Into The Fire(6)

By: E. L. Todd



“And doing a job I hate will be?” I asked incredulously. “Don’t you want me to do what I love?” I never understood them.

“Of course we do,” Dad said. “But we don’t think this is the best way to go about it.”

My anger was starting to bubble and I was struggling to keep it back. I gripped the table because I wanted to flip it over. “It’s not my problem you don’t agree with my life choices. This is who I am and I’m never going to change.”

Silence fell in the room. Mom eyed Dad, and he eyed her back.

“We’re tired of having to explain your behavior to other people,” Mom said.

“Then don’t,” I said. “Who cares what they think?”

“It hurts our image,” Dad said. “It would be much easier for us if you—”

“Easier for you?” I asked. “It would be much easier for me if I didn’t have to deal with this bullshit all the time. Just pay back the loan I gave you and we can stop having this conversation.”

Mom pushed her tea away like she might throw it at me. “We’re still taking the heat from when you went to jail.”

I rolled my eyes. Not this again. “Look, I got a little out of control and—”

“You had sex with some woman in an alleyway,” Dad snapped. “People still bring it up.”

“I didn’t know that cop was there, okay?” I said. “I didn’t want to go to jail or get a public indecency misdemeanor.”

“This is what we’re talking about,” Mom said. “You make bad decisions and don’t think about anyone but yourself.”

“You should try it,” I said coldly. “You’d be a lot happier that way.”

Mom threw her arms down. “Ash, we aren’t giving you that money until you clean up your act.”

Shit just got real. “You’re joking, right? I gave you that money so you wouldn’t lose your house. I didn’t have to help you but I did because you’re my parents. And now you aren’t going to give it back to me until you can control me like a damn puppet?”

“Don’t cuss,” Mom ordered.

“This is fucking unbelievable. How do you sleep at night?”

“We will give you back the money,” Dad said. “We just want you to clean up a little bit.”

“Clean up how?” I demanded. “I’m not on drugs.”

“You’re almost thirty years old and you’ve never brought a girl around,” Mom said. “Why don’t you focus on settling down and finding a family?”

“Maybe because I don’t want to.” I wasn’t boyfriend material and knew I never would be. “My personal life is totally irrelevant to this conversation. Just give me back the money I loaned you. If I could get a loan, I wouldn’t bother with you. But I don’t have a choice.”

“Exactly,” Mom said. “This is a blessing. Now you can finally get your act together.”

I wanted to scream. “I served three tours in Afghanistan. If that doesn’t make you proud, I don’t know what will.”

They both had guilty looks on their faces.

“You only did that to spite us,” Mom said.

“And you think I won’t do it again?” I challenged.

“That’s not funny,” Dad said.

“I wasn’t trying to be.”

Mom changed the subject. “This is how it’s going to be. Make a few changes and we’ll pay back the loan.”

I couldn’t believe I was at their mercy like this. I felt emasculated and weak. I never put up with someone’s bullshit but I didn’t have any other option. As soon as I got my money, I wouldn’t have to deal with their shit anymore. And I would never help them again, even if they asked. “Like what?” I ground my teeth together as I spoke.

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