Ryans bed, p.4
what to say, so they hold off.”
“Isn’t that the same with adults?” Dad griped. “We haven’t heard from Tony and Danielle since the funeral.”
A sniffle. “Well, we’re talking about Mackenzie’s friends right now—”
“If they don’t want to support their friend, then that’s on them. We have to deal with the here and now, and getting her into some form of activity is the best idea. She needs to be busy. She needs to be . . .”
I leaned forward, my hand wrapping tight around one of the stair posts. What was he about to say?
“What?” More sniffling, but she sniped back. “She needs to be gone? Away from us?”
“Tell me who Nan is again.” He was resigned.
This was fight number I’d-lost-count. This was what they did. They thought Robbie and I were sleeping, so the checkered flag dropped, and off they raced. They couldn’t get to fighting fast enough.
They assumed too much.
While they made sure Robbie was tucked in bed with his lights off, I got only a gentle tap on the door and a “You in bed, honey?” The term of endearment was on a rotating schedule. Every fifth night was honey. Others were sweetheart, baby girl, my sweet daughter, and Kenzilicious, and to answer their question, I never was. My light was always on, but they left after I replied with a loud and clear yes.
I shouldn’t complain. We’d spent a week with Grams and Grandpa, and it was a week too long. Our parents had been busy while we were away.
I didn’t know the specifics, but they got a new house. Then there was the funeral. It was in Portland because they’d buried Willow where we could visit her. We flew back to Arizona for a memorial service, though. It was more for everyone there—Willow’s friends, my friends, our parents’ friends, and relatives.
When we came back, we’d gone straight to the new house. I called it the new-new house since it was the second one we’d had in this town. Everything was already there for us, which was weird. In the new-new house, I didn’t share a bathroom with anyone. There were four bedrooms. My and Robbie’s were upstairs, and we each had our own bathroom. Our parents’ room was on the main floor, and we had a guest room in the basement.
There was no room for Willow.
She’d been the only one who’d already decorated her room in the first new house. No one else had completely unpacked.
Willow . . .
An image of Willow in her casket flashed in my head—no, I wasn’t going there.
My phone beeped.
I grabbed for it, silencing it so my parents didn’t know I was eavesdropping. Again.
Unlocking the screen, I saw the text was from Ryan. A warm fluttery feeling spread in my chest.
Ryan: Going to the movies with friends tonight. Want to come?
Movies? I checked the time. It was after nine. I typed back.
Me: Late movie?
Me: What movie?
Ryan: It’s the new superhero one. You in?
I didn’t care about the movie.
I wanted to see Ryan, even if I had to sneak out.
We’d emailed at first. That had progressed to him calling our hotel room. Once I got a new phone, we texted daily.
He mostly asked how Robbie was. I asked how Warcraft was. He’d asked twice if I could sleep okay. I never answered. The answer was always no, but that was depressing. I didn’t want my conversations with Ryan to be sad. Everything else was steeped in sadness, but I didn’t want it to touch him. Not anything to do with him. We’d seen him and Peach once. They came to the hotel to go swimming, but that’d been it. Robbie and I had been holed up in the new-new house for weeks.
Ryan: Sweet. Pick you up in ten minutes.
Ten minutes? Wait.
Me: You know where I live?
Ryan: Yeah. My friend lives next door. Be there in ten.
For the first time in a month and one day, I hoped my parents would keep fighting. I sneaked back to my room and dressed. My light was off, but to be safe, I did the whole pillow-acting-like-a-human-body under my covers.
Slipping out, I didn’t need to worry about going to the back door. The fight was still fully engaged. My parents never saw me on the stairs, and I headed out the front door. I was waiting on the curb when a car pulled up in front of me.
“Hey!” Ryan rolled the passenger window down and gestured to the back seat.
Another guy was driving, bobbing his head up and down in rhythm with the bass blaring from the radio. He watched me where I stood, faint curiosity in his eyes.
“We gotta pick up one more. Then we’re good to go,” Ryan told me as I got in.
