Addicted for Now / Page 9

Page 9


“You forget that I was here while you were in rehab,” Ryke says. “I’ve seen her at a low.”

No, I never forget that. “Great.”

“You’d rather be there with her, I know that. But didn’t Rose tell you—”

“I get it,” I snap. Our relationship needs room to breathe—Rose so very pointedly put it the other day. I’m trying to give Lily more space. I’m making a conscious effort to change our codependent relationship.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t f**king suck.

But I have nowhere else to be but right here. No other invitations from friends (I have none) or family (my father practically disowned me). No job. No school. I am a worthless piece of shit. I grimace and turn that into a half-smile, shaking my head. I chug half of my water to drown these stupid thoughts.

“Have you started taking Antabuse yet?” Ryke asks.

The doctors at rehab prescribed me a drug for my recovery, and I forgot I told Ryke about it. If I drink on the meds, I’ll have stomach pains and severe nausea. It’s supposed to deter alcoholics from falling off the wagon. And even though I decided not to attend AA meetings, I still need to follow the right steps to get healthy.

I didn’t tell Lily why I’m not going to AA. The reason will make her think I’m even more f**ked up. I’m a hard person to be around, and when I was in rehab, I pushed two recovering addicts to drink and break their short sobriety.

I always say the wrong things.

And the facility administration forbade me from going to group meetings because I was “adversely affecting my peers.” They also highly advised I not attend AA meetings in fear that I would be the same a**hole there.

Ryke agreed with them.

So here I am.

“I haven’t taken it yet,” I tell Ryke. “I think I’m going to start tomorrow.” I’ve heard horror stories about people becoming violently ill just from a sip of beer. I wanted to have a couple days without that suffocating fear before I started.

“You should take it now. Do you have it on you?” Ryke asks. He’s such a f**king pusher.

“No,” I snap. He doesn’t listen to me, already unzipping my bag and rummaging through it. “What is this, TSA? Leave my shit alone, Ryke.” He finds the inside zipper easily and holds up an orange bottle. His eyebrows rise accusingly.

My teeth ache as I bite down. “Wow, you found my pill bottle. Congratulations. Now put it back.”

I wait for him to yell at me for lying. I prepare for the verbal onslaught with narrowed eyes, ready to combat or storm away.

But he never mentions it. Instead, he uncaps the bottle and doles out a pill on his palm. “Take it,” he says roughly. “If you’re waiting for yourself to f**k up, then you might as well f**k up while you’re on it. I’m sure puking all night after a shot of whiskey will do you some good.”

He’s right.

I hate that he’s right.

I take the pill from him and toss it back with some water. It feels official. Like this is it. No alcohol. Forever.

Forever.

God.

I have a sudden impulse to run to the bathroom and stick my finger down my throat. Somehow my Nikes weigh me down on the trimmed grass, and I clench my water bottle as I take another large swig.

Ryke starts to stretch, pulling his arm across his chest. “Have you spoken to Jonathan?”

“No.” I leave it at that, not wanting to be probed about my father. No one really understands my relationship with him. Not Lily. Definitely not Ryke.

And it’s more complicated than just hate and dislike. It’s what drives my mind wild. It’s what makes me seriously want to kick that f**king bleacher and grab a beer.

But I remember Lily, and I immediately tell myself no. No alcohol. Ever. One memory has kept me grounded for a while, deaf to any compelling arguments from the devil on my shoulder. It’s what stopped me from heading into that bar yesterday.

In my foggy memory, I wake up, glazed and half-delirious to the people in my kitchen. Rose, Connor and Ryke camped out in my living room like the Scooby Gang. And the three of them told me the night’s events—as though I wasn’t even there. My body was, but my head was floating in another dimension.

And Ryke was the only one who could stomach the words. “You f**king passed out while a guy attacked Lily.”

And “attack” was an understatement. Something could have happened that night. But it didn’t. Ryke and Connor stopped the guy when that should have been me. My whole life, I had one f**king job. Protect Lily. Make sure her addiction doesn’t get the better of her. Make sure she doesn’t get hurt. She did the same for me. And I failed her. Somewhere down the line, I f**ked up.

Never again.

Ryke holds out his arms like what the hell, and I remember what he asked me. Have you spoken to Jonathan?

“I said no,” I tell him again, like the answer isn’t registering in his head.

“No, that’s it?” Ryke wants more. Everyone wants more.

But I feel like I’m giving everything I have.

“I thought it was a yes or no question. What else is there?” Lots. But nothing I can bear to say out loud. My father left me a few messages on my phone the past week.

I want to have lunch, Loren.

We need to talk.

Don’t push me out of your life over something this f**king stupid.

Call me back.

I’ve ignored him so far, but I can’t forever. There’ll be a point where I’ll have to face my father. It won’t be for money, but the allure of a handout will always be there. Because it’s so f**king easy. Drinking, that’s easy. Taking his money, that’s easier.

