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Somebody Else's Sky (Something in the Way #2)(15)

By:Jessica Hawkins

"You told a stranger," I accused, gesturing at the guy behind me. He knew more about Manning than I did, which might've surprised me if this whole situation hadn't been backward from the start.

"He got in a . . . fight," she admitted.

Corbin shrugged. "There are fights all the time in prison."

"Not like this. He went after a guard, Corbin. And apparently, he almost killed him."

I sucked in a breath. A guard? That he almost killed? I could barely picture Manning fighting another inmate, much less someone of authority, someone in the uniform he wanted to wear. "I don't believe you," I said. "Manning isn't like that."

"How would you know? You haven't spoken to him in a year."

I pulled back, stung. Would a year in there change Manning? How could it not? Fundamentally, though, at his core, Manning was good. He didn't even belong in there.

"Did he get in trouble?" Nintendo kid asked.

"I don't know. I haven't spoken to him since it happened, but his lawyer said there'd be some kind of trial thing about a misdemeanor? If they decide it's assault, it would mean more time."

More time. It knocked the wind out of me, stealing my ability to do anything other than stay upright. But Manning's good. As tough as he looked, as built as he was, he was a protector, not a fighter. Corbin took my free hand, maybe sensing my confusion. In moments like these, I wished someone knew the whole truth. I'd carried it on my shoulders so long. My only outlet was writing to Manning and even that had begun to feel painful and embarrassing as he continued to ignore me. Val and I talked about boys a lot, and I'd wanted to tell her what'd happened, but I could never convey the story the way it deserved to be told.

"Is he okay?" I asked.

"It took two guards to pull him off."

Corbin raised his cup to his mouth. "I believe it," he said before a sip. "He's a massive guy."

"But he's okay?" I asked.

"Yeah." She leaned her back against the counter. "I mean, Dexter wouldn't really get into the details. He said Manning had to be subdued, and they put him in solitary confinement."

"Subdued? Solitary confinement? Does that mean he's alone?" I asked. "When was this? What does subdued mean?" Plastic crackled under my grip and beer erupted over the sides of my drink, down my top.

Corbin lifted the cup out of my hand by its rim, setting it aside. "Jesus, Lake."

"I'll know more after I see him," Tiffany said. "It's been a couple months since our last visit."

That meant he'd potentially been isolated for some or all of that time. The wet spot on my top chilled my skin, and I shivered.

Corbin put a hand on my shoulder. "Let's clean you up."

"Why didn't you tell me any of this?" I asked Tiffany.

Tiffany shifted her eyes to me. "You know why. Dad doesn't want you to know. He says it's bad enough I brought a criminal around you."

I clenched my teeth. Manning wasn't a criminal, and even if he was, I'd known him first. She had some nerve acting as though she'd brought him around me. "You should've told me anyway."

"He thinks I'll corrupt you," she continued. "If only he knew the truth."

"What's the truth?" Corbin asked.

My blood ran cold. Ever since Tiffany had said she'd seen me get in the truck with Manning late at night, there was a line to our arguments I couldn't cross. So far, she hadn't said anything to Mom or Dad about it. Whether it was for my sake or Manning's, I wasn't sure, but I was grateful. I didn't trust my dad not to go to the police and try to make things worse for Manning.

So instead of fighting her, I closed my beer-sticky fingers into a fist around the mood ring I'd found in Manning's bag of personal items. Top-heavy and too big, the stone often slid to the inside of my hand. It was real, colossal, and a constant and welcome reminder of him-and of my guilt.

"The truth . . .?" Tiffany said, letting it hang in the air. "The truth is that Lake has a crush on my boyfriend."

My face flamed. "No I don't." It wasn't a lie. A crush was fun and exciting, butterflies, pink cheeks, lash-heavy glances. My feelings for Manning were crushing. Late night sobs and black holes. Curled fists and fingernail crescents imprinted in my palms.


Corbin snorted. "You're disturbed," he told her, leaving my side to swipe a dishtowel from the kitchen sink. He draped it over his arm, grabbed his drink, and pulled me away by my hand. "Come on, Lake."