“Child protective services is for children, not seventeen-year-olds,” I said. I threw my arms in the air.
“I’m not saying we’re going to get CPS involved.” The crabby lady with the pinched lips wrote something on her clipboard. Her bleach blonde hair with gray and ash brown roots accentuated the frumpy blouse, knee-length skirt, and saggy hose. Her nametag was askew and read Martha. Even her name rubbed me the wrong way. “We just need to get your mom’s affairs in order. You’re not legally old enough to inherit a house and a business, not to mention you need a guardian.”
“I take care of myself just fine,” I told her. “And I’ve helped run this business for years.” Why couldn’t anyone understand that?
“That’s not the way things work,” Martha said.
“What’s going to happen if she passes away before I turn eighteen?”
“If you have a guardian, her assets will all go into a trust until you mature, and then you will inherit.”
“It would be tied up in probate and that could last years, especially if someone challenges the inheritance.”
“There’s no one else,” I mumbled. Never had those words felt more true. I had no living relatives that I knew of. It was just me and mom. Sure, I had the twins and Brandon, but they were friends and not much older than me.
Mom had been silent this whole time, and her voice was barely a whisper. “What about Brandon?”
My head whipped toward her and my jaw gaped. “What about him?”
“He could be your guardian,” Mom said.
“Who is Brandon?” Martha wrote something in her files.
“He’s like a brother to Sammy,” Mom explained. “He lives in the apartment above the garage and is our handyman and groundskeeper. He’s like the son I never had.”
“How old is this man?”
“He’s eighteen,” I said, my voice lowering. A lump formed in my throat and I fought to keep my emotions in check. “And he’s more than a brother. He’s my best friend.”
“See, there you go.” Mom’s voice was a little more confident. “He’d be perfect.”
“Perfect…” My heart wrenched. I didn’t want him to be my guardian.
I wanted him to be my forever. I wanted to hold him in my arms and kiss him until I couldn’t see straight. I wanted to spend every day with him, every night with him. I wanted to walk side-by-side and be his equal.
A tear escaped my eye and rolled down my cheek. Still, if I must have a guardian, I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d want. I stood suddenly. “I’ll go ask him.”
“No, just bring him in here.” Mom stopped me. “I want to be the one to ask him.”
“Okay,” I mumbled and left the room.
It didn’t take me long to find Brandon. He was in the garden, tending the flowers and shrubs and weeding, keeping the space beautiful so that when Mom wanted to come out here and sit, she’d be surrounded by the plants she loved.
I snuck up behind him. “Mom wants to see you.”
“You startled me, Sammy.” He put his hand to his heart, brushing soil from his work gloves onto his t-shirt. “What does she want?”
“She wants to ask you something.”
He pulled his gloves off his hands and set them down on the stone bench. He held a hand out in the traditional gesture of, “After you.”
I was tired of this silent tension between us. It would have been better if we’d never had our almost-kiss. I would have been happy to go back to our lighthearted teasing from before. This indifference was driving me crazy.
I led the way along the stone path, up the back-porch steps, and into the coolness of the stately mansion I was about to inherit. I would gladly give it all away if it meant Mom could live. I felt like I was choking.
He entered the room two steps behind me and stopped short when he saw the extra person in the room. He barely acknowledged Martha before pulling a chair right up next to Mom’s bed and lifting her hand gently in his.
“Hi, Mom. How are you feeling?”
“Like I’m dying of cancer. How about you?”
I didn’t like her joke.
“I’m feeling much better than that.” Brandon chuckled.
“I need you to do something for me, Brandon.”
“Anything,” he answered.
“I want you to be Sammy’s named guardian.”
“What? Why?” He pulled back but didn’t release her hand.
“I don’t want the house, and everything else, tied up in probate after I’m gone. I need someone to be in charge of the estate and hold it in trust until Sammy comes of age.”
“Why me?” His voice squeaked.
“You’ve always been like a brother to her. I can’t think of anyone better to be her guardian.”
Brandon stood up suddenly, simultaneously releasing mom’s hand and knocking over his chair. He was shaking and took a step back. His panicked eyes darted between my face and Mom’s and Martha’s. Finally, he found his voice.
“I’m sorry… I can’t be Sammy’s guardian.” With that, he rushed from the room.
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Running To You
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