Ryans bed, p.15
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       Ryan's Bed, p.15


  “What?” Ryan’s voice matched the slight hysteria I felt.

  Shit, shit, shit. If they found out about me, if they told my parents, if this, if that—so many ifs ran in my mind. But they couldn’t. None of that could happen because then my parents would start watching me again. I wouldn’t be able to sneak out, and Ryan wouldn’t be able to sneak in, which was our pattern. We traded off unless we knew one of us absolutely couldn’t get away.

  “I talk to Phillip every now and then at work. He’s struggling. I’d assume they all are. How’s the girl?”

  “Uh, she’s dealing. I think.”

  “Peach said you were close. Rose said she’s been over a bunch.”

  “Oh! Yeah. I mean, yeah. She’s dealing. I mean, that’s all I can say.”

  His dad sighed. “I suppose. Phillip said the littlest is at the gifted academy. He seems to be liking it a lot. They go down there four times a week to see him.”

  They do? That was news to me.

  “What about her?” Ryan asked. “Are they checking in with her enough?”

  I almost cursed. What was he doing?

  “I suppose. It was her twin. I’d imagine they worry about her the most.” A second later, he added, “Why? Are they not?”

  “No. I don’t know.”

  “You’re friends, aren’t you? You’re acting weird, Ryan. What’s going on with you?”

  “No. I know. I mean, I’m not. Yeah, we’re friends. She’s in our group with all of us.”

  “She and Cora are friends then?”

  “Uh.” Ryan sounded so stiff, like he had a stick up his ass. “They’re both the girls in our group. It’d be weird if they weren’t.”

  “You’re still being weird.”

  “It’s in the middle of the night. What do you expect? Peach woke us up with a blood-curdling scream.”

  “Yeah.” His dad sighed. “You’re right. All right. Listen, go to bed. Maybe I’ll ask Phillip if they want to come over for dinner sometime. Would you like that? Have your friend over for a meal with the ’rents?”

  “Sure. Yeah. Sounds good.”

  Again, I wanted to smack him. He could’ve discouraged that in two seconds.

  “Okay, son.” A thump on his back. “Try to get some sleep. I love you, Ry.”

  “Love you, Dad.”

  One shadow entered the room, the door clicked shut, and soft footfalls moved back down the hallway. I waited for Ryan to come back to the bed, but he didn’t move.

  “Mackenzie?” he whispered, half-hissing. “You here?”

  I could stay under the bed. He’d assume I slipped out, went home, and I could haunt him the way Willow continued to haunt me. But that wasn’t nice, and he wasn’t the person I wanted to get back at.

  I crawled back out from under his bed. “You were having a nice chat with your pops there.” I stood, sliding back into the bed.

  He came over and reached for the covers. “What could I do? If I acted weird, he might’ve thought something was off.”

  “He did think you were acting weird.”

  He shrugged. “Normal is easier said than done. I kept thinking, Whoa shit! I got a hot chick in my room somewhere, and they can’t find out, and whoa shit, whoa shit, whoa shit!”

  I laughed, lying back down in his bed. “I got it. I’d be weird too.”

  He gazed down at me. “You aren’t normally pissy with me. You mad about something else?” Waiting a beat, he added, “He brought up your family.”

  My throat burned, his words echoing in my head. “I didn’t know they’d been going to see Robbie four times a week.”

  “They didn’t tell you?”

  I shook my head.

  “Your brother didn’t say anything?”

  Another head shake.

  I was barely home, and if I was, it wasn’t for long or I wasn’t alone. I had no clue they were driving to see Robbie. A part of me was glad, thankful they checked in on him, but another part of me ached with jealousy.

  I was there. I was in their house, and I struggled every day to say something.

  My parents weren’t evil. They didn’t mean to forget about me because they didn’t love me, but I fully believed they didn’t want to see me.

  They saw her when they saw me.

  So, I stayed away. Hell, I didn’t even enjoy looking in the mirror myself.

