“Twain park,” Mercy said, from the back seat. I flinched. Trains held a whole new meaning for me since Fig had moved in. I’d never be able to look at them the same way.
“It was nice of you to invite her.” Darius gave me the side eye, his finger tapping on the steering wheel to whatever was playing on the radio.
“But…” I said.
“Well, it’s family day. I thought we were supposed to spend time being with our family. Not crazy people who want to steal your family?”
“What the fuck, Darius?” I slapped his chest with the back of my hand and he laughed. Was he serious or had this become our running joke?
“She’s not that bad, I guess.” He glanced out the back window to make sure Fig was still following us in her SUV, white and bright, a sore thumb on the highway.
“She’s a little intrusive,” I admitted.
“Has no social boundaries, is an obsessive over-thinker…”
“Hey, okay,” I said. “But she cares. She has a good heart.”
“What’s your definition of a good heart?”
“Come on. Aren’t you supposed to be the one who sees through people’s bullshit? Finds the humanity?”
“Yes, but all she does is wear masks. You could search for years and you still won’t be able to know who that woman is, because she doesn’t know herself. And that’s exactly why she’s obsessed with you.”
Darius always said that women were drawn to me because I knew who I was and they wanted in on that. Like I had a secret recipe I could just impart to them. It was true, I knew who I was, but that didn’t necessarily mean I knew who they were.
“Okay,” I said. “I can accept that. But, I don’t care either way. She needs something from me. I’d like to try to help.”
He reached out and squeezed my knee. “You’re the only good person left on the planet.”
“Hardly,” I said, in return. But, I was buzzing from the compliment.
An hour later I was sitting on the grass watching them … what was the word? Play? And what exactly was bothering me? The fact that he’d been talking shit about her in the car, and now he was acting like they were on a date? Or was it the uneasy feeling in the back of my mind that I couldn’t quite identify? A scratch you couldn’t reach. I stretched my legs out on the grass and handed Mercy the shovel she was pointing to.
“Words, little bean, no pointing.”
“Fanks,” she said.
“You have great manners. Has Mom told you that?”
“Yes,” she said, without looking at me—too busy with sand. Too busy … looking at something else…
My eyes quickly went back to them. Darius was pitching Fig a baseball. He wound his arm like they did on television, lifted his leg. She threw her head back and laughed. He’d insisted on bringing the damn bat so he could teach Mercy how to hit, though he hadn’t glanced her way once since we got out of the car. Their chemistry, it was strange. I watched Fig bend over holding the bat out from her body. She was smiling, which was rare. So was the air of lightness around her. I’d never actually watched a baseball game, but I was fairly certain the players didn’t wiggle their asses around like she was doing.
“Oh, ew,” I said under my breath. “What’s even happening right now?” I wasn’t the jealous type. It bugged Darius. Sometimes I thought he wanted me to throw a fit about things. Like he did. Even the score, you know?
“Oh, eeeeew.” Mercy wasn’t looking at me as she scooped sand into the bucket, repeating my words over and over until I laughed. If Darius heard Mercy he wouldn’t let me live it down. If he’d heard, which he hadn’t because he was too busy flirting with a woman he claimed to think was crazy. What was that he said about family day?
And what did it all boil down to really? That Darius loved people who loved him? That he was like a needy puppy most of the time. He didn’t see that as a weakness, but I did. It was pathetic to watch him swoon over attention. People who he’d claim to hate five minutes before became his best friends once they expressed how smart and handsome he was. And his career choice, being the all-wise, all-knowing doctor who could see aptly into your soul. The patients worshipped him, and he sat in the burgundy wingback chair I bought for his office and relished it. Grow a pair, you know? Stick with your gut and don’t be groomed by a little attention.
But, Fig—Fig was the smart one. She seemed to pick up on his need to be favored. She toyed with his loyalty to me by siding with him and painting me as the big, bad wolf. I was starting to wonder who was in control of our lives at this point. It most certainly didn’t feel like us.
Darius caught my eye and waved me over.
“Come play,” he called, making a funnel around his mouth with his hands. I grinned and shook my head, pointing to Mercy. Fig glanced over and I kept the smile on my face. I wouldn’t let her see me react to what she was doing. I wouldn’t show weakness. What the fuck? Family day, my ass. Did he want me to just leave her in the sandbox alone so I could join in for a threesome? I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. You’re overreacting, I told myself. But was I?
“Avery doesn’t do sport,” I heard Fig say. That almost made me get up and march over, but I wasn’t in the business of proving myself to anyone. My heart ached painfully when Darius laughed at what she said. I was the butt of their joke. It made me sick. I was his team. You weren’t supposed to make your team the butt of your jokes.