I was totally numb. I needed my best friend and it didn’t matter how pissed I was with him twelve hours earlier. I swallowed my pride and my hurt and called Randall up. My voice shook as I tried in vain to explain what my dad was going to do. I couldn’t even form a complete sentence against the block in my throat but he understood enough to know that I needed him
Not even ten minutes after I hung up Randall was pounding on my door. He gathered me into his strong arms the moment he saw me and I let myself burst into hysterical tears against his shoulder, staining the blue Hollister T-shirt. Randall tried to comfort me but didn’t try to force me to calm down or to explain. I managed to choke out that my dad was leaving between gasps of breath and hiccups. I felt his body freeze for a moment as the news settled before he started stroking my hair again. The best thing about him was that he didn’t lie and say that everything would be okay when we both knew it wouldn’t.
After I was done with my crying spree we walked to a little ice cream parlor down the street like we used to when one of us was having a bad day. Randall waited until I was happily immersed in my sundae before he made me give him all the dirty little details of the Dawson Dinner Disaster. He let me talk without interrupting but I could see him fighting to keep his mouth shut every so often.
“Your mom really went off on you like that?” he asked once I was done.
“Yeah. She was totally pissed at me but then my dad was right in her face about it. I mean, I know they weren’t really happy together but I can’t help thinking this is kinda my fault.”
“It’s not, Lyra. Trust me on this- their love has just run its course. There’s nothing you could have done to cause this just like there’s nothing you could have done to prevent it.” His gaze was determined as he tried to make me stop blaming myself.
I slowly ate my chocolate sundae while I digested his words. He sounded so sure of what he was saying and it did make some sense. But still…
I heard the commotion but didn’t really pay any attention until I heard my name. I glanced from the dripping ice cream poised on my spoon and saw Randall staring wide-eyed in horror at the door, his face ashen. I swiveled quickly in my seat and saw Vega silhouetted in the threshold. Her red-blonde curls were tied back with a multi-colored silk scarf, her short red dress hugged her curves like Jessica Rabbit, and she wore sparkling, ruby red slippers. She had the presence of a movie star and the hip-swinging walk like a runway model’s as she prowled up to our table.
My stomach knotted itself up like a noose ready for a hanging.
“Lyra, it’s so good to see you again,” she purred. “I’ve really been looking forward to our meeting.”
“Oh?” I choked out stupidly. What was it about Vega that made me so damn nervous?
The corner of her pink mouth pulled up in an amused smirk. Her gaze was cold and calculated like some great cat eyeing her trapped prey. “Why Lyra,” she said coolly, “you can’t think I’d forgotten about you. I’ve been looking for you for forever and I wasn’t going to lose you now.” She winked at me and shivers raced up my spine. “Awe, are you scared, Lyra? Don’t be- we are family, after all.”
“Is there something we can help you with?” Randall snapped. Only someone that knew him as well as I did could hear the slight waver in his voice.
Her bluish eyes flickered to him for the briefest moment. They narrowed almost in recognition but the look was gone when she turned back to me the next second. “I have a little gift for you, Ly. It’s waiting outside. Come with me and I promise you won’t regret it.”
“Vega, do not bother her.”
Vega stiffened and turned slowly. Suddenly, miraculously, Michael stood behind her. He glared down at the slight girl who simply looked annoyed at his presence. She flipped a strawberry strand of her hair over her shoulder and grinned dangerously at him. “Michael, how lovely of you to join us. I see you’re still trying to look after Mommy’s Little Princess. You do realize that hasn’t been your job for ages, right?”
“I do,” he answered simply.
She grinned wider. “Mother won’t be pleased. It’s not a good idea to piss her off, you know.”
He sighed but from weariness or annoyance I couldn’t tell. “Vega, we both know that you will not do anything here. Why not just go?”
She shrugged and straightened, looking only slightly annoyed. “This isn’t over, you know. I always get what I want in the end.”
She turned on the stiletto heel of her fancy shoes and walked out of the shop, her ass wiggling the whole way, turning the heads of the small-minded men in the room. Once she was gone the tension that I hadn’t realized had been there vanished. I closed my eyes and let out a huge breath and it felt like a weight had been lifted from the pit of my stomach.
My gaze locked on Michael after a second but it wasn’t with rage like last time I’d seen him. “You’re hiding something from me. Please, tell me.”
