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Overlooked(16)

By:Lulu Pratt & Simone Sowood



"Sweetie, it's just that I know both of you. You're not, either of you, made for a long-distance relationship," Mom insists.

Before I even really know what I'm doing, I'm on my feet.

"I'm done talking about this," I say. "I really don't want to hear another word out of you about Zane, or me, or …  or how Zane and me having a little fun is going to somehow ruin your friendship with Bev and Nolan."

I hurry to my room, not even listening for Mom to call me back, not paying any attention to anything other than the need to get my purse and get the hell out of the house, as far away as I can go.

Mom tries to catch me at the front door, but I bark something about how if she tries to keep me from leaving the house I will absolutely call the police and have them be the reason the family is scandalized. It's a stupid threat and I know it, but it gets me through the door.

Then I'm in my car, pulling out of the driveway, and turning onto the street to get as far away as I can as quickly as I can.





CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE





ZANE LEWIS



I see Harper bolt out of her house, and guess that she and Nadine have been talking about what her mom saw the night before.

Obviously that went well.

As far as I know, my mom and dad still have no clue what Harper and I were up to, but it's really only a matter of time.

The way that Harper throws herself into her car and the way the tires squeal on the pavement from how fast she pulls out tells me that she's not in the best state of mind, and some deep instinct rises up in me. I have to follow her, even if I'm not all that sure that I'm the person she wants to see right now.

I tell Mom I'll be back in a bit without telling her where I'm going. She doesn't much care, since she's busy with putting things away from the party, and doesn't even ask any questions as I head out the door to my rental.

If I was Harper, where would I go? She's driven away too fast for me to realistically follow her. I'll have to make a few guesses.

I decide quickly that she's probably not at the library, one of the few of her favorite places that I can remember from when we were in high school. I try to look for her car at the bars I pass by, but I don't see it anywhere.

Finally inspiration strikes and I decide that it's worth at least checking the lake.

I pull into the parking area next to the lake, and her car is the only one there. Of course, she's not in the car, and for a second I actually feel my worry increase. I have to hope she didn't do anything too stupid. I park and get out of my car, and start towards the shoreline, looking for Harper.

She sees me before I see her. So much for my military training. I see she's been crying, her face is red, but she actually somehow manages to look cuter than I've ever seen her, vulnerable in a way that the Harper I knew in high school never let herself be. But she also looks angry.

"What are you doing here, Zane?"

I wonder if Harper came out here for the purpose of screaming where no one can hear her, her voice is pretty hoarse.

"I saw you leave," I reply.

"Mom and I got into a fight, and I just …  I couldn't even be around to listen to her anymore," Harper says, shaking her head and sounding so exhausted I have to wonder how she has the energy to be so angry.

"What were you fighting about?" I know it has to be about Nadine finding us in the yard the night before, but I can't really figure how that conversation could lead to Harper storming off and driving away to the lake.

"You, mostly," Harper says, her voice almost sarcastic.

"What were you fighting about me for?" I want to know whatever it is that has Harper so upset, what her mom could have possibly said.

"She went on and on about how it's wrong for you and I to have anything to do with each other. How we're practically siblings, and that I'm probably just one of dozens. Things like that. And she said that I shouldn't ruin things between my parents and your parents when I need to start thinking about settling down," she lets it all spill out.

It's a lot to take in, and I think about it for a moment or two, trying to sort through what the hell is going on.

"Your mom's not entirely wrong, at least on a couple of things," I say finally.

Harper's eyes widen and I know that look. I've seen it. I saw it when the kids in middle school pushed her to the breaking point with the teasing, when I was too much of a coward to stand up for her.

I had said exactly the wrong thing, and now I am about to pay for it.

"What do you mean she's not entirely wrong?"

I try to think, to think fast enough to diffuse this bomb that apparently the girl in front of me has been all along.

"I mean, hell, we both agreed that we probably shouldn't have done what we did the night before," I tell her.

