“I’m tired,” Anna says. “But thank you for asking.”
“It’s just as well,” Irene says. “I have a delicate matter to discuss with the boys.”
“Delicate matter?” Cash says. “Did you get news?”
“Something like that,” Irene says. She smiles at Anna. “Thank you for bringing Floyd down. It’s a lovely surprise. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” Irene leaves the kitchen.
When Anna turns to Cash, she expects him to be angry or offended—but she’s beaming. “That went much better than I expected,” she says.
Baker and Floyd come up from the beach and the adults agree that the best course of action is for all of them to drop off Anna at the St. John Guest Suites and then for the menfolk to pick up dinner at Uncle Joe’s B.B.Q. Baker seems nervous and agitated. He drives like a bat out of hell all the way to Chocolate Hole, and when he pulls into the driveway to drop Anna off, he says, “How many nights did you book?”
“Two,” Anna says. “And I thought you would come back with us.”
“No!” Baker says, his voice like a hammer. “As you can see, my mother needs me.”
“Cash is here to care for Irene,” Anna says. “But you have a child who needs you. I need you.”
“What you mean is that you need me to come home and be a parent because you’re too busy to do it.”
Cash glances at Floyd. He has headphones in and is fully engrossed in his iPad, but still.
“Don’t do this here,” Cash says. “I don’t want to hear it, and neither does you-know-who.”
“Cash is right,” Anna says.
“I’m not leaving in two days,” Baker says.
“We’ll discuss later,” Anna says. She gets out of the Jeep, grabs her bag, pokes her head in the backseat window. “Thanks for coming to get us, Cash. Floyd, I’ll see you at some point tomorrow.” Floyd doesn’t look up. Anna removes one of his ear buds. “See you tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Floyd says. “Bye.”
Maybe she’s not the most maternal presence, but Cash still finds his sister-in-law impressive. He notices her posture as she goes to greet the owners, trailing her roller bag behind her, the picture of extreme self-confidence, uncompromising in her principles.
A person, Anna said to Irene. Another doctor, who happens to be female. Cash chuckles and moves to the front seat, next to Baker.
“Don’t kill me,” he says.
Turns out Baker isn’t angry. Scratch that: he is angry, but his anger is secondary to his panic. He had told Ayers he would take her to Caneel Bay the following night—dinner, hotel, the whole enchilada.
“I had to text her and cancel,” Baker says. His voice is low, even though Floyd still has his headphones in. “I told her our sister showed up unexpectedly.”
“Our sister?” Cash says. “You lied to her?”
“I didn’t lie,” Baker says. “She’s your sister.”
“She’s my sister-in-law,” Cash says. “She’s your wife.”
“I couldn’t very well tell Ayers my wife showed up.”
“Estranged wife,” Cash says. “You could have said your estranged wife showed up with your child out of the blue and you need a few days to deal with it. Ayers is cool. She would understand.”
“Ayers is cool,” Baker mimics. “You have no idea whether she’s cool or not cool. Stop pretending like you know her better than I do.”
“I wasn’t saying that. But I have spent time with her, and I do happen to think she’s cool. I hiked with her, and we went on Treasure Island together. I’m sure it comes as a crushing blow, but she likes me.”
“She may like you just fine,” Baker says. “But she likes me more. All women like me better, Cash, starting with that sweet little… what was her name?”
Claire Bellows, Cash thinks.
“Claire Bellows,” Baker says. “I bet you still haven’t forgiven me for Claire Bellows.”
“Claire Bellows was my girlfriend,” Cash says. “And you slept with her—not because you liked her, but because you wanted to prove to me that you could.”
“You knew Anna and Floyd were coming,” Baker says. “And you didn’t tell me.”
“If you’d answered your phone, you would have known.”
“You’re in love with Ayers yourself,” Baker says. “And that’s why you didn’t tell me Anna was coming.”
