were all bastards for making him want to stay away. They were all partly to blame too.
“You didn’t want me to be part of the family.” Scott yelled through the door, knowing she’d be able to hear him. “All I ever did was disappoint everyone. Embarrass you and Dad. You made me feel like a failure, all the time, like I was this burden you had to put up with. But Pete, oh, you fucking loved Pete, he could do no wrong.”
He waited, thinking she’d fling the door open and at the very least give him a play by play recount on all the ways he’d disappointed her over the years, describing in detail how he’d let them down and how Pete hadn’t. At the most he hoped she’d tell him he was wrong, she did love him, and yes he let her down sometimes but at the end of the day she was proud of the man he’d become despite never living up to his potential.
But the door remained shut. She didn’t come out. He stood there waiting, hoping she’d say something even if it was just to tell him never to come back. That way he’d know, that even though she was angry with him things would eventually be okay. When she still didn’t come out he was forced to face reality. She really had given up on him. She didn’t want anything to do with him anymore. She just didn’t think he was worth the trouble.
He stepped away from the door, defeated, making his way back to that stupid bicycle. Would it really be that hard to have let him in? Yeah, he’d hurt her, he’d hurt everyone sure, but was it really so bad that no one could try to move past it? He was her son for crying out loud. She was the one person who never should have given up on him, no matter how many times he might have hurt her. He knew he wasn’t exactly the model son, but he also knew, without a doubt, that if Pete had done something similar she would have found a way to move past it.
He wasn’t Pete though, he was Scott, the one who she’d loved out of obligation. At least now he knew. He could move on and stop feeling guilty. He could stop trying with her. He desperately wanted to go back to Natalie, but he knew that right now he couldn’t. She was dealing with her own family drama.
Instead he went back to the manor, peddling slowly to kill time, collect himself so no one would see him like this. When he pulled into the driveway Pete was waiting for him, the duffle bag Scott had brought with him at his feet. Somehow Pete knew about Natalie, and now he was kicking Scott out. Fantastic.
“You need to leave.” Pete said as Scott got out of the car. “You’re no longer welcome here.”
“Is my being with Natalie really that awful for everyone?” He exploded, desperate to know what exactly made him so terrible. “I honestly don’t get why everyone’s so offended. Our relationship doesn’t effect any of you.”
“The fact that you don’t see the problem is exactly what’s wrong.” Pete replied, his voice rising to match Scott’s. “Natalie deserves better. She deserves a hell of a lot better than you.”
“What is so wrong with me?” He sounded desperate, and he hated that. He hated how pathetic he sounded right now, but he couldn’t hold it in anymore. He’d been dying to know the answer to this for years. What the hell was wrong with him?
“You’re a coward, you’re irresponsible, self-destructive. When something gets too hard you give up, you run away, you do everything except deal with it.” Pete answered, not even having to think about it. “That’s why you haven’t been back in eight years. Eight years Scott. It’s why you drink until you pass out, and smoke up to mellow down. You can’t deal. And things with Natalie might be great now, but the moment it gets too hard you’ll hurt her just like you did eight years ago.”
“I’m not gonna do that again.”
“You’re right. You won’t, because I’m not going to let it happen this time. Now leave, or I’ll call the police and have you arrested for trespassing.”
“No you won’t.” It was Eliza, speaking with that stern, don’t mess with me voice Scott had hated until now. “You said it was up to me to decide whether he could stay with us or not. I said he could. And I’ll be the one to say when he leaves.”
“Liz.” Pete began. “He can’t stay here. He’s…”
“He’s what?” She demanded. “Won Natalie back? Why do you care? Is it just friendly concern or is it the fact that you’ve always wanted her.”
“Don’t be stupid Liz.”
“That’s probably the best advice you’ve given in years.” She said, no longer angry and on the attack, now she sounded sad, her mind suddenly somewhere else. “I need to stop being stupid.” She smiled a smile that held no humour before sighing and bringing her focus back to the matter at hand. “Scott, you can stay. Pete, if you’re unhappy with that, too bad.”
