Ryans bed, p.19
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       Ryan's Bed, p.19
 

           Tijan

  I gulped.

  My throat hurt so much.

  Her voice grew thick. “We have never stopped watching out for you, loving you, or thinking of you. But we’ve been selfish, selfish people lately.”

  She still wasn’t looking at me. Her eyes remained fixed on her computer.

  “I’m supposed to be at the office today, and your father and I were going to go see Robbie, but I couldn’t bring myself to go in. I got ready. I sat in the car, and when your father began to back out, I told him to stop.”

  Tears traced down the sides of her face.

  “I’ve been working all day here.”

  “What about Robbie?” I winced. My voice sounded gruff and hoarse.

  “Maybe I’ll go tomorrow.” Her eyes found mine, and they seemed clearer for a moment. It was like seeing the moonlight on a clouded night—one second it was there, and the next second, the clouds closed over it. “Would you like to come?”

  A lump the size of the Titanic settled in the back of my throat.

  I started to nod, and then I couldn’t stop myself. I kept nodding and nodding. “Yes. I’d like that.”

  She stared at my bag on the floor. “Do you have homework to do?”

  “I skipped today.”

  Her eyes flicked back to mine, and she swallowed. “Really?” She coughed once and frowned. “What did you do today?”

  “We went to Ryan’s friend’s house.”

  Her head shook once. It was swift, an abrupt movement. “Was there drinking?”

  “Yes.”

  We’d had almost no communication for weeks, and it was as if the dam had opened, and I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted to get in trouble. I wanted . . . I wanted to be normal again.

  “Sex?”

  Okay. That wasn’t one of the things I wanted to share. “No.”

  “No as in ever, or no as in today?”

  Her eyes were beady and staring hard.

  Damn. She had me.

  “No as in today.”

  Her eyes closed, and her chest lifted in a silent breath. “Okay. That answers the question you avoided. You and Ryan have had sex?”

  My tongue felt heavy. “Yes.”

  “When?”

  “Last night.”

  She looked up, her eyes wet. “Was last night the first?”

  I nodded as my throat closed.

  “Ever?” That word was hoarse.

  I nodded.

  “So you’re no longer a virgin?”

  I felt my tears then. They rolled down my cheeks and somehow, I felt a piece of me fit back in the right place.

  “Yes.”

  Her shoulders began to shake. She lifted balled-up fists to her mouth and hunched over, shoving her chair back. Her head rested on the table as she cried.

  I couldn’t hear a sound. Still.

  “She knows everything?” Ryan asked.

  I lay on my bed later that night, my phone to my ear. “They’ve known about it the whole time.”

  “Shit.”

  “Yeah.” I rolled to my back.

  I could hear music blaring in his background and assumed he was still at Kirk’s. He’d texted a few times since I’d gone, so after the meltdown with my mom, I called him. He needed to be warned about what was coming. I’d also had to fess up about not going to see Robbie.

  “You lied?” he’d asked, his voice sounding off.

  “I didn’t want to be a clinger and make you hate me for being all fucked up in the head.”

  He laughed. “I’ve never told you, but I think the reason I let you stay in my bed that first night was because of how fucked you are in the head.”

  I sat up. “No way.”

  “The more fucked up they are, the more I like them.”

  I rolled my eyes, hearing the teasing in his voice. “You’re messing with me.”

  He laughed again, a short bark. “Yeah, I am. You aren’t that messed up, and if I’d met you without everything that happened, I still would’ve wanted you. I can tell you that much. You don’t have to worry about me.”

  You hear that, Willow?

  I imagined her response: Bite me.

  But we moved our conversation on to the fact that I was going to see Robbie tomorrow.

  “Are you going during school or after school?”

  I frowned. “I imagine after school? My mom wasn’t too thrilled to hear that I’d skipped today.”

  The two pieces that had molded together earlier seemed to reach out and fit with another. That was three pieces of me put back together right. I could feel an almost calm emanating from them.

  I could only smile, knowing I looked like an idiot, if anyone were to see me. They would’ve assumed I was glowing because I was on the phone with Ryan, but nope—just me, my messed-up self, and three little pieces.

  It would’ve made sense only to Willow.

  Hearing the shout of voices from his end, I asked, “You’re still at Kirk’s?”

  “Yeah.” He sighed and then barked at them, “Leave me alone! I’m on the phone!”

  Something slammed, and the sound was suddenly muffled. He came back to the phone, clearer. “Everyone’s drunk. Kirk’s shut himself in a room with two chicks. Cora is crying, and she won’t tell me why.” He sounded so tired. “I made Peach go home, but I’m pretty sure she hates me now.”

  He was being a good brother. “Come over here.”

  He didn’t reply at first. “Are you sure?” he finally asked. “I mean, with your mom knowing . . .”

  “I’ll sneak you in.” I suddenly wanted to see him so badly. “Can you drive?”

  “Yeah. I only drank when you were here, and it was those two shots of tequila. I’ve been holding the same beer bottle since then so everyone stays off my back.”

  My heart sped up.

  He was coming over.

  “Okay. Park around the corner. I don’t know if my mom is back to being a mom or if she was on a break from her mourning this afternoon, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

  He chuckled, sounding tired. “Okay. I’m sneaking out of here. Be there in a bit.”

  After we hung up, I went to my door and opened it an inch. I listened, but there were no sounds coming from anywhere in the house. I knew my mom was home. And it was around eleven, so if my dad wasn’t home, he’d be coming soon.

