“Adam, let him go. What the fuck’s wrong with you?” Matt grabs hold of me.
“He’s spouting shit!” I shake him off.
“We all know he’s an ass, and you’re usually the coolest about it. What’s going on?”
I inhale and then exhale deeply—to clear my head but also get rid of the knot in my gut. It feels heavy as lead and burns molten like lava, The pressure is so intense, I feel like I’m about to explode. I’ve experienced some form of it since I was just a kid, forced to listen to what was happening in the next room. Then, I eased those feelings by crying, but I haven’t cried in years, and I’ve managed, mostly, since my adoption, to control my emotions. But, after learning about Adam Winston, they've returned. I know now that what I feel is anger, but the feelings are so much more intense. They border on rage and are harder than ever to control.
Alan was acting true to form like Matt said. He wanted us to go on to a coffee shop where a girl he’s interested in hangs out. I said no; that I was expected home, and he called me a mommy’s boy. It wasn’t the first time he made a crack like that or called me a pussy, but, this time, I snapped. I think they were all shocked when I shoved Alan against the wall.
“Don’t ever fucking call me that or talk about my family again!” I warn, giving him one last shove before releasing him.
“I was only messing around….” I hear him mutter as I walk away.
“Adam, hold up,” Matt calls out, but I keep going.
He’s asked me several times since New York if I’m okay, and I’ve said I am. All he knows about the trip is what I told him before leaving; that I'd heard from my biological father. When we returned, I said he’d died and that he had another family I didn’t want to meet. I didn’t reveal Adam Winston’s identity because I don’t want my friends, even Matt, to know the truth. How do you tell people whose families struggled all their lives that you’ve inherited thirty million dollars and don’t want it?
At home, I go straight to my room and shut my door. Dad isn’t here yet, and Mom and Cait are making dinner. Usually, I’d be down there, getting in their way and chatting, but, lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time alone, drowning out my thoughts with music.
I open my eyes to find Mom staring down at me. She motions for me to turn the sound down.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you,” I say, sitting up.
“You didn’t, sweetheart, but I’m worried. What’s up, Adam? You haven’t been like this in years.”
“Nothing, Mom…” I say, but she gives me her ‘don’t try to fool me' look, and I cave.
“ I hate him. Why can't we just give the money back?”
Mom perches on my bed. “Adam, I understand your anger. Your dad and I both do, but, darling, you need to talk about it— to us, or we can find you someone for you to talk to. It’s unhealthy to hold in so much anger and hurt.”
“I’m not hurt; I’m mad. At him, at Eleanor for not telling me, and at myself for imagining all those good things about him. I was so stupid!” I confess, the words spilling out like vomit.
“You weren’t stupid. You wanted what all children want and need. You're too hard on yourself. Come downstairs. Your dad will be home soon, and dinner’s nearly ready,” she suggests, so I do.
After dinner, back in my room, Dad comes to tell me that he and Mom want to talk to me in his office. She's already waiting when I walk in ahead of Dad. “Sit down, sweetheart,” she invites.
“What’s up?” I ask, even though I know the reason for the meeting.
“We want to discuss your inheritance,” Dad informs me.
“I’ve said I don’t want it, Dad. If you won’t refuse to give it back, I don’t want to know about it. Spend it on Mom, Cait, yourself. Anyone or anything, I don’t care!”
“Watch your tone, Son. I’ve told you; it’s not our money, and your mother and I wouldn’t dream of touching a cent of it. You’re too young and confused right now to think straight, so we’ve made some decisions to safeguard your entitlement,” Dad says his tone warning me not to argue.
I bite down an angry retort. “Adam,” Mom placates. “Your dad’s right. You are entitled to that money. You were from the day you were born, and your mother would have wanted you to have it. I know you don’t think it, let alone believe it, but Eleanor wanted what’s best for you. Don’t let her sacrifices be for nothing.”
I snort derisively, and Dad shoots me another warning look. I know he’s disappointed in me, and I hang my head, feeling somewhat ashamed. But I think it’s a joke even to suggest that Eleanor considered me. If she did, she wouldn’t have turned to alcohol and drugs or slept with those men.
“Are you ready to have a rational discussion?” Dad asks, taking his seat behind the desk. I nod because I don’t trust myself not to say something without totally pissing him off.
“Good. Now I’d like you to let me finish without interrupting.” He waits until I agree before continuing.
“I’ve taken financial and legal advice, Adam, and your mom and I have decided that the best thing to do is to set up a trust fund in your name. We also think you should receive a modest monthly allowance from the fund. Put it into a bank account if you don’t wish to spend it,” he cuts off my protest.
“I’ll help you set up the account. We’ve also made allowances for your college education and a car when you turn eighteen. We suggest the terms be set for you to gain access to your money when you turn twenty-five. You could, of course, take control of it sooner, but we strongly advise that you wait. You’ll have a better understanding of finances and, hopefully, a better perspective of things then.
“If you agree, I propose that Mom and I and our family solicitor, Mr. Greene, be appointed as trustees. If you’d like it to be anyone else, we’re happy to consider it, but we insist that the person or persons be competent and trustworthy, and that we have them thoroughly investigated and cleared. What do you think about those arrangements?” Dad asks, and he and Mom wait patiently for me to reply. After several moments, I do.
“It seems reasonable, given that you won’t refuse the money,” I can’t resist adding. “I won’t be spending it, so there’s no need for the allowance. I’m happy with what you and Mom give me, and I don’t want any more than Cait gets.
“Also, I want you to pay for Cait’s college and a car for her from the money as well. And what about you and Mom?”
