Liar Liar(6)

By: L A Cotton

“Hey, baby, how was your day?”

Peering through the window, I muttered, “Okay.” Opening the door, I slid inside and dumped my bag between my feet.

“Uh-oh.” Amusement laced Mom’s voice. “Who pissed you off?”

“Mom!” I gasped. “You kiss your mother with that mouth?”

She laughed. “We both know no one cussed better than your grams did, God bless her soul. Now, talk to me, Becca. What happened?”

“It’s nothing.” I turned my head away from her, hoping to hide the thickness in my voice.

“It’s not nothing.”

“It’s just different is all.”

“We knew Credence was going to be different, baby. We just all need to give it a chance. It’ll take time, but I have a good feeling about this place.”

That made one of us.

Mom was ever the optimist, but when life handed you everything you’d ever wanted, what was there to be jaded about? I’d been the same—before—but now, it felt like finding my way again was an insurmountable task. I didn’t fit in at Credence High, that much was clear. And the notes in class confirmed my fear … I stood out more than I hoped I would.

But they didn’t know the sacrifices my family had made to give me a second chance.

What I’d been through.

They didn’t know a single thing about me.

“Becca?” Mom’s voice pulled me from my depressing thoughts. “You can tell me if something happened.”

I turned to her and let out an exasperated breath. “It was nothing really, just guys being guys. You’re right; it’s just going to take time. I’ll get there. I want to make this work, Mom.”

She reached over and squeezed my knee. “That’s the spirit. Now, what do you want to eat? Dad and I thought it might be nice to go out and explore. Find a nice restaurant maybe.”

“Sure, Mom, sounds good.”

It wasn’t as if I had any plans or anything.

Mac recommended a cute little Italian place downtown for dinner. Parking had been a nightmare, but we had finally found a spot on a one-way street, and we walked the rest of the way.

“This is nice, don’t you think, Geary?”

“It’s…” He hesitated, rubbing his jaw. “Different.”

I spied Mom elbowing him in the ribs, and he gasped, clutching his side. “Melinda, what in—”

Throwing him her best ‘mom stare,’ he cleared his throat, spluttering, “Oh yes, yes, it’s very nice. I think we’ll settle quite well here.”

“You guys,” I said. “You don’t need to do this. I’m fine, really. School is fine. Credence is fine. Everything. Is. Fine.”

The only thing Dad wasn’t wrong about was that Credence was worlds apart from Montecito. With its Mediterranean-style buildings and palm tree lined streets, it made this place look like the ghetto.

“Becca, baby.” Mom linked her arm through mine and nestled close. “We just want you to be happy. After everything ...” she trailed off, and I leaned my head against hers as we walked arm in arm down the street.

“I know, Mom, but you don’t need to tread on eggshells around me. I’m fine, really, or at least, I will be. This is my fresh start, and I intend to make the most of it.”

If I kept lying to myself, then maybe, one day, I’d believe it.

“We’re damn proud of you, Becca.” The emotion in Dad’s voice surprised me. He’d found the whole ordeal difficult to deal with—watching his daughter go through something like I had, having to listen to me admit everything—but he’d been there for me in ways I would never forget. If it wasn’t for him, life could have turned out very differently for me.

“Mac said the place is called Amalfi’s, right?” I pointed at a place across the street. A huge glass window with white lettering and thick red velvet curtains pulled back gave way to bistro-style tables and chairs.

“Ooh, it looks wonderful,” Mom crooned. A little taste of Montecito and she was easily pleased, but I had a feeling it was going to take Dad and me longer to adjust.

About to agree, I found my gaze landing on a building further along, and the words died on my tongue. It stood alone on a lot between two side streets. The typical-looking diner had a sign hanging above the door flashing Shake ‘n’ Pass, only the P was out, so it read Shake ‘n’ ass. But the unfortunate name wasn’t what drew my attention. It was the crowd of people gathered around a bench outside. Kendall O’Hare was hanging off the guy she’d been with in class. He leaned over her almost pressing her flat onto the bench, kissing her hungrily. I dropped my gaze, but it was too late.