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Finn Rhodes Forever: Chapter 14


“HI,” I called as I stepped inside my parents’ house that evening.

“In the kitchen,” my mom called back. Classic rock played in the living room so I knew my dad was still home.

I kicked my shoes off and followed the sound of my parents’ voices.

“…I’m telling you, Joe, blood everywhere, all over the floor,” my mom was saying, seated at the kitchen island as my dad unloaded the dishwasher. Her gaze shot to my hair and she slumped in relief. “Oh, thank god you got your hair fixed. Those bangs are cute on you.”

This afternoon, Sadie had dragged me to the salon to have it fixed. The stylist had given me wispy curtain bangs and a shoulder-length cut with a seventies vibe to it.

“Thanks.” I raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”

My mom shrugged. “I said I had the day from hell and Joe asked what happened.”

“Jen, no.” He shook his head, wincing. “I can’t hear this stuff.”

She started laughing. “You asked.”

“Mom, you can’t talk to us the way you talk to other nurses.”

She rolled her eyes, smiling. “You two. The kids loved hearing my gross stories today.”

“Oh, right.” My dad leaned on the counter. “How’d that go?”

My mom and I exchanged a look. The air snapped with a strange tension. She adopted a polite, pleasant expression, which meant she was thinking about Finn and how badly his presentation had gone today.

Have you ever been in jail? The drunk tank isn’t jail. I turned and winced out the window.

“Fine,” my mom told him.

“Yeah, fine,” I added. “The kids were more interested in how to make drinks than my thesis.”

My dad folded his arms over his chest and exchanged a look with my mom. I arched a brow.

“What?” I asked them.

My mom glanced between my dad and me, shifting on her stool. My stomach dipped, suddenly nervous.

My dad blew out a long breath. “I’m going to sell the bar.”

My eyebrows shot up. “What?”

He nodded, rubbing his jaw. “Yeah. I think it’s time.” He smiled at my mom. “We’re ready to retire. We realized last year that we didn’t want to wait until our seventies to do all the fun retirement stuff.”

“And I’m not fully retiring,” my mom added. “I’m going down to part time.”

Thoughts toppled over each other in my mind like balls in one of those lottery tumblers. Last year, when I was struggling to find the flower, I admitted to Sadie that if I didn’t finish my dissertation, I wanted to buy the bar when the time came and take it over. My dad had done so much for us, and he loved that place. I wanted to do it for him.

Was it my dream? No, being out in the forest was my dream, but it was a good second choice. It was good enough.

But now my fallback plan was being yanked out from beneath me.

“I want to buy it,” I burst out. “I want to buy the bar.”

They exchanged another look, like they expected this.

“No,” he said, studying my face with concern. “I know it isn’t what you want, honey.”

“But—” I started.

No, Olivia.” He watched me, eyebrows creasing. “I appreciate all the hard work you’ve put in. We never could have gone traveling if not for you holding down the fort last year.” He shook his head, sighing. “But I can’t help thinking you want to buy the place out of obligation, and in the end, we want you to be happy.”

I dragged in a shaky breath. “Can’t it be both?”

He shot me a sad smile before walking over and wrapping me in a bear hug.

“My mind is made up,” he said before dropping a quick kiss on the top of my head. “Okay?”

I nodded against his shoulder, feeling anxious and agitated even though I knew he was right.

“I CAN’T WATCH WILD AGAIN,” she protested.

“It’s been at least six months.” My thumb hovered over the button on the remote, ready to press play.

My mom huffed a laugh. My dad had headed to the bar and we were sitting in the living room eating takeout sushi, ready to put a movie on.

“Fine.” She sighed but I could see she didn’t mind that much. “We talk through it anyway.”

I started the movie and settled back into the couch.

She looked at me out of the corner of her eye. “Are you upset about the bar?”

My head tipped back against the back of the couch and I hummed. “I can see where you guys are coming from.” I knew in my gut it was the right choice, but that didn’t make it any more comfortable that my career safety net was falling out from beneath me. “I just—” I folded my arms over my plaid shirt. “Dad has done so much for us.”

“What do you mean?”

“Without him, who knows where we’d be? We wouldn’t have been able to buy this house from Grandma and Grandpa.” When I was born, my mom and Cole lived with her parents to save money. Cole moved out when they broke up shortly after I was born. My dad made them an offer on the house the day he proposed to my mom, when I was five. “We may not have been able to afford university for me.”

My mom frowned and searched my face. “Honey. You don’t owe Joe this. Those are the kind of things that dads do.”

