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Authors: Riley Edgewood

VIP (Rock & Release, Act I) (8 page)

BOOK: VIP (Rock & Release, Act I)
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What the hell did I just do?

CHAPTER NINE

Ropes of regret twist into knots of anger and braid into a panic so cruel in the pit of my stomach all I can do is crawl into a ball, tucking my chin into my knees and wrapping my arms around my knees as tightly as I can. I stare at the door my dad slammed for what seems like hours.
 

Did he really kick me out?

It takes everything I have not to chase after my parents, begging for forgiveness, telling them I'll do whatever they ask. I can't though. Something just cracked right down the middle between us, and there's nothing that can undo what happened. I'm not taking the internship. And I'm not sorry for speaking Jason's name. Still, I loathe myself for the way I hurt them, especially my mom. I wish I'd broken down with a little more tact. Stupid hangover.

I don't want to cause trouble for my dad at work. God, the very thought nearly takes my breath away. That's not me. I'm not
that
daughter, the selfish one. I never even rebelled as a teenager. Not that I ever needed to. My parents were always so laid-back. Beer? Sure, go ahead (just no driving). Extended curfew? No problem (as long as there's no drinking and driving—or drugs—involved). Hell, my dad's the one who introduced me to whiskey. I drank a little with him every weekend for months before I actually grew to enjoy the taste.

Then Jason died and everything changed and here I am, forced into a rebellion against them while I'm already an adult. Well. Adult-ish, anyway.

Is this what this is? A rebellion?
 

No. I shake my head, though there's nobody around to see me. This isn't a rebellion. This is me doing something for myself. As someone old enough to make her own decisions.

Which, I guess, is what I've done. Decided.
 

An odd sense of calmness flows over my shoulders and lightens the heavy air in my lungs. Even knowing my decision means I'm no longer welcome in my parents' house doesn't take the sense of peace away.
 

Some, yes, but not all.
 

Guess I should pack my things.

Guess I should figure out where the hell to go.
 

I have an apartment down at school in North Carolina…but I really want to take this job at BackBar, so staying somewhat local is pretty key.

Teagan's grandparents' place? Yeah, right. They'd never go for it… But maybe Teag will let me sneak in until I figure something else out. She hasn't texted me back since this morning, but that doesn't bother me. This is too huge—our own fight will be long forgotten by the time I tell her about the one I'm in with my dad.

I glance around my room expecting a sense of preemptive nostalgia to hit, but it doesn't. There's nothing left in this house to make me feel much of anything. My mom got rid of the most important parts when she erased all signs of Jason. A house with no trace of him will never feel like home to me. Even my leased apartment at school, where I've only lived a year so far, brings more comfort because I have pictures up of Jason all over the place.
 

I'd rather see him every day and have to remember what happened than pretend he never existed at all.

The suitcase I traveled up from school with is tucked away on the top shelf in my closet. I drag it down and start to fill it with everything I might need to survive the next few weeks. I don't want to have to come back here for anything for at least that long. I don't want to have to face my dad again.
 

Maybe ever.

Okay, not that long. But I definitely need some space from him, and it's pretty clear he needs some from me, too.

His car is gone when I'm ready to leave, and my mom is nowhere to be found. It's probably best this way anyway. I leave a note, telling them that my decision's been made and that I hope they're able to understand, someday, that I didn't mean to hurt them with it. I write that I'm sorry for what I said, knowing they'll grasp that I mean the dead kid card comment, without having to spell it out. I could kick myself for it. I'm not sure I've ever said anything so awful in my life. I write that I love them and leave it at that because I don't think there's anything else to say.

I hate the thought that this might feel like losing another child to them. But then… Maybe they'll just try to erase me the way they did Jason. It's sad, that this is even a thought I'm able to have.

I leave the note on the kitchen counter, and it's when I walk toward the front door, back through the pristine foyer, that the sad sort of longing resurfaces. I miss the mess and the chaos. I miss my parents—not the quasi-robots who live here now, the ones who laugh (real laughter, not fake) and yell (without all the rage) and kiss and dance.

