Charlie smiles with a shake of her head. “I can’t, Annika. I’ll see you at school tomorrow, okay?” Annika looks overly offended. She scoffs when Charlie continues to pull the door shut, despite her being in the way. The girl steps aside and Charlie slams her door and locks it.
“Drive,” she says.
I do. Gladly.
We’re about a mile away from the gas station when Charlie clears her throat. It doesn’t help her voice because it still comes out in a raspy whisper. “You should probably delete that video.”
I don’t like her suggestion. I was already planning on replaying it tonight when I get home. “There could be a clue in it,” I say to her. “I think I should watch it again. Listen to how it ends.”
She smiles, just as my phone indicates an incoming text. I flip it over and see a notification at the top of the screen from “Father.” I open my text messages.
Father: Come home. Alone, please.
I show the text to Charlie and she just nods. “You can drop me off at home.”
The rest of the ride is slightly uncomfortable. I feel like the video we just watched together has somehow made us see one another in a different light. Not necessarily a bad one, just a different one. Before, when I looked at her, she was just the girl who was experiencing this weird phenomenon with me. Now when I look at her, she’s the girl I supposedly make love to. The girl I’ve apparently made love to for a while. The girl I apparently still love. I just wish I could remember what it’s supposed to feel like.
After seeing the obvious connection we once had, it only further confuses me that she was involved with that Brian guy. Thinking about him now fills me with a whole lot more anger and jealousy than it did before seeing us together in that video.
When we pull into her driveway and stop, she doesn’t immediately get out. She stares up at the dark house in front of us. There’s a faint light on in a front window, but no sign of movement anywhere inside the house.
“I’ll try to talk to my sister tonight. Maybe get more of an idea about what happened last night when I came home.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” I tell her. “I’ll do the same with my brother. Maybe figure out what his name is while I’m at it.”
“Want me to pick you up for school tomorrow?”
She nods. “If you don’t mind.”
It’s quiet again. The silence reminds me of the soft sounds that were escaping her in the video that’s still on my phone, thank God. I’ll be hearing her voice in my head all night. I’m kind of looking forward to it, actually.
“You know,” she says, tapping the door with her fingers. “We could wake up tomorrow and be perfectly fine. We might even forget today happened and everything will be back to normal.”
We can hope for it, but my instincts lead me to believe that won’t happen. We’re going to wake up tomorrow just as confused as we are right now.
“I’d bet against it,” I say. “I’ll go through the rest of my emails and messages tonight. You should do the same.”
She nods again, finally turning her head to make direct eye contact with me. “Goodnight, Silas.”
“Goodnight, Charlie. Call me if you…”
“I’ll be fine,” she says quickly, cutting me off. “See you in the morning.” She exits the car and begins walking toward her house. I want to yell after her, tell her to wait. I want to know if she’s wondering the same thing I’m wondering: What does Never Never mean?
I think if you cheat, it should be with someone worthy of your sin. I’m not sure if this is old Charlie’s thoughts or new Charlie’s thoughts. Or maybe, because I’m observing Charlie Wynwood’s life as an outsider, I’m able to think of her cheating with detachment rather than judgment. All I know is if you’re going to cheat on Silas Nash it had better be with Ryan Gosling.
I turn back to look at him before he drives away and catch a glimpse of his profile, the dim streetlamp behind the car illuminating his face. The bridge of his nose isn’t smooth. At school, the other boys had pretty noses, or noses that were still too big for their faces. Or worse, noses pocked with acne. Silas has a grown-up nose. It makes you take him more seriously.
I turn back to the house. My stomach feels oily. No one is around when I open the door and peer inside. I feel like I’m an intruder breaking into somebody’s house.
“Hello?” I say. “Anyone here?” I close the door quietly behind me and tiptoe into the living room.
Charlie’s mother is on the couch watching Seinfeld on mute, and eating pinto beans straight from the can. I’m suddenly reminded that all I’ve eaten today is the grilled cheese I split with Silas.
“Are you hungry?” I ask her tentatively. I don’t know if she’s still mad at me or if she’s going to cry again. “Do you want me to make us something to eat?”
She leans forward without looking at me and slides her beans onto the coffee table. I take a step toward her and force out the word, “Mom?”
“She’s not going to answer you.”
I spin around to see Janette stroll into the kitchen, a bag of Doritos in her hand.
“Is that what you ate for dinner?”
“What are you, like fourteen?”
“What are you, like brain-dead?” she shoots back. And then, “Yes, I’m fourteen.”
I grab the Doritos from her hand and carry them over to where drunken mommy is staring at the TV screen. “Fourteen-year-old girls can’t eat chips for dinner,” I say, dropping the bag on her lap. “Sober up and be a mom.”
I stalk over to the fridge, but all that’s inside it is a dozen cans of Diet Coke and a jar of pickles. “Get your jacket, Janette,” I say, glaring at the mother. “Let’s get you some dinner.”
Janette looks at me like I’m speaking Mandarin. I figure I need to throw something mean in there just to keep up appearances. “Hurry up, you little turd!”
She scampers back to our room while I search the house for car keys. What type of life was I living? And who was that creature on the couch? Surely she hadn’t always been that way. I glance at the back of her head and feel a spurt of sympathy. Her husband—my father—is in prison. Prison! That’s a big deal. Where are we even getting money to live?