Ryans bed, p.20
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       Ryan's Bed, p.20


  I knew Robbie was at a school and that he seemed to be enjoying it. I knew it was probably good for him not to be living in this dead house, but that was all wrong too. He should be at home. My mom should be there too. My dad shouldn’t be leaving.

  I shouldn’t be left alone.


  And the award for best timing ever went to Ryan.

  The floor creaked from down the hallway.

  “Who is that?” my dad demanded gruffly. “Is that a boy?”

  I wanted to roll my eyes. I refrained. Barely. “You’re leaving us. What do you care?”

  His mouth closed with a snap, and his Adam’s apple bobbed. I could see him thinking about it, and that was when I noticed the graying hair at his temples. There was more around his ears. The bags under his eyes were epic, and I could’ve sworn his wrinkles had doubled since this summer.

  My dad wasn’t an old man, but he was close to resembling one.

  “Mac?” Ryan’s whisper was a lot louder. He was right outside the door.

  “Who are you?” my dad demanded.

  Ryan opened the door and looked at him but had no other reaction. He knew what he was walking into.

  “Ryan Jensen, sir. You work with my father.” His shoulders were firm, and he didn’t slouch as he spoke. He wasn’t going anywhere.

  That was when I knew for sure. He had come for me, no matter what happened after this.

  “Oh.” My dad lost all of his fight. “That’s right. Your father talked to me, mentioned you and my daughter were friends.” He looked between the two of us, lingering on my tank top and shorts before going to the lounge pants Ryan wore. He had pulled on a T-shirt.

  My dad rubbed at one of his eyebrows. “You’re sleeping here, Ryan?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “He’s sleeping with you, Mackenzie?”

  I nodded. “You know he is.”

  “No. No, I didn’t.” His tone was quiet. “Your mother’s been in touch with Nan. I’m assuming that’s what you’re talking about? Your mother knows?”

  I nodded again. Why did it feel like I couldn’t swallow anymore?

  Silence filled the room, and Ryan moved closer to me. “Are you okay?”

  My dad started laughing and turned toward one of his boxes.

  I shook my head, my gaze holding Ryan’s, but I said, “My dad is moving closer to Robbie.”

  Ryan didn’t respond. He wasn’t there for the details. He was still waiting for my cue, if I needed him to stay or if he could go.

  I hadn’t made up my mind, so I didn’t answer.

  My dad resumed packing, his shoulders tight, and he flung a hand up, knocking his tie over his shoulder.

  He was still dressed for the office. I hadn’t registered that before. It seemed pertinent for some reason.

  “It’s almost three in the morning,” I murmured, half-asking myself. “Why haven’t you changed clothes?”

  Had he gone somewhere after work? Was he going in to work early?

  Willow snorted behind me. I doubt he’s even going to work, sis. You aren’t paying attention. Smell, Mac.

  Smell what?

  Him. You aren’t wearing vanilla perfume, and I don’t think your honey is either.

  I felt choked, like someone had reached around and tightened their hold on my throat. She was right.

  There was a distinct smell, but it wasn’t vanilla. It was lavender. He smelled like flowers.

  I turned to Ryan.

  My mom wore a citrus perfume. She hated lavender.

  “Mom said you wanted to meet up in the city. Was she wearing perfume when you saw her?” Somehow, I doubted that was hers. My mind was putting two and two together faster than my emotions could, and I felt myself weaving on my feet.

  Ryan moved closer, resting his hand behind my hip. His touch steadied me enough to keep me from falling.

  “You’re seeing someone else.”

  My dad whirled back to us. The blood drained from his face, and then his eyes found Ryan’s hand.

  “Get your hand off her.”

  I ignored him and surged forward. “Who is it? Who are you leaving us for?”

  “Honey.” He flinched as if I’d slapped him across the face.

  “Does Mom know?”

  His shoulders slouched, and his head hung down. He balled up the shirt in his hand, holding it against his chest. “She knows.”