  My eyes were hers. My hair. My body. I’d lost weight, losing the healthy weight I held with those Cheetos. The more I dreamed about her, the more she talked to me, the more she haunted me—I was becoming Willow.

  If I took her place, would they mourn Mackenzie? Maybe that would be easier for them.

  “If they do the dinner, we can have everyone crash it.”

  I laughed lightly, my body curving toward Ryan’s. “They’d love that, actually.”

  “Your parents?”

  “No, the guys.” The guys included me and Cora.

  After the night of apologies a month or so ago, I’d gone to school the next day, and they’d all walked next to me like I was one of them. That was how it had become. I considered Tom, Nick, Kirk, and Cora friends as well.

  A hand touched my cheek, and I started as Ryan brushed away one of my tears.

  God. I brushed at it, and then the rest. My whole face was like a waterfall.

  I groaned, turning and pressing my face into his pillow.

  “Hey.” His voice was so soothing, so kind, it almost broke me again. He straightened some of my hair and then smoothed his hand down my back. He shifted, lying on his side. He continued rubbing my back, and his voice came from above my head. “You never actually talk about her, you know?”

  I shook my head, rotating from side to side.

  I couldn’t talk about her. I just couldn’t.

  “What was your sister like?”

  He cared and thought he was doing the right thing. At least, that was what I told myself.

  It so wasn’t the right thing though.

  I turned, not caring about anything except avoiding talking about her, and grabbed him. I pulled him down on top of me, finding his mouth with mine.

  I was desperate for it.

  I was desperate for hi—no. I had to be honest, at least with myself. I was using him. There. I admitted it. I did care for Ryan, and maybe there were real emotions underneath all the craziness inside me, but I wasn’t in touch with them right at the moment.

  He could chase her away; he was the only thing that worked.

  “Ryan,” I breathed, opening my mouth under his, coaxing.



  I normally loved hearing her nickname from him, but not tonight.

  I sat up, still kissing him, and feeling something rising in me—something reckless, something wild, something intoxicating—I took my shirt off. I didn’t sleep with a bra on, so as soon as my shirt was off, his hand was on my breast.


  That helped.

  She was fading. I could feel her go.

  “Are you—”

  I shook my head, my mouth finding his again. I didn’t care if I was coming across frenzied and desperate. It was how I felt, but the throbbing for him had started too. I . . . I stopped thinking. That was the only way she’d completely leave, and tonight, I didn’t care how far we had to go for that to happen.

  I wanted him, and that ache grew more and more fervent.

  I gasped.

  “Shit, Mackenzie,” he growled, pushing me back down and looming over me. He was panting, but he fitted himself between my legs.

  I could feel him through his boxer briefs, through my pajama shorts. I reached down, grabbed his hips, and jerked him close.

  Right there.

  I felt him where I needed him, and I began grinding against him. He moved with me, his hands growing more sure, more demanding, more rough. My frenzied need stirred the same emotion in him, and he was crushing me, getting as close as he could.

  I could feel him press into me.

sp; Move his briefs aside, my shorts aside, and we’d be one.

  My mind had stopped working.

  I no longer knew why he wasn’t in me already.

  My mouth opened beneath his, and reaching down, I touched him.

  He cursed, shoving against my hand. He broke his mouth from mine. “You sure?” he rasped next to my ear and then lifted to peer at me through the darkness..

  I nodded.

  I had a small window of sanity, but I was ready. We were going there anyway. Willow was making me crazy, but yes. I was sure.

  “I’m on the pill.”

  He reached up, brushed some of my hair away from my forehead. “You are?”

  Another searing pain in my chest. “Willow had sex last year with Duke. We both went on the pill once our mom found out.”

  Good old Wills. My mouth turned down, and his thumb fell to my lip, rubbing it out.

  “I have condoms,” he whispered. “We’ll be safe.”

  I nodded.

