Ryans bed, p.14
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       Ryan's Bed, p.14


  Willow grunted next to me. Damn straight.

  Kirk motioned for the door, grabbing the doorknob again. “Ryan sent me up here to grovel and see if you wanted the spaghetti he promised. He’s heating some downstairs. Guess pizza got shot down.”

  I thought of the forgotten one at my house. I hadn’t been hungry then, but my stomach rumbled. Spaghetti sounded good.

  I motioned for the door. “Lead the way.”

  He paused before opening the door. “We’re good, right? I can tell him we’re good? He won’t kick my ass then.”

  “He said that?”

  “His exact words were, ‘Get up there, apologize, and mean it, asswipe, or I’ll kick your ass.’”

  That made me smile.

  Ryan glanced my way when I returned with Kirk, a question in his eyes as to whether I was okay. I nodded and moved to sit in a chair behind the table. I was the new girl to this group. I’d fought for my place twice—and I would continue if needed—but as I observed everyone, I saw there was no more resistance. The only one unhappy with me was Erin, but everyone ignored her, including her friends. They seemed more eager to flirt with the guys, Kirk most of all.

  When the food was heated, everyone got up and filled a plate before returning to the table. Someone pulled out drinks and passed them.

  Ryan made sure everyone had food before grabbing his own plate.

  He headed for the empty chair by Kirk, but before he could sit, the guys all moved down a spot, emptying the chair to my left. So Ryan took that one. Cora sat to my right, and no one paused their conversation as all of this happened.

  I got it then.

  All the resistance against me from the girls, from Peach, from Kirk—it was because they depended on Ryan. No one started eating until Ryan sat. And no one said a word about it. It was an unspoken rule. Once he touched his fork, so did everyone else.

  Whether he knew it or not, Ryan was the core of this group. He was the glue.

  A different emotion filled me. Warmth. It combatted that cold and almost-dead sensation, making me feel something I wasn’t sure I wanted to feel.

  “You okay?” Ryan asked quietly.

  I nodded. “Yeah. I’m okay.”

  I felt proud of him, but I didn’t know why. He wasn’t my boyfriend. Yet, I’d laid claim to him somehow, and he’d reciprocated. I knew he’d had a choice, but in some ways, he hadn’t—I’d crawled into his bed that night and woven a spell over him, never letting him go. The sane part of my mind knew that wasn’t the case. He would’ve kicked me out, rejected me if he didn’t want anything to do with me, and he hadn’t.

  I’d thought he was a nice guy who fell for the damsel in distress. He’d wanted to save me, but that wasn’t the case.

  He did what he wanted. He was turned off for a year. He smoked pot. He drank. He stopped caring about sports. He rebelled from his life and what was expected of him—in that way, we weren’t the same.

  No one had expectations of me.

  Robbie does, I heard Willow remind me.

  I sucked in some air, feeling moisture pooling at my eyes. Robbie. I hadn’t texted him all day.

  He’s fine—stupidly happy at that school, but he’s worried about you. Send him a text. Let him know you’re fine, and then call him later.

  I almost rolled my eyes, like I was going to take advice from a voice in my head. But I stood from the table. “I’m going to call Robbie.”

  Ryan nodded. “Okay.”

  I didn’t go far, just sat on the front step and pulled my phone from my pocket.

  Texting Robbie, I waited for a response. There was none. I didn’t know his room number, so I called the school’s main number.

  “This is Haerimitch Academy. How may we help you?”

  It didn’t take long to be transferred to Robbie’s room, and a second later, I heard his voice.


  “I’m a horrible sister.”

  He laughed. I could hear him brightening up. “Hey, terrible sister. I’m your terrible brother here.”

  I snorted. “Why are you terrible? I’m the one who didn’t call to check in last night.”

  “I’m terrible because I didn’t call to check in with you today.”

  “You didn’t have to.”

  “But I didn’t think about it.”

