فصل 13

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فصل 13

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

این فصل را می‌توانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

فایل صوتی

دانلود فایل صوتی

متن انگلیسی فصل

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Auburn

He kisses me with conviction and apology and anger, and it’s somehow all wrapped up in tenderness. When our tongues meet, it’s a momentary reprieve from the reality of our good-bye. We both exhale softly, because this is exactly how a kiss should feel. My knees want to buckle from the feel of his lips against mine.

I kiss him back, even though I know this kiss won’t lead to anything. It won’t correct anything. It won’t right any of his wrongs, but I also know it could be the last time I ever feel this way, and I don’t want to deny myself that.

He wraps his arm around me, sliding one hand up my neck and into my hair. He cradles my head and it feels as if he’s attempting to memorize every aspect of the way it feels when we kiss, because he knows after we stop, that’s all he’ll have. The memory of it.

The thought of this being good-bye begins to anger me, knowing he gave me hope and then allowed Trey to strip it away with the truth.

The kiss between us quickly grows painful, and not in a physical sense. The more we kiss, the more we realize what we’re losing, and it hurts. It scares me to know that there’s a chance I’ve come across one of the few people in this world who could make me feel this way, and I already have to give it up.

I’m so tired of having to give up the only things in life I want.

He pulls back and looks me in the eyes with a pained expression. He moves his hand from the back of my head and brings it to my cheek, brushing a thumb over my bottom lip. “This already hurts.”

His mouth meets mine again, and he lands a kiss as soft as velvet against my lips. He slowly moves his head until his mouth is directly over my ear. “Is this it? Is this how it ends?”

I nod, even though it’s the last thing I want to do. But this is the end. Even if he were to change his life completely, his past choices still affect my own life.

“Sometimes we don’t get second chances, Owen. Sometimes things just end.”

He winces. “We didn’t even get a first chance.”

I want to tell him it’s not my fault; it’s his fault. But I know he knows that. He’s not asking me to give him another chance. He’s just upset that it’s already over.

He presses his palms against the glass door behind me, caging me in with his arms. “I’m sorry, Auburn,” he says. “You have a lot to deal with in your life, and I absolutely didn’t mean to make things more difficult for you.” He presses his lips against my forehead and then pushes off the door. He backs up two steps and nods softly. “I understand. And I’m sorry.”

I can’t take the pained look in his eyes or the acceptance in his words. I reach behind me and unlock the door, and then I turn and leave.

I hear the door close behind me, and it becomes my least favorite sound in the whole world. I bring a fist up to my heart, because I feel exactly what he explained he feels when he misses someone. And I don’t understand it, because I just met him a few weeks ago.

“There are people you meet that you get to know, and then there are people you meet that you already know.”

I don’t care how long I’ve known him. I don’t care if he lied to me. I’m going to allow myself to be sad and feel sorry for myself, because despite whatever he’s done in the past, no one has made me feel like he made me feel today. He made me feel proud of myself as a mother. Because of that, the fact that I have to say good-bye to him is worth a few tears, and I won’t allow myself to feel guilty crying about it.

I make it halfway home, and just as I’m drying the last of the tears I’ve allowed myself to shed over this good-bye, a car pulls up beside me and comes to a slow crawl. I glance at it out of the corner of my eye and immediately see that it’s a police car. I stop walking when Trey rolls the window down and leans across the seat. “Get in, Auburn.”

I don’t argue. I open the door and climb inside, and he begins to drive in the direction of my apartment. I don’t like the vibe I’m getting from him right now. I can’t tell if he’s acting like a jealous boyfriend or an overprotective brother. Technically, he’s neither of those things.

“Were you at his studio just now?”

I stare out the window and contemplate how I should answer. He’ll know I’m lying if I say no, and I need Trey to trust me. Of all the people in the world, I need both Lydia and Trey to see that everything I do, I do for AJ.

“Yes. He owed me money.”

