Miles to Go

Chapter 7: Her

“Rylie,” my English teacher called as I made my way to the doorway.
I slowly turned to her, staring at her blankly.
“I went through last week’s test, and you did surprisingly well.”
I nodded once. “Okay.”
“Have you been reading along?”
“Read it before.”
“You know, Rylie, if you actually made an effort, like taking notes or at least having a notebook out and participating, we could put you in honors or AP. Clearly you’re smart enough. With a little motivation—”
“I’m fine,” I interrupted, not wanting to hear the motivation lecture. “Anything else?”
She was clearly surprised, that much was obvious going by her raised eyebrows and parted lips. “Uhm, no, I guess not. Thanks for your time.”
“Hm.” I turned to the door again, continuing on my way out and dodging as many people as I could.
“Hey!” a brunette exclaimed, falling into step with me. I glanced at her from the corner of my eye before looking forward again. “Uhm, not big on talking, I see. I’m Audrey.” When I still didn’t respond, she said, “You’re Rylie. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Why are you talking to me?” I asked, honestly curious. Most people were leaving me alone now.
“Because people are talking about you and I wanted to know if what they were saying was right. It’s a pretty small town, you know. People talk.”
“Ah,” I said like this was new information and actually interesting to me.
“So… do you want to know? What they’re saying, I mean.”
“Not really.”
“Not really, but kind of. I get it. That’s always a good response. Do you want to know if I think they’re right?”
I looked over at her, stopping in front of the room my next class was in, and honestly said, “No.”
“Oh,” she said, nodding like I’d just said something deeply significant. “You don’t really care what people think, huh?”
Not bothering to respond, I stepped into the classroom, rolling my eyes.
“Bye, Rylie!” Audrey called, like I was her best friend or something.
Some people really couldn’t take a hint.

Dropping the cigarette on the ground, I climbed into the car, shoving my bag into the corner beside my feet.
“I heard you made a new friend today,” Seth said, pulling out of the school parking lot.
“Mhm. Audrey, right?”
He glanced at me, frowning. “Aren’t you going to ask why I’m giving you a ride home today?”
He huffed. “Well, I’m going to pretend you did. I’m cutting practice today. Got a fake note from Robert’s dad. He’s a doctor.”
I looked over at him and waited two heartbeats before saying, “Badass.”
“You’re so believable, Rylie.” When I didn’t respond, he looked over and, sarcastically, said, “Guess you take after mom.”
I shrugged, and replied, “Guess I do.”
Seth ran an impatient hand through his hair. “Listen, I wasn’t going to say anything, but you really need to do something about your attitude. Mom’s thinking of sending you to a psychiatrist.”
“Because I’m the only “screwed up” one in this family,” I clarified.
“No, because you’re the only one that acts out like this. No one else has so many issues with people the way you do. And don’t even deny it, you know I’m right.”
“So why tell me this? Why warn me?”
“I don’t know, okay? Because you’re my sister? Because mom told me to watch out for you when we first moved here? Clearly that isn’t working out. But this… this is the best I can do. Take it or leave it.”
I stayed silent, but for once it wasn’t because… because that was how I reacted to things, but it was because I didn’t know what to say. “I—”
“Whatever, Rylie. It’s because of my own stupidity I keep trying with you when I’m clearly not getting anywhere. I told you I gave up on you, but for whatever reason I didn’t. As I said, my own stupidity.”
“It’s okay, I get it. Do you mind if I turn on the radio?”
I shook my head, thoughts drawing to a halt. “No.”
He glanced at me. “Thanks.”
And as he reached for the power button, I realized that was the end of that, and chances were he wasn’t going to bring it up again.
And I obviously couldn’t bring it up, even if I wanted.
But I wasn’t sure I wanted.

