“What?” If I’m honest, the thought was already planted in my mind, but I didn’t want to be the one say it.
“It had to be him! Who else would know we were gone and come into our home but not steal shit? Only him, that stupid, drunk motherfucker!”
“Call him, right now,” he demands.
I reach for my phone in my back pocket but then freeze. “He doesn’t have a phone.”
Hardin throws his hands up like it’s the worst thing he’s ever heard. “Oh yeah, of course not. He’s fucking broke and homeless.”
“Stop it,” I say with a glare. “Just because you think it may have been him doesn’t mean you can say things like that in front of me!”
“Fine.” He lowers his arms and makes a sweeping gesture to escort me out. “Let’s go find him, then.”
I walk over to our landline. “No! We should just call the police and report it, not go on a manhunt for my father.”
“Call the police and say what? That your drug-addict father broke into our apartment but didn’t steal anything?”
I stop in my tracks and turn to face him. I can practically feel my temper flaring through my eyes. “Drug addict?”
He blinks rapidly and takes a step toward me. “I meant drunk . . .” He doesn’t look at me. He’s lying.
“Tell me why you said drug addict,” I demand.
He shakes his head, running his hands over his hair. He looks at me, then down at the floor. “It’s just an assumption, okay?”
“And why would you assume that?” My eyes burn and my throat aches at the thought. Hardin and his brilliant assumptions.
“I don’t know, maybe because that guy who showed up to pick him up looked like your everyday meth addict.” He looks up at me with softness in his eyes. “Did you see the guy’s arms?”
I remember the man scratching his forearms, but he was wearing long sleeves. “My father is not a drug addict . . .” I say slowly, unsure if I believe the words that are coming out of my mouth, but knowing that I’m not ready to face the possibility.
“You don’t even know him. I wasn’t even going to say anything.” He steps toward me again, but I back away.
My bottom lip trembles, and I can’t look at him any longer. “You don’t know him either. And if you weren’t going to say anything, then why did you?”
He shrugs. “I don’t know.”
My headache has now intensified, and I’m so exhausted that I feel like I could pass out at any moment. “What was the point of saying it, then?”
“I said it because it just came out, and he broke into our fucking apartment.”
“You don’t know that.” He wouldn’t. Would he?
“Fine, Tessa, you go ahead and pretend that your dad—who, may I remind you, is a drunk—is perfectly innocent here.”
His nerve is outstanding, as always. He is calling my father out for drinking? Hardin Scott is calling someone out for their drinking, when he gets so drunk that he can barely remember anything the next day?
“You’re a drunk, too!” I say and then instantly cover my mouth.
“What did you say?” Any trace of sympathy drops from his face. He eyes me like a predator, starts circling me.
I feel bad, but I can see he’s just trying to scare me into staying quiet. He’s so unaware of himself and how he is. “If you think about it, you are. You only drink when you’re upset or angry; you don’t know when to stop drinking; and you’re a mean drunk. You break things and get into fights—”
“I’m not a fucking drunk. I had stopped drinking altogether until you came along.”
“You can’t blame me for everything, Hardin.” I ignore the way my mind is reminding me that I, too, have been turning to wine when I’m upset or angry.
“I’m not blaming you for the drinking, Tessa,” he says pretty loudly.
“Two more days and neither of us will have to worry about any of this!” I stalk out into the living room, and he follows.
“Would you just stop and listen to me?” he says in a tone that’s electric, but at least it’s not yelling. “You know I don’t want you to leave me.”
“Yeah, well, you do a pretty good job at showing me otherwise.”
“What is that supposed to mean? I tell you how much I love you on a constant!”
I see the flicker of doubt cross his face as he shouts the words to me; he knows that he doesn’t show his love for me enough. “You don’t even believe that yourself. I can tell.”
“Tell me this, then: you think you can find someone else to put up with your shit? Your constant whining and bitching, your annoying need to have everything in order, and your attitude?” He waves his hands in the air in front of him.
I laugh. I laugh right in Hardin’s face; even with my hand covering my mouth, I can’t stop. “My attitude? My attitude? You are constantly disrespecting me—you’re borderline emotionally abusive, obsessive, suffocating, and rude. You came into my life, turned it upside down, and you expect me to bow down to you because you have this idea of yourself that is complete bullshit. You act like you’re this tough guy who doesn’t give a crap about anyone but himself, yet you can’t even sleep without me! I look past every single one of your flaws, but I will not stand around and let you talk to me like that.”
I pace back and forth across the concrete floor, and he watches my every move. I feel slightly guilty for yelling at him this way, but all it takes is remembering the words he just said to me to refuel my anger toward him. “And by the way, I may be a lot to handle sometimes, but that’s because I’m so busy worrying about you and everyone else around me, and trying not to piss you off, that I forget about myself. So excuse me if I annoy you, or bitch at you when you’re constantly lashing out at me for no damn reason!”