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Like my father.

’’He\d taken off on her again right before she checked into rehab, but six months after she had left rehab and was on the sober wagon, he returned and tempted her back to the drink. She relapsed and instantly knew he was the toxic influence in her life. She filed for divorce and retained a restraining order. He didn\ go down without a fight and had constantly found a way to get to her, but I stopped hearing about him about two summers ago, so I assumed she\d been done with him once and for all.’’

When I didn\ respond to this explanation, the Father continued. ’’She had come so far and was loved by many, but there was one woman who was affected the worst by her passing. Rita Martinez had been the significant change in Joanne\s life. They were very close. Rita did everything for her. Bought her things, furniture and the like, and took care of the funeral costs. She had actually intended to clear out the house, but we knew the responsibility was owed to you. You\ e her daughter after all. Perhaps you should meet with Rita yourself. I can call her and arrange that for you if you like. She can give you much more information than me about your mother and the changes she had made in her life the previous four years.’’

’’Okay,’’ was my one worded reply. Nothing else could be said. This news hadn\ entirely sunk in at all. Actually, it was still on the surface trying to find a way to penetrate into my brain, but it was like digging into an ice block.

’’I hope I\ve been some help. I\ll leave you to it, then. God bless, Sara.’’

I hung up before he did. What.The.F*k.

When I had somehow found the use of my legs, I decided I wasn\ going to stick around this place any longer. I needed time to think, maybe even consider pushing the responsibility onto this Rita who was apparently significant to my mother.

Why wasn\ I significant? What made this woman more special than her own daughter? Ugh, no, I needed not to think about this.

I plugged the name of the motel into the GPS when I got back to the car, and then I took the route down the opposite street to Lucinda\s house. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as I slowed down in front of it. The place looked the same, and the blinds were pulled up, broadcasting to whoever walked by the living room and its occupants.

When I saw a toddler waddling from a coffee table to a couch, my heart leaped out of my chest in shock and confusion. A lightning bolt of thoughts ran through me. Was this Lucinda\s grand child? Oh, God, did he have a child? But then I saw a couple walk into a living room to join the baby and settle on the couch. It then dawned on me that Lucinda no longer lived there.

*****

So much change. Too much change. I just wanted to sleep this whole day off.

I got to the motel without a hitch, and checked myself in. On my way to my room, I passed a bearded man who ogled my chest. Any other day I might have said something bitchy, but not today.

The room was nice and clean, but the quiet wasn\ helping to distract me from what I\d learned. I lay on the twin bed and pulled out my phone and called Daniel. I\d promised I would today out of obligation because he\d asked, but now I just wanted to hear his voice.

’’Sorry, but the booty call business is closed tonight,’’ was the first thing he said when he picked up.

I reluctantly giggled. ’’Have you found someone else already?’’

’’Couldn\ trust someone else. They might get all clingy and feely, and start talking about wanting more. F*k, if that happened, I\d run for the hills, and how bad would that make me look?’’

’’Glad you care about your image rather the feelings of the poor victimized woman who wanted more.’’

’’I\m a lawyer, it\s kind of important to keep up a good reputation. Which is why hooking up with my secretary is fool proof.’’ My next giggle had him chuckling. ’’How are you, Sara? I didn\ really think you\d call.’’

’’I\m fine.’’

’’You\ e such a f*king liar, it\s disgusting. Literally, the lie is making me sick;you\ e that bad at it.’’

I rolled my eyes, unable to suppress my goofy grin. ’’You know me too well, huh?’’

’’I don\ know your personal shit so much, but when it comes to you, as a person, I know you damn well, and you\ e not fine. You wouldn\ have called me otherwise. You\d have texted me some piss poor excuse of why you couldn\ call and then gone to bed. So, tell me what\s up.’’

’’It\s not really something I want to talk about right now.’’

’’Then why\d you call?’’

’’Because I needed to hear your voice.’’ When he was quiet, I sighed. ’’Was that too feely for you?’’

’’No,’’ he responded in the gentlest tone. ’’You know I care about you, Sara. Did you want me to come to you and help you out? I can take a day off and see you.’’

