I walked down the hall towards my next class but came to a sudden halt when I saw Alison by the lockers. Though I’d seen her several times, we hadn’t spoken a word to each other since that day in my room. She probably thought I was angry at her, but I wasn’t, not really. I didn’t know what to say to her, right now. We couldn’t just go back to the way we used to be, and she didn’t want to be more than that.
I could fix it, though, couldn’t I? Wouldn’t it be better to be around her but not with her than have none of her at all?
It would be awkward at first, sure, but we could get through it. In a few days, we could be just like we used to be. She’d come over every day. She’d watch me practice sometimes after school. The truth was, I missed her.
Decided, I started to walk over to her, only to stumble to a stop again. Another boy, one I didn’t recognize, walked over and kissed her on the cheek. As I watched, she smiled and hugged him before leaning against his chest. My heart dropped into my stomach.
She was with another guy? Angrily, I stalked to my class. How could she do this to me? I loved her. All I wanted was to be with her. Then she goes and does this? Without even bothering to tell me? It made my chest ache, seeing her hanging onto some other guy.
I wanted answers immediately, but I had to get to class. For the whole hour, all I could think about was them. The image of her smile as he kissed her cheek was permanently seared into my brain. As soon as class was over, I searched out Nora in the hall.
My sister frowned at me. “Who is who? Are you high?”
I gritted my teeth. “The guy Alison is with. Who is he?”
“Alison has a guy?” Her eyes widened in innocent surprise. “I didn’t know, Josh, I swear. I would’ve told you if I had. Maybe Loralee knows?”
My teeth ground against each other. “Fine.” I’d have to wait until after school to call her.
“Josh, are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I snapped, turning and walking away from her.
The moment I walked into my room at home, I dialed Loralee’s cell.
“Who is the guy Alison’s with?” I said in lieu of a greeting.
She paused long enough that I almost asked her again. Finally, she said, “What makes you think I know?”
“Come on, Loralee. Alison’s told somebody, she has to have, and it wasn’t Nora.”
Over the line, she sighed. “His name is Sean Larson. He’s in her grade. I think maybe they have Lit together. Look, Josh, don’t be upset. She’s trying to figure herself out. What she wants. Just give her some space.”
“I love her,” I asserted angrily. “How can I not be upset? Upset doesn’t even cover it.”
Loralee’s voice was plaintive. “Please, just take a breath. She’s really confused.”
“I don’t see how this is supposed to fucking help.” I hung up and sat down on my bed. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go.
I was still in the same place a couple of hours later when Mom knocked on my door. “Dinner in five minutes, Josh.”
I sighed and scrubbed my hands hard over my face before getting up and heading down to the kitchen. My mood instantly went even blacker when I saw Carter at the table.
Words were flying out of my mouth before I even consciously decided to say them. “Shouldn’t you be working a gig or something? You know, make some actual money?” He looked up at me in surprise, but I didn’t stop. “You should really get a real job. What kind of grown man tries to make a living in music? You’ve got a family to support. Or had you forgotten?”
“Joshua Yuen.” Mom whirled on me. “Who do you think you are? You don’t talk to anybody like that.”
I glared at them both. “Whatever. He’s a joke anyway. I’m not really hungry. I’m going to get some air.” I stalked out of the house and down the street.
On one level, I knew I was being an asshole, but I couldn’t bring myself to care. I was sick of Carter being there, standing between me and Alison. I couldn’t look at him right now. Hell, I couldn’t even go back to that house.
Without consciously making a decision, I pulled out my phone and called for a cab. Thirty minutes later, I walked up to the front door and rang the bell.
A few moments later, my father opened the door, his eyes going wide in surprise. “Joshua. What are you doing here?”
“Can I stay here tonight?”
He frowned at me, but slowly stepped back to let me in. “Sure, son. Come on in.”
The next day, Saturday, I got up and scrounged some leftovers to eat. Monica wasn’t much of a breakfast person, so that was the only option unless I wanted to attempt something on my own.
Last night, I had made a decision. I needed out of that house. Away from everyone with Harrison for a last name. So, I was going to say here. Mom was going to freak, I knew, but I was eighteen; I could choose where I wanted to live.
After I ate, I borrowed Dad’s car and drove back to Mom’s. It had been years since I’d actually stayed more than a night or two at Dad’s, so I needed clothes and all my school stuff.
As soon as I opened the door, I heard voices coming from the living room. I approached the stairs and, sure enough, there were Carter and Alison. I gritted my teeth and headed upstairs.
“Josh, wait!” Alison called behind me. I heard her feet on the stairs as I hit the landing.
I ignored her and went into my room. Not that that deterred her, as she just followed me in.
“What’s going on, Josh? Carter called me this morning and said you picked a fight and just ran out last night! You didn’t even call; he said your dad called Hadley.” She looked up at me with pained eyes. “What is going on?” She repeated.
“Allie, I’m in love with you. You’re all I think about. I want to be with you. Watcher, do you know how much it hurt to see you with that guy?”
“Guy? Oh,” she said, “you saw me with Sean.” She blinked, her eyes shiny with unshed tears. “I’m sorry, Josh. I’m trying to figure myself out. I love you, but I don’t know if – “
“Alison,” Hadley said quietly, stepping into the room. “Would you excuse us, please?”
Alison looked up at me tearfully for a moment before excusing herself from the room.
I looked over at Mom, but couldn’t quite meet her gaze.
“What has gotten into you? Carter has never been anything but good to you. He works hard, Josh, and he adores you and Nora.” She looked at me, hurt filling her expression.
“I love Alison,” I said softly. “I love her. And I’m just so angry – all the time – at Carter just for being related to her. Angry at you for being with him. At Alison for not knowing what she wants. I’m just angry.”
Mom blinked back tears. “Well, I’m sorry, Joshua, that my marriage makes you so unhappy.”
Immediately, I felt terrible. I’d never wanted to hurt Mom. None of this was her fault. Unable to look at her, I hurriedly packed a couple of bags.
“Bye, Mom.” I gave her a quick hug and then left the house.