“You’d be a basic bitch.” Megan gave me a cheeky grin.
I pressed my hand to my heart. “Ouch.”
“I’ve got to go.” She wiggled her fingers. “Text ya later.”
Then she flounced out of the room. Literally. Head back, arms flailing and prancing like a show horse.
* * *
“Talk about basic.” Abbi shook her head as she stared at the empty doorway.
“I will never understand her fascination with my singleness.” I looked at Abbi. “Like, at all.”
“Who knows with her.” Abbi paused. “So... I think my mom is screwing around on my dad.”
My jaw dropped. “Wait, what?”
Abbi stood and planted her hands on her hips. “Yeah. You heard me right.”
For a moment I didn’t know what to say and it took a couple of seconds to get my tongue to work. “Why do you think that?”
“Remember how I was telling you that her and Dad had been arguing more lately?” She walked over to the window that overlooked the backyard. “They try to keep it quiet so my brother and I don’t hear it, but it’s been getting pretty heated and Kobe is having nightmares now.”
Abbi’s brother was only five or six years old. Rough.
“I think they’ve been fighting over her working so late at the hospital and, you know, why she’s working so late. And I mean late, Lena. Like, how often are there call-ins that make other nurses stay? Is my dad that stupid?” She turned from the window, came back over to the bed and plopped down on the edge. “I was still up when she came home Wednesday night, four hours after her shift would’ve ended, and she looked a hot mess. Her hair was sticking up in every direction, clothes all wrinkled like she rolled out of someone’s bed and came home.”
My chest squeezed. “Maybe it was just a rough night at work for her.”
She shot me a bland look. “She smelled like cologne, and not the kind my dad wears.”
“That’s not...good.” I leaned forward in the chair. “Did she say anything to you when you saw her?”
“See, that’s the thing. She looked guilty. Wouldn’t look me in the eye. Couldn’t get out of the kitchen quick enough, and the first thing she did when she got upstairs was shower. And the whole showering thing might not be abnormal, but when you add all of that together...”
“Damn. I don’t know what to say,” I admitted, twisting my shorts in my hands. “Are you going to say anything?”
“What would I say? ‘Oh, hey, Dad, I think Mom is slutting around on you, so you might want to check on that’? I don’t see that ending well. And what if, by a snowball’s chance in hell, I’m wrong?”
I cringed. “Good point.”
She rubbed her hands over her thighs. “I don’t know what happened between them. They were happy up until about a year ago and it’s just all gone to shit.” Pushing her curls out of her face, she shook her head. “I just needed to tell someone.”
I toed my chair closer to her. “Understandable.”
A brief smile appeared. “Can we change the subject? I really don’t want to deal with this longer than five minutes at a time.”
“Sure.” I got that more than anyone else. “Whatever you want.”
She drew in a deep breath and then seemed to shake out all those thoughts. “So... Sebastian came home early.”
That wasn’t necessarily the conversation I wanted to go back to, but if Abbi wanted to use me as a distraction, I could be that for her. I shrugged and let my head fall back at the same moment my stupid heart did a giddy little flip.
“Were you happy to see him?” she asked.
“Sure,” I replied, going for my usual bored tone when talking about Sebastian.
“Where’s he at now?”
“At the school. They’ve got a scrimmage game tonight. He’s not playing, but they’ve probably got him practicing.”
“You’re working this weekend?” she asked.
“Yeah, but this is my last weekend for a while, since school starts. Why? You want to do something?”
“Of course. Better than being stuck on babysitting duty at home and listening to my parents bitching at one another.” Abbi nudged my leg with her sandaled foot. “You know, I hate to even point this out, but do you think Skylar might’ve had a point asking—”
“About me and Sebastian? No. What? That’s stupid.”
A doubtful look crossed her face. “You don’t love Sebastian at all?”
My heart started pounding in my chest. “Of course I love him. I love you and Dary, too. I even love Megan.”
“But you didn’t love Andre—”
“No. I didn’t.” Closing my eyes, I thought about my ex even though I really didn’t want to. We’d dated almost all last year, and Abbi was right: Andre was awesome and nice, and I felt like a jerk for ending things with him. But I tried, really tried, even by taking it to the next level—the level—but my interest just wasn’t there. “It wasn’t working out.”
She was quiet for a moment. “You know what I think?”
I let my arms fall to my sides. “Something wise and sage?”
“Those two words mean the same thing, idiot.” She kicked my leg again. “If you’re not being entirely honest with yourself about Sebastian, then applying to UVA is a smart idea.”
“What does he have to do with UVA?”
She tilted her head to the side. “Are you saying it’s a coincidence that the one school that’s not high on his list is the one school you’re gunning for?”
Stunned into silence, I wasn’t sure what to say. Abbi had never insinuated that I was interested in Sebastian beyond being friends before. I was confident I’d kept that embarrassing yearning desire well hidden, but obviously not as well as I believed. First Skylar, who really didn’t know me, and now Abbi, who did?
“UVA is an awesome school and has an amazing anthropology department.” I opened my eyes and my gaze fixed on the cracked plaster of the ceiling.
Abbi’s voice softened. “You’re not...hiding again, are you?”
The back of my throat burned as I pressed my lips together. I knew what she was talking about, and it had nothing to do with Sebastian. It had everything to do with the missed call earlier. “No,” I told her. “I’m not.”
She was quiet for a moment and then said, “Are you really going to wear those shorts to work? You look like a low-rent Daisy Duke in them.”
* * *
At Keith’s. You coming out?
The text from Sebastian came just as I was pulling into my driveway after my Friday shift. While I normally didn’t pass up an opportunity to hang with Sebastian, I was feeling a little weird after the whole conversation with Abbi. Plus I was exhausted, so I was ready to climb under the covers and lose myself for a little while in a book.
Staying in tonight, I texted back.
He promptly replied with the smiling poop emoticon.
Grinning, I replied with Turd.
The triple dots appeared and then, You going to be up later?
Maybe. I climbed out of the car and headed toward the front door.
Then maybe I’ll swing by.
My stomach dipped as it twisted. I knew what that meant. Sometimes Sebastian snuck over really late, usually when something was going down at home he didn’t want to deal with...that something usually being his dad.
And I knew, I knew deep down, that even with all the years he’d been dating Skylar, he’d never done that with her. When something was troubling him, he sought me out, and I knew I shouldn’t have been thrilled about that, but I was. And I held that knowledge close to my heart.
I followed the low hum of the TV, passing through the small entry room that was overflowing with umbrellas and sneakers and the small table piled with unopened mail.
The glow of the TV cast soft, flickering light over the couch. Mom was curled up on her side, one hand shoved under a throw pillow. She was out cold.
Stepping around the love seat, I grabbed the afghan off the back of the couch and carefully draped it over Mom. As I straightened, I thought about what Abbi had told me earlier. I had no idea if her mom was cheating on her dad, but I thought about my mom and how she would’ve never cheated on Dad. The mere thought almost made me laugh, because she loved him like the sea loved the sand. He’d been her universe, her sun that rose in the morning and the moon that took over the night sky. She loved Lori and me, but she had loved Dad more.