My father literally spat out a little bit of his wine.

“What?” He wiped his chin quickly.

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“New Mexico? Perry, what are you talking about?” my mom asked, her face automatically in worried mode.

“Oh, it’s for the show,” I said casually. “We’re shooting the next episode there.”

“Next episode? I thought that was a one-time thing” said my dad.

“No, I said it was a demo and if it was successful enough it would keep going. Aside from you two, other people seem to like it and Dex’s boss has asked us to continue. There’s a poltergeist or something on this ranch and we’re going down there to film it.”

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My dad sighed, took off his glasses, and squeezed the bridge of his nose, something he did when he was trying to control his temper. My mom shook her head, utterly befuddled.

“Well you can’t just go off to New Mexico,” she said. “Don’t they know you have a real job?”

I could feel Ada’s eyes on me. I nodded quickly. “Yes they do and I asked my boss and she said it wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, she’s seen the show and thought she saw potential in it.”

Dad put the glasses back on and pushed back his chair, arms stiff against the table. “I don’t believe it.”

I shrugged and turned my eyes to my chicken. “Anyway, she said I could have a four-day weekend, no problem.”

“And will you be getting paid for those two days you miss?” he asked.

“Of course not, but –”

“Perry, your mother and I don’t like this one bit.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. “You don’t even know what she thinks.”

I looked at my mom. I was the rock and my dad was the hard place.

She took a deep breath. “If Perry’s work is OK with it, I think she should be allowed to go. Just this once though. Then we’ll see what happens.”

I shot a smug look at my father who answered with, “You understand that this doesn’t look good for you. A new promotion and you just flit it all away by taking time off? That doesn’t look good at all.”

“Do you think I would do this if it jeopardized my job?” I asked with such conviction that it almost seemed true. Ada kicked me under the table. I felt very dirty.

“Besides,” I continued, “I am getting paid for the work this weekend. It’s hourly but it’s still something. And flights and accommodation are covered. So technically I’m actually working more by doing this.”

My dad stared me straight in the eye, trying to assess if I was telling the truth or not. Satisfied, he looked away and shrugged. I knew that if I brought the money factor into it he would eventually yield.

“So I suppose you are going with this Dexter guy?” my mom said.

“Dex…not Dexter. It’s short for Declan. Somehow,” I said tersely. “And yeah. He’s the cameraman. And the producer. Otherwise it would just be me wandering around the desert and talking to myself.”

“I still don’t like it,” dad said, getting out of his chair and bringing the dishes to the sink.

“You don’t like anything,” Ada interjected.

He dismissed her with his hand and left the room, a defeated hang to his head.

My mother watched him go and gave us a tired smile. “Don’t mind him. Do you girls mind cleaning up?”

I shook my head. “Not at all. Do you mind that I’m going away?”

She looked down, the light catching on the slight wrinkles on her forehead. I hated those moments when you realized your parents were getting older.

“I’d rather you didn’t. Not for the reasons your old dad worries about, but…you’re my daughter. I don’t like the idea of you going off all over the country. With some strange man.”

“He’s not a strange man anymore. I mean…he’s strange,” I said, then noticed her face growing even more worried. “He’s not a stranger, is what I am trying to say. He took great care of me last time. You talked to Uncle Al, you know.”

“Last time? You were almost blown up in Al’s lighthouse last time.”

“But I made it out alive…,” I reasoned.

“I worry about you,” she said, putting her hand on my hand. My mother rarely showed any affection with me so the quiet gesture was touching.

“I’ll be fine. Dex is a…smart…man.” I smiled convincingly. It was really hard to come up with a positive adjective to use to describe Dex. I knew “sexy” wouldn’t cut it with my mom.

“I worry about you, Perry. Not this guy. Not this show. I worry about you and that head of yours.”

I took my hand out from under my mom’s and gave her a caustic look.

“My head is fine,” I said slowly. I didn’t know why my parents had to fret over me so much. What happened to me in the past, was in the past. Sometimes I thought it was all in their head instead of mine.

She clasped her hands together and nodded. “You’re right. I know. I’m just being a worried mom.”

She turned her attention to Ada who was sitting silently beside me, observing everything.

“You’ll at least be here this weekend?”

Ada nodded. My mother got up, awkwardly patted her on the head and left the kitchen for upstairs.

“What the hell?” I said, turning to Ada.

She shrugged. “I know. Why do I have to stay home this whole weekend?”

“No, Ada. What the hell did mom mean about my head?”

