“Until the case goes to court,” she reminded me gently.
“He might plead guilty, and then I won’t have to testify or anything.” And God, I really hoped that was the case. “Anyway, if I have to do it, I’ll do it.”
Mom didn’t say anything for a moment as she watched me. I sighed as I sat back, knowing she was about to say something I didn’t want to hear. She had that “Mom” look about her. “Honey,” she started, and my suspicions were confirmed. “I was talking to Mrs. Banks about what happened. You know, she’s the school counselor.”
Oh. Dear. God.
“And she suggested what I thought would be best,” she continued carefully. “I think you should talk to someone about what happened to you.”
“What?” My jaw hit my lap. “You’re kidding, right?”
Mom frowned. “Honey, you’re going to school to be a psychiatrist—”
“Psychologist,” I corrected.
Her frown deepened. “Anyway, you know how important it is for people to talk things out and not hold them in.”
I resisted my urge to roll my eyes. I did know how important that was. And while those moments with Zach had been the scariest in my life—and there were still moments where it haunted me—I didn’t need to talk about it and soak up a therapist’s time that could be better spent helping someone who needed it.
“Mom, I don’t need to talk to anyone. I’m okay. Really, I am. I promise.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Then why have you been moping around this house like someone kicked your puppy into the street?”
I made a face, but my stomach dropped. “That’s real nice, Mom.”
“You know what I mean.”
Tracing the grain in the wood of the tabletop, I shrugged.
“I haven’t been moping around.”
“Yes, you have.” She picked up her cup and stood, taking it over to the sink, where she washed it out before slipping it into the dishwasher. When she finished, she faced me and crossed her arms. “I have never seen you so listless and unhappy this close to Christmas before. So if it wasn’t what happened to you, then what is it?”
“It’s nothing. I’m just in a mood or something.”
Mom sighed. “Honey, you know you can talk to me, right? About anything. You’re not too old for that.”
“I know.” But what was bothering me was something I was so not talking to my mom about.
Her lips pursed. “Is it Kyler?”
Ah, there it was. That horrible sinking feeling expanded through me at the mention of his name. My entire body locked up, and a hollow feeling poured into my chest. It was like being punched and knocked down. Kyler. Kyler. Kyler. I’d tried not to think about him since I’d left Snowshoe. That was as easy and fun as playing Frogger on the interstate.
Kyler consumed my thoughts no matter what I did. And the worst part? Two out of the three nights I’d dreamt about him. God, it made me lamer than normal.
But I did know something I’d never really known before.
This was what a broken heart really felt like. Silly me, thinking I knew what it felt like every time I’d seen Kyler with a new chick. That had nothing on this.
I tucked my hair back and decided on, “Why do you think it has to do with Kyler?”
“Well, for starters, I’m not blind.”
My brows rose.
“Kyler hasn’t been here once since you got home. That boy practically lives in this house when you’re home from school. And not once has he stopped by, and that is like the sign of the apocalypse.”
I would’ve laughed at that, but it was true and it made my throat burn.
“I thought it was strange how you left without saying goodbye to him, but I chalked it up to the shock of everything that’d happened.” Mom walked over to the table and sat across from me. “And then there’s the fact that I’m pretty sure he hasn’t even called you.”
Wow. Thanks for reminding me. Not that I believed he’d call. I’d made things pretty clear in Snowshoe, but the fact that he hadn’t called stung like a hornet. And that was stupid, because I wasn’t ready to talk to him, but if I was being honest with myself—which sucked and who wanted to do that?—I knew what I really wanted.
Kyler to come begging and pleading for forgiveness—forgiveness I wasn’t even sure I could give.
“So I’m assuming something happened between you two,” Mom said.
“You know what they say about assuming things…”
Mom’s expression looked like she’d swallowed something sour. “Funny.”
A sigh shuttled through me. I didn’t know what to say or how to begin. What could I tell her? “Mom…”
My phone buzzed with a message from Andrea. She was outside. I flew from the table, relieved. “I got to go. Andrea’s here.”
“Mom, I’m okay. Everything is fine with Kyler.” I gave her a quick hug. “Really.”
I darted from the house before Mom could stop me, grabbing my jacket off the back of the couch. Nearly breaking my neck on the iced-over driveway, I joined Andrea in her toasty Honda.
“Hey, girl, hey…” Andrea chirped, studying me in the dim light like I was some kind of science experiment. “You don’t look too busted up.”
I rolled my eyes. “Gee, thanks, I think.”
She tossed a red curl off her forehead. “I’m glad you don’t. Holy shit, girl, I still can’t believe it. You could’ve died! Or worse.”
