Main All That's Been Said

All That's Been Said

Izzy Kavanagh hates her new life in the US; that much she’s made obvious. She’s done everything she can to alienate her twin, Ethan, and to prove she doesn’t want to be there. She’s certainly succeeded. Perhaps a little too much. Suddenly the idea of having her brother hate her isn’t what she wants. Knowing her mother would be ashamed of her behaviour weighs on her mind, and the idea of having someone who cares about her isn’t so bad after all. Then there’s her brother’s best friend, Finn. No matter how much she wants to ignore him and pretend she doesn’t care about his opinion, he always seems to be there, and it’s getting harder and harder to act like she’s indifferent to him. But the damage has been done, and now all she can do is count down the days until she’s allowed to return to the UK and forget all about her time in the US. That’s what she’s wanted all along…right?
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All That’s Been Said Copyright © 2019 by Emma Doherty



All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.





Author Note



To my lovely American and International readers,



Izzy is British and I have therefore used British spellings and grammar which sometimes differ slightly to American (and other countries’) spellings. I hope you understand.



X





This is the second of a two-part duet. It is highly recommended that All That's Left is read first.





Title Page

Copyright

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Preview of The Stand-in-Boyfriend

Other books by Emma Doherty

Acknowledgments





We’re all we’ve got left.

I’m done with you.

You take every chance you can to crush him.

I’m done with you.

You are so messed up.

I’m done with you.

She would hate this.

I’m done with you.

She was his mom too.

I’m done wit; h you.

Ethan and Finn’s words echo around my head as I peer into the sun visor mirror in Paul’s car and smear concealer under my eyes to hide the bags that have appeared there. I’ve found it even harder to sleep in the last couple of weeks since Ethan and I had our big blowout. Our big blowout, which it feels like the whole school knows about.

I can’t get what they said to me out of my head, and I hate that the reason I can’t is because they were right. Everything they said was true.

But I should be happy, right? I should be happy that Ethan’s finally done with me, that Finn has backed off of me. That was what I wanted, wasn’t it? I know it was, but now that it has happened and they’ve spent the last two weeks acting like I don’t exist, I can’t help but feel uneasy. Like something is wrong. Like I’ve caused irreparable damage I can’t fix, and because I don’t know how to fix it, I’m going to do what I always do: bury my feelings. I’ll bury my feelings and look ahead to July when I turn 18 and can return to the UK.

The UK, where I’ve also destroyed all my friendships.

I let out a long sigh and push my hair back off my face. There’s no point in going over it again and again. It’s done and now I have to move forwards. I just wish my head would agree with my logic. Even after everything Finn said to me, even after he forced me to look at Ethan in a new light and to put myself in his shoes, I can’t let go of this resentment I have towards my brother, this bitterness I feel towards him, how angry I am at him. I can’t let go of that.

No matter how much I want to.

No matter how much I know logically he’s not to blame for any of the past year…he’s not God, he can’t control cancer, and it wasn’t him who was living with her whilst it went undiagnosed for months. And yet somehow I can’t stop blaming him for not being there at the end and choosing not to be with us over the last five years.

I really wish he’d been there.

And what I wish above all else is that it were a year ago and my mum were still here. She’d know how to make this right. She could make everything better.

Paul pulls into a parking spot in the junior lot at school, and I blink as I realise we’ve already arrived. I try not to think about the whole day stretching before me.

Paul clears this throat. “Um…Izzy, I don’t mean to…I don’t want to intrude…” I turn my head to face him. He’s twisting his fingers together nervously and his eyes are darting between me and the steering wheel. “I just…um…I wanted to check that you’re okay?”

A beat passes.

“I know it’s none of my business or anything and you don’t have to tell me, but I just wanted you to know I’m here if you need anything.”

My heart melts a little. It’s no secret to everyone in this place that I’m on terrible terms with Ethan right now, that he, Finn, and I had an explosive argument and they’ve frozen me out, their friends doing the same, and that I’m basically the arch enemy of the entirety of the popular kids at Northview High. Even though I’ve tried to pretend I don’t care and I’m not bothered, I can’t quite convince myself of it.

Paul hesitates. “If you need to talk, I’m here.”

Paul really is the nicest guy. He’s painfully shy and can barely look me in the eye half the time, but he’s been nothing but kind to me since the day I met him and he can’t do enough for me. He’s a really good friend.

“Thanks, Paul. I’m okay.”

He offers me a small smile, and I manage to return it.

“Oh, I nearly forgot.” I reach for my bag and fish around in it for the money I pulled from the cash machine. “Here you go.” I hold it out towards him; it’s his payment for this week for driving me around.

He glances at it for a second and then starts shaking his head. “No, Izzy. I don’t want it.”

My brows furrow in confusion. “What are you talking about? It’s for driving me about.”

“No.” He blushes red. “I should never have taken any cash from you. You’re my friend and I want to help you out and give you rides.”

My jaw falls open. “Paul, it’s fine. Honestly, we had a deal.”

“No, Izzy. If you need a ride, I’ll give you one, and I don’t expect anything for it.”

I swear I feel tears prick the backs of my eyelids, and I blink rapidly and pull myself together. I think this is the nicest thing anyone’s done for me since I’ve been here. He’s the first person in school who’s looked past the show I put on, past the Carlington name and my looks and reputation and actually just seen me and accepted me for it—accepted me for it and still wanted to be my friend.

“Thank you, Paul.” And I mean it. I really, really mean it.

He smiles back at me then turns away and opens his car door. I do the same, and for the first time in weeks, I actually start the day not feeling completely alone.



I’ve barely been sat at my desk in homeroom for two minutes before Ms. Joot, the school guidance counsellor, turns up at the classroom door and tells me she needs to speak to me. She stands there in all her Texas glory—bright red lipstick, platinum hair, and outrageous outfit—and I know without a shadow of a doubt I’m not going to like what she has to say. I get up and follow her to her office regardless, pretending I don’t notice the whispers that follow me out the door. It’s no secret that a personal visit from the guidance counsellor doesn’t exactly spell good news.

She surprises me, though. When I’m in her office, sat down across from her, she doesn’t jump in and bombard me with information and questions. Instead she sits there and watches me, taking me in, and it makes me so uncomfortable that it’s me who ends up shifting in my seat and breaking the silence.

“Is there something you needed from me?”

“How are you, Izzy?”

“I’m fine.”

She pauses. “How are you really?”

My jaw immediately tenses and my eyes drop to the dark mahogany desk that sits between us. You know it’s bad when even teachers have heard the rumours about you.

“Izzy?” she presses.

“I’m fine,” I tell her. It’s the same thing I tell everyone.

“Izzy…” She trails off as my eyes stay trained on the desk. “You missed a couple of classes last week.”

My eyes snap up. “You can’t fail me,” I tell her, panic flashing through my body as I remember that she told me if I kept skipping lessons I wouldn’t graduate. “I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry. It was just a couple times. I’ve already made up the work. You can’t not let me graduate.”

She must hear the panic in my voice. “Izzy, it’s okay. I know you’ve had some stuff going on.”

There’s no point pretending I don’t know what she’s referring to. “If you’re talking about my fight with Ethan, it’s not an issue. It’s not affecting me.”

“If you say having a knock-down-drag-out, no-holds-barred fight with your twin brother, the only immediate family you really have left, leaving you not speaking and on horrendous terms and the rest of his friends, the kids with the most influence in this school, taking his side and also ignoring you is not a big deal then I’m not sure I believe you.”

I bite down on the inside of my cheek to try to stop any emotion showing on my face. I don’t know what’s happened to me over the last couple of weeks. I’m way more emotional than I have been in years. “Ethan and I have a difficult relationship. Not all siblings are close.”

She doesn’t comment, just keeps staring at me in that unwavering way, and I do what I always do when I feel I’m under pressure.

“How do you even know about it anyway?” I snap, taking my frustrations out on her. “Is Ethan really that big of a deal that even teachers know about our fight? Or don’t you have anything better to do than listen to student gossip?”

She raises an eyebrow and I know I’ve gone too far, but she doesn’t snap back at me or put me in my place like she’s done before. Her voice is gentle when she speaks. “It’s my job to look out for students, and teachers are a lot more perceptive than you think. It’s not Ethan I’m worried about.”

“You don’t worry about Ethan?”

“I worry that he’s under a lot of pressure to perform for the school team and that he has this image and persona he must feel incredible pressure to maintain. I worry that he has offers coming in from scouts from some of the best colleges in the country and it must be incredibly difficult to decide on where to go without the proper guidance. I worry that some of the adults in his life care more about his position as a great athlete and his name and that if any of that were to change they wouldn’t still be there for him. I worry that he doesn’t have a support system at home to look out for him and that he has to rely on friends and their parents for that support.”

I swallow hard. All of that is true. I was just too wrapped up in myself until recently to see that maybe Ethan’s life isn’t as perfect as I always thought it was.

“But no, right now, Ethan’s not my main concern.”

“And I am?” I ask, my eyes on the desk again.

“Yes. I’m very concerned that you seem intent on isolating yourself from others around you and, from what I’ve heard from the school whispers, trying to self-destruct and not caring who you let use your body in order to do that.”

A single tear drips down my face and I hastily wipe it away. I hate being vulnerable, and I hate that she’s right.

“Izzy—”

“Don’t,” I interrupt. “I’m just being stupid. Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s fine.”

“It’s okay if everything’s not okay. You’ve been through a lot.”

“I’m okay,” I repeat, and I’ll keep repeating it until she stops questioning me.

She tries another tack. “Have you seen your father recently?”

“No.”

The look on her face says she’s unimpressed with this news, if not entirely surprised.

“His assistant said he’s going to come through town for a couple of days next week because he has to do something with my grandmother and he has business in Houston.”

“Will you get to see him?”

I shrug. “She’s already warned us he’ll be busy the whole time, but he’s booked us in for dinner on Tuesday. I don’t know if he’s staying at the house.”

She can’t hide the sneer on her face quickly enough, and I don’t blame her. What sort of father rolls up after being away for weeks and books you in for a quick dinner but prewarns you he only has an hour to spare because of his busy schedule of meetings?

“Hey, it’s not so bad,” I try to joke. “At least he’s not making us meet up with my grandparents again.”

“You’re not close to them?”

I shake my head. “Nope. They hated my mum and had no problems telling me so when they last saw me.” I have no idea why I’m telling her all this. Usually I wouldn’t dream of saying this much, but after the week I’ve had, it actually feels good to just talk about my life and exactly how shit it can be.

“Will your dad be back after his meetings?”

I shake my head. “He’s flying to New York where his offices are and then on to Europe and maybe Asia for a couple of months.”

Her face hardens.

“Don’t worry, he’ll make a donation to the school or something because I’m taking up your time.”

“Izzy!” Her tone is so sharp I know instantly that she’s pissed at that comment. “Let me make this perfectly clear: I don’t care about your father’s money and what he can do for this school. I care about you and the rest of the students here, and just because someone is a rich businessman does not mean I respect them as a father.”