Once I’d settled, the driver started off, and Ryan twisted around. He pointed to the guy next to me, who held up a hand. “This is Tom Sanderson and Nick Lumoz.”
Nick was the driver, and he held up a hand but didn’t look back. “Yo.”
Tom nodded again, a friendly smile on his face. Both guys looked gangly. Each had their hair spiked like Ryan’s and wore Portside High School shirts.
“Is this the chick who—”
Ryan cut Tom off. “Yeah, so shut up.”
I caught the regret and sympathy that flashed in Tom’s eyes. They knew about my sister.
“Tom’s the guy Peach likes,” Ryan explained.
“Ah, man.” Tom groaned, slinking down in his seat. He’d been tapping his hands on his legs but moved to cross his arms. “It isn’t something that’s supposed to be acknowledged. It’s the thing no one talks about, you know? Why’d you have to say something?”
“Because it’s wrong. All sorts of wrong.”
Nick snorted. “You didn’t think that way when my sister liked you last year.”
Ryan turned sideways, facing the driver. “Because that was last year, and your sister’s hot.” His eyes flicked to mine, and he amended, “Not that I was interested in her.”
Tom snorted. “Right. Because that’s why.” He turned to me. “Nick’s parents split, and his sister went with her mom. He stayed with their dad because of basketball, and us.” He patted Nick’s seat. “Right? You couldn’t leave us. That’s why you didn’t go with your mom.”
Nick scowled in the rearview mirror. “Thanks for blasting my personal shit. No offense,” he added, looking at me.
Tom guffawed. “Whatever, man. And I said my thing because we know something personal about her. I felt it was fair.”
“Fine.” Nick leveled him with another look. “Then I’ll tell her how you’d really like to date Peach, but you don’t because of Ryan. You’re too worried about losing him as a friend. How’s that feel, buddy?”
“You do?” Ryan turned fully around.
Tom closed his eyes and heaved a deep sigh. “Oh God. This sucks.”
Ryan frowned. “You actually want to date my sister? Since when?”
“Since never now,” Tom grumbled under his breath.
“Since May,” Nick said. “Since Parker’s party where they kissed.”
“You kissed my sister?”
“Shut up, Nick! You made your point. I’ll never share another thing about you unless I have your written approval.”
“Good. Glad we’re clear.”
“Crystal,” Tom snapped.
Ryan sat back, waiting for the exchange to conclude and then turned to me. “My friends are idiots. They aren’t usually like this.”
“Yeah, we are,” Nick and Tom interjected at the same time.
Ryan nodded. “Okay. They are. But . . .” He raised his voice, giving both a meaningful look. “Maybe they can simmer down? At least for the night or until after the movie?”
I shook my head. “Please. Keep going. I’m enjoying this.”
Tom held up a hand, and Ryan narrowed his eyes. “Don’t think I’ll forget hearing about you and my sister. I know you talk on the phone, but kissing her is a whole other thing.”
“They kissed twice.”
“Okay.” A satisfied smile stretched over Nick’s face. “Now I’m done.”
“You’re such an asshole.”
Nick lifted a shoulder as if to say meh before slowing the car and pulling into a driveway. I assumed another guy was coming out, so I was surprised when a girl came out the front door instead. Long, beautiful brown hair bounced behind her as she hurried down the sidewalk. Ryan stepped out as she approached.
“You got shotgun,” he told her. “I’ll sit in the back.”
“What?” Then she got in and saw me. Understanding dawned as Ryan sat next to me. “Oh.”
“Cora, this is Mackenzie.” Ryan gestured between us. “Mackenzie, Cora.”
“Hi.” I waited, tensing slightly. You never knew what would happen if you encroached on another girl’s territory. I was the new girl, and I was ready for the bitchy comment, but nothing came.
Only a tiny bit of hurt flashed in her very aqua eyes before she tucked her hair behind her ear and looked down. “Hey.” The word was a soft mumble.
I felt bad. I didn’t need to be Robbie to know what that look meant. She liked Ryan. And judging by the way Ryan shut his door and said, “Ready to go!” he had no clue about her feelings.
The other two were quiet, watching Cora.
