Home > Meet Cute(10)

Meet Cute(10)
Author: Helena Hunting

“Well, what do you want for dinner?” I ask after she turns her nose up at every single takeout menu spread over the counter.

She crosses her arms, annoyed. “I don’t want takeout.”

I mirror her pose, equally annoyed. Since I have no intention of disrupting Emme’s life more than it already is, I put my condo up for sale this morning. I spent the rest of the day packing all my stuff, separating it into two stacks of boxes: things that will go into storage and things I’ll need. I ended the day by bringing a carload of things home. It’s amazing what one person can accumulate over five years. Tomorrow I need to work on getting rid of some of my parents’ old things to make room for mine.

“I’m bagged, Emme. I can’t do a restaurant tonight.” I also need a serious shower after all that packing.

“I want shepherd’s pie.”

Well, that’s rather specific. “Why don’t we go to the grocery store to pick one up, then?” That seems like something they’d have in the frozen food section.

“I don’t want store-bought shepherd’s pie. I want Mom’s.” Her bottom lip trembles, and I feel like shit for getting snippy with her.

“Why don’t we check the freezer and see what’s in there?”

She chews on her thumbnail, but nods and follows me to the basement. I’m relieved when I find more than one pan of our mom’s homemade shepherd’s pie in the chest freezer, and like the amazingly thoughtful mom she was, there are cooking instructions fixed to the lid. “It’ll be an hour.”

“That’s okay. I can wait.” She takes it from me, hugging the frozen brick to her chest as she heads back upstairs to the kitchen. She turns on the oven, setting it to convection— which apparently takes the cooking time down by about fifteen minutes.

I pop the cap on a bottle of beer while we wait.

“Can I have a sip?” Emme asks as she chops vegetables to make a salad.

I raise a brow. “A sip?”

“Of your beer.” She fidgets with the cuff of her hoodie.

Sometimes at dinner on the weekends my parents would let Emme have a sip out of their wineglass. They’d been the same way with me.

I pass her the bottle and she tips it up. She makes a face and hands it back, wiping her mouth on her sleeve. “That’s gross.”

“It’s an acquired taste.” One I’m happy she hasn’t acquired yet.

She roots around in the fridge and produces a can of Coke, presumably to wash away the unpleasant flavor. “Are you going to move into Mom and Dad’s room?”

“Eventually.” I can’t sleep in the shrine to my teenage stardom years much longer if I want to keep my sanity. “Are you okay with that? Me taking their room?”

She chews on the inside of her lip for a few seconds, mulling it over. “It’s bigger and not filled with all the stuff from ten years ago, so it makes more sense, right?”

I nod, aware this is a conversation we need to have, even if it’s difficult.

She rolls the can of Coke between her hands. “Are you going to give away all their clothes?”

“Are there things you want to keep?” I could store some stuff in the basement until she’s ready to let go.

“Can I help you clean it out, so I can pick the things I want?”

“Of course, Emme.”

When dinner is ready we sit at the island and dig in. The potato topping is a little dark around the edges, but it tastes so much like my childhood. Emme makes it halfway through her meal before she breaks down.

She pushes away from the counter, already out of the room and rushing up the stairs before I can call her name. Her bedroom door slams shut a few seconds later. I stare at my half-eaten meal, no longer hungry. I don’t want to waste any of this, because soon all these tangible pieces of my mother will be gone.

“Help me,” I mutter to the empty room, looking for the advice I so often sought from my dad on family dinner nights. “Someone tell me how to help her.”

No one ever mentions how much harder everything is once the funeral is over, when everyone else goes back to living their lives and we’re stuck here, wading through years of memories and trapped in the relentless grip of grief. At thirteen everything is supposed to be fun and friends and what the hell you’re going to wear to school the next day, not packing up your parents’ things because they’re no longer alive.

