Logan's visit disturbed my plans for the day, but gave me a feeling that I hadn't felt in a long time: Desire to enjoy a nice day. Before he arrived, I'd spent most, if not all of my time inside, or out on the beach behind the houses. It was a pretty bad morning too and as we ate our eggs and bacon at Tinkered, my mind kept going back to my mom's lack of energy that morning.
"What's wrong with mom?" Elena asked, her voice small and eyes wide. She'd crept into my room and stood beside my bed until I woke up. "She's in bed, but dad said not to bug her."
"She's probably sleeping," I narrowed my tired eyes at her, trying to hint at the current situation. "It's nice when people sleep."
"Lex, something's wrong with her." She climbed onto my bed and the mattress barely moved under her thin body. I sat up and watched my sister wring her hands like an old woman awaiting bad news. "What's wrong with her? I know you and dad are hiding something from me, you always do."
I sighed and scratched my head before saying, "Nothing's wrong, El, just let her sleep. You know she gets headaches."
"Why, though?" she pressed. "Why does she have so many headaches? And why does she never go to the parties my friends invite us to?"
"She does go with you."
"Not in the last month."
My sister, the little observant Harriet.
"You're right," I concede, but proceed with caution. "Mom's just tired lately, she needs to rest."
"Lex, please." Her voice was so soft and her big brown eyes so watery, I felt very, very bad for her. I loved my sister, no matter how annoying she was. That's why I couldn't tell her. This secret, which has hung over me like a burden since the day I offered to carry it, belongs to my dad, mom, and I. Not an innocent thirteen year-old. Not yet.
"Look, I need to shower and get dressed. We'll talk about this later."
She frowned, her lips pressing together until they were thin and angry. She stumbled out of my room and down the stairs.
I kept seeing her small face all wrinkled into the mask of pain she'd taken to wearing lately whenever mom stayed in bed. But dad, mom, and I are doing this for her. Sometimes secrets were better off left alone and forgotten, collecting dust and spiderwebs.
After Tinkered, I took Logan all around Pueblo. I ignored the fascinated glances thrown at Logan and the odd ones shot at me. I knew that a year ago, no one would be surprised to see this polo wearing, football-type guy walking around town with me. But now everything was different.
Logan oohed and aahed when I showed him the small movie theatre, the most expensive restaurant in town (one lobster cost about eighty bucks), and my favorite, the book store. I was afraid he would shy away from the shelves and the scent of used books, but to my surprise, he led me inside. I said hi to Dolores, the cashier, and introduced Logan.
By the time noon arrived, I'd shown Logan the more important parts of town. I giggled when he became fascinated with the coconut trees growing lazily on the edges of the beach, and when he couldn't believe that people lived in the mansions behind the huge fence blocking the citizens of Pueblo from the rich tourists.
We found a vendor by the beach selling churros, a fried doughy treat with sprinkled sugar, and I urged him to buy at least one for himself, while I bought three. Finding a spot on the beach was easy since most of the locals knew to avoid the sun at this hour. Tourists were splayed out in no specific fashion across the wide span of sand, while children splashed each other and occasionally emitted shrills of laughter.
"This is nice," Logan commented as we sat on a lone brick wall near the beach's food court, our legs dangling just above the hot sand. He bit into his churro and his eyes grew, before shrinking to what I assumed was bliss. "Screw the view, wow, these are good."
I laughed, my stomach hurting from the overdose of laughter and sugar. "I told you!" I gasped, biting into my own churro.
"Yes," he nodded slowly. "You were right."
I smiled and leaned back on one arm, while finishing off my first churro.
"So, am I the only one who noticed the weird looks we got today?"
I sat back up and busied myself with taking out the second churro, pretending that he hadn't ruined the moment with his question.
"What was that about?" he asked again.
"It's not you." I wiped rebellious sugar off my cheeks. "It's me."
His brow furrowed and the way he looked at me then, his blue eyes nearly the same shade as the ocean beyond his head, broke something loose within me. My mouth was suddenly very dry, but I could tell that even if I went to get something to drink, he'd still be waiting for a response.
"They don't like me," I licked my lips and looked back down at the brown paper bag in my lap. "I'm sort of a social pariah."
"Why?" His voice hinted at his disbelief, but his face was impassive, waiting for me to explain.
"My best friend, Becca, told everyone I was a loser."
We were quiet for a moment, then, "That's funny, 'cause if someone says that about someone else, then it's evident who the real loser is."
My cheeks flushed. "But I am," I swallowed. "A loser, I mean."
"Trust me," he gave me an easy smile. "If you're a loser, than I'm one too."
I playfully punched him on the arm and instantly felt embarrassed at how simple it was to reach over and touch him.
"I'm serious. Hey," he said and I looked back up at him. "You're the last person I would ever call a loser."
After we finished our churros, Logan and I headed back to our respective houses. The plan was to change into our swimsuits and head down to the beach. We parted ways and I walked briskly towards my house. I heard Elena before I'd even unlocked the door.
"But no one tells me anything!" she was yelling, her small voice carrying heavily over the house and through the walls. "It's always secrets and lies. For god's sake, I'm thirteen, not five!"
"Elena, please, not now." Dad was seated in the entertainment room, his hand holding the T.V. remote. His once luscious head of brown hair was now thinning and grey, while his tan had receded to a pasty color.
As I watched, my sister started crying and before I could interject, she'd run past me and up the stairs to her room.
My dad sighed and the television remained dark. "She had another episode today, the doctor said she would have to go in soon."
I leaned against the door frame and crossed my arms. "When are we telling Elena?"
"When your mom thinks it's time."
I puckered my lips and felt the impending headache coming before it started throbbing behind my eyes.
"This is your mom's choice, kiddo, let's give her the right to choose when to tell Elena, okay?"
I nodded, though he couldn't see me.
"How is she?"
"Your mother's asleep again, but I had to help her go to the bathroom a few times."
I shut my eyes and pressed, pressed, pressed against the headache, the tears, the frustration--against the idea that we had all this money, yet there was nothing we could do for mom. It gnawed at me that dad, once a busy banker, now stayed at home and worked from his office, just so he could stay here with mom. It bugged me that we couldn't live our normal lives like before because of one test.
When I met Logan outside the house in my black bikini, I watched his smile fall.
"What's wrong?" he asked, his hand reaching out for me.
I took a step back and eased my facial muscles into a strained smile. "Nothing, just family stuff." I looked behind him, avoiding his stare. "Race you to the water?"
He gave me an odd look, something I was well accustomed with, before shrugging and sprinting off. I laughed away my sadness and weariness as I raced after him, the hot sand my feet kicked up hitting my calves.