  He couldn’t look at me.

  He wasn’t just leaving us; he was going to someone else.

  A new family.

  Willow and I thought the same thing at the same time.

  My stomach twisted, and I could feel the bile rising


  “You won’t know her, honey.”

  He was speaking in whispers. I wasn’t. My voice grew firmer with each question I asked.

  “Who?” I might not know her, but maybe Ryan did. “Is it someone you work with?”

  It had to be.

  He’d only worked since Willow. And he went to see Robbie, but that was with my mom. Right? They went together?

  “Mackenzie, we can talk about this late—”


  I didn’t need Ryan to help hold me up. Rage was doing fine all on its own.

  “Mackenzie, honey . . .”

  My nostrils flared. “I said who. I want to know who!”

  His mouth clamped shut. His hands went to his hips, the shirt too, and he regarded me. It was as if the air had turned solid between us, and my question was like trying to cut through it with my bare hands.

  So be it. I wasn’t afraid of blood. Anymore.

  I took a step closer. “Who, Dad?”

  “This isn’t the time to talk about this.”

  “You tell me or I will make your goddamn life hell.”

  Our eyes locked, and he seemed to be weighing whether I meant my threat. I did. I so did.

  He let out a sigh. “Her name is Mallory Lockhart. And yes, she works with me.”

  I didn’t look back, but I sensed Ryan’s surprise.

  “You’re moving in with her?”

  “I . . . yes. At least for a while. Your mother and I talked about everything earlier tonight.”

  I couldn’t fathom any of this. My mind went blank, and I pushed forward. I needed to get as much information as I could.

  “Where’s Mom right now?”

  “She’s at a hotel near Robbie.”

  That was three hours away. I wouldn’t be going anywhere except to school tomorrow.

  “And that was a lie? You saying you were going to move closer to him?”

  “No. Well, yes. Mallory’s home is closer to the city and closer to Robbie.” He coughed. “I don’t think your mother is going to be home tomorrow. Are you, I mean . . .”

  I looked up. He was watching Ryan with a hard expression.


  “You’ll be okay to fend for yourself? At least for a few days?”

  I laughed then.

  I knew everything I needed to know.

  No Robbie tomorrow.

  No Mom tomorrow.

  No Dad until who knew when.

  I didn’t answer my dad. I turned, my hands brushing against Ryan’s as I did. It was as if I were watching us from outside my body. It was the three of us again.

  I left.

  Ryan went behind me.

  And Willow brought up the rear.


  “You told me a bit about Willow last time. How about you today?”

  Naomi’s smile was nice and bright, and I wanted to scratch it off her face. She folded her arms over her lap and gestured toward me, her smile trying to make me feel like we were friends.

  “Your mother called. She said you’re seeing a boy. What’s his name?”

  A heavy silence. I was becoming so used to them; they were my real friends in this room. I smiled and leaned forward. “We fucked.”

  That nice smile-that-was-not-really-my-friend v
anished. “What?”

  Mallory Lockhart was thirty-seven. Her relationship was complicated, and she was an ads manager at West Coarse Technology. She had brown hair, a heart-shaped face, hazel eyes set a little too close together behind wire-rimmed glasses, perfectly trimmed and arched eyebrows, and a petite and compact body.

  Her bachelor’s degree was from West Scottridge University.

  She’d shared five puppy memes over the last day, three sarcastic quote memes over the last week, and she had more than two thousand social media friends.

  She’d recently gotten a golden retriever named Bugsy, and she was “excited to have her new pup for a new chapter in her life.”

  I leaned forward to see the timestamp on that last post. It was four days ago, posted at 7:03 in the evening. I scrolled through the comments.

  “Love you!! So proud of you.”

  “Big hugs, babe xoxo”

  “Can’t wait to meet Bugsy!”

  “Adorable! Yay!” (insert a gif of a puppy tearing up a pillow and then falling backward off of a couch.)

