I don’t think. I just jump. And on the ground, my socked feet race desperately across the lawn—into the dark, past houses, past trees, past borders I’ve never crossed.
I run until I can’t run anymore. Until I can’t breathe or think or feel. I run until I’m lost.
And then, I fall apart.
I WAKE WITH a gnat trying to crawl up my nose, a rock burrowing into my spleen, and Leti . . . flicking an ant off of the log he’s sitting on, looking entirely out of place in the middle of wherever-the-hell I fell asleep last night.
“This is really not in my job description as third-best friend,” he informs me, his golden eyes utterly serious when they swing to mine. “In case you couldn’t tell”—he gestures at his vintage Thundercats T-shirt, his faded jeans, his hot pink Chuck Taylors—“I’m not exactly cut out for this ‘being one with nature’ stuff.”
I groan and rub my crooked back as I sit up. My face is stiff with sun-dried tears, and my mess of black-and-purple hair is a literal nest, complete with dried leaves and what I don’t doubt is an army’s worth of creepy crawlies. I turn my head upside down and do my best to finger-comb the heebie-jeebies from my scalp. “What are you doing here?” I ask with my nose still pointed at the ground. My voice is hoarse from crying all night, and I hear Leti sigh.
“Coming to your rescue?” he suggests. “I’m pulling a Robin Hood or something.”
My eyebrow is raised even before I turn my head upright. “Robin Hood?”
“Well, I’d love to be your Prince Charming”—an amused smirk sneaks onto his face—“but I believe that ship sailed over the rainbow, Sleeping Hot Mess.”
“Sleeping Hot Mess?”
Leti chuckles as I wipe a smudge of dirt from my cheek. “You’re certainly no Sleeping Beauty.”
I glare at him, and he shrugs.
“Just telling it like it is, Kitterbug. And apparently, I’m the only one who does.”
“What are you talking about?” I grumble. I’m sore, I’m exhausted, and my head is throbbing with each shift in the breeze. I have no idea why Leti is here—or how Leti is here—but trying to figure that out would require thinking, and thinking is the last thing I want to do right now. Last night feels like it was five minutes ago, and even though I try to forget the details, they ambush me one by one.
The way I screamed at Shawn at the table. The way I pushed him out the door. The way everyone just stared at me.
The way my mom said, I saw how fast he ran.
The way Kale said, I told him to stay away from you.
Leti stretches his long legs out, crossing them at the ankles. “I’m talking about all the lies you and everyone else in the world has been telling. I’ve spent all night hearing about the absolute chaos that went down here last night.”
He flutters a hand in the air. “From everyone. Rowan, Dee, Adam, Joel. Mostly from your brother.”
“Did he tell you about the other secrets that came out last night?” I ask, and Leti’s grin answers me even before the contentment in his voice does.
“So you guys are good?”
He nods with that bright smile on his face, and I almost feel happy for them. But my voice sounds of resentment when I mutter, “Glad Kale got his happy ending.”
Especially after he ruined mine.
“Which brings me to why I’m here,” Leti says, his smile slipping away, and I finally bother asking—
“Why are you here? How’d you even find me?”
“Kale found you.” He dismisses me with another swat at a gnat in the air. “But he thought it would be better if he wasn’t here when you woke up.”
I snort, because all that proves is that my twin has half a brain in his head. “So you’re here to get me to go back home? Hate to break it to you, Leti, but I would’ve had to go back anyway. I don’t have my Jeep.”
“If surgeons dissected your head,” he counters as he picks at the log he’s sitting on with a well-manicured fingernail, “do you think they’d discover your skull is missing-link thick? Or full-on cavewoman thick?”
When I glare at him, he smiles.
“I’m here to talk sense into you.”
“And what kind of sense is that?” I’m practically growling as I struggle to get comfortable against the trunk of a thick-barked tree. That rock I slept on seriously might have poked a hole in something vital, because all of my muscles feel battered and bruised—maybe from the rock, or maybe from the way my body racked with heartbreaking sobs as I cried myself to sleep on top of it.
Leti runs his hand through the sunlit hair on top of his head. “Where should we even start? Kale or Shawn?” When my expression hardens on his last word, he nods to himself and says, “Kale it is. You’re mad at him for telling Shawn to stay away from you in high school, right?”
I stare back at him, refusing to answer such an idiotic question.
“You realize you were fifteen, right? And Shawn was eighteen? An eighteen-year-old hot musician who’d slept with more girls than most guys twice his age? And you were a virgin? And he was moving away anyway? And you had an unhealthy obsession with him?”
I cut in when he gets to the only part I can argue with. “I was not obsessed.”
“Love, obsession . . . ” Leti flicks his fingers in the air. “When you’re fifteen, it’s all the same thing. What do you think would have happened if Kale hadn’t told Shawn not to call you? Do you really think he would have called?”