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Despite all of it, though, she still turned and walked away. But if I’ve learned anything about Charlie in these last two days, it’s that there’s a reason for every move she makes. And it’s usually a good reason, which is why I didn’t try to stop her.

My phone receives a text, and I almost fall as I scramble out of the shower to get to it. I haven’t heard from her since we parted ways last night, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t beginning to worry.

My hope bleeds out of me when I see the text isn’t from Charlie. It’s from the kid I talked to at the diner last night, Eller.

Eller: Amy wants to know if Charlie rode with you to school. She’s not at home.

I turn off the water, despite not even having rinsed off yet. I grab a towel with one hand and respond to his text with the other.

Me: No, I haven’t even left my house yet. Has she tried her cell?

As soon as I send the text, I dial Charlie’s number and hit speaker, then set the phone down on the counter. I’m dressed by the time her voicemail picks up.

“Shit,” I mutter as I end the call. I open the door and stop by my bedroom long enough to get into my shoes and grab my keys. I make it downstairs, but freeze before I reach the front door.

There’s a woman in the kitchen, and she isn’t Ezra.

“Mom?”

The word comes out of my mouth before I realize I’m even speaking. She spins around, and even though I only recognize her from the pictures on the wall, I think I might feel something. I don’t know what it is. It’s not love or recognition. I’m just overcome with a sense of calmness.

No…it’s comfort. That’s what I feel.

“Hey, sweetie,” she says with a bright smile that reaches the corners of her eyes. She’s preparing breakfast—or maybe she’s cleaning after just finishing up breakfast. “Did you see the mail I put on your dresser yesterday? And how are you feeling?”

Landon looks more like her than I do. His jaw is soft, like hers. Mine is harsh, like my father’s. Landon carries himself like she does, too. Like life has been good to them.

She tilts her head and then closes the distance between us. “Silas, are you okay?”

I take a step back when she tries to touch her hand to my forehead. “I’m fine.”

She tucks her hand to her chest like it offends her that I backed away. “Oh,” she says. “Okay. Well, good. You already missed school this week and you have a game tonight.” She walks back into the kitchen. “You shouldn’t stay out so late when you’re sick.”

I stare at the back of her head, wondering why she would say that. This is the first time I’ve even seen her since all of this started. Ezra or my father must have told her about Charlie being here.

I wonder if Charlie being here upset her. I wonder if she and my father share the same opinion of Charlie.

“I feel fine now,” I reply. “I was with Charlie last night, that’s why I was home late.”

She doesn’t react to my baited comment. She doesn’t even look at me. I wait a few more seconds to see if she’s going to respond. When she doesn’t, I turn and head for the front door.

Landon is in the front seat already when I reach the car. I open the back door and throw my backpack inside. When I open the front, he reaches his hand out to me. “This was ringing. Found it under your seat.”

I take the phone from him. It’s Charlie’s.

“She left her phone in my car?”

Landon shrugs. I stare at the screen and there are several missed calls and texts. I see Brian’s name, along with Amy’s. I try to open them, but I’m prompted for a password.

“Get in the damn car, we’re already late!”

I climb inside and set Charlie’s phone on the console while I back out. When I pick it back up again to try and figure out the password, Landon snatches it out of my hands.

“Did you not learn anything from your fender bender last year?” He slaps the phone back down on the console.

I’m uneasy. I don’t like that Charlie doesn’t have her phone with her. I don’t like that she didn’t ride to school with Amy. If she already left her house before Amy got there, who did she ride to school with? I’m not sure how I’ll react if I find out she caught a ride with Brian.

“I mean this in the nicest way possible,” Landon says. I glance over at him—at the cautious look on his face. “But…is Charlie pregnant?”

I slam on my breaks. Luckily there’s a light in front of us that turns red, so my reaction appears intentional.

“Pregnant? Why? Why would you ask that? Did you hear that from someone?”

Landon shakes his head. “No, it’s just…I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out what the hell is going on with you and that seemed like the only justifiable answer.”

“I miss practice yesterday so you assume it’s because Charlie is pregnant?”

Landon laughs under his breath. “It’s more than just that, Silas. It’s everything. You fighting with Brian, the practices you’ve missed all week, you ditching school half a day Monday, all day Tuesday, half a day Wednesday. It’s not like you.”

I ditched school this week?

“Also, you and Charlie have been acting strange when you’re together. Not like your usual selves. You forgot to pick me up after school, you stayed out past curfew on a school night. You’ve been really off this week, and I don’t know if you want to tell me what the hell is going on, but it’s really starting to worry me.”

I watch as the disappointment fills his eyes.

We were close. He’s definitely a good brother, I can tell. He’s used to knowing all my secrets—all my thoughts. I wonder if these rides to and from school are when we normally share them. I wonder if I were to tell him what I’m really thinking—if he would even believe me.

“The light’s green,” he says, facing forward.

I begin driving again, but I don’t share any secrets with him. I don’t know what to say or how to even begin telling him the truth. I just know I don’t want to lie to him because that doesn’t seem like something the old Silas would do.

When I pull into a parking spot, he opens his door and gets out.

“Landon,” I say before he shuts the door. He leans down and looks at me. “I’m sorry. I’m just having an off week.”

He nods thoughtfully and turns his attention toward the school. He works his jaw back and forth and then locks eyes with me again. “Hopefully your week is back on before the game tonight,” he says. “You have a lot of pissed off teammates right now.”

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