I stared at her for the longest, not blinking, with a look of shock. “I can’t do this right now.” Moving toward the door to leave my crazy new ‘roommate,’ I was stopped when Hailey jumped in front of the door.

“Look, okay! I’m sorry. I was way out of line for reading your stuff and I pinkie promise to never do it again.” She held her pinkie up to me, and I glared at her, not understanding her angle. Her hand slowly fell down to her sides and she sighed. “I don’t have many friends. And I’m this close to losing my first boyfriend. I’m not like you, okay? I don’t have boobs for days and the physical features that bring boys knocking. Theo is my only shot at this. And if I don’t have that Saturday to give Theo my flower, then he will leave me. Then I will have this freaking garden down there for the rest of my life!” she cried in a whisper, her eyes filling with tears.

I couldn’t help but smile. “Your flower?” I asked, looking at the very over-the-top dramatics of Hailey. The scary part was that she seemed to be pretty serious. “I thought you weren’t ready to lose your…rose…orchid…Venus flytrap?”

Her lips turned up and her hands landed against her hips. “Oh, you find this funny? Well I’m so glad. I’m so happy that my failing life is entertaining for you.”

“It’s a little entertaining.”

She rolled her eyes and walked over to her bed, flopping down on it. “I’m going to die a virgin.”

My heart skipped, thinking about Gabby’s letter and how she wanted to lose her virginity to Bentley but never was able to. I bit my bottom lip and scrunched my face. “Okay, I’ll go.”

She perked up and looked at me. “You’ll go?!”

“Only if you promise to never go through my stuff again.”

“I promise!” she screamed, jumping up from the bed.

“And we have to find a way to cross an item off my bucket list.” I reached into my purse and pulled out my list. Hailey was quick to snatch it out of my hand and ran her eyes across it.

“Your sister made this? Wow. She sounds awesome.”

“She was.”

Hailey paused and looked up to me to deliver the sad expression I’d grown to hate. She then went back to the list and cleared her throat. “Number twelve. Give to those in need.”

I laughed, rolling my eyes. “I doubt helping a girl lose her virginity is what she meant.”

Her lips pouted and she went back to the list. “Number sixteen?” She passed the piece of paper my way and I smiled.

#16. House Party.

“Well…I guess we’re going to a party sometime soon.” I rolled my shoulders back and yawned. “But as for now, I need to borrow your toothpaste. I ran out.”

“Borrow? By all means, don’t give it back.” Hailey snickered, telling me that it was in the bathroom’s medicine cabinet. “And make sure to hurry up. Mom hates being late for Bible study.”

Going to church on Sunday with only a few hours of sleep seemed extra painful. Hailey and Ryan had to be there super early to teach Bible study, too. Rebecca said it would be a true blessing if I showed up, but what she really meant was, “You’re going to church.” One thing I’d learned about Rebecca was that she made demands with a smile, making you think they were requests.

Sometimes I watched Henry interact with her and wondered how they had come to be a couple. They appeared so different from each other that it seemed like an oddball connection. I even noticed Henry sitting in his car to smoke to make sure Rebecca didn’t find out.

But then sometimes I saw it. The way he looked at her when she wasn’t looking. The sparkle in his eyes. The way she held his hand as if it were her own hand.

His cell phone went off right before we walked inside the church, and Rebecca arched an eyebrow. “Who’s calling you this early?”

Henry’s eyes fell to his cell phone and he grimaced. “I’ll be right in behind you.”

Rebecca held the door open to the church for us and lectured her kids. “Remember, Hailey, a prayer before and a prayer after for the younger kids. They need to learn.”

“Okay,” Hailey said, rolling her eyes.

“And, Ryan, with the older kids… Don’t worry about that Avery boy interrupting. He’s been pulled out of the class.”

“Why?” Ryan asked, his interest piqued.

Rebecca’s face frowned in disgust. “Let’s just say he did some bothersome things. His family moved to a different church service.”

Ryan arched an eyebrow but didn’t press for more explanation.

“And tuck in your shirt. You look like a slob. Remember, God is watching.” When his mom turned away and walked inside, Ryan pulled out his fake cigarette box. I eyed his strange habit and turned to Hailey.

“What is he doing?” I whispered, moving with her toward the class she taught.

She glanced to her brother for a split second and shrugged. “Coping mechanism.”

Coping from what?

Hailey must have read my mind because she gave me a small grin. “You’re not the only one with daddy issues, Ashlyn.”

Chapter 8

There’s two things I need you to see.

One lives in you and the other in me.

~ Romeo’s Quest

Monday marked the first day of classes of senior year. Hailey drove Ryan and me to school, and Henry promised me that he would do his best to not cross my path. When we pulled into the parking lot, Ryan jumped out and tossed his backpack on.

I climbed out, backpack straps on, and held a novel close to my chest. The plan was to always hold a book to my chest. Then maybe the guys wouldn’t look at me the way they had at my other school.