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My mother was essentially a clone of my grandmother, only slightly less poised. She tried, though; my mother spends her days and nights trying to be as perfect as she remembers her own mother being.

Or, I suddenly think, as perfect as she imagines her being.

My father laughs. “In a way, yes, to piss them off. But your mother always wanted to be married. She practically dragged me to the altar.” He laughs again, and Hardin looks at me before laughing as well.

I scowl at him, knowing he’s concocting some snarky comment about me forcing him into marriage.

I turn back to my dad. “Were you against marriage?” I ask.

“No. I don’t remember, really; all I know is I was scared as hell to have a baby at nineteen.”

“And rightfully so. We can see how that worked out for you,” Hardin remarks.

I shoot him a glare, but my father only rolls his eyes at him.

“It’s not something I recommend, but there are a lot of young parents that can handle it.” He lifts his hands up in resignation. “I just wasn’t one of them.”

“Oh,” I say. I can’t imagine being a parent at my age.

He smiles, clearly open to giving me what answers he can. “Any more questions, Tessie?”

“No . . . I think that’s all,” I say. I don’t exactly feel comfortable around him, though in a strange way I feel more comfortable than I would if my mother were sitting here instead of him.

“If you think of any more, you can ask me. Until then, do you mind if I take another shower before dinner comes?”

“Of course not. Go ahead,” I say.

It seems like he’s been here longer than two days. So much has happened since he appeared—Hardin’s expulsion/nonexpulsion, Zed’s appearance in the parking lot, my lunch with Steph and Molly, the ever-disappearing call log—just too much. This overstressful, constantly growing pile of issues in my life doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon.

“What’s wrong?” Hardin asks when my father disappears down the hall.

“Nothing.” I stand up and take a few steps before he stops me by touching my waist and turning me around to face him.

“I know you better than that. Tell me what’s wrong,” he softly demands, placing both hands on my hips.

I look him dead in the eyes. “You.”

“I . . . what? Talk,” he demands.

“You’re acting weird, and you deleted your text messages and calls.”

His features twist in annoyance, and he pinches the bridge of his nose. “Why would you be looking through my phone, anyway?”

“Because you’re acting suspicious, and—”

“So you go through my shit? Didn’t I tell you before not to do that?”

The look of indignation on his face is so brazen, looks so practiced, that my blood gets boiling. “I know I shouldn’t be going through your things—but you shouldn’t give me a reason to. And if you don’t have anything to hide, why would you care? I wouldn’t mind if you looked through my phone. I have nothing to hide.” I dig mine out of my pocket and hold it out. Then I start to worry that maybe I didn’t delete the text from Zed on there and I panic, until Hardin waves it away like my trust is a gnat.

“You’re just making up excuses for how psychotic you are,” he says, his words burning me.

I don’t have anything to say. Well, actually, I have a lot to say to him, but no words come from my mouth. I push his hands from my hips and storm off. He said he knows me well enough to sense when something’s wrong with me. Well, I know him well enough to sense when he’s close to being caught at something. Whether it be a small lie or a bet for my virginity, the same thing happens each time: first he acts suspicious, then when I bring it up to him he gets angry and defensive, and finally he spits harsh words at me.

“Don’t walk away from me,” he bellows from behind me.

“Don’t follow me,” I say and disappear into the bedroom.

But he appears in the doorway a second later. “I don’t like you going through my shit.”

“I don’t like feeling like I have to.”

He closes the door and leans his back against it. “You don’t have to; I deleted that stuff because . . . it was an accident. It’s nothing for you to be all worked up over.”

“Worked up? You mean ‘psychotic’?”

He sighs. “I didn’t really mean that.”

“Then stop saying things you don’t mean. Because then I can’t tell what’s true and what’s not.”

“Then stop going through my shit. Because then I can’t tell if I should trust you or not.”

“Fine.” I sit down at the desk.

“Fine,” he repeats and sits down on the bed.

I can’t decide if I believe him or not. Nothing adds up, but in a way it does. Maybe he did delete the texts and calls by accident, and maybe he was talking to Steph on the phone. The bits and pieces of the conversation that I caught fuel my imagination, but I don’t want to ask Hardin about it because I don’t want him to know I overheard them. It’s not like he’d tell me what they talked about anyway.

“I don’t want there to be secrets between us. We should be past that,” I remind him.

“I know, fuck. There aren’t any secrets; you’re being crazy.”

“Stop calling me crazy. You of all people shouldn’t be calling anyone that.” I regret the words as soon as they’re out, but he doesn’t seem fazed.