All Your Perfects - Page 13

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I want to be gone before Graham returns home.

I haven't called my mother to tell her I'm coming to stay with her yet. I probably won't call her. I'll just show up. I dread the conversation with her enough to put as much time between now and having to speak with her about it.

"I warned you," she'll say.

"You should have married Ethan," she'll say. "They all eventually cheat, Quinn. At least Ethan would have been a rich cheater."

I unlock my bedroom door and walk to the living room. Graham's car isn't in the driveway. I walk around the house to see if there's anything I want to take with me. It feels reminiscent of when I was cleaning Ethan out of my apartment. I wanted nothing to do with him. Not even the things that reminded me of him.

I scour my home as my eyes fall over the years of stuff Graham and I have accumulated. I wouldn't even know where to start if I wanted to take anything. So I start nowhere. I just need clothes.

When I make it back to the bedroom, I close my suitcase and zip it up. As I'm pulling it off the bed, my eyes lock on the wooden box on the bottom shelf of my bookcase. I immediately walk to the bookcase and grab the box, then take it back to the bed. I jiggle the lock, but it doesn't budge. I remember Graham taping the key to it so we'd never lose it. I flip the box over and dig my nail beneath the piece of tape. I guess I'll finally get to see what's inside of it after all.

"Quinn."

I jump when I hear his voice. But I don't look at him. I cannot look at him right now. I keep my eyes downcast and finish pulling at the tape until I can pry the key loose.

"Quinn." Graham's voice is full of panic. I freeze, waiting for him to say whatever it is he needs to say. He walks into the room and sits down on the bed next to me. His hand clasps my hand that's gripping the key. "I did the absolute worst thing I could possibly do to you. But please give me a chance to make things right before you open this."

I can feel the key in the palm of my hand.

He can keep it.

I grab his hand and flip it over. I place the key in his palm and then close his fist. I look him in the eye. "I won't open the box. But only because I don't give a fuck what's inside of it anymore."

I don't even remember the grief between leaving my house and driving over here, but I'm now parked in my mother's driveway.

I stare up at it. At the huge Victorian-style home that means more to my mother than anything outside of it. Including me.

She'd never admit to that, though. It would look bad, admitting out loud that she never really wanted to be a mother. Sometimes I resent her for that. She was able to get pregnant--by accident--and carry a child to term. Twice. And neither of those times was exciting for her. She talked for years about the stretch marks my sister and I left on her. She hated the baby weight she never lost. On the days we were really stressing her out, she'd call the nanny she had on speed dial and she'd say, "Honestly, Roberta. I can't take this another minute. Please come as soon as you can, I need a spa day."

I sit back in my seat and stare up at the bedroom that used to be mine. Long before she turned it into a spare closet for her empty shoeboxes. I remember standing at my window once, staring out over our front yard. Graham was with me. It was the first time I'd ever taken him home to meet her.

I'll never forget what he said that day. It was the most honest and beautiful thing he's ever said to me. And it was that moment--standing with him at my bedroom window--that I fell in love with him.

That's the best memory I have inside my mother's house and it isn't even a memory I share with her. It's a memory I share with Graham. The husband who just cheated on me.

I feel like being inside my mother's house would be worse than being inside my own. I can't face her right now. I need to figure out my shit before I allow her to stick her nose in it.

I begin to back out of the driveway, but it's too late. The front door opens and I see her step outside, squinting to see who is in her driveway.

I lean my head back against the seat. So much for escaping.

"Quinn?" she calls out.

I get out of the car and walk toward her. She holds the front door open, but if I go inside, I'll feel trapped. I take a seat on the top step and look out over the front yard.

"You don't want to go inside?"

I shake my head and then fold my arms over my knees and I just start crying. She eventually takes a seat next to me. "What's the matter?"

It's times like these when I wish I had a mother who actually cared when I was crying. She just goes through the motions, patting a stiff hand against my back.

I don't even tell her about Graham. I don't say anything because I'm crying too hard to speak at first. When I finally do calm down enough to catch my breath, all I can ask her is something that comes out way worse than I mean for it to.

"Why would God give someone like you children but not me?" My mother stiffens when I say that. I immediately lift up and look at her. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for that to sound so heartless."

She doesn't look all that offended. She just shrugs. "Maybe it isn't God's fault," she says. "Maybe reproductive systems just work or they don't." That would make more sense. "How did you know I never wanted kids?"

I laugh halfheartedly. "You said it. Many times."

She actually looks guilty. She glances away from me and stares out over the front yard. "I wanted to travel," she says. "When your father and I got married, we had plans to move to a different country every year for five years before buying a house. Just so we could experience other cultures before we died. But one crazy night, we weren't careful and it turned into your sister, Ava." She looks at me and says, "I never wanted to be a mother, Quinn. But I've done my best. I truly have. And I'm grateful for you and Ava. Even if it's hard for me to show it." She grabs my hand and squeezes it. "I didn't get my first choice at the perfect life, but I sure as hell did the best I could with my second choice."

