Page 49 of Riot (Mayhem 2)

“What? Why?”

He spins me around and lifts the back of my shirt. “No tramp stamp. Oh thank God.” I roll my eyes, and he laughs and kisses the top of my head.

“Are you done?” I ask.

“Worrying about you? Never.”

“Being weird,” I correct as he picks up my suitcase and opens the door.

“Also never.”

He laughs at his own joke, and I try not to laugh too. I’ve missed my dad even more than I thought I would—probably because these last few weeks have been some of the messiest of my life.

“Your room is where ya left it,” he tells me. “Your closet missed you.”

This time, I do laugh. “I missed my closet too.”

I start down the hallway, and he says, “Help me in the kitchen when you’re done having a sobby reunion, will ya?”

“Be there in a minute.”

My dad disappears into the kitchen, and I start toward my room, huffing out a slow, irritated breath when I pass through our hallway of misfit pictures. Ever since I was a teenager, my dad and I have waged a passive-aggressive war where I’ve taken down all the ones of my mom and hidden them, and my dad has always found them and put them right back up. He insists that they contain memories I shouldn’t block out, and a certain person I shouldn’t try to forget. I insist that some things are better off forgotten and some people are monster bitches who don’t deserve to be displayed in our house when they couldn’t even bother to stay faithful to their husbands or raise their daughters.

I ignore the pictures and walk straight to my room, dropping my suitcase next to my old bed and flopping face first onto my royal-purple comforter. My phone beeps in my back pocket, and I nearly pull a muscle throwing my arm behind my back to yank it out. I deflate when it’s just a text from Rowan.

My parents both work tomorrow. Come over when you wake up?

I text her back to let her know I’ll be there, and then I pick myself off the bed to prevent my mind from lingering on thoughts of Joel. I wonder what he’s doing right now. Watching TV? Playing guitar? Sleeping with all the girls he’s been abstaining from for the past month while I’ve been hoarding all of his time?

“Dee?” my dad asks from across the dining room table at dinner, and I catch myself staring at my phone again, willing it to ring.

I look away quickly and busy myself with carving into my burnt pork chop. “Sorry.”

“So the guys in this band,” my dad says, reminding me that we’d been talking about the music festival, which got me to talking about the T-shirts that have been selling like hot cakes on the band’s website, which got me to talking about the capes I made, which got me to thinking about Joel, “they’re all just friends?”

“Yeah,” I say, avoiding glancing at my phone. “They’re all really cool.”

“Even this Joel guy?”

I made it a point to talk about Joel no more or less than any of the other guys. And still, my dad picked him out of a damn invisible lineup. “Dad,” I groan, “are we seriously going to talk about boys?”

“I’m just talking about the reason you keep staring at your phone,” he says with a shrug, stabbing his pork chop and lifting the entire burnt thing to his mouth to take a bite out of it.

I turn my phone on silent and tuck it back into my pocket, making a serious effort to spend the rest of dinner giving my dad my undivided attention. We talk about everything—work, school, friends. Soccer, lasagna, neighbors. After hours of watching TV together and nodding off on the couch, I change into my pajamas and he insists on tucking me into bed. He kisses me on the head and disappears, closing the door behind him, and I immediately grab my phone off my nightstand.

Nothing. Eleven o’clock at night and nothing. Not a single word.

“You’re an asshole,” I tell my phone. Still, it says nothing back.

Are you awake? I text Rowan.

Sorta. What’s up?

Really, I just wanted to make sure my phone was working. I growl under my breath and text back, Nothing. See you in the morning.

I want to call her and rant about how big of an ass Joel is for not calling or texting me after we’ve spent almost every day for the past few weeks together. But she already thinks I’m in love with him or something, so instead, I set my phone back on the nightstand and stare at it lying there for a few hours before I finally fall asleep.

The next morning, when I don’t wake to any missed calls or missed texts or even apology roses delivered to my front door, I’m too frustrated to hold it in. On Rowan’s couch, I dig my hand into a bag of potato chips and say, “I can’t BELIEVE that asshole hasn’t even called me.”

“Maybe he’s waiting for you to call him,” she suggests while flipping through TV channels.

“Not going to happen.”

“Why not?”

“Because he’s the man.”

Her head slowly turns in my direction, her eyebrow reaching for her hairline. “Should he also take away your right to vote and own property?”

I toss a chip at her, and she laughs and throws it back at me. We both turn back toward the TV, wasting the morning watching everything and nothing until she says, “I almost let it slip that I’ve been living with Adam.”

I turn my head to see her gnawing on her thumbnail, and she glances my way before shifting to face me.

“I told mom and dad about Joel’s birthday party, and I accidentally said we had it at your place. And my dad was all, ‘Don’t you mean your place?’ And you know how bad I am at lying . . . It was cringe-worthy.”

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