I’ve timed my exit perfectly to avoid being questioned by Private Investigator Keith Mars, a.k.a. my dad. As former sheriff, he’s a formidable adversary, and I did get home well after midnight. I shoulder my school bag and ease my bedroom door silently shut. I, too, am formidable.
I tiptoe past his bedroom and make for the front door, but I can’t help slowing long enough to grab one of the slices of cinnamon toast he’s left out on the counter. That’s when Dad leans out into the hall and smiles. Damn it. So close.
“Late night last night?”
I go for the classic: Don’t lie, don’t elaborate, don’t stick around for more questions. “Which is why I though I’d offset with an early morning.” I kiss him on the cheek. He sighs, momentarily subdued.
Gotta run. I hitch my bag up on my shoulder and turn toward the door again. But before I can make my escape…
“A lot of late nights this week, actually, I notice. And early mornings. Something you’re not telling me?”
How to answer this one? I shrug.
“Just a big English assignment Wallace and I have been working on.”
“Joint presentation on symbolism and subtext in Oedipus Rex. We’re thinking of calling it ‘Would it kill you to call your mother?’”
He eyes me suspiciously. What, so now I’m not funny?
“Well, I’m glad to see you taking an interest in your academics,” he says finally.
Is that it? Is it over?
“Thanks for the toast.” I smile, waving it.
He nods. I stuff my breakfast into my mouth and open the door.
“You and Wallace have fun on that project!”
“Mmm-hmm!” I manage, mouth full, and I’m gone, walking away from the apartment. So why can I still feel my dad’s dubious stare on my back?
At our lockers, Wallace and I unload our homework and grab up the books we need for first period. The halls are still half-empty.
“So where you been all week? You’ve been impossible to get ahold of,” Wallace starts in. Hello to you, too, Wallace.
Okay, so possibly what I told my dad about where I’ve been lately wasn’t totally, completely true.
I shrug. “Around.”
“I left you three messages yesterday.”
“Just… Busy with school. You know.” And possibly I might also not be letting Wallace in on the total, complete truth in this area.
Wallace looks… a little pissed. “Too busy for your best friend, apparently.” Crap. Okay. I can turn this around. I’ll just turn on the charm.
I grin at him. “Now, Wallace, you know I’m never too busy for you.”
He grins back. Atta boy! See, we’re still buds. Which is good, because I should probably tell him he and I have been working on an imaginary English project all week, just in case his mom—inconveniently also my dad’s new girlfriend—asks.
“Okay. Good.” He rubs his hands together with glee. “I was hoping you’d say that because what I was calling for is to ask you if you want to go to midnight bowling with me on Friday at Bowl-a-Rama.” He grins from ear to ear, clearly jazzed. I sneak a subtle look at my watch. Not too busy for you in theory, that is. In practice, I’ve got somewhere to be right now.
“I know, I know. It sounds cheesy. But the thing about midnight bowl is it’s so cheesy, it’s not cheesy, know what I’m saying? They got these black lights all over the alley!” Oh, man. How to handle this? “Then, after midnight they—”
“Wallace, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. That sounds great, but right now I have to go.”
And now he’s pissed again. “I haven’t even told you about the disco ball yet!” Keeping secrets from the most important people in your life is complicated at best.
“It sounds beyond groovy. I’ll talk to you about it at lunch, okay?”
“School doesn’t even start for another ten minutes, Veronica.”
“I will see you at lunch. I promise.”
I’m not sure how much he’s buying it. He shakes his head. “Man.”
I feel like crap, letting Wallace down, but I don’t have time to think about it. I’ll have to do damage control later I decide as I rush away down the hall.
I hate keeping secrets from Wallace and my dad. I would tell them what’s going on. I would. I just… I don’t know how they’re going to feel about this particular secret. And how can I tell them and open myself up to whatever that reaction is going to be when I don’t even know how I feel myself?
I grab Logan’s hair, clamping his face against mine as he wraps his arms around me and presses into me so hard he nearly knocks me off my feet. Okay, so I know how I feel. I just don’t know how I feel about how I feel.
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