By: J. S. Scott

I wouldn’t know the difference between a good neighborhood and a bad one. This was home to me. “It’s not so bad.” I knew I sounded defensive, but it irked me that he was being uppity about a neighborhood I’d lived in for years.

“You’re coming home with me. Your job starts now.” He gave me a look that said he wouldn’t change his mind.

I sighed. “Might as well. I’m being evicted anyway.” My situation was dire, and I didn’t like telling a man like Trace Walker what a loser I was, but it was the truth.

His expression was stormy as he picked up his fork and started eating again. “I’ll call a mover to get your stuff.”

“No need. I can just swing by and pick up my things. I don’t own much.” It was an understatement, but I tried to be nonchalant. Everything I had could fit in a backpack. I lived in a studio apartment, and it was sparsely furnished with things I’d been able to get for free. What clothing I had fit into my tattered backpack.

“Jesus! Who cares for you, Eva? Where are your parents? How long have you been on your own?”

“Nobody cares for me. I’m an adult, and I’ve been on my own since I was seventeen. My father was a Mexican born farm worker who died when I was fourteen years old, and my mother remarried and moved away when I was seventeen. She’s dead now.”

I didn’t want to think about my parents, my family. I still missed my father, even though he’d been gone for nearly a decade. My mother was a different story. I’d hated her and the feelings were mutual before she’d died. I had plenty of reasons to harbor resentment and anger toward my mother. Making me and my father feel like dirt on her shoes was just one of them.

Trace placed his fork on his now-empty plate. “So you’re Mexican?”

“Half,” I corrected. “My mother was Caucasian American. I was born here.”

To be honest, we’d traveled a lot within the U.S. up until my father had died. He went where there was work on the farms, and my mother and I had gone with him. Mom had constantly complained about the dirty, squalid life my dad provided, but he’d always worked long, hard hours out in the fields to keep us fed.

Sometimes I wondered why my mother had married my father. My childhood had been nothing but listening to her criticizing him for their poverty. Nevertheless, my father had never stopped trying to please her.

Unfortunately, he’d never made her happy, even when he’d died trying to keep our family intact. She’d been bitter about my existence keeping her trapped in the same place until the day she’d left to seek out a different kind of life, leaving me—and apparently all of those bad memories—behind.

My father had loved me; my mother had hated me.

Maybe I’d made peace with the fact that I wasn’t responsible for my mother’s unhappiness. But occasionally her bitter words still haunted me.

“Why were you left on your own when your mother remarried?”

Trace’s question made me uncomfortable. “I was an adult, graduating from high school. She was done with her obligations to me.”

Trace’s eyes turned glacial. “A seventeen-year-old living here isn’t equipped to live her own life yet.”

Apparently, my mother had thought differently. She’d left me with more than just overdue bills and an eviction notice.

I looked at the man defending me, and all of the misplaced anger I’d carried for all of the Walkers faded. What had happened had nothing to do with the Walker family and everything to do with only one person: my mother.

“I made it. It doesn’t matter.” Nobody had ever cared about me enough to actually be angry that my life had been difficult. But for some reason, I didn’t want Trace’s pity.

“Barely,” Trace grumbled as he stood up. “Let’s get out of here.”

I shoveled the last of my burrito into my mouth as I watched him pay the bill, giving the waitress a generous tip and a charismatic smile.

God, he was charming when he wasn’t growling. I watched as he complimented the Hispanic waitress in fluent Spanish, letting her know how much he’d enjoyed the food. Somehow, it didn’t surprise me that he could speak a foreign language so perfectly. He looked like the type of guy who did everything well.

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