“Hey,” I greeted K.C. timidly when she picked up.
“Hey.” Her voice sounded curt.
I took a deep breath and let out a sigh. “So, I hope I can cash in a Get Out of Jail Free card. I’m sorry I said what I said today.”
She was silent for few moments as I nervously drifted around my room.
“You acted like a dick,” she mumbled.
I almost laughed. Well, she was talking to me at least.
“I know. He has nothing to do with me anymore. If he’s what you want, then I can grow up and get over it.”
“Apology accepted.” I could hear the smile in her voice.
“Alright. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m off to dinner with Grandma.” I could hear her mother calling her in the background anyway.
“Have fun. And I love you, Tate,” she said sweetly.
“Love ya, too. Later.”
We hung up, and I already felt better. Thank goodness that was done. Now, if I was lucky, I’d only have to endure minimal meetings with Jared. If I was really unlucky, though, he’d make all of K.C.’s and my outings into threesomes.
I also still felt like slapping my friend a little. But, at least, I’d let go of my bitterness about Jared. If she wanted to rebound with him, then that was on her. I was tired of making a problem where there wasn’t one, and to save myself some stress, I decided to mind my own business. She knew how I felt, and I knew she wouldn’t betray my trust. That’s all I needed.
I practically danced down the stairs, feeling like the hippo that’d been sitting on my chest decided to finally move on.
“Well, you seem like you’re in a good mood.” Grandma’s eyes followed my movements. “School was good today?”
“Yeah, actually. It was great.” Leting Jared know how much I’d been hurt by him let the frustration out. I no longer felt buried under his actions and my struggle to maintain a faÃ§ade.
“Good. What are you in the mood for? Judging from your jeans, I guess O’Shea’s is out.” Her flat tone showed disappointment. O’Shea’s was her favorite restaurant in our less than diverse town.
“How about Mario’s?” I asked as I sat down to tie my shoes. I loved their pasta with basil and olive oil. The old couple that ran the restaurant was sweet and inviting, and my parents went on their first date there.
“Sure. Sounds good.” She grabbed her purse, and I snatched her keys. I always had to drive unless the situation didn’t allow it. Everywhere felt like forever to get to unless I was in control of the vehicle. Luckily, the adults in my life were indulgent.
As she stopped to fluff her hair and button her blazer in front of the mirror by the door, I slipped my arms through my cardigan and hooked my purse strap over my head.
“Gram? While we’re out, do you mind if we circle some lots, so I can check out some cars after dinner?” Finding a car hadn’t been on my mind in weeks, but the idea spilled out of my mouth like it had been on the tip of my tongue all day.
I couldn’t pretend that I needed the car to get around. After all, I had my dad’s Bronco. The control I’d asserted today was like slipping into new skin. Everything felt warm, delicious, and possible. Getting a car of my own was another dose of control, straight to the vein.
Grandma narrowed her blue eyes at me through the mirror. “Does your dad know you want to get a car?”
“Yeah, but I’m just looking right now, anyway.”
“You won’t want a car in New York City, honey,” she asserted, turning around to open the door.
“Is it okay if we just look? After all, I might still like a car when I come home for vacations.” I followed her out.
Turning to lock up the house, she nodded. “Sure, I don’t see any harm in looking.”
After a much-needed night out and light-hearted conversation with my grandma, I’d come home feeling calmer than I had in weeks.
I sat back on my bed, reading one of Chelsea Cain’s thrillers, when I heard yelping coming from outside.
My French doors had been open a crack, so I could hear the rain. The light drizzle that started when Grandma and I got home was coming down in buckets now. Swinging one of the doors open, I leaned outside and listened.
The barking was consistent, distressed…and close.
As I peered down into Jared’s yards, I didn’t see any lights or sign of the little dog. The whole house looked quiet and dark. It was after eleven, so he and his mom must be asleep or still gone for the night.
Slipping on my Chucks, I walked down the stairs, taking a moment to check that my grandma’s bedroom light was off. Once at the front door, I switched on my porch light and walked outside.
Shit! It was raining.
How had I forgotten that in the three seconds it took me to get downstairs? Thank goodness for the covered porch. Hugging myself, I walked to the edge nearest Jared’s house and took another look. I put my hand to my mouth to stifle a small gasp at the sight of Madman whining and clawing at the front door. He was soaking wet, and I could tell from here that he was shivering. Luckily, he had a small awning protecting him from the thunderous downpour.
Without a second thought, I dived out into the storm and ran across our yards to Jared’s small front stoop. I only wore my sleep shorts and a tank top, so, like Madman, I was now shaking with the cold rain splattered on my bare legs and arms.
“Hey, buddy. How’d you get out here?” I bent down to pet his head, and he licked my hand excitedly. “Where’s Jared, huh?”