Ashes to Ashes Page 8


I waited until the movie was over before I decided to confront him.

“I really hope you don’t mind sleeping on the couch,” Marda said to Rebecca as she started to pull the bed from it.

“Perry and I would be happy to take the couch if Rebecca wants the guest bedroom instead,” Dex said. To hell with that, I wanted privacy to talk with Dex about what was going on. But while the three of them were having a debate over it, I took the moment to ask Uncle Al if he had any Sleepytime tea.

He gave me a curious look but walked into the kitchen where I followed him. He pulled open a cupboard and started riffling through tea boxes. “Marda is the tea drinker in the house now. Are you sure you don’t want a glass of wine? Always helps me.”

“Nah,” I told him, leaning against the counter. “Wine only makes my body sleepy but it doesn’t quiet the mind.”

“Having trouble sleeping?”

“Can you blame me?” I asked directly.

He paused, box of chamomile tea in hand before placing it in front of me. “I’m afraid this is the most relaxing tea we have. I can ask Marda if we have anything else.”

I quickly reached out and grabbed his arm. “No, don’t bug her about it, it’s no bother. Chamomile is just fine.” I glanced at the living room where I could still hear them arguing over the couch. Rebecca seemed to be whining, given the rising pitch of her voice. “Look, I was hoping I could talk to you. You know, niece to uncle.”

He sighed quietly. “Right. I thought you might want to. Well, I want to talk to you too.”

Interesting. I nodded. “Okay then. Shoot.”

He lips twisted wryly, an expression that made him look a lot like my dad when he was getting into scholarly mode. “You asked me first. The table is all yours.” He gestured to it, and while I sat down, he put the kettle on and pushed a box of ladyfingers in front of me. “Eat. You could use it.”

I tried not to laugh. What was it with Italians thinking everyone but the most obese person was severely underfed? Still, I picked one up and nibbled at the chocolate coating while I tried to think of the best way to ask.

“I was just wondering,” I began slowly, keeping my voice low so that the rest of the house wouldn’t hear me, “what my parents have said to you. You know, if anything. If you know what happened.”

He sat down across from me and rubbed at the lines in his forehead. “I know what happened.”

“And? What was that? What did they say?”

“I talked to your father, mainly. Your mom didn’t have much to say to me. She never really does, to be honest with you, Perry.”

“Well, you and me both.”

“They love you very much. You do know that, don’t you?”

I felt a sting of tears behind my eyes. “I don’t know,” I said truthfully. “I guess they do, like every parent has to.”

“No parent has to love their kids, Perry. It’s a conscious decision. They love you because they do, not just because you’re their daughter. They just don’t understand you. They worry. They’re afraid for you, that you’re making all the wrong choices.”

I felt myself stiffen. “I’m not making wrong choices. I’m making the only choice.”

He let out a breath. “The way they see it, the way your father told me, was that you were very ill…mentally ill. It was enough for them to really worry.”

That was putting it mildly. I was fucking possessed!

“And then when you were doing better, just as you got back and were recovering, you decided to leave and go live with the very man who put you in that terrible position.”

“They don’t know Dex,” I said, the anger rising in me. I struggled to keep my voice down. “They don’t know him, but if they did, they’d see he’s the only one who loves me unconditionally. He’s always been there for me.”

“Except when he wasn’t.”

I opened my mouth, ready to spew venom, but he raised his hand in a manner that made me shut up, like he was some mob boss.

“Perry, you can’t pretend what happened to you didn’t happen. You can’t pretend he didn’t break your heart like I told you he would.”

I shook my head. “He did. I know, but people make mistakes. They deserve second chances.”

“You’re right. And I agree with you,” he said, giving me a hard, steady look like he was trying to freeze me in place. “But not when you’re not well.”

“I am well. I’ve never been happier.”

“I can see that,” he said simply.

“Perry?” I heard Dex’s voice from the other room and spun around in the chair. He came out of the living room and poked his head in the kitchen while Uncle Al got up and poured me my tea. “I’m going to bed now. Becs won the great couch debate. You going to be long?” His eyes went to Uncle Al and back to me, that strange haunted look coming back into them.

I shook my head. “I’m just getting tea. I’ll come to bed soon.”

He stared at me for a few moments.

Don’t worry about me, I thought hard, trying to project it on him. I don’t know if it worked or not. He just nodded sharply and said goodnight to both of us.

Once I heard the door to the spare room close, Uncle Al put the tea down across from me. “Careful, it’s hot.”

