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She walks over to me and grabs my cell phone out of my hand and starts pressing buttons.

“What the hell are you doing?” I yell as I grab it back out of her grasp.

“I know what you’re up to, Lake! Don’t pretend with me.”

“What am I up to? I’d really like to know!”

“Last night you and Will were both gone. He conveniently had a babysitter. Tonight, his brother says he’s spending the night and half an hour later you’re going out? You aren’t going anywhere!”

I throw my phone in my purse and wrap my purse across my shoulder as I head to the front door.

“As a matter of fact I am going out. With Eddie. You can watch me leave with Eddie. You can watch me return with Eddie.” I walk out the front door and she follows me. Luckily, Eddie is pulling up in the driveway.

“Lake? Get back here! We need to talk,” she yells from the doorway.

I open the door to Eddie’s car and I turn to face her. “You’re right mom, but I think you’re the one that needs to do the talking. I know why we’re having dinner tomorrow! I know why we moved to Michigan! I know about everything! So don’t you dare talk to me about hiding stuff!”

I don’t wait for her to respond as I get in the backseat and slam the door.

“Get me out of here. Hurry,” I say to Eddie.

I start crying as we drive away. I never want to go back.

***

“Here, drink this.” Eddie shoves another soda across the table as she and Gavin watch me drink-and cry. We stopped at Getty’s because Eddie said their pizza was the only thing that could help me right now. I couldn’t eat.

“I’m sorry I ruined your date,” I say to both of them.

“You didn’t ruin it. Did she babe?” Eddie says as she turns to Gavin.

“Not at all. It’s a nice change of routine,” he says as he shoves his pizza into a takeout box.

My phone is vibrating again. It’s the sixth time my mother has called, so I hold down the power button and throw it back in my purse.

“Can we still make it to the movie?” I ask.

Gavin looks at his watch and nods. “Sure, if you really feel like going.”

“I do. I need to stop thinking about this for a little while.”

We pay our bill and head to the theater. It’s not Johnny Depp, but any actor will do right now.

10.

“She puts her hands against

the life she had.

Living with ignorance,

Blissful and sad.

But nobody knows what lies behind

The days before the day we die.”

-The Avett Brothers, Die Die Die

Chapter Ten

We pull up to my house a few hours later. I don’t immediately get out of the car as I take a few deep breaths, preparing for the fight that’s about to go down.

“Layken, call me later. I wanna know everything. Good luck,” Eddie says.

“Thanks, I will.” I get out of the car and walk up to the door as they drive away. When I walk inside, my mom is lying on the couch. She hears the door close and jumps up. I expect her to continue yelling but she runs to me and throws her arms around my neck. I stand stiff.

“Lake, I’m so sorry, I should have told you. I’m so sorry.” She’s crying.

I back apart from her and go sit on the couch. There’s tissue paper all over both end tables. She’s been crying a lot. Good, she should feel bad. Awful, even.

“Dad and I were going to tell you before he-”

“Dad? You were seeing him before dad even died?” I stand up and pace the floor. “Mom! How long has this been going on?” I’m yelling now. And crying again.

I look at her, waiting for her to defend her repulsive behavior but she is staring at the table in front of her.

She leans forward and cocks her head at me. “Seeing who? What do you think’s going on?”

“I don’t know who! Whoever wrote you that poem in your nightstand! Whoever you’ve been going to see every time you run errands. Whoever you’ve been saying I love you to on the phone. I don’t know who and I really don’t care who.”

She walks to me and places her hands on my shoulders.

“Lake, I’m not seeing anyone. You’ve misunderstood everything. All of it.”

I can tell she’s being honest, but I still don’t have any answers.

“What about the note? And the bank statements? We aren’t broke, Mom. And you never even sold the house! You lied to us to drag us up here. If it wasn’t for some guy, then why? Why are we here?”

“Oh god, Lake. I thought you knew. I thought you figured it out.” She sits back down on the couch.

“Apparently not," I say. I'm frustrated. I don't understand what could possibly be so important about Michigan that she would drag us away from our entire lives.

"So tell me,” I say.

“Sit down. Please, sit down.”

I sit back down on the couch and wait for her to explain everything. She pauses for a long time as she gathers her thoughts.

“The note, it’s just something your dad wrote. He was being silly. He drew on my face one night and left the note on my pillow. I kept it. I loved your dad, Lake. I miss him so much. I would never do anything like that to him. There’s no one else.”

She's being sincere.

“Then why did we move here, Mom? Why did you make us move here?”

She takes a deep breath and grabs my hands. The look in her eyes makes my heart sink. It’s the same look she had in the hallway earlier this year when she came to tell me the news about my dad. She takes another deep breath and squeezes my hands.

“Lake, I have cancer.”

***

Denial. I’m definitely in denial. And anger. Bargaining? Yes, that too. I’m in all three. All five, maybe. I can’t breathe.

