Fall With Me

Fall With Me - Page 11/23

“We should go shopping for a little while and then there’s this great bar I want to take you to,” Allison says.

“What? Bar? It’s ten o’clock in the morning. And you’re sixteen.”

She gives me a coy look. “I have a fake I.D. And I wouldn’t expect someone like you to care what hour of the day it is when it comes to indulging.”

She is so smug and so self-assured that for a second, I want to reach over and slap her, but then I realize it’s just because she reminds me exactly of myself.

“I don’t have my I.D.,” I tell her.

She smirks. “Don’t worry; I know the doorman. He’ll let you in.”

“Whatever you want, sweetheart.”

“You want to be here, don’t you?”

“Sure I do.”

“Or would you rather be heading down to some fruit farm with Jill?”

“I never said that.” Though in a way, yes, I would.

“Not that I want to talk shit or anything, but Jill is one of those people who’s better with animals than people. I mean, that’s why my parents keep her on here, because she’s so good with the horses.”

“She seems pretty good with the campers.”

“She’s okay. But she’s a prude, too.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“She just doesn’t know how to have fun. Why does she give you such a hard time? Why can’t she just be cool about things, you know? Life is too short; it’s silly to be that uptight.”

“She is dealing with some pretty heavy shit right now, though.”

Allison looks at me, eyebrow raised. “Has she been talking to you about that?”

“A little.”

“That’s surprising.”

“Do you know anything about it?”

“All I know is her parents were in a car accident and her dad died and her mom’s in a wheelchair for life. They drove their car off a bridge, onto Treasure Island. A huge clusterfuck.”

“Sounds intense. Bad way to go.”

“Don’t worry about Jill. Let’s talk about something else. This is boring.” She reaches over and puts her hand on mine. I start to pull it back, but she tightens her grip. I look at her, but she’s staring straight ahead, weaving her car in and out of traffic. Suddenly, the phone in my pocket starts to ring, and I pull my hand from hers and answer.

“I was wondering if you’d call,” I say. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Allison watching me, one eyebrow raised slightly. Oh, it’d be so easy to fuck with her. “Are you wearing that underwear I sent you?”

She stiffens, and I stifle my laugh.

“Griffin!” Cam’s voice is loud enough that I’m sure Allison can hear it’s a guy and not, say, some girlfriend or something. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for the past three days! I didn’t just send you a phone for you to NOT answer it.”

“Huh?” I say. “I didn’t get any missed calls. I’ve had this thing on me the whole time. I didn’t think you’d actually call.”

“Well, I am, and I have been. Now that I’ve got you on the phone, though, I need you to tell me EVERYTHING that happened. I talked with Carl, and he wasn’t that helpful.”

“Is that so,” I say mildly. “Well, where do you want me to start?”

“From the beginning. Where were you, who were these men, what did they say? Did you go to the police yet?”

“No, I didn’t. Honestly, Cam, the guys are probably dead.”

Allison’s head swivels toward me.

“The last thing I remember was being at the Full Moon Party.”

“The what?”

“Full Moon Party. A rave, basically. Yes, I did some drugs. But just the usual amount, not enough to knock me out. So at some point, I’m guessing someone must’ve slipped me something, in my drink, or gave me something that wasn’t actually ecstasy, acid, K, or cocaine.”

“You did all those things?”

“Well, sure. Some pot, too. Oh, and a little GHB. That’s probably what got me. I don’t usually do that stuff.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you, Griffin? I mean, seriously, life is just one big rave for you, isn’t it?”

“Yes, the world is my dance floor. God is a DJ, didn’t you know?”

“Continue,” he says, his voice tight. “With the story, not your drug addiction.”

“So I was there, the music was bangin’, the vibe was tight, it was a good time. And then I don’t really remember anything until I wake up stuffed in some walk-in closet on someone’s yacht.”

“And then . . .?”

“And there were these two guys there—sorry, I didn’t catch their names—and they said that they’d been in touch with Dad and unless he paid 7.2 million—kind of a random number, huh?—and confessed to something, that they’d kill me. And then they said Dad wasn’t really taking them seriously and had me call him, and guess what—he didn’t take me seriously, either, and that’s when I called you.”

“So you have no idea who these guys were.”

“No. Never seen them before. And, like I said, will probably never see them again. Because a whale breached, hit the boat, the boat sank, and off I swam. Guess those years of swimming lessons finally paid off, huh?”

He’s quiet, though I can practically hear the cogs turning in his brain.

“What’s up, Cam? Do you know something about this?”

“No,” he snaps. “I don’t. But I find it highly disturbing that these men would follow you to Thailand and kidnap you and then try to extort our father. Don’t you?”

“Well, duh.”

“Yet instead of doing anything about it, you get yourself a job in California. What are you doing, anyway?”

“Working on a horse ranch.”

He snorts. “Seriously?”

“No, I’m actually a male prostitute. That seemed a more lucrative way to go.”

We talk for a little longer. Cam grills me, but after a few minutes it’s pretty clear that I don’t have any juicy tidbits that are going to help him figure out whatever it is he needs to figure out. I don’t actually believe him when he says he doesn’t know anything about it, because if he didn’t, why on earth would he suddenly be taking such an interest? There is a part of me that wants to believe maybe he really is just as highly disturbed as he claims to be that someone kidnapped his little bro. Yeah, sure, okay.

