Miles to Go

Chapter 15: Him

“Where are Seth and Rylie?” I asked, getting into the front seat of Charlotte’s car.

“They’re going to go on their own today.”

I looked at her, feeling the… melancholy around her. I’d finally gotten used to Rylie and sitting with the windows up, but this… this I couldn’t handle. I opened my window, not looking away from the girl beside me. “Why? Did you fight with Seth?”

Her lips pressed together in a thin line even as her entire face flushed. Then she put the car in park and hid her face in her hands, dropping her forehead against the steering wheel. Her body shook violently, her sobs muffled against her hands.

I leaned over the armrest, ignoring the way it dug into my side, and put my arm around her, just barely flinching when she turned into me, hiding her face in my shoulder. My heart ached for her (in a more literal sense than you’d think) as everything in me shied away from the pain being inflicted upon it. But I stayed in place, holding her as she cried and telling her it’d be okay.

“We’re on a break, I think,” she said finally, still shaking. The sobs had reduced to sniffles. She hadn’t moved her hands away from her face.

“You and Seth,” I confirmed. “Why?”

“Because we’re too serious. Or exclusive. Or whatever the hell you call that.”

My brow furrowed. I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I didn’t think it was a good time to ask for clarification or specificities. “Are you sure you’re on a break?”

“Just for a little while, to figure things out. To get our feet under us again. I don’t know. But aren’t the first few weeks supposed to be like that? All blissful and whatnot? Why the hell would I open my big fat mouth and ruin that?”

The hell with timing. “Charlotte, what’re you talking about?”

“I don’t even know. I’m such an idiot.”

“You’re not an idiot,” I soothed, feeling my own body tremble from the force of Charlotte’s unhappiness.

She pulled away, and I mentally breathed a prayer of thanks, feeling horrible that I couldn’t comfort her the way a normal person could. “God,” she said, forcing a laugh and bringing me out of my thoughts as she rubbed her cheeks dry. “This is so humiliating.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said easily. “Do you just want to take it easy today?”

Her eyes watered slightly as she nodded. “I can’t see him.”

“Do you want me to stay with you?”

She shook her head. “No, that’s okay. Thanks, though.”

“Are you sure? I don’t mind.”

She smiled gratefully. “I know you don’t. But I just need some time to get myself and the remnants of my dignity together. Thank you for offering, though.”

“Sure. If you need anything…”

She looked at me, biting her lip. “Actually…”

“What is it?” I asked immediately, honestly willing to do anything to help.

“There are two things…”


She dropped her head against the headrest, looked up at the roof. “Do you think we’re being stupid?”


“Yes, please.”

“Don’t take this offensively,” I said slowly, “but kind of, yeah. You were happy together. It’s stupid risking that over fear.”

She only turned her head to stare out the windshield.

When she didn’t say anything, I asked her what two was.

“You’re friends with Rylie, right?”

“Something like that,” I said, not sure what we were exactly and if friends was the correct term for us.

“Do you think… and feel free to say no, because I understand I’m putting you in an awkward position, but—”

“I’ll try talking to her and getting something out of her.”

She smiled over at me, eyes still watery and face red. “Thanks, Desmond.”

“Sure. Will you be able to get home okay?”

“Yeah, don’t worry.”

I nodded, climbing out of the car. “I hope you feel better.”

She smiled. “Yeah, you’re not alone on that one.”

Not knowing how to respond to that, I shot her a comforting smile and closed the door, watching her reverse out of my driveway. When she turned the corner out of sight, I crossed over my yard to Rylie’s, going to the front door and ringing the doorbell.

I was surprised to see Rylie opening the door, and I could sense she was surprised to see me at her doorstep. “Uhm.” She stepped aside, opening the door a little wider in invitation.

“Is your brother home?”

She nodded, closing the door and leaning against it as she observed me with suspicious eyes. “He’s in his room, moping for some reason. He won’t tell me why.”

I wordlessly dropped my bag on the floor as I turned away, going to the stairs.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing. Shouldn’t you be getting to school?”

“Don’t have a car, remember?” she called, pushing herself off the door and following me as I started up the stairs. “Seriously, what are you doing?”

“Don’t worry about it.” I walked down the hall, stopping in front of the door behind which I could feel misery pulsing. “Is this his room?”

“Yeah, but—”

I turned the knob, barging into his room and stopping short when his bloodshot eyes connected with my own. It was obvious he hadn’t slept all night, his normally well kept hair looked like he’d taken a sincere shot at pulling it all out, and his clothes were wrinkled beyond recognition. “You look like shit.”

He barely shrugged.

“I can’t kick your ass if you look so pathetic.”

