Two weeks from sustaining a life-threatening injury and, for the most part, my body was starting to feel normal. I was winded easily and my ribs and arm ached nearly every second of the day, but the bruises on my face had faded and my jaw no longer hurt.
And I was alive.
I was currently walking circles around the kitchen table, partly because I was now supposed to be up and moving as much as possible and partly because I was having a problem staying seated. Walking jarred the ribs, but it was the kind of pain I was getting used to.
Lori was peeling an orange and the citrusy scent filled the kitchen. “So, did you know Dad is still in town?”
I stopped, halfway between the fridge and the sink. Mom had mentioned that she’d talked to him, not that he was still in town. I’d assumed he’d gone back to Seattle. “What?”
“Yep.” She dropped the peel on a paper towel beside her. “He’s staying at one of the hotels that have suites. You know, the kind for, like, extended stays or something.”
“How long is he staying?”
A shrug. “Don’t know. I’m meeting him for dinner tonight. You should come.”
I laughed and immediately regretted it. The laugh hurt. “I’ll pass. Thanks.”
Lori rolled her eyes as she carved out a slice. “That’s not nice.”
Walking again, I ignored that comment. “How does he afford to stay in a hotel? That’s got to get expensive.”
“He’s doing okay,” she replied. “And he’s been saving up money. You’d know that if you actually talked to him.”
“Oh, so he’s doing well enough to afford to stay in a hotel for an extended time?” Irritated, I stopped at the fridge and grabbed a soda. “That’s swell.”
Lori popped the final piece of orange in her mouth and looked at me. “And Mom isn’t doing that bad either.”
“It hasn’t been easy,” I shot back. “You know that.”
I walked into the living room and turned on the TV. Easing down on the couch, I started flipping through the channels. Lori followed me into the living room, but before she could sit, there was a knock on the front door.
“I’ll get it.” She pivoted and disappeared into the small foyer.
It couldn’t be Sebastian. He’d come over every night—Every. Night.—since Monday, but he should still be at football practice. Every. Night.
“She’s in here,” I heard Lori say.
A second later, Dary came through the archway into the living room. “Hey.” She waved. “I’m bored.”
My lips twitched into a small grin that felt weird, and I realized that I hadn’t smiled since...since that Saturday night. “So you decided to come over?”
“Yep.” She sat down in the armchair. “I’m so bored I thought I’d come over and—” she squinted at the TV “—watch the Battle of Antietam with you.”
Lori snorted as she sat down on the couch. “You’re gonna wish you stayed home.”
“Not likely.” Dary curled her legs under her. “Mom wants to organize closets. You might think I’m exaggerating, but no, I’m not. She was waiting with a list when I got home. So, I lied and told her that I had to help you with schoolwork. I walked over here, which, by the way, why is it so damn hot in September?”
“Global warming.” Lori picked up the remote and muted the TV. “Where’s Abbi?”
I winced. Abbi had stopped by only once since Monday, on Wednesday. She hadn’t stayed long, leaving Dary here. She hadn’t texted or called.
“She’s with her parents,” Dary said. “They’re doing something today.”
I said nothing to that because I knew it was a lie. Her mom always worked Saturdays at the hospital, and the way things had been going for her parents, I doubted they were having a family day.
The banana I ate earlier soured in my stomach. Abbi didn’t want to see me and there were so many reasons why she probably felt that way. I couldn’t blame her for any of them.
“Are you starting school on Monday or Tuesday?” Dary asked.
“I saw the doc yesterday. He wants me to come back in Monday morning, and if everything checks out fine like he thinks, I’ll start on Tuesday.”
Dary ran her hand through her short hair. “I bet you’re ready to get back to school.”
“Not really,” I murmured. A ball of dread formed.
She frowned. “Really? I’d be going stir-crazy by now and you actually like school.”
I was going a little stir-crazy and I did like school, but school meant I had to face everyone and—
“Everyone is excited to see you,” Dary said, obviously reading my hesitation. “So many people have been asking how you’re doing. A lot of people have been thinking about you.”
I took a sip of my soda as I thought about that card Sebastian had brought me. It was still on my desk, in its brown bag. “It just won’t... It won’t feel the same without them there.” I admitted a tiny truth of what I’d been thinking. Just like I had with Sebastian on Monday night, telling him I didn’t want to go back to school.
Dary lowered her gaze and her shoulders rose with a deep breath. “It’s not. It’s really not, but...it’s getting easier.”
She drew in another breath, and when she spoke, her voice shook. “Anyway, are you caught up on schoolwork?”
Welcoming the change of subject, I relaxed. “Pretty much. It’s just mostly reading assignments and quick worksheets.”
“That’s good. At least you don’t have to be overwhelmed with trying to get caught up.” She rested her elbow on the arm of the chair. “So how are things going with Sebastian?”
Lori snorted yet again. “He practically lives here now.”
I shot her a dark look. “No, he doesn’t.”
“I thought it was bad before,” my sister continued, ignoring me. “Like having a damn brother in the house. But now he’s here all the time.”
“You’re not even here all the time,” I pointed out. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Isn’t it time for you to do your inhaler?” she quipped, grinning.
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t even know why you’re asking me how things are going with Sebastian.”
Dary was the one to make the piglet noise now. “Come on, Lena. Just because I wasn’t home for a week doesn’t mean I don’t know about the kiss and the argument at the...” She stopped for a second, and I stiffened. She recovered with a shake of her head. “Abbi filled me in.”
It was probably a good thing that Abbi wasn’t here, because I sort of wanted to smack her upside the back of the head.
“Wait.” Lori sat forward, staring at me. “You kissed Sebastian?”
I opened my mouth.
“Yeah,” Dary answered for me. “At the lake, supposedly.”
“About damn time.” Lori sat back, grinning. “Oh my God, wait until I see him again. I’m so—”
“Don’t say anything to him. Please, Lori. It was a... I don’t know. It wasn’t supposed to happen. He didn’t kiss me. It was just a random thing that kind of happened—”
“Kissing someone is not something that just happens, you know.” Lori tilted her head to the side. “Pretty sure you know that.”
“Abbi said you two kind of got into it after he threw you in the pool or something? You were supposed to tell her about it later.” Dary planted her cheek on her fist. “What did you guys get into it about? And come on, I know you admitted to Abbi and...and Megan that you like him like him, and we all already knew that.”
“Nothing really.” I sighed, eyeing the room for an escape. It felt weird, wrong even, talking about Sebastian after what had happened. But both of them were staring at me and waiting like it didn’t feel weird to them at all. “When he threw me in the pool, I thought he was going to kiss me. I got mad and walked away. I was talking to...to Cody,” I said, losing my breath at the sharp slice of pain in my chest. “And he came up, and I don’t even know how we started arguing. He said something. I said something back, and then I admitted that I thought he was going to kiss me, but then Skylar came over, and I walked away.”