I can hear his heavy breaths as he inhales and exhales. He eventually pulls over to the side of the street and puts the car in park. I don’t want to look directly at him, but I can see him cover his mouth with his hand, squeezing the frustration from his jaw. “I just told you that he was dangerous, Auburn.” He looks directly at me. “Are you stupid?”

I can only take so much. I swing the car door open, get out, and slam it shut. Before I can even take three steps, he’s standing directly in front of me.

“He’s not dangerous, Trey. He has an addiction. And there’s nothing going on between us, I just went to collect my pay for working at his studio.”

Trey studies my face, more than likely in an attempt to see if I’m lying to him. I exhale and roll my eyes. “If there was anything going on, I would have been at his studio for more than five minutes.” I push past him and begin walking toward my apartment. “Jesus, Trey. You’re acting like you have a reason to be jealous.”

He’s in front of me again, forcing me to stop. He stares down at me for several quiet seconds. “I am jealous, Auburn.”

I immediately have to swallow the lump that forms in my throat. I also continue to stare up at him, waiting for him to take back what he said, but he doesn’t. He’s looking at me with nothing but sincerity.

He’s Adam’s brother. He’s AJ’s uncle.

I can’t.

It’s Trey.

I move around him and continue walking. We’re only a block from my apartment, so it doesn’t surprise me when I hear him fall into step behind me. I continue walking, trying to process the last two hours of my life, but it’s a little difficult when my dead boyfriend’s jealous brother is stalking after me.

When I reach my door, I unlock it and turn around to face him. Trey’s eyes are like carving knives, digging into me, hollowing me out. I’m about to tell him good night when he lifts an arm and rests his hand against the door frame next to my head. “Do you ever think about it?”

I know exactly what he’s referring to, but I play ignorant. “About what?”

His eyes fall to my lips. “Us.”

Us.

Me and Trey.

I can honestly say no, I never think about it. But I don’t want to hurt his feelings, so instead I don’t respond at all.

“It makes sense, Auburn.”

I shake my head, almost adamantly. I don’t mean to appear so resistant, but it’s exactly how I feel. “It makes no sense,” I reply. “You were Adam’s brother. You’re AJ’s uncle. It would confuse him.”

Trey takes a step forward. His closeness feels different than when Owen steps toward me. Trey’s closeness feels suffocating, like I need to punch a hole in the atmosphere just to breathe.

“I love him, Auburn. I’m the only father figure your little boy has,” he says. “He’s living in my house with Mom, and if you and I were together . . .”

I immediately stand up straighter. “I hope you aren’t about to use my son as an excuse for why I should date you.” The anger in my voice surprises me, so I know it surprises Trey.

He runs a hand through his hair and looks at a loss for what to say. His gaze shifts down the hallway as he attempts his response. “Look,” he says, meeting my stare again. “I’m not trying to use him to get closer to you. I know that’s how it sounded. I’m just saying . . . it makes sense. We make sense.”

I don’t respond, because everything he’s saying has some truth to it. Lydia trusts Trey more than anyone in the world. And if Trey and I were together . . .

“Think about it,” he says, not wanting an answer from me right now. “We can start slow. See if we fit.” He pulls his hand from the frame of the door and backs away, giving me room to breathe. “We’ll talk about it Sunday night. I need to get back to work. Promise me you’ll keep your door locked?”

I nod, and I hate that I nod, because I don’t want him to think I was agreeing to all of the other things he just said.

But . . . he makes sense. He lives in the same house as AJ and Lydia, and the one thing I want is more time with my son. I’m at the point where I don’t care what it takes to get more time with AJ; I just need it. I miss him so much.

I don’t like the fact that I’m considering his offer. I don’t feel for Trey even a fraction of what I felt for Adam. I can’t even compare it to what I feel for Owen.

But he’s right. Being with him would get me closer to AJ. And I feel more for AJ than anything or anyone in the world. I’ll do whatever it takes to get my son back.

Whatever it takes.

Before I moved here, Lydia assured me that Dallas traffic wasn’t all that bad. When I asked how long it would take to get from my potential new apartment to their house, she said, “Oh, it’s no further than ten miles.”

