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“Noah, did you say something to my boss?” Mom asked.
“Huh?” I blinked, looking as innocent as I could. “What could I have said?”
“Nothing… it’s probably nothing.” Mom shook her head. “I’m just surprised. Suddenly offering me a week of paid leave so that I can take care of you while you’re recovering at home, I just never expected something like that from my boss. She didn’t even let me take any time off when you went into a coma. The only reason I put up with it was that I knew we’d need the insurance.”
“Ah, well, who knows.” I laughed. “Maybe, things at your job will start looking up.”
Of course, I knew why Ms. Dean had suddenly changed her tune. She had too much to lose to risk upsetting the status quo now. It was a mutually assured destruction now, and as long as Ms. Dean gave up her decade-long revenge streak and played ball, no one would have to lose out. Of course, I had to lie a bit at the end. I had intended to overwhelm her. Once she agreed to my plan, it didn’t matter if she figured out I was lying later. The damage would already be done.
I could always work on getting a DNA test, and as for the recording, how could she know I didn’t have it? At least, I knew such a thing existed, and as much as it filled me with rage, I was going to use it to give my mother a better life. She’d be the boss of her firm, and Ms. Dean could leave and find someone else’s life to ruin, preferably her husband, that rapist bastard. Perhaps there would be a time when I would finally pull the pin on that bomb but now wasn’t that time.
As for how I guessed there was a recording, it was something dad had said to me back some time ago. To convince him that mom cheated on him, they would have needed evidence. He made it seem like he had seen mom cheating, which gave me the idea that she must have recorded it and shown it to him back then to break him. She’d also want something on her husband in case he tried to divorce her, so the tape likely still existed.
Either way, it was the best I could do at the moment. I wasn’t some action hero. I was just a guy trying to help his mom. A week of paid vacation was the least I could do for her after everything that happened. I looked over at mom. It was dark now, and the street lights caused shadows to occasionally cross her face, but I could see a small smile on her lips. That was when red and blue flashing lights appeared.
“Crap…” Mom cursed, and I straitened in my seat as she pulled over to the side.
A police car had a siren on, and they ended up following us to the side of the street. We were getting pulled over. I had numerous thoughts in my mind. Did Miss Dead retaliate already? Was she sending some kind of statement? This was bad.
Mom opened her window as a person approached from the passenger side. “I’m sorry, officer, was I going to fas- ah! Bob?”
Bob? Why does that name seem familiar?
I peeked out the door, and that’s when I recognized the face of the familiar man.
“Samantha’s dad!” I let out.
The officer squinted, and then let out a laugh. “Is that you, Noah? Wow, I haven’t seen you since you were yay high…”
“That’s right! Your Samantha’s dad.” Mom acted like she just realized that. “How is the family going?”
His expression faltered slightly. “Ah, Samantha’s doing okay. A bit lonely… since her mom…”
“Ooohh…” Mom’s face turned white. “I’m sorry for prying, is she-”
“What?” He blinked, and then laughed. “Ah, no, not dead. Her mom ran off with the gardener.”
“Oh, my… I’m so sorry…”
He shrugged. “I’ve gotten over it. I was going through some things and left the force for a while. My wife worked instead. I guess she had enough of it and made a decision. Turns out, it was just the push I needed to get off my butt and start working again, but I do worry about how Samantha is handling it. I’m just a guy, it’s not like I know how to deal with all of those female issues.”
I didn’t know how to feel about it. It sounded like his story played out the same way whether I was there or not. I suppose his wife ran off with a young gardener rather than end up in jail for attacking me. In that respect, things were better. Yet, pretty much everything else was the same. I’d guess it was a sex trafficking case that broke him as well. It was no wonder he was just doing traffic now.
“If you need any advice, I have six daughters. I have just about experienced every female-related problem you could imagine. If there is someone I struggle to understand, it’s my son here.” Mom reached out and squeezed my shoulder.
“Really? That would be wonderful.” He almost looked relieved before falling into thought for a moment. “I stopped you because you had a tail light out.”
“Ah! A tail light?” She couldn’t help but sigh. “That’s another $100 I can’t afford.”
“Changing out tail lights isn’t hard at all.” He smiled, leaning in close. “Look, my shift is ending now. I’m just offering… I mean, if you want, we can get a replacement and I can change it at my place.”
“I can cook!” Mom sounded a bit too excited.
“Oi…” I spoke up.
I cooked my sister’s dinner a short time ago, and now Mom wanted to go to someone else’s house to cook for them. Plus, Bob here had pulled us over. Why was this starting to sound like a date?
“I’m sure Samantha would love to see Noah again too.” He grinned as both of them looked innocently my way.
I opened my mouth, but then closed it again. Samantha was on my list of people to see. I didn’t have a good idea of how to approach her. This wasn’t that other world. Samantha was a girly girl once again, not a tomboy. If I acted aggressively, she could end up seeing me as a creeper. I knew how to handle Abigail and Anna because they were generally awkward girls who couldn’t handle confidence. Samantha had never been like that. She was a so-called popular girl.
