A/N: I started this awhile ago and posted it on another account of mine and am transferring it here so that I may actually write on it since I am abstaining from my other stories for awhile.
Read, REVIEW?, and Enjoy.
"You just don't even try to understand!" Troy screamed, frustrated with his dad trying to 'make it up' to him. "I don't want your iPods or laptops, I want my fucking mom back!"
"Don't curse at me, Troy," Chris tried for stern but he knew his guilt was showing through. It had been five years today that Emma had died, hit on her side of the car by a drunk driver that had missed the stop sign. Chris had seen the car coming but figured the stop sign was there for a reason, no doubt the man would stop, but he didn't and twenty minutes later Emma had died two miles from home. He had been driving and he could have stayed at his own stop sign long enough to see what the driver was going to do, but he hadn't. And because of him, Emma was dead.
"Why not? You killed my mom, I think it's a fair trade," he snapped back before stomping his way upstairs and slamming the door to his bedroom.
Chris felt both overcome with sadness and at the same time he felt a ridiculously childish urge to follow him up the stairs and kick that stupid door the kid liked to slam in his face every other day. Blocking him out of his son's life and trapping the kid in to think of more ways to throw his mother's death in his father's face, no doubt.
Life was quickly becoming unbearable. When Emma had first died five years ago, Troy had been his rock. At only eleven he had grieved and then comforted his father even to the point of forcing him to get his ass out of bed in the morning so he could get the store up and running. But a year or so ago, all that had changed. His caring son had turned downright hostile towards him and couldn't seem to even stand being in the same room with him. That was also when all the guilt and name throwing started in.
Troy blamed him for his mother's death. And what Chris had written off years earlier as an unfortunate car accident had him thinking back over and over again. Had him wondering if maybe Troy was right, maybe he had killed her. After all, he was driving.. Isn't that what his son said? Never mind the other driver, he should have seen, he should have waited longer and maybe Emma would still be here.
Rubbing a hand over his face, he turned and headed for the kitchen. "I should have done a lot of things," he murmured lowly to himself, pushing through the door and heading to the fridge to grab a beer. Not the best way to cope with stress, he knew, but he limited himself to only a few every other day to fight any urge he might have to rid himself of his stress and become an alcoholic. Because in truth, staying buzzed all day sounded blissful. He could block out his mouthy kid, not care that there was a group of teenage girls that liked to steal hair dye from his store every Wednesday, and most of all, he could forget this nagging guilt.
It was a different guilt than Emma's death. It was a guilt now that centered around his own wants and needs. He was a man and as such he had particular needs that his two hands were just not meeting. As a bisexual man, he could safely say that women were not the only gender he fantasized about with each person that walked into his grocery store. No, he stripped men with his eyes too. Fantasizing about what they would feel like in him, around him. Hell, just touching him! Even the plainer ones caught his eye. And at 34 he was still young enough to look. What was the worst though, if when they looked back and he froze when the disapproving face of his 16-year-old son came into his mind's eye. What would Troy think?
Chris didn't kid himself, he knew what the kid would think and it would involve a screaming fit about how he never really loved his ex wife. He knew his son's actions well, he only regretted that he didn't know much else about him. He didn't even know if Troy had a girlfriend, what college he wanted to go to, or even if he still liked milk with his pizza. Troy just never wanted to be around him and now it had gotten to the point where he wouldn't even share a meal with him. Oh, he'd come downstairs when he was sure Chris was gone or in bed and grab some pizza is he bought it or heat up a TV dinner, so it wasn't like the kid went without. He just felt like a shitty parent.
Heading a few steps over to the barstools that lined the island in the middle of the kitchen, he was about to open his beer with the shrill ring of his cell phone sounded. It was only then that he remembered that it was eight o'clock in the morning on a Saturday and he had to be at work in an hour.
"So much for your medicinal purposes," he mumbled to the beer before placing it back inside the fridge. Grabbing his keys, he headed out the kitchen door to his car. Sighing as he felt as some of this weight has been lifted from his shoulders.