His grey eyes held mine for a long moment before he glanced over at Randall. “Do you mind if I walk Lyra home? We have some things that we need to discuss.”
My best friend looked between the two of us. He nodded once and stood up. “Lyra, I’ll come see you tomorrow. You’ll get through all of this.” He pulled me into him and kissed my forehead. “I love you, Ly. Call me if you need anything.”
I waited until Randall was totally gone before I looked back at Michael. I arched my brows expectantly but he didn’t say anything. “Well?”
“Let us get you home, Lyra. Then we shall talk.”
The short walk back to my house was completely silent. I gnawed at my lower lip trying to think of the best way to start up the conversation but nothing seemed right. By the time we walked in my living room and the door closed behind us I wasn’t sure if I really wanted answers anymore. I sat on the sofa and fiddled with the ends of my hair.
“Lyra?” he said softly. I glanced up through my thick lashes. “Lyra, you wanted answers and I promise to give you as many as I can. What do you want to know?”
I took a deep, slow breath. There were so many questions buzzing around in my head that I didn’t know where to start. “Did you and Vega used to date?” I asked suddenly. That wasn’t one of the priority answers I’d wanted but the question slipped out before I could stop myself.
He looked shocked and his eyes blazed silver. “Not at all. Why would you ever think that?”
My cheeks flamed up even more red than my hair. “Oh. Well I just thought there was some chemistry there. I mean, there is something going on there so I figured maybe there was a bad breakup or something.” I trailed off weakly feeling like a complete idiot.
“I have told you, I used to work for her mother, Thesis. Vega and I never really got along but when her mother fired me things just got a lot worse between us. She does enjoy boasting about my lack of a position within her mother’s company.”
“What did she mean about looking after ‘Mommy’s Little Princess’? What was all that about?”
He paled slightly but it was enough that I noticed. He paused so long that I wasn’t sure that he would answer. “When I worked for her mother, I was the bodyguard to her younger daughter. She ran away and Thesis got angry. We looked for her for a while but when we did not find her, her mother fired me. Vega never really liked her sister so she was happy when I left and the search ended.”
“You didn’t really answer my question.”
“Vega’s mother fired me years ago but I have secretly been keeping an eye on her sister.”
“You like Vega’s sister.”
A wistful smile appeared on his lips. “She is my best friend.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s more than that. Randall is my best friend and neither of us ever had the look you have right now when we talk about each other. You miss her, don’t you?”
“And you haven’t seen her in a while? If you know where she is, then why don’t you tell her?”
There was complete silence for a minute. “It is not that easy, Lyra-Rose.”
“What does Vega want with me?”
He didn’t say anything. Instead, he glanced up at the clock. “It is late, Lyra-Rose. You should get some sleep.”
He stood with the gracefulness of a lion and was out the door before I could object. Once he was gone my exhaustion kicked in. It was nearly midnight and I couldn’t wait for my crappy day to officially be over.
At first I thought the incessant pounding was all in my head. I peeled my sticky eyes open and was greeted by the blinding light of the sun streaming through my window. I threw my duvet off of me and plodded to the door. I threw it open, nearly ripping it off the hinges in my annoyance.
“Who the hell would bang on someone’s door so early,” I demanded.
“Someone with doughnuts,” Randall answered with a smile. “Besides, it’s already ten.”
“So? With the shitty day I had yesterday, I totally deserve a day of sleeping. Only an asshole would wake me up.”
“Yeah, I love you, too,” he said as he shoved passed me into the kitchen. I shuffled in and leaned against the wall as he set out a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and two glasses of juice. I decided to enjoy the meal so I sat with Randall at my kitchen table to start eating with him.
“Thanks for breakfast,” I yawned as I nibbled on a chocolate.
“Yeah, no problem. Are you feeling any better?”
I shrugged but I knew that my eyes were still red and puffy from crying so much the night before. “I’m okay, I guess. I’m going to call my dad and see if he wants to go to lunch today. I know that you said it’s not my fault but I still feel responsible and have to see if I can do something to fix this.”
Randall frowned. “Ly, I told you that there’s nothing you can do. Please, don’t put this on yourself ’cause you’ll end up getting hurt. You know that I couldn’t stand it if you were miserable.”
“Randall, I have to. If I don’t, I’ll always feel like crap and wonder if I could have done something about it. I can’t just let him leave without a fight.”
“You are such a Daddy’s Girl. At least let me go with you, though.”
