Ryans bed, p.2
Ryan's Bed, p.2Tijan
It was nearing eleven the next night. Robbie and I had been there almost twenty-four hours. I hadn’t left Ryan’s room except to visit the bathroom, and I was currently sitting on his bed, book in hand. He edged into the room, his hands in his pockets and his shoulders hunched forward.
I should’ve felt all sorts of weirdness, but I was at the point where I’d sit on the roof and not give a flying fuck what anyone had to say. Keeping my finger between the pages, I closed the book and waited.
“Um . . .” He paused, staring right at me.
He had no idea what to say. I could see the floundering on his face, but he shook it clear and a small smile showed. His dimple winked at me. He raked a hand through his hair, leaving it as rumpled as it was yesterday. I knew why those two girls had squealed. He was all sorts of dreaminess.
I waited for the spark to flicker in me. I should blush? Giggle? Sigh?
I felt nothing, and then I remembered how it felt to lay in his bed, and I knew that wasn’t true. I felt some peace around him for some reason.
He scooted farther inside, glancing back at the door before leaning against his closet. “The whole my-bed thing . . .” He motioned to where I was sitting. “Did you want the bed again tonight?”
I looked down. I didn’t want to see his eyes when I asked this question. “Are my parents coming back?”
There was silence, and it stretched past the point of not having an answer. He had one. He just didn’t want to say it.
I shook my head, letting the book fall to the bed. Wrapping my arms around myself, I turned away. “Never mind.”
He cleared his throat. “For the record, I’m not supposed to know about your folks.”
I looked back. “But you do?”
The hesitancy and fear I’d seen on his face melted away to reveal the sorrow, and he nodded. “Yeah. I eavesdropped on the call. They’re at a hotel. I guess your grandparents are coming tomorrow.”
“Oh. Okay.” I cleared my throat. “Thank you.”
“Yeah.” He sighed. “You don’t have to thank me for anything, but I do have to know about the bed. I was trying to tell my mom maybe it was me—like, you could sleep when you were around me because of my teenage pheromones or something.”
I cracked a grin. “That’s a new theory.”
“Hey, not all of us are child Einsteins like your brother.”
“Touché, and neither am I. I’m the only normal one in my family.”
But I wasn’t normal anymore.
Maybe he thought the same thing because another silence descended over us. It felt like a sullen quiet too, as if maybe we’d both realized the true travesty of this situation. My remark-able quality had gone from being the slacker to the surviving twin.
“Well, fuck.” I breathed.
He’d been picking at his jeans but looked up. “What?”
“Nothing. Yes, I’d like to sleep in your bed, if that’s okay with you.”
“It’s fine with me.” He grinned. “It was kinda nice, waking up to find a hot chick in bed with me. My friends will get a kick out of that—”
“You aren’t going to tell them!”
His eyes widened. “No. I know, I wouldn’t, I mean—I’m not that kind of guy, but my sister has a crush on one of my friends. She already told him. I overheard that phone call too.”
“What are you? A male Veronica Mars?”
He scoffed, but that dimple was flirting with me.
“I get bored easily,” he said. “I shoot hoops to keep busy. You know, like restless leg syndrome? I have that, but it’s my entire body and brain. It doesn’t turn off sometimes.”
“Anyway, Mom said I couldn’t play today. She was worried some of my friends would show up, and she didn’t want anything to get out.” He snorted, rolling his eyes. “I’ll get blamed for it, but it’s always Peach who tells. She never gets in trouble.”
Robbie was beloved. Willow was perfect. And I guess I was the one who got in trouble, like him.
“It’s the same for me,” I offered faintly.
I got blamed for the laxatives. I was the one they thought had an eating disorder. They ignored the bowl of Cheetos in front of me during the “intervention” talk.
“Mackenzie, your father and I want you to know that we love you a great deal. Looks do not define our self-worth . . .”
There’d been other times, like when Willow wanted me to ask for a treadmill. They didn’t see her on it during the day, only me. She ran in the park during the day and then used the treadmill at night. I did the normal thirty minutes Coach Ellerson required from us during the off-season for soccer. I should’ve done more, but Cheetos and being lazy were a lot more fun.
“So . . .” Ryan pulled me from my thoughts.
I almost sagged with relief. No more memories.
He tugged at one of his sleeves. “Do you, uh, want me to stay with you? Or, I mean, do you want to sleep alone?” He rushed out, “I can do either, that’s cool. You just let me know.”
“What?” Someone knocked on the door. One quick, hard tap.
