Rules of a Rebel and a Shy Girl, Page 16Jessica Sorensen
“You don’t need to be sorry for worrying me. I want to help you every chance I get, no matter what. I don’t like you being there by yourself.”
“I know. And I really am considering moving out.” I grip the doorknob as my mom knocks again. “I’m kind of glad my mom is here. Now I can talk to her about the idea.”
“Do you really think that’s a good idea?”
“I don’t know, but I have to at least let her know.”
“Why? She’ll just try to talk you out of it.”
“I doubt that. She doesn’t really care if I’m around or not. I only stuck around this long because I worry about her, not the other way around.”
“That’s not the reason I think she’s going to talk you out of it,” he says quietly. “I think she’s going to try to talk you out of it because you’ve been taking care of her for years. You pay her bills, buy her food, clean the house, clean up after her. And if you leave, she’s going to lose all of that.”
I smash my lips together, breathing in and out of my nose as the truth of his words pierces my heart. “I know,” I whisper. “I’ve already thought about all of that.” Hearing him say it makes my heart ache, makes the brutal truth real. Very, very painfully, aching, can barely breathe real. “I still need to say something to her. And I can’t move out until I find a new job.” I realize my slip up a second too late.
“What’s wrong with the one you have at the library?”
“It just doesn’t pay very well.” Each lie I utter makes me loathe myself even more.
My mom bangs on the door so violently I jump back. “Okay, Willow. It’s time to open the door.”
“I have to go,” I tell Beck. “I’ll call you later.”
“You better,” he says worriedly. “Or else I’ll drive over there and make sure you’re okay.”
Part of me wants to never call him back so he’ll make due on his threat. That wouldn’t be right, though. Instead, I agree, and then we both utter a reluctant good-bye before hanging up.
I let out a gradual exhale. I was worried about talking to him again, but now that I have, I feel better. It wasn’t as awkward as I thought it was going to be.
This might work.
Then my good mood splatters against the cracked linoleum when I open the door.
“Took you long enough.” Her bulging eyes are bloodshot, her clothes are stained with dirt, and her greasy hair is pulled back into a messy bun. “You got any cash on you?”
“Um, hello to you, too,” I say, stumbling backward as she pushes past me.
“Hello,” she grumbles, striding straight for my dresser. “Where do you keep the cash again? I can’t remember.”
I nervously watch her as she throws the top drawer open “What cash?”
“The stash of cash you keep hidden.” She dumps the contents of the drawer onto the floor, scattering my clothes everywhere.
“Yeah, I don’t have a stash of cash.” I cross the room and grab her hand as she’s about to yank out another drawer. “I spend almost every penny I make on bills and paying your stupid debts.”
She jerks her arm back. “That’s such bullshit! I know you have extra money! How else could you afford all that stuff?”
“What stuff?” I ask with honest confusion. I don’t have much of anything.
“Your car, those school books you have.” She drags her fingers down her face so roughly she leaves red marks on her skin. “Better yet, where’s all that money you were saving up for tuition? Let me have some of that.”
“That money’s gone,” I say, annoyed she has the audacity to ask for it.
“Gone where?” She scans the room in a panic.
“To pay my tuition. And since I’ve been going to school for a few months now, you should know that.”
“You go to school? Since when?”
I bite my tongue and just stare at her, hating that she’s like this, hating that she’s my mother, maybe even hating her, which only makes me hate myself.
Her eyes land on me, and the panic in her expression fizzles as she inches toward me. “You know what we haven’t done in a while?” Her smile looks all sorts of wrong.
“Everything,” I say, unable to stop myself.
“That’s not true. We do stuff all the time.”
I want to point out all the reasons she’s wrong, but she’s probably strung out, which pretty much makes her a ticking time bomb that could destroy what little life I have left in an instant.
“Like that time we went to the park.” Her chapped lips twist into a forced smile.
“The last time we went to the park, I was five.” And Dad was still here.
“Oh, that’s not true.” She wraps her arms around me and begins rocking me back and forth like she did when I was a kid. “I love you. You know that, right?”
When I was younger, I loved when she said this. That feeling died around the time I turned twelve and realized she only threw those words out there when she was in trouble and needed my help bailing her out of whatever problem she’d gotten herself into.
“Where’s your new husband?” I ask, concerned he might be in the house somewhere.
She slants back to look me in the eye, having a hard time focusing on one spot. “Who told you I got married?”
I shrug. “Some bar owner overheard you talking about it.”
“Oh.” She frowns. “Well, that was a mistake.”
“So you didn’t get married?”
“No, I did. But it didn’t work out.”
“It’s only been, like, a week.” That might be a new record for her.
She waves me off with a flick of her wrist. “Most Vegas marriages only last until the alcohol and drugs wear off.”
I note her bloodshot eyes. “So, why did you decide not to stay married to him?”
“Because he was boring and annoying and kept checking out other women.” She grinds her teeth over and over again as if she can somehow grind the memory of her short-lived marriage away. “But that’s okay. I’ve got better things to do.”
