“Did you at least enjoy a period of being a normal teenager?”

“I tried, but I always felt like a castaway. There wasn’t even a museum in Jasmine Heights that my mother and I could volunteer at to stay somewhat involved in that life.” Unbidden, a memory of overhearing my father talking to my mother comes to me. You and Lara staying here is what is best, and with it the tingling in my scalp begins.

Liam's hand goes to my bare leg under the table. “What is it?”

I look at him, unaware until this moment that my elbows are on the table and I’ve pressed my fingers to my forehead. “Nothing, I just...” The memory stirs again, my parents’ voices in my head, surprisingly clear. “Remembering something.”

“Something important?”

“My parents arguing over us staying behind.”

“Your mother wasn’t happy about it either?”

“It was hard having the family separated.” I shove my plate aside.

Liam inspects my half-eaten pancakes. “You should try and eat more.”

“I’m not a six-foot-two man,” I remind him. “I ate plenty.”

He doesn’t look convinced but I’m saved when the doorbell goes off and Liam’s hand slides away from my leg. “That will be Derek coming in the security exit. He’s going to have his sister go shop and buy you whatever you need. You want to make a list?”

I shake my head. “I’ve been living in rat trap motels and hitchhiking. I’m good with whatever.”

“You’re not there anymore, baby, and you never will be again. But you’re right. Don’t make a list. I’ll tell her to spend freely and frivolously.”

“Oh, good grief, Liam. I’ll make a list.”

He stands up. “No list. I’ll handle it.” He heads through the kitchen and I stand up to follow him when spots dot my vision. I’m going down, and I’m going down soon, and I don’t want to do it with Liam and Derek standing over the top of me.

All too aware that speed is of importance, I stumble my way back into the bedroom and head to the bathroom. I tug at the door and pull it shut, and practiced at this as I am, I slide to the sitting position by the wall to ensure I don’t fall. Memories surface. I shove my fingers in my hair, rubbing my tingling scalp but I don’t will away the memory. I want to remember. It’s time. It’s time and to my surprise instead of blacking out, my mind travels back to the fight I’d overheard with my parents. It had been my junior year of high school. I know because my father had spoken at my school when he was home. I’d been supposed to stay late at school but didn’t. I’d headed to the kitchen for a snack when I’d stopped dead in my tracks.

You can’t leave again this soon, my mother had said and I don’t remember what my father said. I’m not sure I heard. My mother sobbed. I remember that, oh so well. Is it another woman? she’d demanded. Is that it? You have another woman. Is that why you won’t take us with you now?

There was movement and I couldn’t tell what happened and then I heard my father’s harsh whisper, No. My God, woman. How can you think that? There is no other woman. It’s not safe for you and Lara. I’m just protecting you. Just know I’m protecting you.

What does that even mean? my mother had screamed. What does that mean?

The less you know the better.

A wave of sickness overcomes me and I crawl to the toilet, certain I’m going to be ill. A knock on the door sounds. “Amy? Are you okay?”

Surprisingly, I am. Okay, I’m not. I get sick. The door jerks open. “Holy hell,” Liam murmurs, squatting beside me.

“Go away. Go away, Liam.”

“You keep saying that and I keep giving you the same answer. Not a chance.” He strokes my hair from my face and hands me a towel. “Do you want some more Ginger Ale?”

My parched throat screams in reply. “Yes. Yes, please.”

“I’ll be right back.” He disappears and I sink to the floor and lay on my back, staring at the ceiling. I didn’t black out. My lips curve through the nausea. I didn’t black out.

Liam curses and sets the drink on the counter, squatting down to pick me up. “No,” I object. “I need to stay here until the sickness passes.”

He looks absolutely appalled and I touch his cheek. “I’m okay.” I look at the glass on the counter. “Ginger ale?”

“Right. Yes.” He hands it to me and I sip and then gulp.

He grabs the glass. “Easy. You’re going to make yourself sick again.”

I start to lay back again and Liam grabs a huge, fluffy towel and shoves it under me just in time for it to absorb my body. Then to my shock, he lays another towel down beside me and flattens on his back as well. “What are we looking at?” he asks, staring at the ceiling.

I surprise myself by managing a laugh. “You do have a very nice ceiling.”

He takes my hand and turns his head to look at me. “Any better?”

I nod. “Yes. I’m improving.”

“We need to talk about this.”

“It’s just stress.”

“We didn’t use a condom.”

“I took a test and it was negative.”

“When?”

I sit up. “A few weeks ago.”

He moves to squat in front of me, his hands on my knees. “I’m going to have a doctor come over and see you.”

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