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“It shouldn’t be. You’re so good, Erin. You’re just . . . good. You don’t deserve the way they treat you, and I don’t even know why they do it.”

“I don’t know, either. One day, they just stopped talking to me, and then the silence turned into anger.”

“That’s so weird. I don’t get it.”

The Chevy pulled into my gravel drive, and Weston put the gear into park.

I leaned back and stretched. “Just one more day before Spring Break. After that we have five weeks before graduation. None of this will matter after that.”

“Are you . . . are you going to prom?” he asked.

I laughed once. It was shrill, and it even surprised me. “No,” I said, amused.

“Would you want to go with me?”

“You’re going with Alder.”

“I haven’t asked her, yet. Everyone just assumes we’re going together. Even her.”

“I . . .” I shook my head, feeling overwhelmed. “I don’t have a dress. I wouldn’t even know where to look. And I don’t have the money, anyway.”

“Okay. Don’t freak out. Just think about it. If you want to go, we’ll figure something out.”

I swallowed, hard. “You’re freaking me out. I’m not sure how to feel about all of this.”

Weston lifted my hand and touched his lips to my fingers. “We’re just winging it, remember?”

I pulled the door handle and jumped down to the grass below, then pulled his jacket from my shoulders.

“Hang on to it for me.”

I tossed it into his truck. “I have a jacket. Thank you.”

He smirked. “Not one that smells like me.”

“Are you afraid I’m going to forget about you overnight?” I teased, trying to hide my embarrassment that he’d spoken my private thought.

He pointed to his chest. “This? No way!”

Weston waved to me as he pulled away, and I walked into my house, still giggling. It was dark and quiet. I crept into my room and let my backpack fall to the carpet, and crawled straight into bed. I was too tired to take a shower or even brush my teeth. I just wanted to lie between the sheets and replay what Weston said about how I made him feel over and over again in my head. It was like a dream, one that I would inevitably wake up from soon. Something was going to come along and take it all away, because things like this didn’t happen to me.

I reached over and set my alarm for half an hour earlier than usual, and then relaxed against my pillow. Tomorrow was Friday, the last day before Spring Break, and the beginning of a week-long vacation from the Erins, and nine whole days and evenings with Weston, doing whatever we wanted. He was becoming my best friend, and not just because he was my only friend at school. We actually had a lot in common, from music to art to a mutual love for the first three episodes of Star Wars.

I felt my eyes grow heavy, and I drifted off, with his words about PJs and warm sheets playing over in my mind, narrated by his smooth, deep voice.

Chapter Seven

Friday morning, I stepped out of my home to see a white SUV parallel parked next to the curb. Mrs. Pyles rolled down the window and waved.

“I told you I would be here!” she called, a big grin on her face.

I looked up. The clouds were gray, the sidewalk and grass were wet, but the raining had stopped. “I think it’s okay to walk.”

“It’s supposed to rain on and off all day, Easter. Get your rear in this car!”

I turned around, double-checking that Gina wasn’t watching me from the door then hurried to Mrs. Pyles’s vehicle.

“Buckle up,” she said, twisting the key in the ignition.

“Can we please hurry?” I asked, hearing the click at my hip as I fastened the seat belt.

She pulled away, and moments later, paused at a stop sign. A blue pickup passed through the puddle that always filled the corner of that intersection when it rained, splashing water all the way up the sign.

“If you’d been standing there, you would have been soaked,” Mrs. Pyles said, shaking her head.

“Thank you,” I said, biting at my thumbnail.

She pulled forward, and after a block, stopped at another stop sign. I looked over at the Dairy Queen. It was dark and the parking lot was bare. If it kept raining, we wouldn’t be much busier after school. Just as that thought crossed my mind, the sky began spitting on us.

Mrs. Pyles turned right toward the school, her blond hair grazing her shoulders as she leaned forward to turn on the windshield wipers. “Do you have plans for Spring Break?” she asked.

“Not really.”

“You’re not going to South Padre with the other seniors?” I gave her a side look. She smiled sheepishly. “I’ve noticed you’ve been spending time with Weston Gates. I thought maybe you would. Hoped maybe you would.”

“You’ve noticed?” I said, my heart beating fast. I thought we were being careful. Weston had been taking up for me in class, but I thought no one knew that we’d actually been spending time together.

She smiled her sweet smile. “Veronica Gates is in my women’s auxiliary church group. She’s talked about you two a little bit lately. That’s all. Just to me.”

“She doesn’t want anyone else to know, I’m sure.”

“She doesn’t want to cause problems.”

“For Weston and Alder.”

We parked in the teacher’s lot, and Mrs. Pyles turned to me. “He’s a nice boy.”

I waited, imagining she might tell me to stay away from him, or something equally offensive.

“You sure can pick ’em,” she said, winking at me.

She got out and shut her door. After briefly processing her words and feeling half a second of appreciation, I got out and hurried to walk next to her. We strode toward the school, dry under Mrs. Pyles’s umbrella. She pointed her key ring at the white SUV, and it made a stunted honking noise as it locked.

In grade school, before I realized I wouldn’t get a car at sixteen, I dreamed about what car I wanted. No matter what it was, it always had keyless entry. Something about holding that remote in my hand while the keys dangled from it seemed so cool. Then sixteen came and went, and so did seventeen. I went ahead and got my license, just to have an ID, but there was no point. Owning a car seemed so impossible. So I would just do one impossible thing at a time, starting with somehow getting myself to OSU’s campus. But even if I had to start walking in July, I would get there. Maybe, if he wasn’t already at Dallas or Duke, Weston could drop me off.