“Really?” I doubt it. Usually, when she gets dumped, she has a bawl fest on the bathroom floor.
She nods, her jaw still grinding, her eyes practically bulging out of her head. “I just need another fix, and I’ll be good.” She looks at me, pleading. “But I can’t do that unless I have some money.”
I shuffle back from her. “I’m not giving you money to buy drugs.”
“Why not?” She itches her arm repeatedly, leaving scratch marks. “You’ve done it before.”
“But that doesn’t make it any different.”
“Yes, it does. It makes me an enabler.”
“What the hell does that mean?” she snaps, the rage in her eyes making me shrink back. When she notices my edginess, the anger erases, and she offers me a plastic smile. “Come on, Willow. Just help your mom out. I promise it’ll be my last time asking you for help.”
“N-no, it won’t.” I stand firm, crossing my arms, refusing to back down.
Her lip twitches and her fingers curl into fists. “You’re such an ungrateful brat who only cares about herself.”
I shake my head, loathing the tears pooling in my eyes. “Do you even know what I was doing for the last week while you’ve been MIA? I’ve been hanging around the apartment as much as I can because I’ve been worried about you.”
“Why would you worry about me?” She gapes at me like I’m an idiot. “I was having the time of my life.”
“I didn’t know that,” I bite out. “You didn’t tell me where you were going.”
“How is that my fault? It’s not like I have a phone so I can call you.”
“You could’ve stopped by before you took off and at least let me know where you were,” I tell her. “But that doesn’t even matter. The point is, I shouldn’t have ever been here, because I shouldn’t be living here anymore. This place is shitty, the neighbors are shitty, and you treat m
e shitty, yet I stay here because I worry you’re going to come home one day with too many drugs or alcohol in your system, and no one will be here to take you to the hospital.”
She rolls her eyes. “I wouldn’t die if that’s what you’re getting at. I know my limits.”
“Says every drug addict ever.” The words roll off my tongue without any forethought, shocking myself as much as I do her.
“Shut the fuck up!” she shouts then whirls around and slides her hand across my dresser, sending all of my snow globes to the floor. Glass shatters. Water spills everywhere.
Broken. Everything is broken.
“See what you made me do!” my mom screams, wild-eyed. “If you would’ve just given me the damn money!”
“You broke them all,” I whisper, tears pooling in my eyes. “Dad gave me those. It was the only thing I had from him.”
“Your dad?” Her sharp laugh makes more tears fill my eyes. “Newsflash, Willow. Your dad doesn’t care about you, so I don’t know why you’d care about anything he gave you. No one cares about you! And the sooner you learn that, the better off you’ll be!” With that, she storms out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
I don’t chase after her. I remain frozen in place, staring at the broken snow globes, the only items I had left from my father.
He doesn’t care about you.
He doesn’t care about me.
No one cares about you.
Maybe I should be glad they’re broken. Perhaps I should’ve never kept them to begin with. That thought doesn’t make it any easier as I unglue my feet from the floor and head to get a trash bag to clean up the mess.
My mom is gone by the time I make it into the kitchen, and while I’m scared of where she might be and what she may be doing, I don’t want her here.
When I return to my room, I begin picking up the broken glass. With each piece I throw away, a tear slips from my eye. By the time I finish, I’m bawling.
I sink to the floor and hug my legs against my chest, allowing myself to cry for a minute or two until I’m on the verge of losing it. Then I put the floodgates back up, trapping the pain and worry inside.
As I stumble to my feet to go get my phone, I notice a single snow globe beside the back of the dresser. I crawl over to see which one survived and don’t know whether to smile or frown at the Eiffel Tower inside the glass ball.
I don’t know what that means or if it means anything, but I pick up the snow globe Beck gave me and tuck it safely in my dresser drawer. Then I collect my phone off my bed to call Wynter and do something completely out of the ordinary for me: ask her if I can move in with her without a new job lined up, without having a plan. I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to jump into something without knowing I can handle the entire situation. But staying here isn’t an option anymore. Not after this.
I dial her number, sitting on my bed, holding my breath.
“Hey,” Wynter answers the phone cheerfully. “I was actually just about to call you and see if you want to go shopping with me. I need a dress for this stupid party my parents are having.”
“I’d love to go, but I have to work,” I say, biting my fingernails.
“All right, what’s up? I know something has to be up when you say stuff like you’d love to go shopping with me.”
“I need a favor.” Only four words, but it takes all of my strength to get them to leave my lips.
“Of course.” She sounds surprised. “What’s up?”
“I need a place to live.” Shame strangles me. “I know you said that Luna might be moving out, and I thought maybe I could rent her room for a bit.”
She doesn’t answer right away, making my anxiety skyrocket.
“I really wish you would’ve called a few days ago.” Her tone conveys remorse. “I just leased out the room to someone else. I even had her sign a contract.”
My chest tightens, squeezing every ounce of oxygen out of me. “That’s okay.” I force a fake, even tone. “I’m sure I can find another place to rent.”