I grinned widely. He was definitely the best friend anyone could have. “Of course. I wouldn’t be able to do it without your help.”
My dad ended up taking us to one of my favorite Italian bistros. He and Randall made small talk while we waited for our meals while I stayed mostly quiet, deciding how best to broach the subject. I waited until we were already eating before I started talking. “Do you really have to move to Salt Lake?”
He set down his fork and cleared his throat. “Lyra-Rose, it doesn’t have to be forever. Your mother and I can’t be together anymore and we thought that it would be easier if I wasn’t in Logan for the time being.”
I wiped at my eyes, glad I wasn’t wearing any makeup. “Okay, I get it. But why you? We both know that Mom and I don’t get along and I don’t want you to be so far away.”
His dark eyes narrowed. “Now, Lyra-Rose, I will not have you talking like that about your mother.”
My eyes cast down like when I was little and he would scold me. “I still don’t want you to go,” I said lamely.
“Mr. Dawson, Lyra thinks that this is somehow her fault because of her relationship with Mrs. Dawson. I think that’s what’s bugging her most,” Randall added, opening his big, stupid mouth.
My dad blinked once. “Is that what you think? Oh, Lyra, none of this is your fault. We’ve just grown apart and it’s time for a change.”
I gave him a watery smile. “When are you leaving?”
He looked almost embarrassed. “Tomorrow.”
I swallowed back the lump in my throat and nodded once. Now wasn’t the time to break down like I so wanted to and pretending to be tough was so much easier. “Okay. Can I go with you? I want to help.”
“Sure, honey. I would love for you to come with me to Salt Lake for the day.”
I’d never been a fan of airplanes so I was exceptionally glad my dad agreed to let us drive down from Logan even if it made the trip that much longer. For the entire drive down I could pretend that we were just having a day trip but that carefully crafted illusion ended when we arrived at his new penthouse. A ton of his things, including most of his football memorabilia, were already moved in like it belonged in the bachelor pad. The sight of where my father would be staying for an extending period of time made my heart hurt.
I stayed for the majority of the day helping him get settled but it felt wrong somehow that he wouldn’t be making the return trip with me. When it was time for me to leave he kissed my cheek and muttered, “Be good. I’ll see you soon, honey.” I knew that he was lying just to make me feel better so I swallowed and gave him a half smile as I left.
The drive back to Logan felt like a much longer trip when I was upset and alone. I tried turning the radio up to full blast but even that couldn’t make me feel any better. I was only a couple of hours away from home when the weather started to match my mood.
The rain came first, puttering angrily against my windshield. It started lightly before buckets began assaulting the car. Next came the wind, so hard it felt like it was trying to push me completely off the road. The thunder and lightning were coupled together. Forks of blue-white light streaked across the night sky making it bright as day and thunder boomed instantly, rocking the car frame. I didn’t give the storm too much thought, just wrote it off as the kind of crazy weather the Southwest states got during monsoon season.
“Crap,” I muttered when it felt more like I was on a river than a road. I leaned so far forward in my seat my chin nearly rested on the steering wheel and glimpsed the road for only the split seconds the wipers were able to clear water from the window.
That’s when I saw her standing in the middle of the road.
I gasped and slammed on my breaks. Bad idea. The tires couldn’t find any traction and the tiny sedan hydroplaned, spinning off the road and flipped over once. I tried to fill my deflated lungs but my chest and stomach hurt too much so I settled for shallow pants. My head was pounding so much that I was dizzy and most of my body hurt just as badly.
My door was ripped off its hinges, making me jump which only brought more pain. Vega stood there completely dry with a smirk plastered on her full, pink lips. My eyes filled with horror and her mouth stretched into a full grin as she gazed down at me. “Oh, my poor little sister. Look what you’ve done now, Lyra. You wanted to be human and now you’re going to get to die like one of your disgusting creatures. I want you to know that I am really going to enjoy this.”
Her slender hands wrapped around my throat, choking off what little oxygen I had. I struggled against her but she was surprisingly strong for someone so petite. My nails raked against the warm skin of her hands but she didn’t even notice the bloody tracks I left. I was fading fast and Vega looked like she was living up to her promise of enjoying my slow demise.
With my right hand, I reached over and searched the passenger’s seat for my cell phone. My slim fingers connected with the cold plastic after a minute of frantic searching and probably would have let out a relieved cry if I had any breath to spare. I had enough energy to dial one number before everything turned to blissful nothingness.