I look at her and speak softly. “Lennon.”
“I don’t feel like talking to anyone. I’ve done enough socializing today,” she says before I can get another word in, leaning her head back on the couch to stare at the ceiling.
“You can’t avoid them forever. I’m sure they’re worried about you,” I tell her just as the commercial break ends. Her eyes wander back to the TV, but I know she’s not paying attention.
The third time her phone rings, I stand and snatch it before she can reject the call. Her mouth falls open, and her eyes go even wider as I answer it.
“Hello?” a woman who I assume is her mother asks.
“Hi,” I say, smirking at Lennon who’s frowning at me.
“Is this Lennon’s phone?” She sounds extremely confused.
“Yes, it is. But I wanted to answer so you don’t have to continue to worry about her. My name is Hunter, and I’m—”
Lennon quickly mouths, “Do not say roommate.”
“—her friend. And I’ve been checking on her to make sure she’s okay. And she is.”
“Thank goodness she has someone looking out for her other than her sisters,” her mother says, releasing a relieved breath.
“I make sure she eats and gets out of her apartment. But anyway, she can’t come to the phone right now. She’s not feeling like herself, but I didn’t want you to worry that something was wrong.” I smile, hoping she can hear my sincerity.
Her mother is very appreciative and sends her love before I end the call.
Lennon stands with both hands on her hips. “What the fuck?” she scolds in the same tone she used to curse me out in.
I shoot her a grin, though she’s not happy.
“You have no idea what you could’ve just done.” She snatches her phone out of my grip when I take my seat.
I’m confused by her statement, so I narrow my eyes at her. “What do you mean? And why didn’t you want me to say roommate? That’s what we are.”
She lets out a huff and mutes the TV, then turns toward me. As she looks at me with annoyance and anger on her face, all the air in the room evaporates. I wait for her to tell me what the hell is going on, and why this is such a big deal.
“My parents didn’t know Brandon and I lived together,” she says, closing her eyes hard, then opens them and looks at me.
“You never told them?” I study her.
“No. You don’t understand how they are, Hunter. They’re extremely strict and have very outdated beliefs. I wanted them to love Brandon as much as I did, and if they found out I was living with him, they wouldn’t have accepted our relationship. They’re extremely religious, and a man and a woman don’t live together until they’re married. Also, I’m still a virgin.”
I burst out into laughter, realizing she’s not amused.
“They really believe that?” I ask, wondering if she’s joking, but by the serious look on her face, I know she’s not.
“Sometimes it’s easier not to tell them every detail of my life. Their opinions won’t change anything, so it’s best to just keep my secrets tucked away. Now, I guess it doesn’t really matter anyway.”
“But it does…because we still live together.”
She nods. “Yeah. But we aren’t dating.”
I watch as she begins closing up, building her walls again, and I know she’s thinking about Brandon.
“My mother tends to ask a lot of questions. I’ve already received so many calls from people at church sending their condolences, so I know right now, I’m the talk of the community. I guess that’s what happens when your father is the pastor of a megachurch. With the way I feel right now, it’s just best if I don’t chat with my parents. I don’t want to say something I’ll regret or snap at them for no reason. The last time I talked to her, she told me to come home and move back to Utah.”
“Are you?” I instinctively ask.
She pauses for a moment and smirks. “Hell no. As long as my sisters are here, I’ll be here. I have no desire to be told what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I had eighteen hard years of that, and if I moved back, regardless of my age, it’d continue, and I just can’t. Plus, I love my job. California is my home now, and I don’t ever plan on leaving.”
My heart pounds hard in my chest at her admissions. Knowing she’s not running away when it would be so easy to do causes a smile to touch my lips. “Good,” I say.
“I do have a trip planned to see them in a couple of months, though, after school ends. Plane tickets are already purchased. Brandon and I were going together.” She pauses for a moment. “He was the only person I ever told about how strict my parents were growing up. He understood me on a deeper level.”