I blink. No one has ever said that before, not about my dad. All they usually care about is the fact that he can throw money at all his problems, and for the last seventeen years, Ethan and I have his been his two biggest problems.

“Look…” Her face has softened. “I just want you to know I’m here to talk to if you need to speak to someone.”

I consider it for half a second before I dismiss it. “That’s really nice of you, but I’m okay.”

“I knew you’d say that…” She pushes herself backwards in her chair and spins it so she’s facing a filing cabinet. She opens the bottom drawer and pulls out a couple of leaflets then turns back to me, placing them on the desk in front of me. “So here, take a look at these.”

I glance down and see brochures that advertise grief counselling.

“There aren’t many local places, but some of these groups are really good and I really think they’d be beneficial for you.”

I can’t tear my eyes away from the leaflets. Grief. The effects of grief.

“Give it a try, Izzy, even if you only look up some of the stuff online.”

I clear my throat. “Thank you, but I really don’t think I need this stuff.”

She sighs. “Then speak to someone—anyone, anyone you trust. Just get it off your chest, whatever it is that’s weighing you down and leading to this behaviour. You can’t keep your emotions bottled up. It’s not healthy.”

The bell rings loudly, signalling the end of homeroom and the start of first period.

“May I be excused?”

“Promise me you’ll think about it? Talk about it. Don’t keep bottling it up.”

I nod as I stand but I don’t pick up the materials as I leave her office.





School seems to drag out even longer than usual today, and I’m counting down the minutes until it ends. I cannot cope with Evie, Ethan’s obnoxious girlfriend, smirking at me every chance she gets, like this is the best moment of her life now that Ethan and I aren’t talking. She and Lila, her equally snooty best friend, break out into whispers and snickers whenever I see them.

Honestly, I think it pisses them off even more that I don’t ever react to it. They’re like little kids who want a reaction, and when I don’t give it to them because I genuinely don’t give a crap what they think about me, it just makes them even more annoyed.

The people I sometimes hang out with at lunch—Pippa, Paul, Rachel, and their friends—haven’t mentioned my fight with Ethan and Finn even though I know they must have heard about it. You’d have to live on the moon in order to have avoided that information. I’ve learnt just how much gossip is spread and listened to at Northview High over the last couple of weeks, especially when it involves Ethan and Finn. Paul’s been the same as always with me, being even sweeter—if possible—and Pippa’s been really great too. I know she didn’t approve of my behaviour with Craig McGarretty, but she wasn’t angry about it. In fact, she seemed more disappointed in me, which just made me feel even guiltier. Rachel’s been exactly the same as always, bossy and irritable and obnoxious, and I kind of love her for it.

Logan and Matty are the ones who hurt the most, if I’m honest, Logan more so because he’s fallen into line with Ethan and hasn’t spoken to me at all since our fight. He’s nodded and waved at me a couple of times, but he hasn’t tried to have a conversation, and I hate to admit it, but I miss his loud, good-humoured self hanging around me more than I would ever admit. Matty, on the other hand, hasn’t dropped me. He’s not around as much as he was before, but he’s not stopped talking to me and asking me how I am. That just makes me feel even guiltier because I screwed over one of his best friends and have previously done nothing but treat him like he’s an inconvenience whenever he’s spoken to me just because he’s been with Ethan, and I don’t deserve his kindness.

The bell finally rings for the end of school, and I just need a break from the stares and the whispers. When I meet Paul at the end of the day, I ask him to drop me off at the one place in this town where I feel like I can be totally myself: Marcus’s.



A plate of chicken wings and fries is set down in front of me.

I frown as I look over at Marcus, the guy I convinced for all of a month that I was twenty-one so I could drink in his bar and who at one point I thought I might date but has now become my closest friend here. I’m sat in his bar whilst sipping a soft drink—there’s no way he’s serving me alcohol—and he’s just reappeared from the kitchen with the biggest portion of wings I’ve ever seen.

“You need to eat more,” he tells me. “You’re way too skinny.”

I glance up at him, ready to argue, but then stop myself. I am skinnier than I should be right now. I just never seem to remember to eat. Unless Maria, my dad’s housekeeper, has made something and left it out, I don’t bother to cook anything myself. It always seems like too much effort.

I eye the food for a second. “This is random, but there are no nuts in this right? Or near it?”

He looks confused. “No.”

“I have allergies,” I explain.

He nods but doesn’t move. He continues to stare at me. “You okay, Iz?”

“Yeah.” I pause. “No.”

He leans against the counter and crosses his arms in front of me. “I didn’t think so. We’re gonna talk about it, but first you’re gonna eat some of that food.”

I look at the plate and reach for a fry despite not being remotely hungry. Then I have another before I reach for a chicken wing.

After a few minutes of him watching me eat and me trying not to get food all over my face, he finally speaks, only it’s not what I’m expecting. “I think we should register you for your driving test soon. I think you’re ready.”

I grin. I can’t wait to sit this damn driving test and get some independence. It’s definitely what I need. “I think so too,” I tell him.

He tilts his head to the side and appraises me. “Are you going to tell your brother?”

Ha, no. “Why would I?”

He shrugs. “It’s a pretty big deal to take and pass your driving test. Most families like to support that.”

The only thing Ethan would like to support me on right now is getting out of his life. “Yeah, well, I’m not from ‘most’ families.”

He doesn’t say anything else as I continue to dig into the food, instead turning around and starting to assess all the liquor bottles behind him, making an inventory and writing down anything he needs to order. After five minutes or so, he turns around and looks at my mostly full plate. “So, I saw my buddy Darren the other day,” he starts.

I have no idea who Darren is.

“I went over to his parents’ house because he was back from Houston for a couple of days.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah, and his little brother was acting like a little bitch.”

Why is he telling me this? “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

A smirk crosses his face. “His little brother is Finn Sullivan.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, he basically ignored me the whole time and then in the end was just plain rude when I was telling Darren what I’ve been up to. Made some stupid comment about me ‘doing minors’.”

I fully scowl now. “Finn Sullivan seems to have a lot of opinions about me, and none of them are any of his business.”

Marcus laughs. “Oh, he seems to think you’re his business all right.”

I shrug and look away. “Finn can go to hell.”

“Awwww, am I sensing some teenage drama?”

“Shut up,” I snap back.

“Seriously though, does he think we’re dating or something?”

“They can think what they want,” I insist. “It’s none of their business.”

“Well I’d prefer it if people didn’t think I was trawling for dates at the high school.”

I can’t help but laugh a little at that. “Shut up.”

He smiles at me and then gestures to the plate of food in front of me again. I reluctantly pick up another chicken wing and take a bite. He watches me until I’ve finished it.

“You wanna tell me what’s going on? You’ve been different the last couple of weeks, even sadder somehow.”

My eyes flit to him and then look away.

“Izzy?”

“What? Nothing’s going on.”

“Come on, Izzy. I know you and your brother aren’t speaking, and I know you’re not yourself.”

“How do you know we’re not speaking?”

He shrugs. “Finn’s got a big mouth.”

Stupid Finn. “What did he say?”

“Just that you guys had a huge blowout because of the way you treat him.”

I eye him for a minute to see if he’s going to mention Craig McGarretty, but he seems to think it’s just a regular fight. “So?” I ask. “Siblings fight all the time. It’s no big deal.” My voice lacks any sort of conviction that I actually believe my words.

He scoffs. “Something tells me this isn’t your typical sibling argument.”

I sigh. He’s absolutely right. My relationship with my twin is the worst it’s ever been, and considering the way it’s been between us for the last few years, that’s saying something. “It was pretty bad.”

“Go on.” My eyes slide to him and I see he’s standing there waiting patiently for me to continue. “Go on, Izzy, you can talk to me. What’s going on between you and Ethan?”

I’m about to tell him to leave me alone and mind his own business, but something stops me. Maybe it’s Ms. Joot’s words from earlier telling me to talk to someone, or maybe it’s just because I want him to tell me it’s not as bad as I think it is. Or maybe I’m just tired of feeling so damn alone.

Either way, I want to tell him.

“I did something.”

He doesn’t say anything, just waits for me to continue.

“I went to this party in Burdown and slept with this guy Ethan hates. Apparently he put him in hospital a couple of years back.”

Finn lets out a low whistle. “Which guy?”

“Craig McGarretty,” I mutter.

“Are you kidding me?” he snaps. “Ethan and Craig despise each other. That bastard jumped him a couple of years ago, and everyone knows the rivalry between Burdown and Northview isn’t to be messed with.”

I didn’t know that, actually, I want to snap back—although that’s not strictly true. Rachel told me. I just chose not to listen to her at the time.

“I know, okay? I know it was bad, but I just wasn’t thinking straight. And now he hates me.”

He lets out a long sigh. “When was this?”

“Two Saturdays ago. The night of the fundraiser.”

“You were in a weird mood that day. You were upset about something, and don’t even try to deny it.”

Talk to somebody. Don’t keep bottling it up.

“It was my mum’s birthday…the first one since she died.”

Understanding crosses his face. “Oh, Izzy, I’m sorry. That must have been so tough.”

I nod. It was tough. The whole day was really, really tough, and I did what I usually do: tried to distract myself and forget about it, and in the end I ended up screwing Ethan over more than I ever wanted to.

I didn’t realise until it was too late that I didn’t want Ethan to give up on me.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

My eyes find his.

“Do you want to talk about your mom?”

I do want to talk about her. I really do.

“She was the best,” I start simply. Because she was. She was the best mother any person could have ever asked for. “She was really young when she had us, and it made me feel like we were friends, you know? I mean, she was definitely my mum and knew when to lay down the law, but I liked her too. I didn’t just love her because she was my mother—I actually liked her as a person. I enjoyed spending time with her, going out with her.” I let out a long sigh. “She was my best friend.”

“I’m sorry, Izzy.”

I shrug. “Cancer’s a real bitch, you know?”

He nods. “What kind of cancer was it?”

“Breast cancer. She didn’t have any obvious lumps. They didn’t find it until it was too late, and it had already to spread to the lymph nodes under her arms. It was over pretty quickly after that.”

He winces, and I try to focus on his face. I do that so I don’t flash back to her face when she told me how sick she was, to how, as soon as she did, I walked away, because I couldn’t handle what she was saying when what I really should have done was wrap her up in a hug and tell her I loved her again and again.

“I’m so sorry.”

“She was a good person. Not just a good mum, but a good person. She stopped modelling as soon as we were born, and when we were old enough to go to school and we’d moved back to London, she got her degree in social work and started trying to give back.” I smile sadly. “She was in child protection and used to do such long hours, but she always said it was worth it because she couldn’t stand the thought of her leaving on time and then one of her cases not being protected.”

“It sounds like she was a really special lady.”