He groaned. “My mom said it’s fine, but she’s going to put the nanny cam on us. So, you know, no messing around.” His head shot up. “Not that that’s what I have in mind. I mean, you’re hot, but you’re grieving. You lost your sister, so . . . you know . . .” He flinched, cursing under his breath. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that last part. I—sorry. I’m shutting up before I say any more shit.”
“What?” I asked, hoping the upward curl of my lips resembled a grin, or better yet, something cool and maybe even seductive. “You mean you’ve never been asked to pretend you’re a grief counselor?”
He barked out a laugh. Then his eyes darkened. “I lost a friend almost two years ago, so I kinda know what you’re going through. Kinda. Not really. I mean, he wasn’t my brother or my twin or anything, so it isn’t the same. But . . .” He stopped himself, closing his eyes for a moment.
Loss was loss, as far as I was concerned. Yeah, there could be different degrees of it, but it was the same emotion. The only thing that differentiated was whether it came suddenly or slowly. But I kept that to myself because honestly, who the hell wanted to talk about that?
I pointed to his television and video console. “You have Warcraft?”
“Yeah.” He brightened up. “You play?”
“Got a sudden urge to learn.”
“All right.” He grabbed a controller from his desk, found the other next to the bed, then climbed up next to me. Leaning back against the wall, his leg next to mine, he taught me how to play. His arm and hand brushed against mine randomly, and every time they did, I felt a small but warm tingle.
We played Warcraft most of the night. Robbie played with us too, until I convinced him to go to bed. Ryan and I only turned out the light when his mom stuck her head around the door.
“It’s after two,” she told us. “Time to sleep.” She gave me a soft smile. “I hope you can sleep okay, Mackenzie.”
She gave Ryan a pointed look, jerking her eyes to a stuffed rhino on his desk. A red light blinked in its nose.
He ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, yeah, Mom.”
“Good night, both of you.”
The next morning, I ventured to the kitchen for the first time and found it filled with an uncomfortable tension. They could have been sitting in silence before I showed up, but I doubted it. I didn’t need Robbie to decipher who’d been the subject of conversation two seconds before my arrival. It was one of those scenes where you walk in and know they were talking about you.
Mrs. Jensen was at the counter, making coffee. Peach sat at the table, and a middle-aged lady—I assumed their maid or something—placed Cheerios in front of her. I had to stop and take that in. A maid. And she was wearing a blue dress with a white apron over the top of it.
These people didn’t just have house staff;
“Mackenzie.” Mrs. Jensen sounded breathless. Her cheeks flushed a little, and she smoothed a hand down her hair. “How are you? You slept well?”
I had, and I glanced over at Ryan, who was coming in from outside. A warm breeze came with him. Seeing me, he paused with his hand still on the door’s handle. His mouth formed an O, and he gripped a basketball in his other hand.
Peach made a sound. I registered it in the back of my mind, but I ignored it. I could hear the disapproval in her voice, and I already knew who Peach’s friends would be at school. She’d run with the snooty girls—mean, catty, and looking down their noses at peeps beneath them. Those types of girls. And in other words, most definitely not my type.
“Hey.” I gave a brief wave, glancing to the side.
Robbie sat next to Peach, and he lifted his hand to wave before it dropped back to his lap. I noticed the toast in front of him, how it was untouched. My gaze skirted away. I didn’t want to see the sadness or bags under my little brother’s eyes. I didn’t want to remember why.
“Uh, how about a seat, Mackenzie?” Mrs. Jensen extended an arm to a chair across from Peach.
I took the chair next to that, across from my brother instead.
She cleared her throat, holding a cup of coffee tightly right in front of her chest as if it were protecting her. “Toast, Mackenzie? Rose could get you some.”
In the next moment, I had a piece of buttered toast in front of me, but I couldn’t touch it. Peach circled her spoon in her bowl of Cheerios. She was glaring at me with a hint of confusion.
I lifted an eyebrow. “Yes?”
She dropped her gaze but still circled her spoon around her bowl.
Ryan dropped into the chair at the end of the table between my brother and me so he was facing the kitchen.
Both Mrs. Jensen and Rose fussed over him. What kind of cereal did he want? Oh, he didn’t want cereal. Toast? Bacon? Wait, Rose could whip up some pancakes. Not pancakes? French toast, then? After the fifth question, Ryan got up and poured his own bowl of cereal, rolling his eyes as he started back to his chair.
“Mil—” His mom started to suggest, but he’d already grabbed it and poured a hefty glug into his bowl.
“Knock it off, Mom,” he grumbled, hunching over his bowl. “Fuss over Peach. She actually likes it.”
“I do not.”
He shot her a look, his spoon poised in front of him. “You do too. The whole spoiled thing works for you. You love it.”
