A Place Without You (Page 24)

That scenario would hurt the most.

“I need to talk to Bodhi.”

“You mean Mr. Malone.”

I clench my fists, ready to jab my half-eaten lollipop into her eye. “Yes. Mr. Malone. Bodhi. Whatever, Gail. I just need to talk to him now.”

“I’m sorry.” She shakes her head.

Fuck. What does she know? Who saw us or heard us? It can’t be that bad if she didn’t fire him. It can’t be blowjob-in-his-office bad. Can it?

“Henna, please. Let me take you home or find you a ride.”

I shake my head, backing away from her, backing away from Alice, backing away from this life-snatching hellhole called school. “I’ll walk,” I murmur, staring over her shoulder at the door that Bodhi isn’t coming out of, and the building where I know he’s hiding from me.

From. Me.

There’s pain. It’s a dull ache inside of my chest. But my high keeps me from feeling the full impact. So I decide one thing’s for sure—there is absolutely no solid reason to ever be sober again.


I stare out the window as John drives us home. Zach sits in the front seat, talking on the phone, while Juni sits in the backseat with me, holding my hand but not saying a word.

What’s left to say?

Yesterday Bodhi walked away from me—abandoned me.

Today Principal Rafferty made me feel like a child in front of Juni and Zach. She painted an ugly and forbidden picture of me and Bodhi.

It’s not the rules or warnings to heed that keep me from Bodhi. It’s him.

He walked away and I haven’t heard from him since I left his office yesterday with a smile on my face and so much love in my heart.

It’s scary how much can change in twenty-four hours. I thought the same thing after my accident.

Don’t sweat it. Everything is temporary.

We pass Bella’s Stables. My mom squeezes my hand. Leo’s carrying a large metal bucket into the barn, probably oats for the horses.

“Leo dropped out of school,” I say flatly.

“What?” Juni leans closer, trying to decipher my mumbling.

“Leo, the tour guide at Bella’s … he had an ‘inappropriate’ relationship with a woman and dropped out of school. I’m nineteen. I don’t have to finish school now. I can do it later. Or never.” I have no aspirations of doing anything in life that requires a college degree. Why do I need a high school diploma?

“Henna, don’t …” Juni stops. Of course she stops. Juni understands exactly what I’m saying. In her rational mind, she knows I’m right. She knows I’ve never shown a true interest in college. I tell people that I’m going to travel the world first because it’s less shocking than a girl my age with good grades and “so much potential” flat-out rejecting college forever.

My mom, however, feels the social burden, the expectations, and the need to do right by me.

“I’m not living. You told me to live. I’m dying. I’ve been dying every day since the accident.” Except for Bodhi. With Bodhi, I live.

I breathe.

I dream.

I imagine.

I’m limitless with him.

But without him, I’m …

“So drop out.”

Juni’s head snaps up when Zach says those three words. I thought he was on the phone.

“Zachary.” Her head whips back.

John parks in front of the house and opens my mom’s door while Zach opens mine. I follow them into the main house, suddenly quite interested in Zach’s opinion.

“Juni, really?” Zach slides off his jacket, continuing toward the living room.

She drapes her jacket over the banister, her heels clicking on the granite floor after him. I shadow her, leaving on my hoodie.

Zach pours himself a drink and folds his tall body into a leather, claw-foot chair, holding his drink with one hand while running his other hand through his thick salt and pepper hair. “Where’s your college diploma? What degree did you get?” he asks her.

“Zachary.” She shakes her head, folding her arms over her chest.

“Because I don’t have one, and…” he shrugs, looking around the impressive room filled with the most expensive furnishings “…I think I’ve done okay for myself.”

I ease into the corner of the sofa, watching the court weigh in on my future.

Juni’s face scrunches up with so much worry. Zach reaches out to her. After a few seconds, she sets her hand in his, letting him pull her onto his lap. It makes every inch of my body ache for Bodhi’s touch.

