I already talked to Mom and Dad about this. My teacher is making this into a bigger deal than it is. It’s not worth the three-hour drive at all. I’d rather you all come to a film festival the school is putting on next month. I have an entry in it that I’d love for you all to see.
Will’s place? I asked.Hayden looked at his phone, probably checking the time.
You don’t have to take us anywhere, I said. If you’re busy.He’s not busy. Let’s go, Bec said.I am, actually, he said. But seriously, it helps. You two should go. He gave me a small wave and left the room, disappointment taking his place.
What’s he busy with? I asked, trying to sound casual.The look Bec gave me proved I’d failed. Who knows? Maybe he’s going out with his friends or something. He does have a couple of those.
Right. I ran my finger along the rim of the jar that held her sea glass. Do you know if he’s talked to Eve since the party? Or did our efforts pay off?
Are you worried about that?I see the way guys look at Amber. I saw the way you looked at Amber. Guys don’t want a competitor, they want a cheerleader. So excuse me if I feel like I have to compromise a little of who I am to make a guy—I pointed up the road—a cute, nice guy, actually look at me like I’m not his teammate. My eyes stung with anger.
Braden took a step back this time. Then he squeezed his eyes shut before opening them again. You are so clueless. I don’t believe you, the most stubborn girl in the world, would be willing to do that for a guy who’s not even worth the time or effort. You don’t have to pretend to be anyone else. Your brothers are going to die.The tension in my chest had built to beyond bearable. I needed to run or this tension would keep me up all night. That or push him to the ground, which actually sounded fun in that moment. He’s worth my time and effort. Good night, Braden, I said, then I ran. Jeans were not fun to run in, but the breathable jersey and the sneakers I always wore made up for it.
I knew Braden had followed me. It was the middle of the night, after all, and he knew my dad would kill him if he let me go alone. I could hear him keeping pace about twenty feet behind me. I hoped he was dying in his jeans and polo shirt. I hoped his Chucks were making the arches of his feet hurt.The big hill marked the beginning of mile three, and I glanced over my shoulder to see how Braden was holding up. He had slipped another five feet behind. I knew I could lose him over this hill if I wanted to. I could power up the hill and take a different route. But I didn’t. By this time my adrenaline had kicked in, easing my tension and making it hard to stay angry. So I slowed down a bit and let him stay within twenty feet, taking a shortcut through the park to make my normally seven-mile run closer to five.