“Oh she was, and it wasn’t just in her work either. She volunteered at a soup kitchen every Saturday morning for a couple of hours. London’s awesome, but there’s a lot of poverty there too, and she tried to help. I remember a couple of years ago we even volunteered there on Christmas day, serving the food to all the homeless people who wouldn’t have gotten it otherwise. We helped to prepare it too.” I use my right hand to reach down and pinch the skin behind my left elbow so I can concentrate on that instead of on the pain of remembering that day. “Even Ethan was there. It was the best Christmas ever.”

It really was. My mum taught me the importance of giving back and of knowing how lucky we were because we had a roof over our head and food on our table. Most people over here probably wouldn’t expect that from me because of my dad’s money, but I never lived that lifestyle, never saw any of that money when I lived with my mum.

“So your mom was British?” he asks. “That’s why you guys lived there?”

I nod. “Yeah. She’s from Brixton in South London.”

“How did she end up with Greyson Carlington? They sound like opposites.”

“They are,” I immediately agree. “Total opposites.”

“How did they meet?” He genuinely sounds interested.

“Well, when she was sixteen, she was shopping on Oxford Street—it’s this big famous shopping road in London—and she was spotted by a modelling scout, who told her she should be a model.” I pause as I think back to the pictures she showed me of her early modelling days. She was absolutely breathtaking. “She was really beautiful,” I tell Marcus. “Like incredibly beautiful.”

He grins. “Oh, I believe it. I’ve seen her kids.”

I smile. I wish I looked more like her. Sometimes I think I do, but then other times I think I look more like my dad, and I hate that.

“Anyway, she wasn’t really interested in modelling, but she did want to travel, so she got booked on these jobs overseas and did that for a little bit.”

“Yeah?”

I nod. “But not for long. She was in New York when she met my dad and…I dunno, I guess he swept her off her feet.” I sigh as I think back on their relationship. “He’s older than her, and I suppose she just fell in love. They got married and then she got pregnant. She was nineteen when she had us—can you believe that? That’s so young.”

He nods his agreement.

“Anyway, when they met, he promised her the world, told her he was happy to move to London and live over there, said when they were in the States they could stick to New York but it would only be for a couple of weeks at a time. My mum was a city girl, loved the noise and the lights. She never wanted to live in a small town, but shortly after we were born, he moved us all to Kellan.”

He furrows his brows. “I didn’t know that.”

I nod. “For the first two years of my life, I lived here. Mum never really said anything about it, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised how much she must have hated it. She didn’t have any friends here, and she was isolated and lonely. My dad was never around, always flying off somewhere on business and trying to build his empire. He didn’t care about his wife or us.”

“That sucks.”

I nod. “Yeah, and my grandparents didn’t help. My mum lost her parents when she was young, and I’m sure she hoped my dad’s parents would welcome her, but they didn’t.” A snarl covers my face as I remember the last time I saw my grandmother and what she said about my mother. “My grandmother thinks my mum chased him down and trapped him with us, thinks she was after him for his money, but that’s not true. My mum didn’t care about money. She wouldn’t have done the job she did or lived the life she did in London if she truly cared about that.”

That’s just another example of why I can’t stand my grandparents. They make all these judgements about my mum and they didn’t even know her. They didn’t even try to know her.

“I don’t know why my Dad married her. I think it was just an experiment for him—having a family, seeing if he liked it. He didn’t. He started having affairs and saw all of us as a burden. Even when he tried to placate Mum by moving her to New York, it didn’t work. He was never there, just like he’s never around now. Mum tried to make it work for as long as possible, but when he stopped being discreet about his affairs, she walked away.”

He’s looking at me sympathetically. I guess I’ve painted a grim picture. It’s funny, isn’t it—people think money can buy you happiness, but it’s just not true. No amount of money can make up for the absence of someone’s genuine love of you.

“That’s so shitty, Iz.”

I don’t argue with him. “We were staying at his hotel in New York, and Ethan and I had just gotten home from school. We walked in and found him with another woman.”

His jaw drops.

I smirk. “Yeah, we were too young to really understand what was going on, but we knew it wasn’t right. When we told Mum, she walked away. She told me later that she had to go after that. She couldn’t let me grow up thinking it was okay for a man to treat you like that no matter how much you love them.”

“Your mum sounds incredible.”

I nod. “My dad didn’t give her a penny in the divorce, and she allowed it on the condition that she could take us back to London and all the money that should have been hers would be given to us in a trust fund when we turn eighteen.”

“Wow. So you must be getting that soon, huh?”

I nod. “My birthday’s in July. I just have to stick it out over here until then. Then I’ll be able to financially support myself through university and not have to have anything to do with my dad again. I don’t even care about the money. I just need enough for uni and then I can look after myself.”

He studies me. I think he already knew how much I despised my dad, and what I’ve just told him will only emphasise that. “I feel like your mom would be proud of you, trying to make yourself independent from your dad.”

The word proud makes me want to burst into tears. She always used to tell me she was proud of me, but I know she wouldn’t be right now, not after the way I’ve acted. “I really miss her,” I manage to whisper.

He doesn’t say anything to that. I mean, what can you say?

“I just…I just keep thinking…” My voice cracks slightly, and I clear my throat and blink rapidly, trying to pull myself together. “I just keep thinking how I’m so young and I have my whole life to live and how she’s not going to be there for any of it.” My lip starts trembling and I pinch the inside of my arm so hard I’m sure it’ll bruise. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to get used to that. I still can’t believe she’s gone.”

“I’m so sorry, Izzy.”

A tear slides down my cheek. Yeah. I’m sorry too.

He doesn’t say anything for what feels like the longest time as I try to get my emotions in check. Eventually I feel like I’m not about to fall apart, and I look up at him.

He smiles at me and luckily doesn’t press me any further on it, instead going back to our location growing up. “So what happened after she took you home? Did Ethan stay?”

I shake my head. “We both went back to the UK, and I loved it. It felt like home as soon as we got there, but I guess Ethan didn’t really like it.”

“No?”

“No.” I shake my head as I remember the day he came into my room and told me he was moving back to America to live with Dad, told me he was going to live in Kellan and go to school over there away from me. I remember the blind panic that took over at his words and the total disbelief when I realised he was serious, realised my brother—my twin brother, the person who had been by my side for as long as I could remember—was going to leave me.

“Why did he want to move back?”

I shrug.

“You don’t know?”

I shake my head. “You’d have to ask him.”

“You never asked him?” he asks in disbelief.

I sigh. “Obviously he preferred Dad’s money to the life we had in the UK.”

He frowns like my words don’t ring true to him. He goes to open his mouth to say something, but I cut him off. The last thing I want to think about is the day Ethan told me he was moving away from me. I was so upset I cried myself to sleep for weeks.

“Anyway, he’d come over and visit a couple of times a year and my mum would come over here to visit Ethan, but when I moved here at the end of summer, it was the first time I’d been to Kellan in over ten years, and that time was only to see my grandparents. I don’t remember anyone.”

“But surely it’s nice to be back with Ethan again? You guys sound like you were really close.”

We were close. So, so close—until he broke my mum’s heart by moving back over here. And mine. He broke my heart too.

“Izzy, siblings are important. God knows I wish I had some. You have to make things right with him.”

“Don’t,” I tell him. “Don’t lecture me. You don’t get it.”

He pauses for a second, his face taking me in. “I get that you’ve had the shittiest year ever and this is your way of dealing with it.”

The shittiest year ever? That’s the understatement of the century.

“Give Ethan a chance. Hell, give yourself a chance to be close to him again. Family is important, and it sounds like he’s the only decent family member you’ve got left.”

He makes it sound so simple, but it’s too late for that now, after the way I’ve behaved. No matter what I do, I just can’t get over the way he rejected us and moved over here, leaving us alone without him. If I’m really honest, I’m still so hurt over that.

“Have you made any friends since you’ve been here?” he asks. “Those kids we saw at the fundraiser?”

I pause. I’m not sure I would have classed them as friends until the last couple of weeks. The way they’ve stuck by me when the rest of the school has turned their backs on me has made me see them differently.

He misinterprets my hesitation. “You can’t only have me, Izzy. You can’t just shut yourself off from everyone and come see me every couple of days and pretend that’s enough.”

It is enough, and it’s not like I have much choice now. All I have to do is last through to July and then I’ll be home. Then I can rebuild my life.

He opens his mouth to say something else, but a shout from Old Bill for another drink stops him. He goes over to serve him whilst I try not to think about my mess of a life.

I turn my attention to my phone and start scrolling through social media, trying to ignore the pain I get in my chest when I see all the pictures popping up of my old friends at a party. They’re smiling and carefree and I miss them. I miss having friends I can rely on, friends who knew me before I became this bitter, messed-up version of myself.

“Well, well well…” I look up and see Danny Fields slide into the seat next to me. “I haven’t seen you in here in a while.”

I shrug. I stupidly decided it would be a good idea to go home with Danny the last time I saw him in here. Nothing actually happened between us—let’s call it divine intervention—and I have no desire to repeat the process. I turn back to my phone, continuing to scroll through social media. Kristen, my best friend for what feels like my whole life, has had her hair cut. She kept saying she was going to get her long dark hair cut short, but she never had the guts. Now it’s sitting just below her jaw and looks amazing. That will have been a huge decision for her, and I missed it. I missed it because I was such a bitch to her after I found out my mum was dying that I can’t even think about her without being ashamed, and I can’t reply to her messages because I don’t deserve to have her speaking to me. Not after what I did.

“So, uh…” Danny leans in, his large frame crowding me. “I was thinking we could pick up where we left off last time.” He runs his tongue over his lips as he leers down. “I say we just book a motel room and party the night away.”

It takes me less than a second to realise I don’t want to do that, to realise I don’t want to blow up my life tonight.

“No thanks.” I turn away from him and find Marcus with his gaze already locked on me, standing just slightly down the bar. He’s no fan of Danny Fields. “Can I go up to your place to watch TV until you close?” I ask. “And then you can take me home, if that’s okay?”

A wide smile crosses his face. “Sure, Iz.”

I slide off the stool, accept his keys, and am out the door without even bothering to look back at Danny. Today, for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel like trying to destroy my life when the opportunity is offered to me on a silver platter.





Despite Ms. Joot trying to get me to open up yesterday, I don’t fail to notice that she also mentioned she knows I skipped a couple of classes in the aftermath of my fight with Ethan, and I’m under no illusion that if I do that again, she’ll follow through on her threat from earlier in the year to stop me from graduating next spring.

I can’t skip any more classes. No matter how much I don’t want to be here and how much I feel like a freak with everyone staring at me, I have to stick it out from now on and not miss any more lessons. Me failing to graduate would only add to my problems. With that in my mind, I arrive to gym class on time, not dawdling and arriving after everyone’s changed like I’ve tended to do, and I’m happy to find that the groups have been split again and it’s only girls now, which means I don’t have to deal with Ethan or Finn.

I can cope with Ethan. I know him; despite everything, I’ve realised I do know him. I know what he’s like and I know how to handle him. Finn, though? He’s a different story. I have no idea what I’m doing as far as Finn Sullivan is concerned, and even though there’s no doubt he’s furious at me, I feel like I constantly feel his eyes on me, even when he’s not there, and it’s slowly driving me crazy.

