From the Cutting Room Floor

Cut from: Trusting a Traitor, Chapter 26

Reason: Disrupted the pacing.

Mama and I were in a screaming match. She could barely hold herself up, she was so drunk, like her legs were under someone else’s control. She sucked in a breath to sling another insult when Ian walked in the door. I was just as shocked to see him standing there unannounced in the middle of the day as she was. Mama turned on her loving charm in an instant, tripping over her own feet as she went to embrace him.

I frothed with anger, repulsed by how quickly her demeanor changed when my brother was around. Unable to watch the scene anymore, I stormed to my bedroom, knocking over anything that dared get in my path, rage exploding from my fists.

I felt his presence behind me in the doorway and whipped around. “Don’t bother,” I said.

The way his forehead wrinkled reminded me of a ghost from my past. My father.

“Don’t come in here like you’re going to save the day. Just get out.”

I turned away, feeling the fullness of my lie. I wanted rescued. I wanted to throw myself at his mercy and beg him not to leave me behind again. The tears came swift and hot and burned on the way out.

Ian came to me and reached out across the void I was trying to put between us. I fell into his arms and pressed my face into the hard part of his shoulder. He seemed bigger than I remembered, strong like a mast to guide the sail and take me away from here. He was a man now, and I was still a fragile boy.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t know.”

“Don’t leave me with her,” I said.

He didn’t consider his offer for more than half a second. “I bought a house. I want you to move in with me. Pack your stuff.”

I studied his face, seeking an exception, a contingency. In a surreal state, I stuffed clothing into a duffle and collected the few belongings I gave value. It was as if he tossed me a lifeline and I clung to it, waiting for him to revoke his offer, or wake up and realize it had only been a dream.

I shriveled as Mama approached, blocking the door, a black anger in her eyes tinting their soft blue with hate. I didn’t know what I’d done to make her resent me this way, if it was the drink talking or if she really felt this level of disdain for me.

“Where are you going?” she asked, looking only at me.

I opened my mouth to answer, but Ian interjected: “I’m taking him somewhere safe.”

“You can’t do that,” she said.

It was the first and only time I ever saw aggression pour out of Ian, a stern tone in his words as he said, “You’re out of control. You need to get clean and you are not allowed at my house until you do.” Then he put his hand on my shoulder and took me away from there.

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