“I’ll pass on both,” I tell her.
“Duke, why are you so against this? Your brothers are happy for me.”
“You know why.”
She hesitates a moment before saying, “You know that was a long time ago. Are we ever going to be able to move on?”
“I don’t know,” I answer honestly. “But I have to get back to work.”
I hang up before she has a chance to say anything else. I turn around and am startled to see Avery standing there.
“Everything okay?” She asks.
Walking further into the kitchen, she says, “You don’t seem fine.”
When I don’t say anything, she asks, “Was that your mom?”
Getting annoyed with my silence, she says, “Okay, Duke, you’re going to have to give me more here.”
“She’s getting married.”
Avery gives a huge smile. “That’s great.” But when she sees the look on my face, she changes her tune. “It’s not great?”
“She wants me to go meet the guy.”
“What’s wrong with that? He will be your stepfather, right?”
Just the mention of that word gives me a sick feeling in my gut. “I’m not going.”
“Do you want me to go with you?”
“While I appreciate the offer, Avery, I’m not bringing you anywhere near my mother.”
The look she gives me shows I’ve offended her, so I add, “Look, my mother tends to ruin everything she gets her hooks into. I don’t intend to let that happen with you.”
“Duke, I’m a big girl. I don’t think you should avoid her because of me.”
“It’s not because of you,” I tell her.
She leans on the counter, and I try not to get distracted by how great her tits look. “Do you want to talk about it?”
I consider it for the briefest of moments, but it all comes back to not wanting her to find out about my past and think less of me. I can’t risk that.
Sternly, I respond, “No.”
“Duke,” Avery begins.
But I cut her off before she can get any further. “This conversation is over.”
She stands up straight, her entire demeanor shifting. “I don’t know why you’re being so weird. I’m just trying to help.”
“Avery, I’m so fucked up that there are some things you just can’t help with. Maybe it’s best you don’t even ask about them.”
She walks over to me until we’re standing toe-to-toe. I look down into her eyes. There’s a fire burning behind them, telling me she’s ready to batten down the hatches and go to war. But instead, she just turns and walks away.