The one downside of these split gym classes is that I’ve found myself in the same class as Evie and Lila. Evie catches my eye as I enter the changing rooms, throwing a smirk my way, and then she mutters something to Lila that makes her snicker.

I pause and face them. Clearly Evie’s delighted about my fallout with Ethan and the fact that she doesn’t have to pretend to be nice anymore. That’s fine with me; I’ve never felt the need to be nice to her. Evie’s smirk falters when she realises I’m staring back and not cowering away like she expects, and after a couple of seconds, she turns away, muttering to herself about “getting ready.” I roll my eyes and make my way over to a spare spot on the benches.

“Hey.” I turn and see Pippa standing there, Rachel beside her.

“Oh.” I didn’t realise they were in here. “You’re in this class?”

Rachel smirks. “There’s no getting past you, is there?”

I roll my eyes but don’t say anything to her. Honestly, whilst Rachel is rude and annoying, it’s actually quite nice to have somebody who is totally steady with me. She’s never treated me any differently since the day she met me, despite anything that’s happened or what’s she’s learnt about me.

Pippa frowns in her direction. “Yes, we were in Ms. Hudson’s class,” she confirms.

I nod. Mr. Michaels’ class and Ms. Hudson’s class were combined and then split into separate classes for male and females. It suits me. I dread to think what Ethan would do to me now if we were to play soccer on opposing teams. Last time was bad enough.

A squeal of laughter catches my attention and I see Evie and Lila clutching each other, laughing loudly and staring at a girl across from them who is stood in her bra—clearly in the middle of getting changed—and looks like she wants to sink into the floor.

“Seriously,” Evie asks, her mouth twisted, her voice cruel. “Did you go through my stuff and then go out and buy it?” She flips her hair over her shoulder. “Honestly, Rebekah, it’s embarrassing how much you try to copy me.”

The girl flushes an even deeper red and her eyes quickly scan around, aware that everyone’s watching this moment of humiliation. Pippa and Rachel and a couple of other girls quickly turn away, busying themselves with folding their clothes, and I feel a flush of warmth towards them. They don’t want to add to her humiliation, and I have the horrible feeling they know what it’s like to be in Rebekah’s position.

“I didn’t—my mom bought this for me last Christmas. I didn’t know you had the same one.” Her voice is quiet, like she knows there’s little point in arguing.

“Whatever,” Evie snaps dismissively, like she’s not even bothered at all. And she’s not, not now she’s achieved what she wanted and humiliated the girl. “Stop trying to be me.”

With that she links arms with Lila—who has an equally bitchy look on her face—and saunters out of the changing rooms, leaving Rebekah crestfallen behind her.

Ms. Hudson enters the room, blowing a whistle, and everyone scrambles to finish getting changed as she tells us to get moving to the athletic tracks.

As a group, we leave the changing rooms, and I end up just behind Pippa and Rachel and beside Rebekah. I send a sidelong glance her way and see her eyes downcast. I don’t know if I should say anything. I don’t want to make her feel worse.

After a minute, she glances at me and offers me a weak smile. “Hey.”

“Hey.” I hesitate. “I’m Izzy.”

A smile plays over her lips but then it quickly disappears. She clearly doesn’t feel much like smiling right now. “I know who you are. I’m Rebekah.”

Suddenly it hits me why I recognise her. She sits at Ethan’s table at lunch and I’ve seen her with Logan a couple of times. “Are you a cheerleader?” I blurt out.

She nods. “Yup. I’ve been on varsity for the last two years.”

Seriously? This is one of Evie’s teammates? I’ll bet she’s one of Evie’s friends too, and that’s how she treated her? “Are you okay?” I eventually ask.

She nods. “Yeah, she’s just…you know…being Evie.”

I hate that. I hate that Evie can behave so disgustingly and it’s just accepted.

“She’s really that much of a bitch over a…?” I don’t even know what it is Rebekah supposedly copied.

“A bra. She said I copied her bra, but that’s not what this is really about. I got assigned to work on a project with your brother in history and she’s not happy about it.”

I blink. “What?”

“The teacher paired everyone up and I tried to get out of it so he could work with Evie, but the teacher wouldn’t listen.”

“Why don’t you want to work with Ethan? Won’t he pull his weight?” From what I can see, Ethan is pretty conscientious about doing his work. I’m always seeing him studying at the kitchen table as I pass through.

Rebekah scoffs like I’m being silly. “Ethan’s not the problem. Evie is. She doesn’t like that I’ll have to meet him outside of class to complete it.”

That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

“I tried again yesterday to get the pairs changed, but Mr. Williams won’t listen.”

“And what? Evie’s blaming you?”

We reach the athletic track and my eyes find Evie immediately. She’s lounged on the ground, her eyes fixed on me and Rebekah, staring daggers.

I turn to Rebekah, expecting an answer to my question, but she shrinks under Evie’s glare and hastily moves away from me. It doesn’t matter, though. I got my answer.



Running around the track outdoors in the Texas heat should be illegal, and by the time Ms. Hudson blows the whistle to let us go get changed, we’re all sweaty, disgusting messes. We trudge inside, and there’s the predictable rush for the showers. I hang back, catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror and decide I can forgo washing my hair and make do with just a body shower, knowing all the showers will be taken and I honestly can’t be bothered to rush and line up.

I pull the hairband out of my hair and bundle all of it up into a knot on the top of my head before grabbing my towel and toiletries. I wait until some of the students start trickling back into the changing rooms before I go to take my own shower.

I stand under the stream for longer than I should, letting the hot water wash away the sweat before realising I probably don’t have long left until the bell rings. I quickly switch the shower off and wrap the towel around myself.

I walk through the showers, noticing that everyone else is already out, and quicken my pace. I get to the doorway of the changing room, and I see it as an observer before I can actually comprehend what is happening.

Evie has her phone out and pointed in the direction of where I was sat as she fiddles with the screen. I swivel and my stomach drops when I see Rachel bent over, arse in the air in Evie’s direction, struggling to get her feet into the legs of her jeans.

A flash goes off and Rachel whips around just as Evie breaks out into peals of laughter.

My heart starts hammering in my chest as I wait for Rachel to say something. I wait for her to snap back at her and put her in her place like I’ve seen her do before, like she’s done to me countless times—but all she does is blink rapidly, taking in what’s just happened, how Evie has just taken a picture of her in an incredibly unflattering position without her permission. She blinks again and I realise she’s trying to hold back tears as she hurriedly pulls up her jeans and tries to make herself as small and invisible as possible.

Lila is laughing cruelly as she stares down at the picture, whilst Evie starts spreading her fingers across the screen, zooming in. Evie bursts out into laughter all over again. “Look how disgusting and fat she is.”

I see red.

“Give me that,” I practically scream at her as I propel myself forwards, still clutching my towel around me. I reach her and use my free hand to grab the phone out of her hands.

“Hey,” she snaps, trying to snatch it back from me, but I step away, readjusting my towel, and try to look at the picture.

“Unlock your phone,” I tell her, my voice ice cold.

I hold it out to her.

She looks at me in disbelief. “It was just a joke, Izzy.”

“Do I look like I find it funny?”

She opens her mouth to say something but then snaps it shut.

“Unlock your phone,” I insist again.

“I wasn’t going to do anything with the picture.”

“Oh no? You weren’t going to do anything except make Rachel feel like total shit?”

“Oh relax. Stop taking things so seriously.”

Is she for real? Does she actually not see what she did as the heinous actions of a bully? Does she really not see that the way she treats people is wrong? Seriously wrong?

“Unlock your phone,” I demand.

She crosses her arms and looks back at me defiantly. “No.”

Does this girl really think I’m going to let her walk out of here with that picture on her phone? I take a step closer, my eyes locking with hers. “Unlock this phone or I will smash it into a million pieces.”

She stares in shock, and I see the uncertainty that crosses her face. “You wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t I?”

Her eyes flit behind me and I have no doubt that we have the attention of the room. She hesitates. She really doesn’t want to back down from me. “I’ll tell Ethan.”

“Good, and I’ll tell him why I smashed your phone.”

I’ve got her and I know it. No matter what Ethan thinks of me right now, there’s no way he wouldn’t listen to me about this. There’s no way he wouldn’t think what Evie’s done is disgusting.

“Fine,” she snaps, snatching the device from my hand and typing in her password. “God, you can’t even take a joke.”

I don’t bother to answer her as I take the phone back, and I suck in a breath as I realise her social media apps are open and she was just about to post that picture of Rachel online. My eyes flash to Evie’s and she takes a step back. She knows how bad this looks. I could honestly slap her silly right now.

I exit out of the apps and go to her camera. There’s more than one picture there, all zoomed in on Rachel bent over, and yes, the picture is not flattering. Her underwear is skimpy and too small for her so it digs in and gives the appearance of her having fat overhanging, and the light overhead is emphasising the small amount of cellulite she has. I scroll through the pictures, deleting them, and I shake my head as I realise the quality of the first couple is fine. Evie didn’t need to use the flash to take the last picture—she just wanted Rachel to know she did it.

Well good.

Her arrogance and her need to humiliate gave enough time for me to see what she was doing. I delete all the pictures, making sure they’re not stored anywhere else on the phone, and then look up to face Evie. She’s glaring back at me, and my eyes dart to Lila, who is stood there looking bored. She might not be as bad as Evie, but she’s definitely compliant in all this bullying.

Lila catches me looking. “What? You deleted the pictures. No harm done.”

I scowl at her. “You’re such a sheep, do you know that? You’re pathetic. You just do whatever she tells you to do.”

Her face hardens and she goes to say something to me but then stops. Apparently she expects Evie to take me on.

“Catch.” Without warning, I toss Evie’s phone to her, and she fumbles and drops it.

“Fuck,” she shouts, scrambling to pick it up. She looks up at me indignantly. “It’s cracked!”

Good.

“You can pay for that.”

“Do you really think that’s going to happen?” I ask flatly.

Her features harden and she straightens up to face me. “You know, you don’t have to be so horrible to me,” she states loudly. “You don’t have to treat me like this.”

I bark out a laugh. I can’t help it. “Evie, all you do is treat people like crap. You are a nasty piece of work.”

She looks visibly shocked. “Well that’s not very nice.”

She’s actually delusional. “You’re not very nice.”

“Oh shut up, Izzy. You’re nothing but a slu—”

She clamps her mouth shut before she can finish her sentence.

“Say it again,” I tell her calmly.

“I didn’t mean it. I take it back.” For whatever reason, she’s not willing to treat me like the rest of them.

“No,” I say, my voice even. “Don’t take it back, Evie. Go on. Come after me. Come after me the way you go after your friends.” I throw my hand in Rebekah’s direction; her eyes are glued to us. “The way you go after people you know won’t say anything back,” I tell her, whirling to look at Rachel, who is staring at me wide-eyed. “Come. At. Me. Evie. I’m waiting.”

