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PART 1 — Mommy Dearest
Miley stood, frozen with shock, in the doorway of her and Charlie’s apartment. She was dressed in a pair of Charlie’s boxer shorts and a clinging top. Her dark curls were disheveled from a bout of recent lovemaking with Charlie.
Her mother’s eyes were filled with judgment of Miley’s appearance, “Hello, Millicent.”
Miley hated her real name and cringed at the sound of it, “Mother? What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to check on you,” Victoria said in a cold tone, “I’m concerned.”
“Concerned?” Miley glared angrily, “We haven’t spoken in over a year, and all of the sudden you’re concerned?”
Miley and her mother hadn’t seen one another since Miley’s senior year in high school. Victoria had taken issue with Miley’s choice in dating Charlie, so Miley decided to move out and live with her father. While she always knew the day would come when she would have to face her mother again, Miley secretly hoped her life would remain Victoria-free.
“I’ve been privy to some troublesome details,” Victoria replied. “I’m worried you’re making poor choices, Millicent.”
Miley gnashed her teeth, “Whatever. What would you know?”
“I know that you have been living here in sin with that White boy you became infatuated with in high school.”
“So?” Miley huffed. “My life is no longer any of your business, mother.”
“It becomes my business,” Victoria countered, “when your actions start reflecting poorly on me, and cause me embarrassment.”
Miley became defensive, “I haven’t done anything to embarrass you!”
Victoria lifted a plucked brow, “What about your recent arrest at the county courthouse? Do you have any idea how mortified I was to see my daughter’s name in the paper’s criminal report? Do you have any idea how poorly your actions reflect on me?”
Miley winced, recalling how she and Charlie were recently detained and fined for Contempt of Court at Brock’s arraignment. They had both hoped to keep their parents in the dark about that situation, since it was more embarrassing than serious, but Miley forgot about the public record in the newspaper.
As Miley was about to give her mom another biting reply, Charlie rounded the hallway from the bathroom zipping his pants up. “Miley? Who was at the door…?”
Victoria aimed an icy glance in Charlie’s direction.
Charlie went still with uncertainty, “Oh… shit. Uh, hello Mrs. Ryan.”
The last time Charlie had seen Victoria Ryan was when she caught Charlie and Miley having sex, when they first started dating. In fact, Victoria and Miley’s step-father had walked in to find Miley on her knees in front of Charlie, his semen covering her face and naked breasts. Miley and he often joked about that moment, since time had softened the humiliation, but it was one of the most embarrassing things Charlie had ever experienced.
Victoria ignored Charlie’s greeting and returned her gaze to Miley.
“Don’t worry,” Miley remarked dryly to Charlie, “vampires can’t enter unless you invite them in.”
Victoria sighed, “Stop being so melodramatic, dear. I can see this is an inconvenient moment, so I won’t take up any more of your obviously precious time. Instead, I want you to come to the house tomorrow for lunch. I know you have school, but this is important.”
Miley rolled her eyes, “Not to me, it’s not. I’m sorry I’m such a colossal embarrassment to you, mother, but you can go to hell. Stay away from me, and stay away from Charlie!”
Charlie was startled as Miley slammed the door shut in Victoria’s face.
After working the deadbolt, Miley pushed her hands through her hair and snarled with frustration.
“I don’t think she likes me,” Charlie commented, half-jokingly.
“She doesn’t like anyone,” Miley growled, “unless they’re filthy-rich and single.”
Charlie moved to envelop Miley in his arms, “I can’t believe she just showed up like that. How long has it been?”
Miley clasped Charlie and rested her head against his chest, “Since our senior year, right after I moved out. She didn’t even show up for our graduation.”
Charlie frowned, “I remember. I wonder what she wants to talk to you about.”
“Who cares? I hate her,” Miley sniffled, “I really do.”
“Don’t worry, she’s gone.” Charlie ran his hand through Miley’s hair, caressing the back of her head, “It’ll be okay.”
The following morning, Stacy licked her lips in anticipation as she carefully poured maple syrup over a short stack of pancakes. “Aren’t you gonna have anything?” she asked Miley, who was sitting across from her in a booth at the University’s cafeteria. The two best friends often shared breakfast before their first classes.
“I’m not hungry,” Miley replied in a distracted tone. She was trying to concentrate on reading a textbook, but it wasn’t going very well.
“What’s with you?” Stacy asked as she began eating her breakfast. “You’ve been acting like a zombie ever since I picked you up this morning. You and Charlie aren’t fighting, casino şirketleri are you?”
