Gene thought about hiding so Mrs. H. wouldn’t catch him watching, but then his jaw got tight and his back bunched up. He told himself he wasn’t mad, but he didn’t hide at all. So right after kissing that guy, that lawyer guy, she turned around and there he was, standing in the window with his arms crossed, looking right at her.
“Gene.” Mrs. H. sounded kind of like she was walking into a kennel full of mean dogs as she came in from the porch. She came into the dinning room with her forehead all wrinkled with worry.
“So… you like that guy?”
“Jeff? Yes. But…”
“So, if you adopt me, and marry him, does that mean I have to let him be my dad?” Gene wasn’t mad, really, but his teeth clinched.
“Um… that won’t happen.”
“Why not? That’s the way the law works, right? If you marry someone, that automatically means I get stuck with the guy as a dad. Right?”
“Why are you so angry?”
“Calm down.” Mrs. H. put her hand on his shoulder. Gene shrugged it off.
“I’m not mad.” He huffed a breath so he wouldn’t do anything stupid. “I’m… I’m fine.”
“I’m never going to marry Jeff. I like him, but only as a friend.”
“Yeah, right.” Gene let a years worth of sarcasm out in those two words. How long had it been now since he’d felt like this? Since running away from home? No, even longer. Since he started crashing with Ben to get away from his punch-happy dad.
Ask him a couple years ago, before he’d even met Ben, and he’d never have guessed he’d be standing in the middle a room like this with it’s fancy drapes and huge mahogany table, let alone living here. No piles of beer cans, no trash everywhere, and good food around all the time. This life was too good for him, and he knew it all along.
So this adoption business was a joke. Sure, she’d do the legal thing. Then she’d marry some jerk who wanted to tell him what to do, and he’d be out on the street again.
“That, just now,” Mrs. H. looked all uncomfortable. It made Gene feel bad.
“What? The kiss?”
“Yeah. That was an accident. I only meant to kiss him on the cheek. It won’t happen again.”
“You saying you aren’t ever going to marry anyone?”
“Yeah. Probably not.” Mrs. H. looked like she might cry.
“But, what about Drew? What if he comes back like Vin said.”
“Him I would marry in a heartbeat.” She smiled half-heartedly. “But I’ll believe that when I see it. Besides, would you really mind, if it was Drew?”
“I… guess not.”
Drew. Gene didn’t know him all that well, but he seemed to be a good guy, and like maybe the ideal father. Everything Gene’s real dad was, Drew wasn’t. It made him a little uncomfortable, just like this house that always seemed too good to be real. Except it wasn’t too good and he was living here, and Mrs. H. even wanted to adopt him.
So really, what was he so mad about?
Mrs. H. gave his hand a squeeze, then headed for the dining room table, probably to clear the dishes.
Right behind her in the front hall, there was Ben, standing there with a notebook and a pencil.
“You better not be writing about this,” Gene growled.
“About what?” Ben glanced around. He took a deep breath. “Fragrant. That’s the word.” Ben nodded like he’d said something important.
“Mrs. Audrey says I need to learn more words. Vocabulary. She says my vocabulary is too small for what I’m trying to do.”
“What are you trying to do?”
“Write something that means something. You know. Write something worth writing.”
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