She failed to mention that ten miles in Dallas is a good forty-five-minute cab ride. Most nights I don’t even get off work until seven. By the time I get in a cab to head to her house, it’s AJ’s bedtime. Because of this, she says it’s an inconvenience for me to visit during weeknights. “It makes him restless,” she says.

So Sunday-night dinners and any other day of the week I can talk her into allowing me to come over is all I get with my son. Of course, I stretch Sundays out as long as I can. Sometimes I show up at lunch and don’t leave until after he goes to sleep. I know this irritates her, but I don’t really give a shit. He’s my son, and I shouldn’t have to ask for permission to visit him.

Today has been an exceptionally long day with him, and I’ve loved every second of it. As soon as I woke up this morning, I showered and called a cab. I’ve been here since after breakfast, and AJ hasn’t left my side. Right after we finished dinner, I brought him to the couch, and he fell asleep in my lap after half an episode of cartoons. I usually do the dishes and clean up after dinner, but I don’t offer this time. Tonight I just want to hold my little boy while he sleeps.

I don’t know if Trey is trying to prove a point about how domestic he can be, or if I’m seeing him in a slightly different light, but he actually took over and cleaned up the entire kitchen. From the sound of it, he just loaded and started the dishwasher.

I glance up when he appears in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. He leans against the frame of the door and smiles at the sight of us cuddled together on the couch.

He watches us quietly for a moment, until Lydia walks in and breaks up the peaceful moment. “I hope he hasn’t been asleep for long,” she says, eyeing AJ in my arms. “When you let him fall asleep this early, he wakes up in the middle of the night.”

“He fell asleep a few minutes ago,” I tell her. “He’ll be fine.”

She takes a seat in one of the chairs next to the couch and looks up at Trey, who is still standing in the doorway. “Do you work tonight?” she asks. Trey nods and straightens himself.

“Yeah. I need to get going, actually,” he says. He looks at me. “You want a ride home?”

I glance down at AJ in my arms, not at all ready to leave yet, but not sure if I should do what I need to do with AJ still asleep in my lap. I’ve been working up the courage to talk to Lydia about our arrangement, and tonight seems as good a time as any. “I was actually hoping to talk to your mom about something before I go,” I say to Trey.

I can feel Lydia glance at me, but I don’t reciprocate her stare. You would think after living with her as long as I did, I wouldn’t be so scared of her. However, it’s hard not to fear someone when they hold all the power over the one thing in life you want.

“Whatever it is, it can wait, Auburn,” Lydia says. “I’m exhausted and Trey needs to get to work.”

I run my hand through AJ’s hair. He has his father’s hair. Soft and fine, like silk. “Lydia,” I say quietly. I glance over at her, my stomach in knots and my heart in my throat. She always shuts me down every time I try to talk to her about this, but I have to get it over with. “I want to talk to you about custody. And I’d really appreciate it if we could talk about it tonight, because it’s killing me not seeing him as much as I used to.”

When I lived with them in Portland, I saw him every day. Custody wasn’t such an issue then, because I came home from school every day to the same house as my son. Even though Lydia had final say over everything that involved AJ, I still felt like his mother.

However, since she took him and moved to Dallas several months ago, I’ve felt like the worst mother in the world. I never get to see him. Every time I talk to him on the phone, I’m in tears by the time I hang up. I can’t help but feel like the distance she’s putting between us is intentional.

“Auburn, you know you’re welcome to see him any time you want.”

I shake my head. “But that’s just it,” I tell her. “I’m not.” My voice is weak, and I hate that I sound like a child right now. “You don’t like it when I visit on school nights and you haven’t even allowed him to spend the night with me.”

Lydia rolls her eyes. “For good reason,” she says. “How am I supposed to trust the people you allow at your place? The last one you had in your bedroom is a convicted felon.”

My gaze falls to Trey, and he immediately breaks eye contact with me. He knows that telling her about Owen’s past has just put a wedge between AJ and me. He can see the anger on my face, so he steps into the living room. “I’ll put AJ to bed,” he says.

