After grabbing a snack from the kitchen, I screw around on the internet, effectively wasting at least forty-five minutes, and then try her again. Voicemail number two – click. I answer an email from George and check out my fan page, where John appears to be correct about the amount of girls who’d chop off a limb to go out with me even once. But none of them know me. I’m just a pretty face, a hot body, a fantasy stand-in, and though I appreciate their support, such as it is, I couldn’t care less about the shallow praise.
Listening to Dori’s cheerful, musical voice telling me to leave a message for the third time, I hang my head and wait for the beep, one hand gripping the phone and the other gripping the back of my neck as if I could shake some sense into myself.
‘Dori, I’m sorry. I told you we’d go at your pace, and I broke that promise. Just … I trust you more than I’ve ever trusted anyone. Maybe that’s not saying much – or enough – but I do.’
My jaw clenches. What I mean by trust and what she means by it are two different things. We’re quite a pair, trying to find the middle ground between our temperaments, our beliefs, our lives. While she tries to repair her broken faith in everything, I’m stumbling over learning to trust at all.
‘Don’t give up on me.’ I press end and lie back in the middle of my bed, wishing I could just learn to shut the f**k up when I’m that pissed off.
Barely resisting the urge to pitch the phone across the room, I focus and count silently. My therapist (another novelty) is adamant about using the focus-and-count thing to uncoil my temper instead of acting on impulse. He insists it’s a habit that requires persistence. It works sporadically, at best – especially when I forget to use it. Like when Dori was lying next to me minutes ago. Dammit.
When the phone rings, relief floods through me. ‘Hey.’
‘I have some news. Are you alone?’
It takes me a second to catch up. Familiar voice, not Dori. ‘Brooke?’
She sighs heavily. ‘Don’t you ever look to see who’s calling before answering? Are you alone or not?’
I close my eyes and restart the mute therapeutic counting. So not working.
‘I’m alone.’ Teeth clamped, I wait for her to say whatever she’s going to say. I’m not in the mood for Brooke Cameron. A reserve of composure is essential to my ability to tolerate her, and at the moment I’m all tapped out.
‘My PI found him.’
Oh, shit. The kid.
‘That was fast.’
‘Yeah. We need to talk. Can you come over?’
Brooke has always put the high in high maintenance. I swallow a retort – my theory on the real reason phones were invented – namely, the avoidance of in-person meetings with people we don’t want to see. Ten to one Alexander Graham Bell had a problematic ex or an overbearing mother-in-law.
I glance at my watch. ‘Brooke, I’m tired.’ More importantly, I’m hoping Dori will call me back any minute. ‘Can’t you just tell me whatever it is over the phone?’ I’m not used to us speaking amicably – or as amicably as Brooke and I are capable of. That’s bizarre in itself.
‘Well, shit, Reid. Never mind, then.’ I hear the drawl creeping into her words and know that despite efforts to avoid setting her off, I have anyway.
‘Don’t be that way.’
‘What the hell does that mean?’ She huffs out a breath. ‘This is important and you’re blowing me off. I should have expected as much. Are you really alone or just saying you are?’
I shove a hand through my hair and close my eyes. There’s not enough focus-and-count in the world to deal with Brooke Cameron. ‘Why would I lie about that?’
‘Why won’t you answer the question?’
‘Because I already did answer it, goddammit.’
When she doesn’t snap back right away, I get my first clue that something has her pretty freaked out.
‘Fine. Here it is.’ Her voice sounds off – now that she’s speaking more quietly, and I realize she’s been crying. What the hell? Is there something in the air today? ‘He’s in foster care.’
‘What?’ I sit up, the gears in my brain catching and stalling.
‘Apparently, the people I chose to give him to transformed into shit-for-brains tweaker meth-addict losers and CPS removed him.’
‘Quit saying that! Don’t you have anything else to say?’
‘Well no, actually. Give me a minute, Jesus, I mean – CPS? As in child whatever – the people who take kids away from parents when they’re being abused?’
I imagine the exaggerated eye-roll I thankfully can’t see.
‘Yes, Reid. That’s what I mean.’
My life flashes before my eyes – what’s left of it. Because it hits me right then that I’ve not told Dori about this yet. Not any of it. There hasn’t been an appropriate time in the past week to bring up the fact that Brooke and I had a son four and a half years ago. A son I’d denied was mine to Brooke’s face and in my own head until a few weeks ago. A son she gave up for adoption right after she had him.
With what happened to Dori in high school, this wasn’t a piece of my past I could disclose offhandedly, and I’ve never been the king of insightful situation management. Not to mention the fact that I’ve never told a living soul about this. Not John, not my parents, no one.