But I couldn’t tell him about it now. Not yet, at least. Maybe I could use it one day down the line, but right now it would be a waste.
Most important of all, though, was that Natalie was coming to live with us. In just a few hours, my stepsister, no, my wife was going to be staying in our home. I’d be able to see her whenever I wanted to.
“This is going to be a great summer,” I said to the guard.
“Of course, sir,” he mumbled.
I walked away, grinning madly.
Chapter Five: Natalie
Home again. Or at least what was left of it.
“Can you help me with this box, sweetie?”
I dropped my own bag onto the ground as my mother shoved a box into my arms.
“Good to see you too,” I said to her.
“Welcome home.” She smiled and kissed my cheek. “Now, in that truck over there.”
I carried the box to where she was pointing, and a tired-looking guy took it from me and loaded it in.
My childhood home was in chaos. Two trucks were parked out front and men I’d never seen before were crawling in and out, carrying things and loading them into the trucks. I watched as two men carefully hoisted my dresser up into the back of a truck.
Meanwhile, my mother was guiding the whole affair with the precision of a military commander. She was directing, commanding, and yelling, all while managing to make the poor movers’ lives more difficult.
And I didn’t know anything about it. She told me she had sold it, but not that she hadn’t moved out of it yet. Of course she chose the day I was coming home to get it finished when she probably had weeks, or maybe even months.
“Mom,” I said to her, “why are you doing this today? You knew I was coming home, right?”
She gave me a haggard smile. “Yes, sweetie, I know. But this all happened so fast, and the buyer wants to move in tomorrow. So here we are.”
I sighed. “And all my stuff?”
“Sweetie, you’re going to love the new house. It’s absolutely enormous, and the grounds are incredible.”
I knew that arguing or complaining was going to get me nowhere. She quickly moved away, already harping on a pair of movers that weren’t treating her precious coffee table with enough respect.
I couldn’t imagine where we’d be keeping all of our stuff. Probably in some storage shed in a barn out back behind the main house. From what I could tell, I was moving into this enormous mansion, an absurdly expensive piece of property with pretty much every amenity I could ever imagine.
And I hated it. I hated that my mother had made this decision for me, and I hated that she had waited until the last possible moment to do the move. At least the guys that had picked me up from the airport were nice, even though they had instructions to drop me off with my mother.
Apparently we were supposed to head to the grounds together to get “checked in” or something like that. It seemed incredibly strange, but I was going with everything for the time being.
Frankly, I had nowhere else to stay.
The day moved on like that as the trucks slowly filled up. I helped out where I could, but mostly I just stayed out of everyone’s way. Mother was bossy enough, and the guys didn’t need another distraction.
Finally, the trucks were packed. I was basically thrown into the back of a black SUV, my bags taken from me and stowed somewhere else. “You won’t need these,” the guy said as he carried them off.
What the hell was happening to me?
“Are you ready, ma’am?” our driver asked my mother as she climbed in next to me.
“Yes. Let’s head out.”
“Great.” He pulled out into traffic, and the two trucks followed close by.
“Mom, why didn’t you tell me about any of this?” I asked her, finally ready to go on the offensive.
She shook her head. “I know, I’m an awful mother. But listen to me.” She took my hand and looked more serious than I had ever seen her before. “This is a great opportunity for both of us. Arturo can take care of you and me. He’s a wonderful man.”
“I don’t know him,” I said. “And why do we have to get ‘checked in’ or whatever?”
“Well, he runs a very strict household. Lots of security.”
She looked at me dubiously. “You don’t know?”
I shook my head. “What the hell is happening, Mom?”
She glanced at the driver and then back at me and quickly plastered a smile on her face. “Nothing. Nothing at all. We’re just moving into our new home. You’re going to love it, I promise.”
I could tell I wasn’t going to get anywhere new with her. The fake smile was there, which meant she was ready to act however she needed to get through the conversation.