“Check Digby’s website. She might actually be a writer for him. He should have a roster of employees on there.”
I bring his website up. In the search bar, I type Sadie Black and press Enter, but nothing comes up.
“Check Gabe’s story. See who the writer is.”
“I don’t want to. I don’t want to see it.” I put down my phone. I’ve avoided looking at the story. The last thing I want to see is the reason Gabe and I are no longer together.
“I’ll look then. I want to know who the writer is.” Charly starts tapping on her screen. “Hmm. Weird.”
“What?” I sit up straighter.
She meets my eyes. “The person who wrote Gabe’s story is called Sandy White. Sadie Black. Sandy White. Similar or what?”
I grab the screen, looking at her name, reading it aloud, “Sandy White, writing for Digby’s Dirt. You think that Sandy could be Sadie?”
“Let’s find out.”
Charly pulls up another search engine and types in Sandy White, Digby’s Dirt.
A bunch of news stories on other celebrities fill the screen.
“Go on to Images,” I tell Charly. “See if there’s a photo of her.”
Charly clicks on Images. A bunch of pictures of different celebrities come up that link to the stories that this Sandy White has written.
Charly scrolls through the pictures, and one catches my eye.
“There. Stop.” I tap on the picture, enlarging it. My heart is hammering in my chest. “That’s her. That’s Sadie.” I jab my finger at the picture.
She’s dressed up, her hair down and curled, looking really glam. Different to how I saw her in her cleaning uniform, but it’s definitely her.
“Chat show host Bradford Digby, actor Chester Handel, and journalist Sandy White at the 2016 Teen Choice Awards,” Charly reads the text beneath the picture.
“Sadie is Sandy.” I cover my mouth with my hands, getting to my feet in disbelief. “I can’t believe that she did this. That Sadie or Sandy or whatever the hell you call her and Digby did this to me! What am I going to do?”
Charly looks up at me. “You have to tell Gabe.”
“He won’t listen to me, Charly.” I shake my head. “Right now, I’m the last person he wants to see.”
“Then, I’ll tell him,” she announces.
“What?” I say, surprised.
“Yeah. I’ll go see him. I’ll tell Gabe what we know about Digby and Sandy, the cleaner formerly known as Sadie.”
“Charly…I really don’t want to put you in the middle of this. Vaughn is Gabe’s friend. I don’t want to cause problems between you guys.”
She takes my hands in hers. “You’re not causing any problems. That fucker Digby and his bitch sidekick caused problems when they did this to you and Gabe. Ava, you’re my friend, and I help my friends. Hos before bros every time, right?”
She grins, and I force a smile.
“Every single time,” I say as I give her hands a squeeze.
I hear the distant sound of Tate’s voice, and then a hand shakes my shoulder.
“What? Fuck off. I’m sleeping,” I mumble, rolling away, laying my arm over my eyes.
“Gabe, get the fuck up.” That’s Julian’s voice.
I drag my arm off my face and blink wearily against the morning light.
As I look up, I see the faces of Tate, Julian, and Vaughn.
“Ugh. Jesus. What the fuck do you three want?” I roll onto my side, away from them, facing the back of the sofa. “And how the hell did you get into my apartment?”
“I have a key, remember?” Tate says.
Someone sits on the sofa by my legs.
I open an eye and see it’s Tate.
The look on his face. It looks a lot like disappointment. And it cuts right through me.
He knows. They all know.
Of course they do. It has to be all over the news by now.
GABRIEL EVANS, EX-GIGOLO AND SON OF MURDERERS
What a fucking headline. I bet the press has been pissing themselves with excitement.
I pull my anger on and wear it like a protective shield. “Don’t look at me like that, Tate.”
“I’m not looking at you like anything.”
“The hell you are.” I sit up, resting my back against the arm of the sofa, bending my knees up so that I can rest my elbows on them, and I scrub my hands over my face. “I don’t need your judgment right now, so if that’s what you all came here for, then you know where the door is.”
“We’re not here to judge you.” Julian sits on the coffee table across from me. He pulls a pack of smokes from his pocket. Gets two out. Lights one up and passes it to me, and then lights one for himself.
“Gabe, we’re here because we’re your friends, and we wanted to make sure you were okay,” Vaughn says from his spot where he’s standing, leaning against the window.
Right where I was standing last night when I got the call that changed everything.
“Or did you just come to look at the freak?”
“Gabe…” Tate’s voice is a warning.
I spot a quart of vodka left in the bottle I started on last night. I reach down and grab it from the floor. The cap’s already off, so I take a good drink.
When I’m finished, three sets of eyes are watching me.
“What?” I put my cigarette in my mouth.
“Should you be drinking right now?” Vaughn says.
“I think drinking is exactly what I should be doing right now.”
“Gabe, speaking from experience, drinking yourself into a coma isn’t going to help anything,” Julian says.
“Advice from the ex-junkie. Just what I need.” I roll my eyes and then drain the vodka before tossing the bottle to the floor.
Julian doesn’t react. But, still, I feel like a jackass. But I’m too far gone in my own pain to feel anything of real substance right now, so the emotion is gone before it can turn into guilt.
Julian takes a drag of his smoke and flicks the ash into the ashtray. “I’m gonna pretend like you didn’t just say that because I know what it’s like to be in pain and want to dull it with the nearest substance. And you were the only one who was there for me when I needed help. So, you get a free pass, Gabe. You get as many free passes as you need.”
“I don’t need free passes. What I need is to be left the fuck alone.”
“Yeah, not happening,” Tate says, settling back onto the sofa.
“Fine. Then, I’ll fucking go out.” I stub my smoke out and get to my feet.
“Yeah, you’re not gonna want to go out there.” Vaughn thumbs over his shoulder. “The paps are out in full force up front. We had to sneak in through the parking garage. And, from the looks of you, you’re not in any fit state to drive.” He gestures to the empty liquor bottles littering the coffee table.
I drive my fingers into my hair, feeling frustrated and trapped. “For fuck’s sake!” I yell. Then, I pick up one of the empty bottles and throw it against the wall. It shatters, shards of glass scattering everywhere.
The silence around me is deafening.
“You feel better?” Julian’s voice is low behind me.
“No, I don’t fucking feel better!” I whirl on him.
And then all I can see are their faces staring at me. Judging me. As if they know what it’s like to be me.
They don’t know jack shit about my life!
My head starts to pound like a drum. My blood is hot with anger.
“How the fuck am I supposed to feel right now?” I yell. “Everyone fucking knows! And then you three are here, fucking judging me! And I don’t need it! None of you knows how hard it was for me back then! I did what I had to do! And it was my business!” I pound my fist against my chest. “My private fucking business. And I trusted her, and now, everyone knows! She sold me out! She fucking…sold me out.” My voice drops to a whisper. My legs give out on me. I sink to the floor. I put my head in my hands and squeeze my eyes shut. “I fucking loved her, and she sold me out.”