Page 7

The rest of the week passed without much incident.

Classes were hard, but I knew they would be. I already had a short paper due in two of them, and we had quizzes in my other two classes. Nicole and Savannah never came back down to my room, but I didn’t blame them. I used my own exit to come and go, so the only times I left my room were to venture to the fridge in the basement. I’d grab my food and head right back to my room. Wash, rinse, repeat.

But I heard them all in the house. Traipsing around.

I heard the guys, too. They seemed to be here anytime the girls were, and after that one time of running into Lisa downstairs, I never saw her again. Her door remained shut at all times. And Gail called me two more times, but I didn’t pick up. And it wasn’t that I had to guess what she was calling about. She told me in great detail. In my voicemail. Both times. Lengthy messages.

All about me calling Stone.

Had I reached out yet? He had a Sunday game, was I watching it? She bet he’d give me tickets. She bet he’d give all my friends tickets, too. Apparently, Barb had told him I was here. Apparently, Barb had told him Charles gave his phone number to my dad, who gave it to Gail, who gave it to me. So apparently, Stone was waiting for me to call him. Or text him. Or even email, because she sent me his email address last night.

I was getting a pounding headache from the constant reminders about Stone. My dad knew it was all bullshit. Why was he not stepping in?

I was listening to another voice message from her when I walked into my room that night. My last class had been brutal. Intro to Marine Biology might’ve been titled an introductory class, but it was still an advanced one, and my head was swimming with all the different classifications of planktonic species. So it took me an hour to realize it was Friday night, and all I heard was nothing. It was completely silent upstairs. I almost felt like rejoicing and throwing a party of my own because I was certain they’d be living it up, but then I remembered.

The football team had an away game tomorrow. That’s where they went. They must’ve traveled all together, so they took their party on the road. Thank God.

That was…a flash of jealousy sliced through me, followed by other emotions, feelings I had no reason feeling, and I stuffed it all down. Completely. I stomped on it. With both feet. And I did a one-two-kick, then a jump and down again. It was pushed as far to the bottom as I could muster, and once my head was free, I figured it was the perfect night to indulge my solitude. Chipotle it would be.

My phone rang as I was emptying out my backpack.

Seeing an unknown number flash, I paused a second, then cursed at myself. How old was I? Twelve. Jesus. My stepmom was the only call I skirted, so I hit the accept button. “Hello?”

“Is this… Dusty?”

I sat up straighter. “Siobhan?”

“Yeah!” A relieved laugh. “Sorry. I didn’t want you to think I’m a stalker, but I got your number from Dr. Anderson, not that she knows that. I really hope that’s okay?”

I relaxed, slouching back down. “Oh, yeah. We should’ve exchanged numbers this week, anyway.”

Our last class today had been a quiz, and once that was done, everyone shot out of there. The quiz had been brutal.

“Um…” She got quiet. “So, why do I feel like I’m asking you out on a date?” A nervous hiccup. “Oh. Sorry. But, yeah. What are you doing tonight? Do you already have plans?”

I eyed my keys and frowned. “To be honest, I was going to hit up Chipotle. That. That’s my exciting college life Friday night plans.”

She laughed. “Well, I wouldn’t mind Chipotle myself, but want to head over here? My roommate and I were going to settle in for a movie marathon. We were thinking Harry Potter or Fifty Shades. We haven’t decided.”

I was gripping my phone so tightly. “What? No football game?”

“That’s tomorrow, isn’t it?”


“And no.” Her nervous hiccup was back. “We’re not big football watcher people. I mean, our lives are spent in biology labs. The most sporting things we do is trying to grab different kinds of fish to tag them. When it’s the weekend, we’re either studying or we’re relaxing. You know what I mean?”

I didn’t, not yet, but I lied. “Yeah. Totally.”

“We’ve got some wine here, too. You can sleep over, if you want. We have a super comfortable couch.”

My decision was made. I didn’t have to force myself to be a lionfish. I stood, reaching for my keys. “What’s your address?”

