- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
Even though my legs desperately beg to chase after Jax, I listen to my heart and walk away.
Jax haunts my thoughts all through the final exam. I think about him when I’m gathering my stuff and heading off campus. On the bus ride home. By the time I walk into the living room of my apartment, I have a Jax worry-induced headache.
I decide to send him a text to check up on him, hoping it might alleviate some of my anxiety.
Me: U doing okay?
Me: U hit the road yet?
Jax: Heading out of the driveway now. C u in a week :)
I feel even worse and the smiley face at the end of his message makes me feel like a gigantic asshole.
After I put my phone away, I drop my bag onto the sofa. My mother and Nelli are in the kitchen baking brownies. Or Nelli is baking and my mother is licking the batter off the spoon.
“How was your day?” Nelli asks as I trudge into the small, narrow kitchen.
“Fine.” I open the fridge and grab a can of soda.
“Oh no. That doesn’t sound good,” she replies as she butters the pan.
“What do you mean?” I pop the tab on the can. “I said it was fine.”
“In the most depressing tone I’ve ever heard.” She picks up the bowl to dump the batter into the pan.
“What’s wrong?” my mother asks, for a fleeting moment appearing like her old, concerned self. But then she drops the spoon onto the floor and doesn’t bother picking it up as she hoists herself onto the countertop.
“It’s nothing.” When Nelli shoots me a stern look, I sigh. “One of my friends wants me to go on a road trip with him to his hometown in Wyoming so he can check up on his mother. She has a lot of problems with drugs and has gone missing. He wants me to come with him and I feel really bad because I can’t.”
Nelli scrapes the batter from the side of the bowl. “Why can’t you go?”
I give a discreet glance in my mother’s direction. “Because I have other responsibilities.”
Nelli sets the bowl down, picks the baking pan up, and opens the oven. “I can watch her for you, Clara Bear.” She slides the pan into the stove, closes the door, and then sets the timer. “That’s what I’m here for.”
“That’s not your responsibility.”
“It’s as much mine as it is yours.”
“No, it’s not. I’m her daughter.”
She wipes off her hands with a dishtowel. “Honey, why do you think I’m here all the time?”
I shrug. “Because you’re my mom’s sister.”
“That’s true, but that’s not the only reason I come over.” She glances at my mother then leans in and lowers her voice a notch. “Before any of this happened, I made a promise to your parents that, if anything happened to them, I’d take care of you.”
I vaguely recollect reading in the will that Nelli had guardianship if something happened to my parents before my sister and I turned eighteen.
“But I’m not a kid anymore,” I utter quietly. “I don’t need to be taken care of.”
“Yes, you do.” She pinches my cheek like she did when I was a child. “You’re only twenty-one. You’re life’s just getting started.”
“This is my responsibility. I’ve been doing it for three years… Dad asked me to.”
“Honey, we’ve been over this a thousand times. Your father may have asked you to take care of your mom, but it doesn’t mean he wanted you to sacrifice your happiness to do it.”
“No you’re not.”
Deep down, I know she’s right. But it’s difficult to admit aloud.
“I’m not telling you that you have to stop taking care of your mother,” Nelli says. “You can still keep doing it when you get back, but you also need to take a break sometimes. Get out and live a little.” When I remain reluctant, she adds, “Unless that’s not the only reason you don’t want to go.”
“I have work too,” I feed her a lame excuse.
She never buys my bullshit. “I’m sure you have vacation days saved up since you never take time off.”
I have every intention of lying to her. But she gives me a similar look to the one my mother used to give me whenever I was lying, and I end up caving.
“The person who asked me to go on the road trip is a guy I have a very complicated relationship with.”
Her brows elevate as she opens a cupboard to put the sugar away. “How complicated?”
My Aunt Nelli may be cool, but I’m not about to tell her about Jax and me being fuck buddies. “Just normal complicated.”
She acutely eyes me over. “All relationships are. That’s just part of life.”
I restlessly tap my foot against the floor. “I’m not ready to get close to someone. And, even if I wanted to, I don’t have the time. Being in a car with him for that long… something will happen between us. I know it will.”
She sets the spoon and bowl into the sink and then flips the faucet on to rinse them off. “If that’s all it’s going to take for something to happen between the two of you then my guess is that it’ll happen whether you go on the trip or not.”
I frown. She’s saying my worst fears aloud.