“Get in the damn car, we’re already late!”
I climb inside and set Charlie’s phone on the console while I back out. When I pick it back up again to try and figure out the password, Landon snatches it out of my hands.
“Did you not learn anything from your fender bender last year?” He slaps the phone back down on the console.
I’m uneasy. I don’t like that Charlie doesn’t have her phone with her. I don’t like that she didn’t ride to school with Amy. If she already left her house before Amy got there, who did she ride to school with? I’m not sure how I’ll react if I find out she caught a ride with Brian.
“I mean this in the nicest way possible,” Landon says. I glance over at him—at the cautious look on his face. “But…is Charlie pregnant?”
I slam on my breaks. Luckily there’s a light in front of us that turns red, so my reaction appears intentional.
“Pregnant? Why? Why would you ask that? Did you hear that from someone?”
Landon shakes his head. “No, it’s just…I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out what the hell is going on with you and that seemed like the only justifiable answer.”
“I miss practice yesterday so you assume it’s because Charlie is pregnant?”
Landon laughs under his breath. “It’s more than just that, Silas. It’s everything. You fighting with Brian, the practices you’ve missed all week, you ditching school half a day Monday, all day Tuesday, half a day Wednesday. It’s not like you.”
I ditched school this week?
“Also, you and Charlie have been acting strange when you’re together. Not like your usual selves. You forgot to pick me up after school, you stayed out past curfew on a school night. You’ve been really off this week, and I don’t know if you want to tell me what the hell is going on, but it’s really starting to worry me.”
I watch as the disappointment fills his eyes.
We were close. He’s definitely a good brother, I can tell. He’s used to knowing all my secrets—all my thoughts. I wonder if these rides to and from school are when we normally share them. I wonder if I were to tell him what I’m really thinking—if he would even believe me.
“The light’s green,” he says, facing forward.
I begin driving again, but I don’t share any secrets with him. I don’t know what to say or how to even begin telling him the truth. I just know I don’t want to lie to him because that doesn’t seem like something the old Silas would do.
When I pull into a parking spot, he opens his door and gets out.
“Landon,” I say before he shuts the door. He leans down and looks at me. “I’m sorry. I’m just having an off week.”
He nods thoughtfully and turns his attention toward the school. He works his jaw back and forth and then locks eyes with me again. “Hopefully your week is back on before the game tonight,” he says. “You have a lot of pissed off teammates right now.”
He slams the door and begins walking in the direction of the school. I grab Charlie’s phone and head inside.
I couldn’t find her in the halls, so I went to my first two classes. I’m headed to my third now, still with no word from her. I’m sure she just slept late and I’ll see her when we have class together fourth period. But still—something doesn’t feel right. Everything feels off.
She could just be avoiding me, but that doesn’t seem like something she would do. She wouldn’t go out of her way to let me know she doesn’t want to speak to me. She’d throw it in my face.
I go to my locker to find my third period math book. I would check her locker to see if any of her textbooks are missing, but I don’t know the combination to her lock. It was written on her schedule, but I gave that to her yesterday.
I turn around to see Andrew fighting his way through the crowded hallway like a fish swimming upstream. He finally gives up and yells, “Janette wants you to call her!” He turns and heads in the opposite direction again.
I find her name in the contacts in my phone. She answers on the first ring.
“Silas?” she says.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“Is Charlie with you?”
I close my eyes, feeling the panic begin to settle in the pit of my stomach. “No,” I reply. “She didn’t come home last night?”
“No,” Janette says. “I normally wouldn’t be worried, but she usually tells me if she’s not coming home. She never called and now she’s not responding to my texts.”
“I have her phone.”
“Why do you have her phone?”
“She left it in my car,” I say. I close my locker and begin to head toward the exit. “We got into an argument last night and she got in a cab. I thought she was going straight home.”
I stop walking when it hits me. She didn’t have lunch money yesterday—which means she wouldn’t have had cab fair last night.
“I’m leaving school,” I tell Janette. “I’ll find her.”
I hang up before I even give her a chance to respond. I sprint down the hallway toward the door that leads to the parking lot, but as soon as I round the corner, I stop short.
Shit. Now is not the time for this. I try to duck my head and walk past her, but she grabs the sleeve of my shirt. I stop walking and face her.
“Avril, I can’t right now.” I point to the exit. “I need to leave. Kind of an emergency.”
She releases my shirt and folds her arms over her chest. “You never showed up during lunch yesterday. I thought maybe you were running late, but when I checked the cafeteria, you were there. With her.”
Christ, I don’t have time for this. In fact, I think I’ll save myself any future trouble and just end it now.
I sigh and run a hand through my hair. “Yeah,” I say. “Charlie and I…we decided to work things out.”
Avril tilts her head and shoots me an incredulous look. “No, Silas. That isn’t what you want, and it’s definitely not going to work for me.”
I look left, down the hall, and then right. When I see no one’s around, I take a step toward her. “Listen, Ms. Ashley,” I say, taking care to address her professionally. I look her directly in the eyes. “I don’t think you’re in any position to tell me how things are going to be between the two of us.”
Her eyes immediately narrow. She stands silently for several seconds as though she’s waiting for me to laugh and tell her I’m only kidding. When I don’t falter, she huffs and shoves her hands against my chest, pushing me out of the way. The click of her heels begins to fade the further I sprint away from her—toward the exit.
I’m knocking for a third time on Charlie’s front door when it finally flies open. Her mother is standing in front of me. Wild hair, wilder eyes. It’s as if hatred spews from her soul the moment she realizes I’m standing here.
“What do you want?” she spits.
I try to glance past her to get a look inside the house. She moves to block my view, so I point over her shoulder. “I need to talk to Charlie. Is she here?”