After Archer walked off, turning her world upside down, Reagan was too stunned to do anything except sit on the bench and cry.
When the bell rang, she knew there was no way she could go to class, so she went to the principal’s office. She told Mrs. Johnson, the principals admin, that she was sick and needed to go home.
She looked at her a minute before asking, “Does it have anything to do with Archer Kendall? I saw you two outside during lunch. You were crying when he left. He wasn’t happy either. Did you two have a fight?”
She sounded so genuinely concerned that Reagan blurted out, “He broke up with me.” Then she wished she could take it back because her lie was exposed. She was sick. With a broken heart, but it made her sick at her stomach too, so that part was true.
“Have a seat, I’ll call you parents,” she said sweetly.
Reagan gratefully sat down while Mrs. Johnson looked up her contact information and began to dial. It had only been three weeks since she, Ryan and Archer sat in the same chairs awaiting their punishment, but it seemed like forever. Reagan still had one week left of grounding, but then she and Archer could have been together somehow. She would even have figured out a way to go to his party. Now he didn’t even want her there.
Her stomach began to roll with her thoughts and she felt light headed. She got up and ran to the restroom. Reagan vomited what little was on her stomach.
After she cleaned up, she went back to the principals office. Only a minute later, Dannie came in. Mrs. Johnson must have got her on the phone while she was in the bathroom. The two women spoke in hushed tones before finally checking Reagan out of school.
On the short drive home Dannie asked, “Reagan? Are you okay? Do you have a fever? Mrs. Johnson said you got sick.”
“Just sick to my stomach,” mumbled Reagan and scrunched up in a ball away from her. No one spoke the remainder of the way home.
Reagan went straight to her room and sat on her bed, completely numb. Soon after, Dannie’s soft footfalls sounded on the stairs and sure enough, there was a knock on the door before she opened it. “Reagan, how are you feeling?”
“Fine. I think I’m better since I threw up,” she lied.
“I wanted to let you know that I made an appointment for you with the gynecologist,” she said gently, “We need to see if you are pregnant.” Dannie paused and sighed, “And if not, decide on an appropriate birth control method for someone your age.”
Reagan was mortified and scooted around on her bed. “I’m NOT pregnant!” She spit the words out.
Dannie sat next to Reagan and looked at her apologetically. “Hun, we just need to be sure,” she said, her words soft and gentle.
“Did you make Taylor get on birth control or go to the doctor?” shot back Reagan.
“Reagan!” scolded Dannie and made Reagan jump. Dannie never raised her voice. “I won’t dignify that with an answer. And I won’t tell your father what you just said either, because I know you’re not really spiteful. Besides, he’s already devastated enough by this mess…”
Dannie paused and took a deep breath, her voice was once again calming when she spoke. “Look Reagan, I know you are hurting badly. And I suspect it’s more than just Archer. Although I am sure that is most of it right now. It goes all the way back to finding out you and Taylor are sisters….”
“Half sisters!” corrected Reagan through her tears.
Dannie shook her head and looked miserable. “Reagan. I only want to help. You can tell me anything. I’m not here to judge you. I’ve made my share of mistakes. I just want to be an ear to help you make sense of it all,” she said, her words gentle and soothing.
She felt and sounded so much like a mother to Reagan. And her heart broke even more. She wanted her own mother, not Taylor’s. “There’s nothing anyone can do,” she finally choked out, “I just need to lie down. I don’t feel so good.”
Reagan turned away from Dannie as hot tears welled up again and laid back down on the bed.
Dannie reached over and put her hand on her hair and smoothed it down. “I’m here if you want to talk or need anything at all,” she said in a soft whisper, “and Reagan, I hope you believe me when I tell you that I love you and Ryan very much and it kills me to see you like this. I’m so sorry.”
Reagan almost leaned into her tender touch and let herself be soothed by her soft voice. But Dannie must have given up on her and removed her hand before she did. Then Reagan felt the bed move as Dannie got up and left the room, quietly shutting the door behind her.
When the door closed, an overwhelming since of loss consumed her. She wrapped her arms around her body and began to rock back and forth as she sobbed until she fell asleep.
A couple of hours later, Reagan woke to raised voices. It sounded like her father and Dannie were arguing. They never fought. And why was he home anyway?
She walked to the door and cracked it open to see if she could hear what they were saying.
“I did what needed to be done!” huffed Cole.
Dannie shot back, “He’s just an 18 year-old kid. You can’t threaten him! She’s completely devastated right now. She’s upstairs physically sick, not to mention an emotional mess. Your little girl needs you and you are pushing her away with your authoritarian attitude. Grounded for a month! That’s a lifetime to a barely 15-year old. And now this? Do you not see the life going out of her eyes?”
“Cole, quiet down. She’s going to wake up and hear you!”
“He said he thought she was 16,” he explained, his tone softer, “but when he found out she was 14, he didn’t back off. Then, he had the gall to blame me! He said if she was happy at home, then he wouldn’t have approached her. He said he loved her Dannie. He has no fucking idea what love is!”
“Baby,” said Dannie patiently, “he probably thinks he does. He obviously cares about her. I remember you were once a very smitten 18 year-old who thought he was in love.”
“Why are you defending him? Whose side are you on?”
