Page 52 of Pretend Ring Girl

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“Thank you, but I think I have to face the music. It may be time for me to have my own parental blow out.”

When we reached the parking garage, the limo stops outside and Vincente escorts me to my car on foot. “Get home safe, and let me know what happens. I’ll be waiting up for your message.” With a firm hug and one more kiss, he steps back and waits for me to exit.

The nerves eat a hole in my stomach the entire drive back. I texted my mom and let her know I was on my way, bound to arrive just as I’d promised, before midnight. She didn’t reply, which I knew was a bad sign.

I try to bolster my self-confidence, knowing that I’d done nothing wrong. Friday is my night off. She knew I had plans, and she can hardly be mad at me that an extra shift came up and I couldn’t rush home. For fuck’s sake, I’m an adult with a full-time job. I’m allowed a little time off, too.

But I also know that it’s not as if my evening activities were completely innocent, and the guilt swirls in my chest. The fancy bracelet flashes in the overhead lights on the highway. Would she be able to tell it’s real? I feel better having the cheap necklace on, but even I can tell the difference in quality between the two.

When I pull into the driveway, my mom’s car is here, and my father’s is not.

My stomach is so acidic with stress I’m curious if I’ll throw up before I even make it inside, but I know the only thing that will help is dealing with my problem head on.

And as I step out of my car and slam the door, I see my problem glare out the living room curtains before walking away.

Well, here goes nothing.


The tension is thick in the air when I walk in, quietly closing the door behind me. My eyes remain glued to the ground, so I don’t know exactly where she is yet, but I know I’ll find out soon enough.

“Well, look who decided to grace us with her presence.” My mom’s angry voice sneers from the kitchen.

I risk looking up to see her in her sweats with a half-finished beer in her hand.

“Hi Mom.”

“Don’t you ‘hi Mom’ me, young lady. How dare you ignore my messages! I needed you here so I could work, and now the LT is pissed, and it’s your fault.”

I take a slow, deliberate breath before I reply. “Mom, you knew I had plans, and it’s not my night to babysit. I’m sorry I wasn’t available, but surely the LT understands you can’t alway cover every extra shift.”

“Oh no, don’t you make this about my boss, this is about you and your obligations to thisfamily. The terms of our deal are very clear: you’re a grown woman with a job, living here for free. In exchange you help take care of the kids so your father and I can work and put food on the table.” She takes another long swig of her beer and squints at me with two flinty chips for eyes.

Shit, she’s obviously several beers in and getting snakey.

I really don’t want to go over this again. All the emotions of the night have left me completely drained. “Yes, and I have always been here on the nights we agreed I’d watch them, and I help as much as I can. But it’s not fair for you to expect me to drop my plans every time you can pick up a shift.”

“Don’t talk to me about what’sfair. I gave up my career to raise you! And now you think you’re hot shit, huh? Now that you have a job, you just run around town, dressed like awhore, doing god-knows-what with god-knows-who.” She gestures wildly at my body. “Where did you get that getup, anyway? What exactly were you doing, dressed like that?”

I can’t help the self-conscious cringe that shrinks my shoulders under her scrutiny. “My friend Rebecca from work loaned it to me. I was invited to a cocktail party, and I had nothing appropriate to wear.”

“Chuh,” she snorts. “You have a closet full of nice clothes. Way more than I did at your age, and more than I even do now. You know what’s in my closet? Old sweat pants of your father’s and uniforms. That’s it! I don’t have any pretty, fancy clothes like you do.”

“The only nice things I have are clothes I got for work, and I barely have enough as it is. I love my work clothes, but they’re not party clothes.”

“Yes,partyclothes,” she stands, wobbling a little, and takes another swig as she approaches. “It must be so nice to get all dressed up and go to fancy parties. But I’d hardly call that appropriate… you look like a prostitute. What is that around your neck? It looks cheap.”

“I borrowed it,” I repeat, sticking to my story. “I assume it’s inexpensive. I hardly believe Rebecca would loan me something super valuable. We’re notthatclose.” I try to joke, but every nerve in my body is tense like a live wire.

She’s drunk and angry, and I know what happens with that combo. Normally my mom, with a few drinks in her, is pretty happy-go-lucky, having the time of her life singing karaoke. But she was home alone, bitter and drinking while she lay in wait. This is a worst-case scenario.

“Yeah, cheap,” she spits, “itlookscheap and you look cheap in it.” Before I even see it coming, her hand whips out and yanks on the necklace, digging the links into my skin before the clasp breaks.

“Mom!” I gasp, my hands flying to my neck as my heart batters against my rib cage. “I borrowed that. I need to return it.”

The necklace dangles from her fingertips, but it falls to the floor because she’s already set her sights on my bracelet.

“Ooh, more shiny cheap things on my cheap daughter.”