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Somebody Else's Sky (Something in the Way #2)(5)

By:Jessica Hawkins

"I've been saving a little each pay period like you said."

Before this, I'd been pretty good about setting extra money aside. It was all gone now, mostly on fines and restitution, but I'd been going over savings accounts and compound interest with Tiffany during our visits. Apparently, her dad had tried and given up, but I figured she had to see the light sooner or later. Maybe she finally had. "Good," I said.

"And, well, things have been really tense at home, so I might . . . I might try to get my own place."

"Can you afford the rent?"

"I can if I cut back shopping at the store. I just save so much with the discount."

"Not more than you'd save if you didn't buy anything," I pointed out.

She considered that a second. "I never thought of it that way. Anyway, what do you think? About the apartment?"

As long as Tiffany lived at home, she'd be under her dad's thumb. I didn't see how that had helped her up to this point. "I like the idea."

"Really?" she asked. "My dad says I can't afford it."

"Well, that's because he hasn't seen you try. Prove him wrong. Get a roommate if you need to. Move inland. Stop eating out. You can do it if you set your mind to it."

"You really think so? Because I've looked into it, and I do think I can do it, but when he said that, I started to doubt myself."

"I know you can make it happen," I said. "You just have to stay focused."

"Okay. I will." Her smile fell into a frown when she checked the clock over my head. "I have to go in a minute. If I don't run the errands Mom gave me for tonight, I'll be dead meat."

"What's tonight?" I asked.

"Oh, it's . . ." She glanced away.

She always looked left when she was exaggerating or stretching the truth. Wherever she had to be tonight, she didn't want to tell me. I couldn't think of any reason why that might be except one-another guy. We'd never really made things official, her and I-she called me her boyfriend, but I suspected she hadn't gone almost a year waiting for me. Nor did I expect her to. We'd never slept together, so it seemed like a fair arrangement.

Tiffany came around more often than anyone. Every couple months, Henry, the officer who'd looked out for me after Maddy's death, drove my aunt almost four hours to Blythe for a visit, but they couldn't make it out as much as they wanted to.

Tiff was consistent and affectionate, reminding me she cared, touching me the way nobody had in almost a year. I wouldn't be happy to hear she was seeing another guy tonight, but I wouldn't make her talk about it. I opened my hand across the table, and she put hers in it. "You don't have to tell me. But everything's all right?" 

"I'm just stressed with work and my dad and hearing about USC nonstop-it's her birthday. That's why I can't stay long. Mom ordered this fancy cake, and I have to go pick it up."


I tensed. Tiffany hadn't even said her name, but I knew. It was an interruption to our routine. Tiffany rarely brought up her sister, and when she did, I shut down the conversation. I wanted to know everything, but Lake belonged outside these dismal walls, away from this dusty town off the freeway, and far from my mind. So I knew nothing. I never asked about her, and except in moments of extreme weakness, never thought about her, either. Just the mention of her felt like a sucker punch. "It's today?" I asked. "Her birthday?"

"As if every other day isn't about Lake, now we have to throw her a stupid party." She fidgeted with one of the paperbacks' creased covers, folding up the corner. "It's obnoxious."

"What's the date today?" I asked her.

"Why do you care?"

I took a breath. "Never mind."

Ten months. That was how long I'd gone without a fix. Lake's letters came every couple weeks. I'd opened the first one, but that was it. I'd known right then that if I was going to make it through this, I couldn't think of her. Couldn't be inside her head that way, and she definitely couldn't be inside mine.

A year from today, she'd be eighteen, but that didn't matter anymore, not when I'd turned into this. Standing in that courtroom last August, hearing Lake's voice in the same moment I was falsely charged with burglary, I'd turned and seen something no man ever should. One way or another, the pain and confusion on her face all led back to me. I'd exposed her to this life and chipped away some of her innocence, and I'd never forgive myself for it. I wouldn't make that mistake twice.

I hoped that Lake never thought of me, never worried about me. That I was far from her mind. At the same time, it killed me that I might be.

Fuck. She didn't belong in here. I pushed thoughts of Lake out of my mind and focused on Tiffany. She'd been loyal and deserved my attention. Not only for sticking by me, but for stepping up when I'd needed her. After my sentencing, Tiffany had taken my lease to Dexter Grimes, who'd told her there was no way to break it without a fee. She'd set her mind to it anyway and had convinced the landlord to reduce it. All I'd lost was a couple hundred bucks and last-month's rent. Then, she'd sold my furniture and car. Part of that money went to student loans that hadn't amounted to anything, and the rest went to the victim or my commissary.