Chapter 20

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        Mom stared at me over the rim of her coffee cup while she sat at the dining table, not for the first time this morning. I had the creepy feeling that I had some sign that said "LOOK AT ME" taped to my forehead. Normally my mother never spent this much of her precious time concerning herself with me. Sad to admit, yes, but it was entirely the truth.

 I set my empty bowl of oatmeal in the sink and turned to stare at Mom, gripping the kitchen counter. "Is there something on my face?" 

 Mom tsked into her cup of coffee and shook her head. "Don't take that tone with me, young lady."

 I almost blurted out a horrific obscenity at her words - a clear sign I'd been spending too much time around Archer. The boy cussed like a sailor. 

 "Okay," I said. "Sorry."

"How is school going?" 

 Now it was my turn to stare at her like she had something sticking out of her head. "Uh...school is fine, I guess? There's really not much too it."

 "How's that geometry grade?" Mom continued, sipping primly at her cup of coffee. 

"It's an 82%," I answered dully. "I got an A on my last test, though."

 "You'd better keep an eye on it," she said knowingly. "It could drop down to a C if you're not careful." 

I was very well aware of my geometry grade, thanks very much. I wasn't stupid. Mom obviously didn't want to talk to me about school. This was probably about something totally different.

 "And...your job?"

Yep. Call it teenage daughter's intuition.

"The job's fine," I said as coolly as possible. I downed my glass of water and gave an awkwardly polite smile in Mom's direction before making my way to my room. 

 "Not so fast, Hadley!"

I scrunched my eyes closed, muttered a shit under my breath, and turned back around. "Yes, Mom?"

"About you and that boy..." Mom trailed off, looking just the slightest bit embarrassed.

 "You mean Archer?" I hinted, trying not to sound too rude.

Mom nodded, clearing her throat. 

 "What about him?" I asked.

"Are you two...you know...dating?"

Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for Mom, I'd heard this so much these past three days that I was able to keep the shock and horror off my face.

 "No," I said as calmly as I could manage. "We're not. Just friends."

It stung a little at how easily Mom believed the horrible lie coming out of my mouth. Archer and I really weren't dating, but we did sort of have...a thing or whatever. And my parents didn't even know enough about to me to realize that I was obviously head over heels for "some guy". 

 "Well, then," Mom said, blowing out a sigh. "Have a good day at school then."

I stared at her for a moment before I managed to wipe the shocked look off my face. "Thanks. Have a good day at...the office."

 I turned and sprinted back to my room before Mom had a chance to say anything else.

   So far this morning was turning out to be pretty weird. Dad was still locked away in the bathroom, so that was nothing unusual. Mom, though, never bothered herself with chitchat. A long time ago she used to ask me how my day went when I got home from school and she'd help me with my homework. Once I hit high school things changed. Whether for the worse, I wasn't sure.

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