We get off the phone. Allison looks at me. “Who was that?” she says. “What the fuck were you talking about? Kidnapped? A boat?”

“It was nothing,” I tell her. “A story I made up. That was actually an ex-girlfriend. She wants to get back together. Wanted to. I just . . . I just had to make up a story so she’d back off.”

Allison smiles. “That’s so sweet you’d do that for me.”

I tuck the phone back into my pocket. “I guess I’m just that kind of guy.” For the rest of the ride, I’m left wondering what kind of guy my brother is.

Chapter 14: Jill

The Raspberry Pilgrimage—as it became known—is an all-day affair that sends us down to Watsonville in the two Econoline buses with Sea Horse Ranch painted on the side. The couple who owns the raspberry farm is long-time friends of Bill and Lorrie’s, and the kids will get to spend the day helping out, not just with the raspberries but also the cows, chickens, sheep, goats, and beehives.

Griffin and Allison are noticeably absent from our adventure. While we drive south on the 1, they’re headed north, to San Francisco. And though this would probably shock him, I’m disappointed Griffin isn’t here.

When you find out something that is surprising or you’re not expecting to hear, your mind can do any number of things. It can go completely blank. That’s what happened when I found out about my parents’ accident. For a moment, I was incapable of registering a single thought. And then, when one thought finally was able to form, it was a single short word, on repeat: No.

But then, other times, your mind can go completely into overdrive, and that’s what happened the other night with Griffin. I stayed up all night thinking about it. Wondering if this was the sign Uncle Nate was talking about. Wondering what I would do with this information that only I knew.

The best thing I could come up with is instead of ignoring him for the rest of the summer, I’ve decided to get to know him better. Uncle Nate is right; if Dad’s death wasn’t an accident, of course I want to get to the bottom of it, and this really does seem too coincidental to just ignore. I even thought of calling Uncle Nate and letting him know, but something stopped me.

No, the voice said. Do this on your own. Only go to him if you find something.

Though what I’m expecting to find, I’m not sure. From the very little I know about Griffin, it’s clear he and his father don’t exactly have a stellar relationship, so it’s doubtful he even knows anything about it, but there’s always the chance he knows something without even realizing it.

I’m preoccupied with those thoughts all day, watching absently as the kids pick berries and chase chickens and milk the goats. When we finally load everyone back onto the two buses, I’m glad, because I can sit and zone out and try to figure out exactly what my plan is.

We get back to the ranch and the sun is just setting. Bill gets a fire going and the kids sit around, toasting marshmallows and talking about their farm adventures.

“That goat cheese was actually pretty good,” Brett says. “I thought it’d be kind of nasty, but it wasn’t. I wouldn’t mind going back down there.”

Several of the kids nod in agreement. It’s nice to see how they’ve settled into camp here, the new friendships that have been forged. I see Simon sitting next to Heather, and they’re both laughing, and for a moment I forget all the other stuff and feel happy for these kids, that they’re having a good time here, regardless of whatever trouble they have in their lives back home.

When Bill breaks out his guitar and starts strumming, I slip away.

I walk down to the beach and let myself flop down in the sand. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and I look up at the explosion of stars, toward the east, and pick out the Summer Triangle—Vega, Deneb, and Altair.

This will not be my life next year, I think. I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, but it sure as hell won’t be this.

I catch movement out of the corner of my eye, in the northern part of the sky. A shooting star. If I’d caught it in time, I could’ve made a wish. But I didn’t.

I let my eyes fall closed and the rhythmic sound of the waves pull me toward sleep. I stay like that for a while, in that limbo between sleep and awake when you could be dreaming or not. From somewhere down the beach, someone coughs. I open my eyes and turn my head, rivulets of sand sliding into the neck of my t-shirt.

For a moment I think it’s Simon, walking down to the water, but this person’s gait is too coordinated, too assured in an easy, almost gliding way. Then he lights a cigarette and sits down. I consider lying there until he leaves, or getting up and slipping away somewhere else, but instead, I stand and walk over.

“You shouldn’t smoke,” I tell him. I try to keep my tone light, though, friendly, like I’m making a joke and not reprimanding him.

He turns his head and exhales and I step to the side before the cloud envelopes me.

“Well, hi there,” he says. “Was wondering where you ran off to.”

“I thought you were staying in the city.”

“Just a day trip.”

“I see.”

I look down at the top of his head, his hair thick and tousled and black as ink.

“Sit,” he says. “Keep me company.”

“No thanks. I was just about to head back.”

“Please?” He looks up at me. “I wanted to tell you something.”

I hesitate. “Surely whatever you have to tell me you can say to me when I’m standing up.” Be friendly, I remind myself.

“Come on,” he says, patting the sand. “I won’t bite, I promise.”

“Fine,” I say. “For a minute. And you have to put that out, though.” I nod at the cigarette. “It smells awful.”

“Fair enough.” He takes one more drag and then submerges the cigarette into the sand. “Don’t worry—I’ll bring that with me when I go.”

“You better.” I dig my toes into the cool sand. “I’m not an uptight bitch, you know,” I say. “Yet for some reason, being around you makes me feel like one.”