Adam ignored me at school on Monday. I knew it would happen when he didn't call me back all weekend, and I'd had time to steel myself, but I still was not prepared for how shitty I'd feel when he saw me and immediately turned to walk the other way. And then did it again and again, the curse of a small campus. At first it just hurt, Adam pretending I didn't exist, but by lunch it had started to piss me off.
Adam had kissed me. He had kissed me, not the other way around.
I slammed my lunch tray down on the table across from Teek.
"Something's up with you," she said. She was peeling an orange.
"Is that a question?"
"Just a comment."
"I'm having a weird day," I said. From our picnic table, I could see Adam in my periphery. He'd just sat down beside Casey, like he was trying to score some heterosexual brownie points.
I didn't think I was being obvious, but Teek turned to look at Adam too. "Did you guys have a fight or something?" she asked.
"You were right," I told her. "He's an asshole."
She sort of laughed. Sometimes all you needed to tell Teek to get her to stop asking questions was a "You were right." It was weirdly comforting that it still worked. I was glad I'd stopped being mad at her.
"So what's new with you?" I asked.
She wanted to talk about the homecoming dance, which was fine. I tuned her out, just nodding occasionally and rolling my eyes like she'd expect when she talked about Jacob. She didn't ask about my Saturday night, which was just as well. I wasn't going to talk about that. Even if I had wanted to talk it over, I couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't the kind of thing I could tell Teek. Sure, she'd be righteously angry on my behalf, and that would be nice, but she'd probably think I was idiot for letting something like that happen in the first place. I thought about what she'd said when I told her about the Vicodin. Yes, she'd definitely think I was an idiot. I didn't need her to tell me what I already knew.
Despite my efforts not to, I kept watching Adam out of the corner of my eye. In the back of my mind, I'd started to fantasize about confronting him, right there in front of Casey and the rest of the quad. Letting everyone know what happened Saturday night and demanding an explanation. I could expose him, at very little expense to myself. I was already getting notes in my locker, what else could people say? That made it even better because everyone would believe it. Casey would believe it.
Teek was telling me how a junior took her heels off then stepped on a piece of broken glass, “It was whole thing,” and I was still thinking about how I could go over to Adam and totally humiliate him. But I wasn't that much of asshole, was I?.
Maybe I was that much of an asshole, but I certainly wasn't that brave.
Adam was still talking to Casey, laughing about something and leaning into her shoulder. I couldn't believe what a fucking fake he was. What I thought I liked about Adam, how he just said whatever he wanted to and didn't care what anyone thought, that was bull. He cared. He cared more than anyone.
I was still feeling rotten by the time the three o'clock bell rang. I packed my AP Bio materials into my book bag as slowly as possible while the rest of the class filed out ahead of me. The biology lab was an Adam-free-zone, but once I stepped outside I'd have a good chance of running into him again, of having him pretend not to see me. I half-wanted to lobotomize myself with the lab tongs, anything to stop thinking about Adam and how much I couldn't stand him now. I couldn't focus on anything else all day and it was making me sick. School was a horrible place to be.
But maybe the universe had decided to cut me a break. When I left the lab, Adam was nowhere to be seen. The coast to the bus stop was clear. But as I was walking, I realized I didn't want to go home either. On any other day, I would have begged Teek to hang out with me, but she had a dentist appointment after school and had already left. I could have called Lionel if my cell phone worked, ask if I could come over. But when I thought about it, I wasn't feeling particularly social.
Clouds had been gathering overhead all day, but it wasn't raining. I went to the park where I used to go to cut class and walked around like a zombie for almost two hours before the wind picked up and it grew too cold to stay out. Then, begrudgingly, I made myself catch a bus home.
When I got home, I opened the front door to find Mom and Richard sitting at the kitchen table, each holding a mug of tea. Through my haze, I felt a prickle of uneasiness.
"Hi, Honey," my mom said. If she was still mad at me for yelling at Richard yesterday, it didn't show.
"Hi.” I wanted her to ask where I was for the last two hours, but she didn't.
"How was school?" Richard asked.
"Fine,“ I said, dropping my backpack into a chair. My one-word response hung in the air for what seemed like much too long. I looked to Mom and then to Richard, but they were looking at each other. "What's up?"
"I was just telling your mother—" Richard cleared his throat in that way that I hated. "I was just saying I'm getting called away for this sales conference in Baltimore on Wednesday. It's a four-day engagement."
"Oh," I said. The thought of having Richard out of the apartment for four whole nights should have filled me with joy, but I still felt uneasy. "Is that all?"
My mother and Richard exchanged a glance. I watched my mother wrap both hands around her mug and stick the tip of her tongue out between her teeth.
"What?" I said.
Mom turned to me, face drawn as if moving her neck had taken a great effort. "They scheduled my hearing. With the nurse's board."
"Oh," I said. Mom's hearing—this wasn't something I'd been thinking about. I'd basically failed to give it a second thought since the first day I came home and found her on the couch.
