Violet Ugly(The Granite Harbor Series Book 2)(5)

By: J. Lynn Bailey


Bionic hearing for the late-night cookie jar runs.

Built-in lie detector.

I’d rather die than eat red flannel hash—corned beef and cabbage mushed with beets. I’d rather swim with sharks in the deep Atlantic or shovel snow every day in winter than eat red flannel hash. I’d rather have the flu even.

“Mom, I don’t feel well.” I’m not lying. Just thinking about taking a bite of this makes my stomach hurt.

“Mom, can I be excused, please?” Eli asks.

She doesn’t have to turn to look at Eli’s bowl to know he’s finished because, with her X-ray vision, she already knows he’s done. “Yes. Rinse your bowl.”

Eli gets up and walks to the sink.

I roll my eyes and look at Ryan, still across the table, his face the color of a Venus flytrap. He attempts a smile.

The phone rings, and when Mom goes to answer it in the living room, Ryan whispers, “Trade me bowls.”

“What?” I whisper back, quickly glancing into the living room, checking on the authority.

“Trade me bowls, Mer.”

“You want mine?” I start to push it across the table while taking Ryan’s empty one.

“No, I don’t want yours. But chocolate cake is your favorite.”

My tummy starts to twist and turn, and I wonder what this feeling is. Ryan slides my bowl to him and shovels seven big bites into his mouth. He gags. Twice.

I look back into the living room, but Mom doesn’t know any better.

“Are you all right?” I ask.

Ryan wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and nods. But he’s not. His shade of green is even darker than it was after the first bowl.

“Thank you.”

Eli comes back to the table after rinsing his bowl, and Mom enters the kitchen again, stopping behind me. She stares at my bowl, and I give her a smug look—a look that says, So, there. I ate it.

“See, Mer? It wasn’t so bad, was it?” Mom bends and kisses me on the cheek.

I don’t dare answer her for two reasons. First, if I agree it wasn’t that bad, she’ll expect me to eat it again, and two, I’m a terrible liar.

“I’ve gotta go home. Thanks for dinner, Mrs. Young.”

Ryan stands and attempts to take his bowl to the sink, but I stop him.

“I’ve got your bowl tonight.”

“You can’t stay for chocolate cake, Ryan?” my mother asks.

“Nah. Early morning fishing trip with my dad.”

He’s lying. I can tell he’s lying because his eye is twitching. I’m not sure that everyone notices this, but I do.

Like the time he said his mom just went on vacation for a second time—eye twitch. Eli and I found the note in the garbage. Not that we were looking through the garbage, but we were helping Ryan take it out, and the note somehow floated to the ground with a puff of air. We never asked Ryan about it. We knew it’d hurt too much, so we pretended to believe the lie he’d told us.

Or the time he said he was sick and couldn’t go to school—eye twitch. We saw the bruises his dad had left behind, periodically making an appearance out from underneath his shirt.

Eli and I walk Ryan out.

“Going fishing with your dad tomorrow?” Eli asks, surprised.

“No, I don’t feel good. Just didn’t have the heart to tell your mom. Didn’t want her to think it was her red flannel hash.”

“Why not? It’s disgusting,” I say.

Ryan shrugs and wipes his nose with the back of his hand.

“Want us to ride with you home?” Eli asks.

“Nah.” Ryan gets on his bike. “See you tomorrow.”

“Hey, Ryan?” I call out. “Thanks.”

Ryan smiles, nods, turns, pedals down our lane, and disappears into the quickly fading sun.

Eli and I turn and walk back inside.

“He ate your hash for you?”

“Yeah.”

“Where the heck was I?”

“Doing your dishes.”

“Ryan’s got a crush on you.”

“Shut up. Does not. He’s like my brother. Ew.”

But I remember the way my tummy felt when he said I liked chocolate cake. It didn’t feel like all the times my mom or Pop had said something nice. It didn’t feel like the times Eli had shared his toys with me. It felt nothing like that.