Breaking Masks

by Dabeagle & Josh Aterovis


Chapter 15


I awoke the next morning to the sound of the phone ringing. Who could be calling this early? I wondered groggily. I felt blindly for the phone—which was kept on a stand between my bed and Foster’s—until my hand brushed it. I scooped it up.

“Hullo,” I bleated into it, my voice froggy from sleep.



“Did I wake you up?”

“Um, yeah, actually...”

“Are you sick?”

“Huh? No.”

“Then why are you still in bed.”

“Still in bed?” I sat up and focused my bleary eyes on the clock-radio, only to find it blank. “Huh? The clock isn’t working. What time is it?” I picked up the clock and frowned at the swinging cord. It had somehow gotten unplugged.

“It’s ten-thirty,” Mom said.

“Ten-thirty! I should be in class. I can’t believe I slept that late!”

“Did you have a late night last night?”

“Well, kind of, but not that late!”

“Jake, is something wrong?”

“What? No, nothing is wrong. Why?” Most conversations with my mother tend to be a little confusing. It’s not that she’s scatterbrained; it’s just that her mind seems to work differently than most people. She has a way of cutting right to the point, even if no one really knows what the point is yet.

“I don’t know. You’ve been on my mind a lot the last few days, and it’s been mostly positive feelings and thoughts, but then, this morning, I woke up and something felt wrong.”

“Well, for once your feelings must be off because nothing is wrong. In fact, things have never been better.”

“So school is going well?”

I laughed. “Yes, Mom, school is going great. I’m doing well in all my classes, even the unbelievably boring philosophy.”

“Are you getting along with your roommate?”

I looked down at the unplugged end of the clock. I had suspicions about how that had happened. “Well, I wouldn’t say we’re friends or anything, but we’re tolerating each other.”

“Are you making friends?”

“Yes. I’ve met some really nice people. One of which is an RA for my building, I think you met her the first day. The tall red-head? Her name is Erin. She’s really great. And several other people as well.”

“Anyone in particular?”

“Mom, I’m fine. Really.”

“So there is someone special!”

There was no point trying to fool my mother. She was as tenacious as a bulldog, and her psychic abilities didn’t hurt. “Yes, there is someone special,” I admitted.

“Are you going to tell me about him? You can’t leave your poor mother hanging like this.”

“Well, it’s all kind of new yet so I don’t want to jinx it...”

“Jake,” she said warningly.

I laughed. “His name is Kody and he’s totally unlike anyone I’ve ever met before. He’s so sweet and...innocent. It’s almost like he’s been sheltered from the real world or something, but at the same time, he’s really smart. He’s so cute! He has dark brown hair that he wears kind of spiky in the front, and these amazing gray eyes. And he’s so little!”

“Slow down,” she chuckled. “How’d you meet him?”

“Apparently, I ran into him the first day on campus, but I don’t really remember that. The first time I remember seeing him was at this great coffee shop off campus.”

“You and your coffee...”

“Yeah, anyway, he works there. I thought he was really cute, but I didn’t know if he was gay or what. So we didn’t really talk for quite a while, except for small talk at the café. Then one night we were both at the same party.”

“It wasn’t a wild party, was it?”

“Mom, I’m doing great. I didn’t drink at all.”

“But other people were drinking?”

“I’m sure they were all over twenty-one.”

“Right, and I’m the Easter Bunny. So what happened?”

“Well, Kody had a little too much to drink—”

“Is Kody over twenty-one?”

“Are you going to let me tell the story or not?”

“Well, you just said—”

“No, he’s not over twenty-one, but it was the first time he’d ever really drank alcohol so he got drunk fast. Plus, he’s so little. he drank too much, and Foster, my roommate, started picking on him, calling him a fag and stuff.”

“Your roommate is homophobic?” I could hear the PFLAG mom coming out.

“I took care of it, Mom. Everything has been worked out. Don’t get all activist on me. So, Foster was calling him names and Kody, being well dosed with liquid courage, jumped him. Foster is huge, like at least two of Kody, and one punch pretty much laid the poor kid out cold.”