Evie flushes bright red as I call her out, and I wait for her to say something, to say anything, but she doesn’t. All she does is grab her clothes, throw them into her bag, and then turn and skulk out of the changing rooms with Lila on her heels.

The bell rings, breaking the tension in the room as everyone suddenly rushes to finish getting dressed and collect their things. I make my way over to my own clothes and try to get ready as quickly as possible, my whole body vibrating with tension.

I hate that girl. I hate that Ethan is with her.

I pull my hoodie on over my head and quickly step into my jeans. I gather the rest of my stuff and turn to leave before I notice that Pippa and Rachel are still there.

Rachel bites her lip as she looks at me. “I…um…what you did there—”

“Don’t. Don’t break the habit of a lifetime and be nice to me.”

She flashes a small grin, not quite her usual toothy smile, and I know that whole situation affected her more than she’d ever admit.

“Um, do you guys maybe want to skip the cafeteria today and go to the drive-through?” Pippa asks, looking between us. “I could do without having to see Evie again today.”

That sounds like the best offer I’ve had all week.





“Carrie Whitmore was asking me about you today,” Finn tells Matty with a smirk on his face from across our lunch table.

I grin as I look over at Matty.

“She’s into you, bro,” Finn assures him.

Matty smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “I’m too busy to date right now. I’ve got schoolwork and football.”

I scoff. “You’re not a priest, Matty,” I tell him. I actually can’t remember the last time he went on a date, even though plenty of girls are interested in him. “You gotta have some fun.”

Matty looks away, and Finn looks at me and shrugs. Carrie Whitmore is pretty and nice. She’s definitely worth giving a chance if she really is into Matty, but apparently he’s not interested.

“Have you thought any more about your offers?” he asks me, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out he’s trying to change the subject.

“No.” I sigh. I have absolutely no idea where I want to go to college. I impressed a famous scout a couple of months ago and he's come through with an offer for my dream school, along with a bunch of others, but now I'm second guessing where I should go and I'm still not closer to making a decision. “I have no clue.”

“My mom said to just let her know where you want to check out and she’ll go with you,” Finn tells me, and I manage a small smile. Finn’s parents are awesome and know my dad couldn’t care less where I’ll go next year so they’re willing to step in and visit colleges with me themselves, but I can’t help thinking it would be different if my mum were here. She would make it a priority to come for a visit and sit down with me to go through the pros and cons of each school, and then she’d take me to visit them so I could get a feel for each place. This decision would be just as important to her as it is to me.

God, I miss her.

“How many scholarship offers have you gotten?” Logan asks.

I shrug and he takes the hint, doesn’t ask any more questions. I don’t really want to talk about the fact that I’ve had five offers from good colleges I would be lucky to go to. I don’t need the scholarships. Because of my father’s money, I don’t have to worry about college fees, and I know I’m incredibly lucky, but what most people don’t know is that I don’t want to rely on my dad’s money. I want to go to college off the back of my own talent, and I never want him to have anything over me. I know Izzy’s planning on holding out for her trust fund before she walks away from dad, but if I have my way, I’ll manage to get a scholarship through college and not rely on him from the minute I set foot on a college campus to start my freshman year.

Not many people know that, especially not Izzy—she’s never asked.

Deacon Phillips sits down next to Finn. One look at his face tells me he’s got something to say. He’s the team gossip.

“Shit went down between Evie and Izzy.”

I still. This is all I need. Even if Izzy and I aren’t talking right now, I can’t have her fighting with my girlfriend.

“When?”

“In gym class just now. Apparently Izzy went off.”

Of course she did. Wherever Izzy goes, drama follows. I turn around to look towards the table where Izzy sometimes eats lunch, but she’s not there. In fact, it’s half empty. “What did she do now?”

Deacon shakes his head. “Not Izzy, Evie.”

Wait… “What?”

“What happened?” Finn asks, his voice sharp.

Deacon shrugs. “I don’t know the full story, but Rebekah was just telling Stacey.” Stacey is Deacon’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, and I know she and Rebekah are close. Rebekah wouldn’t lie to her.

“Is Rebekah in that class?”

Deacon nods. “Yeah. I don’t know fully what went down because Evie showed up to talk to Rebekah and pulled her away, but apparently Izzy came out of the showers and went crazy at Evie. She didn’t even bother to get dressed first, just went off on her in a towel.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Logan open his mouth to say something. “Say one word about Izzy in a towel and I will knock you out,” I warn him.

He throws his hands up like he’s innocent and I turn my attention back to Deacon.

“I didn’t hear exactly what happened, but something about a picture in the locker room and Rachel Bridges.”

Logan stiffens at the mention of Rachel’s name. He’ll never admit it, but I think he’s secretly in awe of her. She does his homework for him and I know they live close to each other, but I think their relationship is more than just him using her for his homework.

My eyes lift and, at that moment, Evie walks into the cafeteria, her arms linked with Rebekah and Lila. Her eyes dart nervously towards me and then she looks away and joins the food line. Something’s wrong. Evie never eats the cafeteria food. She’s obsessive about gaining weight and only eats the plain, boring salad she brings in from home every day. Usually she’d walk straight over to our table. I watch as she glances back at me and then again looks away. Something is definitely not right.

I can’t help but remember what Izzy said to me when we were arguing, how she shouted that Evie is a bully who picks on everyone around her, friends included. For some reason, I haven’t been able to dismiss those words. For some reason, I haven’t been able to think my sister is wrong about my girlfriend and she’s never done that. Because since then, I’ve been watching Evie more closely when we’re not together, and I haven’t exactly liked what I’ve seen. I’m starting to think she’s not the person I thought she was.

None of us say anything as we watch my girlfriend make her way through the line, picking up various dishes—again, something she’d never usually do—and eventually make her way over to our table, her friends right behind her.

“Hey, baby,” she says brightly. She doesn’t quite hide the nerves in her voice.

“What happened with Izzy in the locker room?”

Her jaw hardens. “Look, I don’t know what she told you, but she’s lying. She blew it way out of proportion.”

“Blew what out of proportion?”

“Ethan, you know she doesn’t like me. She has this huge problem with me and honestly I feel like I should report her for bullying.”

I’m trying really hard to suppress my temper. “Evie, what happened?”

“Well, what did she say?”

“She hasn’t said anything. I haven’t seen her.”

Her posture changes slightly at this and she sits up a bit straighter. She didn’t know I haven’t spoken to Izzy. This changes things for her, and I can tell she’s happier than she was a couple of seconds ago. That just sets off even more alarm bells for me.

“It was just a little misunderstanding after gym. I was taking selfies with Lila and she got the wrong idea.”

Bullshit. Izzy might be unreasonable at times and occasionally flies off the handle, but she’s not going to start a fight with Evie over a selfie.

I turn to Lila. “What happened?”

“Um…” She blinks. She wasn’t expecting me to ask her. “What Evie said. Izzy went crazy over a picture.”

“What’s Rachel Bridges got to do with it?” Logan asks. His voice is colder than I’ve heard it in a long time, and he’s staring at Evie with distaste.

Evie winces. She didn’t know we knew Rachel was involved. We know more than she thought we did.

I turn to Rebekah. “Were you there?”

“Um…well…” Rebekah looks physically uncomfortable. I’m surprised to see her and Evie together, actually. Evie’s been not so subtly bitching about her to me for days; I guess she’s gotten over whatever problem she had with her.

“Baby, it’s nothing,” Evie insists.

“Evie, you better tell me what happened right now or I will hunt down every person who was in that locker room until I find out what went down.”

She stares at me for a second and must decide I’m serious because she slumps in her seat. “We really were taking selfies,” she insists. “And then…I dunno, Rachel was bending over and she looked so funny, and you should have seen her underwear—it was tiny and all old and dirty, and I just took a picture.”

My lip curls in disgust. “You took a picture of her bent over? In her underwear?”

She at least has the good grace to look ashamed, but is that because she actually is or because she knows that’s the right reaction?

“What were you going to do with the picture?” Finn asks.

My eyes flash back to him. I hadn’t even thought about that.

“Nothing. I swear I wasn’t going to do anything. Izzy just got confused. When she grabbed the phone from me she must have pressed something and my Snap and Insta came up. She must have thought I was going to post it or something.”

I sit back and take her in, my girlfriend of a year who is squirming in her seat and looking around uncomfortably. My girlfriend who was going to post a picture of someone bent over in their underwear online just because she thought it was funny. My girlfriend who I currently can’t stand the sight of.

If I think about it, really think about it…I outgrew Evie a long time ago.

We started dating because I was lonely, because my dad is never around and my mum and Izzy were in the UK. I thought I needed someone over here besides my friends, someone I felt had my back, because I needed someone to rely on. And Evie was persistent. She was persistent, pretty and popular and she became my girlfriend. I wanted someone I could trust and who would be on my team.

Turns out I picked the wrong person.

“We’re done,” I tell her flatly. I’m surprised by how little thought it takes me to come to this decision.

Panic crosses her face. “What?” She sits forwards in her seat. “Baby, don’t say that. It was a misunderstanding.”

Logan snickers next to me, and I see the rest of my friends around the table staring at Evie in distaste. No one likes bullies, and no matter what Izzy thinks about me and my friends, no matter how much she chooses to judge us and avoid us, we’re not going to overlook something like this.

“I’m not gonna be with someone who pulls shit like that, Evie.”

“But it was a one-time thing.”

The minute she says it, I realise it’s not true. I realise Izzy was right. People in this school are terrified of the way Evie can potentially treat them, and I want to punch myself for not taking my sister seriously, for being blind to it and only thinking about the way Evie treats me just because she looks good in a bikini.

“Ethan!” Her voice has become shrill. “No. No, you don’t mean that.”

“I do.”

“Ethan.”

“Stop embarrassing yourself,” I tell her. Her jaw falls open, and she looks around and realises we have an audience. Our whole table, which is heaving with people as usual, is watching. “You’re making a scene.”

“Bro, did you talk to Coach today?” Finn asks pointedly, and I turn my attention back to him.

“No.

“Man, he was not impressed with us in training yesterday,” Matty says, tilting his body away from Evie. “He is gonna punish us today.”

Logan pipes up. “I reckon he’ll make us spend longer in the weight room.” He takes a sidelong glance at Evie. I don’t bother looking at her, and I don’t care that we’re freezing her out. Right now, I can’t even stand to look at her.

“Baby?” I don’t give her my attention, and out of the corner of my eye, I see her wipe at her face and then she lets out a sob and runs crying from the room. Lila follows her.

For half a second, I want to follow her. I’ve cared about her for the past year and I don’t want to see her upset, but then I remember what she did and how she tried to defend it, how she tried to play it down and act like Izzy was overreacting and how there are probably a dozen more similar scenarios I know nothing about and I stay right where I am. I don’t move.

“That was long overdue,” Finn tells me, swiping up some fries and shoving them into his mouth. He doesn’t even look a little bit sorry for Evie right now.

I nod my head. I think he might be right.





