Page 12 of For Lila, Forever

His sister, Whitley, leans in to add her two cents. “She seems nice, but, like, what if things go south and you have to spend the rest of the summer avoiding each other? I don’t know about you guys, but I will not have my summer stained with awkward moments all because Thayer wants a piece of the pretty maid. Why don’t you just—”

The cacophonous tinkle of shattering glass cuts through the dinner conversations, and Whitley’s eyes flick up to the space behind me. When I follow her gaze, I find Lila falling to her knees, gathering up bits of broken wine goblets.


Westley looks away.

Whitley reaches for her iced tea, turning her face away.

I have no idea how much she heard, if anything but obviously she heard something.

“Oh, lovey, you’re bleeding,” my mother says to Lila. “Can someone locate the first aid kit for this poor thing?”

Granddad and my father pause their conversation and glance our way but I pay them no mind.

Without giving it a second thought, I scoot my chair out and I’m on it. Heading to the hall bath, I grab Band-Aids, cotton, and antiseptic from the medicine cabinet and when I return, I find her in the kitchen, rinsing the cut on her finger beneath the faucet.

“Here,” I say, placing everything on the counter. “Let me see.”

“No, thank you.”

“Lila.”

Her pale hair curtains her face, but I don’t have to see her expression to know she probably heard everything Whitley said.

Blood continues to spill from the slice on her finger, but she holds it under the water.

“You need to put pressure on it,” I say.

“I’m good.”

I stand beside her, not willing to leave yet.

“Your food’s probably getting cold,” she says under her breath.

“Then you should probably let me fix you up so I can get back to dinner.” It’s my lame attempt at flirting, trying to add some lightheartedness into the moment. But it goes over like a lead balloon because I get no response from her. “Seriously. Just let me look at it and make sure you don’t need stitches.”

She sucks in a long, hard breath, her lithe shoulders rising and falling, and then she shuts off the faucet with her good hand.

“Had no idea you were a doctor,” she says, extending her hand to me. “Lucky me.”

“Smart ass.” I examine the cut on her finger, which is still bleeding, and I dab at the blood with some cotton before putting pressure on it.

“But wait. Wouldn’t a real doctor be wearing gloves when he does this?” she asks.

“Good to see your sense of humor is still intact.”

I get the bleeding to subside enough to clean the cut with antiseptic, and then I place a flesh-colored Band-Aid over the small wound.

“There,” I say, admiring my work. “It’s like it never even happened.”

Lila places her hand over her heart and stares up into my eyes. “You saved my life, doctor. How could I ever repay you?”

I laugh through my nose. She’s so damn cute. “You could repay me by stopping by later and hanging out with us.”

“Not a chance.” Her tone is flat, the sparkle in her eyes gone. Turning back to the sink, she grips the edge and stares out the window.

“Why?”

Lila scoffs, shooting me a look. “Why? You’re asking me why?”

I shrug. “I’m just asking you to hang out.”

“Yeah, well, I know how your type operates.”

“My type?”

“Cute. Charming. Nice,” she says. “Too nice.”

“Since when is it a crime to be a decent human being?”

She fills the left side of the sink with warm soapy water and begins dunking dirty dishes, frantically washing and scrubbing and rinsing, like she’s all worked up.

“I heard what your cousin said,” she finally speaks. “About you wanting a piece of the pretty maid or whatever.”

I roll my eyes. “Don’t listen to her.”

“Just so you know, it’s not going to happen.”

“Got it.”

“There’s no chance,” she adds before looking at me. “Zero. None.”

For a second, I stop and entertain the possibility that she has a boyfriend back home. Or maybe she’s into other girls. But I know she was flirting with me earlier. I didn’t make that up. I didn’t imagine it. I’m not that dense.

“Understood,” I say. “So does that mean you’ll hang out later?”

“No. But just out of curiosity, what movie are you guys watching?”

“Mystic River.”

She’s quiet for a second, rinsing off a fork as she sighs. “I really want to see that, too.”

“Okay, then come. We’ll probably start it around nine.”

Lila grabs a striped dish rag and begins drying dishes and silverware that are already dry. “I’ll think about it.”

“Okay. You think about it and I’ll plan on seeing you around nine.” I head toward the doorway, back to the dining room.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” she calls out.

“Nine o’clock.”

I enter the dining room with a smile on my face, one that disappears the instant I lock eyes with Granddad.

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