Home > Never Ever (Never Ever #1)

Never Ever (Never Ever #1)
Author: Sara Saedi


 

CHAPTER ONE

 


   last day

 

 

wylie Dalton didn’t know it yet, but in precisely two hours, sixteen minutes, and thirty-two seconds, her life would change forever. All that she once thought was real and true about the world would quickly fade away. Even the laws of gravity would no longer apply. Unlike every other detail of her life, the particulars of that day were something she wouldn’t be allowed to share on any of her social media accounts. They would have to be kept a secret till the day she died.

   Years from now, when Wylie relived the events of the day in her head, she would remember the weather was strangely warm for February in New York City. It was the kind of day when everyone strips off their winter coats and secretly admits that maybe climate change isn’t so bad after all—minus the hurricanes and tornadoes and drowning polar bears. She’d also remember it was her seventeenth birthday. The first birthday when her mom forgot to make pancakes for breakfast and stick candles in them like she did every other year. These days it was a miracle if her mother even got out of bed. And anyway, the tradition felt childish and Wylie wasn’t a child anymore. She hadn’t been one for a long time. By the end of the night, she would no longer be a normal teenager either.

   If she had known what was coming, Wylie might’ve done more with her last hours of normalcy than melt chocolate over a hot stove while trying to ignore the fact that her parents were berating each other upstairs. As her dad’s voice got a touch louder, Wylie poured scalding batter into a ramekin dish, smiled brightly into her webcam, and silently prayed the audio from the fight wasn’t loud enough to be recorded. It was so typical of her parents to strike up an argument just when she needed the house to be quiet. Plus, the bickering was currently at its most annoying decibel level: loud enough to be disruptive, but too quiet to make out exactly what was being said.

   “Just place your ramekin in the oven for twenty minutes and you’ve got yourself a hot, gooey, chocolate soufflé. Or, as I prefer to call it, a chocolate volcano.”

   Wylie spoke the words into her webcam, but before she could get them out completely, her mom sobbed and her dad yelled out several choice expletives she could now decipher perfectly. Wylie barely flinched as she deleted the video. She couldn’t teach anyone to cook with her parents dropping F-bombs in the background. Maybe a better upload would be How to Deal with Your Insanely Dysfunctional Mom and Dad. Wylie shut her laptop, stuck a spoon in the batter, and trekked upstairs to the disaster area known as her bedroom.

   Every inch of Wylie’s desk was covered with homework assignments and textbooks. The bed hadn’t been made in weeks. The hamper was filled to the brim with dirty clothes, including her sweaty basketball uniform. But keeping a clean bedroom was low on her priority list. Who had the time, with school, basketball practice, piano lessons, SAT prep classes, and her cooking channel?

   “You’re too scheduled,” her guidance counselor at school lectured her. “You’re a teenager. You have the rest of your life to feel overextended and stressed out. At this rate, you’ll get wrinkles before you turn eighteen. You have to give something up.”

   School, Wylie wanted to respond. I’ll give up school.

   At least now that her cooking video was a bust, Wylie had the rare window of opportunity to take a nap. She curled up under her flannel sheets and closed her eyes just as she heard her dad yell, “I will not stand here and let you blame me for your mistakes!”

   You’re both to blame! Wylie wanted to yell back.

   Most people wouldn’t be able to fall asleep with their parents in the middle of a shouting match, but it was white noise to Wylie—sort of like those machines that make the sound of waves crashing to help lull you to sleep.

   That hadn’t always been the case. When she was a kid, the fights had knocked the wind right out of her. Wylie’s younger brothers, Joshua and Micah, would tap on her door and seek shelter in her room. They were little then, but it was still a tight squeeze for all three of them to sleep in her twin bed together. Even when they were children, she knew to lie and tell them everything would be okay: Sometimes grown-ups fight.

   But as the years went on, the arguments became so frequent that the Dalton siblings stayed in their separate bedrooms, no longer fazed by the emotional confessions, the empty threats, or the varying degrees of passive-aggression. Wylie became so good at falling asleep to the timbre of their fights, she dreaded evenings when her dad had to work late and their Upper East Side brownstone became eerily quiet. Those were the nights Wylie lay in bed awake, her thoughts drowning out the other sounds of the city she’d become accustomed to: car alarms, fire trucks, muffled jazz music coming from the home of their next-door neighbors.

   What kept her tossing and turning was the nagging fear that one day she would be old, just like her parents. She would grow up to be just as damaged and bitter as they were. The thought of looking in the mirror years from now and seeing her mom or dad staring back at her was enough to keep Wylie up all night.

   A knock on the door put an untimely end to Wylie’s nap.

   “Wylie, can I come in?” her dad asked.

   “Am I allowed to say no?” she answered.

   “No.”

   “Fine, door’s open.”

   Her dad walked in, looking different to Wylie from the last time she’d seen him, a few days before. There was more gray in his hair, and his eyes looked red and puffy from what she guessed were some sleepless nights. He held a perfectly wrapped present in his hand. Wylie was tempted to ask if his assistant had picked it out.

   “Happy birthday, sweet pea,” he said, handing her the gift.

   “I’m too old to be called that, but thanks,” Wylie said as she placed the present on her bedside table.

   “Aren’t you going to open it?” her dad asked.

   “Maybe later.”

   Wylie wasn’t sure if it was a birthday gift or a bribe, but either way, she preferred to open it in private. If she liked it too much, then it might absolve her father of some of his guilt.

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