Oh no. I picked up my glass. “Yes, I remember.”
Thomas brought a vat of spaghetti sauce over while Mom eyed me like a shrew. “Do you also remember how I showed her some of your work?”
“How could I forget?” I glanced at my tea, wishing it had liquor in it. Maybe even some meth at this point. Wait. Could meth be liquid? I’d have to ask Reece. But not right now, because he was eyeballing me as Dad plopped a huge pile of noodles on his plate.
Everyone sat, but Mom was like a pit bull. “She is still very interested.”
“Oh,” I murmured, scooping out the biggest meatball I could find. “You make the best meatballs,” I told Gordon. “Have I ever told you that before?”
“Interested in what?” Reece asked.
“Nothing,” was my immediate response.
Mom shot me a chiding look. “I showed Miss Sponsito several of Roxy’s paintings a couple of months back. She’s interested in commissioning pieces. You know,” she said, looking at me. “You’d get paid doing something you love. Fancy idea. But Roxy hasn’t taken them up on it yet.”
I made a face as I twirled my spaghetti and then almost shrieked as a hand landed on my thigh. Looking at Reece, I raised my brows. He narrowed his eyes. “Why haven’t you done that?”
Good question. No easy answer. I shrugged. “I haven’t had time. I feel like . . . I need to give her something new, something great.”
“That’s why you should drop those damn classes,” Dad said, stabbing at his noodles.
“Dad, I’m trying to get an education. Isn’t that something every parent wants their kid to get?” I asked.
“Every parent wants their kid to be happy,” he corrected. “And you’re not going to be happy with some graphic design degree.”
I drew in a deep breath. “I am happy.”
No one looked like they believed me, and boy, was that kind of hard to swallow. I wanted to shout that I was happy . . . as much as I could be right now. I mean, hello, I had some dude taking pictures of me while I slept, and Henry was out, running around, a total free man, and Charlie . . .
Charlie wasn’t eating again.
I was no longer hungry.
Reece watched me closely, way too intently. “Everything I’ve seen of yours is great.”
“It’s true.” Megan smiled. “You did that painting for the baby’s room. The one with the teddy bear? Every time I go into the room, I’m blown away by how real it looks.”
“Thanks,” I murmured, uncomfortable. When I glanced at Reece, I could see the wheels churning in his head. I’d rather be talking about the stalker and my undies in the dishwasher.
But then, because it was my family, the convo turned even more awkward as dinner wrapped up.
“How’s your father doing?” my dad asked Reece.
I stiffened as I eyeballed him. My dad was oblivious.
“He’s doing okay. On Divorce Number Five Hundred,” he said nonchalantly, but I knew his father’s inability to be faithful and not lie was a huge issue for him. Not a hang-up, though. If it was, he wouldn’t have gotten over the fact I had lied. But still bothered him nonetheless. “Same old same old stuff, basically.”
Dad cleared his throat. “Well, one of these days, I hope your father finds happiness. Everyone deserves that.”
Did they? I wasn’t so sure about that, but my parents were seconds away from finding a tree and hugging it. It was when I was helping Mom clean up the table and Reece had disappeared into the den with Dad, my brother, and Megan, that I was completely cornered by her and the expansion of her grandmamma dreams.
“Are you two stopping by and seeing his mother before you head back?” she asked as she loaded up the dishwasher.
Wait. Were we? I hadn’t even thought about that. I wasn’t sure I could do Round Two. “I don’t know.”
She took the plates I handed her after rinsing them off. A moment passed. “What is going on between you two? And don’t tell me you don’t know. Last time we were chatting about your relationship status, he wasn’t in the picture, and now he is.”
I opened my mouth.
Mom went on. “And I know your brother was giving you a hard time.” She twisted at the waist, looking me straight in the eye. “But, honey, everyone knows you’ve been in lov—”
“We’re dating,” I cut her off before she could finish. “Okay? I guess that’s what we’re doing. It’s nothing serious. Okay? I’m not fifteen anymore.”
She arched a brow.
And I wasn’t drawing sketches of him on my wall. I was painting his face now. Ugh. Walking away from Mom, I snatched up the rest of the silverware and separated the pieces into their cubbies.
“Honey.” Mom touched my arm. “I’m worried about you.”
Straightening, I leaned against the sink and kept my voice low. “Because of Reece?”
She smiled, but it was a pang to the chest, because it was so sad. “Yes. Because I know you’ve cared strongly for him for years, and he’s here, with you. That boy is here, and you’re acting like it’s nothing?”
A hand came up, silencing me. “And you still won’t try this museum thing? Now, on top of it, there’s some man breaking into your apartment? That has nothing to do with the first two things and it has nothing to do with what I’m about to say to you now. It’s time to have a come-to-Jesus conversation.”