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Conviction(9)

By:Amanda Lance



“Which was?” I couldn’t stop smiling.

“You need something to get you to school and back, so I figured it’d be all right get you something with four wheels.”

“Absolutely not.” I was resolute about it and my tone supported me. “I have enough money saved up to buy some kind of working vehicle, and if worst comes to worst, I downloaded the Healdsburg bus schedule.”

Charlie rolled his eyes. “So damn stubborn.” He leaned into me and combed his hand through my hair. I heard his head tap against the glass of the window pane as he rested it there.

“Hmm.” I sighed as I breathed him in. “I wish I could stay with you.”

The window fogged up from his huff of laughter. “Addie, you got no idea how much…” He swallowed hard and loosened his grip on me. Something remained unsaid in the gesture, though I wasn’t entirely sure what it was. “It wouldn’t be any good for you. It’s probably a lot better for you to be living at the school. ” He looked up at me again and smiled a little, although it almost seemed to hurt him to do so. “’Sides, I’d be bothering you all the time and never let you get any schoolwork done.”

I scowled. While I admired his attempt to do what he thought was best for me, I also felt his constant need to protect me was bordering on abrasive. Perhaps it was a result of the way we met that Charlie felt an obligatory need to look after me. Maybe it was our difference in age, or that he had as little social experience as I did. Whatever his reasoning, I realized my constant reassurances were doing nothing of the sort. Maybe I was exacerbating the situation by trying to assure him of my security. Possibly, I needed to let him feel in control of the situation, give him confidence that way.





Chapter 3





It was at some point the next day when Charlie ran off to help Yuri that I took the opportunity to call Dad and confirm I was still alive and safe. I had fibbed by telling him I had already checked-into my dorm, something I was confidant he wouldn’t know about one way or the other. In reality, I was in the living room, where there was so much noise it could have sounded like a college dormitory from Dad’s side of the phone.

“Yes, Dad, everyone here is very nice so far…”

“No, Dad, that isn’t a baby crying, that’s just someone’s TV.”

“Yes, it’s pretty crazy here.”

“Okay, I will…”

“Got to go, Dad.”

I took Tyler from Polo, who had been wrangled into babysitting while Ben and Yuri tried to set up the beverage fountains without breaking them. Elise had her hands full arguing with Reid over the proper way of threatening the catering company.

“Um…let me?” Polo was enhancing some kind of new tummy tickling technique that Tyler was completely unhappy about. He shrieked loudly in Polo’s face, determined to be released.

Polo mimicked a football toss. “Oh man! Oh man! Here, Addie! Here!”

“Easy, Polo.” I put Tyler over my shoulder but he still trembled with little fits of fury. Elise made this motherhood thing look easy, but my few experiences babysitting had been average at best and I couldn’t say that my number one ambition in life was maternal. Still, I had to figure Tyler would be better off with me than Polo.

“Maybe it’s better if the two of us stay out of the way,” I whispered to Tyler. “I have a feeling we’re both pretty useless here.”

I bounced Tyler all the way up to his playroom, which looked more like a warehouse for a toy store than a place for actual play. Other than the oversized stuffed animals and light-up cars, most of the toys were untouched. The boxes they came in, however, had holes cut out of them and were taped together to form a fort that was clearly as loved as it was played in.

I let him loose there, playing peek-a-boo at the open roof of one box then startling him by sneaking up on him as he crawled out the other side. I always pretended he was just out of my reach and it made him giggle louder at every turn.

“Nice job, Ty.” I gave him thumbs up. “You can never be fast enough.”

When he got bored of the boxes he climbed the small mountain of stuffed animals and I told him about my flight, bragging on about the bedroom mural. “Of course you’re welcome anytime you want—provided you can crawl up all those stairs.” He used my shirt as a napkin and chewed on a giraffe’s ear.

Later on when we felt brave enough to venture back downstairs, Elise and Ben came back in through the terrace in the early stage of a lovers’ spat. As much as I enjoyed chatting with him, I was even more glad I had Tyler with me to provide a diversion from the awkwardness of situation. Though the topic was beyond me, I caught the end bits of their conversation as they walked past me.

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