After reaching for my suitcase, I pulled it onto my mattress and crossed my legs. Unzipping it, I sighed as the scent of Gabby’s favorite perfume floated out from inside.
As I dug through the suitcase, I pulled out all of Gabby’s favorite dresses and her favorite comfy clothes. Her CD collection came out next, and I stared at her favorite tunes, which we would blast through the living room on Sunday mornings while eating Cap’n Crunch and marshmallows.
“You two were close?” Hailey asked. Then she rolled her eyes at her question. “That’s a stupid question. Sorry. I mean—sorry for your loss.”
I glanced around at Hailey’s photos on the wall and saw more family photos and pictures of her friends—well, one friend—and a guy with his arms wrapped around her waist.
“That’s Theo, my boyfriend. Well, kind of. We are taking the remainder of summer break to meditate and figure out what it is we want from our relationship. Then when school starts, we’re going to see if our spirits vibe with one another still.”
The blank stare I delivered her way made her chuckle.
“Theo studies Buddhism, and I’ve learned a bit about it. Some of our most powerful interactions consisted of doing yoga together, releasing all the negative energy from our bodies.”
My mom had been very big into yoga for a weekend. She hadn’t stuck with it, but she had said that she’d felt more like herself during that time than she ever had. I didn’t know what to say to Hailey because she was kind of weird. Not weird like me, but weird like her.
I was convinced that everyone in the world had a form a weirdness to them. And the cool thing, at least I hoped so, was the idea that there was someone out there just as quirky as you were. The idea of finding your other weirdo was so attractive to me.
I was still looking for that.
“He wants me to have sex with him,” Hailey blurted out, and I could feel my face redden. Ohmygosh! She continued. “I’m waiting. Kind of why we’re on our break.”
I didn’t know what to say to her because her comment was pretty personal and I didn’t even know her last name. Were all people in Edgewood, Wisconsin, as forward as Hailey? Did girls just talk about their sexual encounters and stuff like it wasn’t kind of private?
I fell onto my bed. On the ceiling was a painted mural of a sky with clouds and birds. Hailey lay down on her bed and stared up, too. “Theo helped me with it. He said it helps balance my energy and brings peace into my personal space.”
“Hailey, no offense…but you’re really odd for someone who’s so pretty.”
“I know, but I think that’s where I get my spunk.”
I thought she was right. Being pretty and a snob was so cliché, but being a pretty oddball? Now that was something worth noticing.
The guy who had been staring at me from the window earlier stepped into the room and his head turned directly to Hailey. “Can I use your car?”
“Where are you going?” Hailey asked, her…younger brother? He seemed younger. Not by much.
She reached for her hairbrush on her side table and began running it through her long locks of hair. “Ryan, did you meet Ashlyn?”
Ryan gazed over to me with such a dull look that it would had been insulting if I hadn’t been returning the same bored expression his way. He sighed heavily, turning back to his sister. “Keys, Hails.”
“Did Dad say you could go?”
Ryan pulled out a cardboard box from his jeans pockets, opened it up, and pulled out an invisible cigarette, which he invisibly lit. Great. I was living with the crazy kids.
“He’s not our dad, Hailey. Christ! He’s her father.” Ryan’s hand gestured toward me.
“Could have fooled me,” I muttered, unpacking the rest of the things in my bag.
Ryan turned toward me, this time with a look of pleasure on his lips. He blinked and his stare went back to Hailey. “Is that a yes or a no?”
“Ugh. You’re ruining my life.” He walked over to her and flopped down on her bed.
“Oh, grow up, Ryan.” Hailey continued brushing her hair and looked up to me. “Don’t mind him. He’s in this weird, stoner, ‘I hate the world’ phase of his teen years.”
Well, at least I could relate to one of the people in this household. Minus the stoner part.
“Don’t listen to her. She’s in this weird, hippie, ‘I love the world’ phase of her teen years.” Ryan smirked, sitting up. “I’m Ryan Turner.”
“My mom liked the names Gabrielle, Ashley, and Lynn and couldn’t choose. So Gabby became Gabrielle and I became Ashlyn.” I looked at the two sitting across from me and narrowed my eyes. “Who’s older?”
“Me,” Hailey smiled.
Ryan rolled his eyes. “By emotional age, maybe. By physical age? I take the crown.”
“I’m a junior. He’s a senior. We’re Irish twins. Nine months apart.” Hailey laughed, shoving her ‘emotional little’ brother in the shoulder.
“Why don’t you have a car, Ryan?”
“Because my mom hates me.”
“She doesn’t hate you,” Hailey argued.
He gave her a sarcastic look, and Hailey frowned as if Ryan were telling the truth. He shrugged. “You’re really not going to let me use your car?”
“But…I haven’t seen”—Ryan paused and glanced my way—“you-know-who in days.”