Ryans bed, p.6
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       Ryan's Bed, p.6
 

           Tijan

  Ryan nodded toward the kitchen. “You want a drink? I know where they keep the good stuff.”

  My stomach rumbled.

  He heard and flashed me a grin. “Or something to eat?”

  “You know where they keep that stuff too?” I teased.

  “I can make an educated guess.”

  I ended up sitting on a stool by the island while Ryan scored leftover pizza. He popped the pieces into the microwave and pulled out two glasses.

  I lifted an eyebrow. “You and Tom must be close.” He acted as if this were his house.

  “Since second grade.” He ducked down to pull out a bottle of whiskey. “He won’t care. Trust me.”

  “You bring girls to his house often?”

  He laughed, pouring some lemonade to mix with it. He took a sip before pushing it my way. “No, but he brought a girl to my place once. More than once. My family was on vacation, and he asked, so since then, it’s a given. If one of us has an empty house, it’s an open invitation if we want to use it.”

  “You’ve done that before?”

  “I haven’t, no.” He looked at me, his eyes darkening.

  Our gazes caught and held, and I felt a tickle at the bottom of my stomach. It was a good feeling, a thrilling one, and I held my breath for a moment because I didn’t want it to go away. The knot next to it relaxed, and maybe this was what I’d wanted since Ryan texted. I wanted to be around him. I could sleep.

  I could feel normal, just for a while.

  He took his glass and gestured to mine, the pizza in his other hand. “Let’s head downstairs. Feels weird going anywhere else.”

  I followed him down to a large sectional couch that formed half a square. It looked like one large bed, and Ryan crawled onto it, scooting to the rear. He placed his glass on the back of the couch, which looked like it had been made for that purpose. I hesitated, but he patted the spot next to him, picking up the remote.

  “I can grab us blankets and pillows too, in case.”

  It felt so weird, but it also felt so right, and that made it even more jarring. For whatever reason, I was becoming addicted to this boy.

  When I still hesitated, he lowered the remote. “What’s wrong?”

  “This.”

  “Us?”

  I shrugged. Yes, but I felt stupid saying it. “I don’t know.”

  He frowned and tilted his head to the side. “We’re hanging out.”

  Okay. I nodded. I could do that. Hanging out. “You’re right.”

  “That’s it.”

  I nodded again. “Yeah.”

  “So.” He looked at the spot next to him, and I climbed onto the couch, scooting to sit beside him.

  After that, no words were needed.

  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk, but Ryan put on a movie and seemed content to eat his pizza, watch the show, and sip his drink. When mine was emptied, he went upstairs for refills, but the same thing happened. He returned to the couch, scooted back, and started the movie again.

  It was my second movie of the night, but I couldn’t remember either of them. The only thing I remembered was relaxing. That was it. Willow, my family—they were all pushed to the back of my mind, and I felt everything start to unravel inside me.

  I fell asleep during the movie, scooting down to lay next to Ryan. And at some point, I felt him get up, but he came back. He placed a blanket over me, and I curled into it, once again falling asleep.

  When I woke, he was on his back beside me, one of his hands on my side.

  He had fallen asleep like that, like he was protecting me.

  “Mackenzie.”

  I woke to Ryan saying my name and gently shaking my shoulder. “Wake up. We gotta go.”

  “What’s wrong?” My eyelids were freaking heavy, but I sat up. A big ass yawn on my lips.

  “Tom’s parents are home.”

  “What?”

  “We gotta go. Quick.” He scrambled off the couch, and I could hear footsteps above us.

  “Was Tom here last night?” a woman’s voice asked. “I thought he was at Nick’s.”

  More footsteps, and a man’s voice rumbled, a murmur through the ceiling.

  I hurried after Ryan. He led me up some back stairs and then circled through the garage and to a side door. A door was open between the main floor and garage, and I heard the woman ask, “Was he drinking?”

  The male voice grew louder. He was coming toward us. That was when I saw the car doors still open. They were unpacking.

  “He had the pizza. The whiskey’s out, but I can’t tell if he drank any of it.”

  “We’ll definitely have a talk with him,” the man replied.

