Crushed Page 76

My mouth is hanging open a little. Kristin has been pushing my parents around for twenty-something years. I can’t believe they’re putting their foot down in such a hard-ass way.

“So … what then? Are they kicking you out?”

“No,” she says, her voice small. “They said I can stay here so long as I get a job.”

Her voice is whiny. But also a little scared.

“But what about school?”

She stands, retrieving the box of tissues on my dresser before returning, and setting the box in her lap as she pulls one out. “They said if I decide school’s important to me that I can go to community college. Can you imagine?”

I stop myself from rolling my eyes at her snobbery. Barely. There is absolutely nothing wrong with community college, but I know precisely why my sister doesn’t want to go: Because to Kristin, college has only ever been about campus life, living in a bubble, and putting off the real world. She’s just taken the degree part for granted.

I play with the ends of my hair and try to think of the best thing to say. For once, I’m fresh out of pep talks or snarky comments or any kind of useful advice.

On one hand, I admire my parents for finally helping Kristin course-correct. On the other hand, it’s a little lame that they’ve pampered her for two decades and are all of a sudden ripping the rug out from under her.

“What are you going to do?” I ask.

She shrugs. “I don’t know. Daddy says he can probably find me something at his company.”

Ah. So that’s their lifeline. Smart. This way they can keep an eye on her.

“Well, hey, that’s something,” I say.

She gives me a withering look. “Please. I’ll have no social life.”

I suck in my cheeks. “Well, honestly, K … have you given much thought to the fact that you wouldn’t have had much of a life at Davis, either? All of your friends have graduated.”

Her face crumples, and I realize she had thought about that. No wonder she was so dang clingy to Devon.

“There are a few girls on the tennis team that I could have hung out with,” she says, blowing her nose again. “And you.”

I give her a look. “You barely paid attention to me the past three years. And you hate my friends.”

“I don’t hate them. They’re just weird.”

Her voice is so matter-of-fact that I have to laugh.

“Plus, you’re different now,” she says, looking me over.

“Skinnier, you mean.”

“Well, yeah. And you look good. Although I don’t know why you’re not straightening your hair more often. It looked so good that way.”

I ignore this.

“I think you’re looking at this all wrong,” I say, putting my arm around her. “You should totally own this. A chance to reinvent yourself. The gorgeous, newly single girl with a chic job in the city. Maybe you should save up some money. Get a place of your own.”

Grow up, I silently add.

“I totally shouldn’t have broken up with Devon,” she says, her voice sulky. “If I’m not going to have a degree, I could use a soon-to-be-lawyer boyfriend right about now.”

“Hey,” I snap. “Don’t. Listen to yourself. You sound pathetic.”

Her mouth drops in outrage, but I don’t stop. “I’m serious, Kristy. This pampered princess thing worked really well for you in high school, but it’s getting old.”

I expect her to argue, but instead her mouth snaps shut and she merely glares.

I soften my tone. “Running back to Devon isn’t the answer.”

“You’re just saying that because you want him for yourself.”

It’s my turn for my mouth to drop open. Well. Shit. “So, um. You knew about that.”

She nods, but instead of looking angry, she looks … guilty.

“I guess I’ve always known.” Her voice is quiet. “I knew you liked him, even way back then. I knew it when I got him to ask me out.”

I swallow the sting. Because that’s all it is. A tiny sting. Not at all the rip-roaring pain that used to go hand in hand with the thought of Devon.

And because it doesn’t matter anymore, I take her hand. “Don’t worry about it. I’m over Devon.”

She squeezes my hand. “Because of Michael?”

Oh, there’s the rip-roaring pain.

I jerk my hand away.

“I don’t want to talk about him.”

She studies my face. “You know, for the longest time I thought he was just using you. For amusement, or because he was desperate, or whatever.”

I give her a sour look, and say what’s been on my mind for … ever. “Kristin, don’t take this the wrong way, but you can seriously be a bitch.”

She laughs. “I know. But hear me out. I was watching him that night at the party, and he didn’t take his eyes off you.”

“It was probably my slutty dress,” I mutter, kicking at my duffel on the floor.

“My dress was sluttier than yours, and he didn’t look at me. Once.”

I smirk. “How’d that feel?”

“Um, now who’s being a bitch?”

I give her a wide smile in response.

She rolls her eyes, and then gets a faraway look on her face. “Can I ask you something?”

I nod.

Kristin bites her lip. “Remember when I went to Seattle for a couple weeks?”

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