He shoves out the front doors of the school thinking that he’s evaded the reporters, but walks straight into a mob of people. Awh, what the hell? How did Brie get his song and why is her name on the back and not Mari’s? He was too dumbstruck to speak before, but now Trystan’s angry. Without a doubt, he knows that this is Brie’s fault, that she’s the one who called the press, and she’s the one who exposed him.
Trystan stands there for a second before turning back toward the building. Seth comes crashing through the door next to him. “Come on, man. Let’s get out of here.” Seth’s voice is deep and demanding. It’s like he knows that Trystan wants to run.
“Tucker will fail me if I cut,” Trystan blurts it out without thinking.
Seth shakes his head. “No way. Not after this. Show up for the play tonight and you’re golden. Come on, my car’s around the side and I bet all these pussies parked out front.” Seth is walking down the sidewalk and cuts toward the student parking lot. He ducks through a hole in the chain link fence and Trystan follows.
A few reporters trail after them, but the camera guy can’t follow. The equipment doesn’t fit through the fence, so they have to walk around. By the time that happens, Trystan and Seth will be driving away.
Trystan settles into the passenger’s seat and presses his hand to his temple, shading his eyes. Seth starts the engine and they peel out of the lot, cutting into the busy road. Seth floors it, bobbing and weaving through traffic to put some distance between them and the reporters.
For a while Seth doesn’t say anything, but then he explodes and once he starts talking the words don’t stop. “How could you not tell me? I’m watching all these people gathering in the hallway this morning and thinking, there is no way in hell that Scott is this Day Jones guy because I would have known. He would have told me. I’m the guy’s best friend and shit like this wouldn’t be kept a secret, but what the f**k do I know? Because apparently, you’re all about the secrets, Scott. Do I even know you?”
“You’re an a**hole if you think you don’t.” Trystan doesn’t drop his hand from his brow. A queasy feeling has been surging through him since he saw the mass of people. His mind drifts to Mari. He’ll have to text her and make sure she’s okay as soon as he can patch things up with Seth.
“That’s the only thing you’ve got to say? Are you shittin’ me? After everything we’ve been through, you’re seriously going to keep lying to me?” Seth cuts someone off and a horn blares behind them. Seth flips off the other driver and gives the car more gas.
Trystan looks up from under his hand. “What am I lying about?”
“Okay, Scott. You want to play it this way? Fine. I’ll play. Tell me if you’re Day Jones. Tell me you didn’t write that song for that skank Brie. Tell me who you nailed last night. Or how about you tell me why the hell someone saw you at the police station.” His gaze cuts to Trystan’s, sharp as glass. The tension in his jaw is enough to make it snap. “Pick one, Scott. I know you’ve been making stuff up, and I figure that’s fine—he’ll tell me when the shit hits the fan—but since that happened, and you still haven’t said two words—”
Trystan drops his hand and looks over at him. “What do you want me to say, Seth? That I’m Day Jones? Fine, I am. I wrote that song for someone else, not Brie. I don’t even know how she got it. And yeah, I was at the police station, and no, I’m not telling you why, because it’s none of your goddamn business.”
Seth’s grip tightens on the steering wheel, making his knuckles rise up under his skin. “I see. So where were you last night? Tell me who you f**ked ‘til morning, because I know you weren’t at home. You used to tell me that kind of thing Scott, you know, back when we were friends. Choke up a name right now or I’ll toss your ass out of my car—”
It’s none of Seth’s business, but the guy is in torch everything and ask questions later mode. Trystan’s been keeping things from him, yeah, but he keeps things from everyone. Well, not from everyone. Mari knows. The vein on the side of Seth’s head is about to explode. It’s throbbing under his skin, making Trystan feel guilty. Maybe he is a shitty friend. So he answers, “Mari Jennings.” But as soon as Trystan says her name, he regrets it.
Seth turns abruptly, and smashes his mouth shut. Taking the wheel hand over hand, making the tires shriek as the car skids into a parking lot. He slams on the brakes and they come to a quick stop. “Get out of my car, you lying sack of shit. You honestly think that I’d believe that? You didn’t even try to—“
Trystan glares at his friend, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. Seth is so dense with this stuff. “You think I’d lie and make up Mari? Are you seriously telling me that you can’t see it? I’m with her whenever I’m not with you.”
“You spend the night at Jenning’s house? You slept with her?”
Trystan nods slowly, even though he knows that Seth thinks they did more than sleep. “Yeah, I ducked out this morning after her dad got home from work.”
Seth looks disgusted and disappointed. He tenses in his seat and Trystan’s ready for the verbal onslaught that spews from his friend. “I told you to stay away from her. That family has enough money to bury you and don’t think that her dad won’t do it. The guy is—”
Rubbing the heel of his hands over his face, Trystan yells back, “I know what he is, but she’s worth the risk.”
