Us After You First Chapter

1

Tucker

I’ve never considered myself good, much less great, at anything. Knowing this has been one of my greatest strengths. It’s taught me how to work, to pay attention to details, and to embrace the things I can’t control or change. 

Instead of swimming against the current, I make sure everything runs smoothly. Like today. Two of my best friends, Zeke and Rocco, have been off for quite some time, and before anything bad happens, I act. Solving the issues before they become major problems is part of who I am.

What do I do?

Organize a trip so they can party and blow off some steam. We’ve done this since we met. Back, when we were seventeen, seniors in high school, the world belonged to us. It’s not a joke. Our paths crossed when we all became part of a program for troubled teenagers. Music was supposed to be our therapy. Creating a band, our hobby.

However, the hobby became a trend. In a blink of an eye, Sinners of Seattle took over the world. We ruled everything. I was the lead guitarist and vocalist. People worshiped me—us. In fact, some continue doing so.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take my fans for granted. I’m grateful, and I always give back. Though, after we fucked up, the band broke up, and now, we have to find other means to party—and be discreet.

I’m an expert at it. The guys need to blow steam, I organize the best getaway. Once it’s all ready, I text Hannah. She’s not only my best friend, but also the former keyboardist and vocalist of the band. Furthermore, she’s the most responsible person in our group. If someone can keep us straight during this trip, it’d be her.  

Tuck: We haven’t hung out with you since you came back from your trip.

Nana: Come over to San Francisco.

Her suggestion would be cool if it wasn’t for the fact that partying in San Francisco would be dangerous. The media is always hounding us, searching for a good story to post on the internet. 

Tuck: Cancun?

Nana: Are you inviting me to go with you or asking if I know how the weather is in Cancun?

Tuck: We’re planning a trip. Why don’t you come with us? It’ll be fun.

Nana: When?

Tuck: This upcoming Friday.

Nana: Sorry, Tuck, I can’t. This weekend I’m busy. Actually, I’m in the middle of a project.

I grunt because sometimes she’s too fucking responsible. Which is exactly why I need her this weekend with me. I’m not taking no for an answer. 

Tuck: I heard about it. You’re dating (like a civilian) for work.

Tuck: Read what I just texted. It doesn’t make sense. Why would you want to do it?

Tuck:  Who are you dating anyway?

I should text Alex Spearman. That dude is in love with her. If I say something, he might step in and stop her plan. Then she won’t have any excuse to skip this trip. The guy is so in love with Hannah, it doesn’t surprise me he waited a year for her.

Nana: You should stop dating like a rock star. It’s overrated. : wink emoji :

Tuck: Come with us, please! 

The dots on the phone dance, but she doesn’t answer. So, I send another text trying to persuade her. I even use her nickname. 

Tuck: Nana, seriously, I need backup. You’re the only one who can save me. 

Nana: What about Ethan?

I drum my fingers against my desk. That’s a great question. Where the fuck is Ethan? Well, Nana, thanks to you, he’s been finding himself. Which means, he can’t be there for me this weekend either. 

After he broke up with his fiancée last year—thank fuck—he’s changed. It’s like he’s fucking growing up too and leaving us behind. Just the way Nana did. Everything is changing so quickly, no wonder Zeke and Rocco are a fucking mess. 

The more I hope that we’ll be back together, not just as a family but as a band, the more I realize it’s an impossible dream. If I could go back in time when we started Sinners of Seattle, I’d do everything differently. Not sure exactly what, but everything would be different.

The world feels like it’s spinning out of control around the sun. Every second is faster than the last one, and I’m just one man trying to stop it from spiraling off its axis and destroying our lives as we know them.

Every time something goes wrong in our lives, we all get sucked into the hurricane of emotions and break into pieces. It’s so fucking hard to rebuild our lives.

Tuck: He’s busy this weekend. 

Nana: Sorry, Tuck. Maybe next time I’ll join you. Alex and I already have plans. 

I stare at my phone, wondering if she’s dating him. Fucking Alex! Of course she’s dating him. I knew he wouldn’t just sit around, but can he give me a break? I get it, he waited one year too long for her. Does she know what he’s up to though? 

Tuck: What’s happening with Golden Boy?

Nana: We’re friends. 

I laugh because either she’s clueless or in denial.

Tuck: Fine, go search for your other half and be happy. 

Nana: Love you, Tuck!

Tuck: If you did, you’d come with me. 

Nana: Wow, aren’t you a little old to try to guilt trip me?

Tuck: Can you feel my desperation? Come party with us, you won’t regret it.

Nana: Stop partying so much. 

Tuck: I’m thirty, not sixty. You’re younger than me.

Nana: Sorry, I can’t.

