“And someone catches you when you fall.”
I nodded slowly. “Vanessa and Eli are always around, which is probably why I called Vanessa.”
“I know they’re your best friends, but it’s not their job to make sure you don’t get murdered or taken advantage of by someone.”
I frowned, unable to rationalize that he was overreacting. “It’s not like I haven’t taken care of them too. I’ve held Vanessa’s hair back plenty of times.”
“This isn’t college, Maya. You’re an adult. How long are you going to keep doing this?”
My face heated, my frustration rising to the surface. “You know what, I’m suffering for it enough. I don’t need you judging me. Trust me, this isn’t how I wanted to spend Christmas.” I pressed my fingers to my temples, willing away the pain that came with the force of my words. “What time is it?”
“Almost noon, why?”
“I should head out soon.”
“Where are you going?”
“My grandmother. Not like she’ll miss me, but I should go so she isn’t alone on Christmas. Now that this deal is done anyway.”
“Where does she live?”
“A home, a few hours outside the city.”
“Let me drive you.”
“It’s fine. I usually just rent a car.” I groaned inwardly at the thought of doing absolutely anything in my current condition, let alone coordinating the last minute details of this trip.
“You’re in no condition to drive. Plus it’s supposed to start snowing soon.”
“I’m not still drunk!” I snapped.
He stood up. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were, honestly. Even so, I can’t imagine you feel well enough to drive. I’ll take you. Go get cleaned up, and maybe we can get some food into you before we leave.”
CAMERON. The snow started not long after we left. I registered immediate relief when the city skyline was in our rearview, as if we’d passed out of a noise and chaos filled bubble and entered another country, the country. It happened every time I left, and every time I found myself eager to reenter the bubble upon my return.
Maya had fallen asleep against her coat. She’d barely eaten, but her color had returned a little. She was on her way to better, at least.
A couple hours had passed when the phone rang. I answered quickly to silence it. Olivia. “What’s up?”
“Where are you?”
“I’m with Maya.”
“That’s great, but Mom and Dad are here. Everyone’s wondering where you are.”
“Well, you can tell them I’m with Maya. They’ll love that. We’re going to visit her grandmother.”
“What? Where? Are you driving?”
“Yes, I’m driving, and I probably won’t be back until late. So feel free to be merry without me.”
“Cameron, you can’t leave us here with them.” Her voice had degraded into an angry whisper.
I suppressed a laugh. In a way, I was devilishly happy about her current predicament. On the other hand, I did feel a pang of regret that I’d abandoned her. There were strength in numbers, and usually between the three of us, we could keep any one of us from being fully sabotaged by the onslaught of their judgments and snide remarks. Our army of three had been reduced by one, but we wouldn’t have needed an army at all if she’d kept her mouth shut.
“You made your bed, Liv. Deal with it. Send my condolences to Darren.”
“They are going to freak out. You need to get back here.”
“Tell them to get a hotel, and I’ll be back later. Maybe we’ll have a chance to visit before they go. I’m sorry, but there’s no chance I’m coming back right now.”
“F**k you,” she snapped before ending the call.
I dropped the phone into the drink holder and focused ahead.
“Who was that?”
Maya had straightened in her seat, her tired eyes looking to me from under her dark lashes.
“What’s going on?”
I shrugged, not wanting to get into it.
“Here’s a teachable moment, Cameron. You lecture me about shutting you out, and that’s exactly what you’re doing to me right now. If I’m going to learn by example, you might want to rethink the silent shrug and tell me what’s going on.”
“You must be feeling better. You’re starting to piss me off me again.”
She turned to look out the window, and I caught her smile in the reflection of the window.
“Fine. My parents are visiting. Olivia invited them, sort of.”