Home > All Rhodes Lead Here(13)

All Rhodes Lead Here(13)
Author: Mariana Zapata

“It’s okay.” I mean, it wasn’t, but his dad already bitched him out, I was sure. Something could have happened to him if he’d rented the place out to the wrong person. But you know, I wasn’t his mom, and his sneakiness got me this place I liked, so I’d be a hypocrite to give him a hard time. “Did you get grounded for a long time?”

His “yeah” was so disappointed, I felt bad.

“I’m sorry.”

“He deposited the money into my savings account.” One slim finger picked at a hole in his sweatpants. “Can’t use it anytime soon though.”

I winced. “Hopefully your parents will change their mind.”

He made a face aimed at his console that told me he wasn’t holding his breath.

Poor guy. “I don’t want to upset your dad any more; I’ll let you get back to your game. Thank you for letting me get some aloe. Yell if you need something. I have the windows open.”

He glanced at me then and nodded, watching me head back down the deck and across the gravel toward the garage apartment.

I thought about Kaden and his new girlfriend for a split second.

Then I shrugged that loser off.

I had better things to think about. Starting with this sunburn and ending with just about anything else.

 

 

A week went by in the blink of an eye.

I worked—crashed and burned half the time was more like it—and slowly started to get to know Clara again. Her niece, Jackie, came in and helped a few days a week;, she was nice but she kind of just stuck to herself and listened to Clara and me when we had time between customers, and I worried she didn’t like me even though I’d brought her a Frappuccino and tried to share my snacks with her. I didn’t think she was shy from the way she spoke to customers, but I was still working on her.

Clara, though, was a good boss and worked harder than most people, and as much as I knew I was terrible at my job, I kept trying because she needed the help. No one new had come in to apply for a job while I was there either, so I was well aware that didn’t help.

I started jumping rope a little longer every day.

When I was “home” and wasn’t in the middle of reading or watching something I’d downloaded onto my tablet, I spied on my neighbors. Sometimes Amos caught me and waved, but most of the time, I got away with it. I hoped.

What I’d learned was that his dad, who I’d confirmed was Mr. Rhodes because I’d used binoculars and read the name embroidered on his uniform shirt, was gone all the time. Literally. His car was missing by the time I left, and he usually wasn’t back until seven most days. The teenager, Amos, didn’t leave the house ever—I only saw him on the deck—and I guessed that was because he’d been grounded.

And in the little over a week that I’d been at the garage apartment, not once had I seen any other car show up.

It really was just Mr. Rhodes and his son, I was pretty sure. The time I’d read the older man’s name, I might have also peeked at his hand to see there wasn’t a wedding ring there.

Speaking of Amos, I was considering him my second friend in town even though we only waved at each other and he’d said about ten words to me since the day he’d saved me from my sunburn with his offer. Even though I talked a lot at work, asking a lot of questions to try and figure out what customers wanted because I didn’t get half the shit that came out of their mouths—why some people chose to use water purifying tablets instead of buying a bottle with a built-in filter was still beyond me—I hadn’t really made friends yet.

I was a little lonely. All the customers I’d dealt with had been too nice to give me a hard time for not being able to answer their questions, but I dreaded the day I pissed off the wrong person and smiling at them and trying to make a joke wouldn’t work like it usually did to get me out of trouble.

No one ever told you how hard it was to make friends as an adult. But it was hard. Real hard.

I was working on it. Quality over quantity.

Nori, Yuki’s sister and my friend too, texted. Yuki called. My cousins reached out and asked when I was coming back. (Never.)

Things were… coming along.

I had hope.

And I was in the middle of getting dressed, making a mental plan to go to the grocery store this evening, when my phone pinged with an incoming email. I stopped to take a peek at the screen.

The email was from a K.D. Jones.

I shook my head and bit the inside of my cheek.

There was no subject. I shouldn’t waste my time, but… I was weak. I clicked on the message and prepared myself.

It was short and simple though.

Roro,

I know you’re mad but call me back.

-K

Kaden knew I was mad?

Me? Mad?

Hahahahahahahaha

I would set his Rolls-Royce on fire if I had the chance and sleep just fine.

And I was thinking of a dozen other things I could do to him without feeling guilty as I got into my car a few minutes later and tried to turn it on.

There was no click. Not a slight turn. Nothing.

It was karma. It was karma, and I knew it, for thinking ugly things. At least that’s what Yuki would say… if it was anyone other than Kaden I was wishing shitty things upon.

Squeezing my eyes closed, I wrapped my fingers around the wheel and tried to shake it with a “Oh, fuck youuuuuu.” Then I tried to shake it again. “Fuck!”

I was so busy yelling at the steering wheel that I barely heard the knock on my window.

Mr. Rhodes stood there, eyebrows slightly up.

Yeah, he’d heard me. He’d heard it all. At least I’d had the windows up. I hadn’t been paying attention and didn’t notice he was still home.

Peeling my fingers off the stranglehold they had on the steering wheel, I swallowed my frustration and opened the door slowly, giving him time to back up. He took a single big step, giving me a view of a red cooler in one hand and a travel coffee mug in the other. He was even better looking up close and personal in daylight, I realized.

I’d thought his jaw and brow bones had been a masterpiece when I’d creeped on him before, but now, just feet away, they still were, but the gentle cleft in his chin got added to the list.

I’d bet if he was in a game warden calendar, it would sell out every year.

“…didn’t work?” he asked.

I blinked and tried to figure out what he was talking about since I’d zoned out. I had no idea. “What?” I asked, trying to focus.

“Telling your car to fuck itself didn’t make it turn on?” he asked in that same level, hard voice from a week ago, both of his thick eyebrows still up.

Was he… joking? I blinked. “No, she doesn’t like being bullied,” I told him, deadpan.

One eyebrow went up a little higher.

I smiled.

He didn’t smile, but he did take a step back. “Pop the hood,” Mr. Rhodes said, flicking his fingers toward himself. “I don’t have all day.”

Oh. I reached inside and opened it as he set his cooler down and his coffee, or whatever was in there, on top of it. He went straight for ducking under the hood as I circled around to stand beside him.

Like I knew what I was looking at.

“How old’s your battery?” he asked as he tinkered with something and pulled it out. It was a dipstick. For the oil. There was some on it. I was pretty good at getting it changed on time. I figured it couldn’t be that.

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