Ethan and Evie have broken up. We hear it almost the second we step through the school doors when we get back from lunch, the gossip mill working at full force.

Everybody seems to be talking about it. The perfect king and queen of Northview High have split up, and everyone wants to know why. It doesn’t take me long to find out it was because of what happened in the changing rooms. Rachel’s mortified that everyone seems to know about it, but I can’t help feeling a small amount of pride. I knew Ethan wouldn’t stand for that. I knew he wouldn’t accept that sort of behaviour from his girlfriend.

I walk to my classes, not spotting Evie or Lila for the rest of the day, but when I walk past Finn, he acknowledges me for the first time in over two weeks—barely. It’s just the slightest nod of his head, but it’s there, and the slight recognition that I did something right for once makes me feel that little bit better.

I enjoy the rest of my day at school. I enjoy it because Evie, who values her social status above anything else, has been revealed as the bully she is, and I for one couldn’t be happier about it.



The bell rings for the end of the day, and I’m ready to get out of here. I’ve just spent the last hour in English reading through Macbeth and doing text analysis. It’s something I did over a year ago at school, and I was so bored that I wanted to rip my eyes out. Instead, I just thought of that graduation certificate, kept my head down, and completed the work.

“Hello, Izzy.”

I look up from my locker and see Benson Montgomery there.

“Hi?” I reply, looking at the guy who randomly asked me out on a date when I’d just moved here. I don’t really have an opinion on Benson either way. He just sort of swans around the school with his preppy crew, looking down on anyone who doesn’t drive a car that costs over twenty thousand dollars and looking around to see who notices him. On principal, I should despise him, but I don’t care enough to do that. If you ask me, he cares too much about how other people perceive him and this image he’s trying to portray in order for me to dislike him too much. Anyone who cares so deeply about what others think about them is seriously lacking in self-confidence.

“I was wondering if you’re planning on attending the Rosemary Gala this weekend?”

Rosemary Gala? Why does this ring a bell?

He must read my blank expression. “Your grandmother organised it? It’s to raise money for the children’s hospital.”

That’s right. “No.”

He looks surprised. “No you’re not going?”

“No, I’m not going.”

“But my mother assured me you were. She spoke to your grandmother last week.”

That would explain all the emails and messages I’ve been getting from her. I haven’t even bothered to read them. “Well my grandmother is delusional if she thinks I’m going to voluntarily spend time with her.”

His jaw falls open. Clearly he wasn’t expecting that. “Well that’s a shame…I was going to offer to escort you as your date…” He lets the sentence linger as though his offer might change my mind.

“Still not going.”

He looks insulted. “You know, Izzy, I’m actually willing to overlook your recent transgressions and take you on a date.”

What the hell? “My recent transgressions?”

“Yes,” he says irritably. “That business with Craig McGarretty—I don’t know how someone like you would even consider going there. And honestly? It sounds like you’re rather lacking in friendships of any kind at the moment, so I would seriously reconsider my offer if I were you.”

What an absolute dick.

“You know what, Benson?” He straightens up and steps slightly closer to me. I think the stupid idiot actually thinks I’m going to agree with him. “Even if every single person on the face of this earth stopped talking to me, I still wouldn’t be caught dead on a date with you. Now leave. Me. Alone.”

He blinks in total astonishment, but I don’t wait to see if he has anything else to say to me because I see Paul in the distance. I slam my locker and hurry to catch up with him.

“Hey,” he says as I fall into step at his side.

“Do you know Benson Montgomery?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he hesitates. “I mean I know who he is. I’ve never spoken to him.”

“Well he’s a weirdo,” I tell him. “Stay away.”

He grins back at me, and we exit through the main hallway and walk down the stairs before heading to the junior parking lot.

“How was your day?” Paul asks.

“Eventful,” I tell him, and he smiles broadly back at me. Something tells me he already knows what went down between me and Evie, and I’m guessing he’ll be pretty pleased about it. He’s incredibly loyal, and Rachel is one of his friends. He won’t like what Evie did.

I open the passenger door to Paul’s car and swing my bag in.

“Um, Izzy?”

I look over at Paul, and he’s looking at something in the distance. I turn my head to see what it is and immediately want to scream.

What the hell? Apparently today is about to get even more eventful.

“What are they doing here?”

Craig McGarretty is parked up across the street from the student parking lots, not on school property (he’s made sure of that) but wearing his letterman jacket, as are all the buddies he brought along with him.

My head turns back towards the school just as Ethan, Finn, and several of their teammates stroll out of the main entrance. They’re laughing at something and standing around chatting. They haven’t noticed them yet.

“Wait here,” I tell Paul, already striding towards Craig.

He sees me approach before I reach him, and a wide smile covers his face as he looks me up and down.

“What are you doing here?” I ask brusquely.

“There she is.” He smiles smugly. “The one and only Izzy Carlington. Was starting to think it was all a dream.”

I bite back a sarcastic retort and don’t bother to correct him about the fact that I don’t use my dad’s name. “You need to leave,” I tell him, looking back towards the school. Ethan and his friends still haven’t spotted him. “What are you even doing here?”

“Babe, no need to be like that. I mean you just ghosted me. I was hurt.”

My jaw tenses. There’s not a chance he’s hurt. He’s just looking to stir up more shit. “Just leave.”

He glances behind me and a smirk covers his face. “Come on, babe. Don’t be that way. We should give things a shot.” He’s not even looking at me as he says it. His eyes are fixed behind me and, with a feeling of dread, I know they’re probably fixed on Ethan.

“Stop trying to use me to fuck with Ethan,” I snap.

He chuckles and finally turns back to me. “Hey, I don’t want any bad blood with Ethan Carlington. Who knows? If things work out between us, he could be my new brother.”

His friends snicker around us and my fists clench at my sides. This is all about Ethan, all of it. What Rachel said is true—this guy is so threatened by Ethan and his talent, so jealous he’s willing to show up at Ethan’s school, where all his friends are, just to try to get one over on him. Again.

I feel a presence behind me. “Get the hell out of here.” Finn’s voice is only just containing the anger in it as he steps up behind me.

I look around and see Ethan, Matty, Logan, and a bunch of other guys from their team standing behind me—and to my annoyance, quite a few other students too. Clearly they’re all expecting some sort of show.

“Just stopped by to see the gorgeous Izzy,” Craig says, a smirk planted firmly on his face. “I don’t know how you boys can concentrate in class.”

“You told him to come here?” Matty asks me sceptically.

My jaw drops. “What? No. I didn’t—he’s not here…I have nothing to do with—”

“Don’t, Izzy,” Finn says sharply. He doesn’t even bother to look at me. “Just don’t.”

Yeah, they definitely think there’s something going on between us.

“Hey, man.” Craig nods his head at someone behind me, and I turn to see it’s Ethan he’s talking to. Ethan takes a step forwards so he’s standing next to me. “Just thought I’d swing by to clear the air now that we have something in common and all. Don’t want any bad blood between us, especially not before tomorrow’s game.”

I suck in a breath. I could slap him. “Tomorrow’s game?”

Craig chuckles. “That’s right. Burdown versus Northview tomorrow night, the biggest game of the season.” His eyes harden on Ethan. “It’s ours this year.”

Logan barks out a laugh behind me and I look between them. Please tell me Craig isn’t here stirring up shit over a football game.

He takes a step forwards and tries to grab my hand. Ethan physically tenses, and I immediately snatch it back.

“Stop it,” I hiss. “Get out of here.”

He completely ignores me. “So you heard me and your sister are new buddies, huh?” He chuckles. “Or at least some kind of buddies.”

I want to throw up at his not-so-subtle hint at us being fuck buddies. I’d rather burn my British passport than go there again. That’s how much I regret hooking up with Craig McGarretty.

Ethan lets out a noise suspiciously close to a growl, and I feel like screaming. Craig’s here to get at Ethan. He’s not even trying to hide it, and I gave him the ammunition to do it. I hate myself for it.

I turn to Ethan. “I don’t know what he’s doing here,” I tell him. “I swear I haven’t seen him since that night.”

Ethan doesn’t even look at me, and I feel sick. I feel sick that my brother thinks I betrayed him and now the guy I betrayed him with is here taunting him in front of all his friends. I really messed up.

“He’s just trying to get to you,” I tell him, and he flashes me a look of such hurt that I have to suck in a breath. He really hates me right now. I can’t say I blame him.

“Thought you might wanna wear my jacket at the game tomorrow, Izzy,” Craig says, shrugging it off and holding it out to me.

“Bring that jacket any closer to me and I’ll set it on fire,” I warn him.

His friends laugh and Finn steps closer, pushing me back from them slightly, and despite the fact that he’s clearly disgusted with me—he’s definitely not trying to hide that—he still wants to protect me from Craig, which momentarily fills me with warmth…until I catch the look he sends me. By the look on Finn’s face I don’t think Rachel told me even half of the story between the two teams. The rivalry between them seems very much real. Finn will have hated him for hospitalising Ethan when they were younger and he’ll hate even more that I’ve allowed him to ridicule Ethan again.

“Stay away from my sister,” Ethan tells him calmly.

“Hey, I can’t help it if she was begging me for it,” Craig throws back, clearly enjoying himself. “Obviously she can’t get what she needs from this bunch of pussies. You should be thanking me for meeting your sister’s needs.”

I am beyond mortified.

“I met her needs real good, in several different positions.”

Those are the words that break Ethan’s calm demeanour. He lunges for Craig, but Matty and Logan grab him and pull him back, trying to get their struggling friend under control. “You wanna go, McGarretty?” Ethan shouts. “Let’s go. Just you and me.”

Matty tightens his hold on Ethan, and between them they manage to pull him away from Craig whilst Finn squares up to him, crowding him back towards his car. Craig’s friends suddenly look nervous. I mean, what did they expect? They’re seriously outnumbered.

“You wanna mess with us, huh?” Finn says, complete rage in his voice. “Stay away from her and stay away from us or I promise you’ll regret it.”

Craig laughs in his face. “You seem pissed, Sullivan. Don’t tell me I got there first. You not happy I hit it?”

Finn pulls his right arm back and before I can think about it, I grab it and use all my strength to try to pull him away.

Craig laughs louder. “Don’t be pissed, Sullivan. We can share.”

Finn has him pushed up against his car with his arm against his neck before I can blink and I’m just wondering how the hell I’m going to be able to stop this when a whistle blows loudly and I turn to see Coach Dyson on the steps of the school making his way down towards us.

Finn releases his hold and Jessica’s boyfriend puts her hand on Craig’s shoulder. “Let’s go.”

Craig nods, glancing back towards the school nervously. My guess is Coach Dyson will have no problem reporting him to his school for turning up here. He takes one last look at Finn and then turns his attention to Ethan, a smirk covering his face. “See you tomorrow, Ethan—and hey, you’re welcome for me taking care of your sister. I kept her real happy. Let me know if you need me to take care of your girl too.”

Ethan’s trying to keep his cool, but at that comment, he tries to lunge again, and it takes another one of their teammates to help Matty and Logan keep him under control.