  He was right there, almost to the doorway.

  Ryan slipped out the side door, and I pushed him the rest of the way. We clicked the door shut moments before we heard heavy footsteps from the garage.

  Ryan shot me a look, letting out a deep breath. “That was close.”

  “Too close.”

  “I’ll call Tom. He’ll cover for us.”

  “We’ll owe him one.”

  “No.” Ryan shook his head. “I’ll owe him one.”

  I didn’t agree with that, but he looked determined.

  We moved out of the yard and headed up the driveway to my house. I couldn’t hear or see movement inside, but I knew my parents were probably having coffee. That was what they liked to do since Willow. Before, they would’ve been rushing through the kitchen, yelling at us. We all would’ve been rushing around, whether it was a weekend, weekday, or summer day. There were always activities to go to.

  The quiet creeped me out.

  “Are you going in?” Ryan asked.

  I twisted around. I’d been standing on the front steps, staring at the door. I must’ve looked whacked out, like some space cadet who couldn’t sleep by herself, couldn’t handle being around her family, and couldn’t even bring myself to walk up to the porch.

  “You’re too nice to me.”

  “What?” Ryan stepped closer.

  I saw that he had his phone in hand. “Are you going to call Tom?”

  “Yeah. I’ll let him know what happened last night so he’s prepared in case they call when they’re done unpacking the car.”

  I nodded. Yes, that would be soon. It didn’t look like they had much more to do. “I suppose you should call now.”

  “Yeah.”

  But he wasn’t. And I wasn’t leaving.

  We stood there. I watched my front door. He watched me. We sounded normal. We probably even looked normal, but one of us was very much not normal.

  “Why are you doing this?” I asked.

  An irritated huff came from him. “Is this the same thing as last night? You and me?”

  “You and me, you being nice to me, doing this. Are you going to get in trouble?”

  “The only one who might get in trouble is you. Tom will cover, say he stopped by earlier for food and that’s it. Trust me. This isn’t our first rodeo.”

  But why was he being nice to me? Why was he going out of his way to help me? We didn’t even kiss, so he wasn’t doing it for an easy hookup. He was just sleeping next to me.

  “Stop. Okay? Stop.” He touched both of my arms, coming to stand in front of me. “I can see the wheels going in there. Stop.”

  “But why—”

  He cut me off, his hands squeezing once before falling away. He stepped back. “Because I want to.”

  “But why do—”

  “I don’t know, okay? I don’t know either. I . . . I don’t know either. It is what it is. I don’t want to think about it any more than that.”

  And that was the end of it. The questions plaguing me went away as if he’d silenced them. We didn’t have a formal goodbye. I nodded and slipped inside my house. The door was unlocked and the alarm off, so one of my parents had already been outside this morning. Once I was inside, I went to the living room window and watched. Ryan continued to stand in our driveway a moment longer before headi
ng back down the road.

  “Good morning, honey.” My mom sailed past me on her way to the kitchen.

  No, “Oh, you’re up,” or “Where were you last night?” or “When did you get home?” Just “Good morning, honey.”

  I followed her to the kitchen and stared. She never looked at me—not while she filled her coffee cup, not while she put a piece of bread in the toaster, not while she poured some orange juice in a glass. Her head remained down as she buttered the toast.

  “Would you like some breakfast?” she asked. “I’m making some for Robbie. I can put more bread in the machine for you.”

  My stomach had rumbled last night, so I said, “Sure. Yeah.”

  And she did, putting two pieces in before pushing the lever down. Then she picked up the plate with Robbie’s toast and the orange juice.

  “Be right back for my coffee,” she said over her shoulder as she left.

  She took him his food. She was coming back for her coffee, and me? I buttered my own toast.

  “I know you snuck out last night. I saw you.”

  My door was open an inch, and Robbie was there. I would’ve teased him about being a creeper except for the sadness, yearning, and caution that filled his eyes.

  “Hey, kiddo.” I was at my desk and slid the chair over enough to toe open the door. “You come around these parts often?”

  A soft giggle was my reward, and he came in, bouncing to a seat on the bed. His eyes calmed.