She transferred her glare to him, giving me a respite. “You’re such a jerk sometimes.”
A cocky grin spread over his face. “Sometimes? I heard you on the phone with Erin. I thought it was always?”
Her eyes got big, and she slammed a hand down on the table. “Stop listening to my calls!” Her head whipped around. “Mom!”
Ryan shrugged. “Not my fault your voice carries through the entire house. Close your door next time.” He rolled his eyes. “Might help, genius.”
“Okay, you two. Stop it.” Their mother decided to wade in, sitting at the head of the table. Her coffee remained gripped with both hands. A frozen yet polite smile appeared as she turned to me. “Mackenzie, you and Ryan are in the same grade. You’re a senior, right?”
Miracles did happen, after all.
Peach’s eyes were narrowed on me, watching for a reaction. I kept my face straight, but I was doing somersaults inside.
Mrs. Jensen cleared her throat. “Your grandparents are going to arrive today. They’ll be picking you and your brother up and taking you back to the house . . . or . . . a hotel. I’m not sure where you’re going, actually, but I know they’re eager to see you.”
“Grams is coming?” Robbie’s head popped up.
I shot him a look. “Didn’t see that on the calendar, huh?”
He rolled his eyes, but one corner of his mouth lifted. He leaned back against his seat. “I can’t check everything.”
“What?” I teased him. “How is that possible?”
He shrugged, but anything he would’ve said was cut short.
Mrs. Jensen exuded a relieved and forced laugh. “Brian told me one of Phillip’s children was brilliant. That must be you, Robert.”
Robert. I almost scoffed at the name no one called him except Grams.
Mrs. Jensen kept going, leaning forward to beam at Robbie. “Portside has an advanced program for gifted children like yourself. I think you’ll really like it. I know sometimes the exceptional children can be outcast by their peers in other places, but rest assured—” Her voice was so cheery. “That isn’t the case in Portside.”
She paused, waiting for Robbie to say something.
He looked at her and then to me. His little hand fisted around a fork, and a tear welled up in his eyes. He looked away.
“Oh.” The corner of her mouth turned down. “Dear.”
Shit. It was time to do my big-sisterly duty. I coughed and scooted back my chair. “Thank you for breakfast, Mrs. Jensen.”
She had paled, but she tried to muster another smile for me. “Yes, well, you should thank Rose. She does most of our meals. We wouldn’t know what to do without her.” She turned toward Rose, who paused at the sink. “Right, Rose? The entire household would fall apart if it weren’t for you.”
“Yes, Mrs. Jensen. Yes.”
Mrs. Jensen laughed, and I tried not to wince at how fake it sounded. Her hand came to rest on her chest. “Well, I brought up school before because Peach is having a few of her friends over at the end of the week. If you wanted—”
She showed no sign of hearing him. “—to come and meet some of them. Her friends are so well-behaved, and they’re good girls. They’re the type you’d want to be friends with. Right, Peach? You and your friends seem like the popular girls in your class, even though Mackenzie is a grade above you.”
“Mom!” She was horrified too. “Shut up.”
“Mom,” Ryan drawled. “She doesn’t want to hang out with strangers right now.”
I could only sit there and watch this unfold in front of me. Mrs. Jensen seemed oblivious, sipping at her coffee as if it were an IV filled with morphine. I frowned, scanning the back of the kitchen for a hint that maybe she put something else in there besides coffee. Then I felt Robbie’s foot pressing into the top of my knee. He was pushed right up against the table, holding on as he stretched his leg all the way to me.
I thought I’d done my sisterly duty before, getting the attention off him, and I lifted an eyebrow at him.
He mouthed the word bathroom.
I nodded. “Can we be excused from the table?”
“We?” Mrs. Jensen looked from me to my brother. “Oh. Yes. Of course.” Her eyes fell to our plates. “Neither of you has eaten. Okay, Rose? Can we make sure there’s food left out in case they want to grab a bite later? We could order bagels if we don’t have any on hand.”
God. Bagels. I felt whiplash at that word.
“Willow, you aren’t hungry?”
My mom never knew. Right? It wasn’t that she didn’t want to know. Right?
“Well, we have bagels, Willow. Make sure to grab one, okay? You need to start the morning off right. Snack on it during the day if you need to.”
Tears threatened to spill, but nope, I would not cry. No way.
Robbie’s chair scraped against the floor. He pushed it back and stood there, a look of surprise on his face, as if he didn’t realize what he’d done. “Um . . .” His mouth opened—nothing. It closed. Then opened. Still nothing.
I said softly, “Bathroom.”
Ryan's Bed by Tijan / Romance & Love have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on50 votes