It took a week after Spirit's death for Willow to start acting normal again. I still didn't know what to do to help her out so I just cooked a couple meals when I heard her crying in her room or throwing up. For a few days I had forgotten about why I was there in the first place.
Then we had a visitor.
We were eating lunch. Aaron and I took the day off; it was too hot to be out there right now. Willow answered the door and stood still, staring at whoever it was.
"Can I come in?" I heard Polly ask.
"I guess," Willow said monotonously.
Polly came in and, for a brief moment, I felt insulted. She was wearing designer clothes and carrying a new Gucci handbag. Really? After getting cut off and tossed out of my house, this is how she shows up? She cleared her throat and looked around awkwardly.
"Is there a place we can sit and talk?" she asked.
"Living room, I guess," I muttered and the three of us sat down.
Aaron stayed close by, leaning on the wall and watching all three of us.
"So... how have you been?" she asked but I didn't bother to answer. "You've gotten a tan."
"Have you even bothered to try and fix anything?" Willow cut in.
Polly sighed. "It's complicated, you guys! Mom and Dad are pissed and, even though I keep telling them it isn't true, they're hell bent on believing the media." She looked at her lap. "Evan broke up with me."
I tried to feel pity for her but it was hard.
"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. "You promised to help us, Polly."
"I'm doing everything I can," she said.
"Really?" Willow snapped. "Because it's been a month and I was lucky to get to my barn for my horse's death last week!" Polly winced. "I can't leave my damn house without people demanding to know why I was 'cheating' on Brandon!"
"I thought it would die down by now," she admitted and I sat back.
"You haven't been doing jack shit, have you?" I whispered.
She bit her lower lip and Willow made an angry noise.
"Perhaps... perhaps this is good for you," Polly said and I clenched my hands into fists. "I mean, I can see you've been working hard and-"
"Are you shitting me!?" I yelled, jumping to my feet. "I went from the top to the bottom in less than 24 hours because of your damn plan! Now I've had to witness a horse's death, pain in my muscles I never knew I could experience, being forced into someone else's clothing, and now I find out that my sister isn't even helping like she said!"
"I didn't make her take the money!" she argued, standing as well. "And your life isn't the only that has been ruined! Evan broke up with me!"
"So you lost your fiancé," I sneered. "Look at me, Polly! I can't even recognize myself in the mirror!"
"This isn't all my fault so stop blaming me!"
"We're not blaming you solely for what happened," Willow spoke up. She was still sitting. "But you promised to help us." Polly's lower lip trembled and Willow sighed. "They're paying you, aren't they?"
"Maybe," Polly said in a small voice.
"Who?" I demanded.
"Your parents," Willow said in a hollow voice. "Don't you see, Nathaniel? This isn't about the media. This isn't about Brandon. This isn't about Evan. This is about your parents wanting your sister, not you, to take over." She stood, her body shaking. "Who really came up with the bribe for me? You or your mother?" Polly was going pale. "Was it a real accident that the media was told he and I were dating?"
"I didn't know you had a boyfriend," Polly said in a small voice. "It was just supposed to be a harmless rumor. We thought that-that if Nathan had a respectable girlfriend then broke up with her.... They said they'd give Evan the money for the tour and...."
I shut my eyes, doing everything to stop myself from hitting her. This whole time....
"I think you should leave," I said quietly.
"I-I have Willow's money," she said and got a check out of her purse. She passed it to Willow. "I wanted to apologize for all the damage I caused."
Willow was staring at the check with a blank expression on her face. Then she looked at Polly. Even Aaron took a step back from the look on her face.
"You're despicable," she spat. "You and your parents. The next time paparazzi appear on my father's property, I will show them this check." She stepped closer. "Would your parents appreciate that, Polly?" Polly didn't answer. "That's what I though. I can't believe you'd do this to your own brother."
I stared. She was defending me?
Polly pointed a shaking finger at me. "If he wasn't such a womanizer, this wouldn't have happened!"
"I think you should leave," Willow said calmly. "I'll hold onto this check but you can bet your perfectly permed head that I'm not cashing it in."
"Are you trying to bribe me?" she snapped.
"Oh I'm not bribing you. I'm flat out warning you. Now get out of my father's house."
Polly started to cry. "I really am sorry."
"We don't want to hear it," I snapped. "Now get out!"
She gulped and took her purse, rushing to the door. When it closed, we all stood in silence. Willow sighed, staring down at the check.
"We could use this money to replace that fence, Dad," she said.
"No," he said. "Do what you said. I'm sick and tired of those folks on my property." He walked over. "I'm sorry, Nathan."
I felt betrayed. I didn't know what to do. Willow put her hand on my shoulder.
"Come on," she muttered, folding the check and putting it in her pocket.
"Where are we going?" I asked in a flat voice.
"We're going to teach you how to take care of a horse," Aaron said, opening the door for us. "You'd be surprised how therapeutic it can be."
"I don't know," I said slowly.
"He's right, Nathaniel," Willow whispered. "At least give it a shot."
I shrugged. "Fine."