I blew on it for a long time before taking a scalding sip.

My uncle leaned back in his chair. “So what else do you want to know?”

I felt frustrated at the conversation and fidgeted in my seat. “I don’t know. That, I guess. I wanted to know what they said. I guess they think I went off with Dex because I’m crazy.”

“Perry, they just want you to come home, that’s all.”

“I’m twenty-three. My mom wanted me out of the house for the longest time, how could they want me back?”

“They don’t think you know what’s best for yourself at the moment.”

I nearly smacked my hand down on the table but refrained myself. “I know what’s best for me more than anyone else. I’m not crazy. I had a moment or two there but that’s over.”

“Is it?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “What do you mean? Of course it is.”

“And yet you keep putting yourself in these positions.”

“What positions?”

He folded his hands on the table. “My brother told me what you and your sister were saying, that it was possession. Demonic possession. You know Daniel discounted that off the bat, because of his beliefs. But you know my beliefs. You knew what I felt about that lighthouse. I have no doubt that if you keep opening yourself up to this…this job of yours, that you’re just putting yourself more at risk.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “You believe that I was possessed?” I asked quietly. I wasn’t sure that I could trust Uncle Al with the truth. We all played it off like I was delirious with a fever, all so my parents wouldn’t fear I was following in Pippa’s footsteps and have me committed. What if Uncle Al was baiting me? What if he’d tell my parents what I really thought, what I knew, happened?

I cleared my throat and continued before he could answer. “Well I wasn’t possessed. I was just delirious. My parents made a bigger deal about all of it than they should have. And I didn’t want to live in that. Living with Dex made perfect sense and I don’t regret a minute of it. I just wish they could see that I know what I’m doing.”

He stared at me for a few moments before shrugging, as if all the world had been on his shoulders. I knew he didn’t believe the act but I was giving him no choice. “When you see them, you can tell them that yourself.”

I took another sip of my tea, the liquid burning my tongue and doing the opposite of making me sleepy. When my mouth recovered, I asked him, “What did you want to talk to me about?”

“I think we’ve already covered part of it,” he said. His eyes drifted over my shoulder to the empty hallway. “Perry, I’m your uncle. I’m not your father. I know that doesn’t stop me from giving you advice though so I’m just going to talk. You can listen or you won’t listen, it’s all the same. I want you to be happy. But I also want you to stay happy. To think about your future.”

“Okay,” I drew out, thinking he sounded like he was going into a pitch for a high-interest savings account.

He sighed and reached for a cookie, weighing it in his hands. “I just don’t want you to do anything foolish.”

I raised my brows. “That’s kind of vague.”

“Dex is foolish,” he said quickly, his words sharp like needles. “You may think you’re in love with him, and I believe you are, and I also believe the man is in love with you, but…come on, bella, you have to step back from the situation for just one second and try and see it all from someone else’s perspective.”

I swallowed hard, a ball of fire expanding painfully in my chest. “Someone else like my parents?”

“They’re older, they’ve been there, we’ve all been there. You’re living with this man that you barely even know, a man who just broke your heart and ruined you.”

“Barely even know?” I managed to say. “I know Dex, okay? I know him more than anyone in this world.”

“Perry,” he said, his voice tinged with impatience. “When was the last time you were here? Think about it.”

I blinked stupidly. “Uh, September?”

“Right. September. You came here with Dex in September. What month is it now?”

“May,” I said, my throat tightening.

“And how many months is that?”

I stared at him, unwilling to count. “I don’t know.”

“It’s eight months. You’ve known this guy for eight months.”

Holy fucking shit. Was that true? I’d only met Dex eight months ago? It felt like I’d known him for years, ages, eternity. After everything we’d been through…every episode, every experience, it fused our souls together, time be damned.

“It feels longer than that,” I said feebly. But I wouldn’t let him, my parents, win this argument. I straightened up in my seat and looked my uncle in the eye. “But so what? Lots of couples move in together when the moment is right. It’s different for every relationship. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.”

“It will turn into a big deal when you commit to someone you realize you don’t know at all. I’m divorced for a reason. Don’t think I didn’t think like you at one point.”

I gave him a funny look. “I live with Dex, Uncle Al. That’s it. We’re not getting married. We’ve barely discussed the future at all. Calm down.”

His eyes widened for a split second. “He’s thirty-two. You’re twenty-three.”

“Age doesn’t matter.”

“It does sometimes. It does when you assume that just because you’re not thinking of the future doesn’t mean he isn’t.”

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