Home > Secrets (Secrets #1)(15)

Secrets (Secrets #1)(15)
Author: H.M. Ward

The bike slows to a crawl and I stop a few houses down from my parents. Cole’s grip on my waist loosens. Lifting my visor, I speak to Cole over my shoulder, “My parent’s house is right here.” He looks surprised, so I explain, “A guy and girl on a bike with a pink splotch is kind of easy to pick out. If that guy at the diner called the cops—”

He cut me off, “I know. I’m out on bail, even though I didn’t punch the cop earlier.”

I nod. “I know and it looks like you’re punching your way to the Jersey shore.” My lips pull into a smile. Cole’s grimace doesn’t crack. I get serious, “Hey, stay here for the night. It’ll give you a few hours until your lawyer is back, and then you won’t have to worry about being thrown in jail. From what I’ve heard, if you get tossed in after six, you stay there for the night.” I cringe, and look at my parent’s house muttering, “Although I’m not really sure if this’ll be much better.”

Cool blue eyes examine my face. They move from my left eye to my right, then down. It is such a sweet expression. I can tell that he doesn’t understand why I’m being so nice to him. Looking at his hands, he asks, “Why are you helping me? I mean, I know you’re altruistic, but I kind of deserve whatever I get after today.”

Glancing at the side of his face I notice a dusting of stubble lining his jaw, and the tension lines between his eyes. “Yeah, well…” I debate telling him how much he’s grown on me, how much I like him. “Let’s just say that I wanted to punch the girl in the face, but I didn’t have the guts to do it. We’re a little more alike than I would have thought.”

“Well spoken,” the corner of his lips twitches like he wants to smile.

I grin, “Well, one of us has to be. We can’t all turn into thugs and just smash people.”

“Assholes,” he corrects. His hands rest on my thighs just below my hips. The weight of his palm feels good. The crinkles at the corners of his eyes make me smile.

I laugh, “Fine, a**holes. But I gotta tell you, my dad will probably mess with you, call you a girl, tell you that your way too old to be his daughter’s boyfriend—and if you punch him—he will shoot you in the face. He’s crazy like that.”

I pull my visor down and drive down the street with Cole sputtering, “Boyfriend?”


We’re standing on the front porch. I’ve rung the bell and we’re waiting. I can hear my Mom upstairs in the kitchen. They live in a spilt-ranch, so the house is broken up into several levels. The clatter of kitchen noises carries out onto the porch. The screen door is open to cool the house. The sun has set and the street lights just came on.

It’s a balmy night. I pull my hair into a ponytail to keep it from frizzing, while we wait.

Cole follows me and stands there watching me before saying, “Boyfriend?”

I nod with a plastic smile on my face, my eyes looking straight ahead, knowing exactly what we are in for. “Yup. Wait and see. It doesn’t matter what you say. I could tell them that you’re a gynecologist making house calls and they’ll still say that’s nice.” I glance over at him, “They’re insane.”

An older woman emerges on the landing. We can see her through the door. She’s wearing a swimsuit cover-up. Her dark hair is frizzed at the temples. When she looks up, she walks toward the door with her arms extended, like she’s planning on hugging me through the screen, “Anna, honey!” She’s beaming, all five feet of her. Turning, she calls up the stairs, “Anna’s here! Set another plate!”

I pull open the screen, and say, “Hey Ma,” when she leans into hug me, her eyes shift to Cole who is standing behind me in the shadows. She stops, mid-hug.

“And who’s this? You seeing someone without telling us?”

I shake my head. I don’t know why I bother to talk, “No, Ma. This is Cole. We aren’t dating.” I give her a hug and step inside. Cole follows behind me, his expression a little concerned.

Ma steps toward Cole. He extends his hand, buy she swats it. I hear the slap. His eyes grow wider when she takes him in her arms for a hug, “Pish! You’re practically family!” She’s laughing and calls up the stairs, “Better make that two plates! Anna brought her boyfriend!”

Suddenly my dad is standing on the landing. He’s a stout guy with a beer belly and orange shorts that are a size too small. The neon color doesn’t do anything for him either. There’s a sausage impaled on his fork, “Anna’s boyfriend? How’d you know she had a boyfriend?” Dad looks at me, shaking his head, smiling, “You never tell me nothing. Anna, why you holding things back from your old man?”

