(WARNING: This chapter deals with extremely mature content. Even though nothing is graphically described, I am labeling it as being rated M for Mature, because of the severity of the subject matter.)

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“So babe, we’ve been dating for a long time,” Geoffrey told Matilda in her bedroom one afternoon. Matilda could no longer sneak him in the house at night because her mother had put padlocks on her windows and even went so far as to lock her in her room at night so she couldn’t sneak out to be with him.

“I don’t want you seeing that boy anymore! He’s a hoodlum who only wants my daughter’s prestigious name! Well, he can forget about it!” Mandy had shrieked at the top of her lungs while her father tried in vain to calm his wife down. Matilda still remembered the look her father gave her. It made tears spring to her eyes.

“I’m very disappointed in you, Matilda. I thought you had more sense than that,” he sighed.

“Er, babe?” Geoffrey repeated, snapping Matilda out of her thoughts.

“I’m sorry, Geoffrey. I was distracted for a moment. Yes, we have,” she agreed, flipping through her history textbook. They were supposed to be doing their homework together, but Geoffrey hadn’t even bothered to pull a pen out of his pencil case, let alone crack open a book.

“So… don’t you think we should be, like, taking things to the next level?” he asked. Matilda knew exactly what he meant, but her expression remained as unemotional as ever.

“Quite frankly, Geoffrey, no, I don’t,” she answered truthfully. They had had this conversation many times before. Geoffrey had started asking Matilda for sex as soon as three weeks into their relationship. Matilda politely declined and changed the subject, despite his request scaring her. She loved Geoffrey. He was her confidant and comfort for all the times she felt alone and unwanted by her family. She would do almost anything for him… except that.

“Sheesh, how long is it going to take, then?” Geoffrey scowled impatiently. “I’m not going to wait around forever, you know. There are plenty of other girls who’d love to give it to me,” he threatened. Matilda felt a surge of anger.

“Please leave, Geoffrey,” she said quietly, her expression unchanging. “I’m very busy and you don’t seem to be helping me with my homework like we agreed.”

“Fine!” Geoffrey huffed, jumping off her bed and storming out. Out in the main foyer, Parker ran into him marching away, positively fuming and cussing under his breath. With a frown, he walked into his sister’s room and crossed his arms.

“Uh… I just saw your bum boyfriend walking out of here in a rage. Mind explaining what happened?” he asked.

“I’d rather not discuss it,” Matilda replied calmly, taking down notes in her binder from her textbook. Parker just raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything before he disappeared to his own room to watch TV before starting on his own homework.

“Kids! Get down here for your cousin’s birthday party!” Mandy yelled up the stairs an hour later. Matilda was just putting her books back into her schoolbag and decided that her exercise attire was what she’d like to wear for the occasion. She hurried downstairs and overheard a conversation between her mother and Christopher. She was torn between going back upstairs for a few more minutes so as not to eavesdrop and huddling at the top of the stairs to listen. She felt guilty about it, but decided to huddle at the top of the stairs. Parker came up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder.

“Uh, what are you doing?” he asked her.

“Shh!” she replied, dragging him beside her to sit down.

“Christopher… last night was awful. I’m truly sorry you feel that way about me and my family, and I’m sorry I can’t let Jimmie live here. I want to let him live with us, I really do, but I have to abide by my mother’s wishes. You know he’s welcome to stay the night anytime he wants. We all love him like our family,” Mandy said. They heard their cousin sigh.

“I didn’t mean to say all those things last night. I was angry. I’m sorry, but I still want to live with Jimmie. I love him and I want to start a family with him. I- I’m thinking of moving in with him, instead. All of his siblings have moved out and gotten married, so the house would be solely ours.”

There was a long pause.

“My mother wished that everyone who was part of the bloodline stay in Charm Manor, but I guess if that’s what you really want, I can’t stop you from leaving…” Mandy replied, almost in a whisper. Matilda thought her mother was trying not to cry. “I really want you to stay. You’re my nephew and I love you.”

“I’m sorry, Aunt Mandy. I haven’t decided for sure, yet. It’s a big decision to make…”

Matilda had had enough. She stood up and walked back to her room to sit on her bed and blare her music. Parker came in a few minutes later and put an arm around her. Matilda turned down her music so she could hear him. “Are you upset?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“He might still stay, you know. He said so himself,” Parker tried to reassure her.

“I think that was just to make Mother feel better. I don’t see why he would stay here. This house must feel like a cage to him,” Matilda replied cooly. Parker sighed and shrugged.

“Maybe,” he admitted.

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Outside on the patio, Christopher and Jimmie stood by the outdoor fireplace, warming themselves in the glow and admiring the view of the cliffs and ocean with their arms around each other. Inside, the faint sounds of music and laughter from Christopher’s party could be heard. “I love you, Jimmie,” Christopher murmured.

“I love you, too,” Jimmie answered softly. “Happy birthday.”

“Thanks.”

“Chris, I didn’t want to bring this up on your birthday, but I can’t hold it in anymore,” Jimmie sighed. “We’ve been together for ten years. We’re both in our thirties now. Don’t you think it’s time we made a home of our own and started a family?” Christopher sighed and pulled Jimmie closer.

“I do. I want that more than anything,” Christopher replied. “I just… don’t want to hurt my family.” When Jimmie gave him a confused look, Cristopher explained. “Jimmie, I want you to stay here with me and raise our family in Charm Manor, but my aunt won’t allow it, because this place is already too full and my grandmother had this stupid, archaic idea that only direct blood-related descendants should stay here,” he sighed. “I just don’t know what to do.” Jimmie took Christopher’s face in his and looked him in the eye.

“Come live with me,” he told him. “All my siblings have married and left. It’s just me in the house. There’s plenty of room for you and our kids. We can have a football team of kids if you want,” Jimmie smiled. Christopher laughed.

“I want to, Jimmie, but… when I told my aunt that, it broke her heart. I don’t agree with how she’s running this household and she isn’t the best mother in the world, as far as I’m concerned, but… I love her. She took care of me when my mother didn’t. She nearly single-handedly raised me and she was just a teenager. She did a good job of it, too. I can’t just forget about that,” Christopher sighed.

“Chris, I don’t want to force you into anything, but I want to be with you. You need to make a decision.”

“I know. I will,” Chris promised.

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