Miley sighed and closed her book, “No, it’s my mother.”
Stacy’s face twisted in surprise, “Victoria? I didn’t think you two were on speaking terms?”
“Neither did I,” Miley replied, “until she showed up at the apartment last night.”
“You’re kidding. What did she want?”
Miley lifted an ambivalent shoulder, “I don’t know. I slammed the door in her face after she reminded me what a constant embarrassment I am to her.”
Stacy frowned and remembered all-too well how cold Victoria could be towards Miley, “Well, what did she say?”
“Nothing really,” Miley reported. “She wanted to meet me for lunch today. (As if that would ever happen.) Whatever she wanted, she didn’t want to say it in front of Charlie. She clammed-up as soon as she saw him.”
Stacy offered a sympathetic look, “I’m sorry, hon. Your mom can be such a bitch.”
Miley snorted with agreement, “You’re telling me? But I don’t want to talk about it; thinking about her makes my skin crawl. Anything new with you?”
Stacy bit back a glowing smile, “Oh… nothing.”
Miley gave Stacy disbelieving eyes, knowing her best friend well enough to realize when she was obviously lying.
Stacy grinned, understanding Miley’s knack for seeing right through her.
Miley’s sixth-sense kicked in and her eyes bugged out, “Oh my god! You had sex!”
Stacy burst into a fit of giggles and then nodded.
Stacy bit her lip, “Brian.”
“You had sex with Brian?!?”
“Sshh! Tell the whole school about it, why don’t you?”
Miley repeated her question in a hissing whisper, “You had sex with Brian???”
“After I texted him yesterday, about going out tonight, he came over. One thing led to another, and…”
Miley quickly forgot all about her mom, “So you guys are back together?”
“I don’t know,” Stacy answered honestly. “But it felt good. God, Miley… it felt really good. We’re going out tonight, so maybe we’ll talk about it then.”
“This is unbelievable.”
Stacy worried, “You don’t think I’m making a big mistake, do you?”
“No,” Miley shook her head. “I mean, Brian’s been a bit of a butt-head lately but I think a lot of that has to do with you guys breaking up. He loves you, Stace, I know that. If it feels right, I think you both deserve to be happy.”
Charlie set a coffee down at his desk and glanced at his watch, wondering where Brian was. Every weekday they met at the apartment to work on their comic book, but Brian was usually there by ten o’clock. He was late.
Charlie thought Brian had arrived when a knock came from the door, but Charlie was wrong.
“Hello, Charles,” Victoria greeted.
Charlie blinked, “Mrs. Ryan? Uh, Miley’s not home if that’s why you’re -“
“Of course she’s not home,” Victoria interrupted. “She’s at school, which is where you’d be if my daughter wasn’t infatuated with a college drop-out.”
Charlie squinted, “I didn’t drop out. I’m taking a year to work on -“
“Whatever,” Victoria interrupted him again with disinterest in his excuse, “I came here to see you. Aren’t you going to invite me in?”
At a loss for anything else to do, Charlie stepped aside and let Victoria enter. She looked about the apartment with scorn. Charlie was sure he had just invited the devil into his home. Victoria may have looked like an older version of Miley, with her long wavy black hair and trim figure, but Charlie knew how heartless the woman could be. He reminded himself to remain guarded around her.
“My daughter can be a stubborn little snot,” Victoria commented before returning her gaze to Charlie. “She gets that from me.”
“You should try being more nice to her,” Charlie carefully suggested.
“It really doesn’t matter. I was going to make an offer to her, but it will work just as well with you.”
“Offer? What kind of offer?”
Victoria opened her purse, “I was going to offer her a large sum of money.”
Charlie looked confused, “Money? For what?”
“Miley’s future isn’t very promising with you in the picture,” Victoria explained, removing her checkbook. “You’re free-loading off her, living in this apartment on my ex-husband’s dime, and I doubt you will ever amount to much – if anything. My daughter deserves someone who can provide for her, financially. You, I’m afraid, are nothing more than a lower-middle class loser.”
Charlie felt like he had been punched in the gut. How could anyone be so openly vicious?
Victoria finished filling out the check and tore it free, “This is a check for five-hundred thousand dollars, Charles. I want you to take it.” She set the check down on an end-table beside the couch, “You can have every penny. All you need to do is walk away from my daughter and stay out of her life. Forever.”
Charlie looked down at the check, wide-eyed. A half-million dollars! And Victoria had offered it to him as casually as could be. It was more money than he’d ever imagined!