“It was a wild party!”

“That was the only wild part. Anyway, Roy, another friend of mine who’s even bigger than Foster, took Foster back to our room, and I helped Kody back to his. After that, Kody was really embarrassed by how he’d acted at the party, so he avoided me for a few days before I finally cornered him at the café and we cleared the air. Then Friday night, we both ended up at this concert in the park.”

“Was there drinking there?”

“Mom, it was a public concert. I don’t know if there was drinking or not. I didn’t monitor the whole crowd. No one I was with was drinking. Can I continue now?”

“I’m your mother. I worry. Go on.”

“We ran into each other at the park, although I think maybe Roy had a hand in that, and we ended up spending the evening together. We even danced. Then he cooked dinner for me Saturday night, and we spent all day together yesterday.”

“It sounds like it’s going well so far. So when do I get to meet him?”

“Right after the wedding.”

“Jacob Sheridan!”

“We just started dating, Mom. Do you think I can give him a little while before I introduce him to my mother?”

“I guess that’s okay,” she teased.

“Gee, thanks.”

“Do you have a good feeling about him, Jake?”

“About Kody? Yeah, I really do. I haven’t felt like this about someone in a long time. Not since Killian, really.”

“Do you love him?”

I paused. “I think...I’m falling in love with him.”

“Then he must be something special.”

“He is. I even told him a little about my past, and he still likes me—not everything, though. I’m not quite ready for all that yet.”

“Just don’t get hurt, Baby.”

“Mom, I’m grown up now. You can’t protect me forever.”

She gave a short, bitter laugh. “It’s not like I’ve done a very good job of protecting you in the past.”

I felt a sharp stab in the heart. “Nothing that happened was your fault. You’ve done the best you could for me. I made those decisions for myself.”

“I know. We’ve been through all the counseling. In my head, I know that. Sometimes, though, I just feel like if I’d only paid more attention, acted sooner...”

“Mom, I’m okay now. That’s all that matters.”

“Okay now...” she repeated in a soft voice.


“Are you sure everything is okay?”

“Yes. Everything is fine. I promise. Hey, I gotta go. I need to go get ready for my next class. I don’t want to miss another one.”

“Okay. Jake, if something was wrong, you’d tell me, right?”

“Of course.”

“Good. Call me if you need me.”

“I will. I love you.”

“I love you too, Jake.”

I hung up the phone and smiled down at it affectionately. My mom might be a little kooky, but I’m damn lucky to have her. I couldn’t believe I’d already told her about Kody. We hadn’t even been boyfriends for two days and my mom already knows. Boyfriends! That’s what we were now. I reveled in the word for a minute, just enjoying the sound of it in my head. Kody was my boyfriend. What a difference a weekend could make.

I snapped myself out of it. I didn’t have time to stand around and daydream! I grabbed some clothes out of my dresser, and was halfway out the door when the phone rang again. I started to ignore it, but then I thought that it might be Kody. I ran across the room and snatched up the receiver.


“Uh, yeah, hi. Is Jake there?” I didn’t recognize the voice, but it sounded like a kid.

“This is Jake.”

“Jake! Hi!” His voice brightened considerably.

“Um, who is this?”

“Oh, sorry. This is Charlie, Kody’s brother.”

My heart stopped as I thought of Mom’s phone call. “Is something wrong with Kody?”

“Huh? No. I mean, not that I know of. He was fine when I talked to him yesterday.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “So, uh, how did you get my number?” I couldn’t remember giving it to Kody, but then again, he had hunted down my dorm. He was almost as good a detective as Killian.

“Oh, I tried to get Kody to give it to me but he said he didn’t have it. Why he doesn’t have his boyfriend’s number, I don’t know. Anyway, he mentioned that you lived in the Mohawk dorm, so I just called campus directory, called Mohawk, and asked the girl who answered what your number was. She didn’t want to tell me at first, but when I told her who I was, she gave it to me right away. Oh yeah, and I was supposed to tell you that Erin says hi.”

