Until It Fades(3)

By: K.A. Tucker



“He’s not preying on anyone.”

“Please. It’s you today, and it’ll be some innocent fifteen-year-old tomorrow.”

I hear what she doesn’t say—that I’m not all that innocent.

I huff out a sigh. “It was just the once.”

She shakes her head angrily. “Has this been going on since you broke up with that boy?”

I avert my gaze.

“Why couldn’t you have just stayed with him?”

What? “You hated Ethan!” I’ve never seen Mom as happy as she was the day I told her that I’d dumped my cigarette-smoking, Mohawk-­sporting boyfriend of three months, by far my longest relationship before Scott. She didn’t even ask why, or if I was okay. She didn’t care.

“I’d welcome him back with open arms at this point,” she mutters.

“I don’t want Ethan.” I haven’t given him a moment’s thought since the day I ended things. In hindsight, I don’t know what I ever saw in him. He’s failing half his classes and will likely still be playing video games and bagging groceries at Weiss in ten years’ time.

I don’t want him, or any of the other boyfriends I’ve been with either. That’s what they all are. Boys.

Scott is a man, and he makes me feel smart and beautiful and talented. He treats me like we’re equals. We talk about everything from art to music to places around the world that he wants me to see with him. He makes me think about my future.

Our future.

“We’re moving to Philadelphia after I graduate next year. Scott will get a teaching job there, and I’m going to go to college for art. He’s been helping me with my portfolio. Mom, you should see it, it’s kick-ass.” This is the right angle. College is all she talks about at home.

Cath, where are you applying?

Cath, you won’t get in anywhere decent with these grades.

Cath, you can’t make it without a college education.

She sighs, drops her gaze to her lap.

“I told you, we’re in love.” I hold my breath. Maybe this is all just a scare tactic. Maybe she’ll sigh again and then tell me to put my seat belt back on and—

“Get out of the car. They’re expecting us.”

Hot tears stream down my cheeks. “What’s Dad going to do when he finds out that you brought me here?” I’m grasping at straws now, and we both know it. Mom and Dad were fighting about me behind closed doors last night, so she must have told him her plan. He may have disagreed with her, but even he knew that she’d do what she wanted to anyway. That’s just how she is.

That he wasn’t at home this morning is telling. Not that he’s around much to begin with.

She collects her purse and keys and steps out of the car without a word.

I consider holding the door locks down and taking a stance, but I know that it’s futile. One way or another, Hildy Wright always gets her way.

So I wipe the tears with the back of my hand and throw open the car door. “I hate you!” I scream, using all my strength and anger to slam the door shut.

Maybe I can still run.

Can they actually make me talk?

Do I need a lawyer?

Heavy footfalls crunch in the snow behind me and my back tenses. “Everything all right here?” Sheriff Kerby asks in his smooth, authoritative voice.

“Yes, Marvin. We’re just here for Catherine to give her statement.” Mom and the sheriff have been in the same bowling league for twenty years. Of course she’d go directly to him.

I take a deep breath and turn to face the older man, his cheeks rosy from the blistering-cold winter wind. He has a kind smile, but I don’t let it fool me. He’s about to help my mother ruin my entire life.

But the Philipses do have a lot of sway around here, I remind myself. And people love Scott. They loved him back when he was taking the Balsam High baseball team to the state championship, and they love him more now that he gave up a teaching job in Philly to move back home and teach here. Maybe that will be enough to get whatever bullshit charges are coming dropped. Scott said it’s technically just a misdemeanor and those get tossed all the time, so maybe nothing big will come of it. Then, we’ll have the last laugh. And when I move to Philly with him?

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