She turned and walked back into the house, her head held high, but with a slump to her shoulders that told Scott wherever her mind had just gone the topic was still raging a war inside her head. He hoped she was okay, or that she would be. Back in the day he’d follow her and get her to talk, now he didn’t think she’d be so willing to open up. He’d realised this new Eliza wasn’t an act. She really had changed over the years, parts of ‘For a Good Time Call Eliza’ were still there, but they were mixed with the new things, the confidence, the sternness, the strength she now carried herself with. She was different now, and Scott realised that wasn’t such a bad thing.
Natalie and her mom sat in silence as they ate their dinner. Her mother was giving her the silent treatment. They’d argued for a solid hour and neither one had gotten anywhere. Her mom had spent the time trying to persuade her to be smarter and go back to Ryan before it was too late, while Natalie had desperately tried to get her mom to at least give Scott another chance.
Neither had bent to the other, and Natalie had accepted that nothing was going to change. Her mom however, thought she could force her hand by giving her the silent treatment. Too bad she didn’t realise the silence was a welcomed presence right now.
They finished eating, and her mom cleared their plates without a word before showering and going to bed. This was even better than the silent treatment, because with her mom in bed Natalie could finally escape the house, and the lecture she was sure to get if she’d been caught leaving.
She hopped in her car and headed straight for the orchard. She wanted to see Scott. She wanted to complain about her mother, hear about how he spent his day and then fall asleep in his arms, forgetting about everything except how good he felt wrapped around her.
“Hey.” She said with a smile, greeting Pete as he opened the door for her.
“No.” He replied, his face serious. “You can’t be here.”
“This is a bad idea Natalie.”
“I didn’t ask for your input.” She said, her sweet smile not wavering as she pushed past him into the house.
“You can’t just barge in like this.”
“Why not? Ryan always does. Besides, I didn’t come here to see you, and if Scott were opening the door he’d let me in. So I’m in, deal with it.”
“Listen to yourself.” He said. “That right there, you never speak to me like that, you never speak to anyone like that.”
“I do when I’m tired of listening to everyone tell me how to live my life.” She snapped. “I can make my own decisions. Some may be stupid, some may be dangerous, some might just be outright insane, but they’re up to me make. Sure, you can give me advice, but if I don’t listen to it then you have to deal with that.”
“I can’t sit back and watch you ruin your life.”
“Then it’s a good thing I’m not ruining it.”
She brushed past him, taking the stairs two at a time as she headed for Scott’s room.
“I don’t want to see you get hurt.” He called after her, but she ignored him, continuing up the stairs.
She knocked against his closed door, and Scott’s voice called out for her to come in. She stepped inside to see Jenny sitting beside him, a makeup brush in her hand, painting blush onto his cheeks. He smiled when he saw her and she smiled because of the makeup, blush covering the entirety of his cheeks like a Raggedy Ann doll, eye-liner that made him look like a panda bead, lipstick around his mouth rather than his lips, and eye-shadow reaching all the way up to his eyebrows.
“Miss Natalie.” Jenny exclaimed, dropping the brush and barrelling over to her. Natalie bent down to the her level and caught her in a hug. “Look.” She said pointing at Scott’s face. “Look, I did Uncle Scott’s makeup.”
“I can see that.” Natalie replied. “And it looks beautiful.” Truthfully he looked like he’d dipped his face into a bucket of paint, but she’d tell him that when Jenny left the room.
“It’s okay.” Jenny said with a shrug. “My momma does it better. When she wears makeup she looks like a princess.”
“Your mom is very pretty.” Natalie said.
“I hope I’m pretty like her when I grow up.”
“Oh you have nothing to worry about.” Scott added, like the idea of Jenny being anything but gorgeous was ridiculous. “Jenny, isn’t it time for you to go to bed?”
“Yeah, but I don’t wanna.” She complained. “I’m too happy to sleep.”
