“So are you really going to be an ass and avoid mom while she’s in town.”
“Pretty much,” Jax said as his sister poured them both a cup of tea. The scent of oatmeal and warm fruit compote filled the kitchen and Jax’s stomach rumbled loud enough that neither could ignore it.
“At least you brought an appitite.”
“Uggg, what the fuck is it with everyone going on and on about me eating.”
Steph shrugged and dropped into the chair across from him. “Wouldn’t have said a word if your stomach wasn’t broadcasting so loudly.”
Jax groaned and ran a hand through his hair. “Sorry, just getting sick and damn tired of people thinking I don’t eat enough.”
“You don’t, you know it, and the only reason you’re getting mad is because people are getting concerned and you don’t want to hear it. Really Jax, who do you think you’re fooling?”
“No one, I guess, but that still doesn’t give Danny license to give me shit about it.”
“Was he giving you shit, or was he expressing concern, ‘cause there’s a difference you know.”
She laughed and Jax scowled and flipped her off.
“Un-huh, the things you don’t say speak volumes,” she said before taking a sip of her tea. “So, cut the bullshit and tell me what’s going on.”
“Not a lot, been working on the set for Danny, kinda looking forward to seeing it all come together on opening night. Saw this flyer the other day for a Tattoo and Piercing Convention up in Minneapolis, was thinking maybe we should get a booth, show off what we can do.”
“I saw that one too. Was thinking that it might be a good idea. We should. It would be a fun road trip and who knows who we might meet.”
“Exactly, besides, I’ve always wanted to see the twin cities, maybe we can take a few extra days and do some sightseeing.”
“I’ll consider it,” Steph said. “But on three conditions.”
Jax nearly choked on his tea. “Three? What the hell, next you’ll be asking for blood and the soul of my firstborn.”
“It’s not quite that drastic, yet, but I’m serious Jax, if you want us to go, then I need you to do three things first.”
“Do not say come to dinner with you and mom.”
“You know me too well,” Steph said and Jax squirmed as she studied him intently. “That’s thing one.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake.”
“Jax. You need to ease up on mom, you need to ease up on yourself, and you need to give me a fuckin’ break here. You’re not being fair to her, hell you’re not even being fair to yourself comparing all of her past mistakes with every potential relationship you might have. You’re self-sabotaging, and it’s getting really hard to watch.”
“So look away.”
“I can’t, we work together every evening, remember, and it sucks seeing you come dragging in there looking miserable. You like Danny, a lot, but you got freaked out by having to break things up between him and his ex and you’ve been using that to keep him at arms-length. He’s genuinely a nice guy and that scares you too because you can’t find a real reason that things wouldn’t work out between you so you’re creating issues. Which brings me to thing two.”
“Just forget it, Steph, forget I mentioned the convention at all.”
She shrugged and got up, stirred the oatmeal, turned off the heat and stirred in a little cream until it was just the right consistency, then ladled it into bowls before spooning mounds of fruit on top of it. She plunked a bowl down in front of Jax before sitting across from him with her own.
“If you really want to forget about it, then fine, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask you to give mom a chance, find a new therapist, and take Danny out one more time before you decide there’s nothing there worth trying for.”
He sighed and dug into his food, avoiding her eyes as he stirred the fruit into the oatmeal in between bites. The first taste was such a rush of flavors and textures that he let out a low moan of appreciation and slowly savored the food.
“God I love it when you make it this way,” he groaned.
“It was mom’s recipe you know.”
“Yeah, but she rarely made it, you were always the one who made it for me.”
“And you can’t forgive her for that, can you?”
“I just don’t see why I should drop everything and have dinner with her when all of her spare time while we were growing up was spent with whoever was the flavor of the month.”
Jax was startled when Steph reached out across the table and covered his hand with her own. “She loves us. She knows she made mistakes, and she’s sorry. She was lonely and she handled it bad. She thought her and dad was going to be forever and when it wasn’t, she didn’t know how to handle that loss. She felt diminished by him leaving her, like she was less of a woman somehow for not being able to keep her man. So she tried to find one she could keep and it took her a long time to realize that her self-worth wasn’t tied to anyone else.”
“How do you know all that?”
“Because we talk, and I was willing to listen,” Steph explained. “We’ve talked a lot since Karl died. She understood what I was feeling, even if our losses weren’t exactly the same.”
Jax pulled his hand away and crossed his arms. “So if she realizes so much, why is she getting married again?”
“For the right reason this time, love.”
Jax sighed heavily and took another bite of food. For a while they ate in silence, until there was little left in the bowl but sticky blue residue from the berries.
“I don’t wanna see another therapist,” Jax remarked after he polished off his tea.
“Then we’ll look into a group for people with eating disorders, either way, you need to have other people to talk to who understand what you feel when you’re flipping between overeating and starving yourself.”
He tapped his fingertips on the table before giving a nod. “Fine, a group I can handle, but no therapist.”
“Sold. Now how about the other two?”
“I wouldn’t mind taking Danny on another date. I kinda feel like an ass for shying away after our last one.”
“Why did you?”
Jax knew he was blushing as soon as his face started feeling hot. “’Cause kissing him was mind blowing.”
“You idiot, that should have been a reason to see him more, not less.”
“I know, I know, but I panicked. I kept wondering what the fuck he could possibly see in a fatass like me.”
She got up from the table and came around to give him a hug. “You are beautiful, inside and out. One day I hope you’ll be able to see that.”
He hugged her back and rested his head on her shoulder, muttering in her ear.
“What was that?” she asked as she stroked his hair.
“I said I really wanna go to the convention. So yeah, I’ll come to dinner with mom.”
She hugged him tighter then. “Thank you. I promise. You won’t regret it.”
“I already do,” he grumbled, hugging her more.