And that was a puzzle I couldn’t figure out. “Me neither, because Mom comes from—”
“Old money, and they tend to stick together. Maybe he just swept her off her feet.”
I started to grin at that, picturing my dad winning my mom over through all kinds of romantic gestures, but then I thought about how they were now. There was more romance between me and my hairbrush than between those two.
Carson took a huge bite of his ice cream. “This is good stuff.”
Watching him dig in, I waited until most of my ice cream melted, and then I twirled my spoon around the bowl, turning it into something like pudding. When Carson laughed, I grinned at him. “I think I like it like this.”
“Yeah, you did that as a kid. Drove your mom insane.”
Chocolate slipped off my spoon, plopping into the bowl as I studied him. “Were we really best friends?”
He nodded. “Yeah, we were…inseparable for a long time.”
As I’d done a thousand times since learning Carson was the answer to my security question, I tried to picture us doing things together—running, playing, getting into trouble. Sadly, like everything else, the memories just weren’t there no matter how hard I tried. If I was being honest with myself, I think it was the possibility of those memories that I missed the most.
“You have that look on your face,” he said, brushing his hair off his forehead with his free hand. “You’re not happy about something. Bad company, eh?”
“No. Not at all,” I assured him. “It just sucks not being able to remember anything. I think…I would’ve really liked those memories.”
His eyes met mine for a moment. “I still have them, though. If you want, I can share the highlights with you.”
A grin pulled at my lips. “I’d like that.”
And so Carson did. He went through the greatest hits of our childhood while we finished our ice cream. Riding bikes, climbing trees, swimming, and making forts with branches—we’d done it all. It turned out I’d gotten Carson’s arm broken, too. This time by jumping from one of the rocks on Devil’s Den, taking him along with me. He’d missed an entire season of Little League.
Scott was right—Carson and I had been closer.
The whole time he talked about us, the skin around his eyes crinkled, and I was drawn into his steady gaze, infatuated with eyes that shone like lapis lazuli. Through it all, pressure built in my chest. Some of it was good, because it felt as if I were about to fly off my seat, but there was a tightness to it, tinged with sadness and shame.
“I really am sorry for being such a tool to you,” I said again. The fact that I had been kind to his mom and then him after she had died didn’t make up for everything else. “You didn’t deserve the way…I ended up.”
Carson opened his mouth but closed it. Several moments passed, and then he leaned forward, crossing his arms on the bar. “I’m going to be honest, okay? When you apologized before, I was like, whatever. Because it’s hard to believe that you really mean it based on my…past experience with you.”
I cringed and suddenly wished I hadn’t eaten so much. Ice cream curdled in my stomach. “I understand—”
“No. You don’t.” He met my stare. “Because I get that you really do feel bad. A couple of weeks ago? I’m not so sure. But you do now. And that matters. Okay? The past is in the past. It’s done. Let it die.”
Seeing the sincerity in his eyes, hearing it in his voice, some of the pressure lessened. “Thank you,” I whispered.
Carson nodded, and there was another stretch of silence between us.
“The detective stopped by after school,” I told him, staring at the mess in my bowl. “Dad got pissed, practically kicked him out.”
I shrugged. “He didn’t like that Ramirez was asking me questions without him being there…or a lawyer.” I glanced up, drawing in a deep breath. “Dad thinks I’m their number one suspect.”
His brows knitted. “What? Are you serious?”
“Yeah, since I was the last person to see her.”
“But no one knows if you were,” he argued, much to my relief. “Anyone could’ve been with you guys. And what happened to you two might not have been related. It could be a freak coincidence. An accident.”
“That’s what I’m hoping,” I murmured, and then louder, “Anyway, who do you think would’ve been with us? I mean, if it wasn’t an accident.”
“You’re wondering who could’ve been with you two who would have wanted to…hurt her? Or you?” He sat back, running a hand through his messy hair. “God, Sam, that’s a messed-up thing to even consider.”
“Tell me about it.” I started nibbling on my thumb but found that the nail had already been chewed down. “It could’ve been me for all I know.”
His brows shot up. “What? You? No. There’s no way.”
I made a face. “The old Sam sounded pretty capable of just about anything, and apparently Cassie and I had this weird friendship. Maybe we got into a fight and…”
“And what? You killed her?” He rolled his eyes, laughing. “There’s no way. Yeah, you had a mean streak, but you wouldn’t have hurt anyone. And that doesn’t explain how you got hurt.”
It didn’t, and for once, the impossibility of something was reassuring. I tucked my hair back. “Okay. If you had to pick someone, who would it be?”
He stared at me, dumbfounded. “Pick someone who is capable of killing? Jeez, I hope I don’t know anyone who is.”
“I know, but if you had to pick someone who would hurt Cassie, who would it be?”
Blinking, he looked away. “There’s a huge list of people who were angry with her, but to kill her? I don’t think so.”
He cursed under his breath as he faced me. “Okay. There’s Trey. They had a shitty relationship. And then there are at least a hundred kids at school who probably fantasized about pushing her in front of a bus a time or two.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Nice.”
“Look, you don’t remember her, Sam. Cassie was a…I’ll put in this way: she had very few good moments. She was terrible to kids who didn’t come from money, didn’t drive luxury cars or spend their summers on a yacht, which is freaking hilarious if you think about it, because she would have nothing if it weren’t for her mom’s father. Not only that, she was manipulative.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the bar. “Every month, she would pick a new target—a kid she’d pretend to want to be friends with, because they had something she needed. She’d be nice to them, and the rest of you would go along with it, and then once she had what she wanted, she’d publicly shame them one way or another. Once, she had the entire school believing Sandy Richards was a lesbian.”