Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: March 25, 2018
ExcerptThe tables had turned at the Branson family dinners. For years the focus had been on Sydney, worrying about her state of mind and the stalker no one could catch. Now the spotlight had turned to me.
My family would never pry into my life, but the heaviness around the dinner table was thick. I remembered how Sydney would escape these dinners by quickly eating her food then moving into the kitchen to help Mom with the cleanup. I chose to have a different approach to the family’s loud silence. I simply sat quietly with an asshole attitude written all over my face, daring them to bring up any subject that would piss me off. I welcomed the fight.
Why didn’t I just stop coming?
“Sydney, your cell is ringing,” Mom called from across the kitchen.
Sydney jumped up and skidded across the kitchen floor to get her phone out of her bag. “Hello?”
Our meal continued as normal until we heard Sydney shouting Shannon’s name in surprise. Then all eyes went to her.
We watched her moving around the room with one hand holding her phone to her ear, while she covered her other ear to block out the noise, which there wasn’t any because everyone else was frozen in place, trying to listen. Meanwhile, I chose to ignore the whole thing, reaching for the roasted chicken marinated in buttermilk, crusted in cornflakes, and baked to a perfect golden crisp.
The only reason I knew those ingredients was because it was my favorite meal that Mom made. I had noticed most of our family dinners recently had consisted of my favorite meals.
Everyone’s eyes went between Sydney and me as I made my plate. They were most likely shocked that I wasn’t acknowledging the phone call. Why would I? She had moved on, not looking back. A courtesy call was all it was, and at the request of Liz.
“Are you not curious about what Shannon has to say?” Mom whispered, not to disturb everyone else who was eavesdropping.
My dad watched me as I answered, shocking my mom with my response.
“Nope. Don’t care.” With no emotion, I dug into my chicken as though it was my last meal.
Sydney swiped her phone to end the call and put it back in her bag before returning to the table with a confused look on her face.
Everyone was waiting to hear what Shannon had said.
“That was Shannon,” Sydney said as she sat down next to Jaxon, her face unreadable.
I knew what I was feeling, though, and it was not happiness.
“What did she say?” Jaxon asked as though he didn’t know a thing, putting his arm around her chair and trying to give the illusion that he was honestly engrossed in what she had to say.
“She really didn’t say anything. Just that she’s fine and not to worry. She wouldn’t tell me where she was, though.”
That wasn’t sitting well with Sydney, nor the rest of the family. My parents had a ton of questions that they started firing off. Of course Liz, Logan, and Jaxon said nothing, allowing my parents to ask. They just sat there quietly with no expressions on their faces, probably afraid it would give them away.
“I just don’t get it, Mom. Why would she leave like that? Why would she lie about going to school? I feel bad. Shannon blames herself for everything that happened to me.”
“I don’t think Shannon is thinking that,” Liz quickly spoke up. “She’s probably worried that, if she was around, it would be a reminder to you of the trouble Danny caused you, and that it would take you longer to heal and get back on your feet.”
“But that’s crazy. She’s a victim as much as I am. We all are, really. We all trusted him.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Shannon is no victim. She has always looked out for herself. Thought only of herself and continues to. She used all of us. She ran when things got hot, just like her folks. Don’t waste your time worrying about that tramp. She has moved on to the next sucker.”
“Holden!” Mom scolded me, but she had no idea what I had seen the previous weekend.