“Your father and I were going to tell you. After he died, y’all were so devastated. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to you about it. When I started getting worse, I wanted to move back here. Brenda begged me to, said she’d help take care of me. She’s the one I’ve been talking to on the phone. There’s a doctor in Detroit that specializes in lung cancer. That’s where I’ve been going.”

Lung cancer. It has a name. That makes it even more real.

“I was going to tell you and Kel tomorrow. It’s time you guys know, so we can all prepare.”

I pull my hands away from her.

“Prepare...for what, Mom?”

She wraps her arms around me and starts crying again. I push her back.

“Prepare for what, Mom?”

Just like plump Principal Bass, she can’t look me in the eyes. She feels sorry for me.

I don’t remember walking out of the house, and I don’t remember going across the street. The only thing I know is that it’s midnight and I’m beating on Will’s door.

When he opens it he doesn’t ask any questions. He can see on my face that I just need him to be Will. Just for a little while. He puts his arm around me shoulders and ushers me inside as he shuts the door behind him.

“Lake, what’s wrong?”

I can’t respond. I can’t breathe. Will wraps his arms around me just as I start to collapse to the floor and cry. And just like in the school hallway with my mother, he melts to the floor with me. He puts my head under his chin as he rubs my hair and lets me cry.

“Tell me what happened,” he finally whispers.

I don’t want to say it. If I say it out loud, that means it’s real. It is real.

“She’s dying, Will,” I say between sobs. “She has cancer.” He squeezes me tighter, then picks me up and carries me to his bedroom. He lays me on the bed and pulls the covers over me when the doorbell rings. He kisses me on the forehead as he leaves the room.

I can hear her speak when he answers the door, but I can’t hear what she says. His voice is low but I'm able to make out what Will says.

“Let her stay, Julia. She needs me right now.”

A few more things are spoken that I can’t make out. I hear him eventually shut the door and he comes back to the bedroom. He crawls into the bed, puts his arms around me and holds me while I cry.

Part Two

11.

“Who cares about tomorrow?

What more is tomorrow,

Than another Day?”

-The Avett Brothers, Swept Away

Chapter Eleven

The window is on the wrong side of the room. What time is it? I throw my arm across the bed and reach for the phone on my nightstand. My phone’s not there. Neither is the nightstand. I sit up in the bed and rub my eyes. This isn’t my room. When it all comes flooding back to me, I lie back down and pull the blanket over my head, wishing it all away.

***

“Lake.”

I wake up again. The sun isn’t as bright, but it’s still not my room. I pull the covers tighter over my head.

“Lake, wake up.”

Someone is pulling the covers back off of my head. I groan and grip them even tighter. I try to wish it all away again, but my bladder is screaming at me. I throw the covers off and see Will sitting on the edge of the bed.

“You really aren’t a morning person,” he says.

“Bathroom. Where’s your bathroom?”

He points across the hall. I jump out of the bed and hope I can make it. I run to the toilet and sit, but nearly fall in. The seat’s up.

“Boys,” I mutter as I let the seat down.

When I emerge from the bathroom, Will is at the bar in the kitchen. He smiles and scoots a cup of coffee to the empty seat next to him. I take the seat, and the coffee.

“What time is it?” I say.

“One-thirty.”

“Oh. Your bed’s really comfortable.”

“Apparently,” he smiles as he nudges my shoulder.

We drink our coffee in silence. Comfortable silence.

Will takes my empty cup to the sink and rinses it out before putting it in the dishwasher.

“I’m taking Kel and Caulder to a matinee,” he says as he turns on the dishwasher. “We’re leaving in a few minutes. I’ll probably take them to dinner afterwards, so we’ll be back around six. Should give you and your mom time to talk.”

I don’t like how he throws that last sentence in there, like I’m susceptible to his manipulation.

“What if I don’t want to talk? What if I want to go to a matinee?”

He lays his elbows on the bar and leans toward me.

“You don’t need to watch a movie. You need to talk to your mom. Let’s go.”

He grabs his keys and jacket and starts walking toward the door. I lean back in my chair and fold my arms across my chest.

“I just woke up. The caffeine hasn’t even kicked in yet. Can I stay here for a while?”

I’m lying. I just want him to leave so I can crawl back into his comfortable bed.

“Fine.” He walks toward me and bends down as he kisses the top of my head. “But not all day. You need to talk to her.”

He puts his jacket on and walks out, shutting the door behind him. I walk to the window and watch as Kel and Caulder climb in the car and they all drive away.

I look across the street at my house. My house that’s not a home. I know my mom is inside, just yards away. I have no idea what I would begin to say to her if I walked over there right now. I decide not to go right away. I don’t like that I’m so mad at her. I know this isn’t her fault, but I don’t know who else to blame.

***

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