I glanced back up at Suzanna. Her cool eyes stared back at me. Nothing about her looked easy or simple. Her expression was all temper and brilliance—a brilliance I'd never have. I couldn't compete with her. I knew that, sitting on her floor beside Owen's cello. I'd always known it. If I wanted to be with Owen, I'd have to accept being second to her forever. My things would be stuffed into one neat little pile, while Suze got her own room.


#


Sitting alone at our breakfast bar, I took a long drag off a cigarette and tried to sort out my thoughts. I'd bought the pack on my drive home from Owen's, but it wasn't helping.

My phone rang. Thinking it might be Owen, I scrambled to dig it out of my purse, spilling receipts and drink napkins all over the floor. Instead, it was my old friend, Rosa. We'd grown up down the street from each other in Florida, but I hadn't really talked to her since I'd moved to Connecticut with Rhys.

Unless it was Rhys?

I dismissed that idea as quickly as it came. Unlike Stephanie at Annette's café, Rosa was actually my friend. She would never let Rhys do that.

"You answered," Rosa said. "Good. I have to tell you something."

"Oh, okay," I said, inexplicably hurt. "It's been a long time—"

"I know," she said. "It's about your boyfriend. He's here, and he's been going around, asking about you."

"My boyfriend?"

"Rhys."

"Oh, right." How could I have thought, even for a second, that she meant Owen? "Rhys is where? In Florida?"

"Yeah, he's got one of your old address books or something. He's been driving around to everybody's houses, talking to them or their parents or whoever is home."

"He's talking to who?"

"You know, everybody. The old group: Luz, Everett, Johnny, everybody."

"Why is he talking to them?"

Rosa sighed impatiently. "Don't you know, Miranda? He's looking for you."

Looking for me. Going to old friends' houses to see if they were hiding me, like I was some kind of fugitive.

On the other side of the line, Rosa clicked her long fingernails. A small, overwhelmed part of me wondered what her manicure looked like. We used to be the Florida Fashionistas, rebelling against Florida's obsession with flip-flops and sweatpants. I missed that. I missed her.

"You know I am not going to judge you for who you date, Miranda," Rosa said, "but I am not going to lie to you, either, sabes? That man is one scary motherfucker. He got my mom to tell him where I live and then he came to my apartment. He said..."

She trailed off.

"He said what?" I asked, dreading the answer.

"He said he knew I would be hiding you. I told him I didn't know what he was talking about, and you hadn't even told me you left him."

Oh, God.

I wasn't sure if I said it out loud or not, but it didn't seem to matter. Rosa's voice was shaky when she spoke again. "Miranda, what is going on? Did you leave him or what?"

"Yeah... I left him."

"And now what? You're in Florida? Because if you are, you had better leave quick, or call the police, or something..."

"No," I said. "I'm not in Florida."

"Oh. Okay." I could feel her desire to ask me where I was, but she didn't. She clicked her nails again instead. "I'm glad you're not anywhere near that guy.... but I'm still worried about you."

I smiled sadly. "Thanks. That's sweet." I paused, and then I added impulsively, "I've missed you."

"You've missed me? You're the one who moved to Connecticut all of the sudden. It's been a year, you haven't called, you aren't online anymore...."

"Rhys doesn't like Facebook," I said automatically.

Rosa was stonily silent.

"I'm sorry," I said, wincing. "I don't know why I said that. I don't know why I let any of this happen."

"It's not your fault. He's a dirtbag. You didn't know."

I should have known from the moment I set eyes on him.

"Yeah," I said, with a sigh. "I'm sorry that he said all that stuff to you. I'll talk to him."

"No--don't you dare tell him where you are!"

"I won't. I'll just tell him I'm not in Florida, so he'll leave you alone."

"You should tell the police, wherever you are, and get a restraining order against him. My brother Emilio is a lawyer now, you know. You want me to call him?"

I exhaled. "No, thank you. I'll be fine."

I would be fine. Rhys had no idea I was in Maine and had no way of finding out. I had cut all of my ties. Even my own father didn't know where I was. Eventually, Rhys would give up looking for me, and then I could move on with my life.

"I have to go to class," Rosa said. "You call me, okay? And be safe. Think about what I said about the police."

"You're going to class?" I asked. "I thought you graduated college."

"I did. I'm in medical school at UF."

"Oh, Rosa!" I exclaimed. "You're in medical school! I'm so happy for you!"

She chuckled. "Thanks, sweetie. I'll tell you all about it next time you call me, all right?"

"All right."

After we hung up, I drew a line through the ash with my cigarette butt, thinking. Rhys was in Florida, harassing my old friends. Hunting for me. But really, I knew I was safe here. And Rhys was... stubborn, but he wasn't that stubborn.

I was safe. I was. I just had to tell him to knock off bothering my friends.

My head in my hands, I stared down at my phone, trying to make myself text him. The thought of contacting him terrified me. His texts and voicemails had been getting scarier by the day. I will find you. I will make you come home. They were mixed in with pleading: I miss you so much. I can't stop thinking about you.

I lit up a new cigarette in hopes that it would help me stop shaking, but it didn't help. I didn't think anything could help me anymore.




***************

What do you guys think of this chapter? Would you be able to text Rhys, if you were Miranda?

In the next chapter, there will be new developments with Owen.... and, in a way, with Suze. Please don't forget to vote or comment if you're enjoying the story!


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