Read Me & My Invisible Guy Online

Authors: Sarah Jeffrey

Me & My Invisible Guy (10 page)

BOOK: Me & My Invisible Guy
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Darby had come home sick. Not just with a cold or even the flu, but really, really sick. She had failed her first semester, and it turned out that she had been sick off and on the whole time, missing classes but refusing to see a doctor. My parents had thought it was appendicitis because she was doubled over in pain. They had to force her into the car to get her to the emergency room. It turned out to be a pelvic infection. She had gotten an STD, and since she had never been treated, the infection spread into her pelvis. She ended up in emergency surgery and was told soon after that she may never be able to have children.

The news devastated her. And my parents. Even as she had been healing from the surgery, she was distraught, crying all the time.

In February she’d overdosed on her pain pills.

I was the one who had found her after school that day, limp and unresponsive, her long brown hair spilling in every direction on the linoleum floor of the bathroom. I could still picture the scene in my head, like I saw it in a movie instead of in real life. I had never been more scared. Screaming her name, shaking her, calling the paramedics. It was all a blur. I’d ridden in the ambulance with her since Mom and Dad weren’t home, and I’d watched the paramedics fight to get her stabilized, yelling things I didn’t understand. I sat there numb, trying to imagine what would happen if she didn’t wake up. Realizing that she might die.

But she didn’t die, and after a seven-day stay in a psych hospital, she came home on antidepressants and with strict instructions for us to keep an eye on her. It was the spring and summer of no light. I’d basically been assigned to be Darby’s babysitter, even though, being three years older, she had always been the one looking after me.

Sometimes I was so angry about it I could hardly think, especially when Darby would lie in front of the TV for days on end. But other times, like when I’d find her curled up in a closet sobbing, I’d desperately wanted to help her, fix her, anything.

Fake Todd had come along during the worst part of it all. Todd was my escape route to say no to parties when I had to stay home with Darby. I’d say I was visiting Todd when we had to go away for Darby’s therapy weekends. It was a fantasy world that I desperately needed at a time when I thought things would never get any better. I’d kept everyone at arm’s length, except for Tess. Tess was like hot glue. There was no getting rid of Tess even if I had wanted to. She could see that Darby was depressed, but she’d never pried or bugged me for details. And I’d never told her about
the suicide attempt. I wasn’t trying to keep it from her per se, but the right time to mention it never came.

In the end, it just took time. Darby had decided this fall, on her own, to pick up a few classes at the community college. For the first time, I was starting to see small doses of improvement.

And now she was shooing me out the door. Baby steps, but it was great. I gave her a hug and followed Tess out to her Jeep.

We found the building easily. It looked kind of shabby; but it had plenty of parking and, from what we could see, was big enough inside for what we needed to do.

Tess pointed to the roofline. “Some garland, some lights—we could make this look all festive, couldn’t we?”

“Yeah, and that stuff’s not too expensive either.”

“I hope we can get this one. I like that it’s not too far away.” Tess wrote down something in the small spiral notebook she’d been carrying around lately. “Is Darby okay with doing all this?”

“I think so.” I watched Tess look around with a critical eye. Even with extra makeup I could still see the bruising on her cheek. “I know you’re sick of hearing this, Tess, but seriously, I think we need to do something about your mom.”

Tess’s phone rang, and she lifted an eyebrow at me. “Just had to bring her up, didn’t you?”

Tess answered, and I could hear indistinct yelling through the phone. Tess shook her head at me. “I know, Mom. I’m taking care of it. Yes. Yes!” Tess jammed her finger at the phone to hang it up. “We need to make another detour.”

We drove toward Tess’s house in silence, knowing the
shopping trip, no matter how much Tess needed it, probably wouldn’t happen. Tess pulled into her driveway and parked the car.

She spoke without looking at me. “You may want to wait in the car. It looks like Darren is still here.”

“I want to come with you, but… it’s up to you.” I didn’t want to make things any harder on her, but I also didn’t want to let her go inside alone.

Tess gave a heavy shrug of her shoulder. “It doesn’t matter.”

That was enough for me. I followed her up to the door, where she paused before pushing it open.

