“We need to talk,” Roman said as I entered the front door.
I gave a sigh and put my bag down next to the couch. It was my last day as a waitress at the restaurant, and the staff insisted on a few drinks afterward.
I had been tired already. My feet had been ready to fall off.
I tried declining, but my best friend Faelan didn’t want to hear a word about it. It was her last day as well, and man, could that girl party!
I’d had one too many tequila shots thanks to Faelan, and really didn’t feel like talking. Roman looked so serious, though, so what choice did I have?
“What’s on your mind?” I asked, trying not to slur.
“Why do you want to move in with Faelan?”
I furrowed my brows and looked at him.
This is what he needs to discuss? Surely this can wait a few hours.
I sighed and answered as briefly as possible, trying to avoid a lecture about drinking. “She’s my best friend.”
Faelan and I had finished our teaching degrees this year, and to celebrate, her parents had found her a huge apartment to rent.
Faelan, with me obviously wrapped around her pinky, convinced me to rent with her.
“No, I mean, why do you want to move out? You’ve just quit your job. You haven’t started your new job yet. Besides, the starting salary for a teacher can’t be that good.
“Stay here, save some money, and then when you’re ready, you’ll have enough to set up your own house.”
For heaven’s sake, he can’t be serious!
I looked at the pained expression on my stepfather’s face. There were bags under his intense gray eyes that I’d never noticed before.
His auburn hair was a bit disheveled, and his five o’clock shadow had turned into stubble that desperately needed to be shaved.
“Roman, you know Faelan’s parents are paying the rent for the first six months, so I don’t need to pay my share of the rent for half a year.
“It’s an excellent opportunity to save money,” I said gently.
Roman had never really liked Faelan. I waited, wondering what on earth he was going to come up with next.
Faelan and I had been friends since the first day of school when we were just five years old, and her wild-child persona didn’t sit well with him.
She was also the only friend my stepfather hadn’t scared off. For some reason, he didn’t trust other people, and he tried to ‘protect’ me from them by being impossibly difficult.
“You’ll still need to pay for utilities, food, and some other expenses. Expenses that are covered if you stay here,” he continued.
“Roman, I’m an adult now. I need my space. Besides, you’re never around anyway. When I work, you sleep, and when I get home, you’re off to work and vice versa.”
“You won’t be working for the next month until school starts,” he countered. “Besides, being an adult means being responsible. Do you think it’s responsible to be driving while drunk?”
“I’m not drunk!” I yelled more loudly than I should have. “The staff had a mini farewell party and I had a few tequila shots, nothing major.”
“Whatever you say, Katherine.” He looked very disappointed, and I cringed. However, I wasn’t going to give up so easily.
“I need to learn to be on my own and make my own decisions.”
Irritation started to grow in my stepfather’s eyes. “Be on your own? But living with Faelan? Obviously, you just don’t want to be around me anymore. Is this Faelan’s influence?
“I told you that girl was trouble the first time you brought her home, but you never listen!” His voice was laced with annoyance and suddenly it boomed.
“Katherine, I need you to listen this time! You are not allowed to move out of this house, you are mine, and you will stay with me.” His eyes were dark with anger.
Wow, what the hell? Where did that come from? Who does he think he is?
“Excuse me?!” I wanted to shout but squeaked instead. I hated disappointing him like this.
Roman closed his eyes with a groan and calmed down. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. What I meant to say was that you are my responsibility. If you don’t live here, I can’t look after you.
“I can’t make sure you are safe. What would your mom think if she were alive?” Roman’s voice nearly quivered. I could sense his regret and almost felt sorry for him.
Almost. Using the dead-wife card was cruel.
“I’m 22, Roman. I need to start figuring things out on my own. That’s what Mom would have wanted. I won’t be alone.
“Faelan and I will look out for each other, and you’ll just be a short drive away. We can organize a weekly dinner if that will help.”
“Kat, there are some things one cannot just ‘figure out on your own.’ But I guess I don’t have a choice in the matter,” he grumbled. “We can talk about this later. I need to get ready for work.”
Talk about this later?
There was nothing to talk about!
He stood up from his regular spot in the living room, looked up at me, and gave a small smile before going upstairs. I could tell this was bothering him immensely, but what did he expect?
Did he want me to stay at home until I got married? Maybe he hoped I’d turn into a spinster with four cats and stay home indefinitely.
That wasn’t happening! Especially not if Faelan had anything to say about it!
My best friend was a serial dater. Each weekend she would go on the prowl looking for her ‘soulmate,’ as she put it. The poor guys who took her out had only one chance.
She hadn’t been on more than one date with a guy since her high school boyfriend, Freddie.
Even he was kicked to the curb the day of her eighteenth birthday, after she had decided she just wasn’t feeling it anymore. I felt bad for Freddie.
I went to have a chat with him and realized that somehow, he wasn’t even fazed. They even stayed friends after that.
I looked around the living room and saw my bag next to the couch. I picked it up and started up the stairs.
How was I going to convince Roman that I was making the right decision? And why did I need to?
Once in my room I started packing a few of my things. I didn’t own much, and most of my possessions consisted of clothes.
I threw the few knickknacks I had in a small box and proceeded to pack my winter clothing, which I wasn’t using at that moment.
Maybe if he saw the packed suitcases, Roman would finally get the message. He couldn’t baby me for the rest of my life.