Now I know better.
He was avoiding me, the bastard.
Howard begins to pace again, raking his hand against his bristly jaw and muttering to himself.
“I’m going to handle this,” he says. “You’ll tell no one, you understand?”
“Yes,” we both say.
“I’ll come to you when I have this sorted out,” he adds.
I decide right here and now that I hate this man, and I’ve never hated anyone in my life. Who is he to think he has any say in what I do with my child? “Now leave.”
Westley and I waste no time exiting Bertram’s study and when we get outside, we’re out of breath and talking over each other.
“Holy shit,” I say.
“Yeah, I can honestly say I’ve never seen him that angry before,” Westley says. “And the fact that he needs time to think about this means he definitely wants to punish us for this.”
“Also, um … we’re half-siblings,” I add.
“God, Yeah. That too.” Westley runs his hands through his auburn waves. I guess I’ve never studied him long enough to realize that we do share some resemblances. Same square jaw, same hairline, same gold-green eyes, though his are a shade lighter than mine. And Whitley … she’s blonde like me but other than that, she’s the spitting image of Lorelai. “This is a lot to take in.”
“I know, right?”
We stand in front of The Bertram for a few more minutes, the last half hour playing on a reel in my head.
“I should probably head back,” I say.
“Right.” He rests his hands on his hips, studying me. I wonder if he’s searching for resemblances too. “Try to get some sleep, okay?”
I give him a hug—one I feel wholly entitled to now that I know he’s my half-brother.
“We’ll talk more tomorrow,” he says as he heads to The Caldecott.
I make my way back to my grandparents’ cottage, numb with shock. By the time I get there, I have no recollection of the short walk. When I go in, I find both of my grandparents passed out in their recliners as a cable news show plays on their TV.
Sneaking to my room unseen, I collapse on my bed, my head dizzy with all these thoughts and revelations.
I so badly wish I could talk to Thayer.
He always knows exactly what to say to put my mind at ease.
“Hey, you going home for break at all?” My roommate asks the Friday before a three-day weekend.
“Yeah. Going to New Haven for the week. You?”
Jonah shrugs. “Staying put. My parents booked a freaking Caribbean cruise this week. Can you believe that? I’m like … what am I supposed to do? They knew we had no school this Monday.”
I pack my bag for the weekend and glance around the room to make sure I’ve got everything. I need to hit the road in the next forty minutes if I want to avoid rush hour.
“Taking off,” I tell Jonah, giving him a two-finger wave as I sling my duffel bag over my shoulder.
“Have a good one, man.” He waves back, his eyes still glued to his MacBook screen.
I pass a mailbox on my way to the student parking lot and for a second, I wonder how hard it would be to get a letter to Lila. Junie always gets the mail this time of year. If there’s no return address, maybe she’ll think it’s an old friend from California wanting to say hi?
There’s also the grocery boat. If it’s the same guy, I’m sure he’d do me a favor and hand deliver a note to Lila. I’d just need to call him. And mail the letter to him …
I decide to work out the logistics on my drive home, and I take solace in knowing I left a dozen haphazardly hidden notes all over her cottage for her to find. Even if I’m not there on the island, I want her to still have a piece of me with her at all times.
I’m lying on my bed the next morning, earbuds in my ear as I make my way through a first edition copy of The Bell Jar, when Grandma bursts into my room. Her eyes are red, filled with tears, and her lower lip trembles.
The last time I saw her undone like this was at Mom’s funeral.
“Get up,” she says, motioning with her hands like I’m not moving quickly enough.
I know what this is about, but I don’t dare say a word.
“Come on now,” she says, waving me toward her.
I follow her down the hall, and I stop in my tracks when I get to the living room and find Howard standing in the middle. It’s so weird seeing him in this house. He sticks out among all of my grandmother’s pastel throw pillows and milk glass knick-knacks. He brings a heaviness that normally isn’t here.
“Lila, have a seat,” Howard says. “Actually, I’d like the three of you to take a seat on the couch as this conversation pertains to your entire family.”