I miss Jason most of all.

The longing splinters into something else, something darker. As happy as the memories are, they also tear me apart. I don't want to lose myself in the whirlpool of these things that used to be, but will never be again.

So I take a deep breath and then another. I text Jared that I'll take the job. And I let myself out the front door into a summer that feels a little lighter than it did this morning.
 

 

I'm prepared to apologize to Teagan when I pull up to her grandparents' house. I don't know exactly what I did, but I
am
sorry for the way things went down. Even more so, I want to move past it. A girl can only handle so much drama, and my dad's given me more than I can take.

Except when I knock it's her grandmother who answers, wearing her usual stern expression, to tell me Teagan's not home. She blows a frizzy white strand of hair out of her face, her cigarette-stained breath wafting through the screen that separates us. "She's at work."

"Oh." Shit. "I'm sorry for bothering you."

She gives a little grunt and closes the door in my face.

Yeah. I'm definitely not going to be able to stay here. Secret or not. I make my way down the few crumbling concrete steps and back to my car. I call Teagan, no answer. I text her, too, and drive around aimlessly for a while waiting for her response. I don't know where else to go. Teagan's the only friend from high school I'm still close with—everyone else is too full of pity about Jason to truly let me get away from the way his death haunts me. Too full of rumors, too. Nothing I want to hear about anymore.
 

It's been a while since I've been to Teagan's house, and I always manage to forget—or gloss over, at least—the way things are for her. She makes it easy because she never complains. I should've cut her more slack last night.
 

My phone vibrates and I steal a glance at it while at a red light. It's Jared, asking when I can start.
Tonight
, I text back,
if you want me that soon
. I should know better about the way I phrase things to him, because his response is totally predictable.
You know I want you as soon as possible
.

It doesn't even gross me out though, not really. I mean, obviously, in his freaking dreams. But sleazy Jared is a part of my new summer. Let him sleaze. Who cares?
 

Not me.
 

And that's the whole point.

CHAPTER TEN

Eventually, I get hungry. The hangover's lingering in my head and in my stomach, and the sun is beating down on me through my windshield. I need something greasy and bad for me. I pull through a fast-food window, relieved that my credit card still works. At least my dad hasn't thought to cut it off yet.
 

And then I'm shaking my head at myself. What a privileged little twit I can be. Relieved that Mommy and Daddy haven't cut off my credit card? Poor, poor little Cassidy. Boo freaking hoo. I toss the credit card in my backseat, promising myself to cut it up—or at least stick it in the freezer or something—as soon as I get my first paycheck.
 

Though, to stick a credit card in a freezer, you have to have a freezer. To have a freezer, you need a place to live. Which I currently don't have, unless I count my car. Which I really, really, really don't want to do. Though it's better than nothing, I guess. It was a gift from my grandmother before she passed away a few years ago, so even if I didn't technically earn it, at least my father didn't buy it for me.

I sit in the parking lot and scarf down a disgusting and also delicious cheeseburger. I'm halfway through my soda when I think about Vera. I wonder if she's working tonight. I wonder if she'd want to hang out beforehand.
 

I almost text her but decide to knock on her door instead. Creepy to show up unannounced when I've known her less than twenty-four hours? Maybe. But if I text her and she doesn't return it, I'm completely out of options, and I don't feel like being alone right now.

Thankfully, she's home—and she even smiles when she comes to the door. "Cassidy, hey! Come in!"

I could kiss her. Instead, I follow her inside. "I was thinking we could hang out before work—maybe you could tell me a little bit about what to expect?"

"I'm impressed you're here at all—I figured you'd be back in bed, sleeping off the effects of last night still," she says, gesturing to the armchair in her living room. "Make yourself at home."

"Thanks." I almost laugh at her choice of words, but it'd be a bitter laugh, so I swallow it. "I did sleep most of the morning away."