I’m thankful for that, at least. AJ doesn’t need to wake up and hear the conversation going on around him right now. I hand AJ off to Trey and turn and face Lydia this time.

“I wouldn’t have allowed him to stay with AJ in the same apartment,” I say in my defense. “He wouldn’t even have been in my apartment if I knew you were bringing AJ over.”

Her lips are pursed together, and her eyes are narrow slits of disapproval. I hate the way she looks at me.

“What are you asking me, Auburn? Do you want your son to have sleepovers at your apartment? Do you want to show up every night right before his bedtime and get him riled up to the point that he doesn’t want to go to bed?” She stands up, exasperated. “I’ve raised that boy from birth, so you can’t expect me to be okay with him being around complete strangers.”

I stand up, too. She’s not about to tower over me and make me feel inferior. “We’ve raised him from birth, Lydia. I’ve been there every step of the way. He’s my son. I’m his mother. I shouldn’t have to ask you for permission when I want to spend time with him.”

Lydia stares at me, hopefully absorbing my words and accepting them. She has to see how unfair she’s being.

“Auburn,” she says, plastering a fake smile across her face, “I’ve raised children before, so I know how important routines and schedules can be for a child’s development. If you want to visit him, that’s perfectly fine. But we’re going to have to work out a more consistent schedule so that he isn’t negatively affected by it.”

I rub my hands up and down my face, attempting to relieve some of the frustration I’m feeling. I exhale and calmly place my hands on my hips. “Negatively affected?” I say. “How can he be negatively affected by his own mother tucking him in every night?”

“He needs consistency, Auburn—”

“That’s what I’m trying to give him, Lydia!” I say loudly. As soon as I raise my voice, I stop speaking. I’ve never raised my voice at her. Not once.

Trey walks back into the room and Lydia glances from him to me. “Let Trey give you a ride home,” she says. “It’s late.”

She doesn’t say good-bye, or even ask if the conversation is over. She walks out of the room like she just brought it to an end, whether I was finished or not.

“Ugh!” I groan, completely unsatisfied with how that conversation went. Not only did I not tell her I want my son to live with me, I couldn’t even work out something in my favor. She always brings up “consistency” and “routines” like I’m trying to drag him out of bed at midnight to eat pancakes every night. All I want is to see my son more than she’s allowing me. I don’t understand how she can’t see how much it’s hurting me. She should be thankful I want to fill my role like I do. I’m sure there are people in her situation who would love for their grandchildren’s parents to give a shit.

I’m torn away from my train of thought by Trey’s chuckle. I face him, and there’s a smile on his face.

I’ve never wanted to punch a smile so bad in my life, but if there were a more inappropriate time to laugh than right now, I’d hate to see it.

He can see I’m not amused by his laughter, but he doesn’t hide it. He shakes his head and reaches into the entryway closet for his things. “You just yelled at my mother,” he says. “Wow.”

I glare at him while he attaches his holster to his police uniform. “I’m glad my situation amuses you,” I say flatly. I walk past him and out the front door. When I reach his car, I climb inside and slam the door. As soon as I’m alone in the darkness, I break into tears.

I allow myself to cry as hard as I can until I see Trey making his way out of the house several minutes later. I immediately stop the tears and wipe my eyes. When he’s in the car with the door shut, I stare out the window and hope it’s obvious that I’m not in the mood for conversation.

I think he understands that he pissed me off, because he doesn’t speak for the entire drive back to my house. And even though there isn’t any traffic on the way home, twenty minutes is a long drive when it’s this quiet.

When he pulls up to my apartment, he gets out of the car and follows me inside the building. I’m still pissed when I reach my door, but my attempt to escape inside my apartment without telling him good-bye is thwarted when he grabs my arm and forces me to turn around.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I wasn’t laughing at your situation, Auburn.” I shake my head and can feel the tension settling in my jaw. “I just . . . I don’t know. No one ever yells at my mother and I thought it was funny.” He takes a step closer to me and lifts a hand to the door frame. “In fact,” he says, “I actually thought it was kind of sexy. I’ve never seen you angry before.”

