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When I started writing this, I had something else in mind. However, the story developed into something totally different. I have no idea if people will enjoy reading this or not, so if you feel strongly about it one way or another, please let me know.

*****

It was the day before Thanksgiving, and as you could expect, the airport was crammed full of people. I was standing near the arrival gate, accompanied by my dad, looking out for my aunt Ashley, and her husband, who were due to arrive any minute.

It had been nearly eight years since I’ve last seen her in person, so I was excited to see my quirky aunt again. She and her sister Catherine, my mom, used to have a very good relationship with each other. Ashley had practically lived with us, always babysitting me whenever Mom was busy. Once I was older, Ashley used to take me to the zoo, museums, movies, and all kinds of other fun activities, while both my parents worked all day at our family business, a small tailoring shop passed down by my grandfather to my mom, his oldest daughter.

It had been almost like living with two mothers instead of one. That is, until eight years ago when she and mom had a falling out. It had been a very tough year for the business, eating up most of my parents’ time. Mom accused Ashley of never helping out, Ashley criticized mom of being a terrible mother because she spent so little time with me. It turned real ugly, real fast, ending only after it came to physical blows. No one quite remembers how exactly it transpired, but Ashley lost her balance and fell, tearing her cheek on something on the way down. She never forgave my mom for the small half inch scar that now marred her face. That was the last day she set foot in our house, and moved away a month later without so much as a goodbye.

Our family has never been the same since then. Truth is, I spent far more time under Ashley’s tutelage than my own mother’s, and had formed a much stronger bond with her than either of my absentee parents. Naturally, I had been devastated by her departure, and couldn’t understand why she had abandoned me. To make matters worse, Mom forbade me from ever contacting Ashley, as long as I was living under their roof. I resented her for that, but as a fifteen year old, you really don’t have a lot of options. My parents still spent most of their time working at the shop, so I was mostly left to my own devices. I never tried contacting Ashley, though. I was worried about my mother finding out, and I didn’t know how to confront my aunt about why she had abandoned me.

I thought maybe things would get better after I was accepted to college, but Mom made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that they were still the ones who paid for my college, even if I wasn’t technically living at home anymore. Living far away from home, however, inspired me with a greater sense of freedom. Since I considered it unlikely for Mom to find out, I set up a separate social networking profile to try and contact Ashley. I got lucky, and found out her new cell number.

I was really nervous making the call, almost abandoning my attempt several times. It was awkward at first, and neither of us really knew what to say. She had moved to New York City, and worked as a waitress. We kept things light, and it felt like both of us were stepping around things we didn’t want to bring up. Eventually, I got sick of it, and asked her the question I was burning to ask.

“Why did you abandon me three years ago?”

“What? Are you kidding me?” she protested, sounding sincere. “I wish I could have taken you with me, when I left! Cathy threatened me to stay away. Told me I was a bad influence.”

“Why didn’t you, you know, do something?”

“I sent you a few letters. Guess you never got any of them.”

“Nope,” I confirmed.

She was real quiet for a while, and then timidly asked, barely louder than a whisper: “Cathy told me you didn’t want to talk to me. That you hate me now.”

“Hell no!” I was livid. “I wanted to, every single day. Mom forbade it. ‘My house, my rules,’ she always said.”

“That bitch!” Ashley sounded as furious as I was.

It felt like a huge burden had been lifted. We kept talking, happy to finally have each other in our lives again, and for the next two years kept in regular contact, even though we were unable to actually meet up. I was still financially dependent on my parents, and they wouldn’t just buy me a plane ticket to New York without asking questions; Ashley’s job barely paid enough for rent and expenses living in the city.

Things at home improved, too. I didn’t think what my mother had done was right, but she’s still my mom, and I know she loves me in her own way. Overall, my life returned to something resembling normal again. Ashley started dating someone, and our contact decreased somewhat, as you would expect. Apparently, the guy she was seeing was filthy rich, and she was giddy like a little girl when she talked about him. From all accounts, it was a whirlwind romance. He invited her to stay for a few months in France, where he promptly decided to propose to bursa escort her. She accepted, and they tied the knot a week later.

I was really surprised when soon after, my parents out of the blue invited Ashley for Thanksgiving. Even more surprising, Ashley accepted the invite. I thought that maybe they were ready to bury the hatchet after so many years, but on the drive to the airport Dad spilled the beans.

