“No problem,” I say. “You can’t trust a guy who wears a pink shirt.” She sort of smirks and I feel triumphant. I can’t believe I thought I liked that guy. I can’t believe I liked Brian. What the hell was wrong with me?
I pick up my phone and see that Silas has texted me multiple times. Silas. I like Silas. Something about his soothing voice and good boy manners. And his nose—he has a wicked cool nose.
Silas: My dad…
Silas: Where are you?
The guy comes back with the chicken and a plate of mashed potatoes. It’s a lot of food.
“What’s your name again?” I ask.
“You’re such a bitch, Charlie,” He says, laying a plate down in front of me. He glances at Janette. “Sorry,” he says.
She shrugs. “What is your name?” she asks through a mouthful of food.
“Dover. That’s what my friends call me.”
I nod. Dover.
“So last weekend…,” I say.
Dover bites. “Yeah, that was crazy. I didn’t expect to see you back here this soon.”
“Why not?” I ask. I’m trying to be casual, but my insides are jumping around like they’re being shocked.
“Well, your man was pretty pissed. I thought he was going to blow his shit before he got kicked out.”
“Blow his shit…?” I change my tone so it’s not so much a question. “Blow his shit. Yeah. That was…”
“You looked pretty pissed,” Dover says. “I can’t blame you. You might have liked it here if Silas hadn’t ruined it for you.”
I sit back, the chicken suddenly unappealing. “Yeah,” I say, glancing at Janette, who is watching us both curiously.
“You finished, brat?” I ask her. She nods, wiping her greasy fingers on a napkin. I pull a twenty out of my purse and drop it on the table.
“No need,” Dover says, waving it away.
I lean down till we are eye to eye. “Only my boyfriend gets to buy me dinner,” I say, leaving the money on the table. I walk to the door, Janette trailing behind me.
“Yeah, well,” Dover calls, “you live by that rule, you can eat for free seven days a week!”
I don’t stop until I reach the car. Something happened in there. Something that made Silas almost lose his shit. I start the car and Janette lets out a loud burp. We both start laughing at the same time.
“No more Doritos for dinner,” I tell her. “We can learn to cook.”
“Sure,” she shrugs.
Everyone breaks their promises to Janette. She’s got that bitter air about her. We don’t speak for the rest of the ride home, and when I pull into the garage, she jumps out before I’ve turned off the engine.
“Nice spending time with you, too,” I call after her. I imagine that when I walk in, Charlie’s mother will be waiting for her—perhaps to chew her out for taking the car—but when I step into the house, everything is dark except for the light underneath the door to Janette’s and my bedroom. Mother has gone to sleep. Mother doesn’t care. It’s perfect for the situation I’m in. I get to snoop around and try to figure out what happened to me without the questions and rules, but I can’t help thinking about Janette—about how she’s just a little kid who needs her parents. Everything is so screwed up.
Janette is listening to music when I open the door.
“Hey,” I say. I suddenly have an idea. “Have you seen my iPod?” Music tells a lot about a person. I don’t have to have a memory to know that.
“I don’t know,” she shrugs. “Maybe it’s with all your other crap in the attic.”
My other crap?
I suddenly feel excited.
Maybe there’s more to me than a bland bedspread and a stack of bad novels. I want to ask her what kind of crap, and why my crap is in the attic instead of in our shared bedroom, but Janette has stuck the buds back in her ears and is working hard to ignore me.
I decide the best route would be to go up to the attic to check things out for myself. Now, where is the attic?
The front door to my house opens as I’m putting my car in park, and Ezra walks outside, wringing her hands together nervously. I get out of the car and walk to where she’s standing, wide-eyed.
“Silas,” she says, her voice quivering. “I thought he knew. I wouldn’t have mentioned Charlie was here, but you didn’t seem to be hiding it, so I thought things had changed and she was allowed over here...”
I hold up my hand to stop her from more unnecessary apologies. “It’s fine, Ezra. Really.”
She sighs and runs her hand across the apron she’s still wearing. I don’t understand her nervousness, or why she anticipated I would be angry with her. I shove more reassurance into my smile than is probably necessary, but she looks as if she needs it.
She nods and follows me inside the house. I pause in the foyer, not quite familiar enough with the house to know where my father would be at the moment. Ezra passes me, muttering a “goodnight,” and heads up the stairs. She must live here.
It sounds like my voice, but more worn. I turn and am suddenly face to face with the man in all the family photos lining the walls. He’s missing the brilliantly fake smile, though.
He eyes me up and down, as if the mere sight of his son disappoints him.
He turns and walks through a door leading out of the foyer. His silence and the assurance in his steps demand I follow him, so I do. We walk into his study, and he slowly edges around his desk and takes a seat. He leans forward and folds his arms over the mahogany wood. “Care to explain?”
I’m tempted to explain. I really am. I want to tell him that I have no idea who he is, no idea why he’s angry, no idea who I am.
I should probably be nervous or intimidated by him. I’m sure yesterday’s Silas would have been, but it’s hard to feel intimidated by someone I don’t know at all. As far as I’m concerned, he has no power over me, and power is the primary ingredient of intimidation.
“Care to explain what?” I ask.
My eyes move to a shelf of books on the wall behind him. They look like classics. Collectibles. I wonder if he’s read any of the books or if they’re just more ingredients for his intimidation.
“Silas!” His voice is so deep and sharp; it feels like the tip of a knife piercing my ears. I press my hand against the side of my neck and squeeze before looking at him again. He eyes the chair across from him, silently commanding me to sit down.