“Hi, Bec. Hi, Nate,” I said when I approached. It had taken me two yearbooks and an hour and a half to figure out Nate’s name but I did. He didn’t seem impressed with my efforts. He just waved a half-eaten apple at me in greeting. Bec didn’t even look up from her game.
I held up the note. “I was hoping you’d give this to . . .” I paused, praying that either Bec or Nate would provide me with a name.
Bec just looked up and said, “My brother?”
“Right. Will you give this to him for me?”
She filled in an X on the board in the dirt. “No.”
“Oh, well, since you asked nicely . . . no.”
Her friend laughed. “Oh, look, it’s Gia Montgomery. You told our friend his band sucked and that he should take up a new hobby.”
I gasped. “I did not.”
“Oh, that’s right. Your friend Jules did and you laughed. Same difference.”
I remembered that. It was the end of a very long day of bands trying out to play for prom. They were the fifth horrible band in a row and my head had been pounding. Jules, who’d volunteered herself as one of the judges and had done a pretty good job of being nice, couldn’t hold her comment in any longer. I did laugh. We all laughed. I shouldn’t have. This was probably the “bigger offense” I’d committed that Bec had referred to the day before.
“Yeah . . . sorry about that. I had a headache.”
“Don’t apologize to me. It wasn’t my dream you were crushing.” She looked at Nate as if waiting for him to say something. Maybe she wanted him to get mad at me as well. He didn’t.
“Right,” I said. The hand, still clutching my ignored note, dropped to my side.
Bec drew a new empty board on the dirt, ignoring more than just my note. Nate took another bite of his apple and smiled at me but then shrugged as if to say, “You’re out of luck.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow in class, then.” I tucked the note into my jeans and left to the sounds of more laughter. I guessed it was okay when they were the ones doing the mocking.
“Can I take the car to school tomorrow?”
My mom’s hand paused where it was reaching for a glass in the cupboard. “Why?” She grabbed the glass and turned to face me.
“I need to do something after school.” That may include following someone home like a creepy stalker. “I don’t want to make Claire drive me.”
She considered while she filled her glass with water from the door in the fridge. She was a real estate agent and if she had tons of appointments set up tomorrow it wouldn’t work. But she usually wasn’t too busy on weekdays. The weekends were when people needed to look at the twelfth house they wouldn’t buy or the one they’d already looked at twelve times. “That should be fine. I can borrow Dad’s car if I need it, but this isn’t going to be the norm, right? You and Claire aren’t fighting or anything? Dad told me about Bradley.”
Her thought progression made no sense to me. Was she saying that because I’d fought with Bradley, I must be fighting with everyone I knew? “No, we’re fine. We’re . . . the same as we’ve always been.” Everything in my life was the same as it had always been. I may have felt off, but everything around me was exactly the same.
“Good. You’d hate to start college fighting with your roommate.”
“Uh . . . thanks, Mom.”
She laughed. “You know what I mean.”
I knew what she meant and she was right, I didn’t want that to happen. Why had I lied to Claire? “Yes, you’re right. But we’re not fighting.” At least not yet. I watched her drink her water and thought about asking her what she thought the result of lying to my friends would be. Maybe she’d have some insights. But I didn’t ask.
“Thanks for letting me use the car,” I said, then left the kitchen.
I dialed Claire’s number as I walked the hall to my room. I fell back on my bed. “Hi, Claire,” I said when she answered.
“So I don’t need a ride tomorrow to school. I’m using my mom’s car.”
“Why?” It was a fair question. We’d been riding to school together since we got our licenses and my parents had made the executive decision that I didn’t need my own car. I blamed my brother for the three accidents he had gotten into before he turned eighteen. The only time I didn’t ride with Claire was when one of us was sick.
“I have to run some errands for my mom.” The lies were endless at this point and it sucked. I sucked.
“Are you mad at me?”
“Of course not.”
“It’s just, you’ve been acting weird since prom.”
I’d felt weird since prom, like maybe for the first time I was really evaluating my life and discovering I came up lacking. Starting with the fact that Bec was right—I was a coward. I was scared to tell my friends the truth. What if Claire didn’t want to room with me at college? What if she hated me? “I know, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” She gave a little sigh.
I steered the conversation back to a safer topic. “Do you believe we’re about to graduate?”
“I know, high school seemed to take forever and now it’s speeding by.”
I twisted the corner of my sheet around my finger over and over and listened to her talk about how fun college was going to be. Yes, finding fill-in Bradley was key. He had done this to me and I needed it undone.
It had all gone as planned so far. I’d been able to discreetly find Bec after school where she got into the passenger seat of a car that did not belong to her brother. Well, it could’ve, but he wasn’t driving it. We’d made two right turns and passed three stoplights. He’d said he lived only six blocks from the school, so I imagined we were coming close to their house. My palms started to sweat, so I wiped them on my jeans, keeping my eyes on the taillights in front of me. I couldn’t lose them. Their car’s blinker went on and so did mine. Then they turned into the parking lot of a 7-Eleven. I hesitated, not wanting to lose them, but it was a small parking lot. Bec would surely see me.
I started to pass but decided at the last second not to and turned the wheel, causing the tires to squeal. I cringed, sure they heard, but it didn’t matter, they were already out of their car and Bec was standing there waiting for me.
I sighed and parked next to them.