I walk up to my house and I see Cora standing outside.
“Tyler”, she said with a shaky voice. “I thought he knew… I wouldn’t have mentioned that Paisley was here, but you didn’t seem to be hiding it, so I thought things had changed and that-.._
“Cora, stop. It’s fine.”
She sighs and runs her hand over her hair. I don’t understand her nervousness, or why she thought I would be angry with her but I feel bad for her and don’t want to see her upset.
I leave Cora and step inside to find my father.
“Tyler” it’s a voice coming from behind me. I turn and am suddenly face to face with the man in all the family photos.
He’s missing the brilliant fake smile, though.
He eyes me up and down as if the mere sight of his son disappoints him. Then he turns and walks through a door leading out of the foyer.
His silence demands I follow him without words, and so I do.
He edges around a desk in what must be his private office and takes a seat.
“Care to explain?”
I’m tempted to explain; I really am. I want to tell him that I have no idea who he is, no idea why he’s angry, and no idea who I am. But I don’t.
I have the feeling that I should probably be nervous or intimidated by him. I’m sure yesterday’s Tyler would be, but it’s hard to feel scared by someone I don’t know at all.
“Care to explain what?” I ask.
“Tyler!” his voice is so deep and sharp, it feels like the tip of a knife stabbing me. “Sit!”
Yesterday’s Tyler would probably be saying “Yes, sir” and sit down.
Today’s Tyler shrugs and walks slowly to the desk.
“Why was she inside this house today?”
He is referring to Paisley like she’s poison. He’s referring to her the same way her mother referred to me.
“She wasn’t feeling well at school. She needed a ride home and we took a quick detour” I say while finally sitting down.
This man…. My father… leans back in his chair. He rubs his neck.
Five seconds pass.
Ten seconds pass.
Fifteen seconds pass.
He finally leans forward again. “You seeing her again?”
Is this a trick question? Because it feels like one.
If I say yes, it will obviously piss him off. If I say no, it feels like I will let him win. I don’t know why, but I really don’t want this man to win.
“What if I am?”
His hand moves across the desk and then fists into the collar of my shirt. He yanks me forward and my hands grab the edges of the desk for resistance. Once more I am determined not to let this man win; not to let him intimidate me.
We’re eye to eye now and I can see him itching to hurt me. I wonder if this is common?
Then he pushes his fist against my chest and releases me. I fall back into the chair behind me but only for a second.
Just as quickly, I’m back on my feet.
I probably should have hit the asshole, but I don’t hate him enough to do it. For a moment we just stare silently at each other.
He suddenly picks up a paperweight and hurls it across the room and just missing me by inches. It smashes against a shelf and knocks everything on the floor.
I stand still and watch him pace back and forth like a lion. I don’t understand why he could possibly be this upset over the fact that Paisley was here today. Especially since Cora said we grew up together.
“We had an understanding, Tyler” He stops pacing. “Me and you. I wasn’t going to push you to testify if you swore to me that you wouldn’t see that man’s daughter again”
I say nothing.
“I know you don’t think she took those files from this office, but I know she did! And you swore to me that you wouldn’t see her… and here you are” he flails his hands with frustration.
“That girl’s father almost ruined this family, Tyler. Does that not mean a damn thing to you?”
Not really, I want to say.
I make a mental note to never get this angry. It’s not an attractive look on a Parish.
The door to the office opens and we both move our attention to whoever is entering and my eyes fall on the dark haired guy from earlier. The one who decided to walk off rather than catching a ride with Paisley and I; my brother.
“Seth, this doesn’t concern you”, my father says, his voice soft now. It almost sounds like the voice of a caring father rather than the monster I just witnessed.
Seth – nice to finally know my little brothers name – looks at me. “Coach is on the phone for you, Tyler”
I glance back at my father who now has his back turned to me. I assume that means our conversation is over. I walk to the door and gladly exit the room.
“Where’s the phone?” I ask Seth when I reach the stairs.
Seth moves past me. “There’s no phone call. I was just getting you out of there”
He continues up the stairs and I watch as he turns left. He’s a good brother, I think to myself.
I make my way to what I think is his room and knock on his door.
I say and step into the room. “Thanks”
Seth turns in his chair and tilts his head. A combination of confusion and admiration on his face.
“I don’t know what your deal is. You aren’t showing up for practice and that’s never happened. You act like you don’t give a shit that Paisley has been screwing Brian. And then you have the balls to bring her here after all the shit Dad and Brett went through?”
He shakes his head and then turns to the computer in front of him.
I turn and rush towards my bedroom. Brett Mitchell. Brett Mitchell. Brett Mitchell… I repeat his name in my head so I’ll know exactly what to search for when I get to my computer.
The first thing I do is pick up the pen Paisley handed me earlier and read the text again.
Mitchell-Parish Financial Group.
I don’t see a computer but I find a tablet and power it on. I type in Mitchell-Parish Financial Group and scroll through the first page that appears.
Finance gurus, Robert Parish and Brett Mitchell, co-founders of Mitchell-Parish Financial Group, have been charged with four counts of conspiracy, fraud and illegal trading.
Partners for over twenty years, the two business moguls are now placing the blame on each other, both claiming to have no knowledge of the illegal practices uncovered during a recent investigation.
I continue to read.
Robert Parish cleared of charges. Company co-chair, Brett Mitchell, sentenced to fifteen years for fraud and embezzlement.
Just then the battery flickers and I look around for the charger. In my desk, in the closet, in my dresser drawers. I keep searching because I need to know exactly what happened.
I drop to the floor, thinking that maybe the charger could be stuck behind the bed somehow.
I don’t find it, but I do find what looks like a notebook. I pick it up and sit down on the bed.
Inside I find a stack of papers stuffed into a folder. Across the top, the papers all read “Mitchell-Parish Financial Group,” but I don’t understand any of them.
I also don’t understand why these were hidden behind my bedpost.
Robert Parish’ words from downstairs repeat in my head— I know you don’t think she took those files from this office, Tyler, but I know she did.
Looks like he was wrong. But why would I have taken them? Who was I trying to protect?
I shove the notebook under the mattress. I’m too exhausted to keep searching tonight. It’s not until I lie down that I notice that Cora must have changed my sheets. For a moment I wonder if Paisley is right about waking up tomorrow and things will be normal. Then I shake my head in the dark.
Somehow I know it won’t.