If I told her that Rocco is having a hell of a time and needs her, she would find a way, but I don’t say it, because maybe she’s right. We’re too old for this crap.

Tuck: You’ll be missed.

Nana: Behave, okay. If I have to clean up your mess, I won’t be nice to you. 

Tuck: Love you, Nana.

*

“Tucker, your mom is on her way,” Cynthia, my assistant, announces through the intercom. 

“Are you sure she’s coming to visit me and not my father?”

“Mr. Cooperson’s assistant is the one who gave me the heads up, so be ready.”

I scrub my face and walk toward to the door. When I open it, I spot her right away. It’s not hard though. Thea Cooperson-Decker is not only beautiful, elegant, and tall. She’s unique.

Think of a regal unicorn princess. Her hair is long, wavy, and multicolored. Her clothes are colorful, usually wearing long dresses or flouncy shirts and jeans. She’s unique in many ways and never blends—she strives to be herself.

“Mom, I wasn’t expecting you today,” I say, instead of asking, why don’t you use the phone? I’m a grown man.

“I was visiting your dad, and I thought, why not just go and talk to him—in person,” she continues. “You should read Hannah’s articles. She’s been very vocal about the need for human contact. She encourages to go back to connecting with your loved ones in an offline environment.”

“Sure, I’ll try to read them the next time…” I have insomnia and no woman to fuck.

This right here is why I hate working for my parents. They don’t understand the meaning of boundaries. They come in and out of my office as they please. 

“So, what brings you to this side of the building?”

“Winter’s birthday is coming up, and I want to make sure you’ll be there.”

I smile and look at the portrait of my family. Winter is the baby of the family. Well, not a baby, since she’s about to turn thirteen. Fuck, where did the time go? It feels like it was just yesterday when I had to help Mom during childbirth—at home. 

“Don’t worry, I’ll be there,” I say and stare at her because I can sense that there’s so much more she wants to say to me. “Now, can you please tell me what the real reason is for why you’re here?”

“Tristan is worried about you.”

I press my lips together and stare at her. 

She waves her hand. “Yes, you’re an adult and … look, you seem a little lost and you’ve been avoiding us lately. No matter what you say, you’re still our kid.”

“Thirty,” I remind her, not adding, you relinquished your parental rights thirty years ago. You have no fucking right to treat me the same way you do your other five children. 

Why do I stop?

Because we don’t discuss our situation. The fact that she gave me up for adoption the day I was born. There’s this unspoken agreement between us to forget our past. It’s pretty simple—she was a teenager, and she didn’t want me. Apparently, there’s more to the story than being an addict without any family support. Some things they assume I won’t understand, and others are better not being told.

Listen, I understand to some extent. She had choices, like having an open adoption where I could see her. But she chose to be selfish, and she gave me up—forever.

Not being able to talk about the big gorilla between us weighs on me. It strains our relationship to the point that I can’t get as close to her as I should. To this day, I’m not even sure if I’m enough for her—or for anyone.

She was supposed to protect me, to love me, to be the one person who would be there for me no matter what.

Still, here she is, criticizing every step I take. She found a new life. She’s no longer that broken addict she was back when I came into her life. She has a new family, and as much as she insists that I’m a part of it, I never feel good enough to belong.

“What do you want me to say?” I ask, because I have a ton of work and Cancun is waiting for me.

“It’s not about saying, but doing, Tucker. You and your friends keep partying the same way you did ten years ago. They…” She exhales loudly and purses her lips. 

“You never liked them.”

“I do, but you don’t want to see what we do. Zeke and Rocco need more help than you can give them. My worry isn’t about their influence but what’s going to happen to you when they hit rock bottom.”

“They won’t,” I assure her.

“Stop lying to yourself, Tucker. If you love them, do them a favor and stop protecting them.”

“You have no idea what it is to have no one in the world.” For once I verbalize my thoughts out loud.

She chuckles. “I was on my own for a long time. For years, my acting jobs were what supported my family. You can’t tell me I don’t know what they’re going through because I knew people like them—I was like them.”

“I’m sure you made a lot of mistakes during your twenties.”

“No, I stopped at seventeen. Once I learned about you, I worked hard to change my life. I worked hard to become a better person. One who you’d be proud of calling mom, even if that never happened. I marked the days I’d been clean—fighting my demons for you. I’m not saying turn your back on them, but you have to let them be on their own.”

Maybe I should be on my own and away from this overbearing family. 

“We’ll have to agree to disagree,” I say, calming myself before I say something I’ll regret. 

She swallows hard and nods. “I hope one day you’ll forgive me for giving you up. It was for the best,” she says and leaves. 

She can keep saying that to absolve herself from guilt, but was it really for the best?