Paper Hearts - Claire Contreras

Chapter One

“A DATE?” MY mother asked as I stepped into the kitchen.

“Yes, a date.” I picked up my long, damp hair and wrapped it into a bun as I weaved my way toward the fruit.

“Hm,” she said, earning my attention with her non-committal statement. She was leaning back in one of the wooden chairs in our breakfast nook, a newspaper in hand, looking at me like I was wearing a bikini, not skinny jeans and a floral top.

“What?”

“Nothing. You look beautiful,” she replied, going back to her paper.

She looked like a sexy schoolteacher. That was what all the kids I grew up with said about her—that she was a MILF, in a sexy schoolteacher kind of way, with her long, wavy blonde hair and her librarian glasses.

“Spit it out, Bettina, you know you want to,” I said, turning to get myself a bottle of water. I smiled when she groaned. She hated when I called her by her first name. I turned around when I heard the newspaper crinkle and took a seat across from her. I had fifteen minutes to kill anyway.

“I haven’t seen you date anybody, or even heard you mention any guys, for that matter, since Jensen left,” she said, cutting straight to the chase. My mother was no-bullshit like that.

My gaze fell to the paper on the table, away from her questioning blue eyes. The headline story was about the Clark Estate … again.

“Maybe I hadn’t met anyone worth mentioning until now,” I said, bringing my eyes to hers again.

She raised her eyebrows. “Really? So who is this guy worth mentioning?”

I bristled, feeling like she caught me in a lie. I’d dated guys since he left. The last one was definitely more serious than this one, not that it made a difference to her or anybody else. “What does it matter anyway? You guys hated Jensen and me together.”

“Nobody ever said we didn’t like you guys together,” she said.

“You didn’t have to. It was pretty clear. Dad didn’t like him because he’s broke, and you didn’t like him because you knew he’d never be a doctor or lawyer or whatever other fantasy man you envisioned me marrying.”

“Mia, that is simply not true!”

“Really? Because I clearly recall you saying, ‘He’s not good for you Mia. You can do better than that,’” I countered.

She looked at me for a long moment, releasing a long breath. “He used to pick you up on a motorcycle, looking like he rode straight out of a Sin City movie. What was I supposed to say? Besides, I know his reputation; I hear the way he and Victor talk when I’m over at Hannah’s house.”

My nose scrunched up. I looked away, not wanting to hear what was said in those conversations. I knew Jensen’s reputation. I’d known him my entire life. I didn’t fault him for the man he was or the past he had. He was a good person and had a good heart, despite his asshole tendencies and the bad boy appeal.

“He’s a good guy,” I said, feeling the need to defend him, as usual.

“I agree. He is a good guy, and I will admit I pegged him wrong before. But if he’s such a good guy, why did you break up with him?” she asked. I felt myself heat beneath her stare.

“Because, Mom, he went off to school in New York, and I hate long distance relationships.”

“Do you hate long distance relationships, or do you dislike the idea of him being surrounded by women and you not having control over what happens?” she asked as I stood to grab my purse.

“I…”