12.1 Aiden's Art Of Proving He's Not Weak

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The same house that I have lived in my entire life suddenly seems so foreign

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The same house that I have lived in my entire life suddenly seems so foreign.

Returning home should not seem so hard. Meeting my mother should not seem a burden. And yet the closer I get to the place, the more I feel my heart sinking. For one, my dad will not be there.

Owen is happy to see me and that lifts me up instantly. The sight of his beaming face and the manner in which he bounces at the balls of his feet when he sees me is enough to wipe away all my worries. His giggling when I lift him into my arms and spin him around, the way his cheeks color when I bite them playfully, his thin arms wrapping around my neck make me feel like I made the right decision to visit.

Mom isn't the same. I sense a detachment in her manner but maybe that's just me. As soon as she enters the scene, I feel my shoulders stiffening and my face hardening.

"Hey," I say, sounding almost dismissive.

She purses her lips, watching me as I set Owen down on his feet and straighten up again.

"You're back?" mom asks.

I hesitate, chewing on nothing and considering my words before speaking them. "Only to see some people," I say, not wanting to mention Scarlett and Owen or even dad in front of mom. I didn't come back for anyone in particular since I had already planned on visiting. Yes, I rushed over for Scarlett, but I wanted to meet mom, dad, and Owen too.

Mom doesn't look too happy about what I'm saying. Her eyes narrow and she looks away, pursing her lips and huffing a breath out her nose.

"You're going back then," she infers. "Going back to your life where you can pretend you don't have any responsibilities here. What about me, Aiden? What about your brother?"

I wait for her to mention dad but she just watches me, expecting an answer that will satisfy her. Unfortunately, I don't have anything satisfying to say.

"You're going to be selfish, I see," mom concludes.

"Selfish? You think I'm being selfish?" I repeat, curling my hands into fists.

Owen stands beside me, glancing from my face to mom's. I don't know what he sees but all I sense is resentment. Sparks of hate flicker between mom and I, slowly igniting and turning to ash everything good that ever existed between us.

"Well, why not, right?" I almost scoff. "I'm living miles away from my house and working twelve hours a day because I'm selfish. I'm sharing apartments and driving half the day to save airfare because I'm selfish. I'm spending my life working shitty jobs when I should be studying in college like the other guys my age because, obviously, I'm selfish. And you're the only selfless one here, aren't you?"

Her eyes are wide and mouth agape as she states at me, not blinking and not moving. She's not used to being challenged, unaccustomed to me speaking up against her. Honestly, though, I'm tired of hearing all about my responsibilities. What about everyone else? What about what mom can do or what dad should do?

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