“What me to go apartment hunting with you?” she asks. “We can start by checking the places around campus.”
“That’s okay,” I lie, knowing all those places are full. “I think I’ll just go after class tomorrow.”
“Are you sure? I really don’t mind going with you.”
“It’s fine.” I’m fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. The word is really starting to lose all meaning.
“Okay, well let me know if you change your mind.” She pauses. “Although, I might know someone who would rent a room to you for dirt cheap.”
A glint of hope sparkles inside the sea of despair I’m drowning in. “Really? Who?”
She hesitates. “Beck.”
The glint of hope simmers into a thin trail of smoke. “I think I’ll check around the apartments first and see how that goes.”
She sighs. “Okay, but just so you know, I doubt there will be many to rent during the middle of the year. It would be a lot easier if you just stayed with him. You could always move out at the end of the year when places start opening up.”
I want to explain to her why I can’t live with Beck, but I fear I’ll be opening Pandora’s box.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Good.” She seems to relax. “Let me know what you decide.”
We say good-bye then hang up. I lie down in my bed and curl up into a ball, wishing life was easier, simple, less complicated.
Wishing I didn’t feel like I was drowning and about to be forced to take my final breath.
I’m working in my dad’s office, sorting files on his computer, trying not to worry that Willow hasn’t called me back, when my phone rings.
I lean back in the chair to retrieve it from my pocket, expecting the call to be from Willow since she told me she’d call me back. But Wynter flashes across the screen, and I hesitate, unsure if I want to answer. Yeah, Wynter’s my friend and everything, but she can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, at least to me. But ignoring her seems like kind of a douchey move, so I press talk and put the phone up to my ear.
“What?” I answer, balancing the phone between my shoulder and my ear so I can continue working and not prolong my time here.
“Wow, way to greet your friend,” she replies. “God, Beck, what did I ever do to piss you off?”
I click a few keys. “Do you really want me to answer that question?”
“Probably not,” she replies then sighs. “Hey, have you talked to Willow today?”
“Yeah, she called me this morning.” I pause as I stumble across a file labeled “Personal Business,” a file my dad mentioned I didn’t need to mess around with. Curious, I double-click and open the contents. Then my jaw drops. Holy shit. “She’s supposed to be calling me back later today. If she doesn’t, I’m going to call her back when I get off work.”
“Well, I think you should call her soon.” The urgency in her tone causes me to straighten in the chair.
I move my hands off the keyboard and slant back in the chair. “What happened?”
“I’m not really sure. She called me out of the blue about twenty minutes ago, sounding upset and asking if she could rent my spare room. When I told her I just leased it out to someone, she got even more upset, although she was trying to hide it. I don’t know why she always tries to pretend everything’s okay when it’s not. It’s why she ends up having nervous breakdowns.”
“Yeah, I know,” I mutter, thrumming my fingers against the desk. “She didn’t say why she was upset, though?”
“No, but I could tell it didn’t just have to do with me not being able to rent her a room. She was upset before that.”
“You should’ve told her she could crash on your couch. She hates asking for help, and if she went to you …”—I swallow hard—“something must have happened.”
“Shit. I didn’t even think about the couch thing. I did tell her sh
e should move in with you, though.”
“I bet that went well.”
“Yeah, she didn’t seem too thrilled about it. Why is that?”
“None of your business.”
“Ha, if you really believe that, then you don’t know me at all.”
“No, I do know you,” I say exhaustedly. “But I had to try.”
“Well, stop trying and fess up.” She pauses. “Did you two do something again?”
I wait a second too long to respond.
“You did!” she cries. “Oh, my God, I told Willow this was going to happen. That sooner or later you two would screw each other’s brains out.”
“We didn’t fuck. We just … kissed.” And touch. And grinded. And fucking kissed again.
“Oh, my God, you sound so turned on right now,” she whines. “It’s so disgusting.”
“So what?” I don’t even bother trying to deny it. “It was a hot fucking kiss.”
“You’re the one who brought it up.”
She puffs out an exasperated exhale. “You know what? I think I’ll get the details from Willow. Your details come with too many noises I’d rather not hear.”
“Why do you need details at all? It’s not really any of your business.”
“Why do you do that?” she snaps. “Why do you act like I’m such a bad person?”
“I don’t act like you’re a bad person,” I retort. “I just don’t know why you need to know everything. Plus, if you ask Willow about the kiss, she’s going to get more upset.”
“Why?” she asks. “She didn’t like it?”
“No … I think she did.” I drag my fingers through my hair, slumping back in the chair. “You know about her no-dating rule, right?”
“Yeah, she mentioned it once, but I didn’t think she was being serious.”
“Well, she was, and now that we kissed …” I’m one step away from touching myself as images of Willow and me kissing flood my thoughts. “Well, let’s just say she’s trying everything she can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“But you want it to happen again?”
“Um, yeah. I thought that was pretty obvious with the noises I was making.”
“God, you’re so gross,” she mutters. “Anyway, we’re getting off the subject. I called to tell you about Willow being upset because I knew you’d want to take care of her.”