I couldn’t sleep.
Actually, I wasn’t sure if it was that I couldn’t, or I didn’t want to. But either way, the result was me situated in my kitchen, staring out the glass at the angry ocean beyond the white fence.
It wasn’t always like this. There were nights when the ocean was so serene it seemed unreal. But tonight was different.
I pulled my legs onto the cold, granite counter, crossing them.
After we’d gotten home, Seth and I, I’d been unable to stop thinking of his words even though it was the last thing I wanted to do. And even now, as I sat here, his words were still turning over in my mind.
Shoving myself off the counter, I hit the lights as I left the kitchen and silently made my way upstairs to Seth’s room.
Once I’d snuck into his room, I turned on the lights, watching as Seth flinched, turned over so his back was to the lights, and threw the covers over his head, mumbling.
Not knowing what to say—or do, really—I silently made my way to his bed and sat at the corner by his feet.
“Who the hell is this?” he grumbled, and I had to admit I was surprised. I’d have never pegged him for the cranky morning type. And then, before I could respond, he said, “Rylie?” peeking out from under his covers. “What are you doing?”
“I—uhm, thank you.”
He sleepily blinked at me. “What?”
I stuttered for a moment before getting to my feet. “Nothing. Sorry.”
“Rylie!” he called, almost instantly. “Wait.”
So close, I thought, glancing at the door that was inches away from me. He was sleepy enough that I could’ve run and gotten away with it, but he did live with me—I couldn’t avoid him forever. And besides, I was already here.
“Uhm, hey. You were saying something?” he sat up, yawning and patting down his bed hair.
I was suddenly grateful he slept with a shirt as I realized what a truly bad idea this actually was. “It’s not important.”
“Well, we’re both up now, and you’re already here, not to mention you’ve already begun. Might as well be done with it.”
“Yeah, might as well,” I agreed, not wanting to say a simple yes or anything else that could be mistaken as apathy.
“I, uhm… you’re trying. And I haven’t been… appreciative of that, so thanks. I guess,” I added uncomfortably, playing with the hem of my shorts as I stood in his doorway.
He smiled, and after opening his mouth and closing it a few times, he finally managed to get out, “It’s late. Get to bed.”
I nodded, in disbelief now with the fact that I’d actually put myself in the situation. “Right. Uhm, about waking you up—”
“It’s okay.”
I nodded again, and fled the room as casually as I could.

“Why…” I cleared my throat. “Uh, why aren’t you at practice?” I finished slowly the next day.
“I’m still sick,” he responded, grinning mischievously as he continued staring at the road ahead of him. “Rylie, about last night… Thank you, for making the effort.”
I tensed slightly against the warm seat. “It doesn’t change anything.”
He sighed, something I noticed he often did when upset or exasperated. “Why do you do that? It’s like you go out of your way to annoy me, something you don’t even do for our parents. And you and I both know the contempt you hold for them.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m asking what you have against me.”
“I… don’t,” I muttered lamely before realizing that didn’t even make sense as a response to his statement. “I just… it was the little things.”
“Like what?” he asked softly, interested.
I shook my head. “No, nothing.”
“Don’t do that, Rylie, you know it infuriates me.”
I did know that, actually. It was like his pet peeve or something for some reason. “The reason I thanked you yesterday was because…” I paused, trying to find words. “You’ve always been that guy, you know?”
“No,” he said slowly, glancing at me with a furrowed brow. “I don’t. Tell me.”
“You’ve always… you’ve always been a bullshitter. You say all this crap, and sometimes it’s nice, hearing about how you’re standing up for me or how you’re going to kick whoever’s ass for doing something to me, but… at the end of the day, they’re all just words. That’s all you do. You talk. When push comes to shove, you stop pushing and walk away. You never actually do anything you say you will.” I took a deep breath as my shoulders hunched. My voice had stayed even, and my heartbeat had followed suit, but it still felt like that had taken something out of me. “Yesterday,” I finished quietly, “yesterday you did.”
“Seth. Just… forget it, okay?”
He hesitated for a moment and then, finally, nodded. “Okay. If you want.”
♠ ♠ ♠
Okay, I really like Rylie. And I love this chapter. Rylie chapters are usually difficult because she's so... you know, awkward, but this was fun! I'm thinking of introducing her to "him" (see what I did there, with the chapters?) soon and that should be a fun exchange.

As always, comments will make me post sooner!