Liar Liar(7)

By: L A Cotton


“Do you know them? We could go over and say hello?” Mom said.

“W- what?”

“That group of kids over there.” She nudged her head in the direction of the diner as we crossed the street. Kendall no longer had her tongue rammed down the guy’s throat. Instead, she was looking right at me. Although look didn’t do justice to the death glare she was sending my way.

What the hell is her problem?

“Do they go to school with you?”

“Something like that,” I murmured, dropping my eyes again.

“We could go and say hello. Maybe after we get finished, you could go and—”

“No, no,” I said a little too sharply. “They’re just some guys in my class. I don’t really know them. It’s fine. Let’s go eat; I’m starving.”

“Oh, okay then.” Mom didn’t hide her disappointment well. All she wanted was for me to settle in—to find new friends and find myself again—and part of me felt bad for not making more of an effort. After all, she and Dad had given up everything—their whole lives—for me.

Because of me.

We walked in thick silence the rest of the way to the restaurant, the last few months weighing heavily on us all.

“Welcome to Amalfi’s, do you have a reservation?” the host asked as we entered. Dad stepped forward and replied, “Yes, it’s Torrence, table for three.”

“Excellent.” He checked us off his list. “This way please.”

Mom pressed her hand into my back, urging me forward as if she was worried I might bolt. I understood her concern, but I was done hiding. Almost three months in therapy, trying to come to terms with everything, had been enough. I really did want to make Credence work. I just wasn’t sure it was going to be that easy. Not now that I had spent a week at Credence High.

We settled into our seats, and Dad ordered our usual drinks. “So, Becca, how’s school?” he asked.

Since arriving in town, he hadn’t been around much. After turning over his gun and captain’s badge, Mac had given Dad a job at his local private investigator’s office. It wasn’t the same as police work, but he had many transferable skills, and Mac assured Dad there was plenty of work around these parts. Apparently, much to Mom’s disappointment, PI’s worked just as many hours as cops did.

“Geary,” Mom warned, but I shook my head. “It’s fine, Mom. School is …” I swallowed hard. “Different.”

Dad’s eyes softened. He got it. He’d said the same thing earlier. “We knew it was going to be a stark change to Montecito.”

“I know. It’s just going to take some time.”

Dad changed the conversation after that, and I was grateful. I didn’t want to ruin dinner by admitting that I had yet to make a single friend. That I spent the whole week ducking and dodging Kendall and her friends. They wouldn’t understand.

“Well, we have forever.” The look on Mom’s face told me she meant it as a positive remark, but I couldn’t help but wince at her words.

Forever.

My forever was supposed to be senior year with my friends. We were supposed to graduate together and spend hot sticky summer days at the beach before parting ways to head off to college.

“Excuse me,” I said, fighting back the tears. Don’t let them see you cry. “I’m going to find the restrooms.” My feet carried me toward the back of the restaurant on autopilot, away from the stares of the two people who had proved their unconditional love for me in ways no parent should. I couldn’t fall apart in front of them. Not again. Not after everything. I had to be stronger. To find a way to can my feelings, just like I’d talked about with my therapist.

“Whoa, there.” Strong hands steadied me as I all but stumbled through the door to the restrooms.

“Math guy?” spilled out of my mouth before I could stop myself.

“Math guy?” He gripped my shoulders for another second, his lips quirking up, before he released me. I stepped back, putting some distance between us.

“Well, yeah.” I hugged myself tight. “We’re in math; you’re a guy … Math guy.”

“Right,” he drawled in an amused tone, and my whole body burned with embarrassment … and something else. Something I absolutely did not want to acknowledge. He was too … too everything. Brooding. Mysterious. Everything about him screamed bad boy, and I did not need that in my life right now. Not again.

Not ever.

“What are you doing here?”

His eyebrows knitted together, and I clapped a hand over my mouth. What the hell was wrong with me?

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