Chapter Fourteen

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My little house was in dire need of a few . . . ish, repairs. It's been that way since I moved in a few months ago. Every day it's this same dance, bouncing from foot to foot on the cold tile, completely naked, waiting for the water to heat up. That's not even the worst of it. Once the water gets hot it doesn't stay that way—not for long anyway.

The water went from hot, to cold, to hot again. I could barely stand it. I loved my slightly shabby little house, but there were a lot of things that needed fixing and it was going to take a while to get through them all. I tried some of the smaller renovations myself. Like the shower tiles I bought during an over-adventurous Saturday afternoon at Home Depot. I bought cans of paint, little tubes of white gunk to patch the holes in the hallway walls, and some knobs to replace the ones on the kitchen cabinets, and some tiles for the bathroom. The knobs found their way onto the cabinets. I had to admit they really did update the cabinetry just like HGTV told me they would. Great!

I painted the kitchen walls. Also great. Then I started the bathroom shower tiles. As in, I removed about half of them and replaced maybe . . . six.

I counted them.

Okay, so eight.

As convenient as it was to use the "remodel" as a way to discourage my dad's random drop-ins, I really needed to stop procrastinating. This house was my way to prove that I could take care of myself. I didn't know who I was trying to prove that more to, myself or my dad. And did it really matter?

The water was finally warm enough to wash my hair. It only shorted out on me a couple of times. When I turned it off, the shower still dripped behind me as I rough-dried my hair. I thought of Elodie's friend again, the stranger in my house. He seemed nice enough, but so quiet. I wrapped a hand towel around the leaking bath faucet. I wondered if Phillip was the kind of guy to mind his friend staying with his pregnant wife.

I started to feel uneasy as I blow dried the tips of my hair. It was impossible to blow-dry in less than thirty minutes and I only had about ten before I had to leave. That would have to do.

I had to do laundry—and soon. I didn't need to be super dressed-up for my dad and his wife, but I knew my outfit would be the topic of conversation at the dinner table. Outside of each of our outfits and the typical, "Have you seen any movies lately?" My stepmom had nothing to talk to me about. To be fair, I had even less to say to her.

I barely had any clothes left in my dresser, so I shoved my hand in the Forever 21 bag next to my nightstand. Would I be Forever 21? I guess I'd find out next month on my birthday. There wasn't much of use in the bag: a pair of jeans one size too big and a brown shirt that fit me but looked like it would make me itch.

I could hear Elodie's voice as I got dressed. It sounded like she was trying to explain Scandal to her soldier friend and it made me laugh because she was the absolute worst at explaining movies or shows to anyone. She always got everyone's names confused and would spoil the ending without even meaning to. As someone who hated spoilers, I knew better than to ask her about anything she had already seen.

I finally made it out to the living room with about five minutes to spare before I had to leave. Kale was sitting in the same spot, his eyes looking like they were going to close any minute, his T-shirt clinging to his broad shoulders. It was funny the way the chair looked so small when he was in it.

Elodie popped out of the kitchen with a big bowl of popcorn. "Leaving?" she asked.

I nodded, digging my hand into the bowl. I was starving. "I'm going to be late." My voice was a groan.

"What would happen if you didn't go?" Elodie and I joked about my Tuesday date often. Every single Tuesday to be exact.

"They would disown me." I looked at Kale to see if he was listening. He wasn't looking our way, but somehow, I knew he was listening. He was a soldier after all.

"So, wouldn't be so bad, yeah?" She wiped her buttery fingers across her shorts and then licked them. Just to be sure, I guess.

"Not bad at all. Hey." I pulled open the fridge door to grab a drink. Elodie went a little far on the salt in the popcorn. "Do you want me to bring you home dessert?"

She nodded, smiling with a mouth full of popcorn.

"I'll be back around nine. Maybe later but hopefully not," I told both of my houseguests. I found myself wondering what they would be doing after I left. The images in my head bothered me a little but I wasn't sure why. Before I could even contemplate that, his voice surprised me just as I reached the front door. 

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