Darren was sitting in the small living room, a glass beer bottle in his hand, watching TV. He was scrawny and stubbly and dressed in dirty jeans. The shades were all drawn, making the room feel stuffy and dingy.

“Hey, baby.” Darren laughed, and wiped his hand across his dirty tank top.

“I’m not your baby,” Tess snarled. “Where’s Mom?”

“Tessie, is that you?” Her mom’s voice carried in from another room.

Tess gave Darren a wide berth and went into the kitchen. I followed the same path and ignored Darren’s obvious leering.

Tess’s mom was standing in the kitchen, wearing ratty sweatpants and a too-big T-shirt with a fraying robe on top. Her blond hair was hanging in greasy strings, and she had a bruise on her jawline.

“There’s no more chips! Darren really wanted to have chips. Why didn’t you go to the grocery store?” She was pleading as if she were the kid.

Tess wasn’t having any of it. “There’s plenty of food, Mom.”

“But not the chips Darren likes.”

“That’s because you need to get Darren out of here, Mom. We talked about this. He can’t stay here.”

Tess’s mom burst into tears. “Why are you doing this to me? Why can’t you just be happy for me?” She flung herself from the room, and Tess looked at me. “I’ve got to take some clothes to Ashley.”

I followed Tess to Ashley’s bedroom and watched her throw some clothes into a polka-dot bag on the bed.

“Tess.”

“Don’t, Mallory. I need to do this.”

I leaned against the wall. “You are so stubborn.”

“I have to be. Once I get Darren out of here again, it’ll all calm down. He makes everything ten times worse.”

“What will you do?”

Tess lifted her head and smirked. “Call his parole officer. Anonymously, of course. It’ll only get rid of him for six months, but I’ll take what I can get.”

“You’re the bravest person I know.”

“I don’t know about that.” Tess zipped up the bag. “That should do it.”

Tess drove to Ashley’s friend’s house and dropped off the bag, then drove toward the mall. On the way, she made the call to the parole officer.

“Will they pick him up?” I asked when she hung up.

“Hopefully.”

“You still want to go shopping?” I asked.

“Absolutely. Don’t you?”

I shrugged.

“Forget about it, Mallory. You’ve just got to push it aside and live your life. It’s all you can do. Distraction can be a girl’s best friend.” Tess nudged my shoulder playfully.

My phone rang, and I looked at the display.

“Oh, no. It’s Liam,” I whispered.

“Answer it.”

I stared at the phone until Tess snatched it from my hand and put it to her ear.

“Mallory’s phone. Why, yes, she is. No, we’re at the mall. Sure, meet us at the food court at one. Okay, bye.”

Tess closed the phone.

“What did you do?”

“What? He wanted to get out of the house.”

“Tess!”

“What? You said last night was great, that you got along.”

“I don’t want to make him sick of me.” What I didn’t say was that I was afraid. Afraid of getting in over my head. Afraid that I couldn’t handle a real relationship.

“He called you, you dope. He wants to see you. Embrace it.”

I followed Tess into the mall but was slowly working myself into a panic. Last night was as close to perfect as I could imagine. Seeing him again was likely to screw up everything.

The mall was filled with kids from our high school, and the food court was packed. Tess managed to snag a table. She held it while I went to buy our food.

“Hey, Mallory.”

I turned to see Jason O’Neill holding a fountain drink as if he was posing for a photo shoot.

“Hi, Jason.” I turned my attention to the menu board above me, but Jason sidled up and leaned in close.

“Go out with me.”

I laughed. I mean, I couldn’t help myself. “Thanks, Jace, but I can’t.”

“I heard you were available. C’mon. You won’t regret it.” He slipped a hand onto my hip and tried to pull me closer.

Is he serious?
I pulled away. “Excuse me. Personal space.” I walked away and heard him call me a nasty name behind my back.

“I think you better go get the food,” I said to Tess.

“What did O’Neill want?”

“A hot date, apparently. Which is
not
gonna be me.”

“Jason’s such a skeeze.”

