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Authors: Mindi Scott

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BOOK: Freefall
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From the main level, I looked toward the lanes and seating areas below for any sign of Rosetta. No luck right off, but I spotted Brody, Taku, and Xander bowling with a group of chicks, so I headed to them first.

“Hey, the band’s all here!” Taku called out from where he was standing near the automatic ball return. “Have a seat, Seth, and we’ll add you in for the next game.”

I shook my head. “I’m just looking for Rosetta. Anyone seen her?”

“She’s around,” Brody said, glancing up from his bolted-down chair in front of the computer. “I saw her with my sister earlier.”

“Cool. Thanks, man.”

I started to leave, but Xander tugged the back of my jacket to stop me. “We were talking about adding a rehearsal Sunday night. Can you make it?”

“Sure.”

“And while we’re on that subject,” Xander said, turning back to the girls and raising his voice, “you’re all coming out to see us next Saturday night, right?”

“See you where?” one of them asked.

Xander clutched his chest all dramatic. “Did you hear that? She doesn’t know what I’m talking about!”

Brody gave him a hard look. We were confirmed to
play the show in exactly one week, and the closer it got, the pissier Brody was becoming.

“What?” Xander laughed, clearly not quite picking up on the seriousness of Brody’s hate vibes. “All I’m saying is that if
someone
I know would get around to making those flyers like he keeps saying he’s going to do, Megan here would already know that Scratching at the Eight Ball has a gig on Sat—”

“Shut up, Xander,” Brody interrupted. “Give it a rest or we’re going to call the whole thing off.”

Right then I spotted Vicki several lanes away. This was as good a time as any to bail, so I did. When I got close, I saw that Vicki was taking a bow after having lobbed her ball into the gutter. Pete and a bunch of the football crowd were laughing with her, but Rosetta was nowhere to be seen.

“I’m giving up on that stupid ball and getting a new one!” Vicki announced.

“Oh, sure,” said Pete. “Blame the ball.”

I’d never been Pete’s biggest fan, but he made me sick now with whatever he was doing to Kendall. I stepped wide to avoid him—and walked straight over to
my
biggest fan, Vicki, who was heading to a ball rack.

“Hey, where I can find Rosetta?” I asked.

Vicki shoved her thumb and two of her fingers into an orange ball and held on to it with her arm hanging loose. “Probably at her house.”

“Nice try,” I said. “Brody already told me he saw her with you.”

Vicki met my gaze. Her expression was one that she hadn’t directed my way for years, if ever: not friendly, but not
un
friendly, either. Just neutral, I guess. “That was true like half an hour ago,” she said. “But she’s gone now. Past nine o’clock is late for her.”

I could tell she wasn’t messing with me.

And that’s when the disappointment hit.
Hard
. It had been a stressful week with all the crap I’d had going on with work and the band. Rosetta and I had hung out in the halls at school whenever possible and in IC every day—of course—but the thought of just getting to be with her tonight had been the thing keeping me going all afternoon. All week, even. And I’d missed her by thirty goddamn minutes.

“Did she say anything before she left?” I asked. “Was she was pissed about me being so late?”

“She isn’t pissed. Her uncle just said she needed to get home, so she went.”

A booming voice cut in. “Or maybe Rosetta’s avoiding you, McCoy. You ever think of that?”

I turned, and there was Carr, laughing his fake-friendly vice-president laugh. I don’t know who he was trying to fool. I haven’t been in a ton of fights—mostly just Jared kicking my ass when we were kids—but after putting up with so much of Carr’s shit, I was about
this close
to throwing down so he could see exactly what kind of trash he was dealing with here.

“Goodwin, why don’t
you mind your own fucking business?” I asked.

He smirked in response.

Vicki sighed loudly, pulled her phone out of her back pocket, and handed it to me. “Here. Call her.”

So I did. Rosetta picked up on the second ring.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get here soon enough to see you,” I said. “Vicki said your uncle told you to come home?”

“Yes. He says there’s some crazy storm coming and he doesn’t want me walking around at night in it.”

“I really wanted to see you tonight,” I said, trying to keep from sounding whiny—and only halfway pulling it off.

“Me too. Do you want to meet me at the golf course after you get off work tomorrow? Then we can see each other all afternoon.”