I picked up Chipotle for her, myself, and her roommate. They were supplying the place to hang out at and the wine, so the food was on me. I’d just skim back on a couple meals later that week. It was doable. The body was a great adapter, one or two missed meals wasn’t a big deal.

So it was all worth it, and when I rang their bell, both were in Harry Potter pajamas and I knew I’d found my people. Her roommate’s name was Emily, and within ten minutes of the first movie, we were all fast friends.

I’d been feeling guilty about ditching my roommates the other night, like maybe I was wrong to do it.

Was I? My feelings got hurt. Dent didn’t even matter. Nicole. Savannah. I was thinking I’d been too quick to judge before I shut them down. Maybe? But I also couldn’t help but wonder…did they even notice I was gone? If they hadn’t noticed, then I had nothing to feel guilty about.

But the last two days, I’d been thinking it was me in the wrong and I was the problem, yet here I was. I was sitting with a new friend and had made another friend, so maybe I wasn’t actually the problem.

And that was making me feel all sorts of better. On a Friday night, no less.

My phone rang right then. I knew without looking it was Gail, and I’d ditched her enough this week.

I rose, gesturing to their patio with my phone. “Mind if I go out there to take this?”

“No, no.” Siobhan waved a hand. “Go for it. We’ll pause and make some margaritas.”

I only grinned. They had a whole discussion if they should indulge in wine or margaritas. Emily wanted margaritas. Siobhan wanted wine. Emily had won out, and she sent me a tiny grin and a thumbs up as she followed her roommate into the kitchen.

Stepping outside, on the third ring I answered as I shut the door behind me. “Hello?”

“Your stepmom has been harassing my mom.” A low, gravelly voice greeted me.

I cursed under my breath. That’s what I get for not saving his number in my contacts.

“Yeah,” he bit out. “Fucking A, Dust.”


That pissed me off.

He didn’t get to call me out of the fucking blue, then use that nickname he used when we actually were friends. Oh-to-the-hell-fuck-no.

“Fuck you.”

He was silent, hearing me, then a low and savage growl came from the other end. “Are you kidding me? Your stepmom has some delusion that you and I are fucking destined to be or something. Where’s she getting that piece of shit story?”

He didn’t say it outright, didn’t point a finger in my direction, but I felt slapped in the face by his accusation anyway.

I bit out, my blood boiling, “Trust me, asshole. It’s not because of me.”

“Put her in her place. You and I, we ain’t anything. Got that?”

“Abundantly.” And because I knew where he was going, and I was petty and I wanted to get there first, I hung up on him. Bastard.

Then, a moment.

I couldn’t breathe.


Fuuuuuck him.

We built a fort together.

We played in the woods together and in the river that ran through both our properties.

We had a whole maze put in place.

I never did the dolls thing growing up.

I was outside. Dirty. Rough. We played tag and we pretended to hunt shit.

His dog was the friendliest German shepherd alive and he’d been horrible at protecting us. We pretended he was our guard dog anyway.

My mom baked for us.

His mom cooked for us.

We were best friends until sixth grade, until puberty hit, and suddenly Stone was too fucking cool for me.

Rage, long and deep, rose up in me, and grabbing ahold of the bannister, I bent over, letting out a scream like I’d never yelled before.

Hearing a clambering behind me, I remembered where I was, and a whole new litany of curses flashed in my mind.

I’d forgotten.

Real shit and private shit just went public, and turning, wiping all of it away, I waved a hand with an awkward smile on my face. “I’m good,” I said as soon as the door opened again. “Sorry. Just an annoying call from home.”

They both seemed concerned, but were polite about not being pushy. I could tell they were either weirded out by me, my reaction, or I don’t know what else, but the easygoing and carefree vibes of our Friday night was gone. My outburst of anger had ended that, so maybe it was me? All my problems with other people. Maybe I needed to really decide what I wanted? If I wanted friends, I might need to seek some professional help and figure out what I was doing wrong…or if I didn’t want friends, then I was good.

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