“Are you sure you have everything, Stacey?” Mom asks as she closes the door to my beat-up Toyota.
This truck has been in our family since I was born, and I’m proud to say it’s still purring like a kitten—if said kitten made loud noises and had a dent on the side.
“I have blankets, clothes, toiletries … and that college survival kit full of Lysol, tissues, Band-Aids, and mace. Don’t think I didn’t notice the sneaky way you placed that bag in the trunk.”
She clutches her waist and lets out a sigh. “Did you remember your inhaler? You know how your asthma gets when your allergies kick in.”
“I’m twenty-one years old. I can handle my own medication.”
“You might be an adult, but I’m still your mother, and I can worry about you for as long as I’m alive.” She leans inside the front seat to check my gauge. “Do you have enough gas? I don’t want you stopping until you get there.”
“This beauty is a ’96 4Runner, not your Subaru Outback that gets amazing miles to the gallon. I promise you, I’ll have to stop for gas. Don’t worry though; I’m not going to get kidnapped on the road to UC Berkeley.”
“There are men who will want to take advantage of a beautiful young girl. You remember that when you’re living on your own.”
I place my hands on her arms, leveling my eyes with hers. “Stop worrying. I’m living with Chad. You know he’ll be worse than you and Dad combined when it comes to me actually having a life.”
She tilts her head as she plays with her bracelet. It’s a butterfly with amethyst wings. It matches the one on my wrist. “It does make me feel better that you’re staying with him.”
“It’s a small price to pay, not having a hefty price tag for my future,” I respond.
Perfect for the pocketbook? Yes. Perfect for my social life? No way. Just what every young woman dreams about … living with her brother.
While Chad got scholarships in both academics and baseball to UC Berkeley, I stayed home and went to the community college to get my associate’s degree. It paid off, and I earned the grades and the admission to the same elite university as him to finish my junior and senior years. And since he has an available room in the apartment my parents are already paying rent for, it’s a win-win as far as my finances are concerned.
She pats me on the cheek. “You’ve always been my thrifty girl. Now, remember what I told you. Don’t take drinks from strangers; if you have to take an Uber, always ride with a friend; and make sure Chad knows where you are. He and Wes will take care of you.”
I try to hide my frustration at the mention of my brother’s roommate and childhood best friend, Wesley Knight.
He was the smart-ass, quick-talking kid who chased me around the house with rubber snakes just because he thought my scream was funny. He liked to push my buttons because he didn’t have a sister of his own. In the eighth grade, he told Jimmy Foti not to go to the spring dance with me because my dad was part of the Hollywood mob and was going to bury him on Sunset Boulevard if he found out.
FYI, there is no Hollywood mob, and my dad is the last person who would chase away a kid for asking his daughter on a date.
That was Chad’s and Wes’s job.
Wes isn’t my brother, but he’s always treated me like the annoying little sister.
Well, except that one time when we—
“Well, kiddo”—my father walks to the curb and places an arm around my shoulders—“you call us as soon as you get there.”
“You know it.” I wrap my arms around him and kiss his cheek. I might have just told my mom I’m an adult, but there’s something about a father’s embrace that makes a woman feel like a little girl. Then, I hug my mom.
They kiss me good-bye before I climb into the truck. I close the creaking door behind me and reach for my seat belt.
Dad places his hand on the window. “I checked the oil, so you should be good to go. Make sure to stop before the Grapevine to check it again, so she doesn’t overheat.”
“Will do, Captain!” I give a salute with a laugh.
“You don’t have to salute me.”
“Dad, you’re currently playing Captain Lieutenant Commonwealth on Navy Captain, which happens to be the hottest show on TV right now. If I want to salute my dad, it’s only because I’m damn crazy proud of him.”
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