“Yeah, see ya,” I muttered back and mounted my bike. I pedaled away when he called to me.
I steadied the bike with my feet in the grass, but I didn’t turn around. I couldn’t. If I did, I might’ve tried to kiss him again.
“You might want to lie about it, but I’m glad you were my first.”
My stomach flipped, and my heart beat wildly in my chest.
“Me, too,” I whispered, too quietly for him to hear.
I dropped my bike in our small front yard and ran up the gravel driveway to the ramp leading to our house. Rocks skittered beneath my shoes, and I almost slipped twice. When I hit the ramp, I slowed to a walk. Rain and snow weathered the wood. The planks sat a little crooked and wobbled if there was too much weight on the left. Ritchie built it by himse
lf. I was proud of him for doing something that dad would have done had he been here.
I bypassed the kitchen, hurrying into the hall so I could change out of my damp and dirty clothes, but she still yelled at me. “Stop!”
I sighed. A million excuses raced through my mind, reasons I shouldn’t—couldn’t—listen. Reaching out a finger, I traced the peeling yellow wallpaper in front of my face. The daisies once depicted there looked like Black-Eyed Susan’s. Wanting to ignore her but knowing I couldn’t, I stuck my head into the living room.
“Where you been?” She asked the television more than me, since she didn’t even look my way. She might’ve been a paraplegic, but her neck still worked just fine.
“I was riding my bike.”
“It wasn’t when I left. Only caught me on the way back.”
She maneuvered her chair to face me. Her wrinkled blue eyes narrowed and her forehead lined. “What’s with the stupid grin? Are you on drugs?”
At her words, I realized I’d been smiling like I had the entire ride home. My face burned with embarrassment and more than a little dislike for my mother. It wasn’t her, exactly. More her ability to point out anybody’s happiness as if it were a bad thing.
“No, I’m not on drugs. I was out with… a boy.”
Her glare narrowed further. “I don’t like you going out with boys and coming home looking like that.”
I rolled my eyes and moved back into the hall. The conversation took a turn we wouldn’t come back from without a fight. “You don’t much like me anyway, so I don’t see the problem.”
“What’d you say?”
“I said I’m going to get changed!”
“What’re you two yelling about?”
I smiled genuinely at my brother, who appeared at his bedroom door. “Hey, Witchy Ritchie. Mom’s just being her usual happy self.”
He sighed and leaned against the door to the linen closet. “Give her a break, Cam.”
“Yeah, I know. Save the lecture.”
“Really, though, what was that about? Mom thinks you’re on drugs?”
I pushed into my bedroom, tired of standing around in wet clothes. My brother didn’t take the hint I wanted to be alone and followed me in.
“Who cares what she thinks? I’m not. I came home happy. Since she can’t stand to see that, the accusations started.”
Now Ritchie’s eyes narrowed as he studied me. “Why did you come home so happy?”