The Impossible Vastness Of Us
“Hey!” Gabe splashed some water at her and she squealed like a five-year-old.
“So, California?” Joshua said.
I nodded. “Arroyo Grande.”
“Ugh, the west coast,” Bryce sneered.
I immediately thought of Siobhan and her aversion to all things not west coast. Had I stumbled upon her mirror twin in Massachusetts?
“Maybe ‘ugh’ but I would kill for nice weather all year round.” Charlotte sighed in longing.
“You’d bore of it,” Bryce said. “Four seasons are better than two.”
I didn’t bother telling her that California had four seasons; they just didn’t contrast with one another as much as they did here. I was guessing that information wouldn’t make a bit of difference to change her mind about the west coast.
“So...how strange are you finding all this?” Joshua said. “Theo and your mom getting together... It’s pretty sudden, right?”
I felt Eloise’s eyes on me and understood that she was interested despite herself so I directed my answer to her. “I think our parents are dicks.”
The guys burst out into laughter. Well, Joshua and Gabe did. Finn eyed me like I was some weird science experiment.
Eloise narrowed her eyes. “My father is not a dick and I don’t appreciate that kind of language.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “Your father is richer than Jay Z and yet no one thinks it’s a good idea for him to fly out to Cali so I can get to know the guy I’m supposed to call stepfather. Instead I’ve got to leave my life behind and move in with some strange man I’ve never met. That doesn’t sound at all dickish on the part of our parents?”
“My father wanted to fly west to meet you,” Eloise told me with calm disinterest. “Your mother is the one who didn’t want him to.”
I winced and felt an ache slash across my chest. Of course Theo wanted to meet me, and my mother talked him out of it. She probably thought I’d ruin everything for her by telling him the truth or, you know...just by being me.
Pretending I didn’t care, I shrugged. “So do you guys all go to the same school?”
“We—” Eloise circled her finger to include the group “—are Tobias Rochester High School. Finn’s great-grandfather was the founder.”
Suddenly things were becoming clearer.
I looked at Finn but he was staring stonily at the ground.
So these were the cool kids. My “in.” How did I even begin winning them over when Eloise’s chilly demeanor wasn’t exactly inviting?
My eyes slid past Eloise to Finn, who was looking at me again. Or should I say through me again.
Unnerved, I glanced back at Eloise.
She waved halfheartedly to the house. “I could show you to your room, but you probably want some alone time to adjust.”
Hopes falling, I recognized her polite comment for what it was. She was definitely not welcoming me into her group.
“Right.” I pasted on a smile I hoped was civil. “Later, guys.”
“Definitely,” Gabe returned.
I gave a nod to Charlotte as I passed but she dropped her eyes.
I did my best to walk calmly inside and out of view.
Once I had privacy I collapsed against the nearest wall and struggled to draw in breath. I felt shaky, my face was tingling and my breath was trapped in my throat.
I felt like I was dying.
Recognizing the impending panic attack, I struggled to get control over it.
Eloise had made it clear she didn’t really want to be friends, and I didn’t know if it was because she hated my mother—if it was about not wanting a replacement or not wanting her father’s attention divided—but I did know I was being left out in the cold.
School on Monday was going to be just delightful.
Trembling, I slumped to the ground and pressed the heels of my palms to my eyes. I was used to feeling alone in a room full of people who liked me, but I wasn’t used to actually being alone.
I was surprised by how much that terrified me.
* * *
I almost hyperventilated again trying to find my new bedroom. I got lost in the myriad hallways, stairways and rooms in the mansion.
When I finally found my room I was stunned.
Spacious didn’t even cover it.
In the middle of a grand room that had French doors that opened onto a beautiful Juliet balcony was a massive four-poster bed with champagne drapes. The wall the bed was situated against had been wallpapered in gold damask. I had white French-style furniture—bedside tables, a dressing table and mirror with a matching stool. A desk with a Mac sitting on top of it, school supplies piled next to it, a flat-screen TV hooked on the wall opposite my bed with a little shelf holding a DVD player. On the wall by the door was an iDock so I could play my music and hear it through the small speakers that had been fitted high up in every corner of the room. To finish there was a generous dressing room/walk-in and a private bathroom with a rainfall shower and huge claw-footed tub.
It was a suite for a princess.
I loved it. And I hated that I loved it.
It was the kind of room I’d dreamed of escaping to when I lived with my dad. The kind of room I’d never imagined I’d ever get to sleep in.
So I loved it.
I just wished it had come to me in a different way.
“So what do you think?”
Hayley stood in the doorway, smiling gently at me. She was alone.
Eloise’s words from earlier came back to me and I turned around to fully face Hayley. “I think you’re either ashamed of me or ashamed of yourself.”
She stepped into the room and closed the door behind her. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the fact that Theo wanted to come to California to meet me, get to know me, before hauling me across the country into this strange place with strange people. You didn’t want him to meet me...not until it was too late.”