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Chapter One

The first thing you need to know about me is this: I have shitty luck.

I'm the kind of person who really does avoid black cats and umbrellas indoors. Why? Not because I'm really all that superstitious, but rather because I figure my bad luck doesn't need any extra help... Just in case all that superstitious shit is real. Not that I think it is. Nick does, though.

But then again, Nick thinks a lot of things - like smurfs, gremlins, aliens and his brain - are real.

The second thing you need to know about me is this: my past is full of demons.

I'm not talking minions of Hell, with pitchforks and spikey tails. There's no lil red guys chilling out on my shoulders. I'm talking about real demons: things that make your skin crawl and drive you crazy... the things that haunt you and won't let you go. Things that won't let me go.

And the third thing - the last thing I'm going to tell you right now - that you need to know about me is that my shitty luck has a way of allowing those demons to haunt me at the worst possible times.

Rochelle was laying on the sofa, watching a movie on HBO and absently running her fingers across her stomach. She'd taken up the motion ever since the visit we'd had with the doctor a couple weeks after our honeymoon. She smiled sleepily. I was standing in the doorway - hovering maybe more the term - holding the two bottles of sparkling water I'd gotten up to retrieve, and just watching her.

I was a lucky man.

I realized everyday when I woke up beside her, or turned and found her standing there, whether in her denims and crappy concert t-shirts or her professional stylists' cloak, it didn't matter. She was like an angel to me, and I was all but on my knees in adoration and worship. I would've pulled down the moon and the stars for her, if only she'd asked me to. Rochelle had made me happier in the six months that we'd been married than anything had ever made me in my entire prior life.

I was sober. I was happy.


But, as I said, those demons... they have a way of slipping in.

I felt my Blackberry vibrate in my pocket and I tip-toed closer to Ro, whose eyes had drifted closed as I watched, and put down the bottle of sparkling water on the coffee table by her elbow. I snuck back out of the living room, returning to the kitchen, and popped the top off my own sparkling water as I thumbed the answer key on the cell phone.

A quick glance at the caller ID had told me who it was on the other end of the line. "Hey Mum," I greeted her, "What's cookin'?"

"Alex, we need to talk." Her voice was somber, low.

I swallowed the mouthful of sparkling water and felt my brows knit together. "Mum? What'sa matter?"

She sighed, "Just-- Alex, I need to talk to you. Are you free? Can we meet up some place?"

I glanced into the living room, where Ro was probably deep in her afternoon nap with the TV glowing blue-green against her inked skin. I put my bottle of sparkling water down on the counter. "Uh, sure mum. You know I'm always free for you," I added quickly. "Are you hungry? I'll buy you lunch."

"Maybe coffee," she said, but her voice was hesitant.

"Okay..." I paused, "The usual place?"

"Sure," she answered, "See you in twenty, sweetie."

I disconnected and slid the Blackberry back into my pocket. After I'd screwed the cap back on my sparkling water, I tucked the bottle into my back pocket and opened the random shit drawer and grabbed a pad of heart-shaped pink stickie notes and a pen.

Monkee, Just popped out for coffee with my Mum. Call if you need me. - J

My mother’s probably one of the most recognizable people in the entire state of Florida. Maybe it’s just because I love her so much, but I truly feel like she’s one of a kind. She’s got this brilliantly blonde hair, and a loud voice and she’s just someone if you saw her you’d want to run up and squeeze her. So that’s exactly what I did.

“Alex you scared me,” she laughed after I’d tucked my arms around her from behind and kissed the side of her face. She patted my arms and reached backwards to hug me, too, and I smiled and sank into the chair beside her, pulling myself close to her so I could hold her hand with both of mine. I adored my mother.

“What’s up, mum?” I said, “You sounded worried on the phone?”

She took a deep breath and reached over with her other hand and rubbed the top of my hands gently. “Alex…” she licked her lips and I could tell whatever it was she was about to say was hurting her. “Alex, it’s your father,” she said.

The weight of the word told me she didn’t mean my stepfather, the man who she’d married and I loved like he’d been the one to give me my Y chromosome. It was too heavy for that. She meant the actual person who was responsible for 50% of my genetics – for the curse of alcoholism. I stared deeply into her eyes. “Mum, I don’t give a fuck about him and you know it,” I said.