“Max, listen… I’m sorry to burden you with this,” he began, “but the shop hasn’t been well lately.”

“Really? You guys seem busier than ever.” They seemed to spend most of their day at the shop these days, I always assumed it was because they had too much work to do.

“A lot of things have changed since you went off to college. We had to let Mary go,” she was a seamstress employed by my parents, “and your mother has been picking up the slack. We just couldn’t afford to keep her on.”

I felt a pang of guilt hit me. “It’s not because of me is it? Because of tuition?”

“I hate to say it, ” he admitted, “but it’s been a strain on our resources.” After a brief pause, he continued. “We had to take out a second mortgage on the house last year.”

“Is it bad?”

“Yeah.” Silence.

After a while, he spoke up again. “We invited your aunt to Thanksgiving so we could ask her for a loan.” They must have heard from someone about Ashley’s marriage.

I asked, “How much?”

“Hundred fifty big ones.” Ouch. From what I knew of Ashley’s new husband, though, that wouldn’t even be a drop in the bucket for him.

“What’s gonna happen without it?”

“We’ll lose the business, for sure. And probably our house.”

“Jesus, Dad.” I was floored.

“We haven’t been able to keep up with the payments. Cathy thinks we only have until the end of the year at best.” He sighed. “What I wanted to talk to you about is… can you make sure your aunt’s in a good mood this week? That’s why Cathy didn’t come with us to the airport. We want to make sure nothing goes wrong.”

“Of course. But I don’t think it’s me you have to worry about.” We drove the rest of the way in silence. They didn’t know I had been keeping in touch with her, so they probably didn’t expect me to be on friendly terms with her.

I was the first to spot her amidst the throng of people squeezing out of the door. While we had been talking on the phone and chatting online, we never really exchanged pictures. My social networking profile had been fake after all, and she wasn’t much the selfie type. The difference to my memories of her was remarkable. She used to prefer comfort over style, but the way she carried herself now was reminiscent of a model walking down the red carpet. Her dress must have been the latest fashion, clinging to her body in a way that accentuated her ample curves. High heels clicking with every step, breasts bouncing freely, she drew closer. Holding her hand was an older man, who I could only assume must be Antoine, her husband. He was far older than I expected. While she had never explicitly told me how old he was in any of her emails, I just assumed he was around her age. Instead, he appeared to be at least in his sixties, salt and pepper hair matched by a black and white pinstripe suit.

I waved, and Ashley immediately rushed over, threw arms around me, and we embraced in a tight hug.

“Oh god, how long has it been? My god, you’ve grown so much. It’s good to see you!” Despite her outward change, she was as bubbly as ever.

“Oh, I know. I barely recognized you after all this time, you look like a celebrity in that outfit.”

“Please! I’d be happy to wear any old thing, but Antoine insists that his trophy wife look spectacular.” She snorted, tossing her blonde hair back in a stereotypical fashion. “Speaking of, come on, I’ll introduce you two.”

“Antoine, this is Max, my favorite nephew! Max, meet my husband.”

“How do you do,” he spoke in a deep voice and a faint but noticeable french accent, “Ashley has told me many things about you.” I shook his hand, returning his firm grip.

“Likewise. It’s nice to finally put a face to the name.”

He seemed like the pleasant type. Dad leapt eagerly at the chance to shake his hand, having so far done nothing but stand around awkwardly.

“Hello, Arthur.” Ashley’s tone was more serious now, as she addressed my dad.

“Hello, Ashley. We really are glad you decided to stay with us this holiday. All three of us.” At the mention of her sister, my aunt stiffened a little. Dad nudged me with his elbow.

“Yes, all of us,” I chimed in.

“I know,” she replied, nodding once. Then, turning back to me, “Come on! Let’s get this show on the road, I got a lot of suitcases with me. It’s a good thing you decided to grow up into such a strong man.”

I rolled my eyes at her. Together, we managed to carry all the suitcases to the car. It really was an extraordinary amount of luggage, I had no idea how they managed to get it this far; fortunately, it all managed to fit in the trunk of Dad’s sedan.

As soon as we started moving, Antoine, who was sitting bursa escort bayan in the passenger seat, pulled out his smartphone and began tapping away. I sat in the back with Ashley, who immediately started making plans for the weekend.

