“Put it down, Mal. I love you. I can’t let you wear that.”
She puts it back on the rack and comes over, plopping down next to me.
“You moving out?” I ask the question I already know the answer to.
She ignores my question and asks her own. “You okay?”
“I will be.”
She grabs my hand. “Don’t do anything crazy, Paige. I know you want your piece.”
I glance over at her. She’s the only one I’ve told about watching my father kill my mother. I didn’t tell her about all the other things I’ve heard about him over the years. Things I heard him say he did, too. I didn’t want to taint sweet Mal with all that. I gave her the basics. My main reason. That I stood there and did nothing before I ran. I never told a soul what I’d seen. Partly out of fear, and partly from shame. The guilt eats at me, and sometimes I feel like it’s alive inside, slowly taking over, piece by piece. Sometimes I welcome it and other times, like when I look at Captain, I wish I didn’t have it.
“Maybe you should tell Miles.”
“No.” I cut her off. Not going to happen. This is mine, and not only that, I don’t want to pull him back into this. I don’t want Mal in it, because if Miles is, she is. Miles is done with our father and I want to keep it that way. I don’t want Alexander’s sights anywhere on Mal, because that’s where it will end up if he and Miles go toe to toe again.
“I know you can’t let it go. I get that, I really do. If someone hurt you or Miles, I’d want to make that person pay, too. I’m just—”
“Let’s not think about this today,” I push. We should be fighting over what ridiculous dress she’s going to try to make me wear. I should be trying to persuade her to choose a huge and ostentatious menu, while she tries to do everything on a small, simple budget.
“I’ve never seen your face like that, Paige. You looked so lost last night.”
She keeps trying to push me back there. Back to somewhere I don’t want to go, because I still feel shame about that, too. I’m pissed at how easily I froze in front of my father last night. How many years have I been so good at hiding things? How come it’s all starting to show? Maybe I’m cracking. Maybe I’m not as strong as I thought I was. How many nights had I lain in bed thinking of all the things I’d say to him whenever I came face-to-face with him again? Throw my own threats in his face and show him he didn’t scare me. That I was going to haunt his dreams now. He’d lie awake at night, scared to close his eyes in case the nightmares would come. But I didn’t give him that. Instead I gave him the fear he loves to see in people.
“I was fine. Captain brought me home.” She raises her eyebrows in surprise as I try to change the subject. Yeah, that’s how I can get her off this. She’s always eager for Captain information and wants to talk about this thing I have for him. Now that she’s happily in love, she seems to want the same for me. I bet she’s already planning double dates. I almost snort at the idea. I give her more details, knowing it will keep her off topic. “He stayed the night.”
“Oh my God!” She claps excitedly and I shake my head.
“Calm down. We just slept.” I can practically see little hearts floating over her head. “I don’t know what’s up with him. One minute he’s kissing me and the next he’s on the other side of the room.”
“He’s hard to read. His face is always the same. Like a stone that sees all, but I know he’s into you. I mean, the only time he ever cracks a smile at work is when you’re poking at him.”
I want to ask if she thinks something between him and me could really work. She’s the one who dubbed him Captain America. We’d joke about how perfect and all-American he always looked. That kind of perfection wouldn’t want me once he’d start to peel back my layers. At one time I thought I could fake it until I made it, but if I’ve learned anything over the past few days, it’s that Ryan is able to see through me too easily for my liking.
I shrug like it’s no big deal. I get up from the sofa and walk to the rack of dresses, pulling off one that’s actually white.
“This will rock on your body,” I tell her. It could fit her like a second skin, and Mal has all the right curves for something like it.