While everyone was in the kitchen, hearing Sung’s plans to make Brooke disappear until the movie had earned a billion dollars, Brooke was in Tara’s room, asking to borrow several thousand.
“Please, Tara. I want to give Matthew a Yeti for Christmas. One that’s not charged to his card.”
“Where’s your money, Brooke? The stuff you’ve earned.”
“My three thousand in savings won’t buy half a Yeti.”
“Knit him a scarf.”
“I’m sorry for telling you about Pop and Fletcher, okay?”
“Why don’t you just give Matthew tons of slavish sex for Christmas?”
And damn if Brooke didn’t tell her all about the sick, sicker, sickest sex they had all the time. Last summer Brooke would fall asleep in his arms. But now because they only had a week Brooke seduced him halfway through whatever lullaby Matthew sang to her.
“I’m too elated to sleep or eat or anything.” Saying this, Brooke really did seem to float.
Tara wanted to spit in her face.
She backed away, rushed outside, and Tara knew where—bicycling over the mountain as usual.
The next day, Tara watched Matthew’s French movie. He was kissing his young wife, the one in a straw hat who resembles an imitation Brooke, when Matthew phoned from Tinker Street. He had finished his workouts, bought Christmas presents, and wondered if Tara was free. They hadn’t spent five minutes together.
(Yeah, because he and Brooke never quit.)
“Of course, I’m free,” she said. “Do you know where I’m staying? Windfall Farms. Big estate, serious security.”
“I know that place,” Matthew said. “The guy who owns it is practically my best friend.”
Getting ready, Tara couldn’t believe how fat her face looked. She always gained weight during the holidays but not like this. She resorted to painting on cheekbones and waited in the TV room with her laptop.
From the window, she saw him leaping over the crusted ground. Despite constant exercise, Matthew wasn’t muscle-bound. He looked tall and strong; warm and graceful. (The way he moved really was great.) And except that he had to shave now, he looked just as young as he did in the long-lost pilot. Mostly luck but he knew that.
He hugged her and kissed the top of her head and she blushed that horrible blush that got worse all the time.
They sat on the couch and he said, “You look pretty, Tara.”
“No, I don’t. I look fat.”
“Don’t say that. You have a traditional, feminine beauty.”
“I’m fatter and Brooke’s thinner—you noticed, right? Not her fabulous face, perfect boobs, perfect butt. Waist, thighs, and arms, though. She’s still strong, still athletic. But she cries herself to sleep when you’re gone. And that Bond girl-thing didn’t help.”
“Shit. I thought you two weren’t talking.”
“We’re not” Tara flipped open her laptop and clicked @Kyle: Matthew King is the epitome of sexy.
Bad enough that Matthew’s love for her sister affected every damn molecule. But his
regret? His sorrow? Fuck. “Hey, look what popped up.” Tara showed him the first dueling video. (She assumed they’d be released strategically.) Matthew’s sword circled above his head. He lunged and clashed. Sung looked hot, too, except his hair didn’t move, while Matthew was all fluid motion, dazzling style, and wind-swept hair.
Next thing she knew, Tara was telling him that Brooke had had a premonition about Pop committing suicide. Never mind that last year their father had beaten her so bad, Brooke hadn’t woken up until Christmas was over…
“God, you’re right, Tara. Can you wait a second? While I check with Fletcher?”
He entered the sunroom and she followed, but before Tara could jerk his arm—Listen, asshole—Matthew put a finger to his mouth—Shush. What the hell? Multiple concussions could lead to suicide—meaning Brooke was the one at risk, not Pop!
Tara stomped off, fuming because any idiot knows bullies don’t get depressed; they rule the world. Except, of course, Pop didn’t rule anything—because he was too busy whaling on his daughter.
By the time Matthew returned to the TV room, Tara was too damn mad to care. The afternoon had grown dreary. But the dumbshit sounded hopeful. “Fletcher thinks your father will move to Illinois—before Christmas.”
“That’s hard to believe,” Tara said.
“The state university has an ultra-conservative Roman Catholic club he belongs to.”
“You mean Opus Dei—Latin Masses.”
“You know about it? Apparently, Urbana, Illinois is Opus Dei central. Fletcher talked to a priest there whose favorite Irish Pub is for sale.”
“How handy, Matthew. Still, you really think Pop’s gonna go live in the middle of nowhere?”
“Fletcher thinks so. Something happened last Christmas and—I don’t know. The pub does good business. The owner wants to retire.”
Tara sank deeper into the couch. Why did this upset her so much? “Matthew, I was telling you something important about Brooke, something life or death, and you walked off to call Fletcher.”
Beside her on the couch, he said, “I’m sorry, Tara,” and wrapped his arm around her. Gently squeezing her shoulder, he dipped his head close to hers. “Will you tell me now? Please?”
She slid onto the floor and covered her face. Fuck you.
When she uncovered it, he was standing at the window, facing her. If Tara could, she’d shove him through it. Let’s see how sexy and sympathetic he was when he landed outside under a pile of shattered glass.
“I’m sorry I walked away when you were talking to me.” He added the apologetic version of his trademark smile.
“Of course you are.” She stomped upstairs, hoping Matthew slipped on the ice and died.
(click here for the next episode)