  “Let’s cancel each other out so neither of us is terrible.”

  He sounded happy, and I relaxed a little. Maybe the voice in my head was all-knowing somehow?

  He’s happy to be away from the memories. Willow was sitting next to me.

  Yeah, maybe. I spoke to her, but it wasn’t aloud. I kept that last safeguard from slipping further toward my insane side. I wasn’t talking to her as if she were a real person. She was a voice in my head.

  Willow laughed. You’re such a dope. I’m not made up. You’re too chickenshit to admit it.

  I ignored that, clearing my throat into the phone. “Tell me everything. I want to feel like I was there.”

  Robbie laughed. He sounded like a kid there, like a young genius, eager to be challenged for once.


  Maybe my parents got one thing right after all.

  As long as Robbie was okay, I’d be okay.

  I listened to him for the next hour, hearing about his roommate, his classes, his teachers. They were talking about testing him for college courses already, and I wasn’t surprised. My brother was damn brilliant.

  He’s going to be fine there. He’s more worried about you. I ignored Willow again, but I could feel her smile as she added, Don’t give him reason, sis. He’ll blossom there.

  As he should. Finally.

  Toward the end of the call, he said, “Keep calling, Mac.”

  He used her nickname too. My cheeks were starting to hurt from the smiling and the beaming and the whole trying-not-to-cry thing. Damn. That was work.

  My throat was hoarse because of all the happiness. “I will.”

  “You tell me how you are next time. Deal?”

  “Deal.” I stuffed it down. He didn’t need to hear me being emotional. “When?”

  “Um . . .” He was quiet a second. “Maybe Thursday? I talked to Mom and Dad. I’m going to stay here this weekend.”

  “What?” I went rigid.

  “There are a lot of others who stay, and they have weekend programs.” He sounded so sorry.

  He’ll come home when he wants to. Trust the little Einstein. He knows what he’s doing. Don’t make him take on your shit. He’s eleven, not seventy.

  I ignored her again, but Willow had a point.

  “That sounds awesome. Maybe I should try to get in,” I teased. “Think they have a placement for older students? You could be my mentor.”

  Robbie started giggling. Once he started, he couldn’t stop. “That’s silly, Mac.”

  There. There was my little brother.

  “Okay.” I felt like I could hang up. He was okay. “I’ll call on Thursday.”

  “No. Let me call you. Some of us are going to create a video game, so I’ll call you when I get finished.”

  My little brother: future creator, inventor, and computer hacker. I was so proud.

  “Love you,” I told him.

  He said the same, and after ending the call, I sat for a minute.

  I had to get up. Someone would come looking for me, probably Ryan. The guy was taking me on as if he were my mentor instead of Robbie. He didn’t need to. I wasn’t like him. He had slipped away, and Peach feared she’d lose him again.

  It made sense, but I wasn’t going to do that.


  Or maybe I should pull away? Try giving him space, make him seek me out. Then it wouldn’t be me affecting him. It’d be him, his decision. I could do that, except . . . I couldn’t. Even thinking about it had a hard weight slamming into my chest.

  I wouldn’t be able to do it.

  Somehow, some way, Ryan had become necessary to me. He shielded me, protected me. My head was above w
ater with him. Without him, I would sink.

  I would drown alone.

  I heard the door opening and wasn’t surprised when he sat next to me. His arm brushed against mine.

  “You sleeping here tonight?” he asked.

  Did I have any other choice?

  Water pressed down on me. I felt the air slipping from my lungs. I almost felt myself thrashing, trying to get to the surface.

  “I’ll hide in your closet till your mom goes to bed.”

  His grin turned rakish, and mine matched.

  He nodded. “Deal.”


  “You didn’t leave during our last session. I think you’re making great strides, and thank you again for coming back. I know you’ve been missing the other appointments, but I feel I need to remind you that the school and your parents both agreed these sessions are a necessity for you. It’s been a few months since your sister died. I was hoping today you could talk to me about her?”

