I smiled as Tommy and I walked into the house after school. It was the first time he’d been inside since our first date, though he’d parked out front to pick me up. It hadn’t been easy to convince him to come inside, either. He seemed to be more than a little freaked by the house.
“How about a tour,” I suggested.
Tommy shifted on his feet. “I guess. I still can’t believe this house, Loralee.”
“It’s not that big.” I took his hand and walked around the stairs, pointing to the bedroom by the living room. “That’s a bedroom.” We went down the hall towards Mama’s office. “Bathroom. Luc’s bedroom. That’s the work-out room.”
“You guys have a home gym?”
“Yeah. It’s got the basics. You can use it if you ever want to.” I grinned over at him. “Not that you need it.” He just shook his head at me. “And this is Mama’s office.”
Tommy looked around the violently purple room. “This…is not what I expected.”
“Mama does love purple. She says it helps her focus when she’s programming, but she really just likes it.”
He snorted softly. “Why the stairs?”
“They go up to her and Mom’s bedroom.” I led him back out of the room to the main stairs. “Mom built her dream house, so I guess she just thought it would be cool to have private stairs.” I showed him the art studio that no one in the house had ever used. Then we went into the music room which had also mostly gone unused except for the keyboard piano when I was younger.
He looked around. “I was definitely expecting one of those grand pianos.”
“It might be nice to have one if anyone really played the piano. I just took some lessons when I was a kid.”
Tommy looked at me with interest. “You play piano?”
I shook my head. “I took lessons as a kid, but I stopped years ago. My cousin is pretty talented with violin, though. Her step-father got her started on it.”
“That’s cool. My mom always wanted me to learn an instrument, but we never could afford lessons.”
“Eh, it’s overrated.” I went back onto the landing and then to the hall where my bedroom was. “There’s my bathroom and that’s a bedroom there. Here’s my room.” I opened the door and led him inside before dropping down onto the sofa.
Tommy sat down beside me. “This place, man. It’s just crazy. What’s upstairs?”
“Bathroom, another bedroom, and some stuff on the landing. There’s a chemistry set that Luc used when he was a kid. Mom’s got some science stuff up there. Nothing exciting.”
He shook his head. “I can’t even imagine growing up like this.”
“Are you freaked?”
“No, no. It’s just so different.”
“Yeah,” I said, looking around my room. “I guess so.” I paused for a minute. “So, I, um, talked to Mama about you.”
He frowned. “Me?”
“Well, I wanted to understand. Where you were coming from about the money issue, I mean. You always talk about it. Mom was really broke when she got here, so I thought I’d get her perspective.”
His face darkened. “And?”
“And she understands where you’re coming from. She told me she had a real obsession with making money. But she also said that she was too focused on it, so she almost messed up her chance for happiness.” I looked at him pleadingly. “I understand how important money is, but, I mean, there’s more to life, too.”
Tommy sighed softly. “It’s easy for both of you to say that now.” He motioned to the room around us. “But you’re right. I guess it can’t be much fun for you to hear me talk about my family’s money problems. It’s not much fun for me talking about them, either, I suppose. I’ll try to be more…I don’t know, positive?”
I smiled and leaned in to kiss him slowly. “Thank you.”
He smiled at me. “How could I ever say no to you?” He kissed me again.
We stayed locked together for a while before I finally came up for air. “Let’s go to Willow Creek. My aunt told me the new Simmie’s opened a couple of days ago.” Simmie’s was a popular coffee house that’d gotten really big in Bridgeport that was a chain now. I was hoping they’d put in one here in Newcrest, but we were a relatively new town, so Willow Creek tended to always get stuff first.
“I don’t know…” Tommy hedged. “That’s an expensive cab ride and I don’t have any…” At my look, he stopped and rolled his eyes. “Right. Okay. Sure, let’s go.”
I beamed at him.
When the cab dropped us off outside of Simmie’s, I paid and then we went inside.
I inhaled deeply. “Man, I love the smell of coffee,” I sighed happily.
“Me too,” Tommy agreed with a smile.
We were on our way to the counter when I saw a man nearby.
“Oh, my Watcher.”
“What?” Tommy looked around, no doubt trying to figure out what I was looking at with such horror.
“My father,” I hissed. “Quick, let’s go.” I did not want to deal with this. I wasn’t ready to wave my family’s dirty laundry in Tommy’s face.
I pasted on a smile as Huy came over. “Hello, Dad. What’s it been? Two years? Two and a half?” I wasn’t bitter. At all.
“Something like that,” he agreed, completely unfazed. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”
I shrugged and sat down with Tommy. “I texted Mama, so she knows where I am.”
Huy looked between me and Tommy. “Who are you?”
“This is my boyfriend, Tommy. Tommy, this is my father, Huy Casillas.” Go away, I willed in Huy’s direction. You don’t care anyway.
“It’s nice to meet you, sir,” Tommy said politely.
Huy grunted in his direction. “How are things? Doing good in school?”
“Yeah, I’m doing well. Doesn’t Anna tell you?”
“Can’t I ask my own kid for myself?”
I sighed. “Sure, Dad. I’m making A’s.”
“That’s good. You get those brains from my side of the family, you know.” He laughed in a loud crack. “Well, I’ve got to get going. Maybe I’ll come out to Newcrest, and we can do something some time.”
“Sure, Dad,” I said hollowly. “That sounds like a plan.” Never. Gonna. Happen.
As soon as he disappeared out of the door, I collapsed against the back of my chair. “Watcher. That was awful.”
“That may be the most awkward thing I’ve ever seen. I’m actually amazed at the level of awkward. I don’t know how this room managed to contain all of it.”
“Ha ha.” I smacked Tommy’s arm. “That was terrible.”
“Man, what is the deal with you and your father?”
I shrugged. “He’s never been around. He and Mama hate each other. His new wife, Anna, is nice enough, but he just cared about their three kids. I really don’t care about him.” And if that wasn’t completely true, well, no one would ever know but me.
“I’m sorry, Loralee.”
I shook my head. “Don’t worry about it. Come on, let’s get our coffee.”