He continued, “I haven’t seen my phone in two days. I left it upstairs at Tori’s party when we were listening to music. When I remembered later, I went back to get it, but it was gone. Don’t you remember?”
I recalled him saying something about misplacing his phone that night, but we were all dancing, and it was loud. I must’ve forgotten.
I sucked in my cheeks and shook my head. No. He wasn’t getting out of this. His phone was pointed at the bed that night, exactly the position it needed to be in to record a video.
“You’re a liar,” I retorted.
While I couldn’t see his face, I felt him approach, and I couldn’t move. Why couldn’t I just get out of here?
“I called your dad, because he was going to find out anyway. That goddamn, f**king video is out there, and I wanted him to hear it from me first. He’s coming home.”
My shoulders sunk. My dad would be home sometime tomorrow then. The thought both warmed and scared me. The fallout from this prank—I hated to even call it that, because it was so much more—would be embarrassing for my father.
But I needed him right now. No matter what, I knew he loved me.
“I love you more than myself, more than my own family, for Christ’s sake. I don’t want to take another step in this world without you next to me,” he said softly.
His sweet words washed over me, but they were like a hand that was just out of reach. I could see it. I wanted to take it. But I couldn’t.
“Tate.” The weight of his hand fell on my shoulder, and I whipped around, flinging him off. Constant tears, anger, and weariness burned my eyes as I scalded him with my stare.
He ran a hand through his hair again, and I could see the worry lines on his forehead. “You have every right not to trust me, Tate. I know that. My f**king heart is ripping open tight now. I can’t stand the way you’re looking at me. I could never hurt you again. Please…let’s try to fix this together.” His voice cracked, and his eyes were red.
I told myself a hundred times today that he couldn’t be trusted. He was a liar. A bully. But his words were getting to me. He looked upset. Either he was a really good actor, or…he was telling the truth.
“Fine. I’ll play along.” I took out my phone and turned it back on.
He blinked, probably confused about my sudden change of attitude. “What are you doing?”
“Calling your mom.” I didn’t elaborate and dialed Katherine.
“Why,” he drawled out, still confused.
“Because she installed a GPS tracking app on your Android when she bought it. You said you lost your phone? Let’s find it.”
I let out a sigh and shook my head as soon as I hung up with her.
School. Not somewhere I wanted to go. Ever again.
“So?” Jared inched closer.
“School. It’s at school,” I muttered, studying the ground.
“Son of a bitch. She’s smarter than I thought.” Jared sounded almost impressed with his mother.
What did this mean? Maybe he left his phone at school and was trying to cover his ass. Maybe Madoc or one his pals had it, and they were covering for him. Or maybe it really was stolen.
I’d rather cut off my hair than face those people today. Or any day in the next hundred years. Eating squid or slamming my finger in a car door all sounded more appealing than braving those hallways. A few hours wasn’t nearly enough time for everyone to move on to new gossip. I’d be the talk of the town for a long time. How could I even be considering stepping foot back on school grounds today?
“I see that look in your eye.” Jared looked down at me and spoke gently. “It’s the look you get when you want to bolt. The look you get right before you decide to stay and fight.”
“What am I fighting for?” I challenged, my voice hoarse.
He frowned. “We did nothing wrong, Tate.”
He was right. I had nothing to be ashamed of. Granted, I hated that people had seen what they did, but I gave my heart and body to someone I loved. There was nothing dirty in that.
“Let’s go.” I walked to my truck and opened the door.
Jared had parked in front of me, and I cringed when I saw the damage I’d done to his car.
If he was, in fact, guilty, then screw him and his dumb car. But if he was innocent, then I didn’t even want to think about how mad my dad was going to be when he saw the bill for repairs.
“Is…um…is your car safe to drive?” I asked timidly.
A tired smile tugged at his lips. “Don’t sweat it. It gives me an excuse to do more upgrades.”
I filled my lungs with a deep breath, feeling like I’d been suffocated all day. The cool wind danced across my face and gave me a little more energy.
“Stop at your mom’s firm and pick up her phone. I’ll meet you at school.” And I climbed in the truck and sped off.
Everyone was still in their final period, so Jared and I walked silently through the halls without interruption.
“Is it still flashing?” I glanced over to his mom’s phone in his hand.
“Yeah. I can’t believe my phone is still on after two days. GPSs use a lot of battery.” He was looking around, but I wasn’t sure what for.
“Well, the video was sent this morning. If what you say is true, then whoever used your phone has probably charged it since Saturday night.”
“If what I say is true…” He repeated what I said in a whisper like he was aggravated I didn’t trust him.