The girl behind him must be the infamous sister. The one Jamie said Noah defiled in some kind of twisted revenge game.
This could be interesting.
Jamie sat down in a plastic chair, his newly long legs stretched out in front of him. His sister sat beside him with an identical posture. I smiled even though Jamie kept glancing at the door.
Because of the way they split us up, there was a chance we’d end up with Wayne or someone else to “facilitate” today, and I hoped we did. Brooke was ditzy but relentless.
“Hi, everyone!” Brooke waltzed in.
Alas, no luck.
“Horizons students—what a wonderful morning! Family members, thanks so much for being here. Let’s all go around in a circle and introduce ourselves—sound good? Because we’re all family here.”
I glanced over at Daniel. He seemed to be giving Brooke the side-eye. I loved him so much.
She pointed at Jamie first. “Why don’t you start us off?”
“Hi, I’m Jamie!” he said, mocking her enthusiasm.
“Hi, Jamie!” Brooke said, not realizing it.
His sister—if that’s indeed who she was—sucked in her lips in what I assumed was an attempt not to laugh.
“Who have you brought with you today, Jamie?”
The girl answered and lifted her hand in a wave. “Stephanie Roth. I’m Jamie’s very lucky sister.”
“Hi, Stephanie,” we all said.
And so it went until we all introduced ourselves and our people. Brooke had us each read from our lists of things we wished our present family members knew about us but didn’t. Mine was pretty much crap, which is why I was so surprised when Daniel began to read his. Apparently, our family people had been tasked without our knowledge with creating an identical list.
“I wish Mara knew that I’m jealous of her.”
I whipped around to face him. “You can’t be serious.”
Brooke shook her finger. “No interruptions, Mara.”
My brother cleared his throat. “I wish she knew that I think she’s the most hilarious person on Earth. And that whenever she’s not home, I feel like I’m missing my partner in crime.”
My throat tightened. Do not cry. Do not cry.
“I wish she knew that she’s really Mom’s favorite—”
I shook my head here.
“—the princess she always wanted. That Mom used to dress her up like a little doll and parade her around like Mara was her greatest achievement. I wish Mara knew that I never minded, because she’s my favorite too.”
A chin quiver. Damn.
“I wish she knew that I’ve always had acquaintances instead of friends because I’ve spent every second I’m not in school studying or practicing piano. I wish she knew that she is literally as smart as I am—her IQ is ONE POINT lower,” he said, raising his eyes to meet mine. “Mom had us tested. And that she could get the same grades if she weren’t so lazy.”
I slouched in my seat, and may or may not have crossed my arms over my chest defensively.
“I wish she knew that I am really proud of her, and that I always will be, no matter what.”
“Tissues?” Brooke handed me a box.
Nooooooo. I furiously blinked back the tears that blurred my vision and shook my head. “I’m fine,” I said hoarsely.
Oh, yeah. Just fine.
“That was wonderful, Daniel,” Brooke said. “Why don’t we all clap for Mara and Daniel?”
Insert scattered applause here.
“And we can take a short break to give us a sec to catch up with our feelings.”
SO AWFUL. I bolted for the bathroom. I splashed some water on my face and when I dried it, Stephanie Roth was leaning against the counter.
She smiled. “Hey,” she said. “I’m—”
“I know who you are,” I said. My voice was still hoarse. I cleared my throat. “I know.”
“Right, the intros.”
Not exactly. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” I said instead, realizing after the fact that a) it wasn’t true and b) what I had heard wasn’t necessarily flattering.
“And I you, Mara Dyer,” she said, flashing a cryptic smile. “Jamie told me you’re Noah Shaw’s girlfriend.”
I raised my eyebrows. “He said that?”
“Actually, his exact words were ‘Noah’s new piece.’”
I grinned and threw the paper towel away. “Sounds more like him.”
“Good for you.”
Uh-oh. “Um . . .”
“I mean, about Noah.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “Is that sarcasm I detect?”
She shook her head. Her expression was serious. “No.”
“Because Jamie, like, hates him.”
She tied her blond hair back into a ponytail. “I know.”
I wondered how far I could push this, because I sure as hell was curious. “He hates him because of what Noah . . . did to you,” I finally said.
And then her expression changed. Stephanie looked wary, all of a sudden. Her posture straightened and she said, “Did Noah tell you what happened?”
“But not Noah?”
“I asked him if I should believe Jamie, and he said yes.”
Stephanie gave me a slow, lingering look. “But you didn’t.” Stephanie crossed her athletic arms as she considered me. I was completely unsure of what to say next.
So I tried to flee. “See you in there, I guess,” I said as I headed for the door.
But Stephanie held out her arm to stop me. “I had an abortion.”
“Um.” I was positive I was giving off that deer-in-headlights look. I glanced desperately at the door. “I’m not really qualified to—”
“Noah came with me.”
I froze. “Was he—”
Stephanie shook her head vehemently. “No. It wasn’t him. But that’s kind of . . .” She paused, glancing up at the ceiling. “That’s kind of what started it.”
I said nothing. I mean, what can you say?
“Noah asked me out,” she started. “He was only fifteen, even though he didn’t look it, and I thought it was kind of hilarious, so I went even though I’d been dating this other guy at another school for a while. Once we were together, Noah totally admitted that he asked me because he thought Jamie was messing with his sister. You screw with my family, I screw with yours; that kind of thing.”
I nodded cautiously. That fit with what I knew.