Chapter 30

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Zach

Being alone in the house wasn't a bad thing. Mom and Dad were in Washington for a little travelling before they came home for the parties, fundraisers and holiday festivities. Louisa wasn't around either, not that I expected her to be. When Mom and Dad were gone, she checked in on the house every other day, but so far, we'd missed each other. Just the way I wanted it to be. The last thing I wanted was a conversation.

I got home from classes. A week had passed since I'd left my own fucking apartment. Emma called once, that Saturday, and texted me a few times after that, but I didn't reply or return her call. It's not like she'd left a message. And her texts? One-liners asking me how I was. Fuck that shit.

I was getting angry, and it was a place I didn't want to be. I dropped my books on the kitchen table and headed for the fridge. I'd stocked it with beer and a bit of food. I grabbed the takeout pizza from the night before and heated it up in the microwave. Then I grabbed a beer and pulled back the tab. Liquid joy. I stood next to the microwave, carefully avoiding my reflection in the glass. Did I look like shit? Probably.

The microwave chimed and I slid out the plate. I flipped on the TV and looked for any sporting event I could find. A hockey game out east was about to start. I ate my day-old pizza and drank beer. Who needed fine dining and home-cooked meals?

I heard the backdoor open. I stopped eating. Too late to hide from Louisa. She'd probably heard the TV I had blaring so that I wouldn't have to listen to myself think. Within a minute she was in the entranceway to the family room.

"What's this?" she asked, unbuttoning her coat.

"I'm staying here tonight," I said, hoping she would leave me alone. "I have to get some studying done."

She pursed her lips and nodded. "How many nights have you been here? I thought there was a burglar sleeping in your room and leaving beer cans in the fridge. I hate the idea of having to evict squatters."

I tried not to grumble. She was on to me. Louisa knew me better than I knew myself.

"It's a big year, Louisa. I have a lot of studying to do. I can't be distracted."

She looked at the beer and pizza. "Doesn't look like you're eating much brain food. I could whip something up. There isn't much, but it would be better than that. And if you plan on staying a little longer, I can leave some meals in the fridge."

She was dropping the hints bigtime now. I kept my expression neutral. The last thing I needed was for her to run to my parents.

"I'm fine."

She seemed to drop the subject. "Okay. Well, since you're here, I suppose I don't need to check up on things. Will you be staying a while?"

"I'm not sure."

Her eyebrows furrowed. "Aren't you almost done classes?"

"Yup. And exams are coming. Need to stay focused and study."

She stared at me some more and just when I thought I was home free, she took off her coat and set it on Dad's black leather recliner. She came over and sat next to me.

"You're not yourself. Can I help?" she asked.

"I'm all right," I said, resting my gaze on the television.

"I used to change your diapers, kiss your boo-boos and cheer you on at hockey games. I know when something is wrong."

Boo-boos? The last time Louisa mentioned that, I was five years old. "It's no big deal. Emma and I have hit a speedbump." A big fucking speedbump. The mother of all speedbumps. The only thing I could do that would have been worse was to screw around on her. And I would never do that.

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