  Heart emoticon heart emoticon heart emoticon heart emoticon

  “Wonderful to hear. So happy for you.”

  I stopped reading them. Apparently, all her friends were ecstatic for her. I wanted to piss on each one of them.

  Fuck them. Fuck her. Fuck my dad. Fuck them all.

  That “new chapter” wasn’t just about a dog. I bet they didn’t know that. Maybe I should educate each one.

  “Are you still cyberstalking her?” Cora asked as she dropped into the seat next to me in our school library.

  Still. I almost laughed at that, but rage had been a firm friend since last night.

  I hadn’t slept after Ryan and I went back to my room. He had, but I couldn’t. I went right to the computer and got all the information on my dad’s mistress. I knew her mailing address and her birthday. I had figured out her family members. I knew where she had gone to high school and college. And Google had helped me guess at her annual income.

  But none of that told me why.

  Why my dad? Did she pursue him? Did he seek her out? How did they meet in the first place? A joint project? Did she work with him on projects? Had they started flirting at the water fountain? Coffee hut, maybe?

  I hated her.

  I didn’t know her, but I hated her.

  I looked over at Cora. I’d given Ryan the task of questioning his parents about Mallory Homewrecker Lockhart, but I needed someone as crazy as I was with the stalking skills.

  “I want to drive to her house and slice her tires,” I told her. “No, no, I want to drive to her house, ring the doorbell, and make her as uncomfortable as she’s made my family hell.” Which would be a lot.

  I didn’t need Willow to call me out. I was projecting everything onto this mistress, and I knew it.

  I didn’t care.

  My dad was grieving. He was supposed to go to my mom for that.

  Pot meet kettle.

  Okay. I heard Willow there. Our family sucked all around at comforting each other, except that my mom had actually decided to be a mother. She went above and beyond. I got a text saying the visit to Robbie had been postponed and she knew I’d talked to my father. She promised to speak to me later because she knew I would have questions. And if all that wasn’t enough, she’d called Ryan’s mom.

  I was supposed to stay at the Jensens’ for the rest of the week and weekend, but not in Ryan’s bed. I was to go home after school, pack a bag, and Ryan would drive me to his house.

  I rolled my eyes when I read that last text. Such a silly (or delusional) mother, acting like I was in third grade and she’d arranged a weeklong sleepover. I’d go over to Ryan’s, but probably not in time for after-school snacks. I’d go when I wanted to go. Sometimes she forgot I’d actually turned eighteen.

  I rolled my eyes and clicked on the mad icon under one of Mallory’s posts.

  Cora leaned forward and laughed under her breath. “You’re in your sister’s Facebook account. That’s creepy and hilarious at the same time.”

  I felt Willow’s pride and shrugged. “She’d think it was awesome.”

  Cora looked at me, her gaze lingering, but I ignored it. I kept scrolling through more of Mallory’s posts to put the mad icon on all of them.

  “She’ll know it’s you. You know that, right?”

  She would, and I grinned. “She can prove it.”

  Cora shifted back. “Dude. You look evil right now.”

  If she only knew what went on in your head.

  I ignored Willow and clicked the mad icon under another post.

  “That’s a Pinterest meme on DIY Halloween decorations.”

  I kept scrolling. “My dad hates Halloween. She should know that.”

  Cora laughed again, but the sound was becoming less amused and more cautious.

  I couldn’t be bothered with any of it. I was a madwoman on a mission. If my mom wasn’t going to rage about this whole situation, I was. Willow would’ve been going nuts. She would’ve screamed, demanding answers. She would’ve been on the phone, calling the mistress and our mom at the same time.

  She would’ve burned our house down—figuratively . . . I think?

  I waited to see if Willow had anything to say, but she was quiet. Come to think of it, she’d been quiet more and more lately.

  I’m taking on her personality.

  That was why. Willow was living through me, so she didn’t need to—and the bell rang.

  Thank the gods. That stopped me from having a whole
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