“I’ve casino firmaları post-dated it for a week from now,” Victoria remarked as she zipped up her purse. “I expect that you will have moved out and left my daughter heart-broken by then. If so, I won’t cancel it with the bank. Good day, Charles.”
Charlie watched, struck speechless, as Victoria showed herself out of the apartment.
Haley let out a heavy sigh of boredom as she looked around the mall jewelry store where she worked. Mornings were always the dullest portion of her shift; no one liked to buy gold before noon. She glanced into a mirror set out for the customers and tossed a hand through her feathery blonde hair. As she checked her mascara, Haley caught someone entering the store out of the corner of her eye.
Haley hadn’t expected to see Brian so soon after they broke things off, “What’s up? You’re the last person I thought would walk in here this morning.”
Brian approached the counter with a humble demeanor, “I need your help.”
Haley placed her elbows on the glass counter and propped her chin in her palms, “Okay?”
“I need something nice,” Brian seemed hesitant, “for a girl.”
“Let me guess,” Haley looked amused, “you want to get back together with your ex. What was her name? Sam?”
“You’re close. I want to get back together with the ex before that.”
Haley laughed, “The girl you knocked-up last summer?”
Brian made a pointing gesture, “That’s the one. Listen… is this cool? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or anything, especially after the way things ended between us.”
“It’s cool,” Haley assured him with a disarming smile. “You and I had fun, but it was never going to be anything serious. I don’t have any hard feelings. As long as you keep that bitch Miley away from me, we can be friends.”
Brian let out a relieved sigh, “Awesome. Can you show me some bracelets?”
Miley deposited her school bag on the couch after returning home from classes and made a bee-line for the kitchen, “Charlie? Baby? Are you home?”
No reply arrived and Miley wondered where her man had gotten off to. He was probably at the comic store with Brian, or something similarly nerdish. She investigated the fridge and found some leftovers to reheat, along with a bottle of water. After skipping breakfast, she was starved!
As Miley set about preparing the food for a trip to the microwave, she spotted something on the kitchen table. Investigating closer, Miley saw that it was a check from her mother. It was made out to Charlie’s name, in the amount of…
Miley gasped with shock at the amount. What was going on? Why would her mother give Charlie a check for a half-million dollars?
Miley feared the worst. She pulled a cell phone out of her jeans pocket and punched in a number, fretting silently as the phone began to ring.
Victoria answered, “Hello, honey. I was expecting you’d call.”
“What’s going on?” Miley instantly demanded.
A chuckle came through the phone, “I assume Charlie broke up with you? I’m sorry, Miley. I know it hurts, but it’s probably for the best.”
Fear gripped Miley’s heart as she began to understand, “Mother… what did you do?”
“I wanted you to realize that he doesn’t love you, Miley. He’s only been taking advantage of you because you come from money. I know you don’t see it clearly now, but I did what I thought was best for you. In time, you’ll thank me.”
Miley choked on her own breath, “T-thank you for what? Tell me what you did, mother. Say it!”
“I offered Charlie a lot of money to walk away; to walk away from you. You see, that’s why he’s with you — for the money. Now that he has it, he no longer needs you -“
Miley didn’t want to hear any more; she couldn’t. She simply hung up her cell before it limply fell out of her hand and clattered onto the table. Miley’s mind raced. How could her mom be such a cold, heartless witch? It was unfathomable to Miley, despite Victoria’s history, that she would do such a horrible thing. And how could Charlie possibly have accepted the money? He loved her! Miley knew he loved her. He wouldn’t trade Miley for any amount of money… would he?
Stacy lay on her bed kicking, wriggling, twisting, and tugging until the jeans she was struggling with finally slid over her hips. She rushed to the mirror, knowing Brian would be there any minute, and made sure her bra straps weren’t showing beneath her mid-riff baring top. She pushed a brush through her long blonde hair, checked her make-up, and began hunting for her leather ankle-boots.
“Stacy,” her mother called from downstairs, “Brian is here.”
“I’ll be right down!” Stacy yelled after finding one of the boots. Where was the other one?
Brian was thankful when Stacy finally appeared at the top of the stairs; he’d run out of small-talk topics to discuss with Stacy’s mother. “Hey,” he greeted with a smile.
“Hey,” Stacy smiled right back. Brian looked handsome in pair güvenilir casino of black slacks and blue buttoned silk shirt, “You look great.”
“Don’t stay up,” Stacy kissed her mother’s cheek, “we’re going to the late movie.”
