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He nodded, becoming closed off again. “She wants us to stay with her before she moves to L.A. permanently.”
“Mom’s already there. She’s going to stay there the whole time now?”
He frowned. “She hadn’t told you?”
“No.” She always told me things first.
Logan shrugged. “She’s been calling me a lot lately. I don’t know why, but yeah, I'm giving you a heads up.”
Even the thought of Mom wanting us to stay with her brought the old weight back on my shoulders. Our dad would fight that. Things were tense at home anyway, but it would get worse.
Hearing the concern in his voice, I flashed him a grin and shoved all that shit down. Fuck it. I didn’t give a damn what happened. “Yeah.”
“You okay?”
“I’m fine.” I nodded at him. “You?”
We weren’t. Being at home was a nightmare. Dealing with our dad and his women, and now our mom wanted us to stay with her more often? The nightmare was going to get worse. I could feel it in my gut. I shook my head. I couldn’t worry about anyone else. Football. Logan. Me. That was all I could deal with. I was going to sit where I wanted. No one was going to control that. Marissa would be fine. Kate couldn’t do much to her anyway. I’d sit with them if I wanted, but glancing around the cafeteria and sensing the change in the air, I was tempted not to even come to the cafeteria anymore.
Life was just…hard sometimes.
Things didn’t get better. They got worse. I sat with Marissa a few more times at lunch and then stopped. Those times were a breather for me. Her friends didn’t have an agenda, but the tension in the cafeteria was always too much. After a while, one of her friends told me to stop.
“Paige,” Marissa hissed, “it’s not his fault.”
Her friend turned to her with a hard expression on her face. “He’s not stopping it either.”
“It’s that bad?”
Her friend snorted. “Look at her. She’s lost twenty pounds. She didn’t have twenty pounds to lose. She’s a stick.”
I gazed around and saw that Kate was acting normal. She and Tim had broken up, but she was already flirting with someone else. Then I glanced where Tate was sitting. She was watching Logan with a wistful look on her face. Fuck no. She couldn’t have him, not again. I didn’t know what to do to help Marissa, though. I didn’t know if I could do anything. They were girls. This was a girl fight. I asked her friend, “Did you talk to the principal or the counselor at all?”
“Yes.” Near hatred flashed in her gaze. “They can’t do anything unless there’s evidence. So far, we don’t have enough.”
“Mason, just go.” Marissa smiled at me. She wore a brave front. “I’ll be fine.”
She wasn’t. I stopped sitting with them after that, but it didn’t matter. Over the next few months, Marissa began to look unhealthy. She stopped coming to school towards the end of the year and when I heard she was transferring, I was relieved. Her friends blamed me. Paige told me when she passed me in the hallway one day. She held onto her books tightly and she glared at me. “Don’t call her. Don’t email her. Leave her alone. That’s the only thing you can do to help her.” She started to walk off, but turned back around immediately. “She’s going to email you. She’s going to try and keep a friendship with you, but if you really want what’s best for her, don’t answer any of those emails. Let her think you don’t care. Trust me. She’s better off that way.”
I stood there and took it. I deserved that. People were watching and somehow, because I didn’t handle her after being told off, that girl gained some credibility in school. I was glad. Nate told me that Marissa’s friends had become targets during the year as well, but Kate and her friends had backed off.
I asked him, “You’ve been hooking up with Parker this whole time?”
He grew guarded. “Was I not supposed to?”
I didn’t know. Most days I just wanted to get away from my dad. My phone buzzed then and I silenced it. When he saw it was my mom, he asked again, “Are you avoiding her?”
I shook my head. “I feel like I’m avoiding everyone right now.” Shit. The battles were coming. I felt it. My dad had stopped bringing women around, but I knew what that meant. There was one woman. I only hoped it wasn’t the one I remembered catching him with a long time ago. She was cold, but my gut told me we hadn’t heard the last from her.
“Yo.” Logan came over and held his fist up. Nate bumped it. My brother turned it to me and I gave him a look. He lowered it. “Right. So school’s over after tomorrow. What are we doing to celebrate?”
Tate headed down the hallway at that moment. As she saw our group, she paused, staring at Logan. His back was to her. Then she saw me watching and jerked her gaze away. She hurried down the hallway then, her little friends enveloping her on both sides as they walked away.
I asked Nate, “Do you know if Parker’s said anything about them going after Tate?”
He frowned.
Logan stiffened, but didn’t say anything.
Nate scratched his head. “I think there was a truce called for a while. Why?”
I met Logan’s gaze and a look passed between us. He was still hurting. Whether he admitted it or not. I knew he was and we both remembered what he asked me to do that night. Even if he forgave her, he still wanted her to hurt. He looked away, his lips pressing together.
Tate had suffered, but she broke him. She needed to suffer more.
There was a party at Fischer’s cabin again. We drove ourselves this time. As I pulled up and got out, I waited at the front of my Escalade. The cabin was lit up. People were everywhere. We could hear girls shrieking, like always. Guys were laughing. There were people drunk on the front lawn and I heard a moan from a car around us. As Logan circled the front of the Escalade to stand beside me, he flashed me a grin. “Another year.”
I nodded. “Another year.” It was a shitty year, too. “Let’s hope next year’s better.”
He laughed. “Nate coming with Parker?”
“Yeah.” I didn’t want to go in there. I frowned to myself. “Why don’t I want to go in there?”