Isn't She Lovely Page 13

The name on the screen isn’t welcome, but neither is it a surprise. It’s also the tenth time it’s come through in about two days.

“Hey, can you give me a few minutes?” I ask, feeling awkward about making claims on his home, but wanting my privacy all the same.

David shrugs and pulls out another beer. “Sure, you can talk in the bedroom.”

I nod and head to the all-too-familiar bedroom as I pick up the phone. “Hi, Dad.”

“I was expecting your voicemail. Again.”

I try to tell myself that it’s just a typical parent guilt trip, but his voice sounds a little hurt, and it makes my stomach twist.

“Sorry,” I say quietly. “It’s been crazy busy moving out of the dorms and starting summer classes.”

I’ve intentionally let my dad think I’m taking classes, plural, not just a two-credit elective class that will barely even be in session. It’s the only way I could talk him into letting me stay in New York for the summer.

Not that he’s providing much financial assistance. I’ve already gotten the whole I’m not going to pay for you to live in New York for the summer when you can live in North Carolina for free speech. Don’t get me wrong—he’s paying my regular-year tuition, for which I’m completely grateful. But he’s not exactly excited at the prospect of paying additional for me to be in New York over the summer. I don’t want to push my luck and risk him withdrawing my tiny for-emergencies-only allowance.

“School’s good?” he asks.

“It’s great,” I lie. “The screenwriting guy’s a big deal from Hollywood, and it’s so cool to meet someone who’s actually been there, done that.”

“But you hate Hollywood.”

I sit on the side of David’s bed, trying not to remember that the last time I saw the bed there was a trampy redhead writhing all over it with my boyfriend.

“I don’t hate Hollywood. I’m just more into the indie artistic scene than the blockbuster stuff.”

“And thank God for that,” he grumbles. “It was hard enough to see you go off to NYU, much less UCLA.”

“So how are things down there?” I interrupt before he can go on about how I nearly moved across the country and left him behind. Never mind that he didn’t hesitate to leave me behind in every way that counted.

“Home is good, really good,” he was saying.

Even after all this time, I hate that he calls North Carolina home. But I let it go, since it’s not a fight I’m ever going to win.

“Things have been slowing down a bit at the firm,” he continues, “so I’ve had more time to spend with Amy and Chris.”

I flop back on the bed and lock my eyes on the ceiling. I know he’s waiting for me to ask about my stepmom and stepbrother, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

The silence grows and grows until he finally breaks it. “You’re too old for this, you know,” my dad says softly. “It’s been three and a half years since we’ve become a family, and the only one holding out is you.”

“Oh, has it been three and a half years already? I guess that makes sense since we just passed the four-year anniversary of Mom’s death.”

My dad is silent on the other end, although I don’t know if it’s because he’s mad, hurting, or just plain fed up with his “struggling” daughter. Eventually he says, “Your anger was fine when you were eighteen, Steffie, but seeing an adult woman continue to act out is ridiculous.”

“Getting snippy with my father on the phone isn’t acting out, it’s just a part of being alive.”

“I’m not talking about this conversation. I’m talking about your little rebellion—”

Oh, here we go.

“—you know, the hair, the piercings, the … black.”

“Not a dirty word, Dad.”

“I miss my little girl.”

“Well, she’s gone,” I snap. “She up and left when you got married six months after we buried my mother and you moved me to the land of fried chicken and Bible groups two months before high school graduation. Your little girl bailed when her whole life fell apart.”

I don’t even bother mentioning Caleb’s name. My dad doesn’t know that part of the puzzle, and never will. Not a conversation you have with your father.

“Steffie …”

“I’ve gotta go.”

I hit the end button and let my hand fall to my side. And he wonders why I so often let his calls go to voicemail.

I get up to go get my laptop to start that stupid film project with Pretty Boy, even though all I really want to do is curl up on the bed and cry.

I exit the bedroom, and I’m about to thank David for giving me privacy when I see her.

The same redhead who totally turned my personal life upside down is currently trying to swallow David’s tongue, and his hands are all over her huge ass.

I gape at them for a second, though neither is aware of me.

“Seriously?” I finally manage.

“Hey, Steph,” Leah says with a friendly smile, and I kind of want to spit in her eye because she screwed my boyfriend.

“Seriously?” I say again.

Ethan runs a thumb over the corner of his mouth, wiping away the smear of plum lipstick that Leah McWhore has marked him with.

“Steph, you remember Leah.”

“I remember Leah’s bare ass,” I say, folding my arms over my stomach and hoping I don’t puke.

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