Brian let out a heavy breath of relief once he and Stacy were outside, “Wow, that was uncomfortable.”
Stacy had a glowing smile, “What, you mean my mom?”
Brian opened the passenger door of his car for Stacy, “Yeah. I mean, after your pregnancy and the abortion and us breaking up… I’m pretty sure she hates me.”
“She doesn’t hate you,” Stacy said after Brian got into the car. “I made it clear to my parents that the abortion was my decision. You didn’t ever pressure me into it, and they know that.”
Brian sounded doubtful, “Yeah, well, parents always hate the guys who get their daughter pregnant out of wedlock. That’s like, a rule or something.”
Stacy laughed and reassured him, “They don’t hate you.”
“If you say so.”
“I’m starving, by the way. Where do you want to have dinner?”
Brian left the car in Park, “Listen, I wanted to give you something first.”
Stacy gave him a curious look.
Reaching over Stacy’s lap, Brian opened the glove box.
“Oh my god,” Stacy breathed when Brian pulled out a small jewelry box. “Brian, what did you do?”
“I got you something.”
Stacy’s smile glowed, “I can see that.”
“Go ahead,” Brian gestured. “Open it.”
Stacy pulled a ribbon around the box free and then pushed the hinged top open. She took in a sharp breath when she saw the silver chain bracelet, “Brian… it’s beautiful.”
“I love you.”
Stacy turned to Brian’s unexpected admission.
“I know this is all happening really quickly… again. But ever since we broke up my life has been a mess. I thought I could replace you with Sam, but all I did was hurt her. Haley was… I don’t know what Haley was. But I do know I regret what happened between us. I’m so happy you’re giving me a second chance.”
“Oh, Brian.” Stacy leaned over and put her arms around him, “I’ve missed you so much. What happened between us wasn’t your fault, it was mine. I expected too much of you too soon. I won’t make that mistake again.”
They kissed, a brief and flirty thing, before Stacy asked for help putting the bracelet on.
The apartment was silent while Miley sat on the couch. For once, she was at a loss. Too many emotions were swirling around inside her. They were crippling, and she didn’t know what to do with herself. She felt anger towards her mother, an anger that had been simmering for almost two years and was now frothing over. But she also felt a paralyzing fear that she was going to lose Charlie. It was an irrational fear, she knew, but the emotion gripped her all the same. Victoria was good at getting her way, and five-hundred thousand dollars was a lot of money.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the apartment door opened.
Charlie walked in with a suitcase in one arm and a big duffel bag under the other.
“No…” Miley squeaked before her body started shaking with throat-gripping sobs.
“Miley?” Charlie set his bags down.
Miley felt like her entire world was crashing down around her. She recalled the feeling she had when she found out Charlie was in the hospital after being beaten and mugged. It was a horrifying sense of unbearable loss. Her chest convulsed and tears began to soak her cheeks.
“Jesus!” Charlie rushed towards her, “Miley, what it is it? What’s wrong?”
“How could you?” Miley sniffed, “How could you leave me, Charlie? I thought you loved me…”
“I DO love you,” Charlie swore. “Miley, I’m not leaving you!”
Miley looked towards Charlie’s suitcase, “But my mother said… the check. And you have bags… and…”
Charlie knelt in front of Miley and put his hands to her shoulders, “No! No, honey.” He shook his head, “Those bags aren’t empty, they’re full!”
Mascara stained Miley’s face as she squinted at Charlie in confusion. She wiped at her nose, “Huh?”
“I was at my parent’s house. My mom called and said she packed up my winter clothes for me. I was just over there picking them up. As for your mom… wow, what a doozy you got for a mother.”
Miley kept sniffling, “She said…”
Charlie nodded and saw the check lying on the coffee table, “She was here, and she offered to buy me away from you. But that’s never going to happen.”
Miley watched Charlie rip the check up into little pieces.
“This is what I think of her money.” Charlie cast the pieces over his shoulder, “I love you, Miley. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could ever convince me to leave you.”
“Oh, Charlie!” Miley threw her arms around him and buried her messy face into Charlie’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry! I never should have doubted you! I knew you wouldn’t leave me, but my mother said… and then I saw those bags… and I thought…”
Charlie hugged Miley close, rubbing his palms reassuringly against her back, “It’s okay, I understand. Everything is okay.”
“It’s not okay, Charlie. I can’t believe my mother! How could she do this? She’s trying to come between us. I’m so ashamed of her. I’m sorry you had to deal with her. I’m so sorry, baby.”
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