I want you to love me.
I want you to tell me to stop being a prissy little bitch because it won’t make any difference, you’ll still love me.
I shrug. “Whatever. This place will do until I find somewhere better.”
“You want me to help you find a place of your own, yes?”
His eyes are so angry but so genuine. He’s trying to understand the impossible.
When I was in one of my first foster homes they took me and this other kid to choose new beds. They chose the beds, but we could choose the headboards. The other kid was excited, said she wanted a bright blue one to match the flowers on our wallpaper. I wanted a blue one too, but I was jealous. Jealous of the way the other kid seemed part of the family already when I didn’t feel like anything at all.
So I told them I didn’t want a shitty blue one, even though I did. I told them I wanted a bright red one that didn’t match at all. I loved how shocked they were, I loved how they couldn’t hide their disappointment that I was going to wreck their perfect colour scheme.
Are you sure you don’t want a blue one? they’d said. You said blue was your favourite.
I wished I could tell them yes, I do really want a blue one, but I couldn’t. Not even right to the end when they smiled and shrugged and got me the stupid red one.
I hated that day.
I was mean all the way home because I was jealous and upset, even though it was my own dumbass decision. I hated that red headboard when it arrived, but I hated the blue one even more.
That’s why I drew on it in marker pen and pretended it was an accident. That’s why I kicked it as hard as I could until the studs came out of it and the shitty thing fell apart.
And it’s like that now.
I’m telling him I want to leave here when it’s the very last thing I want to do. I’m trying to make him think I don’t give a shit for his help, when it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
“Do you want me to go?” he asks, and his eyes are still trying to read me.
I force my eyes to burn into his. “Not bothered either way.”
“Okay,” he says, and I want to die inside. “I’ll come back tomorrow. Use the landline and call my mobile if you need anything.” He hands me a business card and I toss it on the side as though it means nothing.
“I’ll be fine.”
“Good,” he says. “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”
But I’m not.
I’m feeling fucking awful and it’s all my own fault.
I stand in the hallway with my arms folded when he leaves. I won’t even look at him, not even when he pauses in the doorway.
I hate the slam of the door behind him. I hate the sound of his car starting up.
I hate the way I leave it too late to run after him and his car is already turning the corner.
I hate… me.Chapter EightJackI thought I’d be able to breathe easy when I finally received a reply from the silent sonofabitch back home. I let out a sigh of fucking relief as his name flashed up, until I saw the ridiculous message.
Just those two measly words after days of nothing.
Like fuck everything’s fine. It’s the most bullshit excuse for a text message I think I’ve ever had from him. I’d laugh at how ridiculous it was if I wasn’t already worried sick about the state of his affairs in my absence.
I’ve been trying to ignore it – trying to blank out the prospect of that sappy idiot losing his mind over some pretty piece of trouble while I’m in a different time zone.
It’s only when I realise I haven’t registered a damn word in my latest conference session that I call up my calendar and check what events I’d be missing if I left for home early. I curse under my breath, because fucking dammit, there’s at least three presentations I’ve marked on my must see list over the next few days. But it’s pointless. Really fucking pointless.
I try Mike’s phone again one last time after the session ends. He doesn’t answer, which only cements my decision.
I’ve got to get back there, and it has to be ASAP. Jesus fucking Christ.
Having seen the state this girl’s got him into these past few months, it’s all too easy to imagine him going batshit about her disappearance. The fool could be hunting her down all over the country by now. And then what? What if she never resurfaces? Will he spend his whole life chasing after a pretty little ghost with a shitty attitude?
Not on my fucking watch.