Richard reached across the table for her hand. When she didn't release her grip on the mug, he settled for patting her knuckles awkwardly. I looked away. "We'll figure everything out when I get back," Richard said.
Mom nodded, but she wasn't looking at either of us. I felt like I should be at least annoyed at Richard for playing the part of the Great Care-Taker. But when I looked at Mom's face I couldn't muster up so much as an eye roll. If I had to go get judged by the nurse's board, I was sure I'd be scared and nervous as shit—but the expression on Mom's face? Sad and kind of hollow. I swallowed, noting the lump in my throat.
"Is it going to be okay?" I asked. It was a stupid question, the kind of question a five-year-old would ask. But I was hoping she'd say Yes, that she'd say Don't worry and accuse me of being dramatic again.
"We'll make sure your mom gets the best representation she can," Richard said. "It was an understandable mistake. They'll see that."
Mom's chair screeched against the linoleum. She'd stood up suddenly. She turned towards the hall, the tea mug still in her hand. "Excuse me," she said.
I exchanged a look with Richard as Mom beat a hasty retreat, past her nest on the living room couch and into her bedroom. That was weird; leaving the room like that was such an un-Mom-like thing to do, that I didn't know how to react.
I did find an accusation to throw at Richard: "Did you say something to her?"
He sighed. "Nothing, Dillon. She's just upset. This is all very stressful."
"Does she really need like…a lawyer for this thing?"
"It would be a good idea."
This time I rolled my eyes. "Do you actually know anything about this?"
Richard gave me a look. "I know more than you."
I wasn't sure what to say. Richard had never talked to me like that before.
"Look," he said, sounding a little apologetic, "We're all going to get through this together. But I need you to support your mom."
"Okay," I said.
"I know you care about her, but your behavior lately has not been…productive."
I folded my arms. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Richard raised his eyebrows; he looked uncharacteristically serious. "Staying out til the middle of the night? Leaving the house without telling her where you're going? Do you think that's helping?"
"It's none of your business," I said. "You're not my dad." Even as I was saying it, I realized how idiotic I sounded; it was my stock response, and it only sort of applied here.
"If I was," Richard said, "I'd have said something before now."
I fumbled for a response but the worst I could come up with was a dirty look. How would Richard have known what he'd do? He didn't have any kids of his own. He was almost fifty and had never even been married. I scooped my backpack up from the chair and started to stomp out of the kitchen.
"Wait," Richard said, actually grabbing my shoulder.
I whirled around. "Just leave me alone! Leave us alone."
"What? You're gonna solve all your mom's problems by yourself?" Richard actually looked angry. "You've done nothing to help her since this whole thing started."
"I've—" I started to say, but I cut myself off. I didn't have an answer for him. What had I done for Mom? I'd brought her food, sometimes. I'd kept her company, sometimes. So, okay. Not much. I wrenched free from Richard's hand anyway. "I'm going to my room," I said.
"We have to talk to her, Dillon," Richard said. "As soon as I get back from this trip. We can't keep putting it off."
Maybe I should have repeated what I'd said before, about how I wanted my dad to back us up. But from looking at Richard, I think he already knew that was just an excuse. And tonight, he was fully prepared to call me on it.
"I'm still going to my room," I said instead.
I left the kitchen and Richard didn't follow me. I walked down the hall, past the closed door to my mother's room. Then I stopped and retraced my last three steps.
"Mom?" I hesitated a moment before rapping my knuckles on the door. I moved my hand to the doorknob. "Mom, are you okay?"
She didn't answer, so I turned the knob and opened it slowly. I figured I'd give her enough time to yell at me if she was changing or something, if she wanted me to get the hell out. But she was silent. She was lying on her back on the bed, hands folded together over her stomach. The room was dark aside from the lamp on the bedside table, which cast her half in a yellow glow. She looked younger like that, in the dim light, with her eyes closed.
"Mom, are you okay?" I asked again.
"Yes," she said, after a pause. "I have a headache."
"Can I…" I drew the toe of my sneaker across a stain in the hallway carpet. "Can I get you anything?"
"No, honey, I'm fine. Thank you."
"Okay," I said. "Just, um, let me know."
"Close the door?"
I did it quietly, just in case she really did have a headache. When I stepped back from the door, I felt someone watching me. Richard was standing between the kitchen and living room. I shot him a glare before stomping back to my own room and letting the door slam behind me. I was angry he'd been watching me do that, though I couldn't put my finger on why. I paced a line between my bed and door, back and forth three times before I sat down on my rumpled comforter. I couldn't relax.
Maybe it wasn't even Richard. Maybe I was just angry. About everything.
You'd think I'd be thinking about Mom now. Mom lying down in her dark room. Mom's upcoming hearing. But the truth was I wasn't thinking about that.
I was still thinking about Adam. And it was only Monday.
Up next Thursday, Chapter 26: News.