Rylie hesitantly stepped in front of me, looking from me to her brother and back again. “What’s going on?”

Since the question was directed at me, I said, “Him and Charlotte are taking a break.”

She looked to her brother, and I could taste the surprise she felt. “Why?”

When his silence made it clear he had no intention of responding, I said, “They both got scared. That’s all I really know.”

“Just shut up and go away,” he grumbled, taking a pillow and stuffing his face in it.

Rylie went to him, snatched it out of his hands. “Suicide isn’t going to help your cause any. Is he telling the truth?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

Her head cocked to the side, and suddenly her hand was connecting to the back of Seth’s head.


“Is it because of…?”

He looked at her, misery still in place. “Obviously.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Because of what?” I asked when he still had yet to react minutes later.

She sighed, nudging her brother. “Tell him.”

“Hell no. Even Charlotte doesn’t know.”

“And look at how that ended.”

“You want him to know, you tell him,” Seth snapped, glaring.

“Don’t talk to her like that,” I bit out, feeling and seeing the surprise the two felt at my words.

Rylie was the first to recover. “I’m not the one who screwed up for a change. And I have no intentions of telling anyone anything.”

“Of course you don’t. I’ve always said you were a coward.”

Before I could punch him in the face, Rylie shifted her body so it was directly between us. Then she scoffed, turned on her heel and walked towards the door, gesturing for me to follow.

Glaring at him, I followed, knowing I couldn’t do anything to him anyway if he looked like that.

“What were you talking about?” I asked as soon as we got downstairs.

She shrugged. “Nothing.”

Not wanting to be pushy, I forced it from my mind, still feeling my anger boiling in me. “So I take it you had no idea about any of this?”

She shook her head. “None. I just found out.”

“She’s miserable, you know,” I said suddenly, pacing away from her to the opposite end of the living room before pacing back.

She tucked her hands in her back pockets. “He’s not doing much better. I know he’s being as ass, but he’s not exactly here to defend himself.”

“I know. That’s what makes it so hard to take any one side.”

“What do you know about all this?”

“Just that they’re taking a break because they’re scared. They aren’t officially broken up, and they still want to be together. Well, she still wants to be with him, I don’t know about—”

“You were right the first time,” she said shortly, thoughtful. “Wait here, I’m going to go get him.”

I sighed, taking a seat on the sofa, already exhausted. And it was only thirty past seven in the morning.

As if my body didn’t have a difficult enough time dealing with Rylie, it now had to deal with her miserable brother, too. The parents, thankfully, were still asleep in their rooms. I thanked anyone listening that they weren’t having nightmares.

And, scary as it was, their family was almost like mine, in a way. They, too, were extremists, albeit in an entirely different sense. But when it came down to it…

I shuddered. No, not even then. It simply couldn’t be. And I didn’t care if I was just being stubborn. It wasn’t true.

Finally, another five minutes later, the two siblings came back down, Rylie leading the way.

“Sit,” she commanded in her monotone, somehow managing to make her voice sound intimidating without actually doing anything.

Seth did as she said, sitting on the other end of the sofa. “What do you two want?”

Rylie glanced at me, and when I only shrugged, she huffed, taking a seat on the edge of the coffee table. “You repeat this to anyone, and Seth will hurt you,” she told me before turning to her brother. “You haven’t been happy since the first time, Seth, not until Charlotte showed up. Why would you agree to this?”

“Because it’s what she wanted? She was just as scared as I am!”

“Yeah, but the fact of the matter is that you still agreed.”

“What would you have done?”

She stared at him unblinkingly. “The fact that you just asked me that lets everyone here know you need to go talk to her.”

He half smiled, dropping back against the cushions. “This is so stupid. We were fine.”

“I agree about the stupid part,” I muttered, watching as Rylie’s fingers, resting on her knee, twitched. The bracelet on her wrist caught the light, and suddenly I wondered where it’d come from, who’d given it to her. It obviously meant a lot, seeing as how now that I thought about it, she always wore it and that was all. I’d never seen her adorning her fingers with rings or her neck with any chains.

“And, it’s so funny, because I thought she’d be the last person with commitment issues,” Seth groaned pitifully.

“I’m not sure it’s commitment issues as much as too much too soon. You guys were just so… together, you know?”

When he didn’t respond, Rylie said, “He’s right.”

“I know he’s right. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do now.”

“What do you think?” she asked rhetorically, glancing at me and rolling her eyes.

“Obviously I’m thinking about it.”

“She didn’t go to school today,” I offered, “if that helps any.”

“So, what? You’re suggesting I just show up at her house?”

