Saint Anything Page 62

I didn’t agree or say no outright. I just took it and went back to my car, where I texted Mac.

Leaving now, I told him. Alive and well.

I was pulling up to my own house when he replied. She wants to know if he asked for her number.

I thought for a second, trying to figure out where my loyalties lay in this situation. Then I typed No, which was not a lie. And waited. My phone beeped. This time, it was Layla.

Did he give you his for me?

I smiled. As tricky as I thought I was, she was again one step ahead. If I had to be behind, though, there was no one else I’d rather follow.

Yes.

A beep. A row of smiley faces filled my screen, then another. But it was Mac’s text I was focused on as I cut my engine. ADD TO CONTACTS? my phone was asking, as it did whenever an unknown number came in. It felt like a leap of faith, or even an assumption. But as I typed in his name and hit SAVE, I looked back at those rows of faces and smiled, too.

Chapter 14

HIS NAME was Mason Albert Spencer, but everyone called him Spence. He’d just moved to Lakeview and went to W. Hunt Academy, the military school just outside town. When he officially became Layla’s boyfriend, everything began to change.

Well, not everything. We still hung out at lunch every day, as well as at Seaside after school. Spence had a packed extracurricular schedule in the afternoon, so he could only see Layla on weekends, and even then he had a tight curfew. At first, I’d just assumed he was like so many other kids in the Arbors, where the number of activities you participated in reflected the money available to do them. And Spence’s stepfather, a plastic surgeon, could afford just about anything. Pretty soon, though, I began to recognize certain aspects of Spence that gave me pause. I didn’t want to say anything to Layla, though. She was just so happy.

“He’s just the sweetest,” she told me one day as we sat in our customary booth, only crusts left of our pizza slices between us. Her phone, which had always been close at hand, was now our permanent third. She checked it constantly, hopeful for even the smallest missive. “I mean, he’s, like, chivalrous. Who’s like that? And did I tell you the way he eats his French fries?”

She had: with mustard, using a knife and fork. Based on that alone, they were clearly meant for each other. Unfortunately, there were other facts, too.

Like that W. Hunt was his third school in three years. He’d ended up there only after leaving two separate boarding schools. He told Layla that things “just hadn’t worked out,” but it sounded a bit too much like Peyton’s history for my comfort. Plus, he volunteered several hours a week—at the senior center, an animal shelter, and a local after-school program—more than even Jenn, the most altruistic person I knew. Sure, maybe he had a big heart and wanted to give back. But I knew mandatory community service when I saw it.

And then there was his charm. I’d seen a glimpse of it that first day on his doorstep, but the second time we crossed paths, when he met us at Frazier Bakery one afternoon, it was in full force. Anyone else seeing him arrive wearing a big smile and carrying flowers would have probably been just as tickled as Layla was. But I knew what that mix of confidence and entitlement looked like.

“You,” she said as he slid in beside her, handing over the flowers with a flourish, “are crazy.”

“Crazy for you,” he replied, then leaned in, giving her a kiss on the lips. When they separated—about two beats longer than I was comfortable with—he turned his attention to me. “Sydney. Hey.”

“Hi,” I said.

This courtesy done, he turned back to Layla, who flushed happily. It had been her idea to pick Frazier and not Seaside, as she maintained that both her dad and Mac hated everyone she dated on sight. I seemed to remember Mac saying this was not true of her last boyfriend, even if Mr. Chatham hadn’t wanted to admit it. This was just a small detail. But the secrecy didn’t help with my suspicion.

It soon became clear that Spence felt about as enthusiastic about me. At first, he seemed fine that I was always tagging along to their various meetings. After a couple of weeks, though, I could tell that the little time they did get between his busy schedule and the fact that Layla was always working they wanted to spend alone. Maybe I should have taken this hint and left them to do just that. Instead, I made her spell it out for me.

“It’s just,” she said one day at lunch, while Eric, Mac, and Irv were having yet another loud debate about possible band names, “Spence really likes you. I mean, he thinks you’re so funny and smart. Because, you know, you are.”

I raised an eyebrow. This kind of kiss-up always led to a rug being yanked out from beneath you.

“But,” she continued, looking down at her hands, “we both want to, you know, have a chance to get to know each other. Alone.”

I glanced at Mac, but he was eating a handful of sunflower seeds, listening to Eric defend the name Cro-Magnon as a reference to the “evolutionary” nature of the band’s direction. “How are you going to do that, though?”

“Well.” She cleared her throat. “If I went home with you once in a while . . .”

“You want to hook up at my house?” I asked.

“No!” Now she looked at the boys, then lowered her voice even further. “He could meet me there, get me. And then I could come back. Later.”

“You want me to lie to Mac, too?”

“Sydney, it’s not lying.” I gave her a look. “It’s not! I’ll be at your house. Just . . . not the entire time.”

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