Chapter 9 - Part 1

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Desi woke with a start to the rap of knuckles on his car window. He squinted his tender eyes against the blinding morning sun the moment he tried to open his eyes. It was sweltering in his car already; it had been a mistake sleeping there again, but he didn't have the cash for even the seediest motel rooms. Blindly, Desi rolled the window down to get some air, finally peeking his gaze open wide enough to see Wyatt at his driver's side.

"Did you squat in the school parking lot all night?" Wyatt gave a teasing grin with the question.

Desi had forgotten where he eventually made camp for the night. A lot of it was a blur after leaving his mother, his frustration too consuming for him to hang onto anything else in the aftermath. "I had a fight with my mom." With the explanation, he pulled down the sun visor and checked himself in the mirror; he looked like a fucking wreck. He'd never seen the bags under his eyes so purple before, and one of his cheeks was still stained flush from his mother's palm. He tried to do something with his stringy, grease-heavy hair but it just made it look even worse. He closed the visor in defeat. "What time is it?"

"Quarter after nine, I think." Wyatt answered, then checked his phone to confirm. "Is your phone broke or something? We've been trying to get a hold of you all weekend."

Desi hadn't noticed Wyatt wasn't alone until his use of the word 'we'. He leaned forward to get a better angle and caught Nic, leaning against the rear end of his car, looking about as prickly as Desi felt. They exchanged eye contact, but nothing more than that.

"It's dead. I haven't gotten a chance to charge it." Desi offered a fib, not wanting them to know he'd been screening their messages. He couldn't handle the altercation right now.

"Wait, all weekend? Then have you not even heard about—."

Desi interrupted before Wyatt could finish. "I know about Ashley. The cops picked me up for questioning yesterday."

"You too?" Wyatt gave an understanding noise in his throat, piecing together the cause for Desi's dishevelled look and jagged additude now. "They picked us up yesterday afternoon. What a cluster fuck."

Offering little more than a monotone hum, Desi got out of his car and rounded to the passenger side to collect his books. If Wyatt was right about the time, he had economics in fifteen minutes.

"My dad said that Ashley's mom is really shook up. And everyone around school is spreading rumors that—." Wyatt paused, reconsidering his words when he caught Desi's gaze get sharp with defensiveness. "That... well, just that something bad happened."

Desi already knew what was probably going around, given his night. He didn't need Wyatt to say it out loud to know what people were thinking. Assuming. About him. He offered the excuse that he was comforting himself with in hopes it would ease Wyatt's concern also. "We had a fight Friday night. She probably just took off to get under my skin. She'll turn up."

"Shit. I guess that makes sense considering your guys' track record." He passed a hand through his hair and let the silence sit for a brief moment before adding, "you better hope she shows up soon. You're basically public enemy number one right now."

Desi offered a frustrated huff. "I'm aware. Pretty sure I have a police escort and everything. Unmarked car hanging outside my mom's place and following me around last night." He'd lost the station wagon after driving slightly too recklessly through a suburb area, and then promptly forgot about the encounter with all the other shit he had to be concerned over. Now reminded of it, the obvious conclusion was that his interrogation the day before had earned him a bit of surveillance. Unfortunately, that didn't make Desi feel any better about the situation. Shouldn't they be looking for Ashley, instead of keeping an eye on him?

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