  Take a goddamn breath, Mac. Fuck’s sakes. Think about this. This is major. S-E-X, the big sex here. He’s the guy you want?

  I almost cried out, hearing her concern, and why the fuck was my mind working again? My mind wasn’t supposed to be on her, but I listened to her question and focused on him.

  I focused on Ryan.

  I was a virgin. Was he the guy? And suddenly, I felt Willow leaving again. She was fading and taking all the pain, all the anger with her until it was only me lying in his arms.

  The answer bloomed in my chest, and I nodded.

  I was ready. I did want this, and with no one else except him.

  “Yes,” I almost whispered the word.

  I wanted nothing more, and it wasn’t tainted by the pain of my sister. It was pure, rooted in the feelings I did have for Ryan.


  His eyes darkened, and that was all he needed. He bent down, his mouth finding mine again.


  I had sex.

  I did it. That particular first in my life was done, and I was happy about who it was with. Under the seven layers of my emotional shit, there were real feelings for Ryan. I mean, I knew myself. I wasn’t so damaged by WWD (what Willow did) that I was completely screwed up and would lose my virginity to some asshole.

  Ryan was the right guy. I didn’t know what was in the future—I could barely function with the today—but there it was.


  I was no longer a virgin, and I was supposed to be different. Right?

  I was supposed to look different?


  Gazing at myself in the mirror after showering, and knowing Ryan was waiting in bed for some post-coital cuddles, I searched those two eyes where a soul is supposed to be.

  I saw nothing. For real.

  There was the usual iris, eyeball, and such. Eyelashes. The literal round hole, but that wasn’t me.

  I winced and averted my eyes.

  Fuck. I didn’t even want to look myself in the eyes. Me. I didn’t want to see what everyone else must be seeing.

  There was nothing there. Emptiness. Dead. Dull.

  I was gone.

  There was nothing lively in there. No happiness, elation, a big fat nada.

  I’d lost my virginity, and I was half-considering going in there and doing it again just so I could feel something.

  Morbid much?

  Oh, lovely. Time for my usual haunting.

  Hey, Wills.

  She leaned against the sink and crossed her arms. You know, Mac, if you’re actually crazy, you wouldn’t be thinking of me only when you can handle it. I’d be popping in all the time and really haunting you. I’d be telling you to kill someone or something. Isn’t that what voices do? Tell you to do bad shit?

  I wouldn’t know. I’m not schizo. I’m mourning.

  Willow snorted. You’re a head case, that’s for sure. And yeah, maybe you’re mourning, but honestly, aren’t you prolonging the inevitable?

  I shut her out.

  I felt what she was going to say, and I stopped her, literally imagining her out of my head, out of the bathroom, out of the house, and far, far away. I could almost feel her flying backward.

  Then I opened my eyes.

  Still here, dumbass.

  She hadn’t moved an inch.


  She laughed. Finally. Some sass. You’re so fucking depressing. What happened to you? I mean, I know. She indicated herself, her hands moving up and down her body. But you know what I mean. You should’ve had your shit together a long time ago, but you’re sucking at it. Come on, Soccer Superstar.

  I wasn’t the soccer superstar.

  Yes, you were. You were the superstar in everything. You just didn’t know.

  I was lazy, and I ate junk food, and I—

  You were normal, but you were the best on your soccer team.


  You were normal, Mac. Her voice was so soft. And that was a good thing. You got to be the normal one of us, even if you really weren’t. You were what we needed. You were our anchor, still are.

  “You’re the strong one, Kenz.” I heard Robbie’s voice, and I could see him all over again, looking at me from the doorway to Ryan’s room that day. I’d flipped the cover back and let my little brother hide in there with me.

  If only we hadn’t ever left that shelter.

  I expected a smart comment from Willow, but none came. Then I looked, and I almost gasped. Tears glistened in her eyes, and her hands were balled as if she were trying not to cry.

  I’m so sorry, Mac.

  What? A searing and burning sensation began to build in my
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