“We should totally do something, like in the old days. Is the zoo still open? No wait, you’re probably too old for that. Do you like theater? Or what about a museum. Or we could watch a movie,” she went on, not giving me a chance to respond. “How are you doing at college? Do you have a girlfriend yet? Or we could go bowling, I haven’t done that in years!”

“Sure, any of that sounds great,” I finally managed to squeeze out an answer.

“A girlfriend sounds great?”

“Oh, not that.”

“Aw, poor baby, don’t worry one day you’ll grow up into a handsome prince,” she mocked, and over and ruffled my hair, as if she had never been gone. “Now that I think about, it seems you already did. Aren’t you cute as a button?” I spent the rest of the trip being regaled by stories of her honeymoon in Paris.

***

It was almost dark when we pulled into the driveway of our small home and carted the luggage in. The house smelled delicious; Mom must have pulled out all the stops in preparing this welcoming feast. Despite Ashley seeming to be her old self again, the temperature dropped noticeably when the two sisters faced each other.

“Ash.”

“Cathy.”

Their faces betrayed no emotion, but it seemed like the old hatred was bubbling under the surface, about the erupt at any moment. Mom kept furtively glancing at the spot on Ashley’s cheek where even after all this time the scar was noticeable.

“Come on, let’s eat, I’m starving,” said my dad in an attempt to defuse the situation.

“Superb idea,” chimed in Antoine, who sounded just as eager to keep the peace.

We all sat down at the table, and Mom served us the goods. Sweet potatoes, squash casserole, pumpkin soup, and a few other assorted Thanksgiving season delicacies.

Mom was the first to speak. “We prepared Max’ old room for you two. Should be enough room, and you’ll have your own bathroom.” I’d be sleeping on the couch, which wasn’t that much worse than my dorm room bed.

“Oh, I forgot to mention, Antoine can’t stay. He has a business meeting in Montreal and has to leave again tonight.”

“On Thanksgiving?” inquired my dad.

“Ah, but it is only Thanksgiving in America. My sincerest apologies,” confirmed Antoine. “I hope I have not imposed a burden on your hospitality.”

“Oh, not at all!”

The ice seemed to have thawed a little, and Dad made some polite inquiries into how Ashley was doing. She acquiesced and began talking. I already knew everything, or just heard it during the car ride, so I barely paid attention.

An hour later, most of the food was gone, and Antoine announced it would be time for him to go.

“Will you need a ride to the airport?” inquired my father.

“No thank you, Arthur. I already have a car waiting for me outside.”

I had no idea when or how he arranged it, but sure enough there was a slick limo waiting for him outside our house. Standing in the door, he gave Ashley a kiss and whispered in her ear, just barely loud enough for me to hear, “Stay strong.”

As soon as the door was shut, Ashley asked cynically, “So, Cathy. What’s the real reason you invited me?”

Mom was caught like a deer in headlights, but fortunately Dad took the reigns.

“Max, why don’t you head up to your room. There’s something your aunt and us have to discuss.”

“Fine, whatever,” I replied. I wasn’t exactly eager to sit in on that conversation, it was bound to get really uncomfortable. I headed up the stairs and beelined towards my old room.

Not much had changed, my parents hadn’t changed it since I moved out. I pulled out my phone and spent some time catching up with correspondence, as well as checking the weather for the upcoming days to see which of Cathy’s many suggestions would be feasible.

I had lost track of time when I heard a loud thump from downstairs followed by a muffled yell. Shortly after, I heard footsteps race up the stairs, and Ashley slid into view.

“Come on. Let’s go.”

“Go where?”

“Out.” With that she turned on her heel and raced downstairs again. I followed her, wondering what happened. She was already out the door by the time I reached the bottom, so I quickly put on my shoes and grabbed two jackets.

“Mom, Dad. I’m apparently going out with Ashley,” I yelled towards the living room.

“Ok,” came the reply from dad. “Don’t forget what I told you earlier in the car.”

“Bye!”

Ashley was waiting by my dad’s car, but I directed her towards my own car, which was parked on the curb. It wasn’t as big or comfy, but it was mine.

“What happened back there?” I asked after turning the ignition.

“Fuck, it’s just… Cathy can really piss me off, you know? Sorry, I know she’s your mom, but fuck her.” It clearly hadn’t gone as well as anyone had hoped. “What did I do to deserve such a cunt of a sister.”

“Hey!”

“Sorry. escort bursa Goddamn, I need a drink. Is the Pit still open?”

“No, they closed down two years ago, it’s a pizza joint now.”