He knew a good parent wouldn't see leaving their kid as some sort of relief, but Chris seriously doubted most parents lived in a house where their teenager would happily watch him choke on his food either. Or at least that's the way he assumed such a scenario would go down when Troy shouted things to him like, 'Go to hell!' and 'Go fuck yourself!'. Yet another thing he knew he needed to see to and that was disciplining the kid. Even at 16, he shouldn't be speaking like that or mouthing off to his elders but the boy seemed to have the secret weapon. He knew how to make his father feel lower than scum and think that, in some way, he had made his son like this by being partway responsible for his mother's death.
Besides, what were you supposed to do to a kid who already stayed in his room most of the day and didn't want anything you gave him? Chris was above denying him food. After all, he wanted to punish the kid, not starve him.
Starting the car up, he tried to push thoughts of his son and their constant home-life drama to the back of his mind. He was only going to work a few hours today. He had it like that, he owned the store after all. Reynolds and Son was a mom and pop grocery store his great grandfather had started in the mid 1900s and was still prosperous today. Probably more to it's convenient location in the middle of an empty stretch of nowhere that catered to three counties. All the folk that lived nearby found it easier to head there than drive the 25 minutes or more to one of the larger chain stores and Chris made sure they knew that he appreciated their business with personal baggers and bag carriers. Sure, it was a little extra expense but worth it when he saw one of the elderly not having to struggle with a bag full of cans.
He had also built on a small eatery just out of the west wall when his father had turned over the reigns, remembering that as a kid he had always been bored like mad when he had to sit there and wait for his dad to finish work or worse, wait for his mother to finish grocery shopping. This way it gave the older kids something to do and the adults a nice treat whether it be the time free of the kids or the freshly sliced and baked roast beef sandwich that that this month's best seller.
No, business at Reynolds and Son had never been bad and was only getting better the more he put into it. It was only the name that really bothered him. Troy used to love this place, used to visit all the time much like Chris had when he was a boy. Shopping with his mother, working with his dad, the latter right on up until last year. He'd refused to come back then, spouting out something about he didn't want to be this close to the 'crime scene' anymore. Chris had never quite understood that. The store was no where near where they used to live which was more than thirty miles in the opposite direction of Richmond, Virginia where they currently lived in a quiet community.
He sighed as he pulled into the store's parking lot a good twenty minutes later. He had given up on trying to keep up with the kids mood swings and smart mouth. He had gotten whiplash once today and that was enough. Parking to the side of the building where he had instructed his employees to park, he walked the short distance to one of the front doors and immediately waved at the elderly lady on the cash register nearest to him.
"Ah, Madelyn, my love, where have you been all my life?" he asked with sigh as he walked past the blushing fifty year old with a smile.
"Christopher Chase Reynolds! Now you know better than to say things like that!" She bustled and waved her hand at him in a shooing motion before turning with a friendly smile to her newest customer.
Chris allowed himself to smile as well. This place was like home for him. No matter how bad he was feeling it could cheer him up in a heartbeat. In fact, most days he was at home he was wishing he was here doing something constructive instead of sitting lonely and bored at home. Pushing his home life to the back of his mind, he headed back to the eatery and grinned at the older teen who blushed whenever he got within fifteen feet of him. What a shame, he thought to himself as he asked the cute young thing for a coffee which the fellow hurried to make just the way he liked it. Chris liked that pleasing attitude and would bet money on it that the 19-year-old would be the same way in bed. Eager and ready to please. But he didn't date employees and refused to fire the kid just so he could sleep with him. Besides, he doubted that would work out for Aiden since he was working at Reynolds and Son to play for his tuition and it definitely wouldn't work out for Chris since the kid was only three years older than his son. He may have been desperate for someone to touch him at this point, but he was no cradle robber.
"Thanks, Aiden," he smiled, taking the cup and trying not to notice the way the kid's fingers accidentally brushed over his own.
"Anytime you want, Mr. Reynolds."
He was bold, he'd give him that. Chris had to hide his smile behind a sip of the hot liquid as he headed into the back and to his office. An office he had no sooner closed the door on then Gregor, the stores oldest employee at 72, burst into his office. "By God, I have found those little witches! I've found them out!"
