11 - Everyone Has A Price

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This chapter is dedicated to NatalieNas - thanks for all your support over these past years :)

11 - Everyone Has A Price

If Marcus thought the custody case would go away just because my mom moved back home, he had underestimated her. The battle is fierce which comes with certain perks. Alcohol is banned from the house and for the first time in years, my mother starts to take care of herself. The new morning routine starts off with her jogging, followed by a chipper family breakfast during which Marcus is usually not around, before it is finished off with her taking us to school. Her efforts nevertheless leave a stale taste in my mouth. I'm not sure if she's really trying to change or just putting on a big show for the courts.

After a few weeks, us kids are pulled into their mess when we are summoned to talk to the judge. That morning, I'm just about to get into my mother's minivan when Marcus appears out of nowhere, insisting I should ride with him. My mom's mumbled protest is cut short with one dark glare. As sole custodian, he could throw her out of the house and there's nothing she can do. Until the next hearing, the ball is in his court when it comes to decisions involving me and my siblings, a fact that he has been rubbing in her face whenever they argue.

"Let's grab a coffee on the way," he says as he starts the engine.

"Won't that make us late?"

"No, we got plenty of time."

"Okay." Stopping at Starbucks might be a nice distraction and I could even get one of those lemon muffins I like.

When we get there, he just gets himself a black coffee, but orders for me a white chocolate mocha and the lemon muffin without prompting. We settle at a small table by the window, far away and out of earshot from the few customers who have chosen to sit in.

"Do you know what will happen today?" he asks.

"Mom said the judge wants to talk to us."

"That's right." He sips slowly from his coffee without taking his eyes off me. "Since your brother and sister are so young, the judge will call you all into his chambers. You know him. It's Judge Oaks, the one who handled your adoption. The lawyers will be there as well, but I doubt they'll ask too many questions."

"Sounds easy enough." My eyes stray outside when I can't hold his intense stare. It has started to rain, the gray morning a reflection of my mood.

"Since you're the oldest, greater weight will be placed on your testimony. I need to know we're on the same page."

"What are you exactly expecting of me, Dad?"

He smiles when my focus returns to him. "You're almost an adult now, so I'll let you in on a little secret. Your mom doesn't care about you kids, for her, it's all about the money. She can't survive if she doesn't get custody since I wouldn't have to pay her child support."

I sip from the rim of my cup, careful that the hot drink doesn't burn my tongue. The child support aspect is something I never considered. Maybe my mother wouldn't be too bad off and we wouldn't have to move back to the projects.

"Do you know what a prenuptial agreement is, Patrice?"

I heard the terms in a few movies before, but never fully grasped the concept. "No, not really."

"It's something some spouses sign before they get married. Your mom and I have one. She agreed to forfeit any financial claim to my assets if we ever get divorced, meaning she will end up with nothing. The child support will only cover the basics if it has to fund a whole family. You'll have to make a lot of sacrifices."

Patrice's Story (A "Living With The Choices We Make" Novella) ✔️Where stories live. Discover now