I laughed. “I see. That was very, er, clever of you. So, to what do I owe the honor of this call?”

“Well, you know, I had to check you out—make sure you’re worthy of my brother.”

He sounded so serious that I fought down the giggle his words prompted. “You don’t trust Kody to take care of himself?”

“Let’s just say he hasn’t had the greatest luck with guys in the past.”

“Yeah, he said something like that.”

“He’s been hurt pretty bad and I’d just hate to see him get hurt again.”

“I think that’s great that you look out for your brother like that. I can promise you that hurting Kody is the last thing in the world I’d ever want to do. I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s just so sweet!”

Charlie giggled. “He said the same thing about you.”


“Uh huh.”

“So what else did he say about me?”

Another giggle. “Sorry, but there’s no way I’m going there. Kody would kill me.”

I laughed. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”

“Right. So, what’s going on with you and Kody?”

“What do you mean?”

“What are your intentions toward my brother?”

I stifled another laugh. I couldn’t help picturing a stern, mustachioed father grilling his daughter’s prospective suitor. “Well, I guess I intend to be the best boyfriend I can possibly be.”

“Do you like him?”

“I wouldn’t be dating him if I didn’t like him.”

“Do you love him?”

I hesitated. “I think...I think it’s a little early to be talking about love, but...I think it’s safe to say I’m falling in love with your brother.”

“That’s exactly what I was hoping you’d say.” I heard the grin in his voice over the phone.

“Does that mean I passed?”

“I think so.”

“Great! Hey look, as much as I hate to do this, I really need to go. I overslept this morning and now I’m late for class.” I paused. “Speaking of which, shouldn’t you be in school?”

“I should be.” He snickered. “I guess you could say I played hooky today. I told Dad I was sick so he let me stay home. I had to stay in bed and act like I felt bad until he finally left for work. Whenever one of us gets sick he turns into Nurse Nightingale. I thought he’d never leave so I could call you. I figured it would be best if I called when he wasn’t around. If he was here, you’d have two interrogators instead of one, and I figured you could wait awhile before you met the parental unit. We’ll put off that torture as long as possible.”

“I hope he’s not that bad!”

“He’s not. He’s a really great dad. But knowing him, he’ll be planning your wedding before you get to your first month’s anniversary.”

I laughed. “Sounds like my Mom. They should meet. Now, I really do have to go. I hope you don’t get in trouble with your dad.”

“I won’ long as he doesn’t find out. Hint, hint.”

I laughed again. “He won’t hear it from me.”

“We’re all good then?”

“We’re good. So...yeah. Feel free to call me anytime. Do you want my screen name? You can instant message me too.”


We swapped information and said our goodbyes. I hung up and rushed to the shower before the phone could ring again. As I stood under the hot spray of water, I thought about Charlie and what a cool kid brother he was. Kody was really lucky. I didn’t have that kind of relationship with my one remaining brother, Dashel. I rarely saw him, and since we hadn’t grown up together, we weren’t very close.

Thinking about Dash made me remember Mom’s strange phone call, and her strangely subdued reaction to my good news. Mom’s hunches were seldom mistaken. If she felt something was wrong, then I must be missing something. I felt my mood slipping down the drain with the soap I rinsed off my body.

What could be wrong? Could it be Foster? Things weren’t great there, but they were better than they were. He was more of an annoyance than anything. I was doing fine in all my classes. The only nastiness lately had been that brief encounter with Becca in the Coop. Becca! That had to be it. I had a sudden need to hear Kody’s voice. I shut off the water, hastily wrapped a towel around my waist, and charged back to my room.

I threw open the door and ran smack into Roy’s huge chest. He and I both yelped as we leaped apart, and somehow my towel flew off in the process. I dove after it, my face aflame, as Roy thoughtfully turned his back to give me some semblance of privacy.

“Hey Jake,” he said as if we’d just met out on the quad.

“Hi, Roy. I, uh, didn’t expect you to be in here.”