The hard things are the right things, I’ve learned. But I’m not Connor Cobalt—built with the infallible ability to go the extra mile, to do the extra work. I’m the kinda guy that always stops short.

But I do have a plan for some cash. The only problem—it involves a conversation with Rose Calloway.

“He’s going to try to buy you back,” Ryke tells me. “That’s what he f**king does, and you’re going to have to say no. He’s your f**king trigger, Lo. You shouldn’t be around him while you’re recovering.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say, lugging my bag over my shoulder. Most days, I regret asking Ryke to be my sponsor. Even if he’s pretty good at it. Trigger or not, Jonathan Hale is my father. Ryke doesn’t understand him the way I do.

He’s not all bad.

{ 7 }

LILY CALLOWAY

My second test score came back last week, and it was a big fat F. I knew transferring from an Ivy League to another Ivy League wasn’t the cure for my poor grades, but I hoped that Princeton would kick my lazy butt into gear. With Rose running around the same campus as me, I should be more motivated. Plus, my hours are no longer wasted away on p*rn and self-love. But I didn’t predict that my time would be consumed by therapy in New York and trying to rebuild my relationships with my sisters. Getting healthy and making amends is almost as big a time bandit as wallowing in my addiction.

I have so many issues to deal with that school is that last thing on my mind, when it should probably be the first. Lo may be back but time doesn’t stop for us, and I can’t fail my classes in Princeton too. I’m already behind as it is.

Which is why a tutor sits beside me, though he’s not doing much “tutoring.”

For the past thirty minutes, I watched him browse Rich Kids of Instagram, a site that I boycott and find generally revolting. I nudge him to help me twice, and he points to my book. “Do another problem,” he says without peeling his eyes from his phone.

I miss the days where Connor Cobalt gave me a hundred-and-ten percent of his tutoring attention, even going as far as making me flashcards.

Sebastian Ross may just be the worst tutor alive.

He invades my personal space for a second, and I think he may actually be showing me how to do a Statistics problem.

He sticks his phone beneath my nose. “Whose watch do you like better?” He extends his wrist and holds it by the screen, the band gold and the gadgetry so complex that my eyes hurt. The one in the picture is no simpler. A teenager stands outside his gray-bricked mansion, wrists displayed like he’s preparing to box.

“Neither.”

“Amuse me.”

Amuse him? How about amuse me! I’m the one who should be entertained by numbers and words. Connor would know how to make studying fun.

I try not to glare. “I like my watch.”

Sebastian’s one eyebrow arches, so smarmy and elitist that I have to give him props for mastering the technique. He snatches my wrist to inspect the device. He huffs. “You’re wearing a toy.” He flicks the plastic cap, nearly causing the hands of the clock to stop.

“Hey,” I say, retracting my arm and clutching my wrist to my chest. “That’s Wolverine, you know.” The yellow and blue band buckles on my bony wrist, and the X-Men hero is printed inside the watch-face.

He looks mildly interested now. “Is it a collectible?”

“…maybe.”

He restrains the urge to roll his eyes. “Where’d you get it?” he asks. “The kid’s section in Target?”

My cheeks redden even though they shouldn’t. “No,” I retort. “Lo won it from a vending machine. You know, the ones where you put a quarter in and it drops out the little egg thing.” We had a seventy-five percent chance to get either Superman or Batman, so when Wolverine popped out, it seemed like fate. We were easily entertained.

Sebastian grimaces. He has a pretty good stink-face too. “You touched those things?” He returns to his phone, scrolling. “Sometimes I wonder how you’re related to your sister.”

Sometimes I wonder why she’s friends with you.

I would exchange Sebastian for a better model, but not when Rose asked him, her best friend, to tutor me. Before Connor came into the picture, Sebastian escorted Rose to every social function, her go-to arm candy.

He leans back on the couch, wearing khaki slacks, a blazer and glasses with wide frames and thin rims. I have a suspicion that he’s someone who only wears glasses for show, not function. And his honey blond hair is slicked neatly and parted on the side, groomed and styled.

Even if he didn’t take the time to look good, Sebastian is the kind of person that was born to be pretty.

Normally I’d be tempted. But I have Loren Hale.

And Sebastian is gay. So there’s that.

When he snorts out loud, I catch a glimpse of his cell. There’s a picture of a guy sitting in a hot tub on a million-dollar yacht, surrounded by expensive bottles of champagne.

Now I roll my eyes. I really want to grab the phone from his hand and chuck it across the room. “Have you even taken Stat?” I ask.

“Stats.”

“What?”

“It’s called Stasticsssss,” he says, hissing the “s” for further emphasis. “Not Statistic.” His gaze stays fixated on that stupid phone.

“Have you taken Statsssss,” I hiss back.

“Yes, it’s an under level requirement for business majors at Princeton,” he says sharply. “Obviously Penn has different standards.”


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