I nod, wiping a tear away. I can't believe she's admitting all of this to me. And I can't believe I can sit here and be okay with her telling me my sister and I weren't what she wanted in life. But the fact that she's being honest and even said she's grateful is more than I ever imagined I'd get from her. I put my arms around her.

"Thank you."

She hugs me back, albeit stiffly and not like I would hug my own children if I had any. But she's here and she's hugging me and that should count for something.

"Are you sure you don't want to come inside? I could put on some hot tea."

I shake my head. "It's late. I should probably get back home."

She nods, although I can tell she's hesitant to leave me out here alone. She just doesn't know what to do or say beyond what she's already said without it becoming too awkward. She eventually goes inside, but I don't leave right away. I sit on her porch for a while because I don't want to go back home yet.

I also don't want to be here.

I kind of wish I didn't have to be anywhere at all.

Chapter Nineteen

* * *

Then

"I miss you." I try not to pout, but it's a phone conversation and he can't see me, so I push my lip out.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he says. "Promise. I just worry I'm smothering you but you're too nice to tell me."

"I'm not. I'm mean and blunt and I would tell you to leave if I wanted you to leave." It's true. I would tell him if I wanted space. And he would give it to me without question.

"I'll come over as soon as I get off work tomorrow and pick you up. Then I meet your mother."

I sigh. "Okay. But let's have sex before we go to her house because I'm already stressed."

Graham laughs and I can tell by his laugh he's thinking dirty thoughts because of my sentence. He has different laughs for different reactions and it's been one of my favorite things, differentiating them all. My favorite laugh is in the morning when I tell him about what I dreamt the night before. He always thinks my dreams are funny and there's a dry throatiness to his mo

rning laugh because he's not fully awake yet.

"See you tomorrow." He says it quietly, like he already misses me.

"Goodnight." I hang up in a hurry. I don't like talking to him on the phone because he still hasn't told me he loves me yet. I haven't told him, either. So when we're saying goodbye to each other, I'm always scared that's when he'll choose to say it. I don't want him to say it for the first time during a phone conversation. I want him to say it when he's looking at me.

I spend the next two hours trying to remember what my life was like before Graham. I take a shower alone, watch TV alone, play on my phone alone. I thought maybe it would be nice, but I'm mostly just bored with it.

It's odd. I was with Ethan for four years and probably spent one or two nights a week with him. I loved my alone time when Ethan and I were dating. Even in the beginning. Being with him was nice, but being alone was just as nice.

It's not like that with Graham. After two hours, I'm bored out of my mind. I finally turn off the television, turn off my phone, turn off the lamp. When all is dark, I try to clear my thoughts so I'll fall asleep and be able to dream about him.

* * *

My alarm starts to buzz, but it's too bright, so I grab a pillow and throw it over my face. Graham is normally here and he always cuts off the alarm for me and gives me a couple of minutes to wake up. Which means my alarm will go off forever if I don't adult.

I move the pillow and just as I'm about to reach for the alarm, it cuts off. I open my eyes and Graham is rolling back over to face me. He's not wearing a shirt and it looks like he just woke up.

He smiles and pecks me on the lips. "I couldn't sleep," he says. "Finally gave up and came over here after midnight."

I smile, even though it's way too early for me to feel like smiling. "You missed me."

Graham pulls me against him. "It's weird," he says. "I used to be fine when I was alone. But now that I have you, I'm lonely when I'm alone."

Sometimes he says the sweetest things. Words I want to write down and keep forever so that I'll never forget them. But I never write them down because every time he says something sweet, I take off his clothes and need him inside me more than I need to write down his words.

That's exactly what happens. We make love and I forget to write down his words. We've been trying to catch our breath for the last minute when he turns to me and says, "What did I miss while you were sleeping?"

I shake my head. "It's too weird."

He lifts up onto his elbow and looks at me like I'm not getting out of this. I sigh and roll onto my back. "Okay, fine. We were at your apartment in the dream. Only your apartment was a really tiny shit-hole in Manhattan. I woke up before you because I wanted to do something nice and make you breakfast. But I didn't know how to cook and all you had were boxes of cereal, so I decided to make you a bowl of Lucky Charms. But every time I would pour the cereal into the bowl, the only thing that would come out of the box were tiny little comedians with microphones."

"Wait," Graham says, interrupting me. "Did you say comedians? Like as in people who tell jokes?"

"I told you it was weird. And yes. They were telling knock-knock jokes and yo-momma jokes. I was getting so angry because all I wanted to do was make you a bowl of Lucky Charms, but there were hundreds of tiny, annoying comedians climbing all over your kitchen, telling lame jokes. When you woke up and walked into the kitchen, you found me crying. I was a sobbing mess, running around your kitchen, trying to squash all the little comedians with a mason jar. But instead of being freaked out, you just walked up behind me and wrapped your arms around me. You said, 'Quinn, it's okay. We can have toast for breakfast.' "

Graham immediately drops his face into the pillow, stifling his laughter. I shove him in the arm. "Try and decipher that one, smartass."

Graham sighs and pulls me to him. "It means that I should probably cook breakfast from now on."

I like that plan.

"What do you want? French toast? Pancakes?"