“Yeah. Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to scare you. But hey, it’s not like you’ve got anything to be ashamed of, ya know?”

“Roy, I’m going to try very hard to forget you just said that, okay? Let’s never mention it again.”

“I’m just sayin’...”

“Roy. Never speak of it. Ever.”


“What are you doing here anyway?” I asked as I pulled on a pair of boxer briefs.

“I didn’t see you around this morning and then Kody ran out of class. I knew you guys spent the weekend together so I thought maybe you’d know why.”

“Kody left class?” I stopped in the middle of pulling on a pair of jeans.

“Yep, right in the middle of class. He just jumped up and ran out.”

I finished pulling on the pants and opened the drawer where I’d stashed Kody’s phone number.

“What are you doing?” Roy asked.

“I’m going to call and see if he’s home.” I dialed the number and listened to it ring several times with no answer.

“No answer?” he asked when I hung up. I shook my head no. “He could be around school somewhere.”

“Yeah, I’m sure it’s nothing.” I wasn’t sure though. Coming on the tail of Mom’s vague warning, Kody’s disappearing act had me a little worried. Was he sick? If so, what if it was serious—so serious that he couldn’t even answer the phone? “Maybe I should walk over to his apartment and check.”

“Don’t you have class?”

“Yeah, but I’ve already missed one this morning, what’s one more?”

“I’ll come with you.”

“No, that’s okay, Roy. You don’t have to miss class because of me. Is Kody in your next class too?”

He nodded. “Then if he’s there, tell him to get in touch with me somehow. Okay?”

“Sure will, Jake. You really like him, dontcha?”

I smiled, despite the gnawing feeling of worry growing in my stomach. “Yeah, I really do. I think I might even be falling in love with him.”

“Wow.” Roy’s face grew pensive. “Do you think someone could ever love me?”

I stopped and just looked over at my large friend. It was easy to forget that he had feelings just like everyone else. “Yeah, I’m sure you’ll find the right girl someday, Roy. What about that girl we saw you with yesterday?”



He shrugged. “She’s nice. I spent the night with her.” I felt my eyes growing wide at that thought. “I don’t think she loves me, though.”

“Well, uh, it’s probably a little early for that yet. I mean, how long have you known her?”

“A few days?”

“Yeah, um, give it some time, see what develops.”

He nodded thoughtfully as if I'd just given him some deep piece of sage advice. “Thanks, Jake. You’re a good friend.”

I smiled affectionately at him. “I try, Roy. Remember, if you see Kody, tell him to call me.”

“I will. Later, Jake.”

“See you later, Roy.”

He left and I quickly finished dressing before following him out the door. I practically ran down the street to Kody’s apartment. I was at the top of the flight of stairs before the door closed all the way, plunging me into darkness. I knocked on Kody’s door, waited, then knocked again. There was no answer, not even any sound of movement from within. I tried knocking on Nick’s door too, but there was no answer there either. My heart felt like it was about to beat out of my chest. Why are you so worried? They’re probably in class, where you should be!

I stood in the stairwell for a few more minutes, before giving up. I decided to check the Morning Rush before heading back to campus. Max looked up as I pushed through the door and gave me a small smile and a weak wave. “Hiya, Jake.”

“Hi, Max. Have you seen Kody around today?”

“No,” she replied as she ambled to the coffee pots to start fresh cups. She placed a hand on her forehead as she walked. “He worked this morning, but I haven't seen him since then. Do I have a temperature? I think I'm sick, and that's the last thing I need.”

“Uh, I don’t know.” I took a closer look at her. She did look a little pale. “Come here.” She walked slowly back to the counter and leaned against it. I pressed my palm to her forehead the way my mom used to do to me, but she grabbed my hand.

“Not like that,” she said. “With the other side.” She pressed the back of my hand to her head once again.

“You feel okay to me,” I reported.

“You feel great to me too, baby!”

I giggled and snatched my hand back.

She winked. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell Kody you were feeling me up.”

“Are you here alone?”

“Yeah, but Mike should be coming in soon.”

