Square (excerpt)

The houses seemed to grow larger and larger and spread farther and farther apart as August and her mother drew closer to her aunt’s house. August peered around at her surroundings. There was so much land, so many trees. No stores, though. No restaurants, no cafes, not a person in sight. She assumed they all must have been hiding in their great big houses up their long driveways, in one of their million bedrooms.

“AJ,” came her mother’s voice from the driver’s seat. “Augie, baby, light my cigarette for me, will you?”

August turned and glanced down at the ciagrette her mother was trying to give her, and then glared up at the woman’s face before turning back to the window. Evangaline sighed. “C’mon, Aug, give me a fucking break.” She stuck the cigarette in her mouth before fumbling with the matches while still trying to steer. She lit three that all went out before she frsutratedly threw the matchbook at her daughter. “Light this fucking thing!” she yelled.

With an annoyed sigh, August obliged and then turned back to the window. Evangeline smoked a moment before August sucked her teeth. “I realized a long time ago you don’t care about me, Mother, but could you at least roll down your window so your second hand smoke doesn’t kill me before we get there?” August would have rolled down her own but nothing on her side of the old car functioned correctedly. Sometimes she couldn’t even get the door open and would have to climb out of the driver’s side.

“I don’t care about you, huh?”

“You wouldn’t be dumping me with some relative that you don’t even like if you did.”

“I’m doing this because I do care about you. And I never said I don’t like her. She’s my sister. Jesus, August.”

“She’s batshit crazy. You said said yourself, those were your own words.”

Evageline rolled her eyes as she exhaled a mouthful of smoke. “She’s not that bad. Who knows, maybe she’s gotten better with age.”

August glared at her mother, shaking her head. “You don’t even sounds like you believe yourself.”

Evangeline shrugged. “Can you please just try to be reasonable. Fuck, AJ, we both know I’ve been a shit mother, alright? I’m trying to make up for it.”

“By abandoning me. Good start, Ma.”

“No, by giving you a good home where you can go to one of the best schools and make friends who are worth something. By getting myself together so when we are together again, I can give you a halfway decent life.”

August swallowed the lump that found its way to her throat. “Why can’t I just stay with you?” she pleaded, her voice coming out as barely a squeak.

“Because I’m going to fucking rehab, AJ. When have you heard of mothers bringing their
children to rehab with them? Can’t you see I’m doing this for us?”

August shook her head. “You shouldn’t have started drinking in the first place,” she murmured.

“Yeah, well, I did. But now I’m trying to stop, alright. I’m trying to right my wrongs so give me some fucking credit, will you?” She handed her daughter another cigarette. “Light this.” August lit it and watched Evangeline take a long drag. “Look at the bright side. Juliette is filthy-fucking-rich. You’ll probably have every thing you’ve ever dreamed of wanting. And you get to live with that young husband of hers, and look at him all day. I don’t know how she got herself such a catch. At first I thought he was after her cash for sure, but it turns out the guy has bank of his own.”

“I don’t care about any of that,” August said.

Evangeline rolled her eyes. “Your such a square. Do you know that? If you take nothing from this car ride, Augie, take this: Don’t be such a square. No one likes a fucking square. It’s no wonder you don’t have any friends.” She shrugged. “Who knows, maybe it’s for the best. I was no square and look at how I turned out. And look at Juliette. She was as square as they come and she grew up to be some big shot fucking model living in a mansion with a rich, gorgeous husband half her fucking age.”

Evangeline took another deep drag of her ciagrette before flicking it out of the window. She didn’t look back at her daughter as she exhaled the smoke, and she didn’t say anything else. August watched her for a moment. Were there tears in her eyes? August looked away before she could be sure. She didn’t want to feel sorry for her mother. She was done feeling sorry for her.

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