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I rushed to my room to change and gathered my things. A minute later, I was behind Weston, hurrying him outside. Once we got into his truck, I sighed. “I wish you wouldn’t have done that. I didn’t want you to see my house.”

“Why not?”

“It’s filthy. It smells.”

“All I smelled was weed. Your mom is baked,” he said, amused. When he realized I wasn’t, he reached over for my forearm. “Hey. It’s a house, Erin. It’s not a big deal. I don’t care where you live.”

“It’s just humiliating,” I said, wiping a tear away. “I didn’t want you to see that.”

Weston pulled away from the curb, his jaw working under his skin. “I didn’t mean to make you cry, Erin, I’m sorry. I thought it was nicer than picking you up from the DQ. I thought I’d introduce myself to your mom.”

“She’s not my mom,” I said staring out the window.


“Her name is Gina.”

“Are you adopted?”

“No. But,” I looked over at him, “do you ever get the feeling that you belong somewhere else?”

“All the time,” he said, sounding exhausted.

“I’ve never felt like her daughter. Not even when I was little.”

“Maybe it’s because she’s the way she is? She doesn’t seem like the mom type.”

“She’s not.”

“Then it makes sense that you would feel that way.”

We weren’t driving out of town like we usually did. Instead, we were driving to the south side, where many of the doctors and attorneys lived. Weston’s parents built a huge house on a lot there when we were in middle school. He pulled into his driveway and under the arch that attached the house to one of the garages. The spot was enclosed by garage doors, the side of the house, and a gate to the backyard.

When he turned off the engine, I shook my head. “I’m not going in there.”

“Oh, quit it,” Weston said, pressing the garage door opener. Hopping down, he slammed his door and then jogged around to my side, opening my door with a wide grin. When I didn’t budge, his face fell. “Don’t be such a baby.”

I slowly climbed down and followed him into the garage and through a door. The house was dark, but a television was on somewhere. The dim blue light grew brighter as we approached the kitchen.

“Weston?” a woman called.

“I’m home, Mom!” he called back. He slipped my backpack off my shoulders and set it on the counter.

“Weston, what are you doing?” I said through my teeth, getting angrier by the second.

His mother walked into the kitchen, her highlighted hair and oval face accentuating her amazing green eyes. It was clear who Weston favored. She stopped, surprised to see me. I wanted to crawl under the counter.

“Who’s this?” she said, with fake cheerfulness in her voice.

“Erin Easter.” He looked at me. “This is my mom, Veronica.”

“Nice to meet you,” I choked out.

She gave me a once over, visibly unimpressed with my appearance. Her eyes critically assessed me like I was a parasite that had infiltrated her home and needed to be exterminated. Weston didn’t seem to notice. He opened the pantry, grabbed a bag of chips, a jar of salsa, and two bananas then pulled a couple of cold cans of Cherry Coke from the fridge.

“We’re going downstairs,” he said.

“Weston Allen,” Veronica began.

“Night, Mom,” he said, guiding me in front of him toward a door down the hall. I grabbed my backpack and walked slowly, unsure of where to go.

“This one,” Weston said.

I opened it, and he walked past, using his elbow to flip on the light, revealing a flight of stairs leading to a lower level. When we reached the bottom, we walked into a vast room with couches, a couple of televisions, a gaming system, a wet bar, exercise equipment, a pool table, and an air hockey table.

That one room was bigger than my entire house.

“Whoa,” I said quietly, letting Weston lead me to the couch.

“This is my space. They won’t bug us down here.” He unscrewed the lid of the salsa, and the bag of tortilla chips crackled as he unrolled it. “You hungry?”

“I’ll take that banana,” I said, pointing.

He tossed it to me. “I’ll wait.”

“For what?”

“Until you finish your homework. I’m going to find us a movie to watch.”

I watched him while he pushed buttons on the remote without looking at them, turning on the DVR and browsing the movies on demand. I pulled out my textbook. A piece of notebook paper stuck out from the page I needed, and I worked on the nine questions I had left to answer. It took only about fifteen minutes to finish, and Weston remained quiet, keeping his word.

Once I closed my book and packed away my things, he excitedly returned his focus to me. “Do you want to watch Triple Thunder, or The Dark House on the Hill?”

“Both sound equally . . . entertaining.”

“Triple Thunder it is.” He pushed a button on the remote, and the screen turned black for a moment. He chose a few more options; then the movie began, opening with a sweaty guy running for his life in a desert.

Halfway through the movie, Weston leaned back against the couch cushion, his size twelves crossed at the ankle on top of the ottoman that doubled as a coffee table. I had a more difficult time relaxing.

Weston looked over at me, back at the television, and then back at me.


“You’re so uptight. Do you want me to take you home?”

“I just . . . I don’t think your mom likes that I’m here. And I . . .”

Weston’s phone chirped. Alder’s name lit up the display. He read the text in less than a second, then shot one back.

“What if your mom mentions to Alder that I was here?”

“She won’t.”

“How can you be sure?”

“She doesn’t want Alder to be mad at me. She’s already envisioning Gates-Alderman grandchildren.”

My face screwed into disgust. “You should probably take me home.”

He sat up. “Why? You don’t like the movie?”

“It’s not okay for me to be here. You have a girlfriend, and we’re . . .”