Chris blinked. "Gregor, did you take your meds today?"
The older man scowled at him before coming inside and closing the door. "I'm not kidding you this time. I'm telling you them girls belong to Sue Radcliff, Latisha Martin, and Boo Bailey!"
Chris fought the urge to blink again. Had someone seriously hated their child enough to name them Boo? "As in they are the parents of?"
"Yes, sir. Matter of fact, the way I see it all you need to do is call 'em in here and show them video tapes you got of their three girls stealing that merchandise and they'll light into 'em well enough that we probably wont even see them three around here no more," the man said, pleased as punch at his news.
"I'll consider it, Gregor. But if those three show up again before you can arrange -"
"You know them, you call them. Now again, if they show up and steal again before we can get their parents involved then I am not going to have any other choice but to call the police."
"Well then, I had best get to calling then, huh?" he said, jutting his chin out to gesture to the wide screen just behind him that showed various angles from every bit of area in the store. One of those angles showing the entrance and the three girls waltzing their way inside, all three of them bottle blondes.
And Chris would know, the last three hair products that went missing and into the girls purses were light blonde.
Half hour later, Chris's plan to call the cops was tossed as Gregor insisted he needed time to call the parents in all the while flipping through the tiny phone book that catered to the area. The younger man felt the need to roll his eyes, how many Boo Bailey's could there be in Virginia? Let alone this small county.
Turning back to the cameras, he watched as the girls sat in at the eatery, chatting and attempting to flirt with Aiden. Chris smiled at the very uncomfortable look on the teen's face but was pleased that he was courteous nonetheless. The girls Aiden was occupying has yet to stuff anything into those too-large purses today but that didn't mean they wouldn't and this time, he was going to catch them in the act instead of seeing the recordings later.
Theft was always an issue in any retail establishment, but for the most part with his store it was people passing through that he never saw again. In fact, this was only the sixth theft case involving repeat offenders that actually lived in the area in ten years. Not a bad track record, he knew. But knowing the people that lived in this area and how their values and pride seemed all-important to them, he was always shocked when it happened.
"There! I got them and they're heading in now. Poor things, they sound really worried and everything."
Chris sighed and leaned back in his desk chair, "You didn't tell them did you?"
"'Course not," Gregor snorted. "Aint in my job description to break a woman's heart."
"How would I know? I've been running this place for ten years and I'm still not sure what it is you do."
Gregor glared at him. "Boy, I'll tell you one thing if that aint two I-"
The static of the walkie talkie sounded in the room before Madelyn asked for bagging assistance.
Gregor immediately stood, rather swiftly for a man of his years. "I'll get that!"
Chris raised his hands up in the air and grinned. "Go for it."
He knew it wasn't very nice, but he quite enjoyed watching the 72-year-old head up front full of bluster. And more, when the man bagged the groceries and lifted then into the card, his eyes bulging at the unexpected weight of the bag before he leaned one hand against the register, one hand on his hip and sighed loudly before doing exactly what Chris thought he would - headed over to the eatery to swap places with Aiden for a few moments.
Turning back around in his seat, he still held a smile on his face. He may have felt like an outcast in his own home, but he knew these people and respected them. And they wanted him here every bit as much as he wanted them here. They hadn't and didn't blame him for Emma's death. They liked him. So what was he doing so differently here than he was at home? How could he share that feeling with his son?
There was no ready answer and because of that Chris went back to feeling hopeless all over again. His son was the most important part of his world and it didn't matter if life seemed happy and perfect here with these people. If Troy wasn't a part of his happiness then there was no use having it.
Why couldn't the kid understand that he loved him? What could be possibly do to show him that wouldn't seem like he was trying to buy his love? Gifting him with all the latest technology just pissed Troy off and Trying to take him on vacation had been a disaster waiting to happen. In fact, the only thing he did that didn't piss the kid off was pay the bills and keep food in the house.
"Them ladies is here, Chris," Gregor called through the door.