“Oh, don’t worry, Craig,” I jump in. “If any of the girls at Northview want to roll around for ten minutes and not get anywhere close to an orgasm, I’ll make sure they know who to call.”

There’s a bark of laughter from nearby as Craig flushes and jumps in his car just as Coach Dyson arrives. “What’s going on?” He’s looking at Ethan.

“Nothing,” Ethan mutters, pushing off the hands that are restraining him and then smoothing down his hair. He’s barely able to contain his anger, his hands are shaking he’s that worked up. “I need to get home.”

Coach nods his consent, and Ethan and the rest of his crowd turn and walk back towards the senior lot. I see to my horror that there were way more witnesses to that little scene than I thought. It feels like half the school is standing behind me, and I’m not surprised it caught Coach Dyson’s eye.

“Wait!” I hurry after Ethan, who is striding away with Finn. “Wait,” I say, grabbing his arm. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what he was doing here. Nothing is going on.”

“Forget it, Izzy,” Ethan says, yanking his arm out of my grip, his voice is completely detached, and it makes me want to scream. “Just forget it all.” He’s not even looked at me in over two weeks but then he broke up with Evie because of what she did, and stupidly, despite myself, I couldn’t help thinking this afternoon might be a new start for us. I thought he might actually think about speaking to me again because he took my side over hers.

And then Craig bloody McGarretty has turned up and taken us right back to square one.

He reaches his truck, opens the door, and throws his bag inside. He climbs in, turns it on, and reverses so fast I have to jump out of the way.

“Happy now?” Finn demands. His tone tells me just how pissed off he is with me. “Just felt like screwing him over that little bit more did you?”

“I didn’t know…I don’t know why he came here.”

“He came here to mess with Ethan. Because of you he thinks he can do that. Are you happy now? Are you glad you managed to hurt him that little bit more?”

He doesn’t stop to wait for an answer. “Congrats Izzy, you did it again.” Then he turns and gets into his own car, leaving me standing all alone.

No, Finn. I’m not happy. I’m just about the furthest thing from happy that I could be.





That brief half a day last week when I felt like Ethan might be ready to stop hating me after he broke up with Evie feels like a lifetime ago. He and Finn are back to not even looking at me, or at least Ethan is. Finn looks at me plenty, and to be honest, I wish he’d just stop. I’m sick of him judging me all the time.

In fact, dinner with my dad, something my father wasn’t letting either of us get out of, is the closest I’ve been to Ethan in days.

“I’ll take the ribeye steak, rare with a side of peppercorn and salad.”

I watch as my father gives his order to the waiter and then scans over the drinks menu.

“And a large glass of the Marlborough Sauvignon.”

The waiter glances over at me and I order my chicken dish before Ethan places his order—around three times more food than me—before the waiter disappears and leaves the three of us to the silence of the table.

My father turns his attention to Ethan. “I hear you beat Burdown last week. Good job.”

Ethan just nods, sending a glare my way (like I’m somehow associated to Burdown now), and doesn’t elaborate further. I heard, of course, that they beat them in the school announcements and was relieved that at least Ethan didn’t have to deal with that humiliation from Craig, but I haven’t tried to bring it up with him or anything. I don’t want to piss him off any more than I already have.

“You’re undefeated this year?” my father asks. I’m actually surprised he’s making the effort and trying to have a conversation. From what I’ve seen, this is seriously unlike him.

“Yeah,” Ethan replies, without any excitement in his voice. “The aim is to get to the playoffs again.”

“Very good.” He pauses whilst the waiter returns with our drinks and he takes a large sip of his wine. “And Izzy, have you settled in?”

I frown. He actually sounds semi-interested. He’s not just talking at me for a change but instead is asking me questions. He’s never been like this, not in the last times I’ve seen him since I’ve been in the States or when I’ve spoken to him on the phone, not even when I was living in the UK and we’d have our bi-annual dinners. “Yes.”

“And how are your classes?”

I sneak a glance at Ethan, who looks as perplexed as I feel.

“They’re okay. I’m doing well in them.”

“Yes, yes. You always were very smart.”

He takes another long swig of his wine.

“Ah, um…I saw your grandmother today, and she’s not very pleased that you’re ignoring her messages and didn’t go to the gala.”

Well it didn’t take him long to criticise me about something, but I don’t care that I’m ignoring her so I just shrug. I never agreed to go, and I’m not going to speak to her. I don’t want to have to deal with someone who talks about my mum the way she does.

“I did invite her tonight so she could see you both, but she had another engagement.”

Ethan snorts. “She owes us an apology for the way she spoke about Mum.”

My father opens his mouth to immediately retort but then snaps it shut. He drums his fingers on the tablecloth, clearly debating his next words in his head. “Yes,” he finally says. “Perhaps she does. I’ll speak to her about that.”

I couldn’t be more surprised than if he’d told me he’d gone broke.

He clears his throat, opens his mouth to speak, and then hesitates, looks around the restaurant, and takes another long sip of his wine, almost finishing the glass.

Something is going on.

“So, I was thinking…” He trails off, and my heart starts beating a little faster in my chest. This isn’t like him to be so hesitant and almost…nervous? He’s about to tell me something he knows I won’t like. Why else would be beat around the bush like this? But then I dismiss that thought. That isn’t his style—he wouldn’t usually give a damn about what my reaction might be.

“Um…how are you both doing since your mother’s death?”

Ethan’s mouth falls open in shock and his eyes flit to mine. I don’t know about him, but my father hasn’t mentioned my mother to me since her funeral. I genuinely didn’t think he’d thought about it since.

“I know it must be difficult.”

“Yeah,” Ethan says hesitantly. “It sucks.”

“Yes…it must seem very unfair to you both.”

Unfair? Unfair isn’t a big enough word for what it is, but I don’t react to his statement or throw out a sarcastic comment because he actually seems sincere for once in his life.

My dad clears his throat. “I…um…I actually wanted to speak to you, Isabella.”

I stiffen slightly at this. I don’t like having his attention. It never leads to anything good for me.

“I spoke to your school guidance counsellor.”

I freeze.

“Ms. Joot.”

Oh, Jesus.

“She seems quite tenacious, to put it mildly.”

I can just imagine what she said to him. No wonder he’s sat here trying to make conversation with his kids. She probably gave him the roasting of his life.

“She’s really quite persistent.”

I take that to mean she’s refused to be ignored by him and passed over to his assistant. If I know anything about Ms. Joot, it’s that she gets what she wants.

“And we had a phone conversation.”

I try to keep a straight face, but my mind is spinning thinking about the possible things she might have told him. Please don’t let her have told him about me and Craig. Please don’t let her have given him any ammunition he can use against me. He already has enough control over me.

“And um…she mentioned to me that perhaps you’re not dealing very well with your grief over your mother’s death, that your behaviour is fairly reckless at the moment as a result of your grief.”

I bite down hard on the inside of my mouth but don’t show any emotion on my face.

“She wouldn’t go into any details about your behaviour.” His voice hardens. “I know you’ll be conscious not to embarrass the family name.”

Of course it’s not as simple as his enquiring about my mental wellbeing. He’s finding a way to have a go at me, still letting me know who’s boss.

“But she did mention that perhaps you’re struggling with the upheaval in your life.”

Ethan snorts and mutters something I can’t quite hear under his breath.

My dad glares at him before turning back to me. “I’ve arranged for you to see a therapist every week. He’s one of the best in Houston. Someone will pick you up from school every Tuesday and drive you to your appointment and then return you home.”

He’s just throwing money at the problem again, as per usual, but what’s really sad is that this is the closest he’s come to showing he cares about me in years.

“So it’s agreed then. You’ll start seeing a therapist from next week?”

“No.” I shake my head to emphasise my point. “I don’t need a therapist. I’m fine.”

“It’s already been arranged. Ms. Joot seems to think you’d really benefit from it, and I think she might be right.”

More like she laid into him about how messed up his father skills are and he’s doing what he thinks makes him look best in this situation.

“It’s okay, Dad. I’m fine.”

Ethan lets out a muffled laugh from across the table, and I glare at him.

“The therapist is highly recommended.”

“It’s not necessary.”

“Yeah, right,” Ethan chimes in.

“Shut up.”

My father looks between us. “Of course I’ll have an appointment arranged for you too, Ethan, if you feel like you need it.”

He shakes his head. “Don’t worry, Dad. Unlike Izzy, I’m actually dealing with my grief and talk about Mum with my friends. I don’t act like she never existed.”

I suck in a breath. “I don’t act like she didn’t exist.” He’s so far out of line. So what if I don’t talk about Mum with him? I think about her all the time. Sometimes it feels like I think about her every minute of the day. “I would never act like she doesn’t exist.”

Ethan just stares back at me. I can’t read the look on his face.

“How dare you? I don’t act like she doesn’t exist at all. You have no idea what’s going on in my head.”

“Yeah, well thank God for that because there’s some seriously messed up shit going on in there.”

My hands clench into fists and it takes everything I have not to throw my drink at him as he glares back at me.

My father clears his throat, looking between us in bewilderment. He has no idea how to deal with us. He’s never had to parent us both before when we’re fighting, that was always my mum’s job. “Well, Ms. Joot was very concerned about you. She used the word self-destruct several times. Now I’m not sure what you’ve done—”

“Dad, I’m fine.”

“It’s already been arranged. You’ll go to therapy and that will fix things.”

I scoff, shaking my head as I look down at the table. “Don’t worry, I won’t take up any more of your time. I know it must have been inconvenient having to discuss me.”

“That’s not fair, Isabella.”

“You know, I hate being called Isabella. You’d know that if you knew a single thing about me.”

His mouth sets into a hard line as I push back my chair and stand.

“It’s a little bit late to start acting like the concerned father now.” I grab my jacket and pull it on then push the chair back in under the table. “I’ll make my own way home.”

Then I get the hell away from there because that last thing I want to deal with right now is fake concern from the only parent I have left just because the school guidance counsellor told him just how messed up I actually am.





I’m staring into my locker trying to think which books I need to grab for my afternoon classes when it’s shut in front of me.

“Hey!” I turn to see Ethan stood there, Finn beside him.

“I think you should do what Dad said. You need to see that therapist.”

“Well hello to you too, Ethan. How nice to talk to you after weeks of you ignoring me.”

He scowls. “Don’t be a dick. I’ve been thinking about it, and I really think you should go.”

“Why? Because I have some seriously messed up shit going on in my head?” I snap, repeating the words he said last night back to him. “I’m not going.” I can’t think of anything worse than me having to talk through everything and dissect my behaviour.

“Really? You’d rather just carry on like you are now?”

I take a deep breath to try to calm down and stop myself from losing my temper. I turn back to my locker, opening it up and grabbing a couple of textbooks, hoping they’re the right ones.

“Ethan, I’m fine. I’m dealing with everything fine.”

He scoffs. “You think this is dealing with your shit?”

“It sounds like it could really benefit you, Izzy.”