“Fuck. Just take me anywhere with booze, please.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I drove to her to Henderson’s Bar, which normally was on the upper edge of my price range. However, it had a much better atmosphere than any other place in town. Maybe it would have a positive impact on my aunt. It also happened to be pretty close, which was beneficial because Ashley was abusing my mom verbally the entire drive, stopping only once we arrived at our destination.

Ashley ordered a double shot of tequila and immediately slammed it down, then ordered some more.

“What do you want, Max?”

“I’ll just have some coke,” I replied, thinking about having to drive back later.

“Nonsense, you’re drinking something. My treat.”

“Fine! A rum and coke then.”

“Good boy,” she said, and relayed my order. “Come on, let’s get a booth.”

We sat down opposite each other. It wasn’t a busy night, so we were fairly secluded. Two shots later, she seemed to relax again.

“So what happened back there?” I asked again.

“Oh… it’s just…” she trailed off. “How much do you know about the business?”

“Not a lot. Dad told me earlier that it’s looking really bad though.”

“You have no idea.”

“Well, I have some idea.”

“Oh.” She looked crestfallen. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. Did they ask you for money?”

“Yeah.”

“Have you thought about it?”

“Yeah…”

“And?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

“Oh.”

“I have decided on one thing though.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m gonna pay for your college education, no matter what. You shouldn’t have to suffer because of my cunt of a sister.”

“What? I… wow. I don’t know what to say.”

“Don’t worry about it. I love you as if you were my own, you know that, right? But enough of this sappy shit, have some shots.” She pushed some of the glasses towards me, and I gladly downed one, the tequila burning in my throat.

Several shots later, and I was comfortably buzzed. The alcohol had a much greater toll on Ashley, who seemed fairly drunk. She excused herself to go to the bathroom, and when she came back she brought more shots. This time, she sat down on my side of the booth, then leaned into me. I put my arm around her, and we just sat there for a while, enjoying the warmth.

“This is nice.”

“Mmhmm…” I agreed, nursing a shot.

“Antoine doesn’t want to fuck me anymore.”

“Wha-” I choked on my drink.

“He used to just come up behind me, and take me right there. Didn’t matter where. Kitchen, bathroom, elevator…”

“That’s not what I meant,” I protested. Unbidden, images of my aunt bent over a kitchen counter popped into my head. “I mean why are you telling me this?”

“I used to want children of my own, you know. I still do actually. I’m not too old yet.” It was true, she was only 33, ten years older than me. “But Antoine doesn’t. He says he doesn’t have the energy to raise a child. All I want is a beautiful boy that grows up into a handsome man like you.”

“Why did you marry him then?” I ignored the last part.

“He’s a great guy. Also he’s really rich.”

“Sounds like true love.”

“Oh, shut up. We talked about it before we married, but I thought I could change his mind. I told Antoine I wanted kids again after our honeymoon, and ever since then he stopped initiating. And he’s been too afraid to cum in me.”

“Ashley, I don’t know if I want to-”

But she just kept going, as if he hadn’t heard me. “Now he just pulls out at the last second and shoots on my stomach. I miss having someone come in me.” As she said this, she snuggled deeper against me, and placed her head on my shoulder. By now the second round of drinks were gone, and I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the direction this conversation seemed to be heading.

“Ashley, you’re drunk.”

“Maybe.” She giggled. “I just feel comfortable around you, like I could tell you anything.”

“I’m flattered, but I think you’ve had enough to drink for one night. Let’s go back.”

“Ok, I’ll drive!”

“You’re in no condition to walk, let alone drive.” Neither was I, exactly.

After the lengthy procedure of getting out of the booth, which Ashley protested greatly, I got the bartender to call us a cab. Looking at my phone, I was shocked to discover it was already way past midnight. Where had all that time gone? On the cab ride home, Ashley once again snuggled into me, only this time she was too drunk to speak.

After we arrived back at the house, I had to practically push her up the stairs and into my old bedroom.

“Max, I don’t feel so good.”

“No shit, you drank an entire lake of tequila.”

“I really have to pee!”

“The bathroom’s right there.”

She stumbled through the door and closed it behind her, not locking it. I was concerned she would pass out somewhere along the way, and not make it to bed, so I stuck around for a bit to make sure she was okay. She wasn’t. I heard audible retching coming from the bathroom, then the flushing of the toilet.

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