Authors: Sarah Jeffrey
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2013 by Sarah Jeffrey
All rights reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
Request for permission should be addressed to:
Attn: Amazon Children’s Publishing
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Las Vegas, NV 89140
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.
Book design by Becky Terhune
Editor: Marilyn Brigham
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
TO MY HUSBAND:
MY BEST FRIEND
MY FOREVER LOVE
“Hi. My name is Mallory Dane, and I am a liar.”
I scowled into the mirror to make the reprimand more potent. Admitting that I was powerless over my lying was supposedly the first step, but repeating it in front of the mirror hadn’t helped at all. I’d been doing it every morning for at least a month, and I still hadn’t even come close to confessing to an actual human.
It would be too… complicated.
Complicated—that was an understatement. It would be fraught with complications, or, in a nod to the evil SAT, “replete” with complications.
My eyes drifted to a picture of Todd and me stuck to the top corner of my mirror, courtesy of the fabulous Photoshop. There were days when I looked at that picture of us—the beach in the background, the sky turning a soft orange—and I almost believed it really happened. That some random passerby had offered to take a picture of us together, and we smiled—our image captured.
But today I didn’t even bother trying to pretend it was real or to conjure up details of our silly fight and instead remembered sitting in front of my computer, cutting and pasting us together. I was tired of him and all the problems that came with him. I wanted a real life.
“Mallory!” Mom opened my door. “Where is she?”
“In her room.”
Hello to you, too, Mom
“Did you check on her?”
I grabbed a brush from my dresser, refusing to look at my mother. “Of course.”
She left without a word, leaving the door ajar. I wanted to slam it shut. I wanted to—but I didn’t. I was too well trained. I just closed it and leaned against it.
Today was not the day for confessions.
Tess texted me and said she was coming over to use my computer. It would be useless to refuse, so I threw some clothes into a bag and rushed downstairs to intercept her.
Mom was at the kitchen table grading papers. “Dad will be ready to leave soon,” she said.
Her hair was falling out of her ponytail, and her glasses kept slipping. It reminded me so much of how she was before that I thought about hugging her. But I didn’t do that either.
Tess pounded on the door, making Mom jump. “Mallory, be sure that…”
I walked away before she could finish and opened the door for Tess. I love Tess. Years ago we had a visiting speaker come to our school and yammer at us about being nice to one another and forging authentic support systems. I couldn’t remember much of what he said except that we all need a “safe place” to go when things are hard. Tess has always been my safe place.
“What’s wrong?” Tess put her hand on her hip.
She scowled. “Yeah. And I’m the next American Idol.”
Tess walked past me, and I followed her up to my room.
She sat at the computer and started typing and scrolling.
“When are you coming home? I think Yvie is having a party tomorrow night.”
“Not till Sunday.”
Tess turned and looked at the bag, which I’d thrown on my bed. “Going to see Todd?”
Todd. Yes, always Todd.
I put a smile on my face. “Only tonight, I think. He has a… thing tomorrow.”
“You’ll be back in time for the party?”
“No, I’m staying over with my grandmother.”
Tess shrugged and turned back to the computer. “I think you’re the only sixteen-year-old on the planet who spends so much time with her grandmother.”
“It’s my last weekend before football starts. And I have to leave in a few minutes,” I reminded her.
“Sorry. Let me send these e-mails. You know I love you, right?”
Tess doesn’t have Internet or even a computer at her house, so she’s constantly borrowing mine. I didn’t usually mind, but it made things tricky sometimes.
“You have to help me decide which fund-raiser. These are the last two packets I have to order, and I think I’ll have every possibility known to humankind. You’ll call me when you get back so we can talk?”
“Okay. I’ll let you have your last Todd weekend. Then it’s football and cheering and parties. And if Todd can’t get his butt here for some of it—
homecoming—I’ll have to have a few words with him myself.”
“I believe that.”
I hurried Tess out the door, but getting past Mom was much harder.
Dad and I loaded all the equipment, but Mom stopped me before I got in the driver’s seat. “You should say good-bye to Darby,” she said.
“We have to go, Amy,” Dad said. He sounded more exhausted than upset.
“Look. We don’t know what can happen. What if you get back and…” She couldn’t say it, and I didn’t want to hear it.
I closed the door. “I’ll go. I’m going.” I could hear them arguing behind me all the way to the front door. I took the stairs two at a time and then stood at Darby’s closed door for a long moment, thinking about what my mom didn’t say.
I knocked lightly and pushed open the door.
Darby was curled up in her Papasan chair with a textbook open in her lap. She was in her pajama pants and college sweatshirt, and her hair was twisted into a messy bun on top of her head. I had always seen Darby as strong and beautiful. Able to do anything.
She didn’t look strong to me anymore. More like she might fall apart at any moment.
“Dad and I are heading out. Thought I’d say good-bye.”
“Have fun.” Darby’s words were cheery. They didn’t match what her eyes told me.
“Okay, well, good luck with your studying.”
I closed the door and hurried back to the SUV.
Mom and Dad were still arguing, so I climbed in the driver’s seat and shut the door. I checked my texts. Two from Tess asking me to reconsider coming back in time for the party. One from Sophie telling me not to have so much fun that I come home pregnant.
I turned off the phone and threw it in my backpack.
When Dad finally got in, I pulled out of the driveway quickly and headed north. Away from home.