I whirl to face Finn. How dare he have an opinion on this when he’s made it perfectly clear how little he thinks of me and how he wants nothing to do with me? “You know what, Finn? This really doesn’t have anything to do with you, and I’d really prefer the guy who’s ignored me for weeks stayed out of my business.”

Finn eyes harden but he doesn’t break his stare, and I have to look away.

Apparently Ethan doesn’t like the way I’ve spoken to Finn. “Why do you have to be like that? He’s just being nice.”

I turn my back on him to walk away because I’m so tired of fighting with him. I know my behaviour has been out of line and I know he has a right to be angry with me, but when he’s talking to me like this, it just makes me want to shout back, which will only damage our relationship further.

“Biz, I’m talking to you,” Ethan snaps from behind me. He sounds irritated. He’s always irritated with me.

“Forget it,” Finn mutters from next to him.

“Biz?!”

I turn back to him. “What?!”

“What the hell is wrong with you? Why do you have to be like this?”

I bark out a humourless laugh. “Do you think I like being like this, Ethan? Do you actually think I like myself right now?”

That silences him.

“Do you think it feels good to me that I screwed you over so bad you don’t want to know me anymore? Do you think it feels good that I messed up my life so bad in the UK that I got pulled over here and even though I’m desperate to get back there, I’m not sure any of my friends will even talk to me anymore?”

He takes a step towards me, but I throw my hand up to stop him.

“Do you think I like that you can sit and talk about Mum and laugh at your memories whilst they turn me inside out? Do you think I like that I resent you so bad because you’re able to move forward and not be stuck in this permanent horrible state of sadness?”

“Biz—”

“And do you think I like that I’ve been such a complete bitch in the last year? That I can’t seem to help it? Do you think I’m not terrified that I’m like Dad? That I took his traits and not Mum’s and I’ll end up just like him?”

“I didn’t—”

“So when I say I don’t want to go to therapy, it’s not because I want to piss you off. It’s not because I don’t think it might benefit me. It’s not even because this is the first time you deemed me fit to talk to in weeks and you’re already shouting at me. It’s because right now I can’t handle it. It’s because I’m trying to deal with everything in the best way I know how, rightly or wrongly, and you having a go at me is not helping.”

This time when I turn to walk away, he doesn’t stop me.



I’m sat in maths struggling to concentrate. My mind is a mess, and not just about fighting with Ethan again. I got another couple of text messages from Kristen this morning. She wasn’t saying anything in particular, just filling me in on gossip she thought I might be interested in, like how Mr. Smith walked out of school and how her mum has a new boyfriend. It made me want to ring her immediately, to focus on something else other than this guilt I feel over Ethan and ask my best friend what I should do—but I don’t ring her. Of course I don’t. No matter how much she tells me she misses me, I know she’ll remember what I did. I know she won’t be able to get over it.

Mr. Evans is just announcing what our homework for the weekend is when there’s a sharp knock on the door.

It’s opened before Mr. Evans can say anything, and I turn my attention that way as someone steps inside.

I say someone because all I can see is a pair of bare legs and a huge bouquet of flowers. I can tell it’s a cheerleader because they’re wearing their uniform.

I glance around the room and see Pippa pulling a confused face a couple of seats over.

“Hello?” Mr. Evans asks.

The bouquet of flowers drops slightly and Evie pokes her head over the top.

Oh jeez.

“Hi, Mr. Evans,” she says brightly.

Her eyes dart around the classroom and rest on Ethan for a second. I’d bet any money that whatever she’s about to do has something to do with him. She has not taken their breakup lying down. From what I can tell, she moped around for a couple of days feeling sorry for herself and then went on a charm offensive. She’s apologized to Rachel countless times and has been friendly and nice to anyone and everyone. She’s obviously trying to show that her behaviour was just a one-off. I really hope Ethan’s not dumb enough to fall for it.

“I’m so sorry to interrupt your lesson,” Evie starts.

“No problem at all,” Mr. Evans replies, and I struggle not to roll my eyes. She even has the teachers wrapped around her little finger.

“I just wanted to pop in and give these to Rachel,” she says.

Rachel’s jaw falls open in shock as Evie makes her way down the row and places them on her desk. She deposits them there, flashing Rachel a perfect smile, and then heads back to the front of the room.

She pauses and turns back to face us. “I just want to say, publicly, how sorry I am about my actions a couple of weeks ago,” she says loudly, making sure we can all hear. Her eyes dart to Ethan and then away again. “There’s absolutely no excuse for my behaviour, and I can’t apologize enough. I’ve been taking a hard look at myself and have sought the help of a therapist to keep me on track so I don’t fall back into bad habits. While I always have the best of intentions, I’ve realised sometimes my actions can be misconstrued, and if I can make it up to you in any way, please let me know. I’ve already told the other cheerleaders that the profits from our next fundraiser are going to go to the math club.”

Oh she’s good.

“And I just want to know, Rachel, if you can ever forgive me? I know these flowers don’t make up for anything, but if you could find it in your heart to forgive me then I’d be so grateful.”

The attention of the class shifts to Rachel, who is just gawping back at Evie in amazement. Rachel has already accepted her apology—numerous times. She doesn’t say anything for at least ten seconds then realises Evie is actually expecting a response. “Um, sure…no problem.”

Evie claps her hands together in delight before her face goes back to the mask of piety she’s clearly going for. “And there’s one more person I need to apologize to.”

My eyes find the back of Ethan’s head. Wait for it…

“Izzy.”

Oh for God’s sake.

“I’m so sorry I put you in a position where you felt you had to stick up for Rachel. While you didn’t get entirely the right impression”—bullshit I didn’t—“I shouldn’t ever have taken a picture of someone without their knowledge, and I want to thank you because your reaction has made me re-evaluate myself and ultimately made me a better person.” Her eyes find mine. “So, again, I’m sorry, Izzy. And thank you.”

Oh she’s very good. Her eyes dart to Ethan again, making sure he’s taken all that in, and I feel like I should stand and give her a round of applause. She did this in the one class Ethan, Rachel, and I share. She deserves an Oscar for that performance.

“Well, that’s it,” she says cheerily. She turns to our teacher. “Mr. Evans, thank you so much for letting me interrupt for a couple of minutes, and the rest of you have a fantastic afternoon.”

With that she turns and flounces out of the room.

“Well,” Mr. Evans says, looking after her fondly, “it takes real self-reflection to admit when one is wrong. What a wonderful girl.”

He turns back to his planner and continues reading out our homework, but I don’t take anything in as I watch Ethan looking at the door where Evie just exited.

I really, really hope he doesn’t fall for it.





“Hey.”

I look up from my desk at the end of chemistry class, and see Matty stood there. I haven’t spoken to him in what feels like forever. He’s given me the odd smile here and there, which is definitely more than what any of their other friends have done since Craig showed up here and started all that drama, but apart from that, he’s pretty much avoided me. “Hi.”

He studies me for a couple of seconds before letting out a long sigh. “Are you okay?”

I nod, standing and throwing my notebook into my bag, wondering if he’s heard about my latest fight with Ethan and Finn. “I’m fine.” He doesn’t say anything to that, and when I look up, he’s watching me with sympathy on his face. “What?” I demand. “I’m fine.”

“It’s okay not to be fine you know,” he tells me, stepping aside as I walk past him and then trailing me to the door

My jaw clenches and I turn to him. “If you have something to say, Matty, just say it.”

He shrugs. “I’m just worried about you. You’ve been through a lot, and I just wanted you to know if you need to talk to someone, I’m here.”

“Then why have you been ignoring me for weeks?”

He shakes his head. “I haven’t.”

“You have.”

“No. I just haven’t approached you first for once.”

Huh. Have I really never initiated conversation with Matty? Have I always waited for him to come up to me first?

He indicates for me to move forward and we start walking down the main hallway, following the steady stream of kids that are leaving for the day. “Do you wanna go get some food and hang out for a bit?” he asks me gently. “We could talk. Or not. Whatever you want.”

“That’s okay.”

He pauses and I reluctantly stop to face him. “I’m worried about you, Izzy.” And the way he says it, with his voice all soft and gentle, I know he means it. “You need to talk to somebody, a friend.”

But is he my friend? And what would I say? I mean really? How do I even begin to sort out the mess that is my head these days?

“Thanks,” I tell him, and I really mean it. “But I have to go meet Rachel. She said she needs my help with something and she’s pretty hard to argue with.”

He snickers a bit at that. “Okay, but I’m here if you need me.” Then he swoops in without warning and gives me a quick hug before taking off down the hall and meeting up with Finn, who I hadn’t known was watching the conversation.

After that hug, I really do feel that little bit better.

Until I see Ethan approaching them with Evie in tow. She’s smiling wildly up at him and he laughs at something she said. Surely he’s not been taken in by that scene with the flowers?

“Izzy…you’re late!” I turn to see Rachel barrelling towards me, her hands full of papers and books, and she immediately distracts me from thoughts of Ethan. “Let’s go.” She starts off down the corridor and I have very little choice but to follow her up the stairs towards the maths block and into Mr. Evans’ classroom.

I look around in surprise to see Pippa, Paul, Evan, and a couple of other people from our calculus class sat at some desks. They look like they’re about to start a meeting.

“What’s going on?”

“Math club,” she states. Like that explains everything.

“Okay,” I say warily. “But why did you want me to meet you?”

She rolls her eyes like I’m stupid. “Because you’re joining. I’ve told you countless times that we’re a team member down and we have more competitions coming up.”

“Um—”

“Stop,” she interrupts me. “You’re the obvious choice. While it’s still debateable as to whether you’re actually better than me, you’re clearly very capable, and I’m willing to take you on despite your inexperience.”

I blink at her.

“So sit down then,” she tells me, waving her hands at me.

“But…I’m not joining the maths club, Rachel.”

She rolls her eyes. “It’s math club. We don’t use the ‘s’. Come on, you should know that by now.”

She is such hard work! “Fine. I’m not joining the math club, Rachel.”

She doesn’t even acknowledge that I’ve spoken.

“I mean it. You’ve asked me before and I said no, and it’s still a no.”

She lets out a sigh of irritation. “We really need an extra team member for next weekend. It’s important.”

I shake my head. “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to find someone else.”

Her jaw tenses and she turns to face me. “Just do it.”

I frown. I can’t believe how unreasonable she’s being. She’s ignoring everything I’ve ever said on the subject. “Look, I’m not—”

“If you don’t do it then we won’t advance to the next round,” she tells me testily, “and I am not going to let your selfish attitude ruin this for me.”

My jaw hangs open.

“Whoa.” Pippa jumps in, taking a step forwards. “Let’s just calm down, yeah? Maybe Sally Ferguson would do it?”

“I want Izzy,” Rachel snaps.

“Well I’m not doing it,” I bite back.

“Why not?” she demands. “We’re your friends, or at least the closest things you have to friends here, so why won’t your selfish ass help us out?”

“Hey, stop.” Paul jumps i