12. The Run In

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Peyton brought ice cream

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Peyton brought ice cream. Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia for me, and plain old Vanilla for himself. He wasn't much for sweets, so he only took a few unenthusiastic bites before setting his down on the nightstand beside him.

I propped myself up on my elbow and motioned across him. "Can I have the rest of yours if you're not going to eat it?"

We were back on the bed, watching the final act of "Gone with the Wind." Well, I was. He was pretending to watch while discreetly scrolling through sports scores on his phone.

Carefully balancing the computer on his lap, he reached for the ice cream and passed it over to me. "I don't know how you do it," he said.

"Do what?" I mumbled absently, the spoon bobbing up and down against my mouth as I spoke.

"Eat that much junk and still be thin."

I held back a sigh. How little he knew. I was thin because I didn't eat regularly or in big portions, especially when school was out of session. Then I did manual labor in the hot sun for six hours a day.

My mom paid the RV Park fees and that was it. I know that my daddy had left me his money, but she'd spent it all within the first year she got me. Now, I was on my own for food, clothes, spending money and everything else.

But it wasn't just the money that kept me from eating regular meals. It was the logistics. Our tiny kitchenette only had one working burner and the microwave to prepare food in. My mom rarely bothered to go grocery shopping. Once in a while, she lets me borrow her car to go to the store where I would buy as many microwavable meals as our mini fridge could hold. But the schedule was irregular, the freezer was small, and eventually I'd run out. Oftentimes, I literally survived on saltine crackers, canned soup and tap water.

People never really thought about things like that - not unless you've lived it. Someone like Peyton definitely wouldn't even begin to imagine such a reality existed in America.

Moments like these between us frustrated me to no ends. I couldn't tell him the truth for two reasons. One, it's fucking pitiful, and I don't want anyone's pity - not even his. And two, he would try to fix it, and it wasn't his problem to fix.

Pride is a sin. I know that. Grandma Danner had hammered it into my head since I was in diapers. But it was all I had left in the world and I meant to hang onto it.

So I mumbled something incoherent at him and shoveled more ice cream into my mouth. I felt him staring at me, waiting for an answer, but he wasn't going to get one.

"I like it," he said finally. "Most of the other girls I know don't eat anything but salads and waste all their time thinking about clothes and makeup and stupid things like that."

I expelled an exasperated sigh and looked at him. "Peyton, If I had the time and money, I'd wear pretty clothes with matching shoes, make my hair look nice and wear makeup and jewelry too," I snapped.

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