The Fable of Us(8)

By: Nicole Williams

“If you wanted to avoid your family, why the hell did you fly down here for the wedding?”

I went back to rubbing at my temples. I couldn’t put this off for much longer. Rip off the bandage and suck it up. It was only a week. Seven days. I’d endured eighteen years; what was one week?

“What do you know about any of it?” I said when my phone almost vibrated off the edge of the counter, forcing me to grab it before it careened to the floor . . . also made of particle board.

“I know more about you and your family than any of you care to acknowledge, that’s what I ‘know about it,’” he replied, his voice calm and even. He’d always been better about controlling his emotions . . . or masking them.

I hadn’t meant to look at my phone, but after catching it screen-side-up, I’d already read a few texts before I realized I’d done it.

Avalee just told me she told you! Isn’t it fabulous? Mom’s first message read.

Followed by Charlotte’s, Can’t wait to meet your Plus One. Where are you two? It’s late.

Followed by another from Avalee. You’re next. I know it.

Followed by three more from my mom. Who is this mystery man you’re bringing with you? Do we know him?

Followed by, Is it serious? As in your father and I should keep the caterer on retainer serious?

Followed by, Everyone’s waiting for you and your date. Please don’t keep us waiting much longer.

Followed by another half dozen messages I refused to continue scanning.

I powered off my phone, slid it into my back pocket, and let my head fall into my hands. What a fucking mess. I hadn’t even shown my face at home yet and everything was in crisis mode. I knew better than to expect anything to get better once I did see my family. I knew better than to hope they’d be understanding and keep their comments and opinions about my lack of a plus one to themselves. I knew better than to expect the best when the opposite had been the theme of my formative years.

My head was swimming both from the alcohol and my family pressing down on me like a hot iron, and that might have been what was responsible for the plan formulating in my head being verbalized.

“Boone?” I said, twisting my neck to look at him. He hadn’t stopped looking at me. “What are you doing this week?”

He reached for his replenished drink and lifted it in my direction. “A whole lot of this.”

I swallowed when he did, but I was fighting the voice in my head that warned me this was a bad idea—quite possibly my worst idea to date. “How would you feel about earning some extra money?”

Boone settled his glass on the counter, keeping it clutched in his hands. “Who says I haven’t already earned so much of it I couldn’t possibly be interested in earning any more?”

Now it was my turn to lift an eyebrow in his direction. While the Abbotts were known for the wealth spilling from their ears, the Cavanaughs had been known for the past few generations for the opposite.

From his worn brown boots that probably should have been tossed out last summer, to the plaid button-down shirt I had a distant memory of him wearing back in high school, I had my answer. Plus, there was the whole issue of . . . “That last five dollars in your wallet that is now in Tom’s pocket might say something about you not having so many more of those you wouldn’t be interested in making more of them.”

Finally his face gave way to emotion. Just a flash and only for a moment, but his eyes narrowed at the same time his forehead creased, like he was almost insulted. “You Abbotts think you can buy the world and anyone in it. I’ve known that about your family for years, Clara, but I guess I didn’t realize that gene had been passed down to you.”

I refused to back down, not after bringing it up. Besides, Boone’s impressions of me couldn’t get much lower.

“Ten thousand dollars,” I said and shut up after that.

Boone was clearly as shocked by the number as I’d guessed he’d be. Ten grand was a lot of money to anyone anywhere. Especially to earn in one week. Down here though, working the kinds of jobs Boone had worked back in high school and probably still did, that was a third of a year’s salary.

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