Yet, Officer Bob ended up saying exactly the right thing to get me to consent. He returned to his car and turned off the lights, and we ended up following his car. He stopped briefly at an auto store, and without saying anything, he ran in and bought the part.
“He seems… eager,” I responded, a bit dissatisfied.
“Noah, you’re not jealous, are you?”
“Jealous?” I jerked. “Why would I be jealous? If you want to d-date again, ahem… you can date.”
“Date!” Mom’s eyes widened and her expression turned shy. “Calling it a date…”
“Tsk… just don’t do anything without telling us,” I muttered.
I wasn’t upset about it. Bob seemed like a nice enough guy. I also didn’t plan on pursuing my mother or my sisters in this world. This was my chance to restart things, and I didn’t want to have some messed up family dynamics. Even though mom wasn’t biological, I knew I didn’t have the right to monopolize her time. It was a good thing that she go out and meet some people her age.
“You should watch him and learn how to change the light too,” Mom smirked as we left the auto store parking lot. “If we didn’t have him to do this it’d cost five times as much. I appreciate your cooking, but I can do that. I wouldn’t be against you getting some of the man chores done around the house.”
“Man… chores,” I spoke quietly, feeling the words out in my mouth.
The word man meant something very different only a short while before, but mom would have no clue. I suppose, to be a man in this world, I had to act a lot like my sisters from that world. I could learn about cars, and maybe fix up some stuff. Although the house was cleaner in this world, I also noticed that some of the more technical stuff wasn’t getting done. There was a hole in the wall I made a few years ago. It had been patched in that world, but not this one. The doors squeaked when I opened them, while the doors in that world had all been lubricated.
Mom saw me lost in thought and didn’t say anything more as we followed Bob’s cop car back to his house. It was the same house as before. He opened the garage and gestured for my mom to pull right in. Both Mom and Bob seemed rather energetic even though it was late at night. They walked into the dark house and Bob turned on all the lights while mom found the kitchen, asking for whatever supplies Bob might have available.
“Hey, buddy.” Bob nodded to me. “Samantha’s always locked up in her room these days. Can you go get her?”
I was a bit surprised. They had their guard down and let me into Samantha’s room in that world, but I was shocked he was trusting me with his daughter in this one. Samantha said that Bob had always liked me though. I was finding it difficult to come up with a reason to dislike the guy. Shivering slightly, I nodded to him and headed up the stairway. I knew my way at the point and headed straight to her room. The door was closed, so I knocked. After a moment, she didn’t answer, so I knocked again.
When she continued not to answer, I turned back to the stairway only to hear my mom giggling. I wasn’t sure what Bob said, but I knew that was mom’s flirtatious giggles. It put me in an even worse mood. Samantha’s door lock was the kind of lock that could easily be unlocked with any set of keys or even a screwdriver. I knew there was such a door opener sitting on the top of the door, so I grabbed it and then clicked her door open, and stepped in.
As soon as I stepped inside, I froze in place. I had been thinking Samantha was asleep. I was just going to surprise her a bit. What I didn’t expect was that I was going to walk in on her naked. Well, at least, her lower half was naked. She had her legs spread and she was guiding something in between them. The buzzing sound immediately informed me that the thing in between her legs was a vibrator. She had her eyes closed and her lips open. She was letting out little moaning noises I had failed to hear outside the door.
She couldn’t hear because she was doing it with headphones in her ears, listening to some kind of music. It was clear she was in her little world. I went to step back, intending to close the door and just tell her father she wasn’t answering. However, whether it was luck or her eyes caught the motion, her eyes snapped open, and the pair of us ended up looking at each other.
“You might not want to…”
“Scream…” I sighed.
I heard her father run to the stairs. I turned around and slammed the door shut as her dad ran up.
“It’s nothing!” I coughed.
“Is Samantha alright?” He tried to get passed me, but I moved to block him.
“Yeah, she’s fine.”
“She’s screamed? What happened?” His expression grew serious, perhaps even a little scary.
“Nothing! She’s fine! Just give her a moment.” I shoved my back between him and the door as he tried to turn the knob.
“Kid, I don’t know what happened, but if you don’t move right now!” He glared.
“Dad! I’m fine!” A shout came through the door.
“Honey!” His expression softened. “Did something happen?”
“N-no!” She shouted back. “I just was surprised to see Noah, that’s all!”
“Is that all?” He asked suspiciously.
“Yes!” She snapped back. “Just go away!”
He still looked hesitant. “Should I go?”
“Yes, Dad! Didn’t I say we needed boundaries? Go, away!”
Bob looked like he had been struck. He still gave me a suspicious look, but then he sighed.
“Come on, kid. Let’s go back downstairs.” He nodded to me.
“Also, N-noah… can come inside.”
Bob really did have it rough being a single parent.