Three and a half months ago (17 years old)
“Don’t make me do this. Please, Mom. I don’t need to go anywhere— I’m clean. I swear!”
“I don’t want to hear it, Sophie.” Mom snaps my suitcase shut and marches downstairs. I follow. I have to fight her. Make her believe me.
Someone has to.
My dad’s waiting for us at the front door, his coat over his arm like he’s off to work. “Ready?” he asks.
“Yes,” Mom says. Her heels click across the Spanish-tile floor as she takes her place next to him.
“No.” I plant myself at the bottom of the stairs, square my shoul- ders, and cross my arms. My bad leg shakes as disappointment bears down on me from both sides. “I won’t go. You can’t make me.”
My dad sighs and looks at his feet.
“Get in the car, Sophie Grace,” Mom orders.
I say it low and slowly. “I don’t need to go anywhere. I didn’t relapse. Mina and I weren’t out scoring. I’m clean. I’ve been clean for over six months. I’ll take any drug test you give me.”
“The police found the pills in your jacket, Sophie,” Dad says. His voice is hoarse and his eyes are red. He’s been crying. Crying over me. Over what he thinks I’ve done. “The bottle had your fingerprints on it. You were supposed to be at Amber’s house, but you girls were out at
Booker’s Point instead. You were buying drugs. Even if you didn’t get around to taking the pills, you bought them—they didn’t just magi- cally appear in your pocket. Seaside is the best choice for you right now. Do you know how hard your mother had to fight just so you wouldn’t get a drug charge on your record?”
I look desperately at each of them. Dad won’t even look at me; Mom’s face is frozen; she’s in ice-queen mode. Nothing will crack it.
I have to try.
“I’ve told you before, they weren’t mine. Detective James has it all wrong. We weren’t out at Booker’s Point for drugs—Mina was meeting someone because of a newspaper story. The police are going after the wrong people, and they won’t believe me. I need you to believe me.”
Mom rounds on me, the suitcase swinging in her fist. “Do you understand what you’ve put me and your father through? What about Mrs. Bishop? Do you care what she must be feeling right now? She’s already lost a husband, and now she has to lose her daughter, too! Trev will never see his sister again. And all because you wanted to get high.” She spits out the words, and I feel like less than nothing. A speck
on her shoe. Narrowing her eyes at me, she goes on, “So if you don’t get in that car, if you don’t go to Seaside and learn how to stay clean, I swear to God, Sophie . . .” Tears glimmer in her eyes as the anger evaporates.
“I keep almost losing you,” she whispers, and her voice trembles and cracks with the weight of the words. “This is what I should’ve done the first time, but I didn’t. I’m not going to make that mistake again.” Her voice hardens. “Get in the car.”
I don’t move. I can’t. Moving would be like admitting she’s right.
Six months. Five days. Ten hours.
That’s how long I’ve been clean, and I repeat it over and over to myself. As long as I focus on that, as long as I’m committed to making that number rise, minute by minute, day by day, I’m going to be okay. I have to be.
I shake my head and grip the banister. “I can’t let you do this.”
All I can think about is Mina. Mina’s in the ground and her killer’s walking free, and the cops are looking in all the wrong places.
My dad grabs me around the waist, breaking my hold, and lifts me over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. It’s gentle; Dad is always gentle with me, like how he used to carry me upstairs after the accident. But I’m done with his gentleness. It doesn’t make me feel safe anymore. I pound on his back, red faced, yelling, but it doesn’t stop him. He yanks the front door open, and my mother stands on the porch, watching us, her arms hugging her body like it’ll protect her.
He strides down the driveway and dumps me into the car, his face stony as he slides into the driver’s seat.
“Dad.” Tears are slick down my cheeks. “Please. I need you to believe me.”
He ignores me, fires up the engine, and drives.