“That sounds good.”

Which it
did
. But even if she’d said “Do you want to meet me on the surface of the sun?” I’d still have agreed to it.

9:56
P.M.

I was almost to the exit when Kendall came in. She lunged straight at me, jumped up, and wrapped her legs around my waist and her arms around my neck. The collision knocked me backward, but I managed to keep on my feet. Barely. I held her ass with both hands to keep her weight from pulling me to the floor.

With her face inches from mine, she said, “Hi, nonenemy!”

“Damnit, Kendall,” I said, looking over her shoulder and see who was paying attention to this ridiculous scene she was causing. I have to say,
everyone
was. I tried to set her down, but she squeezed tighter. So tight, I could hardly breathe.

“Don’t let go,” she said in my ear. “Please, please, please. And if you don’t mind, can you try to make it look like you’re enjoying this a little?”

The only thing I wanted to do was let go, but she wasn’t allowing it, and I knew we’d both end up on the floor if I tried to force her off. “I’m not playing this game to make your douchebag boyfriend jealous anymore. That was a one-time deal.”

“Oh, really? Whatever happened to ‘I’m
so
sorry, Kendall. I’ll make this up to you somehow’?”

Despite how pissed Kendall had seemed at Rosetta and me after the dance, she’d been pretty decent about it, actually. In the car ride to her house, I’d kept apologizing and offering to let her keep her money, but she’d kept insisting that she wasn’t mad at me and that she wanted me to have the cash so I wouldn’t drive on my “sketchy” spare tire anymore.

Standing like this, my back was killing me now. I tried pushing Kendall’s legs to get free, but she wasn’t budging. Christ, she was strong. “You aren’t the lightest thing I’ve ever had to hold up,” I said.

“And your breath isn’t the freshest thing I’ve ever had to
smell, so I guess that makes us even. Doritos, right?”

Fuck.

I opened my mouth and breathed full on in her face. She shrieked so loudly, I swear to God, everyone in the place could have heard—which is really saying something—but at least she jumped down and let me go.

“Kendall, you can’t do shit like this. I’m with Rosetta now.”

She straightened her skirt and looked around. “Weird. Does she have one of those magic invisibility cloaks?”

“You know what I mean. We’re getting together. Seeing each other. Whatever you want to call it.”

“Well, the only reason you have this ‘whatever’ going on with her is because of
me
setting up you two at the dance,” Kendall said, putting on her biggest smile. “Can’t you just do me a favor and stand there looking fascinated by everything I say for a few minutes?”

“No.”

I headed for the door, expecting her to chase after me, to try to drag me off somewhere like she always did. But this time she let me keep on walking.

I don’t know what made me do it; I glanced back. Kendall was watching me, and her eyes were bright with tears.

Fuck
again
.

9:59
P.M.

I’m 99 percent sure a real Ferrari 246 Dino has only one steering wheel, but the video game version Kendall and I were in at the bowling alley arcade had two. Kendall was gripping her wheel with both hands and venting loudly enough for me to hear over the revving engines/squealing tires sound effects while I was resting my elbows on my own side.

For the first time in our lives, I’d dragged her off somewhere, and we’d now been
not
playing this racing game for about a minute. The arcade was empty, which is why I’d chosen it.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Kendall said.

Her whole breakdown-crying thing was about her secret boyfriend, naturally—the secret boyfriend she was still semidefending and refusing to name even though I’d already told her I’d figured out who it was on my own.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with you, either,” I said.

It came out sounding harsh, but she didn’t seem to mind.

She wiped her eyes, and if it wasn’t for the black streaks from her makeup—and you know, her boobs—she would have looked just like she did after her dog was hit by a car when we were kids. “I hadn’t even spoken to him since the dance. But then I see him here, and the next thing I know we’re hooking up in his car. And, of course, when he’s done, he just goes back to his friends and acts like I don’t exist.”

Now I was clenching
my
steering wheel. This Pete situation was getting way past annoying. And Kendall was letting it be that way. “It isn’t
like it was an accident. You chose to go out with him, right?”

She sighed. “Right.”

“So if you don’t want to do it anymore, then don’t.”

