“Sure,” he said, as he reached for his phone and then gave it to me. “It gets the best signal in the main room, but it works great from my desk too. Do you want me to leave to give you some privacy?”

“Oh, no,” I said, jolting toward the door. “I’ll go in the main room. Thank you.” The thank you was also for him not judging me. I never once felt like he did or even questioned me as to why I didn’t have a cell phone like every other person in the world seemed to have.

I dialed the phone as soon as I left his office, not sure if I was making the right decision, and also not sure if I even had the right number.

“Hello,” came the familiar voice on the other end.

“Mom, it’s me.”

“Tessa. Wow, long time no call. Your mother could have been dead, you know.” Her words were slurred, and it didn’t take me more than a second to know she was shit-faced drunk.

Rolling my eyes and trying to ignore the guilt trip, I continued on. “I’ve been busy. I have a really good job as an assistant to a famous author. It pays really good, and I am on location in the Sierra Mountains as he writes his next book.”

“Well, look at you all hot shot. So now are you too good for your mother?”

Again, I tried to ignore the poke. She wanted to fight. She always wanted to fight when she was drunk. I should know better and know what happens whenever she drinks. I could feel it, and she was doing her best at pushing my buttons to trigger my temper. “Well, I just thought I would let you know where I was and what I was doing.” I took a deep breath. “How are you?”

“Poor, sick, and alone. My only daughter doesn’t even care.”


“Don’t worry about me. You just live your fancy life and ignore where you came from.”

“I didn’t call to fight,” I began.

“Then what? To rub it in that you’re living life with the famous author. Was that supposed to make me feel good?”

“I was hoping you would be proud of me,” I snapped. “Maybe be a fucking mother for once and praise me for landing a really good gig. Instead, you are—never mind. Seriously. I don’t know why I bothered.”

“I don’t know why you bothered either,” was her reply. “But since you’re on the phone, why don’t you send me some of that money and help your mother out.”

“I’m not going to give you money, Mom. You’ll just drink it away anyway.” I was surprised at my own strength. Normally, her guilt trips and sour attitude would have crumbled my walls and I would have given my last cent to her. But this time was different. I don’t know why it was, but it was.

“Well, then fuck you then!” she shouted, barely getting the words out through her stupor. “I don’t need you anyway. Go live your life and don’t call me again.”

“Mom,” I started, trying to stop the fight. Maybe I should just give her the money.

“You can’t be who you aren’t, little girl. You might think I’m white trash and you’re too good for me. But my poor blood runs through your veins. You are trash too. Just remember that. Always will be.”

I hung up the phone, vowing to never go down this road again.

Fuck. She was a cruel bitch. But still… fuck.

Going outside, I settled in a big Adirondack chair on the front porch and wiped away my tears. The heated conversation with my mother had left me feeling alone, vulnerable, and just plain exhausted. I shouldn’t have called. I knew better, and I knew she would ask for money the minute she found out where I was and what I was doing. But for some crazy reason, I had felt the need to at least let her know where I was. Love had made me soft and forgiving, I suppose. But when would I ever learn?

Behind me, I heard the screen on the front door open.

“How did the phone call go? Did you get clear enough service?” Price came out onto the porch, a bottle of wine in one hand and two glasses in the other. “It’s time you and I—” He paused when he saw my tears. “What’s wrong?”

I opened my mouth to speak and could only cry more.

“Tessa?” He set down everything he’d been carrying and came closer.

“I’m fine. Just moody is all.” I quickly stood up and walked toward the door. “Just give me a second to push family drama out of my mind so we can enjoy the evening.” I tried my best to give a weak smile.

Emerging from the bathroom after drying my tears and calming my nerves, I found Price standing by the living room window, lost in his own thoughts. I knew he would be concerned about me crying, but hoped I could divert him with a long, seductive kiss.

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