Look Don't Touch

By: Tess Oliver


Dad rested his head against the tall back of the chair. It seemed even sitting up for extended periods took too much energy. "When I wrote the amendment into my will, insisting you had to make ten million dollars on your own before getting a penny of your inheritance, I did it, not out of cruelty, but to make sure you didn't take life for granted. Too many wealthy heirs lead meaningless, spoiled lives, spending all the family fortune without ever realizing the blood and sweat that went into earning it."

I sat forward. "First of all, I was never a spoiled, wealthy heir. I wasn't born with the silver spoon in my mouth. You held it in front of my mouth, but I never got to taste it."

"Right. I saw to that. And that life of austerity made you strive for success. But now it seems you've started taking it all for granted. Fast, expensive cars, loose women and booze. Those are all the hallmarks of a spoiled, wealthy brat."

"There is not one dollar of your money in my bank account, so I think we can change that title to successful, young man finally learning what it's like to live a good life. And what I do with that life is none of your business." I got up to leave. "It's been a rousing chat as always, sir."

"The lawyer is coming by later today," he said before I could leave the table.

I stopped.

"I'm changing the will again. You reached and far surpassed your first ten million, and that would have released the trust to you upon my death. But I'm adding a new stipulation. You don't need Grant, that old prune. It's about time you started your own company. And when your company is earning seven figures in a year, you'll get your trust."

I shrugged. "Keep moving the goal post as often as you like. It's still my life, and I'll do what the fuck I want with it." I headed out. "Maybe we can just bury you with your fucking fortune because I don't want it."

I walked out, not wanting or needing to wait for his response. In truth, our quick chat had gone about the same as our meetings always had since I'd grown up and ventured out on my own. Dad was still trying to control me, and the sense that his grip on me had come all but unglued made him lash out in every way possible. And for him, that always meant money, namely my inheritance. But he had been using his fortune as leverage to get what he wanted from me for a long time. I was bored of playing that game. The trust fund was starting to feel like a pact with the devil, and it just wasn't worth the hassle.

I reached the staircase but rather than head down, I crossed the landing, walking past the creepy paintings to the east wing of the house. My bedroom was at the end of a long hallway, far away from Dad's room. I was always glad to have a long stretch of space between our bedrooms.

It had been several years since I walked into the room. I opened the door. It smelled stale and musty, like a room that hadn't been opened for years. Which I was sure it hadn't. There were at least half a dozen rooms in the sprawling mansion that were never used.

Almost nothing had been added to the room since my first winter break when Dad had given all my things to charity as punishment for blowing my first semester midterms. I never had the urge or need to buy personal stuff again because I knew it could be taken away at any time. And once I'd had a taste of being away at college, I knew without hesitation that I would move out of his house and out of his life the second I graduated.

The empty bed with the old faded quilt I'd pulled from one of the guest rooms sat lonely and cold in the center of the room. I'd spent so much time in the room, trying to avoid any interactions with my dad, that I knew every crack in the plaster wall and every worn spot on the carpet.

I walked over to the wall next to the closet and rubbed my fingers along the shoddy patch work I'd done when I had to fix the hole I made with my fist. I glanced down at my hand and the two slim, white scars on the back of my knuckles. I could still remember that night as if it had just happened. It was that night when it really dawned on me just how fucking nuts my dad was.





7





Thirteen years earlier

I rummaged through my closet, trying to decide which shirt looked the least dorky and gave me the best shot at getting Rebecca out on the dance floor. I wasn't kidding myself. It was the first dance for freshmen, and since the private academy only had twenty-five ninth graders, there were only a few partner choices. And Rebecca was going to be at the top of every guy's dance list.

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