Page 23 of Her Touch

“What are those?” she asks, looking at the oddly shaped brownies.

“Eli made them.” I hold out the plate. “Want one?”

She debates for a second before picking up one of the brownies and taking a bite of it. She barely gets a few chews in and she’s flying off the bed, making a beeline for the bathroom. I hear her vomit.

“Jesus, are they that bad?” I pick one up and take a bite. They aren’t great, but they aren’t vomit-inducing, either. I hear the faucet turn on, and Alice comes out a moment later.

“Think I’m still sick,” she mumbles, falling back into her bed.

“What did the doctor say?” I ask, remembering we hadn’t talked about it last night.

“It will pass.”

I place my hand on her forehead to check her temperature, but she feels fine.

“I was going to go to school, but maybe—”

“No, please go. I’m going back to sleep. I’m going to try to sleep this off.”

“You sure?” I ask. I don’t like the idea of leaving my crying and vomiting best friend alone.

“Really, I can call or text if I need you.”

I level her with a stare. Alice is not great about asking for help. She doesn’t like to be a bother, something her shit parents ingrained in her. “Promise,” she says, making me feel a little better.

“Okay. Anything I can get you before I go?”

“Close the curtains.” I do as she asks, then leave her room and shut the door. I walk down to the kitchen, and I stop when I see Eli making breakfast. I’ve missed that sight.

“Morning, sunshine,” he says, placing a plate with a bagel and strawberries in my spot on the breakfast bar.

I set down the plate of brownies and slide into my seat, unsure of what to say. Instead of trying to force it, I give a small mumbled thanks. I don’t want to face whatever it is he has to say. So I choose to eat as fast as I can so I can leave.

I can feel him watching me the whole time as I eat my food. When I’m finished he takes the plate from in front of me before I can grab it to take to the sink.

“I’m taking you to school,” he says, shutting down any chance I had of a quick goodbye.

“No, I’m fine.”

“Maggie, I’m driving you.” This time he says it with more force, and I clench my teeth.

I’m mad that he’s calling me Maggie, because it makes what he’s saying feel like an order. And it is. Technically, he’s my guardian, and I have to do as he says.

“Fine.” I turn and grab my backpack. Walking outside, I fish out my cell phone and scroll for Sam’s number.

“Hey,” Sam says when the call connects. He’s always so chipper this early in the morning.

“Hey,” I say back.

“What’s wrong?” Damn, I thought I was hiding it better. I tell him what happened as I stand outside Eli’s truck. Well, a short, quick version about my dad.

“God, Maggie, I’m sorry. I’m sure he’s fine,” he tries to reassure me.

I watch Eli come out of the house and head for his truck. His gym shorts and shirt are gone, and now he’s wearing slacks and a buttoned-up shirt rolled at the sleeves. God, why does he have to look so hot? I notice he doesn’t even limp a little anymore. I hear the truck unlock, and I tear my eyes from him and climb in.

“I know he will,” I agree.

“What can I do?” he asks.

“Will you check on Alice for me today? She’s not feeling well and—”

“Of course,” he says quickly. “I’ll go between classes. I have a three-hour break in the middle of the day.”

Eli climbs into the truck and starts it up.

“You’re a lifesaver, Sam. Thank you. It means a lot.”

“Anything for you, Maggie.”

Eli stares at me, and his hands clench the steering wheel. I swear I see jealousy burning in his green eyes. I say goodbye to Sam and hang up, putting my phone back into my bag.

“I know your dad lets you date, but you won’t be dating while I have a say in it.”

“What?” I snap, pissed off. I’m not even dating anyone, but the nerve is ridiculous. He’s been in charge for five whole minutes and he’s acting like an asshole. “You know what? Whatever.”

I throw my hands up. Eli leans over toward me, and my breath freezes as I wonder what he’s doing. But the sound of my seatbelt clicking pushes down my excitement as he leans back in his seat. He throws his truck in reverse, and then we take off down the road.

“I’m jealous,” he finally says, and I glance over at him. His knuckles are nearly white as he drives, and his eyes are hard as he stares straight ahead. “So fucking jealous it eats me alive.”

Something about his confession soothes the anger inside me. Knowing that the thought of me with someone else makes him angry does something to warm my insides.

“Sam is a good friend. Nothing more. He’s always there when I need him.” I know the last line is a dig at him, but I can’t help myself. Him leaving me is still raw.

Eli drops his head a little, and I feel guilty for the comment because it’s not needed right now. We are all already in enough pain. I shouldn’t add to it like a selfish brat.

“Sorry,” I whisper, but I know he hears me.

He takes a quick glance over at me before he returns his attention to the road. We are already at the school, but he doesn’t go to where people are normally dropped off. Instead he pulls into the parking lot and parks.