I glanced one last time at the text message and rolled my eyes.
Another summons from my mother, another message I was going to ignore.
“You do know that she can see when you read the message, right?”
A grin spreads across my lips, and I shoved the phone in my pocket. “I know. This is the only bit of rebellion that I give in to. I can vividly picture my mother looking like she just ate one of those sour kid candies with her lips pursed as she stares down at her phone.”
Karlton shook his head. “One day, your mother’s head is going to explode, and then you’re going to feel all kinds of guilt.” He was squeezing a stress ball in each hand and sprawled out in one of the chairs in the small reception area.
“Doubtful. That woman is going to live forever to torment me for the rest of my life.” I loved my mother, but she drove me insane. She treated me like I was ten, not twenty-five. “Don’t feel sorry for the woman, Karl. She wants me to come to dinner so she and Dad can harp on me for hours about how I’m wasting my life while I eat dried-out lamb and try not to gouge out my ears with a spoon.”
“You paint such a vivid picture,” he chuckled.
I rolled my eyes and collapsed in the chair behind the front desk. “That is me putting it mildly.”
I could say that because I had lived with the woman for eighteen grueling years and had barely escaped with my sanity intact.
“Do I dare ask the last time you saw your mother dearest?”
One could never forget their last encounter with Vivian. “Last Thursday. I made the mistake going to the grocery store close to their house.” I had been craving Clyde's amazing chicken salad and figured I wasn’t likely to run into anyone I knew just ducking into the store quickly.
I was dead wrong.
“Did you talk to her, or avoid her?”
Karlton knew me all too well. “I tried to slip out of the produce section before she saw me, but the woman has sonar when it comes to finding me. She probably knew I was there before I even stepped foot out of my car.”
“Finish the story. I need to know what Ice Queen had to say. I also need to know what she was wearing.”
I slowly spun around in my chair and smirked. Karlton loved to hear my horror stories and also salivated to know about the outfit she wore while she berated me. “She looked amazing, well, at least her clothes did. I think she must have had Botox earlier because all that moved were her lips.”
“Details. I need details on the clothes,” he whined.
Jesus. Sometimes, Karlton’s uber-gayness went a little over the top. “They were clothes and cost more than your rent.”
“At least tell me what designer they were.” He pouted and sat forward in his chair, eager for any detail I would give him.
“Chanel.” Even though I hadn’t worn clothes like hers for years, I could still pinpoint brands. “Shoes were Louis Vuitton.”
“Flats, pumps, sandals, or boots?”
I rolled my eyes. “Pumps. Open-toed. Black.”
He clasped his chest and fell back into his chair. “Eyeline Open Toe Pump,” he sighed.
“I see you’ve been memorizing the catalog again.”
“It’s the closest I’ll ever get to a pair. I’ll never understand why you gave up the life. I would put up with a harpy bat if it meant I had unlimited stock of Louis’.” Ha. Karlton could have that life. Fancy clothes and shoes weren’t worth living with Vivian. “Now tell me what she had to say.”
“She looked me up and down, curled her lip, and asked me what I was wearing.”
Karlton laughed. “What were you wearing?”
“Dingy yoga pants and a white tank top.”
“So exactly what you are wearing now.”
“Hey,” I protested. “These are brand new yoga pants. I got a good deal online.” I might have gone a bit overboard on ordering, but I couldn’t pass up free shipping and fifty percent off. While my mother never looked at prices, I was a bargain hunter and rarely paid full price.
Karlton waved his hand at me. “Continue the story.”
“She asked all of her typical questions. When was I going to wake up and come back home? Was I still dirtying my hands at the ‘dreaded’ yoga hole? Had I met a decent man yet to make an honest woman of me? The usual.”
“And I’m sure you answered all of them like the dutiful daughter that you are.”
I was hardly dutiful. I just knew in order to get away from her, I needed to answer her questions and make my escape as quickly as I could. “I gave her the bare minimum. Never, yes, and no.”
“How annoyed did she look?”
“Scale of one to ten, I would have to say fifty.” I learned early on in my life that nothing would ever make Vivian happy. Even if I were to do exactly what she wanted, she would always find something else she didn’t like. When I was sixteen, I had gone above and beyond to try to make her happy; it was the worst year of my life. Trying to act like labels and brands mattered and having staff wait on me hand and foot was not the kind of life I wanted to live.
Vivian and my dad were filthy rich and lived for everyone they knew to know it. They flaunted it and loved the looks they got from people. I stopped calling Vivian “Mom” when I turned eighteen, and she demanded that I call her “Vivian.” My dad was a bit better than Vivian, but he had his moments also that drove me crazy.
“Are you going to dinner?”
I shook my head. “I have at least two more times I can ignore her before I have to go.”
“Got it down to a science,” he chuckled. “Maybe you should get a fake boyfriend to take with you, and then you could get her off your back on that.”
Pfft. I didn’t even know anyone who would want to enter the lion’s den with me. My mother would tear apart any guy I brought. “Are you volunteering?”
Karlton held up his hands. “As much as I would love to see the castle they live in and play in your mother’s closet, I don’t think she would believe for a minute that you and I were knocking boots. Especially if she caught me in her closet trying on her Louis’.”
“My mother would probably love you if she met you. You could be one of her token gay friends. You just wouldn’t pass the boyfriend test.”
Karlton tapped his chin. “Then I guess we need to find you a guy who would pass the test and keep her off of your back.”
“That man does not exist.”
“Oh ye of little faith. You just leave this to Uncle Karlton. I’ll find you just the man that you need.”
I stood up and leaned on the desk. “I think I should be afraid. Maybe lay down some ground rules. I know you think you know my mother from what I have told you, but you really don’t.” Karlton was the person who knew the most about my mother, but I still kept things from him. “He can’t be gay. My mother will know right away.”
“Pfft, I know that. I know a ton of guys who will fit the bill and would be more than willing to spend time with you.” He pulled out his phone and flicked his finger on the screen. “I’ll have to hold a couple of auditions. I think I’ll need a few judges to help me.”
“Judges? What the hell are you planning on doing?” Now I was terrified of what Karlton had planned.
“Don’t worry about it. I just need to make a few calls, and I’ll have a date for you within the week. Then you can head off to your mom’s.”
To say I was doubtful that this was going to work was an understatement. “Do your worst, Karl. You have four weeks before I’ll need to make an appearance.”
He stood and rubbed his hands together. “This is going to be so fun. I need to run to the café and talk with Molly and Sage.”
I figured he was going to rope them into this. “Try not to broadcast it to the whole world that I’m so pathetic that I need you to find me a date.”
He winked at me and slipped out the door.
I glanced at the clock and saw that my only class today was going to start in half an hour. Wednesday’s were my slow days where I only had one class, and I used the time to clean and work on paperwork. Karlton always came over to shoot the shit and tell me all the gossip he had heard at the laundromat. He thrived sitting in the corner of Sudz and eavesdropping on everyone’s conversation.
Now I was more than likely going to be added to the gossip he loved.
Oh well. This wasn’t going to last long. He would find some poor sucker he would trick into coming to Vivian’s, she would chew him up and spit him out, and then I would go back to the usual way of dealing with her.