He knows me too well.
“Yes to the last.” I glance at mom out of the corner of my eye. “No to the first … I’m pretty sure she’s above twenty-seven.”
A pucker forms at my mom’s brow. “What are you saying to him?”
I shake my head. “Nothing.”
“Okay …” Her gaze roams to the doorway. “I’m going to go check on Bill. I’ll be right back.”
After she walks out, I wander toward the window and close my eyes, shame washing over me. While I doubt Beck will judge me, it doesn’t make asking for help any easier.
“I need a favor.”
“Sure,” he replies easily. “What’s up?”
I rest my head against the frosted window. “I need a place to crash for a few days.”
“Why? What happened?” Nervousness creeps into his tone. “This boyfriend dude didn’t try to get into your room like the last one did, did he?”
“No … Well, he did, but only to try to get me out of the house,” I say quietly, “which is why I need a place to crash.”
“Your mom’s letting him kick you out of the house?” He doesn’t sound that shocked.
“They’re not really kicking me out …” My cheeks warm with my embarrassment. “My mom just asked me if I could sleep in the car or go spend the night at one of my friends’ houses for a few days. I don’t really like sleeping in the car … so I called you.” I shrug, even though he can’t see me. I feel so pathetic.
“Well, I’m glad you called me. I don’t want you sleeping in a car, especially because your neighbors are so crazy. I just wish your mom didn’t treat you like this. You deserve so much better, Wills.” He pauses. “Maybe you should tell someone that she kicks you out all the time. It isn’t right.”
“It’s fine … I’m fine,” I say, not really knowing what else to say. Sure, I know my home life isn’t normal, but it could be worse. She could’ve left me by now. “So, you don’t care if I stay with you?”
“You can always stay with me. In fact, I want you to promise that you’ll never sleep in the car again. Always call me if you need help.”
“I can do that.” I blow out a stressed breath, the weight on my shoulders feeling a tiny bit lighter. “Thanks. You’re the best friend ever.”
“Well, duh,” he jokes. “When are you heading over? I’ll order pizza or something. How does that sound?”
As if answering, my stomach grumbles, reminding me how the cupboards and fridge are empty, so I had to skip dinner again. “You don’t have to do that.”
“I know, but I want to. Besides, I bet you skipped dinner.”
“You know me too well.”
“That’s because I’m your best friend. If I didn’t know you, then I’d be the worst friend ever.”
A tiny smile forms on my lips, but contentment nosedives as my mom pokes her head into my room.
“Is your friend letting you stay over?” she asks, her eyes more bloodshot than they already were.
I nod, covering the phone with my hand. “Yeah.”
“Good.” She steps into my room, swaying a little. “They’ll have to come pick you up. I can’t drive right now.”
I want to argue, but I’m pretty sure she’s either drunk or high. “My friends aren’t old enough to drive.”
“They have parents, though, right?” she asks as she grasps the doorframe to regain her balance. “See if they’ll come pick you up.”
I waver, not wanting to ask Beck for such a huge favor. But staying in the car doesn’t sound that fantastic, either.
“Please stop being difficult.” Her bleary eyes plead with me to understand. “Bill already thinks you’re gone, so you need to get out of here before he finds out I lied to him.”
Tears of mortification sting my eyes as I put the phone to my ear. “Beck?”
“I heard,” he says tightly. “I’m already heading out to the car with Theo.”
A shaky breath falters from my lips as I fight back the waterworks. “Your brother got his license?”
“What does that mean?”
“It means he has his learner’s permit. But don’t worry. He’s a really good driver.”
“What if your parents find out?” Guilt gnaws at my stomach. “Won’t you guys get into trouble?”
“They won’t find out,” he promises. “Now chin up, princess. We’ll be there in about twenty minutes.”
By the time I hang up, tears are slipping down my cheeks. I quickly wipe them away with the back of my hand.
“All good?” my mom asks as I give her back the phone.
I nod, though nothing feels good. At all. In fact, the whole situation makes me feel terribly icky inside.
A droopy smile forms on her lips as she stuffs the phone into the pocket of her pants. “Then you should probably get packed and wait for him on the steps. I don’t want Bill to start yelling at you again. I’m sure that probably scares you.” She wraps her arms around me. “Thank you so much for doing this, sweetie. You’re such a good daughter. How did I get so lucky?”
I wish I could believe her, but if her words were true, then why is she always kicking me out of the house and leaving me all the time? I don’t ask, though, too afraid of the answer.
She hugs me before walking out of my room. I hurry and pack, slip on a jacket and sneakers, and wait outside on the porch, but I quickly bail when a couple of kids a few years older than me try to persuade me to get high with them.
When Beck finally pulls up, I’m standing at the edge of the parking lot in the dark, hiding near the entrance sign to the single-story apartment complex I live in.
“What’re you doing out here?” Beck asks as he hops out of the fancy sports car that belongs to his older brother Theo.
I rush toward him, scuffing my sneakers in the dirt. “Some guys were trying to get me to do drugs, so I thought I’d be safer out here.”
He shakes his head, taking hold of my hand. The second his skin touches mine, a calming warmth spreads through me.
“Next time, wait inside,” he says, eyeing the guys loitering near the door to my apartment. Their attention is trained on us, smoke is lacing the air, and when one guy whispers something to the other, my legs turn into Jell-O.