Saint Anything


Page 44


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My mom sighed, running a finger around the rim of her mug. "I just . . . This is so hard. I've never felt so out of control."
"It's normal. You're a mother. It's been your job to protect him. You can't just quit that, even when someone tells you to."
By nine p.m., both Sawyer and Michelle had left. Ames remained, sitting at the table having a conversation with my parents, although my mother was doing most of the talking. The irritation she'd barely managed to mask earlier had now blown up into a full-on rage, with Sawyer as the target.
"You'd think, with all the money we paid him, he'd be more supportive," she said at one point, taking a bite of the leftover cheesecake right out of the pan. "I mean, defending someone shouldn't end the second a trial does."
"Sawyer's done right by us," my dad said. "He just sees things differently."
"Well, then maybe it's time to look around for someone with a fresh view. I've heard great things about Bill Thomas."
My dad sighed, clearly not convinced. Ames said, "The main focus has to be Peyton. We can't lose sight of that."
"Exactly," my mom said, pointing her fork at him. "Thank God someone agrees with me."
Not for the first time, I wondered if this was the reason I was so obsessed with David Ibarra and his aftermath and story. Someone had to carry the guilt. If my parents couldn't-or wouldn't-it was left to me.
"It's still early," Ames said to me, once my mom had gotten up to finish cleaning the kitchen and my dad disappeared upstairs. "Want to go out for some fro-yo? My treat."
"Oh, that's nice of you, Ames." My mom, drying her hands on a dish towel, smiled at him. "I know this was not exactly the way Sydney wanted to spend her evening."
In fact, she knew what my preference had been. I said, "Thanks, but I'm kind of tired."
"Come on," he said. "Are you really going to turn down a free hot-fudge sundae? Not to mention great company?"
"I'll tell you what," my mom said, reaching for her purse. "I'll treat you both."
"I'm really not in the mood," I told her. "Thanks, though."
My mom looked at me, raising an eyebrow. "You okay?"
"Fine. It's just . . . a long week."
She and Ames exchanged a knowing look. "It was," she agreed, walking over and smoothing a hand over my hair. "Not to mention a long night. Ames, take a rain check?"
"Of course," he said.
Sensing a chance to escape, I got to my feet. "I think I'll just go upstairs and get ready for bed."
My mom glanced at her watch. It was only nine thirty. As I started out of the room, she said, "Tomorrow is all yours, okay? Whatever you want to do."
I had a feeling that going to Layla's was not what she had in mind as she said this. But all I wanted was to get out of this house, be somewhere the ghost of my brother, not even dead, didn't haunt every corner.
Up in my room, I got into my pajamas, then brushed my teeth. I kept checking to see if Ames had left yet, wondering what else he could possibly have to say to my mother, but as a half hour passed, and then another, his car remained. Finally, I crept halfway down the stairs to listen.
"She's doing fine," he was saying. "It's a big adjustment. Imagine what it's like to be in high school and dealing with this."
"I just wish she'd stayed at Perkins. I feel like I'm losing touch with her, just because there's so much I don't know about her daily life."
"That sounds like a common feeling for you." I rolled my eyes.
"It is." A pause. "All I ever wanted was for them to be happy."
"Happy is a lot to ask for all the time."
"I don't want all the time," she replied. "Not anymore. I'd just take a little and be grateful for it."
She sounded so sad, so tired. At times like this it was hard to even remember the way my mom had once been, bubbling with energy and projects. Like the center of the wheel that was our family, she'd always held all our separate spokes together and kept them rolling. Now, though, more often than not, we were wobbling, lucky to be moving at all.
Before I turned out my light, I picked up my phone, glancing at the last text Layla had sent. I wished there was a way to catch her up all at once, so that she'd know what I was feeling right that moment and maybe understand. I flipped over to the article from the paper, still bookmarked, and copied the link, then pasted it into a fresh message. Then, before I could overthink it, I hit SEND. No explanation, no comment. Just the story as it was. I stayed awake for a while, wondering what she'd write back. When I woke up in the morning, I didn't know whether to be happy or sad that there was no reply from her at all.
Chapter 11
I WAS right. Despite her promises the night before, my mom was not exactly thrilled to discover that the one thing I wanted to do on Saturday was spend the night with Layla.
"Oh, honey," she'd said that morning when I brought it up. It was only nine a.m., but I'd already made her sound weary. "I don't think so. It's already been a long week, and I don't even know this girl."
"She spent the night here already, though," I pointed out, hoping to appeal to her sense of manners and social contracts. "Twice, actually."

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