I blushed at the mention of Mike and the scene we’d interrupted the day before. Max didn’t even seem to notice. She was definitely not herself. “Well if Kody should stop by, will you please tell him I’m looking for him?”

“No! You can’t leave me! What if I fall over? Who’ll come to my rescue?”

“Um, I’m kind of in a hurry. I need to find Kody...”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just like all the other guys. You touch me then run off. Fine, go, but now I’m telling Kody you touched me.” She giggled, then gasped and pressed her hand to her stomach.

“Are you sure you’re okay? Maybe I should stay until Mike gets here.” She really wasn’t looking all that great.

“Aw, you really do care! No, you go ahead. I was just kidding. I’m sure I’ll be fine. Mike will be here any minute. Go find Kody with a K.”

“If you’re sure... I hope you feel better.”

She smiled. “Thanks, Jake. You’re a good kid. Kody is one lucky boy.”

I left Max and walked back to campus. I grabbed some lunch, then forced myself to go to my afternoon classes. Sitting in my seat was the purest form of torture I’d ever experienced. It was a complete waste of time. I couldn’t tell you a single thing that was said in any class. I was simply going through the motions while my brain was focused only on Kody. Where was he?

As soon as my last class ended, I rushed back to my room to see if there was any message from Kody. Foster was in the room with his girlfriend. It was the first time I’d gotten a good look at her, at least while she was fully clothed. She looked about like what I would expect Foster’s girlfriend to look like. She was thin to the point of anorexia, with a fake tan, bottle-blonde hair, and bright red pouty lips. She was wearing tight jeans and a hot pink tummy shirt that boldly stated “White Trash”. There is truth in advertising after all, I thought.

“Hey Jake, this is my girl, Fawn.”

Damn, she even had a stripper name. “Hey Foster. Hey Fawn.”

“So this is Jake,” Fawn rasped with a nasty little smile that revealed yellowed teeth. She looked and sounded like she was supporting a three-pack-a-day habit. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve seen a lot of you. Foster, has Kody called here for me since you’ve been in?”

“Nope. Kody’s his boyfriend,” he added to Fawn, who giggled.

“Right. Well, if he calls, tell him I’m looking for him. I’ll be back later.” I let myself back out of the room with no small relief.

I ran into Roy in the first floor lobby. He was talking to Erin, who was on duty behind the desk. “Hey Roy, hey Erin,” I greeted them before focusing on Roy. “Was Kody in class?”

“Nope. Sorry Jake.” Jen entered the lobby just then, distracting Roy’s attention. He trotted over to her side, and they started talking.

“Don’t tell me you’ve lost your man already!” Erin joked as I watched Roy with affectionate amusement.

My mood quickly turned dark again. “I don’t know what’s going on,” I told her. “Roy said he ran out of class this morning and I haven’t been able to find him since. I’ve checked his apartment and the coffee shop, and now apparently he didn’t go to classes this afternoon either.”

A little frown creased Erin’s forehead. “I’m sure it’s nothing to be worried about,” she said. I raised one eyebrow. “Okay, yeah, that does sound a little unusual, but don’t go overboard. Something could have come up. Just stay calm. He could be back at his apartment now.”

“That’s true. I didn’t even call when I was just up in my room.”

“You want to call from here?”

“I don’t have his number memorized and I definitely don’t want to go back up to my room right now. Foster and Fawn were probably getting it on before I had the door closed all the way.” I shuddered at the memory that thought brought up.

“Her name is really Fawn?” Erin asked in amazement.

“I didn’t ask to see her ID, but that’s what Foster said. I’ll just walk over to Kody’s apartment again. It’s not that far.”

“Okay,” she said with a smile. “If you need me for anything, you know where to find me.”

“Thanks Erin.” I gave her a quick hug and left.

I was halfway across campus when I heard a voice call out my name. I spun around to find Becca sauntering towards me with a self-satisfied smirk on her face. “I’ve been looking for you,” she said as she drew near.

“I don’t have time for this right now, Becca.”

“Oh, I think you’ll want to make time.”

