There’s nothing left to do but go home. I can’t fix anything sitting here, and I don’t want to cry anymore. When I stand, I don’t realize that my foot is on the skirt, and the stitching pops as the hem tears.

CHAPTER 9

Sleep is evasive that night. Beth is mad at me, Carter turned evil, and Nate ran off like I doused his scorching body with ice water. I feel alone and it pains me, because I don’t see how I could have prevented any of it. My actions weren’t perfect, but I don’t think they should have gotten me here. I frown and roll out of bed.

Chelsey is preening in front the mirror on her side of the room. She’s been uncharacteristically silent since Matt and Mom were here. She fusses with her curling iron, trying to make her pin straight blonde locks fall in spirals. She hisses when the curl doesn’t lay right and then glares at me. “What are you looking at, Bacon?”

I don’t bother replying. She found the source of the stink under her bed and promised repayment tenfold for that little stunt. There’s yet to be any move on her part. It makes me leery to sleep in the same room as her. If she ever got together with Carter, I’d be screwed.

I pad past her, go down the hall and shower. I take my time, hoping Chelsey will be gone when I get back to the room. When I pass a rumpled Beth in the hallway, she stares past me acting as if I didn’t exist.

I roll my eyes without meaning to, and she sees it. Beth whirls around on me, towel over one arm, bath caddy in the other, and her body wrapped in a tight terrycloth robe. “Do you think it’s funny? Do you think I’m a joke, and that none of this matters to me?”

I’m wearing a robe and have my damp towel in one hand and my bath bucket in the other. It’s filled with shampoo, soap, razor, and shaving cream. I tossed my shower shoes in there too. It’s not pretty like most of the girl’s caddies with a cute pattern or pretty handle. I literally have a bucket from Wal-Mart. It cost a dollar instead of ten. Beth’s caddy is designer, like her robe, towel, and shampoo. Maybe we’re too different and this wouldn’t have worked. Maybe I’m supposed to be a loner.

Either way, I need to diffuse this and get to my meeting before Ferro comes looking for me. As it is, I’m running late. “Beth, I don’t want to fight with you. I’m sorry. I’ll keep saying it until you accept my apology.”

“That’s never going to happen.”

“Then there’s nothing else I can do. I screwed up. You forgive me or you don’t.” I start to walk away and hear Beth make an aggravated sound in the back of her throat.

She growls at my back, “Do you know how hard it’s been for me? Not just my family and my brothers, but everyone talks about Josh and what he did. Do you know what that’s like? Loving someone who screwed up so royally?”

Turning, I look her in the eyes. “Yes, I do.” My mother’s face is vivid in my mind. It’s not the same kind of mistake, but it damned our relationship and I can’t fathom how to fix it. Apologies won’t work, so I’m frozen, waiting for something to happen that forces forgiveness. Until then, I can’t think about it without feeling sick.

“This is different. You’re not a pariah because of your family. The only reason you were friends with me was because I gave you cookies.” She looks away, frowning.

“I’m not five years old, Beth. I could have Googled you. I could have looked you up on Facebook or Instagram. I didn’t, and that was intentional. I wanted to know who you are now, and the same thing goes for your brothers. I admit that I didn’t like Josh at first. He was hot and cold, mean and sweet. I understand why he’s so bipolar now—he doesn’t trust himself anymore. I get that, and I don’t blame you for something he did. You’re not him.”

“You kissed him. He told me. And I warned both of you, more than once. No, I begged you, I asked you to keep your distance. You didn’t. I had my reasons and you didn’t listen. What am I supposed to do with that?” She watches me with those large green eyes, pleading for an answer that I don’t have. If I knew how to forgive someone for a massive betrayal, I would tell her. I’d take my own advice and patch things up with my mother, but I haven’t a clue.

“I don’t know.” My voice is weak, ashamed that I hurt her so badly.

“All of this is tangled up for me. I don’t want my friends hurt and I sure as hell don’t want Josh—” her voice stops suddenly and she shakes her head.

We both watch each other for a moment, and when no more words are said, Beth walks away. It pains me that I can’t make it better, that there seems to be no action that will win back her trust. I shove the thought aside and make my way to my room.

When I push through my door I can’t believe what I see. The windows are open and my side of the room is empty. The bedding is stripped, my books are gone, and my closet is bare. The notes and papers that were on my white board are missing and the hastily scrawled messages have been erased. Meanwhile, Chelsey’s side of the room is pristine with everything perfectly in place.

I set down my bath bucket and rush to the window. Leaning on the sill, I look out into the grassy area below. It connects to the back parking lot. My clothes are scattered below, laying on the ground and hanging from trees while the papers fly away with the Texas wind. My textbooks, alarm clock, and bedding are blowing into the parking lot. A few students are gathered on the grass below and at the center is a blonde woman with long curls. Her laughter flutters up and I’m livid.

I have to be at a meeting, I’m already late, and my suit—along with everything I own—has been scattered to the wind. I could race down the stairs and beat the crap out of Chelsey, but we’ll both get suspended. Or she’ll be gone before I get down there.

Screw it. I’m sick of people messing with me. Robe tied tight, I’m out the window and on the ledge. I pad barefoot toward the fire escape and rush down the steps. When I’m on the second floor, I twist and hurl myself off the ledge and land in the grass like a deranged ninja.

Screaming wildly, I rush at my roommate. Until then, she was laughing and pointing up at me. Now, she has a horrified look on her face. Her eyes are wide and she turns to run, but her pack of idiots doesn’t part. She’s trapped and I rush at her, slamming into her, and knocking her to the ground.

> People gather around and start chanting fight, fight, fight. Chelsey’s friends make bacon jokes and jeer at me as I grab their friend by the hair, roll her over, and push her face into the dirt.

“Apologize!” I scream as I make her eat grass.

Chelsey spits and squeals, wiggling beneath me, trying to break free. “No! Get off me, you pig!”

She shrills again when I shove her face into the lawn. “Say you’re sorry!”

I let her up for air and give her a chance to say it. Her pink lips snarl and she spits out the words, “I’ll never say I’m sorry to someone like you, you cheap slut!”

I’m not doing this all day. If she wants to be the center of attention, then I’m granting her wish. Without a word, I yank the tie off my robe and it falls open. A few guys whistle and cheer. I’m aware of flashes going off, which means there will be pictures of me sitting with an open robe on top of my roommate with her pristine face in the grass, but I don’t care.

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