“Adam, we’ll provide for Cait’s education as we planned to do for yours. We’re aware, however, that we wouldn’t be able to afford the best colleges, and we think, given this inheritance, that it would be a travesty to deprive you of that opportunity. As for Cait, I’m sure she can wait until we're able to buy her a car. Your Mom and I don’t need new cars, and if and when we do, we’ll wait until we have the money, just like we’ve always done, Son; but thank you for your generosity.”
“Then I want the same. I don’t want to live like a Winston. I’m a Thorne! At least, that’s what you said." I'm aware that I’m getting riled up again, but I can’t help feeling insecure. Mom's tearful, while Dad stands to grasp my shoulder.
“Adam, you’re our son in every way that counts, but Adam Winston was your biological father. We can’t change that. You’re entitled to that money, Son. Don’t let pride rob you of what’s rightfully yours. But I understand what you’ve just said; so, no allowance from the trust. And when Cait turns eighteen, and if you still want to, we’ll allow you to buy her a car. The arrangements for your education stand, and when the time comes for Cait to go to college, we’ll do the best by her and use the money we’ve set aside for both of you. Would that make you happy?”
I nod, swallowing the lump in my throat when Mom gets up to hug me. "You are a Thorne; never doubt that,” she whispers and then kisses my cheek before turning to leave.
“Finish up in here, you two, then come and join Cait and me. I baked cookies,” she says before shutting the door behind her.
That night, I go to bed, thankful to have the matter settled. I don’t have to talk or think about it again. I also don’t want people outside of our family to know, and Dad, Mom, and Cait assured me that, other than them, only our solicitor would know. I haven’t mentioned it, but I’m determined that if I have to accept Adam Winston’s guilt money then, when I get my hands on it, I’m going to do whatever I can to help my real family.
I’m still angry as hell, but I’m going to do my best to forget Adam Winston.
Two weeks later, and we’ve been invited to a party. Well, Matt has; by Susie, a girl who has a massive crush on him. The rest of us are tagging along. I’m younger than the others, so I’ll probably be the youngest at the party. When I mention this to Matt, he laughs out loud. “You have no idea, do you?”
“What?” I ask.
“Girls love you, man!” Alan chimes in.
“They don’t! Who?” I demand, sure they’re messing with me.
“You’ll have your pick tonight!” Matt claps me on the back.
“Yeah, you may even lose your cherry!” Ian sniggers and I glare at him because he’s still pissing off. “Don’t worry; I won’t tell Mommy,” he says, and I lunge, landing a solid punch to his nose.
He doubles over, blood oozing through his cupped fingers. “You broke my fucking nose,” he shouts, his voice muffled, making it sound like 'dose'.
“I warned you to stop dragging my family into your shit.”
“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up,” Alan suggests, throwing me a wink as he grabs Ian's arm. “Nice!” he mouths, so Ian doesn’t see.
Later that evening, we’re back at The Hangout where Lana and Tess join us. Ian's sporting a swollen nose, which I doubt was broken, but Alan claims it was and says he straightened it. According to him, he suffered a broken nose twice while playing football and claims to have straightened it the second time. That, he says, is how he knows I broke Ian's nose and how he knew exactly what to do.
I apologize to Ian for the break, but make it clear I don’t regret punching him. I warn that if he doesn’t stop his bullshit, I’d be happy to break his ugly nose again. He apologizes too, and we agree to forget the incident.
When it’s time to leave, we ride in two cars. I go with Matt, while Tess and Ian, who’re supposedly dating, and Lana travel with Alan. We all pile out at Susie’s house, where the music's already at full blast. An hour or so later, the basement's jam-packed. Luckily, we were among the first to arrive and managed to snag a sofa and some upturned crates in a corner. Matt brought beer that his cousin bought, and the guys are really getting into it. The girls are drinking some of sweet, alcoholic punch that looks and smells disgusting. I’ve had two beers, but I’ve refused another for now because I don’t want to arrive home too obviously drunk.
“Dance with me." Tess tugs on Ian’s arm. “I’m busy,” he says, breaking off from his discussion about cars with a guy who joined us a while ago.
“Matt?” she asks, but he shakes his head. “Sorry, Tess, my date's here." He smirks at Susie making her way through the crowd.
“Adam?” she turns to me.
“I don’t dance, Tess."
“Come on, I watched you with Cait on her birthday. You've got moves." She grabs my hand.
“One dance.” I say , letting her to pull me up. Tess winds her arm around my waist as we move to the dance area.
I try to keep some distance between us, but she clings to me like a vine. Each time I step away, she tightens her hold. “Relax, Adam. It's just a dance,” she whispers in my ear after my third attempt. It may well be, but I don’t want to be this close to Tess. She’s like a sister to me, and it feels wrong. She grinds against my crotch, and, despite my objection, my body reacts. "Mmm," Tess moans against my neck, and I remove her arms from my neck and firmly set her aside.
“What’s wrong?” she pouts.
“The song ended,” I say and walk away.
“Come on, Adam," she cajoles.
“I’ve had enough,” I tell her and return to our friends. Susie’s sitting on Matt’s lap, and he’s gripping her hips while sucking on her neck. I realize that beneath her spread skirt, she’s grinding against him. Lana and Alan, in a new yet unsurprising development, are lip-locked. A pretty blonde, sitting on the other side of Susie and Matt, smiles at me and shrugs her shoulders. I guess she’s feeling as awkward as I am at being a spectator to my friends' antics. Tess comes to sit next to me just as the guy, who was speaking to Ian, leaves. He motions her over. She takes her time, giving first me and then the girl a searching look before straddling Ian’s lap like he tells her to.
“Hi, I’m Adam,” I finally greet the stranger.
“I’m Megan, Susie’s cousin,” she says in the most inviting drawl.
“Would you like to dance?” I respond.