The next morning I find my sister already in my parents’ room, sorting through our mother’s clothes. She has two piles, and they’re roughly the same size. I brew a coffee in the Keurig I purchased for them last Christmas. They were a lot better than me, using those recyclable pots that are a huge pain in the ass to clean.

When I return, my sister has moved on to my dad’s closet.

“You okay?” I ask, my voice still gravelly.


“You were pretty upset last night.”

She shrugs. “I had a day.”

It’s hard to argue with that, so I let it go and help her empty out my dad’s closet. Once the space is mostly clear, Emme tackles our mother’s shoe rack. My mom loved her shoes.

“You can’t wear heels until you’re eighteen,” I say when she comes strutting out in one of our mom’s very old sequin dresses and a pair of stilettos.

She props a fist on her hip. Her outfit, combined with her stance, makes her look like a young version of our mother. “That’s ridiculous. There are dances in eighth grade, and semi-formals in high school.”

“Well, you’re sure as hell not wearing those to a school dance, or that dress.”

“Why not?”

Because I will have to walk around with a baseball bat and threaten all the boys with it to keep them away from you. “Because you look like a foal, wobbling around. You want to wear heels, you pick ones you’re not going to topple over in, and only on special occasions. Heels aren’t even comfortable and they ruin your back.”

Emme disappears again inside our mother’s closet. “You sound exactly like Dad.”

I smile at that. I must be doing something right if I’m pissing her off and she’s compared me to our father.

Emme carts boxes of shoes to her room—who knows where in the world she’s planning to store them—while I start going through my mother’s dresser.

I’m halfway through cleaning out the sock drawer when I discover the thing no son ever wants to find. Tucked neatly behind two rows of socks, hidden well enough that they’re not noticeable at first but not so far back to make it difficult to access, are sex toys. Plural.

I search the dresser for something I can prod with, uncertain whether it’s just perverse curiosity ruling me at this point. Holy hell. It appears my parents were kinky motherfuckers based on the non-sock items taking up space in the drawer. There is a seriously vast array of lace and satin, and dear fucking God, there’s leather in here, too.

I find a pen and start poking around, appalled to discover my mother had—has—owned—several vibrators.

“What’s next?” Emme scares the crap out of me when she appears in the doorway.

I slam the drawer shut, smashing my thumb in the process. “Shit!” I shake it out, then put pressure on the nail, hoping it doesn’t go black. It’s hurts like hell, though.

“Are you okay? I didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”

“It’s fine. We’re good.” I inspect my thumb and see ice might be necessary. “I think we can be done for today.”

“Don’t you want to move your bed and stuff in here?”

“There’s no rush. Why don’t we grab some lunch?”

She shrugs. “Sure.”

I push off the dresser, exhaling a relieved breath as I follow my sister down the hall. She’s already talking about what she wants to eat and where she wants to go.

Crisis averted. For now.

There are enough shitty things I’m going to have to discuss with her over the next several years; our mother’s collection of fake and vibrating dicks is not one of them.

Lunch with Emme is actually pleasant. She talks about what color she wants to paint my old bedroom and making it her “friend hangout room.” Mentally I cross all boys off the list of friends allowed up there.

My phone rings in the middle of our meal. I fully intend to ignore the call until the name Spear and Associates flashes across the screen. It’s the firm that Beverly at Whitman and Flood recommended. She mentioned it being a potential conflict of interest for her firm to work on the custody case when they were handling Emme’s trust. Family law seems significantly more complicated than entertainment law. I spoke to a woman named Trish immediately following my meeting with Kailyn over the trust. She already has a copy of my parents’ will, outlining the custody arrangement, and tomorrow morning we’re meeting to review everything.

“Sorry, kiddo, give me a second. I need to get this.” I give Emme an apologetic smile and bring my phone to my ear. “Hello, Daxton here.”

“Daxton, it’s Trish. I’m so sorry to call you on a Sunday, but I have bad news.”

A cold feeling trickles down my spine. “What kind of bad news?”

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