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The Best Goodbye(Rosemary Beach #13)(18) by Abbi Glines

My dad never came home for dinner. He hadn’t in more than four years, ever since he started sleeping with his secretary. Even now that he had a child with this other woman and spent most of his nights with his other family, my mother still pretended that wasn’t the case.

I spotted the empty bottle of tequila on the coffee table and looked at Addy, who was staring at it, too. This was definitely another bad sign. My mother acting crazy was one thing. My mother crazy drunk was another.

“Go to your room, and lock the door,” I whispered to her.

She looked up at me with those big eyes of hers. There was fear there, but there was also determination. She shook her head. “I won’t leave you alone with her. If I lock myself in, you know she’ll come after me, and you’ll fight her, and she’ll hit you.”

I was taller than my mother now and stronger. Her hitting me didn’t hurt. But her hitting Addy could break her. I wasn’t letting that happen ever again. When I had made the mistake of staying after school to try out for the basketball team, Addy had come home to my drunk mother and ended up with a broken wrist. I still hadn’t forgiven myself.

“It doesn’t hurt me when she hits me. But I won’t let her hurt you,” I said quietly. I didn’t want her to hear us. I wanted Addy safely locked in first.

She finally sighed in defeat and nodded. “OK. But if she starts to attack you, I’m coming out.”

“No, Addy. Please. For me, stay in there. I’ll hurt her if I have to.” I didn’t want to hurt my mother. I hated her for how she treated Addy. I hated her because she couldn’t be normal and be a mother. But I didn’t want to physically hurt her. I just wanted to get us the hell away from her. I also knew that if I hurt her, she’d make me pay by sending Addy away. Without me, Addy had no one to protect her the next time. I had to keep her safe.

“I love you,” she whispered to me, her eyes full of unshed tears.

We had been saying that for a while now, although I thought it meant something different to her. I was in love with Addy, but she didn’t look at me the same way. She never flirted or tried to get my attention the way other girls did. I couldn’t help it, though. Somewhere along the way, she went from my best friend to the person I wanted to be with forever. We were young, but the shit I’d dealt with had made me grow up fast. It had done that for both of us. I knew what I felt. Addy owned me. She just didn’t realize it.

“Love you, too,” I replied, then nodded my head toward the steps leading up to our rooms. “Now, go. I’ll handle her. You stay locked in there.”

Addy gave me one last pleading look, but I pointed to the stairs, firm in my decision. Finally, she turned and quietly made her way to the bedroom that had once been a small office for my father. We had another guest bedroom that Addy could have been given, but my mother had moved her into the smallest room in the house. I often wondered if it was because it was the farthest room from mine.

With her door closed and locked behind her, I made my way to the kitchen to face my drunk and insane mother.

My mother’s hair was washed and freshly rolled. She was wearing a sundress and a pair of heels while she stirred something on the stove. There was another bottle of tequila sitting on the bar to her left, and a wineglass beside it full of the liquor. She was singing some old song she called her and Dad’s song. I knew tonight was going to be a bad one.

“What are you cooking?” I asked, hoping that distracting her from Addy’s absence would work. Announcing that I was home would only remind her of Addy, and lately, she hated Addy more and more.

She spun around. The black mascara running down her very made-up face wasn’t surprising. When she drank tequila, she usually cried. A lot. “Chicken and dumplings. The baby loves chicken and dumplings,” she said, smiling.

Shit. She was back on the baby thing again. Ever since Dad had a baby with the secretary, Mom would sometimes pretend that she and Dad had a baby, too. It was so fucking wacked. I’d told Dad and asked him to get Addy and me out of the house and get Mom some help, but he always blew me off. He didn’t believe it was this bad. Yet he never came home to see just how crazy his wife had become. All Dad did was pay the bills and keep money in Mom’s account.

“I’ve got homework. I’ll leave you to it. You and the baby enjoy the chicken and dumplings,” I said. If I played along, she usually stayed calm. It was when I tried to snap her out of it that she lost her shit.

“We will. You’ll come have some with us when Dad gets home,” she called out behind me.

“Yeah, sure will.”

Then the sobbing began, and I froze. Shit. This never ended well.

Rose

I wasn’t a quitter, but I’d thrown down the gauntlet last night in my moment of anger, and now I had to stick with it. Then I had to find another job. Pulling up to the restaurant, I turned and looked at Franny. I had to take her to her dentist appointment today. “You stay here. Lock the doors. I’ll be right back,” I told her, before getting out.

“I wish I could come inside and see it,” she said, studying the outside of the place. It really was a nice building. Arthur Stout hadn’t cut any corners, that was for sure.

“I know, and I’m sorry. But it’s not a good time,” I explained. I didn’t want to tell her I was quitting. Not yet. I needed to find another job first. My little girl could be a worrier.

I closed the door and waited until she locked it, then headed for the entrance. I needed to drop off my letter of resignation. I figured I wouldn’t get a good reference from him anyway, but I still wanted to do this properly.