The Death of Lila Jane(2)

By: Teresa Mummert

“I got some beer in the icebox to cool ya’ down. Sa fais chaude[6].” He pulled open the fridge and reached inside, pulling back two brown long necks that clanked together in his one-handed grasp. “Laissez les bons temps rouler[7],” He muttered with a dialect only someone from this part of the country could mimic without being accused of having a few too many.

“Yeah,” my voice wavered and I cleared my throat, struggling to sound like him offering me alcohol wasn’t shocking. The smirk on his face let me know he was well aware of the situation I’d come from but it soon fell and I knew my mother spared no details.

“I’m not going to pretend you came here as some misunderstood youth and you won’t insult my intelligence by pretending that’s what you are. Just ‘cause I speak a little slower doesn’t mean I’m stupid, ya’.” He cocked his eyebrow, holding out the bottle as a peace offering. Running my hand roughly through my hair, I closed the distance between us, Taking the beverage and nodding once before tilting it to my lips. The cold liquid felt like Heaven as it slid down my throat offering a slight reprieve from the muggy weather.

“So, you talked to Karen.” It wasn’t a question.

“You call ya momma Karen? Seriously?” He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth as his head shook in disapproval.

“What should I call her?” I snapped, but guilt tightened in my chest as I immediately regretted my words.

Sitting his bottle down on the beige speckled faux granite counter, he spun it between his fingers as a sigh escaped him. “I’m not saying she always made the right decisions, Kaden, but she tried.”

“Yeah, well, not hard enough.” I took another long pull from my drink wishing it was something stronger.

“Maybe not. But none of us are perfect.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” My gaze drifted over him as my body grew rigid, thinking of all the times I wanted someone, anyone from my family to come get me. I hadn’t seen my uncle since I was a little boy. At one point, I began to think I’d imagined him and that my mother was the only family I’d had left in the world. I couldn’t blame him, though. My father was a frightening man and when we finally escaped him, my mother kept us far from anyone we knew. She’d taken us from victims to survivors. We became brand new but that didn’t heal my old wounds, only masked them.

“We tried, Kaden.” His palm, dampened by the condensation on his bottle, swiped across his forehead, smoothing out the wrinkles that formed there.

“Not hard enough.” I finished off my beer before sitting the bottle down carefully on the counter and returning to the front door to pick up my bag. I was seconds from disappearing back out into the heat and driving off until my tank sputtered lifeless somewhere along the highway. Anything was better than this half-assed family reunion  . I didn’t need a destination, I just needed to escape.

“Rooms down the hall to the left. The second door past the batt’room,” Daven called out behind me, his thick accent garbling his words, but there was no hint of anger or frustration in his tone. I adjusted my grip on the bag, teeth biting into the inside of my cheek as I weighed my options. I had none.

“I don’t want to talk about her,” I called out, my jaw clenched hard causing the muscles to jump under the taut skin.

“Which one? Your mom… or the gaienne?”

Turning around to face him, I let my frustration dissipate, replaced by exhaustion. “Neither of them.”

“Understood.” He raised his hands, palms out, in mock surrender. “You’re a man of mystery,” he quipped.

I shook my head and disappeared back the hallway, passing by the first open door on the left, the bathroom, before slipping into my new room and flicking on the light.

The walls were a nauseating robin’s egg blue with a single size bed pushed against the far wall and an old four drawer walnut dresser on the opposite wall. Beside it, the remnants of a baby crib were stacked, propped up on the mattress. I dropped my bag on the bed and unzipped it, riffing through my clothes to see if I’d had the foresight to pack any shorts. A knock on the door startled me and I spun around to see Daven shoving his hands down into his jeans pockets.

Also By Teresa Mummert

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