“Not for you.” I turned and started walking away.

“After our conversation at the Coop the other night, I did a little research,” she called after me. I slowed a little but kept walking. “It’s amazing what you can learn from a simple Google search.”

I stopped as a cold feeling began to wash over me. I listened as Becca’s heels clicked up behind me. She walked around to face me. “Does the name Fenton Black ring a bell?”

I had a sudden urge to punch the smug expression off her face. I felt my hands balling into fists at my sides. She noticed and her smile grew a little more.

“I guess it does. I believe he was your former lover...or should I say supplier. Or do you prefer pimp?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I managed to say. My voice was strained. I sounded scared even to my own ears.

“Don’t I? I have the articles to back it all up, actual news articles I printed off the Internet. You can really find out anything about anyone on there. They don’t call it the information superhighway for nothing.”

“Fine, you know I have a past I’m not proud of—so what?”

“We’ve barely scratched the surface, Jakie. There’s the whole issue of being charged with Mr. Black’s murder...”

“I was cleared!”

“And the drug overdoses...”

“I’m clean now!”

“You were quite a bad boy, and I have all the dirty details.”

“What do you want?”

Her eyes suddenly narrowed and the smile vanished from her face. “I don’t want anything. I’ve already gotten what I want.”

“What do you mean?”

“I had a conversation with your boyfriend this morning.”

I felt my stomach drop. “You what?” I whispered.

“I told him everything I’d learned and gave him copies of all the articles. I thought it was only fair that he knew exactly who he was dating. You should have seen his face.”

“You bitch!”

The cruel smile returned. “Call me what you want. I said you’d be sorry. Now you are. Buh-bye, Jake.” She turned on her heel and sashayed away, her hips swinging with every step. Part of me wanted to run after her and just beat the crap out of her. The larger part was in a complete panic, however. I had to find Kody. I had to explain to him, try to do damage control. I should have just been honest with him up front. I knew that now, but it was too late. Becca was right, I was sorry. Kody probably hated me now, and I had no one to blame but myself.

I broke into a full-out run towards Kody’s apartment. I ran as if my life depended on it, shoving people out of the way and vaulting over any obstacle that got in my way. Angry shouts and stares followed in my wake, but my only thought was that I had to get to Kody.

I exploded into his building and took the stairs in giant leaps. I banged frantically on his door, calling his name over and over. “Kody, if you’re in there, please open the door! I need to talk to you!”

Nick’s door swung open and he poked his head into the hall. “Jake, dude, are you okay?” he asked with concern.

“Have you seen Kody?”

“No, I haven’t talked to him all day. I don’t think he’s in his room.”


“Jake, what’s wrong?”

“Everything! I have to find Kody.” I ran back down the steps, leaving Nick calling after me to wait. I didn’t listen. Tears were blurring my vision now, but it didn’t slow me down. I’d finally been given everything I’d thought I’d never have, and then I’d screwed it all up because I was afraid.

I ran to the Morning Rush, but the door was locked when I reached it. I pressed my face against the glass, but though the lights were still on, it was obviously deserted. Where could he be? I didn’t know where else to look. I stood on the sidewalk and felt like I was falling. It was all over. One perfect weekend was all we’d had. Kody had heard the truth and it was more than he could handle. Wherever he was, he was avoiding me. He didn’t want to see me.

I walked back to school in a numb haze. I knew my heart was breaking, but I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel anything. Erin looked up as I came through the door of the dorm.

“Jake? You okay?”

I shook my head no. I opened my mouth to answer her but nothing came out at first. I took a deep breath and tried again. “It’s all over.”

Her face froze in horror. “What? No! It can’t be! I mean, you guys were so happy. What happened?”

I shook my head again. “He found out the truth.”

“Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry. He took it badly?”

“I don’t know how he took it. I wasn’t there when he found out.”

“What? You didn’t tell him?”


“Then how’d he find out?”


“Becca?’d she find out?”

“She did a Google search and pulled up articles about the whole thing. Then she took it all to Kody.”

