“No, you just blame Dash. You’re still angry too, Willow.”
“Are we here to talk about you, or are we here to talk about me?” she snapped, defensively. That was my cue to bow out, but instead, I continued to stand with her, holding her stare. It seemed neither of us would back down until she sighed and asked, “Do you realize we almost never argued before them?”
There wasn’t a time I could remember ever arguing with Willow. The biggest disagreement we’d ever had was choosing a movie or pepperoni over sausage, and even then, we’d compromise. We’d spend all night at the movies to please each other and order a specialty pizza because neither of us was willing to see the other unhappy.
But I couldn’t deny how something had changed for us these past few months. I only hoped our friendship would survive it.
“Forget about it. Let’s just go to lunch and hope they have something half decent or edible.” We finished dressing in silence and met Sheldon outside of the cafeteria. I could immediately tell something was wrong from her sunken expression.
“Sheldon, are you okay?” I asked as I took in her wrinkled clothing and unkempt hair. She looked as if she’d rolled out of bed and gotten into a fight with a bull.
“I received a message from Keenan this morning.” She opened her mouth to say more, but it all seemed to disappear as she silently choked with tears. I placed a soothing hand on her back, which seemed to calm her. “I’ve never heard him speak to me like that. He sounded so cold and distant.”
“What did he say?”
“Not much. He basically called me a cold, heartless bitch and let me know, in no uncertain terms, he hated my guts.”
So much like his brother. It was a wonder no one picked up on the similarities before.
“So I take it you still haven’t gone to see him?” Willow questioned. She wore a sympathetic expression, but I knew she didn’t approve. She believed just as much as I did that Sheldon should have gone to visit him once more if only to soften the blow. Likewise, I could understand how the emotional turmoil seeing him in his state combined with the broken heart he left her with could make her keep her distance.
“I know what you guys are thinking, but I don’t know if I can do this.” Her broken whimper pierced my heart, and I glared at Willow, who shrugged her apology. “My heart is crying out for him, but I know I can’t go back and now he—he…” She choked on her words again and began to cry. “He hates me,” she whispered.
“Sheldon, you can’t blame yourself for his mistakes, and it certainly isn’t your fault his family is screwed up.”
“I know I didn’t do anything wrong. I just remember how much he hurt me over the years with his constant cheating and reckless behavior, and I remember all too vividly the pain. I never wanted to hurt him as much as he hurt me, and it just kills me knowing he’s all alone.”
“But he has his father,” Willow pointed out. “Surely, he would be here for him after everything.”
“His father is just as screwed up over his mother’s death as Keenan is. Can you imagine believing all your life the one person who is supposed to love you walked out on you just to find out later they’ve been dead this entire time?”
I knew Sheldon wasn’t directing her question at either of us in particular, but it nearly wrecked me just the same.
“Mom, how do I just tell her that her parents didn’t abandon her? They didn’t just die. They were murdered.”
Thankfully, Sheldon continued to speak, keeping me from falling further into the black abyss that was my parents.
“He told me once that he could never understand a mother’s ability to leave her own child. We were watching one of those television dramas on Lifetime, but I knew his mother was the reason he felt so strongly about it. It doesn’t help that his dad is barely in his life and hasn’t been for a long time.”
“Do you think he has abandonment issues?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe. Whatever his issues, I know it’s because of his parents.”
“Don’t you girls ever get tired of gossiping?” Buddy interrupted as he approached with his arm thrown around a blonde girl, who I was pretty sure was in my English class. I often caught her sending Keiran sultry looks, all of which he always ignored. “Doors are for walking through not blocking.”
“Buddy, you are the biggest gossip queen there is,” Willow scolded.
“Hey, hey, hey. I like to gossip just as much as the next man, but I’m no queen.”
I laughed when I took in his grave expression. He looked as if we seriously offended him, which only proved that Buddy really could be a drama queen.
“Come on guys, we should go to lunch.” I pushed open one of the doors letting Buddy and his latest lay in, followed by Willow, but when Sheldon continued to stand and stare off into the distance, I let the door close.
Even from her profile, I could see the darkening circles around her eyes and the weight she had lost.
Has she not been eating or sleeping?
Sheldon was never someone to skip a meal, so if that was the case, I knew this was more than a simple case of the high school breakup blues. I made a mental note to talk to Dash. If anyone could get through to her, it would be him. They were more than brother and sister. They were best friends.
The sound of her name snapped her out of her trance, and when her eyes met mine, she seemed to look straight through me. My throat tightened painfully. I couldn’t stand to see her as a ghost of the girl she was. Five months ago, I never thought I would come to care so much for her or anyone else.