  Tiptoeing down the hallway, I felt wrong—like I was breaking and entering on my own property, but I wanted to know. If my mom was up and about, that’d make things difficult for sneaking Ryan in.

  The main living room was empty.

  So was the study.

  Her office.

  The kitchen.

  No longer caring about sound, I ran upstairs. My heart pounded again.

  It was still somewhat early for us. Usually, my mom would be in her office or in the living room, but I never checked their bedroom.

  It should’ve been the first place I looked, and once there, I flung open the door.

  I expected . . . something. Snoring, the blankets bunched up where my mom should’ve been.

  But there was nothing. Absolutely nada.

  No one in her bedroom, her bed, her bathroom, her closet. I even looked under the goddamn bed, because you never knew. I was hoping.

  I raced down to the basement. Nothing.

  I still turned on every light in every room, even in the freaking closets.

  The same. Nothing.

  The back patio. Some nights she would sit out there with her laptop and a glass of wine, and I held my breath as I climbed the stairs. But to no avail. Even before I opened the back door, I knew no one was out there.

  I felt the dread stirring in my gut.

  I had one last place to look, and going to the garage, I stood a moment in the doorway before I comprehended what I was seeing.

  There were no cars.

  My dad had the main one, but . . . our Tahoe was gone, too—the vehicle my mom used if she had to go somewhere on her own.

&nbs
p; They were both gone.

  She had left me.

  After the whole no-more-virginity talk and everything . . . well, there hadn’t been a talk. She’d sat and cried until I got uncomfortable and started to slip away. She asked if I wanted something to eat. I told her no and changed my mind later.

  I went back down to the kitchen, but she wasn’t there. I’d heated up some food—who knows how long it had been in there—but nothing else looked good to me.

  It made me wonder if she been gone this whole time. Had she already gone then?

  I was walking back to my room to get my phone when I saw the answering machine blinking. I usually ignored the messages. They were always for my parents, but what did I have to lose? Maybe she’d called and left me a message?

  Hitting the button, I heard, “You have one new message, sent from Charlotte Malcolm.”

  I moved closer.

  “Hey, honey. Your cell isn’t working for me, for some reason. I went to the store to get some food. We only have old pizza in the fridge, but your father called. Something came up. I’m heading into the city tonight. Be a good teenage daughter. No sex. I’m sure Ryan will sneak over, and that’s fine as long as you guys sleep. Only sleep. You got that, right? And go to school tomorrow. I’ll leave work early to pick you up before going to Robbie’s. I love you, and—” The message clicked off.

  I hit the next button, skipping to the message after hers, but it was someone for my dad.

  I don’t know how long I stood there.

  She hadn’t left me. She’d called. She remembered me.

  She was gone for the night because things came up. That made sense.

  The three little pieces, which had started to splinter apart again, started to settle back into place. They were still intact.

  I took a calming breath.

  My hands were sweating. I rubbed them down my lounge pants.

  They still cared.

  She still cared.

  A soft knock came from the door, and I looked through the window.

  Ryan had arrived.

  I was barely sleeping when I heard a soft thud.

  Sitting up, I felt Ryan’s arm tighten around my waist, and I paused. His breathing was still even. I hadn’t woken him. Gingerly slipping out from underneath his arm, I crept out of bed.

  There were two nightlights set up in the hallway, one at each end, so I could walk toward my parents’ bedroom without needing to turn a light on.

  Shivers moved down my spine as I padded away from my room.

  Thud!

  “Shit.”

  I paused. That was my father. Frowning, I moved closer. Their door wasn’t closed. It was open two inches. One of the lamps was on, and as I peered inside, my dad walked past me, heading for the bathroom.

  The bed was made. No one was sleeping. Instead, piles of clothes were all over it with a bunch of boxes set around the room. Some were open, and some were already closed. They had been moved closer to the door, as if ready for pick-up.

  My dad came back out of their bathroom, his arms full of toiletries. He dumped them into one of the boxes and tossed some of his shirts on top before closing it.

  “What are you doing?” I moved inside, opening the door wider.

  My dad cursed, whirling around. He ran a hand over his face. “Holy shit, Mackenzie. Warn a dad next time, would you?”

  I ignored him, focused on the boxes. “What are you doing?”

  Were we moving?

  I knew we weren’t.

  That wouldn’t have made sense.

  “Oh, honey.” A whole new voice came from him—the one I’d heard when he told me we were moving to Portside.

  I started shaking my head.

  “Where’s Mom?” I asked.

  “She’s . . .” He took a breath, looking around, and his hand went to his hair. “I can see how this looks, but—”

  “It isn’t that? You aren’t moving out?”

  My eyes met his, and I knew it was happening.

  I could feel Willow behind me, but she was quiet. For once.

  “No.” His shoulders slumped suddenly. His hand fell to his side. A look of sadness flashed in his eyes.

  I didn’t feel sorry for him.

  A foreboding dread sat at the bottom of my sternum. It wouldn’t move so I could breathe easier. It was blocking everything, and I felt like I was going to throw up.

  “What are you doing? No bullshit, Dad.”

  He gazed around the room once more and gave me the strangest look, like he was seeing into me.

  “I’m moving out.”

  I didn’t know if I should be relieved or sad. I was neither. I just was. I nodded, looking away.

  This made sense.

  Grief tore families apart. Didn’t a brochure tell me that one time?

  I hugged myself, half turning away. “Are you leaving Mom or are you leaving us?”

  He didn’t respond at first, and I knew the answer.

  I wanted to turn completely away, give him my back, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I could feel his gaze.

  “I’m moving closer to Robbie.”

  So he was just leaving Mom and me.

 
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