They cared about her, and she cared about Ryan.
I’d stepped into something. I let out a soft sigh.
“You okay?” Ryan asked, lowering his voice.
Nick had pulled out of the driveway and turned the music up louder. Cora looked over and mouthed thank you.
We drove with the music surrounding us for a while. Nick wasn’t talking. Cora wasn’t either, and Tom had settled back, looking out his window.
I turned to Ryan, unsure of my place. “Are you meeting any other friends at the theater?”
He shook his head. “Nah. Just us.” He gave me a thoughtful look. “I wasn’t sure if I should ask you about the movie. Tom said the lights have been shutting off early. Since you guys hadn’t come over again, I thought maybe you were on lockdown.”
The knot in my stomach—the one that was always sitting there—loosened a small bit. I’d forgotten. This is how it had been with him before. And he wasn’t going to ask about the memorial service. He wasn’t going to ask how awful it had been to sit with my friends, who suddenly didn’t know what to say to me. I wouldn’t have to explain how they’d either stop crying or cry even harder when I walked into a room. He wasn’t going to ask about Willow’s boyfriend and how Duke couldn’t look at me, how no one could look at me.
I was there—the face they wanted but not the person they wanted.
With Ryan, in this car, I wasn’t Willow’s surviving sister. I was just Mackenzie.
I nodded. “Kind of. I think my mom wants me to get out of the house and do more stuff.”
“That’s perfect. We’re doing shit all the time. You can hang with us.”
As Ryan said that, I caught Cora watching us from the corner of her eye. Her lips tightened a bit at his suggestion.
“Uh, yeah. Maybe.”
“We’re hitting up a party later tonight, if you want to come to that.”
The invite came from Tom.
I lifted a shoulder. Old Mackenzie wouldn’t have gone—that was more of a Willow thing to do—but everything was different.
A party sounded like the best thing ever. “I would, actually.”
Cora lifted her head, giving Ryan a wolfish grin. “Erin’s going to freak.”
The other two guys started laughing.
I frowned. “Peach’s friend Erin?”
Ryan hardened. “Yeah, but she’s kind of an ex of mine too.” He leaned forward, raising his voice, “And I can do whatever I want.”
Peach’s friend who was also Ryan’s ex, and she was going to freak because I was going to a party with him. This was the second situation I’d stepped into.
Cora glanced back at us. “She even has a hard time with me, and Ryan and I have been friends since second grade.”
My lips thinned. “Let me guess. She’s popular at school?”
Cora’s eyebrows lowered. “She’s one of the most popular girls in school, even though she’s a junior this year. Stephanie Witts is the one from our grade.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Is she coming tonight too?”
Cora shook her head. “No, just Erin.”
Nick spoke up. “Erin’s included because of Peach and . . .” His eyes darted to Ryan, and he shut his mouth.
Coughing, Tom said quickly, “But she isn’t the hottest.” He was smiling at me like he wanted to reassure me. “Don’t worry. You’re way hotter than she is.”
My knot tightened back up.
“Tom.” Ryan glared at him. “Shut the fuck up.”
“What?” Tom gazed around, blinking. “What’d I say?”
Cora shook her head, trying not to laugh. “You honestly need to get a clue one of these days.”
Tom looked mystified. “Huh?”
Nick pulled into the movie theater’s parking lot. We all piled out of the car, and the guys headed in first. Cora fell back to walk next to me. She looked up, tucked some hair behind her ear again, and dropped her gaze to the cement.
Her hand touched the back of mine lightly. “Can you hold back a second?”
Ryan and the guys were going inside, and he glanced toward us. Holding the door open, he stood there, waiting.
I saw the question in his eyes and had to pull my gaze away. Cora was saying something. It seemed like something I needed to pay attention to, but all I wanted was to be next to Ryan. I didn’t care about this Erin girl. I probably should’ve. My brain was telling me to be smart. I was entering high school drama. Ryan was wanted, but I wasn’t surprised. He had that look—dark molten eyes,
Ryan's Bed by Tijan / Romance & Love have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on50 votes