“After the accident, we agreed we’d let her live her life … no matter what.”

Juni eases her head side to side, still wrought with guilt. “Mitch will never be okay with this.”

“Where’s his degree?” Zach levels her with a squinted look.

“He’ll see it differently. He went into the Marines and made a career out of it.”

Zach shifts his attention to me, giving me a sincere smile laced with sadness. He literally saved me during a very dark time in my life. Literally pulled me to safety. He loves me like his own daughter. “It’s your decision, darling. Not because we say so or whether your dad does or doesn’t give you his blessing. You’re nineteen. It’s legally your decision. But I guess what I’m saying is …” He lifts Juni’s hand to his mouth and kisses it. She returns a soft smile and nods as if granting permission for an unspoken request. “We support you no matter what you choose to do in life. Our love for you will never be contingent on the choices you make. You’re going to mess up. Hell, I still fuck shit up on a daily basis.”

The closest thing I can find to a smile attaches itself to my face. They can offer me freedom and unconditional love, but they can’t give me Bodhi, and right now he’s all I want. Our life is still this cage, but now I’m on the outside and he’s still stuck inside. He didn’t clip my wings. He clipped his own.

“Say the words, Henna.” Zach brings my attention back to the room, away from the cage. “Say the words and we’ll put you on a plane and send you anywhere you want to go.”


I choose my little apartment over the guest house. For now.

I choose to get high.

I choose to litter my space with pages of sketches and painted canvasses.

I choose to stay in my space for weeks, thinking of Bodhi’s choices—specifically the one where he didn’t choose me.

When I’m high, I love him. When I’m not, I hate him.

By the holidays, I start to find that my new favorite high is hating him.

I’ve missed too many days now to get my diploma. I guess I dropped out without officially dropping out. There’s probably some form to fill out or some rules or guidelines to follow. I’d be epically disappointed in myself if my last act as a student involved following protocol.

A girl’s gotta maintain her reputation.

“Fiona restocked your fridge,” Juni says from the doorway to my bedroom.

I pause my paintbrush for a few seconds then nod and continue my stroke of green. “Tell her thank you.”

“Will do. Zach and I are going skiing with some friends. How about you come with us?”

“People with metal parts holding their bodies together don’t ski down mountains.”

“You know what I mean. I’ll schedule you for a massage. Mani, pedi. Lunch. What do you say? Christmas is in two days. Put away your paintbrushes and spend some time with your family.”

“Dad invited me to spend New Year’s Eve with him.”

“I know. Maybe you should come clean with him. You know … clean slate, fresh start, new resolutions.”

“He’s going to be pissed off at you for not telling him.”

Juni exhales. “I’m not afraid of your father. You asked me to not tell him, so I didn’t. The fact that you’ve let so much time pass without mentioning your dropout status to him is on you, not me. You’re an adult. It’s time he treats you like one, whether you choose to act like one or not.”

“Whoa … throwing a little shade today.” I glance over my shoulder, lifting my eyebrows.

“Grow up, young lady.” She winks to soften the blow. Juni has a way of infusing just enough humor into the truth that no one can accuse her of being mean.

I wrap my brushes in a wet towel to go rinse them. “Have fun.” I lean over and kiss her cheek while passing by on my way to the kitchen. “Thanks for the offer, but Carley is coming over in a few hours. It’s my only chance to see her before she takes off for Texas with her new boyfriend.”

Juni leans against the counter as I rinse the brushes in the sink. “Are you good?” Her face falls short of hiding all of her concern.

“I’m good.” The vibrant colors fade together into an ugly mess of brown circling the drain. I know how they feel.

“Let’s try this again.” She shuts off the water and takes the brushes from me, setting them down in the sink.

My eyes stay glued to the pooled ugly brown.

“It’s been months. You could be anywhere in the world, but you’re still here. You could walk a mile down the road and knock on his door, but you haven’t.”

“You want me to leave?” I swallow hard.