He waves his hands as he’s speaking, shaking the fork. The impaled meat bobs on his utensil until the sausage flies off, and slaps me in the face. It stings before it falls. Cole reaches out and catches the meat before it hits the floor.

Cole leans in close to my ear so they can’t hear, obviously terrified, “Oh my God—”

I don’t bother muffling my voice, “Yeah, this is nothing. Wait for dinner.”

I wipe the grease stain off my cheek, and follow my dad into the kitchen. Cole trails behind me trying to tell my mom the truth—that he’s my boss—but she won’t hear it. My dad just smiles and nods like a deranged hood ornament. It’s like they hit fifty years old, and their brains entered I-need-a-grand-baby-now mode. It never turns off. Needless to say, they are perfect for scaring the crap out of guys I want to ditch. Since I was hoping things would have worked out with Edward, I didn’t mention him, yet. As for Cole, it was the perfect alibi, assuming he didn’t run from the house screaming after dinner.


Ma hands Cole a plate and dumps a mound of anti-pasta on it. Tonight must be meat night. Dad stabs another sausage and puts it on his plate before over-loading mine. He pinches my cheek and says, “You’re too skinny,” while I stare directly at Cole, who’s sitting across from me. He’s trying hard not to laugh.

Cole lifts his glass to take a sip when my mom says, “It’s not good for a pregnant woman to be so skinny. You remember that Cole. Fatten her up before you knock her up.” She raises her glass to my dad and they clink them together, laughing. They think they’re hysterical.

Cole chokes on his drink. Before he can recover, they’ve started talking about conception superstitions. I’m staring straight ahead with a blank look on my face, counting. If I leave the table before seventeen minutes, they’ll pester us for the rest of the night. But I don’t know if we can do it. About ten minutes have passed, and Cole looks like he’s going to die. I lean back in my chair, and shove another piece of pork in my mouth.

Ma’s saying, “It’s a spoon under the bed, not a shoe!” She’s yelling at my father who smiles sheepishly.

“A shoe seemed right,” Dad mutters.

Cole’s eyes meet mine. I can’t tell if he’s trying not to laugh or cry. The fact that my mom was a debutant makes this even more amusing, but he doesn’t know that.

Two minutes left. Just two. We can do this. I count backwards from 120. My counting increases in speed as the conversation enters ground zero.

My mom ignores Dad, saying, “If you put a spoon under the bed while you have sex, you’ll make a boy.” She’s pointing her fork at Cole while talking. She stops for a second and taps the empty utensil to her upper lip, “What’s it for a girl? Frankie, do you remember?”

Dad grins, “A red ribbon. That’s what your mother put under her mattress when we made you.”

Ma slaps her hands together and points at Dad, “That’s right!” They share a look that makes me sick. Then she gazes at me, saying, “And it worked, Anna!” She turns to Cole, and is talking to him like he’s across the room. She’s so loud, “We wanted a baby girl, and see—the red ribbon brought Anna.”

She’s still talking, saying things that make me cringe. I pick at dinner and notice that Cole hardly eats. I make a mental note to sneak into the kitchen after they’ve gone to bed. I also note to never wear a red ribbon ever again.

I tune back in when my mom is starting to talk positions, “Missionary is God’s preference for boys, but girls, Cole you have to—”

Three. Two. One. I jump up. Cole mirrors me and finds his feet. I say, “Thanks for dinner. Since we’re living in sin and trying to fornicate a set of twin grandbabies for you, do you mind if we share the den tonight?”

Ma and Dad are speechless. They say nothing as I take Cole’s hand and pull him out the backdoor. We sit in the yard talking until my parents go up to bed. They watch us out the window like we’re celebrities while they do the dishes. Periodically they wave through the window.

My parents are a little crazy, and I understand why. I just can’t tell anyone about it. They’re alone. I’m their only child. It was hard when my mom was disowned. Every single relative cut her off, and all because her evil mother didn’t like my dad. Frankie the Dock Dude wasn’t classy enough for her daughter. Grandmother forbade the relationship. My mother responded by eloping. Grandmother disowned them, and threw her daughter out like she was trash. They’ve never spoken again.

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