I settle into the chair, tucking my feet under me, and accept a glass of water when she offers. She sits on the couch across from me. "So. How was last night with Gage?"

My face flushes, but I can't help smiling at her completely abrupt question. "You don't waste much time."

She shrugs. "Gage is hot. I've always wondered. Now you're here and can tell me."

"We didn't…" I trail off, fighting the tingle of blush in my cheeks trying to deepen. Then I decide, screw it. Carefree summer. Carefree Cassidy. The new me kisses and tells. "We didn't go all the way—but that boy has some serious talent with those fingers."

"I
knew
it." She grins. "Have you seen the way he uses them on his guitar? I
knew
he'd have other talents with them."

"That was my theory, too. Well, actually, guess it's more fact than theory now."
 

"Obviously, you'll see him at work, but do you think you'll
see him
see him again?"

"Yes." I don't have to think about it. I remember the way he kissed me before dropping me off—this isn't one-sided. He felt it, too, this electric sort of attraction.
 

"Has he called you yet?"

I check my phone, but there's nothing new. Not from Teagan, either. I push back a flare of irritation. "No, but he just dropped me off a few hours ago. Anyway, it's your turn. What's the deal with Jared?"

She slides lower in her seat, dropping her gaze to her hands. A split second later she lifts her face, two spots of color in her cheeks. "Oh, you know. Not much to tell. So are you taking the job?"

Okay then. Note to self: Do not bring up Jared to Vera. "Yes."

"Cool. Did Jared tell you you'd be waiting tables or bartending?"

"I actually don't know." I think about it for a second. "I don't really care, either."

"You make better tips behind the bar—but customers are way bigger assholes." She shrugs. "I prefer waiting tables."
 

That changes things a bit. "Well. Here's hoping I get to work the bar," I say, holding my water up in a mock cheers. "I can handle assholes, and I really need the money." The credit card living in the back of my car weighs heavily on my mind.
 

"Ah, the life of a broke-ass college student," she sighs. "I completely hear you."

"Where do you go?" I glance around her apartment but don't see the telltale signs of college pride anywhere. No college-colored frames, no blankets with university logos, no college-emblemed shot glasses lined up on a shelf.
 

"Mary Washington," she says. "I'm not the biggest fan of school spirit crap hanging all over, if that's what you're looking for. Also… I like older guys. They don't need to see reminders that I'm still in school."

All the pops of pink fluff and glitz she has scattered throughout her apartment—pillows, posters, candles—give plenty of reminders, anyway. Not that I point it out. I'd actually be willing to bet Jared would love it if she had college paraphernalia all over to constantly remind him he has a college chick. He just seems the type. But I bite my tongue on that front. "What are you studying?"

"According to my mother, nothing worthwhile." She rolls her eyes. "According to me, communications with a journalism concentration. You?"

"Business, because it's what my parents told me I wanted." I shake my head, scoffing at myself. "It sounds so lame. I bet journalism comes with classes that are actually
fun
."

"Ugh. Parents." She shakes her head right along with me. "Can't live with 'em, can't piss 'em off too badly or they'll cut off funding."

"Definitely can't live with 'em," I mutter.
 

She studies my face for a few moments. "You want to talk about it?"

I find myself spilling the story to her—and somehow, I find myself telling her about Jason, too.
 

"He was annoying," I say, smiling at the millions of examples that run through my head. "The way younger brothers are supposed to be. But he was good, you know? The kind of guy who'd run through traffic to help a stranger who dropped a bag of groceries across the street."
 

It's a true story. One I witnessed while visiting him during his first semester at Georgetown.
 

"He could be a complete ass, too—in the most unapologetic way. I could tell you stories…" But I shake my head. These memories are getting to be a little too painful. The first was easy, but now each one weighs more than the last and I feel like I might get crushed.
 

He would have had an amazing life
, I want to say.
He would've been successful and happy and loved
. But these parts of him, these parts he'll never have the chance to make reality, they're too hard to share.
 

BOOK: VIP (Rock & Release, Act I)
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