Her words only seem to upset him more. He pushes at his dark hair, arms tight, hands curling into fists. “You sure about that? ’Cause it don’t seem like love from where I’m standin’.”
I figure it’s time I step in. “Listen, JD—”
“Oh, shut up,” he growls.
“I’ve had it up to here with you!” He motions to the top of his head. “Everythin’ was fine until you came back. You were an asshole in high school, and you’re an asshole now!”
I press a hand to my chest. “Jenny said you thought I was a legend.”
“A legendary asshole! Always walkin’ around like you were better than us—too fuckin’ good for this town. Screw you!”
“Well I sure as shit was better than you—goddamn water boy.”
Suddenly JD changes from a puppy into a Rottweiler. One that snaps.
“I was the manager !” he bellows. Then he lunges over the table, tackling me around the waist, taking us both down to the ground.
Jenny groans, “Aw, hell.”
My leg catches the leg of the side table, bringing the lamp on top of it crashing to the floor.
And Carter says, “Finally! That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Purge the negativity! Get it all out there in the open, boys.”
I straighten my arm against JD’s chest, trying to get the upper hand.
“I thought you weren’t gonna fight,” I grit out.
“I changed my mind!” he snarls. Then he punches me in the eye.
My head snaps to the side, but I come right back, landing a solid right hook to his jaw, making my knuckles throb. We grapple and grunt, kick and punch. But within just a few minutes, Wayne and my father decide that’s enough. They snatch each of us by our collars, dragging us up, pulling us apart.
Panting, JD shakes off Wayne’s grip, but he doesn’t come at me again.
He looks at Jenny and bites out, “I’m done here.”
And the front door slams closed behind him.
• • •
After JD’s exit, Ruby announced the party was over and sent everyone home. Then she swore she was gonna put us all on Jerry Springer. Twenty minutes later I’m at the kitchen table, holding a bag of frozen peas on my swelling eye. Jenny sits on a chair next to me, while our daughter paces before us.
Presley stops in front of me. “We use our words to solve problems around here, not our fists.” She paces some more. Then she looks hard at Jenny. “And you’ve hurt JD’s feelin’s. You need to say sorry.”
We nod in sad unison.
Getting your ass chewed out by an eleven-year-old is no fun at all.
Presley shakes her head and wags her finger. “I’m very disappointed in both of you. I want you to sit here and think about your behavior. And next time, I expect you to make better choices.” With a final reproachful humph, she flounces away—leaving us to stew.
Silently, Jenny picks at her nails. It’s what she does when she’s worried, and it doesn’t take a genius to guess just what she’s worrying over.
“I’m sorry, Jenn. I didn’t mean—” I break off, because busting up Jenny and JD’s wedding was exactly what I meant to do. I thought I’d feel victorious—another check in the win column.
But I just feel shitty.
She rests her hand on my leg. “It’s all right, Stanton. It’s not all your fault.”
I stare at her. Waiting.
“All right, it is your fault. But I did my part too. If I had just told you from the beginnin’, let you get used to the idea, we wouldn’t—”
The front door slams open and a burst of wind surges into the house, blowing in leaves, little chunks of dirt, and . . . Jimmy Ass Face Dean.
Jenny stands as he walks into the room, hard faced and frowning. But there’s something else in his eyes.
“You came back,” she breathes.
“I had to come back. To make sure you and Presley were all right.” He pulls her into his arms, and the Rottweiler is back in his cage. “There’s a storm comin’ in.” He looks up at me. “The tornado warnin’ is goin’ off—heard it when I got close to town. The radio cut out on the way back, but it sounded like it’s on track to hit here.”
Tornado watches are pretty common in this part of Mississippi. We deal with them the way the East Coast handles a blizzard—with healthy caution and preparation—but no one really expects the Armageddon they show in the movies.