“She’s told me how many times she’s done that to you.”

“But we were together then,” he argued.

“Not the first time, you weren’t.”

He glared at me. “Just shut up, dude. I’m dealing, okay?”

I held up my hands, shaking my head. “Take your time, man. But she’s going to get over her distress pretty fast. And then she’s just going to be mad.”

Rylie laughed, and I knew she was genuinely amused. That was a surprise.

“Shut up, Rylie. Do I at least get to shower and look sane or are the two of you planning on kicking me out like this?”

“I suggest you go like this. Maybe she’ll feel some pity for you,” I said honestly. “I mean, I would feel bad if you showed up at my house looking the way you do.”

“And smelling the way you do,” Rylie added, grinning.

“I’ve only not showered for like a day. Shut up. I don’t smell.”

“Yet,” Rylie finished. “You mean you don’t smell yet.”

“You’re annoying,” he shot, frowning as he forced himself to his feet. “And I’m depressed. I shouldn’t have to—”

“What is going on here?”

The three of us looked at the staircase as Seth and Rylie’s mother came downstairs, already dressed and ready to go.She had dark red hair, styled in a chic bob and wore a two piece suit that looked tailored for her.

Rylie just stared at her, crossing her arms across her chest as Seth glanced at her then at his mother before quickly taking a step forward. “There’s a really good explanation—”

The mother glared at him, shutting him up. “You’re all supposed to be in school.”

“I know,” Seth said quickly, “that’s why I’m saying there’s a really good explanation—”

“Why are you bothering?” Rylie asked suddenly. “We both know who she’s going to blame anyway.”

I looked at her curiously, struggling to keep up.

“Rylie,” her mother warned, “we have a guest. Don’t start this.”

“I didn’t start anything. You were the one that came here, attitude in place.”

“Rylie!” Seth hissed warningly, moving again so his sister was hidden behind him.

Ignoring her daughter, she turned to look at Seth again. “What was your really good explanation?”

“Just… personal stuff. I was feeling horrible, and Desmond just came over to make sure I was okay because we usually carpool together and—”

“You felt horrible, or your sister felt horrible?”

From my spot by the sofa, I saw Rylie lean towards Seth, whispering for him to shut up. And then she stepped around him and, in a shockingly steady voice, said, “I felt horrible.”

I watched as her mother’s lips tightened into a thin line and she glared. “Kitchen. Now.”

Rylie calmly looked at her brother and shook her head at him before going into the kitchen, followed by her mother who, rather politely considering the situation, asked us to excuse them.

Seth nervously looked at me, tapping his foot anxiously, listening.

Not wanting to be rude, I tried doing the same, giving up when I could still hear their every word.

“…so selfish, Rylie. Not only are you jeopardizing your education, you’re now jeopardizing your brother’s, too?”

“I didn’t jeopardize anything. It was his choice to stay home.”

“That’s a lie and you know it. He’s suddenly decided to look out for you, and you know how stubborn Seth can be.”

Seth’s head snapped to the side to face the kitchen. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to look away.

“…Okay? Fine. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t care, Rylie, because I know you don’t mean it. I don’t know who you think you’re kidding.”

Suddenly Seth got to his feet, and I could sense his fury in his movements. “Don’t move. And whatever you hear, do not go in there,” he muttered before quickly jogging up the stairs.

I stayed still, not exactly sure how to appropriately react to the situation I’d landed in. After a few more unnecessary comments directed at Rylie, Seth came back downstairs, this time followed by his father, who had just woken up if his pajamas indicated anything.

“Hello,” he greeted, his smile too worried to be warm. “We apologize for this. Excuse us, please.”

The two also went into the kitchen, and suddenly I was left alone again.

“Rylie didn’t do anything. I don’t know why you’re insisting on blaming her!” Seth exclaimed, radiating frustration and agitation. “You’re so unbelievable.”

“Seth,” his father’s voice came. “Why don’t you and Rylie take your friend out for breakfast?”

“No, you’re not letting them get away with this, too,” his wife’s angry voice came, portraying her feelings exactly.

“This, too?” he repeated. “Like you’re so strict with them? Please, spare me. Seth’s right—you are unbelievable.”

“I can’t believe—”

My chest contracted suddenly as I felt it. The anger, the… I wondered at the name for it before, as my chest tightened even more, realizing there wasn’t a name for this. Whatever this was, this intense feeling that physically put you in pain, it was completely new to me.

And then, as her restraint snapped, the tightness relieved to a faint throbbing, and I could breathe again.
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I really like this chapter. It lays down the groundwork for the next chapter, which I'm super, super excited about. Comments would be awesome!