“Your daughter’s.” Dannie sounded frustrated. “Listen, to me Cole,” she said softly, “I hope I’m wrong, but she did get sick at school. It could just be nerves, and as upset is she is, I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ll get a pregnancy test so we can know for sure, but I went ahead and made that appointment for her to see the gynecologist. If she is sexually active, she needs birth control regardless. I’ll go with her.”
“Oh Dannie,” said her dad, then everything else was muffled. Reagan heard a door close and she could no longer hear them.
If her father had anything to do with Archer breaking up with her, she would never forgive him. She wondered what he threatened Archer with to make him afraid enough to break up. He told her father he loved her. And he certainly hadn’t raped her. She would just have to tell them that.
Reagan texted Archer through her tears…she needed to know what her father said to him. But, of course, he didn’t text her back. She knew, he had blocked her again. Tomorrow, she would just have to find him at school.
Reagan heard her father coming up the stairs and quickly deleted her messages. She knew it was him because his steps were heavy and deliberate, while Dannie’s footfalls were soft and quiet. Taylor’s were quick and purposeful and Ryan’s were similar to their dad’s, except he always ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
She figured she was probably in more trouble for something. When he knocked on the door, she jumped. She knew she was a mess. “Reagan, can I come in?” he asked as he stuck his head in the door.
“Whatever,” she said and put her phone down.
He walked in and sat down next to her on the bed. His eyes were rimmed in red and he looked miserable. “Dannie called and said you came home sick. I was worried about you, so I left work early. How are you feeling?”
How could he act like nothing was wrong? she wondered. “I have a stomach flu,” she lied and looked away. She knew it was really a broken heart and it was his fault. She wasn’t pregnant. She couldn’t be. Archer always used a condom. And she wasn’t late either, at least not yet. Maybe if she was pregnant, then she could be with Archer and get out of this house. She almost wished she was.
“I’m really sorry you feel bad,” he said gently, shaking her out of her thoughts, “Can I bring you something to eat? Does anything sound good?”
“No. I just want to lie back down,” she grumbled.
“How about some crackers or ice cream. I can get your favorite, Cherry Garcia.”
“I’m fine. I don’t want anything.” Cherry Garcia actually sounded good, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
Cole sighed. “Okay. I’m really sorry baby…” He paused and swallowed hard before continuing. “That you’re sick,” he added, his voice thick with emotion.
Liar, she thought as she studied her hands, you’re only sorry because you think I’m pregnant. When the door closed, the tears came again and the knot in her stomach was back. How did everything get so messed up? she wondered. When would she ever stop crying? She wished she could talk to her mother. Surely she would understand. She would never have sent Archer away.
Later that evening, she heard Ryan come barreling up the stairs and he burst into her room. “Sis, are you okay?”
Reagan rolled her eyes. “What do you want traitor? Out of all people, I thought I could trust you!”
Ryan ignored her. “Reagan, listen,” he said with urgency, “I need to tell you something. Dannie said you came home early because you were sick, so you must have missed it. Your dumbass boyfriend got into a fight with some other guy at school. He got fucking suspended, for the rest of the year.”
NO! she screamed in her head. “What? Why?” she asked in a panic.
“It was over a girl. I’m really sorry Rea. ” Ryan looked sad as he continued the story. “He was hitting on this dude’s girlfriend in the hallway and they got into an argument. Archer called him out and they took it outside.”
All kinds of confusing thoughts began to run through her mind. Another girl? That’s why he broke up? He likes someone else? Could it be that Enid’s right, that he got what he wanted and moved on? But, Dannie and Dad were arguing about Dad threatening Archer. Maybe that’s why he looked for someone else. It’s all Dad’s fault. But none of it matters anymore. I’ve lost Archer forever.
Ryan sat down next to her. “I’m sorry Rea,” he said again, his voice pained. “I noticed you two weren’t at lunch together and I figured y’all skipped classes. I was worried about you. But then I saw him in the hall arguing with that other guy. Is it true then? He broke up with you?”
“Yes. He broke up with me during lunch. He was pretty clear it was over. I guess now I know why.” She broke down and cried, she couldn’t hold it back anymore.
Ryan put his arm around her until her sobbing subsided. “If he was still at school,” said Ryan, “I’d beat the shit outta him for you.”
Reagan snorted out a laugh. “Like that worked so well last time,” she said as the corners of her mouth turned up slightly. She couldn’t stay mad at Ryan. “Thanks, but no thanks. But, can I ask a favor?”
“Anything, I figure I will be making this up to you for a long ass time,” he said.
“First, I’m starving. I can’t go downstairs, not yet. Would you bring me up something? Then, I need to tell you what I heard Daddy and Dannie talking about. And second, can I sit with you guys at lunch? For awhile anyway?” She couldn’t face sitting alone. “I just…don’t have anyone else…” she could barely get the words out.
“Done. Darnell and Jason have abandoned us. They sit with Taylor and Kenzie now. So it’s just me and Camden.”
“He’s cute. Isn’t he dating someone?”
“No. He isn’t – and, well, at least he hasn’t been in Juvie.”
Reagan’s face fell. “You don’t understand. Archer did that for Enid. And I didn’t mean Camden was cute because I was interested. He is just always with someone, so I was surprised is all.”
“Forget Archer, Reagan. He’s bad news.”
Reagan sighed. “I’ll never forget him Ryan,” she said.