I lift up and kiss him. "Just you."

"Again?"

I nod. "I want seconds."

I get exactly what I want for breakfast. Then we shower together, drink coffee together, and leave for work.

We couldn't even spend an entire night apart, but I don't think this means we live together. That's a huge step neither of us are willing to admit we took. I think if anything, this just means we no longer live alone. If there's a difference.

His mother probably thinks we already live together since she thinks we've been dating a lot longer than we have. I've been to Graham's parents' house at least once a week since the first night he took me there. Luckily, he stopped with the fictional stories. I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up with everything he told her the first night.

His mother absolutely loves me now and his father already refers to me as his daughter-in-law. I don't mind it. I know we've only been together three months, but Graham will be my husband one day. It's not even a question. It's what happens when you meet your future husband. You eventually marry him.

And eventually . . . you introduce him to your mother.

Which is what is happening tonight. Not because I want him to meet her, but because it's only fair since I've met his. I show you mine, you show me yours.

* * *

"Why are you so nervous?" Graham reaches across the seat and puts pressure on my knee. The knee I've been bouncing up and down since we got in the car. "I'm the one meeting your mother. I should be the nervous one."

I squeeze his hand. "You'll understand after you meet her."

Graham laughs and brings my hand to his mouth, kissing it. "Do you think she'll hate me?"

We're on my mother's street now. So close. "You aren't Ethan. She already hates you."

"Then why are you nervous? If she already hates me, I can't disappoint her."

"I don't care if she hates you. I'm scared you'll hate her."

Graham shakes his head like I'm being ridiculous. "I could never hate the person who gave you life."

He says that now . . .

I watch Graham's expression as he pulls into the driveway. His eyes take in the massive home I grew up in. I can feel his thoughts from where I'm sitting. I can also hear them because he speaks them out loud.

"Holy shit. You grew up here?"

"Stop judging me."

Graham puts the car in park. "It's just a home, Quinn. It doesn't define you." He turns in his seat to face me, placing his hand on the seat rest behind my head as he leans in closer. "You know what else doesn't define you? Your mother." He leans forward and kisses me, then reaches around me and pushes open my door. "Let's get this over with."

No one greets us at the door, but once we're inside, we find my mother in the kitchen. When she hears us, she turns around and assesses Graham from head to toe. It's awkward because Graham goes in for a hug at the same time she goes in for a handshake. He falters a little, but that's the only time he falters. He spends the entire dinner as the adorably charming person he is.

The whole time, I watch him, completely impressed. He's done everything right. He greeted my mother as if he were actually excited to meet her. He's answered all her questions politely. He's talked just enough about his own family while making it seem he was more interested in ours. He complimented her decor, he laughed at her lame jokes, he ignored her underhanded insults. But even as I watch him excel, I've seen nothing but judgment in her eyes. I don't even have to hear what she's thinking because she's always worn her thoughts in her expressions. Even through years of Botox.

She hates that he drove up in his Honda Accord and not something flashier.

She hates that he dared to show up for his first introduction in a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.

She hates that he's an accountant, rather than the millionaires he does the accounting for.

She hates that he isn't Ethan.

"Quinn," she says as she stands. "Why don't you give your friend a tour of the house."  My friend.

She won't even dignify us with a label.

I'm relieved to have an excuse to leave the sitting room, even if it's just for a few minutes. I grab Graham's hand and pull him out of the sitting room as my mother returns the tea tray to the kitchen.

We start in the great room, which is just a fancier name for a living room no one is allowed to sit in. I point to the wall of books and whisper, "I've never even seen her read a book. She just pretends to be worldly."

Graham smiles and pretends to care while we walk slowly through the great room. He pauses in front of a wall of photos. Most of them are of my mother and us girls. Once our father died and she remarried, she put away most of the photos of him. But she's always kept one. It's a picture of our father with Ava on one knee and me on the other. As if Graham knows the exact photo I'm studying, he pulls it off the wall.

"You and Ava look more alike now than you did here."

I nod. "Yeah, we get asked if we're twins every time we're together. We don't really see it, though."

"How old were you when your father died?"

"Fourteen."

"That's so young," he says. "Were you very close?"

I shrug. "We weren't not close. But he worked a lot. We only saw him a couple of times a week growing up, but he made the most of the times we did see him." I force a smile. "I like to imagine that we'd be a lot closer now if he were alive. He was an older father, so I think it was just hard for him to connect with little girls, you know? But I think we would have connected as adults."

Graham places the picture back on the wall. He pauses at every single picture and touches my photo, as if he can learn more about me through the pictures. When we finally make it through the sitting room, I lead him toward the back door to show him the greenhouse. But before we pass the stairs, he rests his hand against the small of my back and whispers against my ear. "I want to see your old bedroom first."

His seductive voice makes his intentions clear. I get excited at the thought of recreating what happened in his childhood bedroom. I grab his hand and rush him up the stairs. It's probably been a year or more since I actually came up to my old bedroom. I'm excited for him to see it because after being in his, I feel like I learned a lot more about him as a person.



Tags: Colleen Hoover Romance
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