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Authors: Tom Leveen

Random (8 page)

BOOK: Random
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“Is it?”

“What? No! Wait a sec, you're the one on the verge of offing himself and you're going to psychoanalyze
me
?”

Andy laughs a bit. “Sure. Why not.” He affects a deeper, professional voice. “Tell me about your parents.”

Smirking, I just say, “Whatever.”

“No, really,” Andy says. “What about them? Do you love
them
?”

I shift my position. “Getting awful personal there, aren't you?”

Andy's momentary jokey mood ends abruptly. “I got nothing to lose,” he says.

Right
, I think.
Of course not
.

“I love them, yeah,” I say.

More comes to mind, but I don't say it. The truth is, I know my parents love me. They're mad right now. Sure. Why not? I guess I would be too. But I know they love me. I wish my whole stupid thing hadn't happened so they wouldn't have to go through all this. I wish that for Jack, too. I mean, he didn't do anything wrong. Except maybe be a huge nerd, ha-ha.

“They still married?” Andy asks me.

“Yeah.”

“Wow,” he says. “Who'd've thunk it was still possible?”

I laugh—a very, very little—despite myself. “Yours?”

“Not anymore.”

“Recently?”

“Nah. A while back.”

“I'm sorry.”

“No worries.”

“No worries” is something of an understatement considering where you are and what you are doing,
I think, but have the intelligence not to say. But only barely.

“Is that why you're out there?” I ask anyway.

“Not exactly.”

“So then why?”

Andy sighs, but it's not all showy like mine are. Like one of those nasal sighs.

“You really want to know?”

“All things considered, it's the least you can do.”

Andy hesitates. “All right,” he says. “Fine. But it's just a bunch of sappy romantic horseshit likely to make your ears bleed.”

I lie back on my mattress. “Don't take this the wrong way,” I say, “but that sounds pretty good right now.”

Andy grunts. Maybe it was another weird laugh.

“All right,” he says. “This is what happened.”

Kevin Cooper
life is one giant fucking toilet bowl. and no one ever flushes. shit just piles up and piles up until it gets clogged. it doesn't go anywhere. it just sits and rots and smells

Like · Comment · Share · May 6, one year ago

Tori Hershberger
Super Duper Pooper Cooper? :)

Kevin Cooper
No tori I'm fucking serious.

Tori Hershberger
What's going on?

Kevin Cooper
Can I just text you

 Noah Murphy likes this.

Tori Hershberger
Maybe later. I really need to study. Hang in there, okay?

EIGHT

“Her name was Kayla,” Andy says.

“Uh-huh?” I say.

“We met at—”

Thump, thump, thump.

Dammit, Jack . . .

“Uh, hold on again,” I say, and get up.

Jack is waiting impatiently when I open my door. He shoves his laptop toward me.

“It's Noah,” he says.

Juggling the phone while trying to keep my thumb over the receiver and take the laptop from Jack is something of a chore.

“You didn't log me out?” I demand.

“Why didn't you log yourself out, genius?”

“Because you came barging in here before I could!”

“What possible interest could your stupid e-mail hold for me?”

“I don't know, looking for sexy softball team pictures maybe?”

“I'd consider that if any of you were sexy.”

At a loss, I resort to a withering glare.

Jack, knowing he's scored a point, jabs a finger toward me. “I'm making Pop-Tarts!” he declares, which actually does make me laugh out loud. God, I've got to learn to control myself. “When I'm done, I want my computer back and that's it. Got it?”

Several smart-ass responses come to mind, but since he just loaned me the laptop, I can't exactly use any of them.

“Yes, yes,” I say to him, and drop to my knees, setting the laptop on my bed. I drop the phone on the mattress and quickly open the chat window.

Noah's message reads:

Noah:
Are you still there? I'm going to have to sneak out and find a way to get the car without anyone noticing.

Crap. I write back:

Me:
What about your bike?

Noah:
Flat. You want me to hoof it?

Me:
If that's what it takes. I owe you big-time.

Noah:
Yep. :) OK I'm leaving now.

Me:
THANK YOU NOAH!

Something crackles over the flip phone. Andy's still there. He's saying something. I pick the phone back up.

“Sorry, I had to . . . deal with my brother. What'd you say?”

“I said, you're still typing,” Andy says.

“Listen,” I say, “you have my full attention, I swear to God. I just . . . I'm taking notes, okay?”

“Notes? I'm not giving a pop quiz after this.”

“Notes on everything you're saying, everything I'm saying. I have to cover my ass here. I hope you understand that.”

Andy's voice gets suspicious. “Cover your ass, how?”

At that, I get pissed. I stand up from the carpet and damn near throw the phone right through my door and into the kitchen.

Which, oddly, reminds me suddenly that I'm actually hungry. I check the time. 1:38 a.m. You know what sounds good right now? Steak. A steak burrito, never mind chicken. Steak burrito with everything. There's a twenty-four-hour Mexican food place a few blocks from here. If only my parents would let me drive again. If only it weren't after one thirty in the morning.

If only I weren't on the phone with a suicidal freak show.

“I'm covering my ass in case I wake up tomorrow morning and find out some dude drove his car off a cliff and I was the last person to talk to him!” I whisper in a way that sounds very much like screaming.

Andy's quiet. Still there, I'm sure. But quiet.

“This is stupid,” he whispers finally.

I rub my eyes. “No, no, you're not stupid, come on.”


