Mom didn't ask me again why I'd wanted to stay home from school, and I didn't bring it up. Either she'd interpreted "some drama with some people" as code for "uninteresting teenage problems" (which was, you know, fair) or she didn't want to pry. But she did change her clothes, come out of the bedroom and whip up a big batch of chicken salad for lunch. Chicken salad isn't a culinary feat by any stretch of the imagination, but it had been a long time I'd seen her make any kind of effort in the kitchen. It seemed like a good sign.
So I ate my second sandwich of the day and then we played a few hands of rummy at the kitchen table until we'd both won. By the time we sat down to find something on TV, it was almost two-thirty. Courtyard would be out soon, and—with the help of my mother—I'd successfully skipped. It had been a while since that had happened.
There was a knock on the front door just as the episode of Cheers we’d found to watch rolled into the credits. Mom and I exchanged a look; we rarely got any visitors who weren't Richard or Lionel, and it couldn't have been either of them. Richard was gone through the weekend and Lionel always called first.
"I'll get it," I said. I tip-toed up to the door, just in case it was a Jehovah Witness or someone collecting money to save the whales and we needed to pretend not to be home.
But it wasn’t—“Hi, Dillon!" a voice chirped through the door. I looked through the peephole and saw Teek. I guess I hadn't been that quiet.
I opened the door, and Teek and her mother were both behind it. Teek had a book and folder in her hands and Janet was holding a pink bakery box. They both smiled.
"Hi, Dillon," Janet said. Her greying hair was pulled back in its usual braid and her earrings looked like sailboats. "You look like you're feeling better."
"Thanks," I said. "I am."
"I thought you might want your homework," Teek said, gesturing with the folder.
"Oh, thanks." I stepped back from the doorway. "Come in."
Mom was still on the couch, sitting up straight, at the very edge of the cushions.
"Hi, Lidia!" Janet called to her, striding into the living room.
"Oh, Janet!" Mom was on her feet almost immediately. "How nice to see you."
Janet gestured to the pink box under her arm. "We'd just stopped by Eddleman's for donuts and hoped you might be interested in some."
"Oh, that's so sweet," my mom said. "Let me put the kettle on. We can make some tea."
That's right, I thought, watching the two of them walk into the kitchen, they’re friends. I'd always wondered if they were just friendly because they'd seen so much of each other when Teek and I were hanging out in middle school. But Mom did look genuinely pleased to see Janet.
Teek was poking my shoulder. "Should we go to your room?" she asked.
"Okay," I said. I threw one more glance towards my mother, but she wasn't looking at me. "Come on.”
Teek rattled off my homework assignments as we headed for my room. She said Mr. Bodoni had helped her gather the work from all my teachers, and I felt appropriately guilty. I let the door shut behind us and Teek flopped down on my bed, tossing the folder towards my desk but missing. "Sorry," she said, as I picked it up. "It's all in there."
"It's fine," I said. I sat down on the bed too. Teek yawned and stretched.
"Geez, that was a long day," she said. "You're not really sick, right?"
"No, not really."
She turned to look at me, her eyebrows a little furrowed. "You weren't like…avoiding me, were you?”
"No, of course not. I was just…in a bad mood, I guess."
"Why?" Teek asked.
I motioned her to scoot over so I could lie down beside her. For a moment, we both stared up at the ceiling.
"A lot of stuff," I said finally. "Adam."
"What happened with Adam? You never told me."
"It was stupid," I said. The mattress shifted and I could feel Teek looking at me.
"Are you gonna make me guess?"
I sighed without meaning to. "If I tell you, do you promise you won't tell Jacob?"
She drew an x in the air over her chest. "I won't tell anyone."
"Okay. Adam kissed me."
The mattress moved again as Teek snapped up into a seated position. "Wait, what? Really?"
"Well, come on, tell me more! You can't just say that and not give me the details."
"Okay," I said, "but you can't tell anyone. Seriously."
I glanced at my closed door. I knew Mom and Janet would still be in the kitchen, but I lowered my voice anyway. Just in case. "The night of the Homecoming dance we, um…took some Ecstasy."
"Ecstasy? The drug?"
"Yeah," I said, shooting her a look. "Are you going to get all judgey again?"
"No! I've always wanted to try Ecstasy." She laughed self-consciously. "How was it?"
"It was great until it wore off," I said. "Then it was awful."
"Sorry. Go on."
"So we took the E and it was great and everything, and we wound up hanging out with one of my brother's friends at Pizza Palace—"
"Pizza Palace!" Teek practically shrieked. "With all the little kids?"
"There weren't that many kids," I said. But then I remembered the family with the baby, the kid who came in the bathroom. So I guess there were. "Anyway, we were just hanging out and Adam left for the bathroom and after a few minutes, I followed him."
"Is this story going to get gross?"
"What? No, shut up. I found him by the sinks. But he was like, really glad to see me and started talking about how great I was and how much he liked me. And then he just, like…kissed me."
Teek was hugging one of my pillows, her eyes wide. "Just like that? What did you do?"
I tried not to cringe. "I kissed him back."
"Dillon!" she said. Then, "Okay, I guess I'm not surprised."
"I just thought you might have liked him. So then what happened?"
"Nothing really. Someone else came in so we left. Then we hung out with Stacey's friends until it got late and Stacey drove us home." That was basically it—after the pizza place, we'd all gone to walk around the town square with the damp grass and the memorial benches. Stacey and the green-haired girl took turns balancing on the cement wall that surrounded the fountain and Adam and I walked along together, silent, still filled up with what we'd just done like it was some glorious secret.
