Bitter Kisses (It's Just High School #3) by Thandiwe Mpofu




Prologue





Mia





Two Weeks ago.



“Hello Amy.”

Chaos and confusion rock into me as those two words echo in my head like a bad rendition of some sinister horror movie.

I can feel my hair blowing with the chilly breeze that has picked up from seemingly out of nowhere as I stand frozen in the doorway of my old home, staring wide-eyed at the Wicked Witch of the West herself, Courtney Fitzgerald and painfully aware of the man standing a few feet behind her, watching me with a hard look in his dark, fathomless, dead eyes, my father.

A shiver races down my spine.

This is a nightmare.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost, dear, are you all right?” Courtney mocks, with a haughty smirk on her beautiful stone-like face.

What is Nathan doing here, with her?

“No, this can’t be,” I croak, shaking my head in denial. It’s like my brain is misfiring with all sorts of vile scenarios, my chest pounding hard with disbelief. In a daze, I start stepping back, away from the open door to hell. “Why is he… he can’t be here with… why is he here?” I stutter. Courtney laughs.

“Oh, sorry! I forgot to tell you. Your father is here as well,” Courtney whispers with a small smirk on her face, like we’re trading secrets. “Bet you didn’t see this one coming, huh?”

Mutely, or maybe frozen, I look past Courtney’s shoulder to my father. “You…” I croak, but he just shrugs and then has the audacity to smile at me.

“Amy, my princess,” my father says silently, his hands tucked behind his back, unmoving and seemingly immovable… and I’m all but a shivering mess, feeling like I’m about to pass out. “It’s good to see you.”

“What… what is he doing here?” I whisper, looking at Courtney. “Why is he here with you, Courtney?”

Why does she look cozy with the man who’s trying to destroy her son’s life?

“Oh, come now, princess, you can’t be surprised to see me here,” Nathan says with a smirk. “Surely you must’ve realized something like this was going to happen, right?”

Not this. God, I wasn’t expecting this.

I came here to ask for Courtney’s help in fighting my father but instead… I find them together.

What the fuckery is this?

“Are you coming in? Or is this too much of a surprise for you?” Courtney asks, obviously enjoying every bit of my pain.

No, surprises make people feel warm inside. This is not that. My insides are knotting together, my blood freezing in my veins as I stare like a dead fish at the two people in front of me.

“You two… you’re working together?” I whisper brokenly. “You’re working with him?”

“We’ve been waiting for you, Mia,” Courtney says with a perfect smile. “I like your tan, dear. Europe must’ve been so good to you, you know, what with grieving the loss of a fake mother after the real one lied to you.”

“You’re working with him,” I repeat looking from one conniving, manipulative ‘parent’ to the other.

“She keeps repeating the obvious like a parrot.” I hear Courtney say, amusement coloring her voice. “Is your daughter in shock?”

“Hmm, give her a moment, Courtney. Treachery is one hell of a thing. Especially coming from a mother whose son might rot in hell if I so decide.”

“It’s not if you ‘so decide’. We had a deal, Nathan, don’t forget it.”

“Of course, how could I forget? Seeing as the next part of our plan and our mutual success rests entirely on my daughter’s shoulders?

They talk as if I’m not even there. Like I’m persona non grata to them.

I can hear the alarms blaring at the back of my head, my palms are clammy with sweat and I know I’m going to get sick.

“Hello, earth to Mia.” Courtney waves her manicured hand in front of my face.

“Don’t patronize me,” I mutter.

“There she is! Your daughter isn’t such a basket case after all!” She claps her hands gleefully and I all but die inside. How could she? How could she do this? “I knew she’d get the message.”

Get the message?

“Like I told you she would.”

“Oh Mia, I have to tell you, it’s such a shame you had to come back down to your basic, shitty life and face your unavoidable reality under these… senseless circumstances,” Courtney says.