I wondered what was worse than dying.
“Or you could’ve ended up on Dateline or something.” She shook her head as she slipped the gear into drive. “Maybe had an episode of Law and Order based on it.”
I laughed then. “You’re nuts.”
“But you love me,” she replied as she coasted into the street. “And I love you. So on a serious note, I want to drive to Snowshoe and stab that asshole in the eyeball.”
Andrea flashed me a quick grin. “Where to?”
Since there wasn’t a huge selection around here, I told her to hit Route 11 and head toward 81. “What are you in the mood to eat?”
“Hmm.” She tapped a gloved finger off her chin. “I’m in the mood for…meat.”
She smacked my arm. “Whatever.”
I listed our choices and we settled on Outback. The drive was a little slower than usual, with the shoulders of the highway still covered in snow and the wind tossing flurries everywhere.
As we got out of the car, she caught me in a squeeze-worthy hug. “Sorry,” she said, leaning back. “I was really upset when you told me what happened. I don’t know what I’d do…”
“It’s okay. Look, what happened was messed-up to the max, but I’m totally okay.”
She turned away quickly, and I swore she wiped under her eye, but I had to be seeing things, because I had never seen the girl cry. Not even during The Notebook, or those terrible Humane Society commercials that always made me tear up.
The restaurant was pretty packed with last-minute Christmas shoppers from the nearby mall, and I went to the restroom while she asked for a table.
We didn’t have to wait too long. After the waiter took our drink orders and plopped down fresh bread, Andrea picked up the huge knife and pointed it at me. “Okay. So now that I’m not driving and am paying attention fully, you and I need to talk.”
I leaned back against the cushion. “Do you need to be holding a knife when you do it?”
“Oh, yeah, probably not the greatest thing to be waving in your face. Sorry.” She placed it down on her napkin slowly. “All right, we need to talk about Kyler.”
I blinked, not expecting that. I hadn’t told her a thing about Kyler. I hadn’t told anyone. “W-what do you mean?”
“You’re stuttering. That alone tells me a lot.” She picked up her glass and took a sip. “I know something went down between you two because Tanner called me this morning.”
My eyes practically popped out of my head. “Tanner called you?”
“Oh yeah,” she replied, looking like she was carrying a bucket full of secrets.
I gripped the edge of the table. “What did he say?”
“More like what he didn’t say.” Andrea cut a slice of bread and dropped it on my plate, but the balls of nerves were taking up too much room for me to even think of eating. “He called to ask me if I knew what happened between you and Kyler in Snowshoe. I assumed he meant the psycho redneck, but when I said that, he was like, ‘oh, hell no.’ He said he knew something went down between you two.”
My mouth opened, but I didn’t have a clue what to say. Heat swept across my cheeks, which was a dead giveaway.
Andrea’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, you dirty hussy, something did go down and you’ve kept quiet. I should disown you!”
The older couple across the way looked over at our table, and I wanted to hide under it. “Andrea, come on.”
“I’m your best friend foreva,” she said without a trace of shame. “You’re required by the laws of feminism to tell me these things.”
I snapped out of my inability to speak. “Whoa. I think you have the idea of feminism wrong.”
“Whatever.” Her eyes rolled. “You need to tell me what happened, because Tanner said Kyler looks like he’s done died and went to hell and hung out there for a while.”
My heart spasmed. “Really?”
She nodded. “Supposedly has been on a two-day bender, and today is the first day the guy has been sober. So whatever went down obviously didn’t end with a Disney happily-ever-after. All I have to say is that you need to tell me what is up, and it better include some rated-R stuff.”
My brows knitted.
“What?” She raised her hands. “A girl can live vicariously, right? I mean, every chick out there wants to star in a porn video with Kyler, so I’m dying to know if he’s that good.”
“He’s that good,” the words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.
Andrea smacked her hands down on the table. “Oh, my God, you slept with Kyler?”
I looked around, cheeks burning. “Okay. Can we keep the sound volume down?”
“Sorry, but I’m just excited to hear about this. Not that I’m excited that he obviously fucked up, because I know it wasn’t you that screwed this up. It was him—it’s always the guy’s fault.”
Shaking my head, I released my breath. In a weird way, it felt good to unload this. Things still felt raw and abrasive and I prayed to God I didn’t start crying like a freak in the restaurant, but it was a relief to finally put some of these things into words. I gave her the quick and not-so-dirty version of what’d happened, glossing over some of the details that I’d die before I spoke out loud. Andrea waved the waiter away when he returned to see if we were ready to order, leaving me to tell her about Sasha and why Zach had started messing with us in the first place.