  “So you caught me, huh?” I smiled, leaning back in my chair. “What do I owe you? You didn’t rat me out to Mom and Dad.”

  He rested his hands next to his legs and lifted his shoulders. “You were with Ryan. I knew you were safe.”

  “Yeah?”

  His cheeks pinked, and he looked down at his lap. “Ryan’s cool.”

  “I agree.”

  “Did you sleep together again?”

  For a moment, I had no words. It sounded wrong, that sentence coming from my eleven-year-old brother.

  “Uh . . . what?”

  “Sleeping next to him helps you sleep. I overheard at the Jensens’ house, and I assumed there was a reason you were in his bed.” He lifted his hands, folding them in his lap. “Is that why you left last night? So you could sleep?”

  He thought I left to sleep. Then again, maybe he was right. It wasn’t about seeing Ryan or sneaking out and giving a silent middle finger to my parents. I sighed. Robbie was too young to deal with any of this—with Willow’s decisions or mine.

  “Forget about me. How’re you doing?”

  He’d been kicking his feet back and forth, but he paused at my question. He looked away. “I’m fine.”

  “Hey.” I scooted my chair closer and tapped on his knee. “I mean it. How are you?”

  He looked back, and my heart was almost ripped out. Unshed tears hung on his lashes.

  “I’m fine.” His voice trembled.

  We’d been there for each other before the funeral, during the funeral, and I’d like to say afterward, but I couldn’t. Since we’d come back to Portside, I’d shut down. Literally. Going to see Ryan last night had been almost the first thing I’d done besides going from my bedroom to the kitchen or bathroom. Seeing his tears made me want to curse myself.

  “Hey.” I gentled my voice even more. “If you need anything, you can come to me. You know that, right?”

  “Where’d you go?”

  “We went to the movies.”

  “Where’d you sleep? At Ryan’s?”

  “I . . .” The words were stuck in my mouth. He looked at me, completely innocent and vulnerable, and I contemplated lying to him. That was what it was. Not telling the truth was a lie.

  I shook my head. “We came home. I was going to come in, but we snuck into his friend’s house. He lives next door to us.”

  “And you slept there?”

  I nodded.

  “Good. You look better today. And I didn’t hear you crying last night.”

  “I didn’t know you could hear me.”

  He bobbed his head and jumped up from my bed. I could see his mind whirling. He was already thinking about whatever he would do next in his room, and he headed for the door.

  “You cry every night. I’m glad you didn’t last night.” He pulled open my door. “You should do that every night.” And then he was gone.

  I could’ve looked down to see my beating heart at my feet. He’d ripped me open. Again.

  COUNSELING SESSION TWO

  “Hello, Mackenzie. It’s been a while since our last meeting. Would you like to talk today?”

  “No.”

  It was almost another month before I saw Ryan again.

  He traveled with his family and then went to New York to see his grandparents. He was all over, including a wilderness camp. We texted back and forth, but when he was finally home, my parents shipped me off to Arizona. It was supposed to be four days where I’d heal with my friends, but some major miscommunication happened somewhere between the parents. They set it up, but the friends I used to cry with, laugh with, and who I thought had my back didn’t show up. Strangers did.

  Zoe and Gianna spent most of the time talking to each other, laughing over someone’s tweet, and they forgot I was there. No joke. I was watching television in Gianna’s basement when I heard the door shut upstairs, and the house was quiet. They’d gone. I checked on social media and saw they were at the community pool, but I wasn’t going to get mad. I mean, seriously. Fighting with Erin was fun. She was someone I hadn’t known since second grade. She was someone I hadn’t shared chain letters with or plotted with on how to get even with Mia Gillespie in fourth grade when she stole Zoe’s boyfriend.

  Erin was easy. There was nothing emotional there, but my two old best friends—too much history.

  Instead, I booked my own flight back home and ordered a car.

  It was close to midnight when I texted Ryan, telling him I was outside his house. The driver’s taillights were disappearing when he came out the front door.

  “Hey.” Dressed in lounge pants and a soft shirt, he folded his arms over his chest, tucking his hands under his arms. He eyed my small suitcase. “You really came straight from the airport?”

 
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