“Anyway, I’d better go,” I said eventually. “Mom wanted to—”
“Right. Yeah. See you at school, Edie.” And he was gone.
Me: Who is this?
Unknown: Me, dummy.
Me: What do you want and how did you get my number?
Anders: JC gave it to me. His car’s died. Come get us we need a lift to school.
Me: Be there soon.
Anders: For him you do stuff. WHAT ABOUT ME?
By daylight, the two-story home looked even more in need of work, despite the perfection of the garden. Flaking paint and climbing vines hid the potential glory of the place. Guess his uncle was too busy running a business to do much work on the house. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood or anything. Most of the other homes were well maintained, immaculate even. Only John’s place seemed at odds, in need of a little love.
He was bent over the engine. But by the time I got out of my car, he’d progressed to throwing a wrench at the ground before really releasing his frustrations by kicking one of the beast’s tires. “Fucking asshole.”
“Johnny.” A man strode out of the house, wrapped up in an opulent green silk robe. His long hair was thrown over one shoulder, face neatly shaved. “Hey, come on. Calm down.”
Hands on hips, John glared at the beast. “He’s taken the distributor cap.”
The man, in his late thirties maybe, put a hand on John’s shoulder, giving it a squeeze. Whatever the man said next, I stood too far away to hear. He gestured to an aging silver sedan parked alongside the beast and John shook his head, lips pinched white with fury.
Meanwhile, Anders sat on the lawn, just hanging. “Hey, check it out. Edie’s here, what a happy coincidence!”
John turned to me with a frown.
“’Morning,” I said, pushing my sunglasses up on top of my head.
The heavy frown was redirected to Anders, who just shrugged it off. “What? She goes to our school and we need a ride. Problem solved—you’re welcome.”
Nothing from John. Guess he hadn’t given my number to Anders and asked him to text.
“Hello,” said the man, coming toward me with a hand outstretched for shaking. “I’m Levi. John’s uncle.”
“Edie,” I said. “Nice to meet you.”
Levi beamed with pleasure, happy crinkles appearing around his familiar blue eyes. “Grab your bag, John. You don’t want to keep the lady waiting.”
Still looking all sorts of unhappy, John slammed the beast’s driver’s-side door shut before stomping off into the house.
Uncle Levi offered me a wary smile. “He hasn’t had a good morning.”
“No. Doesn’t look like it.”
Once John reappeared, bag on his back, we got moving. He sat slumped in the front passenger seat, staring out the window, his jaw set, while Anders whined about having to take the backseat all the way to a local drive-through coffee place. No matter how mad John was, I needed my fix.
“Want anything?” I asked my passengers.
Anders shook his head.
“Coffee.” John fished a ten-dollar bill out of his pocket. “And I’ll buy yours.”
“That’s not necessary.”
The tone of his voice hadn’t lightened any. “Call it gas money.”
A few minutes later, John had his Americano and I had my double-shot latte. Hopefully caffeine would cheer him up. God knows I found mornings more bearable with some coffee in hand. The rest of the ride to school passed in silence; even Anders kept his mouth shut for once.
“Thanks,” John mumbled upon arrival, spilling out of the car and quickly walking away.
Slowly blowing out a breath, Anders leaned on the back of my seat. He gave my high ponytail a tug. I reached back, swatting at his hand.
“Thanks for coming,” Anders said in a quiet voice. “I crashed at JC’s last night. We played computer games until way past our bedtime. It was great. But it’s really been a suck of a morning.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
But he’d already cracked the door and climbed out. Gone, just like John. I sipped my still-hot coffee, gathering my stuff. It was all so strange. Despite me delivering him to school, he didn’t show in English. I didn’t see him again at school that day at all.
The tap on my window came just before midnight, leaving a smear of blood on the glass. For once, due to the rain, it’d been shut.
“John?” I bolted upright, my book forgotten. An earlier storm had made the wood swell a little and I had to wrestle the window open. “Holy shit!”
“Hey.” He swayed in the dim light, the darkness of blood on his face. “Hi, Edie. I, ah . . .”
“Get in here.”
I grabbed at his arm, helping him up and in. Actually, dragging his sorry ass inside onto my bed would be a better description. His clothes were soaked through.
“Lie down,” I ordered, more than a little freaked out. Split lip, bloody nose, a black eye. Absolute carnage. I pushed up his shirt, inspecting him for scary black marks. Anything that might indicate internal bleeding or something. Where was a medical degree when I needed one?
“I’m okay,” he said. “I just, I-I got into a fight.”
“You don’t say.” My voice wavered from the mini heart attack in process. Christ, he’d scared me. I headed for the door. “We need supplies. Stay there. Do not move.”
In the bathroom Mom kept a first-aid box with the basics. I grabbed it and a couple of wet face cloths. Thank God she was at work. For her and John to meet under these conditions would not be good.
“I’m not drunk,” he said as I climbed back onto the bed and started cleaning up his face. “Only had a few.”
“Yeah? Pity. I bet you’re in a lot of pain right now.”
Once I got the worst of the blood off, things didn’t seem quite so bad. He might be a mess, but he’d live. Off came his Converse. I threw his wet T-shirt, socks, and jeans into the washing machine with plenty of detergent. My laundry skills were minimal. In all likelihood, the bloodstains were there to stay. The dirt, however, could probably be dealt with. It gave me something to think about besides the fact that John lay close to naked on my bed.