“Tess, wait-” Avery shot up from his sitting position, but I just gently shook my head, telling him to stop. I didn’t want to talk to him right now. I didn’t want to talk to any of them.
“I need to leave. I’ll see you guys at college.” I didn’t wait for anyone’s responses as I followed Zach out of the door, slamming it in the process. We walked down the stairs in silence, his strides twice the size of mine, which made me think he wanted to be anywhere but here right now.
“Thank you for the offer, but you don’t have to take me home if you don’t want to. I can just call my dad to pick me up.” I spoke up when we reached the bottom of the stairs and grabbed the door when he held it open for me. The cold air hit me like a ton of bricks.
Outside was even colder than before, even though I hadn’t been in Nora’s for that long, and the sun had begun to set, creating an orange glow.
“Don’t be stupid. It’s freezing, come on.” I didn’t reply and followed quickly behind as he led me towards his car. He unlocked it, and I clambered into the passenger seat. The smell of cherries coming from the air freshener hit me instantly.
I half expected the car to be messy, but it was one of the cleanest cars I had ever been in. Zach turned the heating on as soon as he started the car, and I was thankful when he turned on the radio to fill the awkward silence.
The only times I had been left alone with him was when he was hanging out with my friends, and they left to go to the toilet or something. Those occasions usually left us arguing in the short amount of time and didn’t happen often.
“Do you need my address?” I asked, realising he had never been to my house before and probably had no idea where I lived.
“It’s all good. I’ve dropped off Nora a few times.” I turned my head towards the window and watched as we sped past old buildings, focusing my attention on the outside world and the soft music.
We were like this for a few minutes before Zach finally broke the quietness. I had felt him look at me a few times while driving but didn’t acknowledge it.
“You’ve lost weight.” He stated, and instantly I pulled my jacket over me to cover my body. What little weight I did gain from before Halloween had disappeared. It was another reason I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror.
“I’ve been struggling to hold an appetite for longer than a few bites of something.” I don’t know why I was telling Zachary these things, but for some reason, I felt comfortable in his car as I watched the outside world.
He wasn’t pressuring me to talk or smile. It was nice.
“I was the same after Lucy.” I was shocked when he willingly mentioned his late girlfriend’s name. I had only known about her because of Nora. “You know what helped?”
“Alcohol.” He tilted his head towards me with a small smirk at the repeating of his words from earlier.
“Yes, that, but ice cream and fries helped too. There’s just something about dipping a fry into ice cream or a milkshake that tastes so good, like sweet and salty popcorn.” The mention of fries made my mouth water. I hadn’t eaten today.
“I’ve never tried it.”
“You’ve never tried it? Man, you’ve been missing out.” A small laugh left my mouth at his reaction. I don’t think we’ve ever had a civilized conversation with each other before. “That’s it, we’re going for food right now.” He turned on his blinker and took a turn towards the town center where there were a few diners and restaurants.
“Oh no, you don’t have to do that.” I felt that he was doing enough for me already.
“Don’t make me regret being nice to you.” He pulled onto the side of the road, and I looked outside to see that we had stopped at the town’s best diner. They did the most incredible milkshakes that my dad would treat me when I was younger.
He got out of the car, and I copied his movements, waiting for him to reach my side before we began walking into the building. “I’m paying.” He brushed past me and found some empty seats next to the window. I had no idea how my day had turned into this. When I woke up, I didn’t want to leave my bed, and now I was in a diner with Zach after arguing with my best friend, and my hair was now short.
We didn’t talk much as we waited for our food to arrive. Zach had ordered us two milkshakes and a portion of fries. I was glad we were sharing because I couldn’t have stomached a full portion to myself.
I checked my phone to see that Nora had sent me a text apologising and asking if we could meet up tomorrow. I just left her on read and decided it would be best to reply when I had calmed down. I was still annoyed with her.
“You know Nora was in the station for two hours yesterday?” He eventually spoke up, his deep voice quieter than usual so that nobody could hear. I glanced over to see that his green eyes were on my phone. He must have noticed that she messaged.
I cocked my head to the side in questioning. Surely, she would have mentioned it? Or even my dad?
“How do you know?” He threw me a bored look and leaned back in his seat as he brushed his brunette hair out of his face before playing with a napkin on the table.
“She asked me for a lift once college was over, although she told Tristan she had another lecture.” He spoke like what he was saying was no big deal even though it was. After Mason’s death, we were all brought in for questioning and were told to come back to the station if we knew anything. None of us had yet to go back.
Did this mean Nora knew something?
The lady who took our order arrived at our table with a large plate of fries and two milkshakes. I sent her a smile as a thank you when she placed the drink in front of me and waited until she left to continue talking.
Zach dug in straight away.
“Do you know why she was in there?” I took a big gulp of the strawberry milkshake and almost moaned at how good it tasted. I regret not coming here more often.
Zach quickly swallowed down his food before grimacing. His facial expression told me straight away that he knew exactly why she was there. “I don’t think you want to know the reason.”
I cocked my eyebrow at his answer and leaned back against the booth with my arms folded across my chest. “And why the hell not?” He ignored my question and dipped another fry in his vanilla milkshake. Without thinking, I leaned across the table and rested my hand on his to get his attention. “Please, Zach, I’ve never asked you for anything?” The pleading didn’t go unnoticed by him, making him look up.
I had an awful gut feeling about what he was about to tell me. Nora didn’t act like the others with her grieving. She didn’t act how a friend would when they lost someone.
Zach took his hand away and straightened his back as he looked down at me. Even across the table, he was tall enough to look down at me. “I don’t think Mason went into the woods to pee that night.” He paused, waiting for me to ask the question, pushing me to ask him.
“Why was he in there?” My voice was barely above a whisper. I had already made the connection as my mind went back to all those times I told myself there was nothing to worry about, that there was only me.
“He was waiting for Nora. They were sleeping together.” I felt my stomach drop as the words left his mouth. It made me want to throw up.
“Now eat your fries.”
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