Chris sighed and tried to pull his happy face together long enough to deal with these parents.
"Troy? You home?" Chris called as he entered the house some eight hours later. Lights out and no noise to be heard inside answered that question quickly enough. Had the teenager been home he would have heard something along the lines of, "Leave me alone!" or at the very least low rock music drifting downstairs. Heading to the kitchen, he checked the message board that he had told the kid to use when he went out somewhere. Unsurprisingly, there wasn't a thing written, never was and he knew there were no texts on his phone. Hell, he often wondered if the teen even had his number anymore.
Setting his keys on the counter, he ran a hand over his face and sighed, all the while trying not to give in to the self pity that so often took him over when he thought about the hopeless situation with his son. His own internal self was starting to realize how much he whined about it on a daily basis, which was just sad. He had always been the more assertive type that went for what he wanted only that wouldn't work with Troy. The kid could see through his bullshit and he could see how much he was hurting his dad. And as much as Chris didn't want to admit it, maybe the kid just didn't care.
Not liking the fact that he even thought such a thing, Chris stood and headed upstairs to his room. He had a few hours to do a little jogging before he's start dinner. Changing his clothing and pulling on his running sneakers, he headed out only to pause in front of Troy's room seeing a low light on from under the door. What if Troy had decided not to speak to him at all? Maybe that was the reason he wasn't answering.
Reaching out a hand, he knocked on the door once more, "Troy?" When he heard no answer, he frowned. He might put up with a lot of shit but being flat out ignored burned him up. "Troy, answer me, damn it!"
Still hearing nothing, he pushed the door open and felt like an idiot. Troy wasn't home and the only light in his room was from Rob's terrarium. Walking further into the room, he smiled when he saw the albino ball python Troy had insisted on having when he was twelve and still played with actively today. It was one of the few things in Troy's room that Chris saw on a regular basis as the teenager often held it while watching TV in the living room. Rob was a pretty animal, lacking all pigment, he was a bright shade of yellow in some areas and white in the rest. He was the sort of animal you wanted to show off because he was so pretty.
Chris remembered the years before Troy had decided to hate him. The teenager had invited his friends over for pizza, movies, and to show off his beloved pet. Hell, he even remembered the hunt they had went on through nearly every pet shop in and around the Richmond area trying to find the perfect snake as Troy had insisted it had to be yellow or nothing at all.
Yellow, he wondered if it was still Troy's favorite color.
Turning away from Rob, he glanced around his son's room. A lot had changed in a year. The Rock bands and snake posters had changed to classical cars. Mustangs and Corvettes lined the walls and had him smiling. Obviously, Troy didn't know the number one rule of being a car fan in Virginia - You were a Chevy man or a Ford man, you didn't go for both.
He wondered if all this car interest was spawning from the fact that in two months exactly, Troy would be legally able to drive without a parent or guardian in the car. Chris had planned on getting him a car anyway, just as his dad had done for him. Granted, his dad had bought him a fixer-upper that broke down every two weeks like clock work, but he had still bought him one. Chris had thought to go that extra mile and see his son in something that he could not only like, but drive for a few years. Only thing was now, if this was where Troy's car interests lay, then no doubt a newer model car would just be another thing he bought his son that the teen would resent.
Unless he catered to that interest. He smiled when he thought of his own '65 Mustang he had bought at a ridiculously cheap price two years before when he had seen it rusting near the road with a for sale sign in the window. He had been gradually fixing it up or at least telling himself that. He was no mechanic but he had managed to clean it up good and sand away the rust spots. He kept the car in the garage and covered, so he seriously doubted Troy even thought about it. Would it be hard to get it towed to an mechanic and auto body shop? Up and running, no doubt the car would make for a jaw-dropping gift. Troy would think so too, right?
In the back of his mind, something reminded him that the point was not to try and buy his kid's love. He pushed that voice back as the excitement he imagined seeing on Troy's face actually gave him hope. Forgetting running for the day, he headed back to his bedroom and immediately turned the computer on so intent was he on finding the best to fix his baby up for his son.