That was the most comfort I’d received from him. Ever.

Chapter 21

I like the way you lie

When I ask you to stay.

I like the way you flirt

When I need to go away.

~ Romeo’s Quest

“You might want to put your hair down,” Ryan muttered against my ear at breakfast. “If Henry sees the huge hickey on your neck, he might freak out.”

I gasped at his comment and reached to pull my messy bun down, covering up my neck.

Ryan snickered. “We’re having a very intense conversation in Hailey’s car today.” He gave me a glare. “Going to the library, my ass.”

Hailey stumbled into the kitchen, looking like a zombie. She grabbed a mug, poured some orange juice, and stumbled out.

“She’s not a morning person, is she?” I asked.

“Not in the least.” Ryan paused. “You okay? Last night you were kind of…”

“A mess?”

“A hot mess,” he grinned. He always looked so effortlessly handsome. He was wearing a plain blue polo with his cross necklace and some jeans. All he had done to his hair was run his hands through it. Yet Ryan made it look as if he’d just come from a GQ magazine photo shoot. Every. Freaking. Day.

“Yeah. I’m fine. Just going through the motions of life.”

He laughed, moving to pour me a cup of tea. “That can be a real bitch sometimes.”

He wasn’t lying. I thanked him for the tea and I hopped off the stool. I headed toward the living room, where I saw Rebecca sitting on the couch, watching the news. My fingers combed my hair down against my neck.

“Oh, hey, Ashlyn.” She smiled brightly as she sipped her coffee. “Come here. I have a question for you.” Her hand patted the spot on the couch next to her.

My butt found the sofa cushions and I sank into them. She placed both of our mugs on the table. Rebecca smiled and moved in closer, taking my hands into hers.

“How are you?”

How was I supposed to answer that?

Good. I hate almost all of the boys at the school.

Good. I love eating lunch with your g*y son and Buddhist daughter.

Good. I haven’t heard from my mom, and Henry has no photos of me in his office proving that I exist.

Good. I just made out with my teacher in a cemetery last night in front of his dead parents and have the marks to prove it. Then he pushed me away suddenly with no explanation.

“I’m okay,” I muttered. “I’m good.”

She released a sigh of relief and patted my hands. “God is good, isn’t he?”

I narrowed my eyes on her and slowly nodded. “Sure.” I paused, wondering how understanding Rebecca was when it came to all issues. She never came across as too pushy or close-minded to me. So it made me wonder why Ryan and Hailey had to keep their private truths secret. The way they showed up for me last night made me want to help them, too.

“Hey, Rebecca…what would you say if I told you I liked girls?”

He hands dropped from holding mine and she chuckled a bit. “What?” Then it happened. I saw the shift of her whole personality. She smiled tightly and stood up. “I better make sure Hailey’s up for school.”

“She is. Ryan and I saw her.”

Rebecca turned off the television and moved toward the stairway. “Yes, but just to be sure. You can never be sure about these things.”

She moved in a hurry, rushing upstairs. I tried to grasp at the many different emotions that had been showcased in her eyes. Fear, guilt, anger? There was no doubt that there had been an air of restrained fury in her blues. Yet that wasn’t the main thing I’d noticed.

No, it was sadness that had prevailed amongst her looks.

But why would that have made her sad?

I heard shouting coming from upstairs, echoing throughout the hallways of the house. Rebecca and Henry were having a strong screaming match. Henry stumbled down the stairs—loudly—and was standing in front of me. He brushed his fingers against his peppered beard and sighed.

“Are you a lesbian?”

My mouth hung open at his forward question. “Henry!” I harshly whispered.

“Well, are you?” He paused and shifted his weight around. “Because I don’t care. Really, I don’t.” He sniffed through his nose and placed his arms across his body. “And if you don’t feel comfortable here, we’ll find somewhere else to go.”

A silence fell. I tilted my head toward him and stilled my body. His green eyes were filled with so much passion and honesty. “You would move? For me?”

He brushed his fingers against his lips and sighed. “Of course I would, Ashlyn. You’re my…” His words faltered. He cleared his throat. “You’re my daughter. And I could give a rat’s ass who you love. You’ve been through enough this year and—”

“I’m not a lesbian.”

Henry paused and arched his eyebrows. He was struck with a strange surprise. As if he’d already made it up in his mind that we were moving due to my sexuality. “You’re not a lesbian?”

“I’m not a lesbian,” I repeated.

“Jesus Christ, Ashlyn!” He sighed heavily and fell onto the chair. “That’s all fine and dandy, but if we could try to avoid such topics to keep away from such fights before seven a.m., that would be great.”

I turned away from Henry, who was pretty relieved that we weren’t packing our bags. A smile found my lips.

He’d picked me first.

I’d never thought he would pick me first.

The car ride to school was eerily silent after the fight between Rebecca and Henry. The tension was thick. I tried my best to sink into the back seat.