Raising Ryann

By: Alyssa Rae Taylor

“So let me get this straight,” Gia’s mother says in her thick East Coast accent. “Your neighbors used to be his foster parents, but they’re not anymore?” We are sitting in front of my house discussing Ronald—my mother’s creepy new boyfriend—when Gia spots the guy across the street.

I inhale a deep breath then slowly release it. “Yes. I don’t know many of the details. My mom just said that it’s complicated.” I fidget a little in the back then glance out the window, trying to be discreet. “In fact, I haven’t seen him in almost three years. The last time was shortly after my father’s arrest. I’m actually surprised to see him at all.”

She arches her thick artificial brow. “Do they take kids often?”

I think of the kids I’ve seen over the years. “There are three total that I can remember, but the other two were younger—a little boy and a little girl—all of them at separate times. They’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve lived here.”

“Oh my God. Look!” Gia points. “He’s taking off his shirt.” I cover my face, praying the lawn mower starts before he hears us.

“He’s tall.” Mrs. Lopez’s gaze continues its focus. “He looks like he could be an adult.” She tilts her head, examining him. “Definitely older than you two.” She’s right. He is older, but I’m not going to tell her that. I’m pretty sure I’ve told her enough, probably even too much.

“Maybe they’re just really close, and he’s visiting,” Gia says.

“They might be, but Jim and Pam left yesterday on business. They’re supposedly out of town right now.”

“He could be house sitting.”

“He could be,” Gia’s mother answers.

Realizing what we must look like, I sink lower in my seat. “Could you guys please be a little less obvious? We’ve been staring at him for like ten minutes. If he catches us, I’ll be mortified.”

“No worries. These windows are tinted pretty well,” Gia responds.

I roll my eyes. “I should probably get going.” Reaching over, I grab my stuff and open the car door.

“Wow Reese, he’s hot.” She glances back. “I mean really hot. No wonder you’re crazy about him.”

Shutting the door softly, afraid he can hear, I say, “Will you shut up!” “I’m not crazy about …”

“He’s too old for her,” Mrs. Holder interrupts, looking back at me. “He’s too old for you.”

“He’s a man, Mom. Not some immature little boy who doesn’t know how to take care of a woman.” She shrugs her shoulders.

Her mom purses her lips. “Where are you getting all this,” waving her hand in the air, “he’s a man crap?”

“Direct TV, why?”

“Consider it cancelled.” She turns to me and changes the subject. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Wrinkling her nose at my mom’s boyfriend’s truck. Mom’s been working the late shift at the hospital. Her latest boyfriend happens to make my skin crawl. Unfortunately she’s addicted to assholes, so it’s just something I’ve always had to deal with.

“I’m sure.”

We wave goodbye, and I walk to the door, digging deep in my purse for my key. When I step inside I find a blaring television and a passed out Ronald, complete with his hand down his pants. Gross. Our coffee table is covered in beer cans, and the house is a complete and total mess. Ugh. I make sure to grab all my things and walk straight down the hall to my bedroom.

The clock reads 8:23, and I really have to pee. I’ve occupied my time with a book and haven’t stepped out of my room in four hours. There’s no way I’d watch TV with him here, so I’m happy it’s kept me entertained. I grab a pair of pajamas and slowly open my door, bolting to the bathroom before he can see me. I feel a million times better as I hop in the shower. A light knock sounds at the door just as soon as I turn on the water.

“That you, Reese?” His voice is friendly, but it still makes me cringe. The image of him earlier disgusts me. It’ll probably forever be burned in my mind.

“Uh, yeah,” I shout over the water, my eyes pinned to the door. “Do you need something?”

He doesn’t answer.

I pause a few seconds then ask again. “Did you need something, Ronald?” There’s still no response, so I close the curtain, happy I’m not forced to talk to him. Weirdo.

I take a much longer shower than my normal routine. If I waited long enough, he might be gone before I’m done. Who knows? Maybe it’s the reason he knocked in the first place—probably just to tell me goodbye. After throwing on my clothes, I carefully comb through the tangles in my hair. My heart jolts when I open the door, and he’s standing three feet across from me. “Shit!” I yell, placing my palm over my chest in an attempt to calm my breathing.

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