This
is stupid. I didn't say
I
was stupid.”

“Well, either way.”

“I shouldn't have called you. That was the stupid thing. I'm sorry. I should—”

“You woulda done it already,” I blurt.

Another silence.

Oh, God. No, no, no, Tori, you complete idiot. . . .

“What?” Andy says. He sounds pissed now. Pissed, or maybe shocked.

I try to swallow but only choke on air. “You don't want to commit . . . you know.
Do
this. You would've already done it if you really wanted to. You know?”

I hear him snort. It reminds me of Jack. Which irritates me.

“You don't know anything about me,” Andy says.

I can hear Jack's voice in my head.
Stay up with him. All night if you have to. Things will look better when the sun comes up.
“Okay, so, tell me,” I say. “I'm here. I'm listening.”

“No, you're not, you're blogging.”

“I'm not blogging,” I say. “I'm just . . . writing some stuff down, is all.”

“Stuff about me?”

“Both of us. I just told you.”

“Well. I'm flattered.”

It occurs to me that I've actually got the right idea: I should be keeping a record of this in case something bad happens to Andy.
Document everything
, Mr. Halpern said.
Even if you don't think it's important, document everything.
When the brick
smashed Mom's car window, Mr. Halpern made us all write down what we knew about it. Which wasn't much. Probably whoever threw it picked Mom's car because it was parked on the street and was easier to hit. It could have been anyone's car. All that mattered was that it was in front of my house.

The chat with Noah will be archived automatically, so that's something. Plus, my phone and Andy's phone will show that
he
called
me
first, proof I didn't initiate contact. That might be important if he—

You know.

“I get it,” Andy goes on. “It's okay. Keeping a record probably makes sense. I guess I'm really screwing up your night, huh?”

“You could say that.”

When Andy laughs, it catches me completely off guard. This guy's mood has more swings than a playground. That's probably not a sign of good mental health.

“I really am pissing you off, aren't I,” he says.

Would a suicidal guy really laugh? Unless he's already made up his mind to go through with it, and all this is just some sick psycho thing he's doing.

“Do you really think this is funny?” I say.

His laugh cuts short. “No.”

“Good,” I say. “Because I don't either.”

“You're not really writing all this down, are you,” Andy says, kind of all of a sudden, and not like a question. “You're not typing when I'm talking. . . .  Are you chatting with someone? Is that it?”

“No!”

Oh yeah,
that
sounded believable.

“Who is it, Tori? Don't screw around with me.”

The car engine revs.

“It's no one—I mean, I'm not, no.”

Worst. Liar. Ever.

The engine sound dies down. “Oh, I get it,” Andy says. “You got a boyfriend? And now he's all jealous over little old me?”

“He's not my boyfriend,” I say.

“Ah,” Andy says. “So who is he?”

“Just a friend. His name's Noah.”

“Yeah? Is he hot?”

“Why, you want me to hook you two up or what?”

Andy laughs. It's about the most genuine laugh I've heard from him thus far. “No, that's okay,” he says.

“What about Kayla? Was she hot?”

“What?”

“Your girlfriend,” I say. “Was she hot?”

Andy goes silent for a few seconds. “I guess,” he says. “I didn't think of her that way, though. I mean, I didn't think of her exclusively in terms of how attractive she was. That's not why I liked her.”

He hesitates.

“So you and this Noah guy . . .”

“I'm not dating Noah.”

“Well, that's what you say, but—”

“No, I mean, even if I wanted to, I wouldn't. He's my friend. It would be weird.”

“Ah,” Andy says. “Okay. So then is there someone else?”

“Why?”

“Because the story I'm going to tell you is a bit on the dark side,” Andy says, and I think,
Surprise, surprise
. “I want to know where you stand with relationships. You're not seeing someone now?”

I blow a hair out of my face. “Not for lack of trying, I guess.”

“Yeah? So you're crushing on someone?”

“I was.”
I
am
, is more like the truth, but with each day passing that I don't get to see or talk to Lucas, I worry that any chance I
might
have had is slipping.

“What happened?” Andy asks.

“I thought you wanted to talk about your girlfriend.”

“I thought you said you'd do whatever it took to get me home safe.”

This is a mind game. There's no doubt about it, as far as I'm concerned, but, dammit, I can't figure out what it is, and I can't risk just hanging up. I feel like I'm a teller at a bank robbery and the robber only has a note saying he'll kill a baby or something if I don't hand over the money.

Hostage.
That's what I am. A hostage.

“Yes,” I say, rubbing my eyes. “That's true. Whatever it takes.”

“I appreciate that,” Andy says, and his voice sort of changes for a second, like he's shifting his sitting position or something.
“So tell me about this guy you like. What's his name?”

Great.

“Lucas,” I say.

“Uh-
huh
, and where do you
know
him from . . . ?” Andy sings, like he's having a grand old time.

“School.”

“He like you back?”

“I don't know.”

“Ah, you haven't told him yet.”

“Not exactly. I was hoping to, but.”

“But?”

“Some things came up.” Being charged with felonies has that effect, but I don't say it to Andy.

“What do you like about him?”

“He plays baseball,” I say, trying hard not to let my voice go all gooey-girlie. “He's really good. And his arms are just . . . yeah.”

“Huh,” Andy says. “So he's a good-looking young chappie.”

“Yeah,” I say. “He is. It's true.”

“But what else?”

“What else, what?”

BOOK: Random
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