Seth sucks in a deep breath, trying to rein in his temper. Trystan slips down in his seat and stares blankly out the windshield. “So,” Seth finally says, “Everything changes now, right? You go and sign with some company and get rich, while I go and serve four years in some hellhole country that I can’t point to on a map.”
Trystan glances over at Seth and his stomach sinks. “You enlisted?”
Seth nods. “I signed on the line. They own me after graduation.”
Horrified, Trystan sits up straight. “Fuck, Seth. Tell me you didn’t! Why’d you do that?”
“Because I thought that’s what you were doing! I thought we’d be shipping out together, but there’s no way in hell you’re doing that now, not with this opportunity. You’ll be rich in a week and have a penthouse in Manhattan. You can leave this shithole behind and nail a different chick every night.”
Guilt is choking him so hard that he can barely speak. Seth enlisted because of him. Damn it. There’s no way to undo this. It’s already been done. “That’s what you would do.”
“Nah, I’d have a different three-way every night. I pussied it down for your version of the American dream.” Seth settles back into his seat and tilts his head back. “So what happens now?”
Trystan sighs and pushes his hands up over the top of his head and down the back of his neck, digging his fingers into the muscle. Every part of him wants to scream, but he can’t. “No f**king clue. But I’m guessing that everyone finds out everything I’ve been trying to keep hidden, and my life becomes a living hell.”
Seth snorts and smiles at him. “Only you would say that p**sy and cash are hell.”
“Only you would focus on that shit after what happened this week. Life is more than getting laid, Seth.”
Seth laughs once, like he doesn’t agree at all. “Then spill, Scott. What the hell happened?”
Trystan works his jaw, thinking about whether or not to tell Seth. In the end, Seth will find out—they all will—so he tells him now. Trystan tells him about his father, about Mari showing up and saving his life, and about the songs he wrote for her. “No one was supposed to give a shit about the videos, no one was supposed to find out about my father, and I sure as hell didn’t want Mari caught in the middle.”
Seth doesn’t react to anything Trystan says. For a moment Trystan thinks that his friend isn’t listening, but there’s not much to say after something like that. Being beat reminds them both that they’re insignificant.
Seth finally smirks at Trystan. “Do you want me to mow down your old man?”
Trystan laughs darkly and shakes his head. “No, he’s not worth it, and I have no intention of seeing him again—ever.”
“Okay, so let me get this straight—you’re homeless, kind-a, sort-a banging an under-age good girl, you’ve got a father who blames you for his life being shit, and a reporter that wants to publically out you. Did I forget anything?”
Staring straight ahead, Trystan adds, “Yeah, you forgot vengeful ex-girlfriend.”
“Ah, yeah. The Skank. I need to make her up a tee shirt that says that in glittery letters. Ten buck says she wears it.” Seth laughs at his own joke, but Trystan is lost in thought. He needs to play his next move well, so that it cuts off all the crap and gives him a sure footing, but Brie and Mari create vulnerable spots in his plans. He can’t figure out how to lose Brie or how to keep Mari from being found out. Damn, if the press realizes that she was there the other night…
“Scott?” Seth sounds irritated, like he’s been trying to talk to Trystan while he’s been lost in his own head. “There’s only one way to play this hand. Live it. Own it. Claim that title and then the next move is yours. Tell the reporter about your shitfaced father, about how you worked your ass off to keep food on the table, and about Sam giving you a job. It’ll make your fans love you even more.”
Trystan is staring at the people in the parking lot and realizes that this is one of the last times he’ll be able to move freely. Once they know he’s Day Jones, his life will change. Folding his arms over his chest, Trystan mutters, “I don’t want fans.”
“Tough shit. Deal with it, Scott. This is your ticket out of this hell hole and the train’s only going one-way. Get on or get run over.” Seth puts the car in gear and drives over to a deli in the center of the strip mall. “I’ll get us some breakfast, knowing you, you didn’t eat. But, when you become rich and famous I expect a hooker or two for my troubles.”
Trystan laughs. “You make your own troubles, Seth. Hookers are not a good thing to factor into the equation.”
Seth flashes a ghost of a smile and he nods. After getting out of the car, he leans into the open window. “I don’t usually say shit like this, but I got your back, Scott. Whatever you decide, I’m still your man.” Seth lets out an uncomfortable breath and turns away, and walks into the deli.
Katie fires off a slew of profanity at Brie’s back.
“I can hear you,” Brie snaps, as she sashays away from us.
“I know! I’m talking loudly!” Katie is seething. She grabs my arm and pulls me toward the side doors. “There is no way in hell that we’re going to learn a damn thing today. Come on. Let’s get out of here.” Katie pushes through the metal doors and we’re in the parking lot.