“Where’s Hardin tonight?” Nate asks from the passenger seat, and I panic momentarily.
“Gone. Out of town with his father,” I lie.
“Aren’t you two leaving Monday for Seattle?”
“Yeah, that’s the plan.” I feel my palms beginning to sweat. I hate lying and I’m terrible at it.
Nate turns around and offers me a sweet smile. “Well, good luck to both of you. Wish I could’ve seen him before he left.”
The burn increases. “Thanks, Nate. I’ll let him know you said that.”
When we pull up to the frat house, I immediately regret my decision to come. I knew this was a bad idea, but I wasn’t thinking clearly and felt I needed a distraction. This isn’t a distraction, however. This is one big reminder of everything I’ve been through and everything I’ve subsequently lost.
It’s almost humorous, the way I regret coming here every single time but somehow always end up at this damn frat house.
“Showtime,” Steph says and hooks her arm through mine with a wild smile.
For a second her eyes brighten, and I can’t help but feel as if there’s something else behind her choice of words.
When I knock on the door to my father’s office, I feel nauseous. I can’t believe it’s come to this, to me seeking him out for advice. I just need someone to listen to me, someone who knows how I feel, or close to it.
His voice sounds from inside the room. “Come in, dear.” I hesitate before entering, knowing this is going to be uncomfortable but necessary. I sit down in the chair in front of his large desk, watching his expression change from expectant to surprised.
A little laugh escapes his mouth. “Sorry, I thought you were Karen.” But then, seeing my mood, he stops, watching me carefully.
I nod, then look away. “I don’t know why I’m here, but I don’t know where else to go.” I lay my head in my hands, and my father takes a seat on the edge of his mahogany desk.
“I’m glad you came to me,” he says quietly, gauging my reaction.
“I wouldn’t exactly say I came to you,” I remind him. I did in fact come to him, but I don’t want him thinking this is some big revelation or some shit, even though it sort of maybe is. I watch as he gulps and nods slowly, his eyes moving everywhere in the room except to me.
“You don’t have to be nervous; I’m not going to throw a fit or break anything. I don’t have the energy.” I stare at the rows of plaques on the wall behind him.
When he doesn’t respond, I let out a sigh.
Of course that seems to prompt him, that sign of my defeat, and he says, “Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“No. I don’t,” I say and look at the books along his wall.
“Okay . . .”
I sigh, feeling the inevitability of this moment. “I don’t want to, but I’m going to, I guess.”
My father looks puzzled for a moment, and his brown eyes widen, taking me in, watching me carefully, waiting for the catch, I’m sure.
“Believe me,” I say. “If I had anyone else to go to, I wouldn’t be here, but Landon is a biased asshole and always takes her side.” I know this isn’t even half true, but I don’t want Landon’s advice right now. More than that, I don’t want to admit to him what a dick I’ve been and the shit I’ve said to Tessa over the last few days. His opinion doesn’t really matter to me, but for some reason it matters more than anyone else’s, save Tessa’s, of course.
My father gives me a pained smile. “I know that, son.”
I don’t know where to start, and honestly, I’m still not sure what brought me here. I had every intention of going to a bar to have a drink, but somehow I ended up pulling into my father’s . . . no, my dad’s driveway. The way Tessa only says “mother” and “father” instead of “mom” or “dad” used to drive me insane; but now it’s crept into my speech, too. He’s lucky I’m even referring to him as “father” or “dad” instead of “Ken” or “asshole”—as I’ve done for most of my life.
“Well, as you’ve probably guessed, Tessa finally left me,” I admit, and look up at him. He does his best to keep a neutral expression while he waits for me to continue, but all I add is “And I didn’t stop her.”
“You’re sure she won’t be back?” he asks.
“Yes, I’m sure. She gave me multiple opportunities to stop her, and she hasn’t tried to call or text in”—I glance at the clock on the wall—“almost twenty-eight hours, and I don’t have the slightest clue where she is.”
I was expecting her car to be in the driveway when I arrived at Ken and Karen’s. I’m sure it’s one of the reasons I headed over here to begin with. Where else could she even be? I hope she didn’t drive all the way to her mum’s house.
“You’ve done this before, though,” my father begins. “The two of you always seem to find a way—”
“Are you listening to me? I said she isn’t coming back,” I huff, interrupting him.
“I’m listening. I’m just curious as to what makes this time different from the others.”
When I glare at him, he’s staring impassively at me, and I resist the urge to get up and leave his overdecorated office. “It just is. I don’t know how I know that—and you probably think I’m a dumb-ass for even coming here—but I’m tired, Dad. I’m so fucking tired of being this way, and I don’t know what to do about it.”