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I ignored my dad. “Oh, and just so you know, I’m leaving for Ethan’s now. I’ll be staying at his or Nate’s place all weekend.” I turned to go, but twisted back around. “And I’m going to be drinking beer. I’m telling you now, considering that you’ve got no leg to stand on with your parenting skills.”
Logan was right behind me. He held two bags in his hands, mine and his. As I bypassed him, he held mine out. “Can I come?” he asked.
“Yes,” I ground out. I’d never leave him alone again. No way in f**king hell.
He trailed past me. Helen was gone, but I didn’t care where she had disappeared to. This was normally the time she took a pill or started drinking.
As we went out to the sidewalk, he asked, “Can I drink beer too?”
Hearing his disappointment, I sighed and tugged him close. My arm went around his shoulders and we walked to Ethan’s like that. They’d be fighting tonight. I already knew it. Our mom witnessed it. We witnessed it and I called him out. I tightened my arm around Logan. He had heard too much already.
We stayed at Ethan’s that night and then went to my best friend’s house for the rest of the weekend. The sad part was Nate never asked if we would. We all waited on the curb and when his parents’ driver came to get him, he told him to open the trunk. He said, “Mason and Logan are coming with.” When we got to his house, Nate walked inside and we followed. When his mom came out from the kitchen, her smile dimmed when she saw me. Then Logan popped out from behind me and it stretched again.
She asked, “How was it, honey?”
Nate reached up and kissed her cheek. “It was good.” He gestured to me. “Mason and Logan are staying the weekend.”
“Okay. I’m making pizza for tonight.”
Nate hit my shoulder and laughed. “Last one downstairs doesn’t get any pizza.”
Logan took off first. Nate wasn’t far behind. I waited until they were down there and turned around.
Nate’s mom was watching me warily, biting the corner of her lip. I knew she was a busy woman; both of Nate’s parents directed movies. In that moment, I was jealous of him. His mom was home, but she wasn’t crying. She wasn’t drinking. She didn’t look like a made-up Barbie doll. She was wearing jeans, an apron, and a normal t-shirt. She wasn’t like my mom, who always dressed like she was going out to a socialite party. My mom even wore big huge necklaces and her hair always looked perfect. Nate’s mom was so far from mine in every way. She cooked for him. Our chef prepared every meal. If we ran out, food was ordered in. His parents were as wealthy as mine, but they were more down-to-earth.
Her eyes narrowed now. “What’s up, Mason?”
I heard the wariness in her tone and knew she didn’t like me. That was part of the reason I wanted to speak to her. “I know we stay here a lot. Thank you.”
She nodded. “Yeah, well, your dad’s good friends with us, and I know you mean the world to Nate.”
“I know, but I know you don’t like me.”
Her eyes widened and her hand went to her chest in an absentminded gesture. “No, Mason. I don’t want you to thi—”
I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter. I know you don’t and you shouldn’t.” What the hell was I doing? I wasn’t a great kid. I knew that. I smarted off to my dad all the time. I cursed around Logan every other minute. I was disappointed in my own mother, but this was Nate’s mom. She used to like me, but I wasn’t stupid. I knew when she stopped; it was when my dad’s cheating started to be more obvious. All that crap at my house pissed me off. Logan handled it differently than me. He didn’t seem as angry as me. I said to her, “You’re a good mom to Nate. I know you’re worried I’ll get him in trouble or something.”
“Mason, really—”
“I won’t.” Well… “I’ll try not to. I just want to say thanks for always letting us stay here and for letting Logan come with me.”
Genuine warmth sparked in her eyes and her hand fell from her chest. As a fond smile lit up her face, a dimple appeared on one cheek. “He’s a sweet boy. You take good care of him. I know you do.”
I nodded. I wasn’t there to talk about Logan so I said, “Anyway, I wanted you to know that I will never purposely get Nate in trouble.” I turned away, then turned back. “Thank you.” Then I took off. When I got downstairs, Nate and Logan were both on the couch. Neither said anything about me being last and when the pizza was done, nothing was said about not eating it. As we ate and watched a movie, Nate’s mom came down to check on us, and again when we were getting ready for bed. And she cooked breakfast for us in the morning. Every time I felt her gaze on me, I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. I assumed she thought the worst of me, but I didn’t know what to do. I owed Nate’s family. When our house was full of fights or painful silence, we could always go there. One of his parents was always there. That felt good, for some reason.
When we walked home later that Sunday night, Logan glanced up at me. “Nate’s mom helped me with my homework.”
I frowned. “I thought you didn’t need help with it.”
“I didn’t. It was nice, though, so I didn’t tell her that.”
Anger blasted me. My kid brother enjoyed doing his homework with an adult. I wasn’t wise or old, but f**k, I knew there was something wrong with that picture. When we got to the house and went inside. I ignored the cold feeling in our own home, but I couldn’t stop myself from tensing up. There’d be fighting later. I saw a note on the table and read that my dad had been in the cities all weekend; I knew the fight would be more explosive than normal.
When we went upstairs, Logan asked me, “Are you going to tell Mom we’re home?”
“Yeah.” I pointed to his room. “Get ready for bed. It’s late.”
“Okay.” He took off, but turned around. “Thanks for taking me with you this weekend.”
I nodded. “Go to bed, punk.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he grumbled, but shot me a grin before darting into his room down the hallway.
I went into my own room. I had no intention of telling her we were home. Nate’s mom usually called and left messages, giving them updates; I knew she would’ve this time. I didn’t want to see my mom. I didn’t want to see if she was wasted or passed out. I went to bed instead.