Pulling my hood over my head, I head for the door. "Nah, I got some stuff to do tonight."
"That's bull." He reaches to shut off the computer screen. "Everyone knows the only reason you don't play anymore is because of Ella. But you need to quit being a pu**y and get over her."
"I think I'm going to... " I smack his hand away from the off button and squint at a picture of a girl on the screen. She has the same dark green eyes and long auburn hair as Ella. But she has on a dress and there isn't any heavy black liner around her eyes. She also looks fake, like she's pretending to be happy. The Ella I knew never pretended.
But it has to be her.
"Dude, what are you doing?" Ethan complains as I snatch my phone off my bed. "I thought we were giving up for the day."
I tap the screen and call information. "Yeah, can I get a number for Ella Daniels in Las Vegas, Nevada." I wait, worried she's not going to be listed.
"She's been down in Vegas." Ethan peers at the photo on the screen of Ella standing next to a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes in front of the UNLV campus. "She looks weird, but kinda hot. So is the girl she's with."
"Yeah, but she's not your type."
"Everyone's my type. Besides, she could be a stripper and that's definitely my type."
The operator comes back on and she gives me a few numbers listed, one of the numbers belongs to a girl living on the campus. I dial that number and walk out into the hall to get some privacy. It rings and rings and rings and then Ella's voice comes on the voicemail. She still sounds the same, only a little unemotional, like she's pretending to be happy, but can't quite get there.
When it beeps, I take a deep breath and pour my heart out to the voicemail.
"I swear to God if we don't find a bathroom soon, I'm going to piss in my pants." Lila bounces up and down in the driver's seat. The air conditioner is turned up as high as it will go and "Shake it Out" by Florence + The Machine plays from the speakers. There's a long road of highway stretched out in front of us, weaving over the hills spotted with trees, sage brush, and the pale pink glow of the sunset.
My cell phone is in my pocket, heavy like it weighs a hundred pounds. "You can always pull over and pee behind a bush." I prop my bare feet up on the dash and pull my white lacy tank top away from my skin to get air flowing. "Besides, we're like five minutes away from the off-ramp."
"I can't hold it for five more minutes." She shoots me a dirty look and squeezes her legs together. "You're not going to think it's so funny when the car smells like piss."
I smother a laugh and search the GPS for the nearest restroom. "There's one right off the exit, but I think it's more of an outhouse."
"Does it have a toilet?"
"Then it works." She makes a sharp swerve, cutting off a silver Honda. The Honda lays on its horn and she turns in her seat to flip him the middle finger. "What a jerk. Doesn't he understand that I have to pee?"
I shake my head. I love Lila to death, but sometimes she can be a little self-centered. It's part of what drew me to her; she was so different from my old friends back in Star Grove.
My phone beeps again for the millionth time, letting me know I have a message waiting for me. Finally, I shut it off.
Lila turns down the music. "You've been acting weird ever since we left. Who called you?"
I shrug, gazing out at the grassy field. "No one I want to talk to right now."
Five minutes later, we pull up to the outhouse at the edge of town. It's more like a shack with rusty metal siding and a faded sign. The field behind it is spotted with corroded cars and trucks and in front of it is a lake.
"Oh thank God!" She claps her hands and parks the car. "I'll be right back." She jumps out and shuffles inside the bathroom.
I climb out of the car and stretch my legs, trying not to look at the lake or the bridge going over it, but my gaze magnetizes toward the level bridge with beams curving overhead and out from the sides. The middle one was where I was standing the night I almost jumped. If I squint one eye and tilt my head, I can spot it.
An old Chevy pickup comes flying down the road, kicking up a cloud of dust. As it nears, my nose twitches because I know who it is and he's one of the last people I want to see. The truck stops just outside the perimeter of the field behind the restrooms. A lanky guy, wearing a tight t-shirt, a snug pair of jeans, and cowboy boots comes strutting out.
Grantford Davis, town pothead, infamous brawl starter, and the guy who dropped me off at the bridge that God awful night eight months ago.
I bang on the bathroom door. "Come on Lila, hurry up."
Grantford looks my way, but there's no recognition in his eyes, which isn't surprising. I've changed since the last time anyone saw me, shedding my gothic clothes, heavy eyeliner, and tough-girl attitude for a more lighter and pleasant look, so I blend in with the crowd.
"You can't rush nature, Ella," Lila hisses through the door. "Now let me pee in peace."
I watch Grantford like a hawk as he rolls a tire across the field toward his pickup.
The bathroom door opens and Lila walks out cringing. "Gross, it was so disgusting in there. I think I might have caught herpes just looking at the toilet." She shivers, wiping her hands on the side of her dress. "And there were no paper towels."
Grantford has disappeared, although his truck is still there.
I grab Lila's arm and tug her toward the car. "We need to go."
Lila elevates her eyebrows questioningly as she tries to keep up with me. "What's wrong with you?"
"Nothing," I say. "There was just this guy over in the field that I really don't want to talk to."
"Is he an old boyfriend?"
"No, not even close...." I trail off as Grantford rounds the bathroom.
There's sweat on his forehead and grass stains on his jeans. "I need to talk to you for a minute."
"Why?" I question, swinging the car door open. Please don't bring up that night. Please.
Lila freezes as she's opening the door and her gaze darts to me. "Ella, what's going on?"
Grantford tucks his hands into his pockets, staring at the hood of the car. "This ain't your car, is it?"
"No, we just stole it and took it for a joy ride." Shit. Ten minutes back and my old attitude is slipping out. "I mean, yes it is - her car anyway." I nod my head at Lila.
"Well, I was just wondering how fast it goes?" He gives me a fox smile that makes me want to gag.