She looked me up and down. “Did you just come from the gym? You’re looking very . . . natural today.”

“You’re right,” Hayden said. “She’s a natural beauty.” Hayden had transitioned into his Bradley role well. He even reached down and took my hand in his, regardless of the fact that I’d just told Jules we weren’t dating. I shot him a look but didn’t take my hand back.

Jules zeroed in on the script sitting on the table. “Whose script? I thought Gia said you take business classes.”

“I take a drama class as well. It’s an outlet for me.”

“How fun.” She adjusted her purse strap on her shoulder. “You wear glasses,” she said to him, almost like she was compiling a list.

“When I’m not wearing contacts, yes.”

“Gia never mentioned you wore glasses.”

I could feel my forehead wrinkle. “Why would I?”

“That just seems like something you would mention. Well, anyway, I’m picking up some things for my mom. You know how she is. Call me, Gia.”

We didn’t call each other. She moved up the street. Hayden stood there next to my chair, my hand still clutched in his, staring after her.

“I’m not a fan of that girl.”

I squeezed his hand then let it go. I would’ve hung on to it for as long as he’d let me but his eyes were gleaming in that way they did after he had put on an exceptionally good show. I didn’t want to just be part of a role he played anymore.

He sat back down, picked up his script, and folded it in half. “Does she remember everything you ever say?”

“Only so she can use it against me in the future.”

“Why do you hang out with her, again?”

“Because my other friends like her.”

He stared down the street, where she was no longer visible. “Did I make it worse?”

“I don’t think it can get any worse. It’s fine.” I stirred my spoon around my empty ice cream cup again then bit my lip. “I was going to tell her, though.”

“I know, but I think you should tell your other friends first.”

“You’re right. I need to tell my other friends first.” I’d been trying to deny that fact. I’d been trying to pretend like I didn’t need to tell them at all. That we’d all moved on. But it didn’t work that way. I’d been keeping a secret from them and that’s not what friends did. I needed to tell them the truth.

A couple of minutes later I saw Jules emerge from the coffee shop up the street holding a cup. “I’ll be right back.” Claire’s words echoed through my mind. Just try to be nice to her. She’s been through a lot. I had told Claire I would. I hadn’t been trying at all.


She stopped and turned. “Yeah?”

“I just . . .” I had no idea where to start with her. I thought back to the things she talked about when we were together with the group. She had an awful relationship with her mom. I had originally thought she was just complaining about her parents like we all did, but it was obviously worse than I realized. “Is everything okay? With your mom?”

“Did Claire tell you something?” She sounded angry.

“No. Last time we were all at lunch you mentioned you were fighting. Are you guys still fighting?”

She stared at the Styrofoam cup in her hand. “We’re always fighting.”

“About what?”

“She wants to move . . . again. I just want her to wait until I graduate, until I’m gone to college, but she’s running from man number fifty-one or seventy-five. I’ve lost count. She already has half the house packed.”

Wow. That sounded awful. I couldn’t imagine my mom picking up and moving every time there was trouble. I felt bad. “I’m sorry.” I remembered her saying something about how much her mom dated. Usually horrible men.

Her eyes snapped up to mine and hardened. “It’s no big deal. Claire said I could move in with her for a few weeks if that happened.”

“Oh. Well, good. That will help. I just wanted to see if you were okay.”

Her gaze went over my shoulder to where I’d left Hayden sitting. “Are you pretending to care because you’re worried about me or worried about what I know?”


She smirked. “Watch your back, Gia, I’m getting warmer.” She started to walk away then over her shoulder said, “Ninety days.”


Jules had killed the mood, and seeing as how I had avoided home for four hours now, I knew I had to face my parents. So I told Hayden I’d better go home and we parted ways. I wondered if my parents had already called and talked to Drew. I wondered if I was going to walk into a pit of hysteria when I arrived home. I couldn’t even picture it.

I braced myself and walked through the door. It was quiet. I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad one. I made my way through the entry and headed to the living room, where I could hear a television or something. Oh, please tell me they aren’t watching it right now, I thought. But when I got to where they were both sitting on the couch, my mom in her realtor clothes, my dad holding a plate of lunch, I saw they were both watching television.

My dad laughed at something that was said.

I cleared my throat. “Hi. I’m home.”

My mom picked up the remote sitting next to her and turned off the television. “Gia, you can’t go running off like that again, okay? There is a proper way to ask for permission to go to the library and it wasn’t that.”

“Okay . . .” I looked between the two of them.

“You’ve been behaving very differently since you started hanging out with that Bec girl.”

“What? I hardly hang out with her at all.”

“Well, I can’t help but notice that your new contentious attitude has coincided with her arrival in your life. I’d like you to have some space from her for a while.” Contentious attitude? Those were always the words she used on Drew.

“This has nothing to do with her. Did you watch Drew’s video?”

“Yes, we did,” my dad said.


“And it was an interesting piece on the changing culture and the side effects that can come from it.” He set his plate on the coffee table and moved to the edge of the couch cushion.

“He used our family as his example.”

“Who else’s family was he supposed to use? He only has the one.”

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