“You shouldn’t have been on a date with Ayers,” Cash says. “You’re pretending you’re a single man, but you’re far from it.”
Baker pulls up in front of Uncle Joe’s B.B.Q. and puts the car in park. “Get chicken and ribs,” Baker says. “And a bunch of sides.”
“I need money,” Cash says.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Baker says. “I’ve paid for everything on this trip. You haven’t paid once.”
“I told you my bank card doesn’t work down here.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it,” Baker says. “What’s the issue? You own a business, right? A business that Dad handed you on a silver platter. Are the stores not making money?”
Cash stares at the dashboard. He’s going to punch his brother. He clenches and unclenches his fists. They are right downtown, people are everywhere, Floyd is in the backseat, he has to control himself.
“The stores failed,” Cash says. “They’re gone. The bank owns them now.”
Baker throws his head back to laugh. Cash gets out of the Jeep, but instead of going to Uncle Joe’s B.B.Q., he storms off toward the post office and the ferry dock.
Baker yells from the car. “Cash! Where are you going, man? Listen, I’m sorry.”
Cash doesn’t turn around. He ducks behind a tree and watches Baker drive past, looking for him.
Cash isn’t flat broke. He still has twelve dollars, which, because it’s now happy hour at High Tide, will buy him another margarita.
An hour later, he’s buzzed and indignant. The heinous things Baker said roll through his mind, one after the other. You’re in love with Ayers yourself… a business that Dad handed you on a silver platter… she likes me more. All women like me better… Are the stores not making money? Baker thinks he’s better than Cash. He has always thought that, and maybe Cash had thought it, too. But Baker isn’t going to win this time, not if Cash can help it.
He calls Ayers’s cell phone. He vaguely recalls that she’s busy tonight, not work, some other commitment—but she answers on the second ring.
“Cash?” she says. “Is that you? Is everything all right?”
He breathes in through his nose. He tries to sound sober, or at least coherent. “Baker canceled your date for tomorrow night?” he says. “He told you our sister arrived on the island?”
“He did,” Ayers says. “I didn’t realize you guys had a sister. Neither of you mentioned her before…”
“We don’t,” Cash says. “We don’t have a sister. Baker was lying.”
“Oh,” Ayers says.
“The person who showed up was his wife, Anna. And she brought their son, Floyd.”
“Oh,” Ayers says. “He told me they’d split. That she left him.”
“She’s leaving him, yes,” Cash says. “That part is true. For another doctor at the hospital where she’s a surgeon. But she’s here now, with Floyd. Baker didn’t know they were coming.”
“He didn’t?” Ayers says.
“He didn’t at all,” Cash says. “He was blindsided and he didn’t want you to know, so he lied and said it was our sister.”
“I see,” Ayers says.
“I’m pretty drunk,” Cash says. He’s standing in Powell Park near the gazebo. The sun is setting and the mosquitoes are after him. “Do you think you could come give me a ride home?”
“I wish I could,” Ayers says. “I’m busy, I’m sorry.”
Cash takes a breath. He’s come this far; he might as well go the rest of the way. “Ayers, I have something to tell you. I’m in love with you.”
“Oh, Cash,” she says. “Please don’t make this complicated. You’re a great guy, you know I think that…”
“But you have the hots for Baker,” Cash says. “Because that’s how things always go. Women think I’m a great guy but they have the hots! for! Baker!” He’s shouting now, and he has attracted the attention of a West Indian policewoman, who crosses the street toward him. “You really shouldn’t be interested in either of us. Do you know why?”
“No,” Ayers says. “Why?”
“Russell Steele? Rosie’s boyfriend? The Invisible Man?” Cash says.
“Yes?” Ayers says. She sounds scared now. “Yes?”
“He was our father,” Cash says. And he hangs up the phone.
Hard things are hard. And there’s no instruction manual when it comes to parenting—or in Huck’s case, step-grandparenting—a twelve-year-old girl.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com