Until You

By: Penelope Douglas

And I hung up and looked at the wide-eyed expression on his face. “They’re going to be here in about eight minutes,” I told him. “Go wake up my mom. You can do that for me.”

Someone, probably a legal guardian, was going to have to bail me out.

Walking down the path leading to the tan and red brick split-level house, I could hear the T.V. going from inside. I paused before the steps, aggravated that I hadn’t heard Madoc drive off yet but also puzzled as to why my heart was still beating so slowly.

Why wasn’t I nervous? Or excited?

I may as well have been about to go into a restaurant and order a milkshake.

With Tate, I thrived on that little thrill of anticipating her. It was enough to satisfy me day in and day out. I hated to admit it, but she was always on my mind. I lived for that first glimpse of her in the morning and any interaction with her during the day.

I squinted at the vibrant light from the television screen coming from inside the house and took a deep breath.

The son of a bitch was still awake.


On the rare occasion Vince Donovan and I interacted, it was with mutual intolerance. He spoke to me like I was a punk, and he treated my brother the same.

As I climbed the porch steps, I heard Madoc drive off behind me. I stepped through the front door and walked into the living room, filling the doorway as I hovered there.

Vince didn’t even bat eyelash as he barked, “What the hell are you doing here?”

Grabbing the long, wooden stem of the lamp next to me, I yanked the cord out of the wall.

“You hurt my brother,” I spoke calmly. “I’m here to settle up.”

“You didn’t have to bail me out.” I ran my tongue over the sweet sting of the cut at the corner of my mouth.

“I didn’t,” James, Tate’s dad, answered. “Your mother did.”

He steered the car through the quiet twists and turns leading into our neighborhood. The sun peeked through the trees, making the red-gold leaves glow like fire.

My mother? She was there?

Madoc and James had been at the police station all night, waiting for me to be released. I’d been arrested, booked, and ended up sleeping in a cell.

Word to the wise about waiting to be bailed out: Nothing happens until morning.

But if my mother had bailed me out, then where was she?

“Is she at home?” I asked.

“No, she’s not.” He turned a corner, downshifting the Bronco. “She’s not in any shape to help you, Jared. I think you know that. Your mother and I talked last night at the station, and she decided it was time to go to the Haywood Center for a while.”

James’s blue eyes were concentrated out the window, an ocean of things he would never say boiling underneath.

In that respect, he and Tate were one and the same. If James yelled, then you knew it was time to shut up and pay attention. He rarely said anything that wasn’t important, and he hated unnecessary chatter.

It was very clear when James and Tate reached the end of their rope.

“Rehab?” I questioned him.

“It’s about time, don’t you think?” he shot back.

I laid my head back on the headrest and looked out the window. Yeah, I guess it was time.

But apprehension crawled its way into my head anyway.

I was used to how my mother lived. How I lived. James could judge us. Others may feel sorry for me. But it was our normal.

I was never one to feel too sorry for poor kids or people in rough situations. If that was all they’d ever known, then it wasn’t suffering the way someone else would look at it. It was their life. It was hell for them, of course, but it was also familiar.

“For how long?” I was still a minor. I wasn’t sure how this worked with her gone.

“At least a month.” He turned the car into his driveway, and the morning light made the tree between Tate’s and my windows glimmer like the sun on a lake.

“So where does that leave me?” I asked.

“One thing at a time,” he sighed as we got out of the car. “Today, you’re with me. You’ll shower, eat, and go get a few hours’ sleep. I’ll wake you for lunch, and then we’ll talk.”

He handed me a bag from the backseat before we walked up the front steps.

“Your mom packed you a change of clothes. Go to Tate’s room, shower up, and I’ll get you something to eat.”

I halted. Tate’s room? Absolutely not!

“I’m not sleeping in her room.” I scowled, my heart beating so hard and fast that I couldn’t catch my breath. “I’ll crash on the couch or something.”

He paused before unlocking the front door and twisted his head around to fix me with an extreme don’t-fuck-with-me expression.

“We have three bedrooms, Jared. Mine, Tate’s, and the other one is an office. The only available bed is Tate’s.” He bared his teeth with every syllable like he was speaking to a child. “That’s where you sleep. It’s not difficult. Now, go shower.”

I stared for a few seconds, lips pursed and not blinking. Too busy trying to think of a comeback.

But I was at a loss.

Finally, I just blew out a huge-ass sigh, because that’s all I could do. He’d hung out at the police station all night, and he was trying to help my mother.

I was going to step foot in Tate’s room for the first time in over two years. So what? I could handle it, and man, would I hear her piss and moan all the way from France if she knew I was in there.