Chapter Twenty-Three

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            When Kim turned up outside my house on Monday morning, I knew it could only be a bad sign.

            We hadn’t spoken all weekend; she’d kept up her wall of silence for three days, and I hadn’t tried to reach out. This, of course, left George caught in the middle, flitting between the both of us, trying as best he could to diffuse the situation.

            I did feel bad. Kim’s words continued to ring in my head, and it was perhaps the truth of it all that seemed to echo loudest. The truth was, I had been keeping things from her – and in more ways than she knew about. Telling her the real story would make it even worse.

            So, like always, I kept my distance.

            Until now.

            It was halfway through breakfast when I noticed the car pull up outside. My seat at the dining table had a clear view of the front window, and I recognized the vehicle straightaway. Disbelief had me doubting myself, but upon seeing the petite figure climbing out of the driver’s seat, it became clear I’d made no mistake.

            My mother noticed her too. “Oh,” she said, surprised. “Is Kim giving you a ride to school?”

            She was closing in on the front door, steady steps already taking her up the driveway with a speed that had me rising from my seat. “Something like that,” I replied, pushing my plate away. The last thing I needed was a confrontation in my mother’s presence, and the only way to avoid it was to get out quickly. “I’ll, uh, see you later.”

            “Sure,” she answered. “Have a nice day.”

            I was out of the room in seconds, pulling on my shoes and opening the door before Kim had a chance to knock. When it swung open, she froze on the spot, her arm poised in the air like a statue.

            I didn’t know what to say, and I figured she’d have something up her sleeve – she always did. So I stayed quiet, just waiting.

            “Corey,” she said slowly. Both syllables were well-balanced and equally calculated, and I wondered if she’d been practicing. “What do you say to a ride to school?”

            The situation was so bizarre: she didn’t seem mad, miles away from her outburst in the cafeteria just three days ago. In fact, there was an air about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Managing a smile, she chewed on part of her lip, eyes unreadable beneath those heavy bangs.

            “You’re talking to me now?”

            It hadn’t meant to come out as a challenge, but seemed to regardless.

            She leaned in, lowering her voice slightly. “Look, there’s something we need to talk about. I really think it’s a good idea for me to give you a ride.”

            Now, of course, I was wary. There was something about the look on her face, one that was completely out of place on Kim, that had my heart pounding. “What do you mean?”

            “It’s hard to explain.”

            Her expression was pleading, with no trace of anything she’d been feeling before. It was unnerving to see Kim like this: someone who was usually so confident in everything she did, words always flowing at the speed of light, intimidating even at five-foot-two. Only now did I seem to notice her real height, like she’d taken off a pair of heels I’d never noticed.

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