No matter how hard I tried to keep up and help out, the guys only cared about Chloe. If I ran in front of this bus to push her to safety, they’d race to herside to see if she was okay. Probably give me crap for bruising her when I shoved her out of the way.
Simon looked toward the back of the bus. “Where are Derek and Chloe?”
“I guess so. They aren’t here, and there’s no way they both fit in that bathroom.”
Speaking of bathrooms . . . One look at my reflection in the window told me I was in serious need of one. Not a priority now. I was running my hand through my hair when someone shoved me.
I wheeled on the guy—middle-aged with bad teeth. “Can you say excuse me?”
“If you’re getting off, get off,” the man said. “The bus won’t wait forever, sweetie.”
“I’m not your sweetie.” I moved to let him pass, then waved to Simon. “We should go. Come on.”
I watched as Simon stumbled off the bus, yawning and blinking and generally looking idiotic.
No, I’ve said I’ll be less biased, so I will admit here that, at the time, I did not think he looked idiotic. I thought he looked cute, and it pissed me off, because I really wanted to be over that.
Let’s get this out of the way. When we were in Lyle House, I thought Simon was the cutest, funniest, nicest guy I’d ever met. I blame the meds. The truth—and I’m gritting my teeth as I admit this—is that Simon iscute and funny and nice. He’s not the “most” of any of those qualities, but in Lyle House, I’d been going through a lot. I’d been confused and stressed and bored silly, and I chased Simon because it kept my mind off everything else.
Once I got out and learned that I wasn’t crazy—I was a genetically modified witch—every time Simon crossed my mind, he was followed by another thought: What the hell had I been thinking?
That is not—being honest here—to say that he wasn’t someone I might have liked under other circumstances. But I have some pride. Chasing a guy who wanted nothing to do with me is humiliating. If I can’t blame the meds, I’ll blame temporary self-esteem issues. Either way, while I was over Simon by the time we got on that bus, that didn’t stop me from looking at him now and then, and thinking he was cute.
We moved away from the bus. Simon was yawning, struggling to wake up as he peered across the foggy parking lot.
“I don’t know.” I looked around. “There’s a snack bar. Probably restrooms, too. They could be there.”
I walked toward the building. After a few steps, I glanced back. Simon was staring at the driver taking bags off the bus, still dopey from sleep. I continued on.
There was a man and a girl on the other side of the snack bar, and given the sizes, I thought it might be Derek and Chloe. It wasn’t. I walked around the building. The snack bar was closed.
I continued to the bathrooms and tugged on the women’s door. It didn’t budge. The padlock probably explained that.
I checked the guy’s bathroom, too, then strode back to Simon. “The snack bar is closed, the restrooms are locked, and there’s no sign of them anywhere.”
“You’re the one who saw them get off the bus. Which way did they go?”
“Who said I saw them get off?”
I shifted my bag onto my other shoulder. “I said they weren’t on the bus so they must have gotten off. I didn’t say it was here.” I looked around. “Wherever hereis. We should probably just get back on—”
Too late. The bus was leaving. Simon waved and shouted as he chased it from the lot. I waved, too—didn’t much see the point of yelling, when it wouldn’t be heard over the motor. The bus kept going.
I walked to Simon. “All right. Looks like we need a plan.”
“Okay,” Simon said, reading the posted schedule on the snack bar’s wall. “According to this, the next bus is in an hour.”
“Two hours for the next one heading in the direction we weregoing. One hour for the bus heading back.”
“Why would we go back?”
“Gee, I don’t know. Maybe to find Chloe and my brother?”
“And where do you plan to find them?” I poked the schedule. “Last we know, they were with us in Syracuse. There are four stops between here and there. If Derek was here, then sure, I’d say let’s do that—he could hop off at each stop and sniff for Chloe’s trail. Without him, we’re guessing.”
“Derek’s a smart guy, right? Knows how to look after himself? How to buy a bus ticket? How to get to your friend Andrew’s place?”
“I doubt Chloe could read a bus schedule if her life depended on it, but that’s because she’s sheltered, not because she’s stupid. She’s sensible. Annoyingly, boringly sensible.”
