“Oh, wait, dear!” her mother said, holding up her hand. “I wanted to ask you how your little hobby was going.”

Her little hobby meaning her job. Smile. “It’s going great. Thank you for asking. We’ll be breaking for the summer in two months. I’m thinking of traveling, or renting a cabin in New Hampshire for a few weeks.”

“Honestly, dear, I don’t know why you do it. If you're so determined to work you should go back to school and get a real degree in law or medicine like your father. Is it because you’re trying to meet a man?” her mother asked, sounding hopeful.

Smile. “No, I’m not looking for a man. I enjoy what I do.”

Her mother’s answer was a frown; well it looked like she was trying to frown. Actually, everyone at the table was frowning now. They couldn’t understand why she worked since none of them had ever worked a day in their lives. Personally she thought the whole bunch was rather spoiled and she was wondering why she came here in the first place. Then she remembered. She came here for Grandma. She couldn’t leave Grandma to these vultures and it didn’t hurt that Grandma threatened to take her over her knee and spank her if she didn’t show up.

“Sweetheart!” her father said, smiling hugely. He leaned over and kissed both cheeks. Smile. “Happy Birthday, sweetheart. I’m sorry it’s a couple of weeks late,” he said sheepishly.

“Thank you, dad,” she said, taking the birthday card. Smile. Her birthday had been five months ago. Yes, her entire family had forgotten, well except Grandma of course. She called at five in the morning, waking Haley up on her birthday, demanding that Haley should knock some sense into her parents. Haley calmed her down and thanked her for the gift she'd sent the day before. The next day she went and saw her. Her old nannies sent her birthday cards and gifts. Her friends made her a dinner and they went out, so it was okay.

“I can’t believe my little baby is twenty-five already!” he said.

“I know.” She couldn’t believe it either since she was twenty-nine, but hey if he wanted to make her younger who was she to argue?

“She’s twenty-nine, you fool!” Grandma said. “She turned twenty-nine in December. How I raised fools is beyond me,” Grandma grumbled.

Smile. “Thanks, Dad. It’s fine.”

His smile wavered and for the first time in her life he truly looked embarrassed and ashamed.

“I’m going to call you later this week,” he said firmly.

“Dad, it’s okay,” she said, letting him off the hook.

“No, it’s not,” he said before he forced the fake smile back and turned to respond to someone calling his name.

“Honestly, Haley. There is no need to create such drama over nonsense,” her mother said, trying to save face. Everyone sent her mother pitying looks and eye rolls at Haley as if it was Haley’s fault for simply living.

Smile. “Sorry, if you’ll excuse me,” she said, taking her card with her and sticking it in her purse. She walked over to her grandmother and sat down.

Grandma huffed. “I don’t know why you put up with such nonsense.”

“It’s fine.”

“The hell it is!”

For the first time since she arrived she let out a real smile.

“Deborah, what are we eating today?” Grandma demanded of Haley’s mother, her least favorite daughter-in-law.

Her mother smiled, well tried to smile. “We’re having Salmon with broiled spinach leaves, a nonfat mock potato salad and some nonfat sugarless flourless soy French delicacies that are simply to die for.”

Grandma’s eyes narrowed dangerously as her hand went for the cane. Haley discretely wrestled the cane away from her grandmother.

“Hey, that’s mine!” Grandma snapped as Haley put the cane next to her chair, away from Grandma while rubbing the back of her hand. Damn, Grandma had a firm grip.

“Behave,” Haley hissed, making Grandma smile. Out of all the children and grandchildren Haley was the only one who treated Grandma as a human and not an old responsibility they got stuck with.

Grandma turned her attention back to Deborah. “I want a burger, a hot dog and some real potato salad.”

“Mother dearest, we simply don’t have that here!” she said as if the very idea of having such basic food items in her house was unheard of.

Grandma glared at her for a moment longer before turning her attention to Haley. “You?”

“Me what?”

“You have those things in your house, don’t you?”

Haley nodded. “Yes.” In fact her freezer and pantry were filled to the brim with staples for barbeques since she lived for barbeque food in the summer, probably had something to do with Grandma raising her. The woman simply lived for barbeque food.

“Good,” Grandma said firmly as she gestured to Chris, her helper. The man was just entering his fifties, but he still worked hard to take care of Grandma. “Let’s go, Chris.”

Chris nodded and walked over obediently and began pushing Grandma around the house. Without looking back Grandma said, “Let’s go, Haley!”

Haley stood. “Go where?”

“To your house. Where else? Now come along before the parasites try to crash our party.”

Haley hid her smile as she obediently followed her grandmother out the door. No wonder she absolutely adored the old woman.

Chapter 6

“I’m hungry,” Jason grumbled as he stared at the empty plates on his small coffee table.

Brad groaned, “You practically ate both plates of cookies. How in the hell are you hungry?”

Jason shrugged leaning back in his chair to watch the game. “I just am. Leave me the hell alone I’m a growing boy, damn it!”

“Yeah, a growing thirty-one year old boy,” Brad mumbled.

“I’m still growing damn it so shut the hell up and feed me!”

“Order something and stop bitching!” Brad snapped.

“You order something. I’m too weak to move.”

Brad rolled his eyes. “I don’t know how Haley put up with you for the last few weeks. I would have killed you by now.”

“Haley worships me,” he said with a snort.

“Yeah, okay,” Brad said, laughing. “That’s why she dates other men and screws you over just to laugh at you.”

“Exactly.”

Brad looked over at him. “You are a seriously f**ked up man, aren’t you?”

“Probably,” Jason said unconcerned.

“I thought so.”

A soft knock at the door drew both their attention. Brad cringed. “This isn’t another one of your girlfriends coming for revenge is it?”

Jason rolled his eyes as he jumped to his feet. “I think calling any of them my girlfriends is a bit of an exaggeration. I rather you stick with referring to them as ‘the women who agreed to having a good time with no strings attached who got really pissed off at me when I got bored and left them for someone hotter.’”

“Wow, that’s a mouthful,” Brad murmured. “And surprising none of them has killed you yet.”

“It is, isn’t it,” Jason agreed.

He opened the door, knowing no angry ex-lovers would be there. It had been a while since he took a woman to bed and to the best of his knowledge all the previous women already told him off. So, at least for now he was good.

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