Liam flushed with anger. “Enough—”
“You have no idea what you’re even talking about!” Chubs growled.
“That’s not fair—” I began.
The only one who didn’t seem bothered by it—who didn’t seem to be showing much of any emotion—was Zu. She stared at Vida for a moment, meeting her hard gaze with one of her own. Then she returned to her sheet and began to write quickly again. Both Liam and Chubs were silently fuming in Vida’s direction.
Zu held up the paper again, this time angling it so even Vida could read the words there. We got run down by skip tracers and he died when we crashed. A friend helped me get to California when I got separated from the others.
I let out a soft sigh and closed my eyes, desperately trying not to picture it. God...Talon. No one deserved that.
“Friend?” Chubs pressed. “Another kid?”
She shook her head, but didn’t elaborate.
“An adult? An adult drove you?” Liam ran both hands over his face. “Oh my God, I’m scaring the crap out of myself picturing this. We never should have split up. Never. Never. Oh my God. Weren’t you scared he was going to turn you in?”
Zu was so still, so pale, I wasn’t sure she was breathing. She looked up toward the ceiling, blinking rapidly, like she was trying to fight off rising tears.
“She’s a good judge of character,” I said, putting an arm around her shoulders. Still so small. Little bird bones, made that much sharper by hunger and stress.
“And you came to that conclusion how, exactly?” Chubs asked, pushing his glasses up. “Based on the fact that she let you into the van instead of locking you out?”
“Exactly,” Liam said. “I seem to recall someone trying to vote her out.”
“Yeah!” I said. “Thanks a lot. Trying to dump me off on some random road...”
“Excuse me for trying to look out for the group!” Chubs huffed.
Zu started to write something down, but Vida ripped the paper out of her hands, held it in front of her face, and tore it straight down the middle. “If you want to say something, f**king say it.”
Her chair screeched as she shoved herself back from the table, and swiped her plate from it. I saw the strain of keeping it together in how stiffly she held her neck up and her shoulders back. For one strange second, all I could think about were those old cartoons they used to show on the weekend, the way they’d show a spark burning its way up the fuse of a pile of dy***ite.
I should have known better than to follow her.
“Vi,” I called, and had to jog to catch up to her. She was stalking down the hall, all lean muscles and furious power, down the stairs to the lower level. Where was she even going? “Vida!”
I grabbed her arm, but she threw me off—hard enough that I hit the nearby wall. A burst of pain rocketed through my shoulder, but I didn’t back down. Her top lip had been curled into a snarl, but the second she registered what she’d done, it lost most of its ugliness.
“You’re gonna want to walk away,” she told me, and for the first time I realized she probably didn’t know where she was headed, either. She was just trying to get away from that room. From us.
“Not like this,” I said. “What’s going on? Talk to me.”
Vida turned and started down the hall again, only to spin back on her heels. I had misdiagnosed the situation—badly.
“Jesus Christ, you can’t let anything sit, can you?” she snapped. “You can’t ever just let anyone be to work their shit out. Hilarious, seeing how you can’t even handle your own crap.”
“I’ll try to work on caring less,” I said. Zach was coming down the hall toward us, his eyes looking everywhere but at the corner we’d drawn ourselves into. I turned my back on him at the same moment Vida did. She waited until his footsteps faded before releasing a harsh breath.
“You know, I really thought you and me—” Her voice choked off. When she laughed, there was a strained quality to it. “Never mind. What do you even care?”
“You just told me I care too much and now I don’t care enough?” I said. “Which is it?”
“Both—neither! Jesus, what does it matter?” she snapped, running her hands back through her short hair. The ends were still bleached, with only the barest hint of blue still clinging to the strands. “I’m happy for you, oh-so-fucking happy for you that you get to have this beautiful reunion with your real friends. You get to stay with these people and shoot the breeze about how great it was when it was just the four of you. You get to have all of your stupid inside jokes. But what I can’t stand—what makes me sick—is how you—”
“Is how I what?” It was a struggle to keep my voice down. “What else? Lay it on me. Come on. Clearly something else is pissing you off if you’re picking fights with a girl who’s clearly been through hell and back. I can’t fix it if you won’t tell me what’s going on!”
The spark finally hit the pile of dy***ite, but the explosion wasn’t what I was expecting. Vida’s expression shattered, and she ripped air into her lungs with short, jagged breaths. “You just replaced him—in your head, you just traded Jude for that little girl, like he was nothing, like we were nothing to you! I get it, okay? But don’t—don’t pretend to act like you give a shit when you clearly don’t!”
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