An innocent look came over Ada’s big kohl-rimmed eyes. “I don’t know, do I look like mom or something? She’s probably worried you’re going to lose your passport or wallet or plane tickets or phone or whatever else you seem to lose on a daily basis.”

“No.” I slowly shook my head. “It was something else. She can’t let go of the past.”

“Maybe it has something to do with how easily you’re able to lie to them. What was all that crap about your boss letting you have time off and how she ‘believed’ in your show or whatever? That’s totally gonna bite you in the ass later. And I’m not having any part of it.”

“Oh, like you’re all perfect. You don’t even have a job and yet I see these $400 dollar shoes on you every weekend. And don’t tell me it’s all from blog advertising because I know you don’t make that much yet.”

“You don’t know anything,” Ada said quickly and started gathering the rest of the dishes from the table.

“I know you have a massive credit card bill,” I admitted rather viciously. I took in a deep breath. My sister’s shopping addiction and debt was honestly none of my business but for some reason I felt like being vindictive.

She put the dishes down on the counter with a loud clatter but didn’t turn around.

“And I know you’re a month behind in your minimum payments. And if you don’t get a handle on that soon, it’s going to come around and bite you in the ass.”

She whipped around, all bleached hair and hell-bent teenage fury. “You snooping through my stuff now?”

“I was looking for my Rush concert tee in your drawer when I came across your little secret mail stash. I wasn’t snooping. I saw the statement like that.”

That was the truth. What was also the truth was I found a box of condoms in there as well. Let me tell you, there is nothing more frightening than seeing proof that your 15-year old sister might be having sex. But that was a topic of conversation for some other time.

“So what, you going to tell mom and dad now?” she said stiffly though I could see palpable fear in her eyes.

I got up and brought my dishes over. I leaned against the counter and folded my arms. It was hard to look authoritative when you were only 5’2” and your younger sister was a good four inches taller than you.

“No. I’m not going to tell them. It’s none of my business. I just wish you’d come to me if you were in some sort of financial trouble.”

Ada laughed and started rinsing the dishes. “Oh yeah, like you could help me with my finances. You don’t even have a job.”

“Well, actually, the part about me getting paid to do the show was true, so technically I do have a job. It’s just not a lucrative one. But the point is you should come and talk to me, whether you think I can help you or not.”

I know Ada and I hadn’t been very close and even though I certainly felt more like a sister to her over the last month or so, we still had a long ways to go. But I knew the first step was to start treating each other as allies instead of enemies. To me, that meant being able to trust each other. Even if it was just us trying to fool our parents in one way or another, it would be nice to have a partner in crime.

“Okay,” she said slowly. “I’ll try and remember that next time.”

We left it at that and spent the rest of the time doing the dishes and cleaning up while making the occasional joke or gossiping about celebrities. It was a nice, comfortable evening to have before I was tossed into the wild unknowns of New Mexico, poltergeists, and Dex.

CHAPTER THREE

My flight to Albuquerque took off at 7PM, which meant I could have easily asked one of my parents to drive me to the airport. I opted to be stubborn though, and biked my way there. My carry-on bag was small enough that I was able to strap it to Putt-Putt with ease and I really didn’t feel like being trapped in a car with my parents. I knew they were brimming with lectures ever since I told them about the trip and I didn’t want to have to lie anymore about anything job-related. I hated to admit it but Ada was right. My lies would come back to bite me in the ass one day.

It was a little sad though, as well as nerve-wracking, that I was boarding the plane by myself with no one to see me off. I watched people saying goodbye to their loved ones before they went through security and saw couples waving to each other through the window. It pinched at me, just a little bit, that I didn’t have that in my life.

It also reminded me of the last time I was on a plane. Dex had been waving goodbye to me, only to get in his car and go home to his girlfriend.

Ah, yes. Jennifer Rodriguez. The girlfriend. I never met the woman and had no idea what she was like (except from a few rather cryptic comments from Dex), but I didn’t like her. I don’t even know why she boiled my blood so much, there was just something about her. This wasn’t anything new with me – I tended to hate on a lot of people for no apparent reason. But it bothered me more than most.

I thought it was because she was Dex’s girlfriend and it alerted some internal competition mode. But lately my feelings toward Dex were more annoyed than lustful and I didn’t feel jealous when I thought of them together (thank God, because the last thing I wanted was to be drooling over Dex again). No, I think Jennifer got under my skin because she represented everything that I wasn’t. She was a successful host. She was tall, thin, gorgeous, and exuded this glowing sexuality that I couldn’t possibly fake in a million years. I had the feeling she was one of those types that never had to work a day in her life and people were always bending over just to wipe her ass. She probably shit gold, too.

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