“He’s dying.”

A chill ran up my spine and I shivered.

“I went to see him this morning,” she continued slowly, staring down at the table top in front of her. “He’s –“ she paused and let out a shaky breath, “It’s bad, Alex.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond.

A waitress appeared at our side, holding her little green order pad and tiny golf pencil. “Can I get you two anything?” she asked, smiling down at us.

“Uh the usual,” I answered, “Thanks Claire.”

“No problem, AJ,” she answered, turning away.

I looked back to my mum. “Are you all right?” I asked.

Her eyes had filled with tears, “It’s hard, Alex,” she answered, “Because as much of an asshole as he’s been to me and to you over the years, he was still my first love, you know? He was still so much a part of my life.” She paused and smiled at me, “You have so many of his features…” her palm pressed to my cheek and she tilted her head. “It’s hard when someone you love so much has hurt you so badly, to forgive them.”

I swallowed and looked down. I’d hurt her, too, over the years. Abandoned her, just like he did. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that. I’d disappeared into drugs and alcohol and left her behind, broken her heart, just like my father had. One of the many wonderful things I’d inherited from him: the tendency to turn and walk away.

“He wants to see you,” she said.

I looked up at her, my palms going moist and clammy-like. I sucked in a breath. “Why the fuck would he want to see me?” I asked crudely, “He never has before -- except when Millennium came out…”
“Honey,” she said quietly, “He’s your father.”

“No,” I said, “He’s a sperm donor.”

The waitress came over and dropped two steaming green mugs before us, and a plate with two oatmeal raisin cookies on it. I leaned back into my chair as the waitress’ heels clicked away, my hands slipping away from my mother’s. She looked affronted, her eyes were sad. The fact that she was sad hurt me far more than the fact that he was dying.

I felt cold hearted at that realization… but it’s not like it wasn’t deserved.

“Alex,” she whispered, “I raised you better than that.”

Rochelle was up when I got home. She was in the kitchen standing by the stove, stirring what smelled like spaghetti sauce. She had on slippers and a bathrobe I’d bought her and she looked sexy with messy hair and a slightly protruding belly. I walked up behind her and wrapped my arms around her, my hands resting on her stomach, and kissed her neck. She dipped her finger into the sauce and held it up over her shoulder to my mouth, “Taste, does it seem like it’s missing something to you?”

I sucked her finger into my mouth. “It’s a little heavy on the garlic,” I said, “You craving again, babes?”

“Really? Heavy?” she sighed, “Well, at least you know I’m not a vampire.”

“And here I was scared you were sleeping with Edward Cullen,” I murmured into her ear.

She turned around, “You’re probably the only guy on the planet who knows that series better than your woman does,” she said, laughing. She ran her hands across my chest. “So how’s Denise?” she asked.

I hesitated. “She’s good…” I said.

Rochelle’s eyes clouded with concern. “What’s wrong, Monkee?” she asked.

I suckered a deep breath. “My father’s – he’s sick, I guess,” I murmured.

“Oh no, what’s wrong with dad?” she asked, referring to my stepfather.

I shook my head, “Not Dad,” I said, “My father.”

“The sperm donor?” she asked.

I nodded. “Yeah… him.”

“Good, serves him right,” she turned back to the stove. She paused. “What’s he sick with?” she asked quietly.

“Cancer,” I answered.

Rochelle glanced over her shoulder at me.

“He’s dying.”

She turned back around. “Are you okay?”

I sighed. “I have to go see him.”

Rochelle’s face became even more deeply etched with the worry. “You do?” she asked.

I nodded, “Yeah. My mum went and… he asked to see me.”

“Is that… healthy?” she asked. I knew she was wondering about my emotional state of wellbeing. My father had turned out to be at the crucible of a lot of the issues I was harboring that led to my excessive drug usage and drinking. I’d learned a lot about myself in this most recent trip to rehab and the understanding that my father had inbred a lot of pain into my life by abandoning me, then using me, had been one of the many psychological hurdles I’d had to contend with.

“I hope so,” I answered vaguely.

Rochelle shook her head, “You don’t have to go, Alex, if you’re uncomfortable…”

“He’s dying,” I said simply, “And my mum raised me better than that.”