Tess left to get the food, and I tried to gather my thoughts. Jason was already hitting on some other girl in front of Taco Bell, and I felt like I still had his slime on me. I glanced around, hoping to spot Liam, but either he wasn’t there yet or I couldn’t see him.

Tess came back with a tray and set it between us. “Lexi’s here.”

“No.” I followed Tess’s subtle pointing to see Lexi at a table with a couple of other girls. Why was she always showing up and ruining things?

“And Liam, too.” Tess nodded behind me, and I turned to see Liam hovering at the edge of the food court, looking around. He saw Lexi first. She was waving at him. But when he didn’t move, she jumped from her seat and maneuvered her way through the chairs and tables over to his side.

I groaned.

“Just wait,” Tess said. “He’ll find you.”

Liam and Lexi talked for less than a second before she looped her arm through his and practically dragged him toward her table. I stared at him, trying to send mental messages to turn around and see me. Liam stood at Lexi’s table; but despite her pulling out a chair, he didn’t sit. He glanced around again and this time caught my eye. He held up one finger in a wait signal.

“See, he’s coming,” Tess said.

Another eternity later, Liam finally extricated himself from Lexi’s table and came to ours and sat down beside me.

“Hey, guys. Sorry about that.” He turned to me. “Everything okay?”

I nodded, but Tess was still staring at Lexi. “She just won’t leave you alone, will she?” Tess said, with a lot more boldness than I could ever muster.

Liam shrugged and looked… maybe embarrassed?

“What’s her problem, anyway?” Tess wasn’t about to let him off the hook. Go, Tess.

Liam sat back and took a fry from my plate. “She thinks ya’ll are a bad influence.”

I thought it was so cute the way he said “ya’ll” that the actual words didn’t register in my head until Tess pounced.

“Excuse me? And since when was she elected the keeper of your conscience?”

“I guess she’s worried.”

“What did she say?” Tess demanded.

Liam squirmed.

Tess pointed at him. “Spill it.”

Liam looked at me for help, but since I wanted to know, too, I wasn’t about to bail him out.

“She just said that… you’re killing me here.”

Tess frowned at him.

“Fine.” Liam threw his hands up in the air. “She just went on and on about how you have a reputation and that I might be tempted to… you know… if I continue to see you. She thinks that I need a girl…”

“Like her?” I asked.

“Who’s going to respect my beliefs,” he finished.

Tess and I sat there for a long second. Even without saying it out loud, I knew what he was talking about. Tess jumped up and, in determined strides, headed right for Lexi’s table.

“Oh, no.” I pushed my chair back and followed her.

Tess planted her hands on Lexi’s table. “I need to talk to you.
Alone
.”

Lexi definitely had some fear playing around her eyes. Tess could be very menacing when she needed to be. Lexi stood up, eye to eye with Tess. “Anything you have to say to me, you can say in front of them. They’re my friends.”

“I’m surprised you have any, what with being such a gossiper. Tell me. Do you go around spreading lies about them, too, or just Mallory?”

“I don’t spread lies.”

“Oh, really? You seem to be campaigning awfully hard to get Liam all to yourself.”

“I’m just trying to protect him.”

“From Mallory?” Tess laughed.

I watched in horror as, one by one, people at the tables surrounding us turned to stare and listen.

“Yes. It’s no secret that Mallory’s one of
those
girls.”


Those
girls?”

“Yeah.” Lexi swallowed hard but squared her shoulders.
“Girls who think sex is just some extracurricular activity. Well, I don’t think that, and neither does Liam. He has a right to know.”

I felt my cheeks grow hot and my stomach go sour.

Tess’s eyes were wild and angry. “So you think being a virgin makes you a better person? Better than Mallory? Better than me? I’ll tell you something, Lexi Taylor. Seems to me that being a virgin has made you into a self-righteous little brat. You’re not some saint because you don’t have sex. And I’m not some kind of pariah because I have. You didn’t waste a second before trying to tear Mallory down to get what you want. I think you should be less worried about sex and more worried about being a better human being. Even God would appreciate that.” Tess leaned in close. “Leave Mallory alone.”

BOOK: Me & My Invisible Guy
7.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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