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Dad sighs loudly and angrily. “Fine, but I expect it this afternoon okay? And I need you to be more involved in the future. If investors want to know the numbers and what’s going on with everything you have to have all the information. If you don’t, you seem weak, you appear poor and unreliable. How do you think I’ve got so far in life?”

I don’t say anything to that, I just wait for his rant to come to an end. There’s nothing I can say that won’t make it worse. I’ve learnt this over time. I just grip my thigh hard so I have some physical pain to focus on rather than the emotional agony my father always gives me. Well anger and hate really, but it’s so damn negative.

“I get by because I always know everything, and if you want to be as successful as me, then you need to as well. I only tell you this because we care.”

“Right. Sure. I’ll get on that.” Urgh he’s winding me up. “I have to go now, bye.”

Once I hang up the phone I huff and shake my head. I wanted to go to the lake with Hank, I wanted to decide what I want to be doing, but instead I’m going to be pointlessly working out numbers for something that’s already been done. This feels like utter bullshit to me.

“You okay, boss?” Hank asks me.

“I need Archie,” I tell him grimly. “I need to set out a report for my dad.”

“Oh the boring paper work bit.” He rolls his eyes in an understanding way. “Let’s get this done.”

I collapse onto the grubby, uncomfortable bed in the motel room face down as a weariness overcomes me. I haven’t been staying here much, thankfully because I’ve had Lola to keep me company. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to last as long as I have done if I’d been forced to stay here. But now, instead of going to see her, I’m here.

What is going on with me? I think as I twist around in my bed to stare up at the slightly cracked ceiling. Why do I feel so churned up?

I know really. Speaking to dad always reminds me about what life’s going to be like when I return to the city. It makes me really understand that I need to keep my distance with Lola. I keep knowing that, but acting u

pon it is something else. Even now I know that it would be much better if I just kept away, but the tug in my chest is all too real. I’m torn.

I don’t move while I debate this inside my mind. Probably because I think if I don’t move then I will be able to keep away, but of course I can’t avoid the real world forever.

Ring, ring… Ring, ring… Ring, ring…

“Oh God,” I murmur while turning over onto my left side. “What am I going to do?”

I decide to just tell her that I can’t hang out tonight. Maybe one night of distance will be the start towards our slow separation. The building work is getting ever closer to ending, it really won’t be as long as I’d like it to be in this town, so this will be good.

God when I first arrived here I didn’t think I’d see the day where I didn’t want to leave.

Just be strong, I tell myself. Just be strong and give an excuse.

“Hey, Lola,” I say warmly. “How are you? I’ve had a terrible day…”

“Oh well that’s why I’ve cooked you something.” I slide my eyes closed as I realize just how challenging this will be. “I thought you sounded a bit stressed earlier.”

“Oh that’s so kind of you, I am just a bit…” I don’t get my words out because she continues to talk over me as if she can’t sense my inner turmoil at all.

“I’m sorry, I know a big part of it must be my fault. It can’t be easy for you to look after me, see to my dad, and work your ass off as well. I just want to do something nice for you. To say thanks.”

How can I resist that? I know I can’t. Not without seeming like a real asshole. “Okay, sure. I’ll just get ready and I’ll be there.”

I push my weary body off the bed and I loosen my tie. I have gotten very used to spending time with Lola in a much more casual outfit than I’d usually wear. Everything with her is more comfortable and relaxed. It’s like a completely different life style that I didn’t even know I craved.

But of course I can’t crave it because it’ll never be mine. Yes, it might be a nice idea to think of doing something else with my life, it might be a good fantasy to consider taking control of my life and moving it into a new direction, but I can’t realistically. My dad has been good to me, even if he’s hard. He’s given me my position and opened up doors for me. He’s given me all the money I could want in life. I need him. Plus, without Mom all we have is each other, I can’t be a douche bag and let him down. I can’t leave him too. He might not say it a lot, and he doesn’t really act that way, but I do think he needs me.

As I throw a tee shirt over my head and I pull on a pair of jeans, I glance at myself in the mirror. I don’t recognise the person looking back at me, but I might as well not get used to it. This version of me won’t be around for much longer.

Just as I’m about to grab my car keys, my cell phone bleeps with an email coming through. I click onto it to see that it’s from my father.

‘Good job, Son. This is you taking control. I like to see you being a leader.’

A warm feeling fills my chest. See, he does respect me. He just pushes and pushes me hard to make sure I can get to where I need to be in life. I have to be grateful to him for that. I need to stop getting offended and to just embrace his words. He only has my best interests at heart. He wants me to succeed, I just need to want that for myself instead.