Garrett’s and my relationship was currently off, due to the fact that he had a way of sleeping with women who weren’t me. He said it was my own fault, because I wouldn’t have sex with him, but that was idiotic. I’d never understand how a cheater could blame anyone other than their unfaithfulness, but then again, I was the dummy who went back to him time and time again.

It was amazing how low self-esteem could make you fall into the wrong arms.

As I approached Garrett’s place, I was reminded of a trait I’d inherited from my mother: dating assholes.

“You can’t stay here, unless you get on your knees,” Garrett said, blowing out a cloud of smoke from his cigarette. He wore a plaid top and jean shorts that were too big for his slender frame. A ratty old belt held them up on his hips.

“Don’t be gross, Garrett. Listen, Charlie kicked me out. I need a place to crash for tonight at least.”

“Like I said, on your knees, or you can find another place to crash.”

“Are you joking?”

“Am I laughing?”

Just then, a girl walked up behind him, and I recognized her right away. Megan Kilt—the same girl who Garrett had said was just a friend. Back then I’d known better than to believe him.

The moment Megan saw me, a wicked grin fell against her lips. “Well, if it isn’t gothic Barbie,” she cooed. “Really, why do you wear so much eyeliner? It’s overkill.”

I flipped her off and looked back to Garrett. “Just let me crash on your couch tonight, and you can do whatever you want with bimbo Barbie,” I offered. “I’ll even wear earplugs.”

“Sorry, Hazel. Charlie told me to not take you in. Said you needed some tough love.”

There was nothing loving about what Charlie was doing to me. It was cruel.

“Charlie won’t have to know.”

“Charlie knows everything. Even the shit that you think he doesn’t.”

I hated that it was true. It was as if Charlie had eyes in the back of his head and was able to be a step ahead of everything and everyone.

Garrett blew another puff of smoke, and Megan wrapped her hands around his shoulders, as if she was trying to make it clear that he was now her play toy. Fine by me. I’d always known Garrett wasn’t the one for me. He was just the one who was always there.

Except when I needed him the most.

Garrett was the bad boy that romance novels made you think you wanted, though, unlike the novels, he didn’t have a turning point. There wasn’t a moment when he said the right thing or spoke to me in such a poetic way that I fell more in love with him each day. He didn’t make sacrifices for our relationship or surrender himself to our love.

He was just Garrett, the boy who was there when no other guys would look my way. I wished that I could’ve said I was strong enough to look away, but sometimes loneliness made you crave any kind of connection—even from those who sucked your soul dry.

The only difference between him and Charlie was the fact that Garrett would never put his hands on me. He was an asshole, but he wasn’t physically abusive like Charlie.

Still, that didn’t make him someone worth worshipping.

Sometimes I wished Garrett was a fictional character.

I would’ve killed to see his growth.

“Hazel, before you go, how’s your mom? With the whole pregnant thing?” he asked, stomping out the cigarette. “Is Charlie treating her right? Making sure she’s eating and shit?”

I shook my head. “You know Charlie only has a one-track mind. And it’s not on my mother. I was the one making sure she was being cared for, not him. And somehow he managed to have her turn on me.”

Garrett pulled out another cigarette and lit it. I swore, the guy smoked like a chimney. “I’ll check in on her for you, to make sure she’s not missing her vitamins and shit.”

Well, that’s nice and extremely out of character.

“Thank you.”

“Yeah. My mom will probably want to make sure she’s good too.”

Garrett’s mother, Sadie, had been Mama’s best friend through the good and the bad. Sadie wasn’t a bad person. She’d just been placed in bad situations.

Like a lot of people, I supposed.

Garrett flipped his lighter on and off in his free hand. “You should get lost, though, before Charlie finds you here and gives you and me hell.”

I left, passing teenagers being rowdy on the streets and adults being rowdier inside Carl’s Bar due to the freedom of Friday night.

I kept going even though my feet burned from walking so much. I couldn’t wear my combat boots, seeing as how I’d ruined them in the pigpens, so I was stuck wearing stupid, uncomfortable flip-flops that I’d taken from my mother without her knowing.

Without much thought, I found myself back at the ranch. It seemed like the only place I could think of going. The barn house was lit up with music blasting, probably from Ian’s band, and for the most part it sounded amazing—minus the crappy lyrics.

Don’t get me wrong; Ian could sing. The lyrics were just piles of crap.

Behind the barn house, through the wooded area, was a small abandoned shed that I’d found a few days ago while trying to release a cramp in my hip. I walked in that direction and opened the door.

There wasn’t much inside, but there was a beat-up old rug that I rolled out. It would serve well as a bed for the night. “It’s just like camping, Hazel. Just like camping,” I told myself. There was a big hole in the roof of the shed that showcased the star-filled sky. Whenever I looked up at the sky, I felt at peace. The galaxy made me feel small, and oddly enough, that made me feel better about things. Almost as if there was so much to the world that my current situation wasn’t too dire. Things would turn around. They had to at some point. Life wasn’t meant to be this sad, and I was certain I’d find my way out of this godforsaken town sooner or later. I’d hoped that Mama would join me, but it was clear she’d chosen her side and I was no longer on her team.