Chapter 21

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Friday morning began with an early start. I woke up at five thirty for some reason, rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, and realized a moment later that it was completely futile. So I dragged myself out of bed and padded to the shower. When I was smelling like my favorite cherry blossom shampoo and just a little more awake, I yanked off the shower faucet and wrapped myself up in a towel. It took me about five minutes to get dressed, brush my hair, and dust on my usual light layer of makeup.

After that was all finished, it was barely six fifteen. I needed to get out of the house.

I slipped on my coat, tucked my cell phone into my pocket, grabbed my school bag, and left the apartment. Mom and Dad were heavy sleepers - no surprises there since they worked ridiculous hours - so slipping outsider unheard wasn't a problem. I probably should have left them a note telling them I left earlier, but I decided that I just didn't care at the moment.

The streets outside weren't as busy as they normally were, so it took less time to get to the subway. The subway ride seemed much shorter than it normally did, too. And it was when I was walking off the train did I realize where I'd unconsciously decided to go. I'd unintentionally been heading to the coffee house. Hopefully the Morales family wouldn't mind an unexpected visit. I knew what had happened yesterday couldn't have been easy for any of them to hear, and the last thing they needed was someone dropping in on them without announcing the visit first.

I'd made it to the top of the street where the coffee house and was just deciding on turning back around to actually head for school when I caught sight of Archer sitting outside on the sidewalk. I couldn't see his face, but I knew it was him, and I knew must've had a lot of his mind.

Before I could change my mind, I fast walked down the sidewalk to the coffee house and dropped myself down onto the ground beside Archer. He looked up in surprise at me and raised an eyebrow, his lips pressed together in a tight line.

"What're you doing in here?" he asked quietly, scuffing his shoe against the sidewalk.

"Couldn't sleep," I said with a shrug. "And I wanted a cherry Danish."

Archer gave a snort of a laugh. "Very funny."

"I try."

I saw him fiddling with something in his hands out of the corner of my eye and turned to see that he was rolling a cigarette between his fingers. There was a disconcerting look in his eyes as he twisted the cigarette between his fingers, like he was having a serious internal debate with himself.

"Need a light?" I asked, pursing my lips.

Archer shook his head, the corners of his lips twisting in a grin. "I haven't smoked in awhile."

Well, I certainly hadn't been expecting to hear that.

"You haven't? Why not?" I demanded, trying to keep my voice down.

"Some annoying girl made me see reason," Archer said nonchalantly. "No big deal, really."

Huh. Not a big deal? I happened to think it was a very big deal, but to each her own.

"I bet that annoying girl is proud of you for it, though," I said in what I hoped was a cheery voice.

"Oh, I don't know," Archer sighed. He bounced the cigarette in his palm for a second before he whipped back his arm and chucked it across the street. I lost sight of it a second later. "She probably is, but she's so confusing I have no idea what she's thinking about all the time."

My heart started pounding against my chest at his words and I was hesitant to look him in the eye. I had rarely ever heard Archer be so open before, even in a jestful manner. The only time he'd ever been open to sharing with me was probably that one time he told me about his dad in Central Park.

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