“Okay.” I lay down beside him, listening to his breathing, feeling a cool breeze blow in through the open window. Everything was perfect.
Turned out, we both fell asleep just fine.
“Edith Rose Millen!”
“Wha—” I mumbled, doing my best to wake.
Light blinded me, John’s long body shifting against my back. There in my doorway stood Mom, cheeks slashed with red and fury blazing in her eyes. And strangely enough, Matt, her old ex-boyfriend, was standing in my room too.
“What the hell is going on here?” yelled Mom, towering over the two of us.
Shit, shit, shit. “Mom. I can—”
“You can what?” Her gaze darted between me and John, finally settling on him. “Oh my God, is that the boy from the Drop Stop? It is.”
“Ma’am. I . . .” John hastily retracted the arm he’d had wrapped around my waist, the leg he’d had thrown over one of mine. I couldn’t look at him. Embarrassment swallowed me whole and spat me back out just for fun.
“He’s my friend.” I sat up, rubbing my eyes.
“He’s your friend?” mom parroted, anger filling every word.
Matt stepped forward, putting a hand on Mom’s lower back. “Easy.”
She threw him a foul look before returning to the problem at hand. Me. “Edie, you have exactly ten seconds to explain this before you’re grounded for life. Hell, you’re grounded for life anyway.”
And I don’t know, I just . . . didn’t really care. Not in the way I should have. Now, with my mind mostly awake, the drama didn’t seem so soul-crushingly huge.
“He’s my friend, Mom, and he’s important to me. Very important.” Best male friend at any rate. Hang would understand. “I realize this looks bad and I’m not supposed to have people over, let alone have a boy in bed with me. But his pants are on and so are mine. So please calm down.”
“Calm down?” Mom echoed me again, disbelief blanking her face.
“She’s got a point about the pants,” said Matt.
Mom did not reply.
Matt raised his brows at me, mouth grim. Meanwhile, John stealthily searched for his shirt among the bedding. What a clusterfuck. I could feel the rage growing in her, the righteous parenting fury. Of all the nights for her to decide to burst into my bedroom at . . . God, it was four in the morning. Mom wavered on her feet slightly, arms crossed and face lined. Immediately, Matt moved closer, slipping an arm around her waist and anchoring her to his side. Mom’s dress was tight and her heels high. The whole scene made me suspicious. The man had always been my favorite of Mom’s few boyfriends, but Mom didn’t have men stay over.
“What’s going on, anyway?” I said. “Why is Matt here? Not that I’m not happy to see you, Matt.”
A nod from him.
“We’re not talking about that now,” said Mom through gritted teeth. “Are you pregnant?”
“No!” I cried.
“Are you having sex with him?” A polished red fingernail took aim straight at John’s heart.
“God, Mom. Nothing happened. We were just lying here together, okay?” Which was basically the truth.
A smirk and low chuckle from Matt. Jerk. To think he’d been my favorite, but no longer. Even if he did teach me how to play pool. Meanwhile, the look Mom hurled at him over her shoulder would have nuked a lesser man. Matt just shrugged it off.
“She’s seventeen, babe,” he said. “Come on. Think about the sort of shit you or I got up to at that age.”
“You’re not helping.”
“I think I should go.” John finally found his shirt, pulling it on over his head. “Do you want me to go?”
“I think that would be best,” snarled Mom.
“I’ll talk to you later.” I grimaced. “Sorry about this.”
He nodded, picking up his shoes. Mom’s laser eyes bore into him as he slipped past, heading out into the hallway. It would be the first time he’d ever actually used our front door, funnily enough. Or not funny at all, as the look on Mom’s face indicated.
“Hold up,” I said, cocking my head, confused as all hell. “Is that an engagement ring?”
Mom’s mouth opened slightly. Matt just kind of smiled.
“What the hell?” I demanded.
“Could you give us a minute?” Mom asked Matt.
“I’ll leave you to it,” he answered, walking away.
“I love him,” said Mom, after he’d gone. “I couldn’t say no to him again.”
“That’s why you barged in here at this hour?”
“We may have had a little champagne to celebrate. I was excited.” Her voice firmed. “Also, it’s my house. I’ll barge in where I like, when I like, thank you very much.”
Bewildered, I shook my head. “So, let me see if I’ve got this right. You got back together with Matt months ago, lied to me about it, and now you’re getting married? And what do you mean you couldn’t say no to him again? He asked you before?”
Mom sighed, sitting beside me on my bed. Weirdest four-o’clock-in-the-morning family meeting ever.
“He wanted to get married the last time we were seeing each other. But you were so young . . .”
I scrunched up my face. “I wasn’t a baby. I was eleven.”
“Yes, and your hormones were raging.” She ruffled my hair with one hand. “I needed to be there for you. Plus, you might have liked Matt, but you weren’t ready for more. To have someone move in with us and be part of our life, full-time . . . it’s a big deal. If he even dared to try and stay too late, you’d start looking at the clock and glue yourself to my side.”
“I don’t remember that.”
Mom shrugged. “You were a little possessive. But you needed me more than he did. It wasn’t a big deal.”
“It obviously is if I broke up you and the love of your life.” My eyes got itchy despite my best efforts. I was struggling to deal with this revelation and its history in the wake of being busted in bed with John. Guilt, discovery, loss, anger, and compassion bounced around in my mind, turning my insides upside down. “God, I was such a jerk.”
“You were a kid who needed her mom and didn’t deal with change too well.” Her arm slipped around my shoulders, drawing me in against her. “I’d say that’s pretty normal.”