’’No, I\ll be fine. Just... talk. About anything. I need a distraction right now.’’

’’Want me to tell you how shit the replacement secretary is?’’

I laughed. ’’Yes, that\ll do.’’ I slid under the covers, brought them up to my chin, and hugged the pillow to me as I listened to him talk. He relaxed me, made me laugh, and, most importantly, he distracted me from my thoughts.

Twelve

I slept in the next morning. When I eventually managed to get my ass up, I took an abnormally long shower, and then an equally abnormally long time getting ready. I threw on a thin black knit sweater with a v neck, and then a pair of faded jeans. I looked plain with my dark hair thrown down in a wavy mess. I decided I didn\ give a f*k how I looked today. All those days at the office in tight pencil skirts and silk blouses had me longing for the lounge wear I had on now.

When I hopped behind the wheel of Daniel\s se*y ass ride, it was half past one and the last thing I wanted to do was walk through that house again. I found an excuse to deter from that route the second I drove past a second hand furniture shop. I had a light chuckle when I saw that it was parked next to the second hand clothing shop Lucinda used to take me to. It was good to know that business had survived and was actually thriving judging by the crowd of people inside.

Before I entered the shop, I texted Lexi with a: Call me on your next break, bitch.

Unlike me, Lexi accomplished her law degree and was now a law advisor at a large firm in the city. I would be lying if I said I wasn\ jealous, but that part of me was small, quiet and unprovoked. I felt overall happy for her. She was the sister I never had, and the last seven years our inseparability had not lessened at all. It\s pretty impressive when you\ve spent five years living with someone and not felt the desire to choke the life out of them...most of the time.

The owner of the used furniture shop ’’Used but New’’ was a tall, scrawny man in his mid-fifties with the name Frank on a tag clipped to his shirt that bore the emblem of the Black-backed Jackal gang. Great, another f*king bikie owned shop. He had that air of authority and importance about him that would have irritated just about anyone trying to have a word with him. I sort of regretted not wearing my nice clothes because he looked past me as I stood in front of him like I was a peasant unworthy of his attention. The years in tiding my anger into an almost non-existent entity had softened me up and made me into a passive type of person that took the abuse when thrown at me, but with my mother dying and the shocking news of her change - as well as the change in that house - I really wasn\ in the mood to be walked all over today.

’’How much are you asking for?’’ he\d eventually asked when I\d told him about the house.

’’I don\ want any money. I just want the furniture gone. I need the place cleared out,’’ I explained, feeling more annoyed that he was barely looking me in the eyes.

’’I\m not some dump truck that\ll just take anyone\s furniture. I have a certain taste. Look around my store and see for yourself. I don\ sell anything of subpar standards.’’

’’If you\ e trying to tell me I\m trash, then you\ e a really shit businessman,’’ I snapped. ’’The furniture at my mother\s house is barely a year old. Most definitely not subpar standards, and you could have had it all for free, but your shit attitude\s ruined that. I\m going to go and find a better businessman, thank you very much.’’

I stormed out of there before he could say another word. Really, the audacity! I looked down at my clothes once more. Certainly not trash worthy at all! Maybe the asshole had something against young women. Or maybe he was just a douchebag to everyone. If there was one thing I learned in the last few years it was that some people were just mean. There didn\ have to be a reason for it.

’’Miss?’’ I heard just as I made it to my car. I turned around and saw the man walking toward me with a notepad and pen in his hand. His face didn\ look as stern as before, but there was still that air of intimidation as he approached. ’’I meant no offense,’’ he said. ’’I\d be happy to take a look at the furniture. If you could give me your number, I can contact you with the time I can come around.’’

I took the pen and notepad from his hand and jotted down my name and number. ’’What day do you think you can swing by? I\m only fifteen minutes away.’’

’’I might be able to on Friday.’’

’’Friday?’’ I looked up at him with disapproving eyes. ’’That\s three days away.’’

He shrugged. ’’I have a large warehouse full of furniture, and my guys spend their days doing deliveries and pick-ups. I don\ have a lot of time on my hands.’’

