She looked up at the fat clouds and gave a shake of her head. “Let me ask you a question.”


“What’s going on with you and him?” She jerked her chin in Sebastian’s direction.

“Nothing,” I answered quickly. “He’s just helping me out.”

“Really? That’s what you’re going to say?” Her hand tightened on the strap of her bag. “Because I know he’s not just helping you out.”


“He told Skylar that he was into you,” she interrupted, dark eyes hard.

I blinked. “He said what?”

“Skylar told Daniela that he admitted to liking you and that is why they broke up last spring,” she explained, shifting her weight from one foot to the next. “That he wasn’t getting back with her, because he couldn’t do that when he had feelings for you. So are you telling me that you have no idea? After all this time you’ve been obsessed with him on the down low, you don’t know he feels this way about you? That he hasn’t been up front with you?”

“I...” I stepped back, my gaze finding Sebastian. He was tossing my bag in the back seat.

“I cannot believe you wouldn’t tell me about that, especially since I know how you’ve felt about him. How upset you were when you kissed him and he seemed like he wasn’t interested in that,” she said, her voice cracking slightly. “I’m one of your closest friends and I’m still here. I’m still alive and you haven’t told me about this—about something that I know is important.”


Oh my God. My entire body jerked. I had not expected the conversation to be about this. “I just didn’t want to talk about it. I mean, I did. I wanted to call you and Dary the moment Sebastian told me how he felt, but I haven’t really been able to process it. What he said came out of nowhere and I don’t even know if he really feels that way or if it’s because of...because of everything that happened,” I admitted in a rush. “And after what happened, it doesn’t feel right talking about Sebastian like nothing happened.”

“That’s the thing, Lena. What happened didn’t just happen to you. Yeah, you were in that car, and God only knows what you saw and went through. I have no idea. You know why? Because you won’t talk to me about it. You won’t talk to Dary—”

“I just came back to school.” I swallowed against the feeling of razors in my throat. “It’s only been—”

“It’s been two weeks and three days since the accident. I know,” Abbi shot back, her chest rising and falling heavily. “I know exactly how many days since Megan, Cody, Phillip and Chris have died. I know exactly how many days have passed since I thought you were going to die, too.”

I sucked in a sharp breath. “Abbi—”

Her voice wavered as she said, “Do you realize that? That all of us thought you were also dead in that car? Or that you were going to die like Cody had in the hospital? That me and Dary and Sebastian—” she flung her arm out in his direction “—believed that? And then, when we find out you’re alive, we hear you don’t even want to see us?”

Tears blurred my eyes. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, having no idea what else to say. “I’m sorry. My head... It’s just—”

Abbi held up her hand. “A part of me can even look past you not wanting to talk. Can even understand your reluctance to talk about normal things. And I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be a bitch. I get that you’ve been through a lot. So have I. So have Dary and Sebastian and Keith and everyone at this damn school, but what I don’t—” She closed her hand into a fist and looked skyward, counting to five under her breath. “What I don’t understand is how you got in that car, Lena. How Cody could be that drunk and you still got into that car. You weren’t drunk. I was with you right before you left and you weren’t drunk, but you still got into that car and you let Cody drive.”

I drew back as if I’d been smacked. I didn’t know what to say at first and then the shock gave way to anger—red, burning-hot anger that erupted inside me like a volcano. “You and Megan got in the car with Chris and came to that party and you all thought he was messed up. You—”

“We thought he was on something. We didn’t know definitely,” she said, nostrils flaring. “And he didn’t drive off the road and kill four people, did he? No.”

My mouth dropped open. How could I respond to that? She was right, but it was also so damn wrong, because she was lucky—so lucky—that she was standing where she was and I was existing where I was.

“Hey, is everything okay here?” Sebastian appeared at our sides. His hand landed on the small of my back as his gaze focused on Abbi. His jaw was hard, stare unflinching.

“Yeah.” Abbi breathed in deeply. “Everything is fine. I’ll see you guys later.”

Shoulders tensed, I watched her wheel around and stalk off toward where she was parked. Abbi had lied.

Nothing was fine.

* * *

When I got home, my phone was ringing from my backpack. I slipped the bag around, dug out the phone and saw that it was Dad.

“No way,” I murmured, silencing the call. I didn’t have the brainpower for that.

I dragged myself upstairs and spent the next hour or so working on homework, which meant I didn’t get a lot done, because all I could think about was what Abbi and Dr. Perry had said. When Mom came home, I forced myself to go downstairs. She was just putting her purse on the table when I shuffled into the kitchen.

“How was school?”

“Okay.” I sat down at the table. “Would’ve been better if I had a heads-up about having to meet with a psychologist at school.”

Mom stripped off her blazer. “I didn’t mention that because I had a feeling you’d get upset and I didn’t want you to feel that way before you went back. Today was tough enough.”

“I wish you’d told me so I would’ve been prepared.”

She came around the table and sat in the chair beside me. “The school contacted me last week about the grief counselors, and I thought it was a good idea.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” I muttered.

Mom smiled faintly. “There are things you need to talk about that I wish you’d talk about with me but might be easier with someone else.” She paused. “At least that is what Dr. Perry said.”

Rubbing my brow, I closed my eyes. “Did you... Did you tell him what we talked about with the police?”

“I told him everything he needed to know,” she answered. Her fingers folded over my left hand. “Everything you need to talk about.”

I jerked my arm back and stood, latching on to the surge of anger I’d felt earlier when I spoke to Abbi. “I don’t want to talk about it. Why doesn’t anyone understand that? Respect that?”

Mom looked up at me. “Because respect doesn’t always mean doing what is right.”

“What?” I spun around and grabbed my bag. “That doesn’t even make sense.” Turning away, I headed for the stairs in the hall, prepared to stomp my way all the way upstairs. “That really makes no sense whatsoever.”


I didn’t want to stop, but I did at the bottom of the stairs. “What?”

“I’m not mad at you.”

My spine locked up.

Mom stood under the archway. The thin, well-worn blue blouse stretched at her shoulders as she crossed her arms. I thought about what Lori said about Mom doing okay since Dad left. If that were so true, then she’d be able to afford a new shirt even though she took extreme care of the old ones.

“I was angry at first. Relieved that you were alive and going to be okay, but angry because you made a bad decision. But I’m no longer angry. I’m upset because of what has happened and what you’ve had to go through, but I’m not mad at you.”

Staring at her, I couldn’t believe she was saying that. How could she not be mad?

She drew in a deep breath. “I just want you to know that. I think you need to know that.”