“Yeah, that sounds good. Text me the time later, and I’ll be there. And you’re getting a red dress, Tate.” She pointed her electric blue finger nail at me and smirked. This was an old argument. She thought blondes rocked it in red, whereas I thought I looked best in black.
“Oh, yeah?” I challenged.
“You’ll see,” she chirped as if she’d already won our impending argument.
Shifting into neutral and pulling up the e-brake, I turned down Five Finger Death Punch on the radio and asked, “Did you know Liam was going to be here?”
She looked ahead of her outside the window at his Camaro. “Yeah. He’s invited for dinner tonight before we head to the race. My parents don’t really know what went down between us. Just that we had an argument and split up for a while. If they knew—“
“Yeah,” I cut her off. I could only imagine Sgt. Carter’s reaction.
“Alright.” She opened the door and climbed out. “Text me later, okay?”
“Sure. See you later,” I called out as she slammed the door to my dad’s Bronco.
The drive home took less than two minutes. A few twists and turns, and I was in my own driveway pulling into the garage. I took note that Jared’s car was parked inside his garage before I noticed him and two other guys crowded under the hood.
Ignoring the tingling that started in my belly and drifted downward, I stomped into the house with a heavy sigh.
Spending the rest of the evening tied up in any menial activity I could think of, I passed the time waiting to hear the rumble of Jared’s engine as it left for the Benson farm. I’d already swept and vacuumed, finished the laundry, and eaten dinner. I was about to go defrag my hard drive when the vibrations of Jared’s Boss caused me to jump.
My bare feet got rug burned as I leaped up my stairs. I looked out my French doors to see his car peeling out of the driveway. The black machine raced down the street, and my heart started thumping with what I was about to do.
His house was dark, so I assumed his mother was already at her boyfriend’s for the weekend.
I climbed out of the doors and through the tree, using my bare feet to clutch the branches. I swayed with the déjà vu flooding me. It’d been a long time since I’d made this trip.
My body weight had increased over the past three years. Branches creaked, and I hurried to his window, since there was no longer much density with the leaves. Most of them had already fallen for the upcoming winter, and I was sure to be seen from the street if I lingered too long.
Clutching his window sill with my fingers, my nails chipped the white paint as my muscles strained to work the window up.
Yes! It’s unlocked.
Pushing myself over the edge, I swung a leg over and crawled through the window. Rising to my feet, I let my eyes adjust to the near pitch darkness of the room. My pulse pounded so hard in my ears that I thought they’d bleed, and I was shaking with nervousness. I left the window open just in case I needed a quick escape.
Taking a survey of the room, I noticed he’d changed the furniture around since I’d last been in here. The room seemed clean, but it was messy. Clothes were strewn across the floor and on the bed. The top of his dresser was two inches deep in random junk, money, and receipts. The walls were still painted a midnight blue, though.
When he was younger, his mom had decorated the room in a nautical theme. From the looks of it, he’d tossed all the boat and lighthouse dÃ©cor. Now, the walls boasted some posters of bands and flyers for events coming up in the area.
I started tiptoeing around, but stopped short. Why am being quiet? No one’s home. Perhaps I was feeling a guilty.The little angel in my head whispered its disapproval at my dishonest snooping. But the little devil screamed its urgency.
I walked to his closet, and threw open the wooden doors. Anything of interest would probably be hidden in here. I still wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but at this point, I was interested in anything that would give me insight into his life now.
I closed my eyes at the sudden rush of Jared’s scent. Wind, rain, and man. I briefly ran my fingers over his shirt sleeves and sweatshirts before bending down to look for anything of consequence on the floor.
Shoes cluttered the bottom of the closest and a couple of shoe boxes filled with pictures. As I sifted through the boxes, running into pictures of Jared as a child, I realized not a single picture of me was among them. That’s not right. Jared and I were joined at the hip for four years before our fallout, and there had been pictures. Lots of them. I still had some. Had he gotten rid of his?
Placing everything back the way I found it, I closed the closet with more force than needed and spun around. Jared’s chest of drawers sat across the room, so I walked over and started sifting through the gas station receipts crumpled up on top. I noticed several were from Crest Hill, about an hour from our suburb of Chicago. Crest Hill? What would he be doing there?
A search of the drawers revealed nothing, so I walked to his bed and knelt down to peer underneath.
Jackpot! I drew out a shallow box with no lid that was stuffed with file folders and papers. Heaving it into my arms, I placed it on my lap as I sat down on his bed.
Once upon a time, it wasn’t at all weird to be in Jared’s room, but now it was like being inside a theme park after hours: wrong, but fascinating.
Inside the box, I picked through several things, each more intriguing than the last. There was a legal document from Jared’s grandfather. He left Jared a lake house in Wisconsin, a piece of shit from the looks of the pictures, too. But the land was beautiful. Several more receipts revealed months of trips to Crest Hill spanning the past year. A court order for Jared to appear in municipal court for assault was dated shortly after I’d left for France. More receipts for meals and hotel rooms were thrown haphazardly in the box, and as I dug deeper, my hand grasped a thick, smooth folder at the bottom of the box.