Maybe I could get the landlord to be there on Friday because I sure as hell didn\ want to stick around another three days. ’’Alright,’’ I begrudgingly said.

When I handed him the paper, he looked down at my name and his eyebrows lifted. ’’Miss Nolan? You\ e Joanne\s daughter, aren\ you?’’

Jesus, how many people knew my mother? ’’Yes.’’

’’Terribly sorry for your loss, Miss Nolan. Your mother... was a good woman.’’ His lips pursed as he looked down, mumbling, ’’Have a good day.’’ He turned around and hurriedly made his way to the shop. All intimidating grace had evaporated into an awkwardness that left me confused. What the hell was that all about?

I took a seat in the car and listened to my stomach grumble. I hadn\ eaten a thing all day. I was craving something fatty and, being a close distance to a major shopping centre, I was again filled with the nostalgia of a certain food and knew what I wanted.

On my way into the shopping centre, Lexi called, asking me delicate questions about how I was feeling. No doubt Daniel had let something slip to her.

’’Do you need me to come and see you? I can take a couple days off,’’ she offered for the fourth time.

’’No, no, I\ll be fine,’’ I told her as I stepped into the food court. I couldn\ get my head wrapped around the amount of people. It was Tuesday afternoon and swarming with mummies and their kids, and lots of fathers. These must have been the mining workers on their swings off spending time with their families. You could tell from the tan that a lot of the men sported from being outdoors in the sun while working long hours.

’’How long do you think you\ll take?’’

’’Dunno. I\d like to be gone the next day or so, but I\ve got her furniture I need to get rid of, and then I need to sort through all sorts of boxes.’’

’’Have you even started on them?’’

’’Not yet.’’

Lexi sighed. ’’Why not?’’

’’Because,’’ I shrugged, stepping into a long line in front of a Chinese buffet.

’’Have you visited her?’’

Now it was my turn to sigh. ’’No, I didn\ visit my mother\s gravesite. Any other delicate questions you want to get out of the way?’’ I ignored the turn of heads in my direction.

’’Don\ be a bitch. I\m just asking. Remember that\s what Dr Shipton advised you to do a long time ago. He said to see her, have a talk and learn to put what she did to you behind you.’’

’’You know, I really wish I never told you my conversations with my therapist. I should have known they\d come back to bite me in the ass.’’

She laughed. ’’I never forget a thing. I need to get back to work. Love you, dimwit.’’

’’Yeah, yeah, ditto.’’

I ordered my giant plate, filled it up with hot and spicy pork, vegetable fried rice, and Chicken Lo Mein. Then I made my way to an empty table and ate my guts out, knocking back a cold can of Coke. This was absolute carbocide, and with my lack of exercising as of late due to the chilly weather deterring my outdoor runs, I knew my jeans were going to be feeling tighter within the hour. I made a mental note to join the damn gym the second I returned to Winthrop.

It was nearing three in the afternoon when I finally got up and hobbled to the toilets. I pulled out a toothbrush in my purse and some travel size toothpaste and brushed my teeth, taking my time as I stared at myself in the mirror. My pale complexion haunted me. Just what did Daniel find so attractive about me? I looked like the saddest person in the world, but it wasn\ like I was depressed or anything. I was just... content with life. Not particularly happy or jumping in joy or anything, but I had nothing to complain about. I wasn\ tied down to anything, had no debts, was happy with my job and co-workers, had a damn good friend at home, and a love life that was....

Hmm, how would I describe that? I obviously cared about Daniel despite our little arrangement. He put that extra smile on my face, and when we slept together he wasn\ selfish about it. There was a lustful passion between us. We clicked well, even outside of the bed we got along like a house on fire.

Maybe that\s why I felt so out of it. I hadn\ had my needs met last night. Was I growing clingy to him? I had the urge to call him up and ask him how he was doing, maybe even take him up on that offer to come down. He would be the best company right about now. Only I couldn\ bring myself to do it. We\d been playing this song and dance for two years, and he hadn\ once brought up wanting anything more. Why would I think that would suddenly change? Then again, I told myself, I\d never brought it up either.


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