She shakes her head. “No, I’m sorry, I can’t. But I’m sure you can tell he’s dealing with some anger issues. He just needs to work through them.”
I look at my knees and think about our messed-up family. And really, for the first time, I don’t think it’s me that’s so messed up.
That night, Dad and I work on my bedroom again, and it’s almost done. The weekend should do it, he says. We don’t talk about the session, but Dad gives me a hug before he turns in, which is different. And good, I think.
I open up the vents, and as I drift off to sleep, I hear the soft sounds of Mama and Dad talking in their bedroom upstairs. The ceiling creaks above me as I imagine them walking around the bedroom, getting ready for bed.
I am almost asleep when I think I hear Dad say, “Blake doesn’t believe it’s really him.”
My eyes spring open and my stomach muscles seize up.
“What?” Mama says, incredulous.
“He says he doesn’t understand how anybody can just forget the first seven years of his life. He listed about fifteen things he remembered from when he was seven or younger before Dr. Frost cut him off.”
Mama’s voice gets louder. “Did she explain that it’s normal? Did she tell Blake that it’s common for abducted children to be so traumatized that they forget where they came from? That they often become attached to their abductors as if they are parents?” Mama’s fuming, rattling off her clinical facts like she memorized the textbook, and she’s loud enough that I wonder if Blake can hear her too, from his bedroom, if he’s still awake.
“Shh,” Dad says. His tone rumbles above me but I can’t make out what he’s saying, except for occasional phrases: “. . . talk about it without judging him,” and “. . . I don’t know how long it’ll take . . .”
I can’t breathe. How could Blake say such a thing about me? He thinks I’m a fake? Why is he doing this? He has no idea how awful it feels not to remember him. To hardly remember anything. To think it’ll all come back to me, but it just doesn’t, and it makes me feel so lost.
The usual massive panic crashes into me. I bury my face in my pillow to shield the noise as my body goes out of control and shudders in pathetic, hysterical laughter.
At breakfast, I can’t even look at Blake. It doesn’t seem to bother him—he’s been ignoring me for days already. Now the animosity is completely mutual. I feel like somebody beat me up. I can’t believe it. I’m grateful for Mama, who gives me an extra-long hug before I head out the door today to the bus stop.
There’s a game tonight. Cami says she’s going, of course. And of course, I am not.
On the bus, Cami’s talking about some English paper she’s writing, and then she pauses midsentence like she’s just seeing my face for the first time. “What’s wrong?”
I look at her, and hell if I don’t almost start bawling. God, she’s just so sweet to even notice. I smile instead and get a grip. “Nothing,” I say. I don’t want to risk any chance of Blake overhearing. I don’t even think I can say the words out loud, they sound so bad.
“No,” she says. “Something’s wrong. You look terrible. Are you sick?”
I shake my head. “Not physically.”
Cami rolls her eyes. “Look, don’t play this game. Just tell me.”
“I can’t talk about it now,” I say. “Too many people around, okay?”
“Oh,” she says. “Okay. This weekend sometime?”
I smile. “Yes.”
She slips her hand in mine and squeezes, and then she lets go. “I’ll text you.”
J-Dog stops by my table at lunch and harasses me about going to the game tonight, but I just give him a look and he backs off. “Sorry, man. It’s not like it’s going to happen again, you know.”
It’s not funny. I don’t know if it ever will be.
At the end of the day, I find out that I tested out of all freshman classes. I’ve got to take geometry with the sophomores, but that’s not nearly as bad as algebra with the freshmen. Same with English and history, but I can take summer classes to catch up to the other juniors if I want. At this point, anything that keeps me away from Blake is a good thing, even summer school. I picture him introducing me to strangers as his fake brother, or announcing it at a basketball game or something. Which is stupid for me to worry about, but my gut seizes up just thinking about more Blake drama—it’s like a reflex.
I wonder how long our feud is going to last?
I walk Cami home, and we’re just talking, but I know she’s got to get ready for the game. “If you’re bored after,” I say, “you can just come around back to the lower-level slider door. I’ll see you, or hear you if you tap the glass. You know, if the game is done early and you don’t have other plans.”
“Or tomorrow,” she says. She looks guilty, like she doesn’t want to tell me she’s finally going out with her boyfriend for once after the game. It’s kind of sweet, really.
“Tomorrow’s fine, too. You’ll text me,” I say, remembering. “Absolutely. Have fun tonight.”
She gives me this deep-eyed look. “I wish you would come.”
I look at the driveway. “Can’t. Gotta finish my bedroom. Almost there—I want to paint in the morning and move my stuff in. I’m tired of sleeping on the floor.”