Thinking back, I remembered this moment in the car, right when Stacey was dropping me off. Adam was still there—I’d let him take shot-gun for the ride back—and I kept getting distracted by the back of his head when I was supposed to be giving Stacey directions to my apartment. I was still rolling, but I managed to navigate us there without incident. I thanked Stacey a million more times than was probably necessary and he waved it off. I'm glad you had a good time, he said.
As I was reaching for the door handle, Adam turned around in his seat and said, Wait. He locked eyes with me he had this weird, almost surprised look on his face. I waited for him to say something, but the seconds stretched on so eventually I said, What?
He opened his mouth then closed it again. See you later, he said and turned back around.
I didn't tell Teek this part, but as I was remembering it I couldn't help thinking—I should have known, then. I should have known.
Teek still wanted to hear more. "He's been avoiding you ever since?"
"Pretty much," I said.
"That's shitty. Do you want me to beat him up for you?"
I laughed. "Could you do that?"
"I guess I could try. But seriously, Dillon, that's the shittiest thing I've ever heard. I know you liked him, but he doesn't even deserve to be friends with you."
"I didn't like-him like-him," I said. This almost surprised me to say out loud; for a while, I'd thought that maybe I did. “I just liked…the idea of him, I guess. I thought he had this attitude, like…he just did whatever he wanted and didn't care what anyone thought. I thought it would be fun to have a friend like that."
"I'm sorry he was such a jerk to you," Teek said. She didn't even add a But I Told You So. She really could be a great friend when she wanted to be.
"It's okay," I said. "I'm over it. Or I will be, anyway."
"We should find you an actual boyfriend," Teek said.
"I'm really okay."
"What about Ken Ikeda?"
I'm not sure what expression crossed my face, but I could tell by Teek's reaction that I had failed to play it cool. Her face broke into a huge grin, and she reached out to swipe at me with a pillow. "Oh my God! You totally liked him! I knew it!"
"Teek!" I raised my arms to block the pillow. "Stop! I don't want to talk about it."
She stopped bopping me. "Why not?"
"I just don't, okay?" I must have sounded serious enough, because she dropped the pillow to the bed and let out a resigned sigh.
"Fine," she said, like she was doing me a big favor by letting it go. "But you are going to tell me eventually?"
"Fine," I said. "I'll tell you eventually."
"I'll be waiting.”
We stared at each other for a few awkward seconds while we both tried to find something else to think about.
"There are donuts in the kitchen," I finally said.
"Oh yeah!" Teek jumped up from the bed. "Let's go before my mom eats all the chocolate ones.”
We grabbed donuts, joined our moms at the table, and sat there for almost an hour. We talked about school, about our last bio lab where we pricked our fingers to learn our blood types. My mom wanted to hear all about the Homecoming dance I didn't go to, and Teek was glad to oblige her. I talked about going to Pizza Palace with Stacey and his friends, leaving out the Ecstasy part, which made it a pretty boring story. Janet brought up her chance meeting with Mrs. Ikeda at the supermarket, and my mom shot me a weird look before the conversation moved on again.
"Remember to give Melinda's office a call," Janet told my mother as she and Teek were heading for the door.
"I will," my mother said. We waved and said our good-byes.
"See you at school," Teek said. Then she made a telephone with her hand and wagged it by her face, mouthing, "We'll talk."
"Who does Janet want you to call?" I asked my mom, once the door was closed.
"Janet has a lawyer friend she thinks could help me with the hearing," Mom said. It didn't sound quite so much like the end of the world when she said "the hearing" this time. "She also wants to take me shopping."
"Cool," I said. I looked back towards my room. "I guess I'll go take a look at my homework."
"Hang on," Mom said. She'd stepped into the kitchen to clear the donut plates. "I want to ask you something."
"Come in here."
I stepped onto the linoleum, watching her put the plates in the sink.
"I was wondering something." She turned around to face me again, wiping her hands on her jeans. "I was thinking about when Ken Ikeda called and I tried to give you the phone."
I swallowed. "Yeah?"
"Richard said he kept calling."
"I thought that was…odd." Mom seemed like she was considering her words carefully. My gut went, uh-oh.
"Well, Janet said he's coming back to Courtyard," I said.
"I know, but…" She wiped her hands on her jeans again. "If there were that many phone calls, I have to wonder. Were you and Ken…more than friends?"
I felt my stomach drop down to my shoes. My jaw wanted to follow, but I'd clamped it shut. Why did everyone want to talk about this? This was so unfair. I could have just lied, but she was already reading my face. And from her face, I could tell she already had her answer.
"I didn't know!" she cut in, her voice going high. "I had no idea. I thought—you were so young! You were just kids."
"Mom," I said, a little more annoyed this time. "It was eighth grade."
She was silent for a second, her face impossible to read. Then she sighed. "I suppose. I just wish you'd have said something."
"I'm sorry?" I said; it came out like more of a question than I'd intended.
"It's okay." She looked down at the kitchen floor. “We haven’t been the best at talking about things, have we?”
She laughed. "All right. We’ll do better.” She picked the dish towel off the wall hook to wipe something off the counter. “I suppose I’ll let you do your homework now."
"Hurray," I said. "I can barely wait."
She flicked at me with the dish towel. "Get out of here," she said. So I did.
But when I looked back over my shoulder, she smiled at me.
Up next Thursday, Chapter 29: The Fight.