As Abi shut the door to her room, something flew through the air, headed toward her face. She flailed her arms, trying to both catch the object and guard her face from any more impending attacks. It was a duffel bag.
“We need to pack you some things. Although,” Cora paused, assessing Abi’s closet, “I have no idea what you could possibly wear from all this fashion faux poo clothing.”
Abi picked the bag up and set it on the bed, her fingers adjusting and readjusting the strap. “What’s the plan?”
“You’re ‘spending the night.’ Say we’re working on a project together or—oh! Say we just started my tutoring sessions.” She wiggled her brows, proud of herself.
“Okay, so what time is the party?”
“We probably won’t get there until around ten. Nothing much happens until then.” Cora thumbed through Abi’s tops, picking out one that Cora had bought for her. “Oh, what about this one? Wait … What is this?” She held up the tag on it, turning to face Abi so fast that her blue hair fanned out and slapped Abi’s face.
“You know I have nowhere to wear that to.” And Abi didn’t. It was a mostly see-through black top with tiny black sequins all over it.
“Well, you’re wearing it tonight. What cute bras do you have?” She started toward the dresser when realization dawned on Abi.
“I’m not wearing just a bra under this thing!” How did Cora even think that was an option?
“Do you want to look like Gram-Gram? No? Then wear something exciting, A!”
“Okay, okay. You can wear a tank top under it.” She threw it in the bag for Abi and they packed up the rest of her clothes.
They went back downstairs, Abi holding her backpack weighed down with books, and Cora with the duffel bag.
“Hi, Mr. Cole. Do you mind if Abi stays the night at my place? We wanted to work on an English project together.” Cora had spoken before they even rounded the corner to the dining room, interrupting a conversation between Mr. Flynn and Abi’s dad.
Warmth rose to Abi’s cheeks, and she tried to put her mind elsewhere, to calm her nerves before her dad read her thoughts.
This was so stupid. It was a school night. What was she thinking trying to sneak around like this? She waited for the response she knew had to be coming.
“Is this necessary on a Thursday?” her dad asked, looking at Cora as she stepped forward.
“Well,” Cora drew the word out, “it’s not due until Monday, but we wanted to make sure we did all the research we needed to do tonight so we could write it over the weekend.”
Abi was impressed. Cora was playing toward a history buff’s obvious love for research.
“And you don’t want to stay over here tonight? You’re more than welcome to if you like, Cora.”
Mr. Flynn took a swig of his beer, and Abi caught a look he sent her dad, who thankfully wasn’t paying attention.
“I don’t have any clothes, though, so I’d need to go home to get them and my English stuff. Plus my mom is baking a cake tonight, and I promised Abi she could have some.”
“Abi?” Her dad’s tone was harsh and Abi’s throat seized up. “You’re going to enjoy some of Joy’s cake without bringing some over here?” There was a chuckle at the table, and Abi let out a loud coughing laugh.
“Where’s Abi going?” Dread washed over her as her mom’s eyes widened in panic, looking from Abi to her dad. This wasn’t good.
“It’s okay. She’s going to go stay at Cora’s house to study.”
“Hmm-mm-mm.” The sound bumped rhythmically as her mom rocked in her seat, hitting the back of the chair. “Nope. Not safe. Not safe. Nope.”
Abi looked at Cora, wishing they could run out of the house and not worry about any of this.
“Mary.” Her dad’s voice was practiced—calm but firm. “Abi is going to stay at Cora’s house. She’ll be right up the road. She’ll be safe.”
“No, she won’t!” she screamed, standing quickly. A glass of water fell to the hardwood floor, shattering.
“Abi, upstairs. Cora, I’m so sorry.” Her dad ushered Cora toward the door as her mom grunted and swayed from one foot to the other. Abi obeyed, the excitement of the party gone.
Cora gave Abi a quick wave before the door clicked shut behind her.
Abi moved up the stairs, pausing at her bedroom door out of habit. Ben’s door was closed, no light coming from the gap at the bottom. How many times had they been sent to their rooms growing up, not because they were in trouble, but because their mom was upset about something?
She sat on the edge of her bed, listening to her dad and Mr. Flynn try to calm her mom down. It was all her fault. Her mom somehow knew she wasn’t going to study, and now she had ruined the entire evening for all of them.
Nearly an hour had passed when Abi heard a knock on her door, two quick taps, a pause, and another one.
“Hey, bug,” he said, stepping inside. “She’s lying down right now.”
“I’m sorry, Dad.” Her eyes stung and she blinked rapidly.
“It’s not your fault. Your mom’s just tired and that happens.” He checked his watch. “I think it might be a little too late for you to go to Cora’s, though.”
She waved, trying to quell the traitorous blush. “It’s okay. We’ll work on it this weekend.”
He kissed the top of her head and left. No sooner had he pulled her door closed did Abi’s phone buzz.
Look out your window.
Confusion gave way to horror as she pushed her curtains back. Cora was looking up at her, hands stuffed into her jacket pockets.