Not all dads. The thought scraped, painful and raw. Some dads left. Some dads lost interest in their kids’ lives. Some dads lost touch.

Sometimes, I wondered if Cole even thought about me. Did he remember my birthday or my first word?

Joe did. He remembered every detail. He was there on every birthday, showed up to every parent-teacher conference, even picked me up from school when I got in trouble with Finn.

I let out a long sigh and flattened my mouth as I glanced at my mom.

“Baby,” she said softly, looping her arm around my shoulder. “We worry that you’re stuck.” She exhaled through her nose, looking pained. “You’re so focused on that flower, but what if you don’t find it?”

Her doubt seared me, and my stomach twisted. Another person who thought I was wasting my time.

“It feels like you’re treading water.” Her shoulders lifted. “And we’ve noticed that you don’t date.”

I choked. “I’ve dated.”

“No one serious, though.” Her expression changed and she rolled her eyes. “And we’re going to talk about this whole Finn thing.”

“It’s not what you think—”

“Hold on.” She put a hand up. “I just want to say, I think Joe selling the bar is a good thing. It’ll force you into the next phase of your life.” She gave me a soft look, full of love. “All we want is for you to live a full, happy life.” She searched my eyes. “Okay?”

I nodded, throat tight. “Yep. Okay.”

She squeezed my shoulder before pulling her arm back and I hesitated. Her eyebrow arched.

“So you’ve heard about me and Finn.”

“Uh-huh.” Her tone was dry.

My mom wasn’t Finn’s biggest fan. Any time I had a kid over from school who wasn’t Finn, she’d be thrilled and overly encouraging, especially as I got further into my teen years and Finn’s antics started getting worse.

She was relieved when he left. She’d never say that because I was obviously upset, but I think she saw Finn leaving as a bullet dodged.

On the couch, I told her about my plan to get him to lose interest in me.

“Ohhhhkay.” She pointed at my hair. “I get the bad haircut now.” She studied me for a moment before letting out a laugh and burying her head in her hands. “Oh my god. Baby. You’re playing with fire here.”

“It’s fine. I have it all under control.”

“I don’t know about this.” She shook her head, worrying her bottom lip. “He’s just…”

I waited. “He’s just what?”

“He’s something else.” She didn’t say it like it was a good thing. “And he’s always been your weakness.”

I huffed. “Wow. Not mincing words tonight, are you?”

“I’m sorry, baby, I didn’t mean it in a bad way. Guys like Finn? I know guys like him. Or, I knew one.” She laughed but it didn’t reach her eyes. My stomach twisted again at the comparison between Finn and Cole.

“I told you, it’s fake.”

“You can’t rely on them.” Her expression was pained. “They don’t stick around for long. Finn has been in and out of this town for years.”

“I know.” My shoulders tensed with irritation.

“You can’t change them.”

I shook my head, squeezing my eyes closed. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I have everything under control. Everything you’re saying, I already know. Finn’s the only one who doesn’t realize he’s going to leave again, okay? I’m ready for it.”

She chewed her lip, her blue eyes holding mine. “Yeah. Okay.” She winced through a small smile. “Just trying to protect my baby.”

“I’m not a baby anymore.”

“You’re not a baby, but you’re still my baby.” She looped her arm around my shoulders and made squeaky kissy noises against my face.

I laughed and tried to push her away. “Stop it.”

We turned back to the movie, and while we watched, my mind wandered to Finn.

My mom was right. This was the reminder I needed. I had replayed the quick brush of his lips over mine in the bar a hundred times, and when he looked at me yesterday after our date at the doily museum with heat in his gaze, I wanted him to kiss me.

You ruined me, and I’m not mad about it.

I had to be careful around him. My brain knew he was bad news, but my body? She wanted action with the hot, bright-eyed firefighter covered in tattoos.

Later, after I ran upstairs to use the washroom, I lingered in the open doorway of my old bedroom.

Except for removing my posters and pictures on the walls, my parents had kept the room the same. It was a guest room now for visitors. I wandered in, approaching the window that faced Finn’s old room.

I peered out but Finn’s old room was dark, so I couldn’t see inside. I’d stolen peeks over the years and from this distance, it also looked mostly the same. My gaze passed over the Rhodes’ front yard, where I’d seen Finn sneak out and back in on grad night.

My shoulder bumped the window frame as I looked out.

Everywhere I turned, I was flooded with memories of Finn. I thought about what my mom said.

You can’t rely on them. You can’t change them.

If I let Finn break my heart again, I was going to spend the rest of my life haunted by memories of us.


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