“Which I happen to think is a good—”
“I know. You think everything about Chloe is perfect and magical. Point is, we have no idea why they got off the bus. Knowing Derek, he was hungry, and knowing Chloe, she went to keep him company because that’d be polite. Whatever the reason, the first thing those two will say is, ‘We need to catch the next bus and get to Andrew’s.’ So going back to find them is ridiculous. We should push on.”
Simon’s jaw set. “No. We should go back.”
“Why? Because I said we shouldn’t? Fine. We’ve got an hour anyway. Plenty of time to think about it. You need to get something to eat, don’t you? Aren’t you on some kind of scheduled diet?”
“And you’re not Derek, so I’m not taking that from you, too. Despite what everyone thinks, I’m perfectly capable of handling my diabetes. It’s six in the morning. I don’t need to eat yet. I’ve got food in my bag. I’ll eat on the bus.”
“Fine. I’ll go find something for myself.”
He didn’t offer to come with me. I didn’t expect him to. Chloe would have. I know I shouldn’t bitch about her being so nice, but imagine if someone only hung out with you because it was “the right thing to do.” Not exactly BFF material.
Simon said he was perfectly capable of handling his diabetes. I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself, too. Been doing it all my life.
My mother—I refuse to call her Mom anymore—works for the group that did the genetic modification on all of us. I’m not even sure she sees me as her daughter. Maybe just a live-in test subject. No, that sounds like self-pity and I won’t do self-pity.
So my mother works a lot at the lab. My dad runs a sporting goods business, which means he doesn’t exactly keep nine-to-five hours either. Like Chloe, I had a live-in housekeeper. At least I did until I was twelve, when my mother declared I was old enough to look after my sister. Never mind that I had a social life and clubs and sports, or that we had enough money to hire twohousekeepers. But that’s more self-pity, isn’t it? I’ll stop there.
My fourteen-year-old sister Lara is a brat. Unfortunately, no one sees it but me. To everyone else, she’s adorable. She’s tiny and blond and sweet and as helpless as a kitten. Chloe reminded me of Lara, at first. The difference, as I discovered, is that Chloe really is as sweet as she seems and she isn’t as helpless as she looks.
Lara milks her adorability for all it’s worth, meaning she never has to do anything. I usually ended up taking her chores, because if they didn’t get done, our mother freaked out. Then Lara would cry about how much homework she had and how not everyone finds school as easy as I do, and my parents would say that I should help my sister out. If I argued, they’d make me feel like Iwas the lazy one. Eventually I started doing Lara’s chores on my own. It was easier that way.
It doesn’t help that I’m not adorable. Not sweet or helpless either. I know what I want and I go after it. If someone pisses me off, I say so. I don’t put up with any crap.
I’m difficult, as my parents always say. I’m the bad child; Lara is the good one. It doesn’t matter if I’m on the honor roll and I’m popular and I don’t drink or do drugs or sneak out with guys. It doesn’t matter if you can say any of that last bit—the drinking, drugs and sneaking around—about Lara. I’m still bad and she’s still good.
I went off on a tangent there, didn’t I? I guess it’s been on my mind a lot lately. I thought I’d gotten over the resentment years ago. Just accepted the way things were, lifted my chin and marched on. But now I think of those months in Lyle House with my mother pushing me to overcome my problems, only to discover she’d known all along that I couldn’tovercome them. That she was responsible for those problems. Then I’d think about what she said in the warehouse, all the things she said . . .
I wish I wasn’t her daughter. I hope she’s happy with Lara. Silly, vapid Lara. I hope she realizes, someday, that I was the child she could have been proud of, if only she’d bothered getting to know me.
The town wasn’t exactly overflowing with good eating options. Not at this time of the morning anyway. I bought a coffee and a muffin, and returned to Simon. He was right where I’d left him.
“So, has your brain had a chance to wake up?” I said. “Have you realized your plan is moronic?”
I shouldn’t have said that. When I’d walked over, he hadn’t exactly welcomed me back, but he’d been friendly enough, asked if the coffee shop was far, said maybe he’d wash up before we left. When I made the crack about his plan, Simon’s expression changed. Completely.
“I’m going back for Derek,” he said. “I don’t know what happened to him. For all I know, he’s in trouble.”