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Bad Influence (Bad Love #3)
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When I moved to River’s Edge, dating was the last thing on my mind.
I blew my shot.
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“Nothing gold can stay.”
* * *
MY DAD ALWAYS SAID THAT both the best and worst things in life are unexpected. They’re the moments that change your life indefinitely, and even if you see them coming, you’re never prepared for the impact. It’s what you do in the aftermath that matters. It’s how you deal with the crisis—or good fortune—that defines you.
It’s safe to say I failed miserably in that department.
The needle pricks my finger and I let out a hiss, dropping my jacket onto the bed before sucking my finger into my mouth. I peer down at my dad’s old jean jacket, every surface full of colorful patches from his favorite bands. Social D. Pennywise. Rancid. NOFX. The list goes on. I cut the too-long sleeves off on a whim, deciding to sew on my sleeves and hood from an old sweatshirt so I can wear it. I bring it to my nose and inhale, trying desperately to catch a whiff of his scent. I haven’t worn it or washed it, afraid I would lose the smell forever, but I think now—more than half a year after his death—it’s finally gone.
Most days, I’m fine. Other days, the grief is so potent it feels like it was yesterday.
“Allison!” my mother shouts, her voice child-like even when she’s yelling.
I pull one of the headphones away from my ear, looking up at her expectantly from my bed.
“I know it’s your birthday and I’m supposed to let you call the shots, but are you sure you don’t want to do anything? I have a sushi date tonight. You could join us?”
I roll my eyes. Yes, I’d love to spend my eighteenth birthday with my mom and her flavor of the week eating food I hate.
I see the relief flash in her eyes, but she conceals it quickly. She doesn’t really want me to go to dinner, but how would that look if she didn’t at least invite me on my birthday of all days? Pushing off the doorframe, she walks toward me. I flip my journal shut, stashing it under my pillow.
“You should go out. Call Courtney and Maddison.” She reaches a slender hand out to twirl a strand of my hair between her fingers.
I laugh bitterly. I haven’t been friends with those girls since freshman year when they grew tits and decided nothing else mattered but boys and parties. “Okay, Mom,” I say just to pacify her.
“Good. I’m going to meditate before my date,” she informs me, standing. If Snow White and Willie Nelson had a love child, it would result in my mom. She’s tragically beautiful, soft-spoken, and charismatic. Her smile is infectious, and everyone loves her. She’s also the biggest pothead I know. Flighty. Self-absorbed, yet somehow painfully insecure. She’s a walking contradiction.
I pull my headphones back over my ears, effectively ending the conversation. Once she leaves, I flip my phone over to see a voicemail from my dad. Shit, I must not have heard him over my music. I take my headphones off once more, bringing the phone to my ear.
“Alllllliisonnnnn,” he greets in the tune of Elvis Costello’s famous song. The one he serenades me with every time I see him. “Don’t worry. I won’t sing the whole song this time. I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday. This is also your daily reminder to try to be nice to your mother. It’s not her fault the weed has started to turn her brain.”
I crack a smile. My parents met when my dad was touring with his band in the late nineties. They fell hard and fast, and after a few months, she traded her cushy life in for a tour bus. She got knocked up almost immediately. My dad quit the band, bought a house, and tried to put down roots. That’s when the trouble started. My mom resented my dad for getting her pregnant. My dad resented my mom for having to leave the band. Long story short, they split when I was born.
When my mom deemed me old enough, summers were spent in River’s Edge with my dad, and the rest of the year with my mom here in Southern California. They don’t get along, always throwing jabs at each other’s expense, but my mom has never truly moved on—even though she’s had more boyfriends than Cher and Taylor Swift combined.
“Anyway, I wish I could be there, but we both know it’s best that your mother and I don’t occupy the same zip code. I’ve got a birthday slash graduation present waiting for you here. I’ll give you a hint—it has four wheels and it’s sitting in my garage.”
A car!? I flop backwards onto my bed, barely containing my excitement.
“Can’t wait to have you here permanently. Happy birthday, kid. You’re the best thing I ever did. I love you.”