Page 4 of Corrupt Kingdom

After I finish pulling the weeds, I stand from where I’m kneeling, grab the garbage bag, and then turn toward the back door to the house. Through the large bay window, I can see my mother standing there. She’s in the kitchen, and even from where I am outside, I can see the blank look in her eyes.

She’s vacant. Hollow.

Some days are worse than others.

From what I can gather, today will be one of those days.

My father never came home last night.

It’s not unusual for him, nor is it unusual for my mother to be more despondent the day after.

He’s probably having an affair. Whenever I ask him where he’s been, he says he had to work late. I know better and, unfortunately, so does she.

“Hi, Mom.” I walk up beside her and place a kiss on the top of her cheek. She inhales me, probably smelling the fresh air that clings to my skin, and then she looks up as if it invigorates her.

“Where is your father?”

From where I’m standing, I can see straight into her eyes. They used to be a vibrant blue, much like my own. I’ve always been told I look like her. Sandy blond hair that falls in loose waves down my back and large blue eyes. Now, we no longer look alike. Her blond hair has gone gray, and her eyes have lost their sparkle.

But at least they’re no longer blank. Staring at her, looking into her eyes, I can see recognition. I give her a tight smile, taking a step closer to her, and reach for her hand.

“I don’t know, Mom,” I answer, my voice low with uncertainty.

She pulls her hand from mine, lifting and running it through her disheveled hair. She pushes the strands around as if trying to tidy up and look presentable for him. If my father wasn’t such a prick, I would think it was cute. But unfortunately, he is, and she deserves better.

She deserves to be someone’s everything.

“I saw him before. He was here . . . angry.” Her voice dips on the last word.

My eyebrow lifts. I didn’t see him, but he probably was here. I don’t doubt it.

It would make sense; he comes and goes as he pleases without a care in the world. He gives no shits of the havoc he causes Mom. Especially when he is angry. And he has been furious recently.

On edge.

Another reason I stay here. Her being alone here is not an option.

Just in case.

I don’t trust my father. It’s not that I think he’d hurt her, but something is off with him. I’ve often wondered if Trent realizes something is up. I’d ask him, but he’s too busy running around the city, and we don’t catch up that often.

No two siblings could be further apart or more different.

I’m a homebody. I like the simple things in life. I live at home and tend my garden and work part-time as a florist.

He’s all about the money and prestige. The nightlife. Living fast and hard. He’s so cliché.

The paps love him.

He’s their favorite “billionaire trust fund boy.” Although by the looks of the house I live in, I’m not sure the title fits anymore.

Listen, I don’t judge him. If he wants to party and play the field, that’s fine for him. I want none of that, but that doesn’t make me miss him less.

“Are the flowers blooming?” My mother’s voice pulls me out of my faraway thoughts. It’s nice to hear. It sounds so crisp, reminding me of good times. When Dad was here, and the madness hadn’t taken root in her mind yet. It reminds me of when the backyard is speckled pink and lush and vibrant.

There is hope in her voice. Reaching my hand out once again, I take her frail one in mine. “Not yet, Mom. But soon.”

She nods her head, and then like a channel changing on a TV, she’s no longer here with me. She’s gone somewhere else. Somewhere far in her mind. A heavy sadness weighs down on me, filling my veins slowly. The sound of her footsteps leaving the room makes me take action, and before I know what I’m doing, I’m back outside.

The first flowers won’t bloom in our garden for another few months. But I still welcome the balmy winter day. Because days like today bring her back, even if only for a short time.

With my knees back on the hard, weathered grass, I pull again, lifting the earth with my hands. Loose soil sifts through my fingers like grains of sand passing the time.

A noise coming from in front of where I am, has me looking up to see who’s there. “Trent?” I say, lifting my hand up to cover the sunlight. My older brother steps out from the shadows. “What are you doing here?”

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