I roll onto my side and rest my head in my hand and stare back at her. “Which one of us is confessing?”
She narrows her eyes and lifts her finger, pointing at me. “I think it’s safe to say you owe the world a few more confessions of your own.”
I lift my hand and touch her finger through the mesh. She opens up her palm and presses it against mine. “We could be here all night, Auburn. I have a lot of confessions.”
I could tell her how I know her. Make her realize why I have this overwhelming urge to protect her. But some secrets I’ll take to my grave, and this is definitely one of them.
Instead, I give her a different confession. One that doesn’t mean as much to me. I give her something safe. “I have three numbers in my phone. My father’s. Harrison’s. My cousin Riley’s, but I haven’t talked to him in over six months. That’s it.”
She’s quiet. She doesn’t know what to say, because who only has three numbers in his phone? Someone who has issues, obviously.
“Why don’t you have more phone numbers?”
I like her eyes. They’re very telling, and right now she hurts for me, because she realizes that she isn’t the only lonely person in Dallas.
“After I graduated high school, I kind of went my own way. I focused on my art and nothing else. I lost all my old contacts when I switched phones about a year ago, and when that happened, I realized I didn’t really talk to anyone. My grandparents passed away years ago. I only have one cousin, and like I said, we don’t really talk much. Other than Harrison and my father, there isn’t a phone number I need.”
Her fingers are tracing my palm now. She’s staring at her hands and no longer at me. “Let me see your phone.”
I pull it out of my pocket and hand it to her beneath the mesh, because I told her the truth. She can check for herself. Three numbers and that’s it.
Her fingers move over the screen for several seconds before she hands me back my phone. “There. Now you have four.”
I look down at my screen and read her contact. I laugh when I see the name she entered for herself.
Auburn Mason-is-the-best-middle-name Reed.
I slide my phone back in my pocket and touch her hand against the mesh again. “Your turn,” I say to her.
She shakes her head. “You still have a lot of catching up to do. Keep going.”
I sigh and roll onto my back. I don’t want to tell her anything else yet, but I’m scared if we don’t get out of this tent soon, I’ll tell her everything I know and everything she doesn’t want to hear. But maybe it’s best that way. Maybe if I tell her the truth, she can accept it and trust me and know that as soon as I get back, things will be different. Maybe if I tell her the truth, we’ll have a chance of making it beyond Monday.
“That night I didn’t show up here?” I pause, because my heart is beating so fast I’m finding it hard to think around it. I know I need to admit this to her, but I haven’t known how to bring it up. No matter how I spin it, I know she’ll react negatively, and I get that. But I’m tired of not being honest with her.
I roll onto my side and face her. I open my mouth to confess, but I’m spared by the knock on her front door.
Her confused expression reveals that she isn’t used to visitors. “I need to get that. Wait here.” She immediately climbs out of the tent, and I roll onto my back and exhale. In a matter of seconds, she’s back in her room and kneeling down in front of the tent.
Her voice is frantic, and I lift up on my elbows as she pokes her head inside. Her eyes are full of worry. “I have to get the door, but please don’t come out of my room, okay? I’ll explain everything as soon as she leaves. I promise.”
I nod, hating the fear in her voice. I also hate that she suddenly wants to hide me from whoever is at her door.
She backs away and closes the bedroom door. I fall back onto the pillow and listen, aware that I’m about to get one of her confessions, even though she doesn’t quite seem ready to share it with me.
I hear the front door open and the first thing I hear is a child’s voice. “Mommy, look! Look what Nana Lydia bought me.”
And then I hear her respond. “Wow. That’s exactly the one you wanted.”
Did he just call you Mommy?
I hear feet shuffling across the floor. I hear a woman’s voice say, “I know this is last-minute, but we were supposed to leave for Pasadena hours ago. However, my mother-in-law was admitted to the hospital and Trey is on duty—”
“Oh no, Lydia,” Auburn interrupts.
“Oh, she’s fine. Diabetic issues again, which wouldn’t happen if she’d just take care of herself like I tell her. But she doesn’t, and then expects the entire family to give up their plans in order to take care of her.”
I hear a doorknob turning. “AJ, no,” I hear Auburn say. “Stay out of Mommy’s room.”
“Anyway,” the woman says, “I have to take some things to her but they don’t allow children in the ICU, so I need you to watch him for a couple of hours.”
“Of course,” she says. “Here?”
“Yes, I don’t have time to drive you to our house.”
“Okay,” she says. She sounds excited. She sounds like she’s not used to the woman trusting her to do this. She’s so excited, I don’t think she notices AJ is opening her bedroom door again.
“I’ll pick him up later tonight,” the woman says.
“He can spend the night,” Auburn replies, hopeful. “I’ll bring him back in the morning.”
Her bedroom door is open now and a little boy falls to his knees directly in front of the tent. I lift up on my elbows and smile at him, because he’s smiling at me.
“Why are you in a tent?” he asks.
I bring my finger up to my mouth. “Shhh.”
He grins and crawls inside the tent. He looks to be about four or five years old, and his eyes aren’t green like Auburn’s. They’re all different colors. Browns and grays and greens. Like a canvas.
He doesn’t have her unique shade of hair color, as his is dark brown. I’m assuming he gets that from his father, but I still see a lot of Auburn in him. Mostly in his expression, and how he seems so curious.
“Is the tent a secret?” he asks.