“I don’t care how big you are, Embry, you’re only fifteen years old!” With a worn dish towel gripped in her hand, Tiffany Call slammed her hand down on the cracked Formica counter and leaned over the chipped porcelain sink filled with their few dishes from dinner. She stared into the suds and wished she could find some sort of answer there in the pattern of foam and bubbles. “You’re gone every night when I check on you, and every morning you don’t tell me where you’ve been.” She clutched the small towel in her hand, violently wiped the suds from her skin, and threw the towel onto the avocado green counter. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself. She raised her head and slowly pushed herself away from the sink as she turned to face her only son.
Not for the first time, she was amazed at his growth spurt and how high she had to lift her eyes to look into his—the nut brown that mirrored her own. Eyes that often showed a hidden pain similar to her own.
Tiffany pulled down the sleeves of the deep green wool sweater she wore over a white turtleneck. It didn’t stop the goose bumps from forming on her arms. The tiny, old house they lived in was always so cold in the winter. It was barely more than a cottage, but she just couldn’t afford to have any more insulation added to it. She didn’t dare turn up the thermostat, and with the way Embry had been eating lately …
Shivering, she brushed her long dark hair over her shoulder and wrapped her arms around herself.
Embry’s hair had been nearly as long as hers, and had an even richer color, but then, with no explanation, he had cut it all off.
Until recently, he had been such a good boy. Then he had started to grow so quickly and become so angry. He had disappeared for several days and when he had returned, his beautiful hair had been cut, and she would have sworn he had grown even taller.
She took another breath and let it out slowly. She didn’t want to fight with him again. “It’s the Friday before Halloween. I thought maybe we could have some popcorn and watch some of those old scary movies on TV?”
The muscles in Embry’s jaw flexed and his full lips formed a straight line. “I’m going to Sam’s,” he said in a dead voice.
Tiffany had really tried, but she couldn’t stop the heated words from escaping. “Sam’s? You’re going to Sam Uley’s? Did you forget that you’re grounded? Again? Or … or still?” She threw her hands up into the air in frustration. “You’ve been in trouble ever since you started hanging out with him and that Lahote boy!” She clenched her teeth and her shaking hands squeezed into white-knuckled fists. Her voice grew higher and more strained with her sudden fury. “I forbid you to go over there or ever see those boys again! They’re both nothing but trouble. Just like their fathers! The apple doesn’t fall far from—”
“No. I guess it doesn’t.” The flat tone of her son interrupted quietly. “I guess you’d know about that.”
It was as if he had slapped her. Her hand moved up to stifle her cry, and she staggered back away from him, bumping into the edge of the sink.
“What …? What did you—?”
Embry took one measured step forward, towering over her. “Tell me who my father is.”