“Oh my God! Have you talked to him?”

“I can’t find him. He must be avoiding me. I...I’ve looked everywhere.”

“That doesn’t mean—”

“Erin, stop. I can’t...” I stopped and took another deep breath. I quickly walked to the elevator and pushed the call button. The doors slid open, and I stepped inside.

Erin jumped out from behind the desk and ran to catch me. “Jake, wait!”

“I’m going home,” I said as the door closed over her shocked expression.

The elevator doors slid open and I stumbled into the hallway feeling like a zombie. My feet had never felt heavier as I made my way to my room. The stairwell door at the end of the hall burst open just as I reached my door, and Erin came storming towards me.

“What the hell?” she demanded when she reached me. “What do you mean you’re going home?”

“I need to get away to think.”

“Why can’t you think here?”

I gave a derisive snort. “Right, like I’d be able to think knowing Kody is so close and yet avoiding me.”

“Don’t be stupid. You can’t just jump to conclusions. Kody is crazy about you. He would never avoid you.”

“Then where is he? Why hasn’t anyone seen him all day?”

“Who knows, Jake?” She threw her hands in the air. “He had classes; maybe he went to the library to do research. Or he could have skipped and gone to the mall to buy sexy underwear for you, or gone grocery shopping... The point is you don't really know.”

“He’s avoiding me, Erin. Now that he knows what I used to be he’s disgusted by me.”

“You don’t even know if Becca really told him or not. You can’t trust that psycho bitch!”

“She did. I can feel it. mom called this morning.”


“She knew something was wrong.”

“Huh?” Confusion washed over Erin’s face.

“My mom is...she’s a psychic. She knew something was wrong. I didn’t know what it was then, but as soon as she hung up I had a feeling it was Kody. And now he’s been missing all day and Becca...It’s obvious that Kody is avoiding me because he doesn’t want to be with me. He’s disgusted by me. I have to go. I need to get away.”

“Okay. I guess I can understand how you might need to get away for a few days, but then you are coming back, right?”

I looked away. “Maybe.”

“Maybe? What do you mean maybe?”

“Maybe I won’t want to come back. I don’t think I could stand to look in his eyes and see hurt and disgust.” She opened her mouth but I cut her off. “Pity would be even worse. And I’d be running into him all the time. I just...I just don’t know if I can deal with that.”

Her eyes darkened. “Oh, for God’s sake! Don’t be such a drama queen!”

That wasn’t at all what I had been expecting. For a moment, I was shocked into silence, then anger flooded in, and my hand itched to slap her across the face. “Like you could understand,” I said through clenched teeth. “You’ve got a great guy who worships the ground you walk on. What have I ever had? Nothing! Oh, no, I’m sorry. How could I forget Fenton? A middle-aged pimp who pumped me full of drugs so he could fuck me.” Erin flinched, but I wasn’t finished. “And now, just when I start to believe I might find love, that there might be some happiness in my life, it’s all snatched away. Do you know what that feels like?”

“No. No, I don’t. And I’m sorry that happened to you, but what happened before doesn’t have anything to do with Kody.”

I threw my arms up. “It has everything to do with Kody. That’s why he’s disgusted by me.”

“You keep saying that! You don’t know he’s disgusted.”

“Yeah, maybe he’s thrilled that I used to be a drug-addicted whore.” I took a deep, shaky breath and rubbed my face wearily. “Erin, I just need to get away, okay? Please try to understand that and don’t make this any harder than it already is.”

Her body sagged. “Jake...”

“Erin, don’t.” I turned and inserted my key in the door. It swung open to reveal Foster and Fawn naked and tangled in his sheets. I walked in and shut the door behind me, leaving Erin in the hall.

Foster sat up and gave me a dirty look. “What the fuck?”

I ignored him and walked over to the phone. I picked it up and dialed home. It rang twice before Mom answered.


“I need you to come get me.”

“I’m leaving now.”

I hung up and pulled my suitcases out of the closet. I had ten hours to pack and get ready to go home. There was nothing left for me here now.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter