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Her tears and histrionics somehow keep me from finishing that thought: that she will spend the rest of her days alone. “No, I’m not wrong. But what I am is leaving. Tessa’s car is still around school somewhere, so I’ll bring it back tomorrow unless you want to make the drive yourself.”

Carol wipes at her eyes. “Fine, bring the car. At five tomorrow.” She looks up at me through bloodshot eyes and smeared mascara. “That doesn’t change anything. I’ll never like you.”

“And I’ll never care if you do.” I walk toward the front door, momentarily debating whether I should go back down the hallway, get Tessa, and bring her with me.

“Hardin, despite the way I feel toward you, I do know that you love my daughter. I just want to remind you again that if you love her—truly love her—you will stop interfering in her life. She’s not the same girl that I dropped off at that devil school half a year ago.”

“I know.” As much as I hate this woman, I feel pity for her, because, like me, she’ll probably be alone for the rest of her miserable life. “Can you do me a favor?” I ask.

She eyes me suspiciously. “What would that be?”

“Don’t tell her that I was here. If she doesn’t remember, don’t tell her.” Tessa is so out of it she probably won’t remember a thing. I don’t think she even knows that I’m here now.

Carol looks at me, looks through me, and nods. “That I can do.”

Chapter sixty-four


My head is heavy, so heavy, and the light shining through the yellow curtains is bright, too bright.

Yellow curtains? I reopen my eyes to find the familiar yellow curtains of my old bedroom covering the windows. Those curtains always drove us both crazy, but my mother couldn’t afford to buy a matching set, so we learned to live with them. And the last twelve hours come flooding back in pieces, broken and jumbled memories that make little sense to me.

Nothing makes sense. It takes seconds, minutes maybe, for my mind to even attempt to comprehend what happened.

Steph’s betrayal is my strongest memory from the night, one of the most painful memories I have ever had to experience. How could she do that to me? To anyone? The whole situation is just so wrong, so twisted, and I never saw it coming. I remember the strong sense of relief I felt when she walked into the room, only to slip back into a panic when she admitted she had never been a friend to me after all. Her voice was so clear, despite the state I was in. She put something in my drink to slow me down, or worse, to make me pass out—all so she could get some sort of unwarranted revenge on me and Hardin. I was so afraid last night, and she went from being my safety to being a predator so quickly that I could barely comprehend the shift.

I was drugged, at a party by someone who I thought was my friend. The reality of this hits me hard, and I swipe angrily at the tears soaking my cheeks.

Humiliation replaces the sting of betrayal when I remember Dan and his camera. They took off my dress . . . the small red camera light in the dim room is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. They wanted to violate me, tape it, and show it to an audience. I hold my stomach, hoping to not get sick, again.

Every single time I think I may get a break from the constant battle that has become my life, something worse happens. And I keep putting myself in these situations. Steph, of all people? I still can’t grasp it. If her reasoning was true, if she did it only because she doesn’t like me and she has a thing for Hardin, why didn’t she just tell me in the first place? Why did she pretend to be my friend all this time only to set me up? How could she smile in my face and go shopping with me, listen to my secrets and share my worries, only to be planning something like this behind my back?

I sit up slowly, and it’s still too fast. My pulse is pounding behind my ears, and I want to rush to the bathroom and force myself to throw up, in case any of the drug remains in my stomach. I don’t, though, and instead close my eyes again.

When I wake up again, my head is a little lighter, and I manage to get out of my childhood bed. I don’t have any pants on, only a small T-shirt that I don’t remember putting on in the first place. My mother must have dressed me . . . but that doesn’t seem likely.

The only pajama pants left in my old dresser are uncomfortably tight and too short. I have gained weight since I left for college, but I feel more confortable and confident in my body . . . more now than I ever felt before.

I wobble out of the bedroom, down the hallway, and to the kitchen, where I find my mother leaning against the counter, reading a magazine. Her black dress is smooth and lint-free, her matching heels are high, and her hair is curled into perfect, classic waves. When I glance at the clock on the stove, I see that it’s a bit past four in the afternoon.

“How are you feeling?” my mother asks timidly as she turns to face me.

“Terrible,” I groan, unable to put on a friendly, much less a brave face.

“I’d imagine, after the night you had.”

Here we go . . .

“Have some coffee and some Advil; you’ll feel better.”

I nod slowly and walk over to the cabinet to grab a coffee mug.

“I have church this evening; I assume you won’t be coming along? You missed the morning service,” she says in a flat voice.

“No, I’m in no shape to be in church right now.” Only my mother would ask me to go to church with her when I just woke up after sleeping off a date-rape drug.

She grabs her handbag from the kitchen table, then turns back to me. “Okay, I’ll tell Noah and Mr. and Mrs. Porter you said hello. I’ll be home around eight, maybe shortly after.”

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