Into the Deep Page 49

It was past lunchtime now and still I’d heard nothing back.

Alex and I had sat in the cafeteria by ourselves, not talking but keeping each other company nonetheless. There was no Alex now. He wasn’t in my next class or the one after.

Screw this, I thought.

My feet took me out of the school, out the gates, through town, and forty-five minutes later, I was at Jake’s.

The sight of Mrs. C. on her knees, yellow rubber gloves on, scrubbing at the porch, made me slow to a halt, annoyance and frustration ripping through me. My eyes washed over the porch, catching sight of dried yoke and eggshells.

Mrs. C. glanced up at me, her eyes tired. “Why aren’t you in school, Charley?”

I shrugged and then gestured to their house. “You okay?”

“It’s the second time it’s happened since we moved here.” She sat back on her heels, her mouth tight.

“There are a couple of idiots in this town, Mrs. C. You just have to ignore them.” I knew that was easy for me to say. My house hadn’t just gotten egged. “Can I help?”

She shook her head. “Not with this.”

“With Jake, then?”

Mrs. C. ripped off her rubber glove and ran a shaky hand through her dark hair. “He says he doesn’t want to see anyone, but frankly, I’m just so past the point of worried right now … I think you should go up. See if you can get him to talk.”

I nodded. “I’ll try.”

The music throbbing from his room meant that he probably didn’t hear me climb the stairs or cross the hallway. When I pushed his door open, my gaze zeroed in on him lying on his bed, his hands behind his head as he stared at the ceiling, listening to some screaming band he’d never shared with me.

Thank God, because they sucked.

He lowered his gaze and the breath was knocked out of me at the emptiness in his eyes. “I don’t want to talk to anyone,” he told me flatly, returning his focus to the ceiling.

I’d never encountered this Jake. If we were mad at each other, we were loud about it. This emotionless robot scared the crap out of me.

But for him, I’d be brave.

As I shrugged out of my jacket, I kicked off my shoes. Quietly I crossed the room and lay down beside him, careful not to touch him. My own eyes met the ceiling.

“You don’t have to talk,” I promised him. And he didn’t. All I wanted was to remind him that he wasn’t alone. That he had me if he needed me.

My hope was that eventually he might say something, but I met my match in Jacob Caplin because he kept his mouth zipped for two and a half hours, replaying the screaming band until my ears almost started bleeding. Finally my mom called and I had to admit defeat for the day and go home.

“I have to go.” I leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to the corner of his mouth, but he didn’t move, didn’t even flinch. I held my sigh in and got up. “When you’re ready, I’m here. I love you, Jake.”

For the first time … he didn’t say it back.

Chapter Seventeen

O’Hare was filled with that high-level hum of conversation, just a mishmash of chatter that if you let it in it could make your head throb. Melissa was the last to grab her suitcase but finally it circled around on the baggage carousel and I could feel the guys breathe a deep sigh of relief with me. We’d just flown from Edinburgh to London, London to Chicago, and all together our traveling time (including waiting around at Heathrow for our flight) was around twelve hours. Jake, Melissa, Beck, Lowe, Matt, and I were exhausted and there was nothing more irritating than a baggage carousel when you were exhausted.

Now we were moving through the airport toward the pickup point where I knew my dad was waiting for me. He was supposed to be waiting for both me and Claudia, but a week before our flight home for Christmas vacation, she got a phone call from her mom, Rafaela, to tell her they were hosting a huge Christmas party this year and she’d need Claudia to stay out of the way of preparations when she got home. It had never occurred to Rafaela Jenkins that her daughter didn’t actually spend lonely Christmases at home, so when she discovered Claud wasn’t going to be there, she got pissed and started speaking in rapid-fire Portuguese (which Claudia didn’t understand since her mother had never taken the time to teach her).

In the end, she demanded—in English—that Claudia be there.

Claudia was mad that she wasn’t going to be spending her Christmas vacation with the Redfords and I have to say, I was disappointed too. The two of us were so used to being in each other’s space all the time, it was kind of like missing an arm when she wasn’t there. However, underneath it all, I think my best friend was secretly pleased that her mother was adamant she be home. It meant she was actually taking notice of her.

“I had to hit a whole other continent for her to notice me, but whatever,” Claudia said, smirking.

Although I’d miss Claud for the next three and a half weeks, I was looking forward to some distance from the Jake-and-Melissa show. Because of them, my head was in a weird, messy place and I knew my family would recognize it right away. This pretty much blew since I didn’t want anything marring our reunion.

The six of us strolled outside bundled up in jackets and scarves. I smiled as the cold wind hit my face. It was pretty mild, actually, for December in Chicago. No snow yet. It was warmer here than what we’d left behind in Scotland. The guys were talking about meeting up to do a gig the day before Christmas Eve, but I was too busy bobbing my head, trying to see past people to find my dad. I had no clue what they were saying beyond that.

And then I saw him and my face split into a huge grin.

Leaning against the hood of his SUV, my dad watched the crowds with focus. My dad was in his mid-forties and as my mom often noted in a dreamy voice that cracked me up, he was the kind of man who only grew more handsome with age. He had little sprinklings of gray in the sides of his dark brown hair, hair I often bemoaned that I didn’t inherit. Andie got his hair and his eyes. I got his eyes, but Mom’s hair. I didn’t know why the genetics god couldn’t have gone all out and given me my mom’s gorgeous pale blue eyes as well.

Damn you, genetics god, damn you.

Seeing Jim Redford waiting for me filled my chest with warmth. He never went to college, and neither did Mom, but they worked it out and did well for themselves in our small town. I was proud of my parents. I was proud to walk through a crowd of people at an airport knowing that the handsome middle-aged man leaning against the hood of his SUV was my dad and that he loved me.

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