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I hang up, feeling more unsettled and frustrated than I did last night. I drag my fingers down my face. “Fuck. What am I going to do?”
Even though I don’t want to, I call my Aunt Julie, my mother’s older sister and the one relative I have contact information for. She won’t be thrilled to hear from me—she never is.
When she doesn’t answer, I leave an awkward message, telling her who I am and asking her to call me back. Then I leave my room to get some breakfast and wake up Avery so I can explain what’s going on.
Usually, Avery and Mason sleep in late on Saturday mornings, so I’m surprised when I enter the kitchen and find her in front of the stove, cooking breakfast. Pans are sizzling on the burners, and the counters are covered with eggshells, sticky yolk, and melted butter. My jaw drops at the sight because the air isn’t smoky, the fire alarms aren’t going off, and all hell isn’t breaking lose.
“Good morning,” she says without looking at me.
“Wow, that actually smells good.” I breathe in the scent of bacon and eggs. “It’s a miracle.”
At the sound of my sullen voice, she whips around and almost drops the fork in her hand. “What’s wrong?”
“Who says anything’s wrong?” I feign ignorance.
“Don’t play dumb with me.” She aims the fork at me, a glob of grease dripping off it and onto the floor. “You’re using your depressed voice.”
“Yeah, I know.” I take a seat on a stool and decide to just rip off the band-aid. “It’s Mom.”
Avery grinds her teeth, “What’d she do now?”
Not knowing any better way to explain it, I turn on the speakerphone and play the voicemail message.
“I called the police to go check on her,” I explain after the message ends. “They said the door was busted in, but other than that, there’s no sign of foul play. They said we could file a missing person’s report in twenty-four hours, but I can tell they’re not going to do anything.”
“Do you really blame them? She’s brought this on herself.” She fumbles to turn off the burners, so flustered she practically rips off the nobs, and I start to regret telling her. “Who’s Marcus?”
I shrug. “Your guess is as good as mine.”
“Probably her pimp,” Avery mutters. “Or her drug dealer.”
“I called Aunt Julie.” I get up and start cleaning the counters with a dishrag to distract myself.
“Really?” Avery raises her brows. “Why? She hates Mom. And she’s never really been a fan of us since we’re our mother’s offspring and share the same DNA.”
I lift my shoulder and give a half shrug. “It’s the only thing I could think of to do.”
“What’d she say?” She removes a pan from the burner and the grease stops sizzling.
I grab the trash bin from under the sink and wipe the eggshells into it. “She didn’t answer, so I left a voice message.”
Avery opens her mouth to say something, but seals her lips shut when my phone rings.
Grabbing it off the counter, I check the screen. “It’s Aunt Julie,” I say then press talk. “Hello.”
“Hey, Jax. You called?” Julie asks, sounding about as annoyed as Avery did when I told her the news of our mother.
There’s an uncomfortable pause as I rack my brain for what to say to her.
“You don’t have to explain,” my Aunt Julie says before I can speak. “I already know about your mother.”
“Because she called me a couple of mornings ago and told me she was going to call you after I refused to help her get out of the mess she’s in.”
My head slumps forward. “Who is it this time?”
“I’m not sure… She didn’t say.” She blows out a loud breath. “But Jax, I’m not going to lie to you. It sounded bad.”
I pinch the bridge of my nose. “How bad exactly?”
“Bad enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if her body turned up in a ditch somewhere,” she says bluntly.
That’s the one thing I remember about my aunt. Back when I was younger, and she still tolerated my mother’s lifestyle enough to visit us, she would always say things how they were. “Your house looks like shit. You look strung out. You need to take care of your kids better.”
“Maybe I should come home…” I trail off as Avery shoots me a dirty look. “Just for a week to see if I can figure out what’s going on.” I hope by saying this, she’ll offer to do it herself.
“Well, I wouldn’t if I were you. I’m sure as hell not going to waste my time looking for her,” she replies bitterly. “She’s not worth the hassle.”
“Yeah, I guess not.” I frown. Guess I’m back to square one.
The rest of the conversation centers on lighter subjects—how I’m doing, how Avery and Mason are doing. She ends the phone call quickly, telling me to stay in touch, but I can tell she doesn’t really mean it.