My eyes meet his in a flash. “Are you serious right now, Trey?” I swear to God, if there was any chance of my ever finding him attractive, he just completely ruined it with that comment.

He closes his eyes and takes a step back. He holds up his hands in surrender. “I didn’t mean anything by it,” he says. “It was a compliment. But you obviously aren’t in the mood for compliments, so maybe we can try this again another time.”

I welcome his departure with a quick wave as I turn around and close the door behind me. A few seconds pass before I hear Trey call my name through the door. “Auburn,” he says quietly. “Open the door.”

I roll my eyes but turn around and open the door. He’s standing in the doorway with his arms folded across his chest. His expression has changed to one of regret. He rests his head against the frame of the door, and it reminds me of the night Owen stood in this exact same position. I liked it a lot more when Owen was standing here.

“I’ll talk to my mother,” Trey says. Those words make me pause and actually give him my full attention. “You’re right, Auburn. You should be spending more time with AJ, and she’s just making it hard on you.”

“You’ll talk to her? Really?”

He takes a step closer until he’s standing in the doorway. “I didn’t mean to upset you earlier,” he says. “I was trying to make you feel better, but I guess I went about it the wrong way. Don’t be mad, okay? I don’t know if I can take you being mad at me.”

I swallow his apology and shake my head. “I’m not mad at you, Trey. I just . . .” I inhale and exhale slowly. “Your mother just frustrates the living piss out of me sometimes.”

He smiles agreeably. “I know what you mean,” he says. He lifts himself away from the door frame and glances down the hallway. “I need to get to work. We’ll talk later, okay?”

I nod and give him a genuine smile. The fact that he’s willing to talk to Lydia for me is worth a smile or two. He backs up several steps before turning around and walking away. I close my apartment door after he disappears around the corner of the hallway. When I turn around, my heart jumps into my throat when I see Emory standing a few feet in front of me.

Holding a cat.

A very familiar-looking cat.

I point at Owen-Cat. “What . . .” I drop my arm, completely confused. “How?”

She looks down at the cat and shrugs. “Owen stopped by about an hour ago,” she says. “He left this and a note.”

I shake my head. “He left his cat?”

She turns around and walks toward the living room. “And a note. He said you’d know where to find it.”

I walk to my room and immediately drop to my knees and climb inside the tent. There’s a folded piece of paper on one of the pillows. I pick it up and lie down, and then I open it.

Auburn,

I know it’s a lot to ask of you to keep Owen, but I didn’t have anyone else. My father is allergic to cats, which may be why I got Owen in the first place. Harrison won’t be back in town until Tuesday, but if you need to, you can drop her off there.

I know I’ve said it enough already, but I really am sorry. You deserve someone who can give you what you need, and right now that someone isn’t me. If I had known you would show up at my door one day, I’d have done everything differently.

Everything.

Please don’t allow anyone to make you feel less than what you are.

Take care.

PS: I know that one of these days, you’ll have to let someone in to use your restroom. Just do me a favor and remove those cute little seashell soaps. The thought of someone else loving those soaps as much as I do is too much.

PPS: You only have to feed Owen once a day. She’s pretty easy to keep alive. Thanks in advance for taking care of her, no matter how long or short you decide to do it for. I know she’ll be in good hands, because I’ve seen you as a mother, and you’re pretty damn good at it.

—Owen

I’m shocked at the tears that are falling down my cheeks. I close the letter and immediately walk out of my room. When I reach Emory in the living room, I scoop Owen-Cat up into my arms and I take her to my bedroom. I close the door behind me and I crawl onto the bed with her. She goes with the flow and lies down beside me, like this is exactly where she’s supposed to be.

I’ll gladly take care of her for however long Owen needs me to. Because having her connects me to him. And for whatever reason, I feel like I need that link to Owen, because it makes my chest hurt a little less when I think about him.

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