Home > Dirt (Evergreen #1)(5)

Dirt (Evergreen #1)(5)
Author: Cassia Leo


I had to put my mother’s house on the market. I couldn’t stand the idea of living in that house, with all those memories. I needed to move on. I had to reboot my life or I would continue to fall into the same routines. The cycle of hurt had to end, and it had to end now.

As I pulled into the gravel driveway of my mother’s two-story house in southeast Portland, my chest muscles tightened. John Miller, the real estate agent I contacted last week, was already there, thumb-typing on his phone as he leaned against his black Mercedes. When he saw me, he quickly finished typing and tucked his phone into the pocket of his gray slacks as he made his way toward the front steps.

“It’s a beautiful day,” John said, tilting his pointy face up at the bright-azure sky, giving me a spectacular view of his impossibly long nostrils. “Summers in Portland are getting pretty nice. I guess we can thank climate change for that.”

“I’m not buying a house, John. Just selling,” I replied, seeing through his attempt to double his commission.

His thin lips curled into a sleazy grin. “Had to try, didn’t I?”

As annoying as I found John, I didn’t have the time or patience to switch agents at this point in the process. The movers would be here later today. The photographer was booked to take pictures of the house tomorrow. I needed to get this over with as quickly as possible.

I stared at the moss-green front door, which was covered in a thick layer of dust. I fought the urge to claw at the aching in my chest, a physical manifestation of the guilt I felt for what I was about to do.

Neither Jack nor I had had the courage to enter my mother’s house since the day of the funeral. Even then, we had spent most of that miserable afternoon in my old bedroom upstairs, wrapped in the comfort of each other’s arms, while family and friends gorged on shitty supermarket hors d’ oeuvres as they reminisced about my mother downstairs.

Unfortunately, Jack Jr. was so young, that not a single one of them had known him long enough to share memories of him. It was almost as if he was a figment of my and Jack’s imaginations.

Occasionally, someone would knock on the bedroom door to check on us. They’d comment on the many photos of Junior my mother had on exhibition. But they wore their compassion and uncertainty like winter coats. Their displays of pity were warm and comforting to no one but themselves. I found it offensive that I was supposed to feel sorry for them because they had not a single clue what to say to us.

I didn’t feel sorry for them, not one bit.

As I showed John around the three-bedroom house, he tried to speak delicately while suggesting I rid the space of all “personal items” that might prevent a potential buyer from picturing themselves in my mother’s home. This was his gentle way of telling me to take down the dozens of framed pictures of Junior that cluttered the walls and the surface of every table and mantle. He assured me he would be back at nine a.m. sharp tomorrow morning with the photographer, once I had “cleaned up.”

After he left, the movers arrived. They helped me box up the photos, my mother’s vast collection of antique teapots, the gardening tools in the garage, and the storage boxes in the attic. When it came time to pack away the stuff inside the kitchen cupboards, I held back one skillet and one place setting and set of silverware.

With houses in this area only staying on the market an average of five days, I could survive the next few weeks without cooking. But with my lack of appetite on the verge of becoming a serious issue, I didn’t want to have to rely on shitty convenience food that would probably make me even sicker.

Everything we boxed up would be going into storage to be dealt with another time. Once the house was sold, I’d use the proceeds to get an apartment, and hopefully figure out my life. As I watched the movers carefully wrap my mom’s teapots and place them in boxes, I clenched my jaw to keep myself from getting emotional.

I managed to not cry all day long. But when it came time to empty out the bedrooms, I was blindsided.

As I opened the closet door, I was overcome by a ripple of air heavy with the scent of gardenia and peach. My mother’s favorite perfume. As I crumbled to my knees, I cried as much for my mother as I did for the fact that my life had become a series of depressing clichés.

The mover muttered something, then he set off down the hallway, leaving me alone with my anguish.

“You’ve been planning this for a while.”

My blood ran cold at the sound of Jack’s voice.

 

 

5

 

 

Jack

 

 

“I told them to leave,” I spit the words out.

Wet wisps of blonde hair stuck to her pale cheeks as she looked up at me with a mixture of fury and confusion in her brown eyes. “W-what? What are you talking about?”

“I paid the movers and told them to leave the boxes in the garage,” I replied.

“Why?” she cried in disbelief. “Why are you even here? You haven’t paid me more than a passing glance for over a year, except when you’re pushing your way inside me. I’m just a hole for you to dump your hostilities.”

“What do you fucking expect? We lost our child!” I roared as she sobbed into her hands. “Did you expect this to be easy? We lost our child and you’re going to give up because I’m not grieving exactly the way you want me to?”

She shook her head as she rose from the floor, then she pointed her finger in my face. “No. You are not going to come here and try to make me feel bad for being the only person willing to do anything — anything at all to fix this marriage! I’m the one who wanted to go to counseling! You’re the one who turned me down, time and again!”

“You think I want to tell some stranger how much I fantasize about murdering another human being? Does that sound like a good fucking idea to you? Because it sounds like something only an idiot would do!”

She threw her hands up. “So now I’m an idiot?”

I stepped forward, my body taking up the entire doorway. “Don’t do that. Don’t twist my words the way you always do.”

“Get out of my way,” she said, trying to squeeze past me, but I remained solidly still. “Get out of my way! I have to tell the movers not to leave.”

I shook my head. “You can’t sell this house without divorcing me or taking me to court.”

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