“But if you don’t get some rest you’ll be too tired tomorrow at school.” Natalie said. “And the baby farm animals are coming tomorrow.”
“That’s tomorrow?” Jenny asked wide eyed. “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.” She bounced out of the room, running along the hallway as fast as her feet would carry her. “Momma.” She yelled out into the house. “I gotta go to sleep.”
“There’s no way she’s getting to sleep now.” Natalie commented.
“At least she left.” He replied.
“Scott Garrison.” She chastised, climbing onto the bed and straddling his waist. “I’m disappointed in you, chasing off a sweet little girl because you want to get lucky.”
“I seem to remember you pushing her out just as much as I was.” He replied, sitting up. His hands found the buttons running down the middle of the sundress she was wearing, and she became hypnotised as she watched him slowly pop each pne open. The lower his hands travelled the greater her excitement grew and she wondered if there’d ever be a time when something as simple as him undoing buttons wouldn’t turn on her.
The last one popped free, and his fingers went to the thin straps on her shoulders, sliding them away from her body so all she was left wearing was her bra, and the matching white thong she’d put on just for him.
She looked up to meet his eyes, wanting to see the admiration and heat in his gaze, but the moment she did she started laughing. He still had that makeup all over his face, his cheeks covered ridiculously in bright red blush.
“That wasn’t the reaction I was hoping for.” He said, mock offended.
“I can’t take you seriously with this crap on your face.” She replied, still laughing. He chuckled, and gently removed her from his lap as he stood and headed into the ensuite.
“How did things with your mom go?” He asked, wiping his face with a wet towel.
“Exactly how you’d expect.” She replied. “She told me I was ruining my life, and now she’s not talking to me at all.”
“The silent treatment huh?”
“Yeah Pete’s the same. He tried to kick me out this morning, Eliza stopped him and now he’s not talking to either of us.”
“He was always the king of the silent treatment.” She commented. “Remember when I got him detention.”
“I don’t need any reminders. I grew up with the guy.”
“I’m sorry he tried to throw you out.”
“It’s not your fault.” He said coming back into the room, his face now free of makeup. He flopped into the space beside her, leaning over and placing a light kiss across her lips. She melted into him, her hand gripping his arm for support as he deepened the embrace. “I saw my mom today too.”
“Oh.” She pulled away, wanting to see face. Cecilia Garrison was a very serious woman, and Natalie had only ever seen her show even a shred of emotion twice. Once at her husband’s funeral, and another time, two years ago, when she’d just come home from a visit with Scott. “What happened?”
“Nothing.” He replied, trying to act like it really was nothing, but the way he swallowed, as if something were stuck in his throat, gave him away. “She didn’t say much really, just slammed the door in my face.”
“I’m sorry.” She said.
“It’s fine.” He pulled her closer, resuming their kiss, not wanting to talk about his mother any longer. She kissed him back for a moment, wanting to get lost in it, but she had this weird feeling in her stomach. Last time, when he’d forced her to leave, it had been because he’d let everything get in his head, his own failures, everyone else’s opinions of him, the belief he couldn’t make her happy. Now Pete had tried to kick him out, his mom didn’t want to see him, would he let that get in his head again?
“You want this right?” She asked, briefly breaking the kiss. “You’re not having any doubts? No one’s getting in your head?”
“I want this.” He said bringing his lips back to hers, his hand sliding down to cup her bare arse cheek.
It was exactly what she wanted to hear, but his words didn’t calm the small node of doubt that had started to creep in. They’d been here once before, and he’d said the same things right before pushing her away, doing the one thing he knew would make her leave. He’d been self-destructing, and she’d forgiven him a long time ago for it. But what if he got scared again? Would he be strong enough to push through it, trust that she’d never leave him, or would he push her away again?
She wanted to believe this was it. That he wouldn’t dream of doing that to her again, but that broken girl from eight years ago screamed inside her head to be careful. Natalie ignored her. She needed to have faith in Scott. She just hoped that he proved everyone wrong, because she was going all in with him.