"Oh, oh, so I'm just a notch on your belt now, and you're worried just like my mom is that having had sex with me is going to cause drama between your parents and my parents," she says.

"What? Where did that come from?" I don't even know what she means by being a notch in my belt. I mean, I know the saying, but what does that have to do with what we've been up to? It isn't like I keep score.

"You said my mom wasn't wrong, and what she said is that all you're looking for is an easy lay, so is that what I am to you?"

"An easy lay? Come on, Harper," I say. I know I'm doing this all wrong, but I can't stop the words coming out of my mouth. "You are not an easy lay."

"So how long have you been waiting to add me to your score card, huh?"

"I don't keep score," I tell her, trying to keep my nerves in check, trying not to let her escalate the situation. My drill instructor in basic was big on the non-escalation techniques, but somehow when it comes to Harper all that training goes out of the window.   





 

"Look, Zane, I knew you slept around. I know that about you. I'm not stupid. And it's not like I even care, since, like we both talked about last night, it's not like this is going anywhere. But you could at least be honest with me," she says.

"Honest about what? All I said was I can see your mom's point about certain things," I say.

"Forget it," Harper tells me. She shakes her head and turns away from me, and I see her reach into her purse for her keys.

"Harper, don't drive off like this. You're upset," I say.

"Like you even care," she counters, and when I try to make a grab for her wrist, to keep her there at the lake with me, she nearly twists her arm into injury to get free of my grip.

I could hold onto her, I could force her to hurt herself, which would, likely as not, make her have to stay and calm down, but I don't want her to break her wrist or tear a ligament, so I just let her go. Harper bolts to her car, and pulls out of the parking lot at the lake.

All I can think to do is sit down. She's obviously not going to want me to talk to her, to follow her. All I can do is hope she doesn't get into a wreck, and that she finds somewhere to go cool off for a bit.





CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR





HARPER POLSEN



I drive around for a while, playing Hot Hot Heat at full blast, and trying to figure out where in the town I can actually go to where I won't have to deal with anyone. I know I was probably overreacting to what Zane said, but with so much going on, and with him being such a bonehead, I couldn't stand being around anyone, especially him, for even a moment longer.

I decide that maybe the pitching and rolling of my stomach will calm down if I put something more than coffee and a pastry in it. I pull into a McDonald's and manage to keep my twisting, turning feelings in check for a few minutes. I order a ten-piece chicken nugget meal with large fries and a drink, knowing better than to add any caffeine to my already-amped system.

I pull my car over into a strip mall parking lot and keep my music going as I eat, shoving salty, delicious fries into my mouth, taking sips of my drink and eating the chicken nuggets as if they have some kind of mysterious healing power. As if my life depends on wolfing down the food as fast as humanly possible.

I do feel a little bit better, not much, but a little, once I've reached the end of the fries, and I can think about things a little more objectively.

I'm still mad at my mom, and definitely still mad at Zane, but at least I'm not furious to the point where I'm a danger to the people around me.

"Okay, so obviously nothing is going to happen between Zane and me, nothing more than what already has," I say out loud to myself. And obviously even if things weren't going to be tense the way that we'd left them the night before, they were definitely going to be tense now after the argument Zane and I had.

My phone buzzes, and I look at the screen. It's a text message from my mother.

Are you okay? Please let me know you're not dead in a car accident or something, sweetie.

For a second my mood wavers between guilt and anger.

I'm fine, Mom. Be home in a bit.

That's as much as I want to tell her, and as much as I think she deserves to know right now. The question that really weighs on my mind is the issue of the big project I have waiting for me. I'm supposed to leave to go back to Brooklyn, back to my normal life, in a little over two days. The office wants me to come home even sooner than that.

I could probably tell my mother about the call, and explain that I need to take the opportunity to get back to work, and put the whole sordid mess with Zane behind me. She might even support me about it, even if it makes things a little bit awkward with Bev and Nolan at the dinner we're supposed to have. I could leave now and be in Brooklyn tonight, and forget I ever did anything at all with Zane Lewis.

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