  A heavy silence. “No.”

  She sighed. “I don’t know your sister. I can’t comprehend what it’s like to lose a twin or to be the one who finds her. Please, Mackenzie. I really would like to know more about your sister. Tell me about her.”

  Another heavy silence. “Her name was Willow, and she left me.”

  One month later

  We were at a dance.

  Black, silver, and pink balloons hung from the walls and pooled all over the floor. There was a pink banner at the back of the gymnasium—we were at our old school.

  A sad song was playing, and our friends were dancing, their arms wrapped around each other. It was Homecoming.

  Willow stood on the stage, her Junior Queen crown on her head and her pink dress shimmering. She looked like part of the it, as if they’d specifically designed the theme around what she was wearing.

  If I hadn’t known better, I would’ve believed that wholeheartedly.

  Willow and I both had light brown hair and sometimes golden blonde hair. It ranged in shades—it all depended on the season or whether Willow had been to the hair stylist lately. She’d spent more time in the sun over the summer, and her hair was almost a normal blonde. It hung in curls down past her shoulders, extensions adding another six inches, and it looked good. She was like some sort of Greek goddess, owning the attention of everyone around her.

  No, it was the way she wore it, the way she stood—as if she owned the entire gym. That was what drew everyone’s eyes.

  Only a few might’ve realized it, but we were all living in Willow’s world.

  She turned to look at me, her eyes haunted. “Don’t ask me.”

  I stepped up next to her and looked down; I was wearing the same dress. I hated pink. I felt the crown on my head. I hated crowns. And I looked over my shoulder—my hair had grown and was a lighter shade than normal.

  I was her.

  I looked over the gym again. We were no longer at our old school. I didn’t recognize this one. It was new to me, like the question burning in my throat.

  “Don’t. Please.” She began to whimper.

  I looked at her. I mirrored her body posture—chin raised, shoulders back.

  “Why did you do it?” I asked.

  Black tears rolled down her face, her makeup smudging. “I can’t answer that.”

  I tried a different question, the one I almost hated her for. “Why did you leave me?”

  I bolted upright in bed screaming.

  A hand clamped over my mouth and pulled me back down. Arms wrapped around me, and Ryan pushed me into the bed. He braced himself over me, and I could barely make out his eyes in the dark.

  “Ssshh!” he whispered.


  Reality flooded back. I was in Ryan’s room, Ryan’s bed, and this was my fourth week of sneaking over.

  A door flew open down the hallway.

  “Shit!” Ryan jumped over me, running to his door.

  Feet pounded down the hallway.

  “What are you doing?”

  “Hide!” he whispered. Then he was out the door and running to meet his parents.

  “Ryan!” his dad bellowed. “That sounded like your room.”

  “It was Peach!” Ryan yelled back.

  “It was Peach?” Their mom’s voice hitched up in worry. “That didn’t sound like one of her screams.”

  Three sets of feet ran down the hallway and then another door opened and a light went on.

  He’d said to hide, but I had to be quiet. Stealth. They couldn’t find me or this was over. Panic began clogging my throat. I pushed past it and started to slide from the bed.

  “Peach? Honey?”

  “Uh . . .what?” Peach’s voice was groggy.

  “You screamed,” Ryan said.

  “I did?”

  “Honey, did you have a nightmare?”

  “Uh . . . maybe? I must’ve.”

  “Oh, honey.”

  Their mother turned nurturing, and someone’s footsteps crossed the floor as another two sounded closer in the hallway, as if they were leaving the room.

  “You acted quick,” Ryan’s dad said.

  I almost squeaked. It sounded like he was walking Ryan back to his room.

  Moving like a ninja, I lowered myself to the ground and rolled under the bed. This had been my move to hide from Willow if she decided she wanted to talk late at night.

  Two shadows stood at the door.

  “How are you doing? I know you and that Malcolm girl have become close.”

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