“That’s the thing, though. I do want to. I like him. Or I
did
like him. I just want him to give a shit about me and stop acting like I’m not good enough. More and more it seems like it isn’t going to happen, though.”

The demo game on the machine was running on its constant loop, and I almost wished I had a few quarters to throw in just to make something different happen on the screen in front of us. “You should have realized he was using you when he told you he didn’t want anyone to know you’re together,” I said.

“That part was my idea in the beginning,” Kendall said, shaking her head. “I didn’t want Isaac to find out I was with someone else, because it would make him try harder to win me back. I knew I’d give in and get with him again if that happened.”

I turned to stare at her. Every time she talked about how things had been with her and Isaac, it sounded worse and worse. “Jesus, Kendall.”

She looked away. “I know. I’m as bad as my mother. Jim is the best thing to ever happen to her, and she’s always worrying about what’s going to happen if he leaves. I don’t want to be like that. Like
her
. I want to be like your mom.”

I snorted. “That’s a good one.”

“I’m serious.”

And the weird thing is, I could tell she
was
being serious. She didn’t get it.

“You know that dumb poster of rabbits in a basket we have hanging in our living room?” I asked.

“I think it’s cute!”

“Well, Mom put it up to cover a hole one of her ex-boyfriends punched in the wall. In fact, I’d say about half the crap you see hanging on our walls has a gaping hole behind it.”

“I know that. But what I’m saying is—”

“Have you seen that broken TV under our carport?” I interrupted. “That’s from when that asshole we call the Psychopath threw a bottle of whiskey right through it. All the restraining-order stuff with
that
guy made for some good times.”

“Okay, but—”

“And, of course, there was also that dickhead who got my mom knocked up twice by the time she was eighteen and then skipped town for good before the second kid was even born. You see what I’m getting at here? She isn’t known for picking winners.”

More sighs from Kendall. “I’m telling you, it isn’t
who
she picks that I admire. It’s that, unlike my mom, Anita kicks them to the curb and then doesn’t let them come back. I want to be like that.”

It didn’t seem like much to aspire for, but what the hell did I know?

“Do it, then,” I said, shrugging.

She nodded. “Yeah.”

I couldn’t
tell whether she meant she was going to take my advice or if she was just acknowledging that she
should
. But with her calmed down and finished with the crying, I climbed out of our race car. “I’m taking off now. You gonna be okay?”

She looked up and nodded again. “You’re a decent nonenemy sometimes, you know that? Keep it up and I might have to start calling you my friend or something.”

“Oh no,” I said, laughing a little as I took her hand and helped her up. “Anything but that.”

SATURDAY,
OCTOBER 16

7:38
A.M.

The next morning. If the Three Stooges had a van-loading company, it would have been a lot like what was going on outside Studio 43: guys bumping into one another, almost dropping things, and cussing as they tried to pack all the gear while still leaving enough room for everyone to ride in semicomfort.

“It’s not too late to change your mind, Dick,” Daniel said, yawning big. This was the earliest he’d dragged himself out of bed since he’d been in school last June. “Craig won’t let us use his van if we kick him out of the band, but you can come along as my roadie if you want.”

The big day was here, and my former band was about to hit the road for the Rat Rodders’ tour. I’d driven Jared and Daniel over to meet Mikey and Craig and stayed to help with
the packing and hauling, but it was about time for me to head to the car wash to get the morning crew going.

“Daniel, if anyone needs his own personal roadie, it’s me,” Mikey said. “You have only a guitar and amp to move. I have a bunch of drums and cymbals and stands and—”

“Is it
my
fault you’re bringing all that shit?” Daniel asked.

Jared pushed past carrying his pedal board. “Nobody’s getting a roadie here. Sorry, Seth. No room.”

“Aw, shucks,” I said, snapping my fingers. “Way to stomp on my dreams, big brother.”

Mikey and Craig started cracking up as they heaved Jared’s amp into the back.

I followed Daniel over and stood next to him while he leaned against the building and lit a cigarette, which was right in line with his never-do-manual-labor-if-someone-else-will-do-it-for-you philosophy. “Dick, be honest.” He was using a quiet voice—probably so Craig couldn’t hear. “You’re regretting it now, aren’t you? You wish you were coming on tour with us.”

BOOK: Freefall
8.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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